“…and to goodness, knowledge…”(2 Peter 1:6)
Faith helps us develop virtue, and virtue helps us develop knowledge (2 Peter 1:5). The word translated “knowledge” in 2 Peter 1:2-3 means “full knowledge” or “knowledge that is growing.” The word used here suggests practical knowledge or discernment.
It means knowing what to do in every situation and doing it; it is practical, day to day knowledge that sees situations and knows how to handle them. It is seeing the trials and temptations of life and knowing what to do with them and doing it. It refers to the ability to handle life successfully.
It is the opposite of being “so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good!” This kind of knowledge does not come automatically. It comes from obedience to the will of God (John 7:17). In the Christian life, you must not separate the heart and the mind, character and knowledge. Remember the charge: we must add knowledge to our faith. We must give diligent attention to the situations of life and figure out how to conquer them. This means understanding, correct insight, truth properly comprehended and applied. This virtue involves a diligent study and pursuit of truth in the Word of God.
The word is gnosis. In ethical Greek language there are two words which have a similar meaning with a very significant difference. Sophia is wisdom, in the sense of “knowledge of things both human and divine, and of their causes.” It is knowledge of first causes and of deep and ultimate things.
Gnosis is practical knowledge; it is the ability to apply to particular situations the ultimate knowledge which sophia gives.
Gnosis is that knowledge which enables a man to decide rightly and to act honourably and efficiently in the day to day circumstances of life.
So, then, to faith must be added goodness and effectiveness; to goodness and effectiveness must be added the practical wisdom to deal with life.
In our former state as unbelievers, we were not knowledgeable; we were ignorant: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).
The solution to our ignorance is having our minds transformed with the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowledge which comes from the Scriptures (see John 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 1:9-11) and is communicated through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Ephesians 1:17).
This is a doctrinal knowledge, a knowledge revealed in Scripture with clear biblical support. While it must be a doctrinal knowledge revealed in Scripture, it is also an experiential knowledge of God. This experience is not divorced from Scripture; rather, it is the experiencing of Scripture. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Paul writes “For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
This “knowledge” must also be understood as contrasting and contradicting the false knowledge of the false teachers who would undermine both the truth and the faith of the saints if they could: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep… 17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-19).
“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:14-18).
The knowledge of God is essential to our growth in Christian character and our ability to recognize and avoid those who teach what is false.