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Is It Possible to Not Know What You Know?

2/1/18 | by Rick Foster

    The New Testament gives us two different words for the term “know”. The first is oida (oi,da). It means to know in the sense of having mental information. So, it describes our ability as humans to understand, to grasp meaning, or to recognize. This word is often used in the broadest sense of a person having knowledge about something.

    But then there’s the other word for “know”, which is ginosko (ginw,skw). It describes a knowledge that is acquired or gained by close association. In other words, a person comes to having familiarity with something through experience.

    The difference between the two words is striking. For example: a teacher can show photos, or a video of the Grand Canyon in order that the students learn, or know about it. That is oida. But if they go on a field trip and actually stand at the edge, or better yet, hike to the bottom, the students now know the Grand Canyon in a personal way because they’ve experienced it. That’s ginosko!

    When Paul prays in Eph.3:19 that we might “know the love of Christ”, or in Philippians 3:10 that his one driving desire is “to know Him”, or when Jesus says in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd….and my own know me.” –the word is ginosko.

    Why am I giving you this Greek lesson? I don’t want you to settle for an oida brand of Christianity!

    For too many years I did. Somewhere, somehow I became convinced that the more facts I knew the better I was doing in my faith. But I was quietly and consistently disturbed by the distance between my head and my heart. I had four great years at a Christian college, and four more wonderful years getting my Master’s degree at a top-tier seminary. I oozed biblical information (oida), but my heart lagged behind in being transformed by what I knew (givosko).

    Knowing Jesus is all about an experiential relationship. Information about Him is important, but only as it leads us to experience Him. It is possible for a person (child or adult) to answer correctly any and all biblical questions from their well of knowledge (oida), yet they may not know (givosko) Jesus.

    2 Peter 3:18 encourages us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. The word Peter uses is givosko. Truth is a Person to know, not simply facts I can recite. Spiritual maturity is not gauged by the amount of biblical information a person knows (oida), but by how that biblical information has led them to experience a transforming relationship of knowing (givosko) Jesus.

    It is a daily battle to keep all this straight –to let oida lead me to givosko. Yet when it does, wonderful things happen!

    “You will know (givosko) the truth, and the truth will set you free." -John 8:32

    In the struggle with you,

    Rick Foster (RBC Interim Senior Pastor)