A Study of Knowledge (epignosis): from Colossians 3:1-17
We have been studying this word knowledge (epignosis) as it applies to our relationship with God. We have established so far in previous studies that our knowledge (epignosis) of God is a knowledge that grows; and the more we feed it, the more it will grow. And it has the potential to be a very deep and intimate knowledge. It is not so much an intellectual knowledge as it is a personal and relational knowledge.
The verse, from our passage, that has this word (epignosis) in it is verse 10. This will be the focal point of our study; but we will study the whole context, which I would say is at least verses 1-17.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (NKJV, knowledge in bold for emphasis
First of all, in our study, I want you to notice the condition of the believer from the time he is spiritually born. Verses 9 and 10 indicate to us that we have put off the old man, and we have put on the new man. What this is saying is that when we became a Christian our old man (old nature) died in Christ, and God gave us a brand new self (a new nature). And verse 10 tells us that our new self has been renewed (NASU says “is being renewed”) in knowledge according to the image of God. This means that since I became a Christian I have been given a new knowledge of God (some commentators say, a knowledge of God that man had before the fall), which grows according to my new self and according to the upkeep of my new self. Hence, the more I grow to be like Him (according to His image) the more I will grow in my knowledge of Him (or in my relationship with Him). And of course this is our purpose, which we are called to—to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), to the end that we would more and more get to know Him and enjoy Him forever.
Now on to how we grow in our relationship with God. As we have said, a believer has been given a new nature and our old nature died with Christ. However, there is a part of our being, our flesh, which is still hanging on. I don’t know if I would call it our old nature, because my old nature died. But whatever it is—I would call it fleshly desires—still remains. Paul tells us that we are to put to death and to put off (verses 5 and 8) these things of our flesh. The idea is to somehow kill the desires of sin in us and to discontinue our sinful habits (listed in vv. 5-9). And of course we can do that with the power of the Holy Spirit in our life, and with the support and encouragement of other believers.
At the same time that we put off these sins, we are to put on certain virtues that will keep our new nature and our knowledge of God strong and growing. Paul records for us ten things in verses 12-17.
Ten Things To Put On
1. As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies
6. Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
7. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
8. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
9. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
10. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Notice that these virtues are quite similar to the list in 2 Peter 1:5-7. More importantly, notice the promise given to us (in vv. 8-9) if we do these things: we will not be barren nor unfruitful in our knowledge of God. And though Paul does not state it as Peter does, he would say the same things regarding his list of virtues—that it will keep our knowledge of God fruitful and growing.
And so here is the key to have a growing knowledge of God: the more we put to death and discontinue our old sinful practices and also practice the good deeds that feed our new nature, the more we will become like Him; and the more we are like Him the more we will grow in our knowledge of Him.
Now I want to add one more thing to keep our relationship with God growing. It is found in verses 1 through 4. This I think is sort of a pep talk from Paul that describes our focus for life and for each day. He says to us, hey Christian, you are raised with Christ, so keep seeking things above where Christ is. Set your mind on things above, not on the earth. For you died [in your old self] and your life [now] is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
This last phrase is so important. It reminds us of our hope, our future glory. It puts in our mind the whole reason why we are living and striving to know Him. It is because we will soon see Him; and the more we get to know Him now, the sweeter our relationship will be with Him then.