Go On Growing in Knowledge
“Supply to your faith . . . knowledge.”—2 PETER 1:5.
1, 2. (a) What could you learn from looking at the heavens? (Romans 1:20) (b) What is the real extent of man’s increase in knowledge?
2 If you wanted to increase that knowledge, would you get up on the roof of your house and look from there? Probably not. Albert Einstein once used such an illustration to make the point that scientists have not really increased very much in knowledge of the universe and certainly very little about the One who created it.* Dr. Lewis Thomas wrote: “The greatest single achievement of science in this most scientifically productive of centuries is the discovery that we are profoundly ignorant; we know very little about nature and we understand even less.”
3. In what sense does an increase of knowledge increase pain?
3 Even if you spent all the remaining years of a normal life span seeking such knowledge, you might just become more aware of how short life is and see more clearly that man’s use of knowledge is limited by imperfection and by the ‘crookedness’ of this world. Solomon made that point, writing: “In the abundance of wisdom there is an abundance of vexation, so that he that increases knowledge increases pain.” (Ecclesiastes 1:15, 18) Yes, gaining knowledge and wisdom devoid of any link to God’s purposes usually involves pain and vexation.—Ecclesiastes 1:13, 14; 12:12; 1 Timothy 6:20.
4. What knowledge should we want to gain?
4 Is the Bible recommending that we not be interested in increasing our knowledge? The apostle Peter wrote: “No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” (2 Peter 3:18) We can and should accept that exhortation as applying to us, urging us to grow in knowledge. But what kind of knowledge? How can we increase in it? And are we really doing so?
5, 6. How did Peter emphasize that we need to gain knowledge?
5 Increasing in accurate knowledge of the Creator of the universe and of Jesus was a central idea in Peter’s second letter. In its opening he wrote: “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to you by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, forasmuch as his divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion, through the accurate knowledge of the one who called us through glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:2, 3) So he links having undeserved kindness and peace with our gaining knowledge of God and his Son. That is reasonable, since the Creator, Jehovah, is the focal point of real knowledge. One who fears God is able to see matters in the right light and to come to valid conclusions.—Proverbs 1:7.
6 Then Peter urged: “Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love. For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)* In the next chapter, we read that the acquiring of knowledge helps people to escape the defilements of the world. (2 Peter 2:20) Peter thus made it clear that those who are becoming Christians need knowledge, as do those who are already serving Jehovah. Are you in one of those categories?
Learn, Repeat, Use
7. In what way have many gained accurate knowledge of basic Bible truths?
7 You may be having a Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses because you recognize the ring of truth in their message. Once a week, for an hour or so, you consider a Bible topic using an aid such as You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. Excellent! Many who have had such a study with Jehovah’s Witnesses have gained accurate knowledge. What, though, can you do to increase the amount you personally are learning? Here are some suggestions.*
8. While preparing for a study, what can a student do to learn more?
8 Beforehand, as you prepare for your study, survey the material to be covered. That means looking over the chapter title, subheadings, and any pictures used to illustrate the material. Then, as you read a paragraph or section of the publication, search for the key ideas and the supporting scriptures, underlining or highlighting these. To see if you learned the truths covered, try to answer the questions on the various paragraphs. In doing this, attempt to frame answers in your own words. Finally, review the lesson, trying to recall the main points and supporting arguments.
9. How will applying suggestions about study help one to learn?
9 You can expect to increase in knowledge if you apply these suggestions. Why so? One reason is that you will be approaching the material with a keen desire to learn, preparing the soil, as it were. By getting an overview and then looking for the main points and lines of reasoning, you will see how details relate to the theme or conclusion. A final review will help you remember what you have studied. What about later, during your Bible study?
10. (a) Why is merely repeating facts or new information of limited value? (b) What is involved in “graduated interval recall”? (c) How may Israelite sons have benefited from repetition?
10 Experts in the field of education know the value of timely and purposeful repetition. This is not a mere parroting of words, which you may have tried in school while learning some name, fact, or idea by rote. Did you find, though, that you soon forgot what you had recited, that it had quickly disappeared from memory? Why? Just parroting a new word or fact can be boring, and the results are short-lived. What can change that? Your truly wanting to learn will help. Another key is purposeful repetition. Some minutes after you learn a point, before it fades from memory, try to draw from within yourself what you learned. This has been termed “graduated interval recall.” By your refreshing your memory before it fades away, you extend the length of retention. In Israel, fathers were to inculcate God’s commands in their sons. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) “Inculcate” means to teach by repetition. Likely, many of those fathers first presented the laws to their sons; later they repeated the information; and then they asked their sons questions about what was learned.
11. What can be done during a Bible study to increase learning?
11 If a Witness is conducting a Bible study with you, he or she may help you to learn by having progressive summaries at intervals during the course of the study. This is not juvenile. It is a technique that improves learning, so happily share in the periodic reviews. Then, at the end of the study, take part in a final review in which you answer from memory. You might, in your own words, explain the points as you would in teaching another person. (1 Peter 3:15) This will help to make what you learned part of your long-term memory.—Compare Psalm 119:1, 2, 125; 2 Peter 3:1.
12. A student himself can do what to improve his memory?
12 Another helpful step will be for you, within a day or two, to tell what you learned to someone else, maybe a schoolmate, a fellow worker, or a neighbor. You could mention the topic and then say that you just want to see if you can recall the key lines of reasoning or the supporting texts from the Bible. That might spark the other person’s interest. Even if it does not, the very process of your repeating the new information after an interval of a day or two will establish it in your memory. Then you will really have learned it, doing what 2 Peter 3:18 urges.
13, 14. Why should we want to go beyond merely gaining and remembering information?
13 Learning is more than merely taking in facts or being able to recall information. Religious people in Jesus’ day did that with their repetitious prayers. (Matthew 6:5-7) But how were they affected by the information? Were they producing righteous fruits? Hardly. (Matthew 7:15-17; Luke 3:7, 8) Part of the problem was that the knowledge did not sink down into their hearts, affecting them for good.
14 According to Peter, it should be different with Christians, back then and now. He urges us to supply to our faith the knowledge that would help us to avoid being inactive or unfruitful. (2 Peter 1:5, 8) For this to prove true in our case, we must want to grow in that knowledge and want to have it affect us down deep, touching our inmost self. That may not always happen.
15. What problem developed with some Hebrew Christians?
15 In Paul’s day Hebrew Christians had a problem in this regard. Being Jews, they had some knowledge of the Scriptures. They knew of Jehovah and some of his requirements. Later they added knowledge about the Messiah, exercised faith, and were baptized as Christians. (Acts 2:22, 37-41; 8:26-36) Over the months and years, they must have attended Christian meetings, where they could share in reading scriptures and in commenting. Still, some did not grow in knowledge. Paul wrote: “Although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12) How could that be? Might it also happen to us?
16. What is permafrost, and how does it affect plants?
16 As an illustration, consider permafrost, the permanently frozen ground in the Arctic and in other regions where the average temperature is below freezing. The soil, rocks, and groundwater freeze into a solid mass, sometimes to a depth of 3,000 feet [900 m]. In the summer, thawing may occur in the surface soil (called the active layer). However, this thin layer of thawed soil is usually muddy because moisture cannot drain into the permafrost below. Plants that grow in the thin top layer are often small or stunted; their roots cannot penetrate the permafrost. ‘What,’ you may wonder, ‘does permafrost have to do with whether I am growing in knowledge of Bible truth?’
17, 18. How may permafrost and its active layer be used to illustrate what developed with some Hebrew Christians?
17 Permafrost well illustrates the situation of one whose mental powers are not actively involved with taking in, remembering, and using accurate knowledge. (Compare Matthew 13:5, 20, 21.) The person likely has the mental capacity to learn various subjects, including Bible truth. He studied “the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God” and may have qualified to be baptized, as did those Hebrew Christians. He might, though, not “press on to maturity,” to things beyond “the primary doctrine about the Christ.”—Hebrews 5:12; 6:1.
18 Visualize some of those Christians at meetings back then. They were present and awake, but were their minds involved in learning? Were they actively and earnestly growing in knowledge? Perhaps not. For the immature ones, any involvement in meetings took place in a thin active layer, as it were, while below was a frozen depth. The roots of more solid or complicated truths could not penetrate into this region of mental permafrost.—Compare Isaiah 40:24.
19. In what way might an experienced Christian today become like the Hebrew Christians?
19 It could be similar with a Christian today. While present at meetings he may not use those occasions to grow in knowledge. What about actively sharing in them? For a new or young one to volunteer to read a scripture text or give a comment in the words of the paragraph may take considerable effort, reflecting a fine and commendable exercise of his capacity. But Paul showed that with others, in view of the time they had been Christians, they should advance beyond that initial stage of participation if they want to keep growing in knowledge.—Hebrews 5:14.
20. What self-analysis should each of us make?
20 If an experienced Christian never progressed beyond simply reading a Bible verse or making a basic comment straight from the paragraph, likely his participation came from the top “active layer” of his mind. Meeting after meeting could pass with the depths of his mental potential remaining in a frozen state, to continue our illustration of permafrost. We should ask ourselves: ‘Is it that way with me? Have I let a kind of mental permafrost set in? How mentally alert and interested in learning am I?’ Even if we are uncomfortable with our honest answers, we can begin now taking steps to grow in knowledge.
21. What steps covered earlier could you apply in preparing for or attending meetings?
21 Individually we can apply the suggestions in paragraph 8. No matter how long we have been associated with the congregation, we can resolve to press on to maturity and greater knowledge. With some that will mean preparing for meetings more diligently, perhaps reviving habits that were followed years ago but that slowly lapsed. As you prepare, try to determine what the key points are and to understand unfamiliar scriptures that are used to develop lines of reasoning. Look for any new angle or aspect in the study material. Similarly, during the meeting, try to apply within yourself suggestions mentioned in paragraphs 10 and 11. Strive to be alert mentally, as though keeping high the temperature of your mind. That will counteract any tendency for “permafrost” to set in; this conscious effort will also thaw any “frozen” condition that may previously have developed.—Proverbs 8:12, 32-34.
Knowledge, an Aid Toward Fruitfulness
22. How will we benefit if we work at increasing our knowledge?
22 How will we benefit individually if we work at this matter of growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? By our making conscious effort to keep our mental powers alert, ready to take in knowledge, the seeds of new and more complicated Bible truths will send down deep roots, and our understanding will increase and become permanent. It will be comparable to what Jesus said in a different illustration about hearts. (Luke 8:5-12) The seeds landing on fine soil can grow strong roots to support plants that produce and bear fruit.—Matthew 13:8, 23.
23 Jesus’ illustration differed somewhat, yet the good results were similar to what Peter promised: “For this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge . . . For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) Yes, our growing in knowledge will help us to be fruitful. We will find that taking in even more knowledge will be ever more pleasurable. (Proverbs 2:2-5) What you learn will more readily stay with you and be useful as you teach others to become disciples. So in this way too, you will be more fruitful and will bring glory to God and his Son. Peter closed his second letter: “Go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”—2 Peter 3:18.
“[It] is comparable to that which a man, interested in learning more about the moon, gets when he climbs upon the roof of his house to catch a closer look at that luminary.”
Faith and virtue, the first two qualities in this passage, were discussed in our issue of July 15, 1993.
These suggestions can also help longtime Christians to get more from their personal study and preparation for meetings.
Can You Recall?
□ Why should you be interested in increasing your knowledge?
□ How can a new Bible student get more out of his study?
□ What danger do you want to avoid, as illustrated by permafrost?
□ Why should you be resolved to improve in your ability to increase knowledge?
[Picture on page 15]
Do I have a problem with mental permafrost?