A Study of Knowledge (epignosis): from 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 2 Timothy 2:23-3:9
We have been studying knowledge (epignosis) as it applies to God and to His will. In this study we will look at this word as it relates to salvation.
From 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(NKJV, knowledge in bold for emphasis)
Here prayers are encouraged for all men, especially for those in authority, that they would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. This phrase, come to the knowledge of the truth, is really an explanation of to be saved. Truth here is the truth of the gospel, or, I think it could be explained as the person of Jesus Christ. For John 1:14 tells us that He is full of grace and truth; and verse 17 says that grace and truth has come to us through Jesus Christ. Hence, when someone comes to the knowledge of the truth they come to a full understanding of the gospel and they come to Jesus. They begin a relationship with Him, and they begin to know Him personally and more intimately.
From 2 Timothy 2:23-3:9
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
(NKJV, know and knowledge in bold for emphasis)
From these verses we understand that salvation (coming to the knowledge of the truth) cannot be obtained without coming to repentance, which is a gift from God (2 Tim. 2:25). For when one is unrepentant of his sins his heart is made hard and he is unqualified for the kingdom; and only God can soften the heart and cause repentance.
But notice that God will use His willing servants to do His work (of bring people to repentance): those who have purified their hearts (v. 22), and who are gentile, able to teach, patient, and humble. And in this ministry of teaching and correcting they must always avoid foolish arguments, knowing that they will only generate strife.
But sadly, as this passage is clear on, there are some whom I would say are almost past repentance. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5 that they have “a form of godliness but deny its power.” This kind is especially present in the last days (Are we in the last days?). Look at the long list of their sinful traits (3:2-5). They may appear to be Christians, they may speak and act like a Christian, but they are not! Any Christianity they appear to have is only on the outside; it’s just for show. They deny and reject true Christianity, as they deny that God is able to do anything for them. They obviously don’t know God or His Son; because they have not come to the knowledge of the truth (they have not been truly saved).
Do you know anyone like this? Someone who appears to be a Christian, and who is even a student of the Bible, but whom you suspect is not really a true Christian? Well, Paul tells us that these people, though they may go to church and appear religious are really quite dangerous, because they not only deny the truth themselves but they teach the weak their wrong doctrine so that they too are not able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Of this sort, who are only out to do destruction (as the devil’s servants), we are to stay away from (3:5).
Now, with such negativity about these people, I can’t help look back at 2 Timothy 2:25: “…if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” None of us are able to be saved on our own. And none of us are to judge who is too far gone. Our job is to pray that people will come to repentance and be saved (and if God gives us the opportunity, to humbly teach and correct them). And then it is up to God to grant repentance and salvation to whomever He wills. God is able to change any heart—no matter how hard or how wicked that heart is.
The lesson here I see for me is that I need to pray for everyone, no matter what they appear to be. Some may appear to be Christian, but they may not be. My prayer for everyone that God burdens me to pray for is that He would grant them repentance and that they would come to the knowledge of the truth; that is, that they would come to know Jesus—to know Him more intimately then they ever thought possible.