Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).
There seem to be the perception among some that being sure and certain about one’s Christian beliefs is a sign of arrogance and lack of humility. Sadly, rather, it appears vagueness about one’s beliefs is considered a sign of humility and virtue. Discernment has given way to credulity and superstition.
In the opening words of Luke’s gospel, there are some instructive words worth examining in this subjective anti-intellectual Christian age. Luke’s gospel is an orderly account of events about the life and earthly ministry of Christ written to Theophilus with an objective in mind: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:4). Theophilus was the same recipient of the book of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”(Acts 1:1).
Do you see what’s going on? This is an “orderly account” of events with the aim of giving Theophilus roots in his beliefs: “certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4).
Do you have certainty in the things you believe? Knowledge solidifies our beliefs. Knowledge gives us certainty concerning the things we believe or have been taught. Knowledge gives us roots; grounding our beliefs! Christianity is not a blind leap into the dark abyss. Christian faith is knowledge driven: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). It is not commendable to be “clouds without water”. Zeal without knowledge is spoken against in Scripture (Rom 10:2).
The Bible calls us unto maturity “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you” (Colossians 2:6-7). “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” (2Peter 3:18). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”(Ephesians 1:17-19).
The apostles spoke and wrote words of certainty in communicating the gospel. “We know” and many other phrases connoting certainty are common in the New Testament: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1John 2:3). “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). In these words we see certainty that is a result of what “we know” and are “sure” of.
One of my favourite “we know” statements is in 1John 3:2: “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”. Further in v.3, we see the benefit of this certainty: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure”. Knowledge leading to certainty in our beliefs has the power to “regulate” our lives. If we know what God requires of us from His word then we are well positioned to obey Him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”(John 8:31b).
Knowledge is desirable in our faith walk. We are not called to put aside reasoning in our pursuit of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The Bible calls us to love Him with the totality of our being including our mind and thinking faculties (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-37, Mark 13:30).
We live in the most anti-intellectual age of history, and even many Christians believe we can compartmentalize faith as a way of knowing completely separate from sense perception and reason. Yet as Augustine told us centuries ago, how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind? Could we say that “Jesus is Lord” without some understanding of what the term Lord means, what the verb is indicates, and who the name Jesus refers to? We can’t believe the gospel without our minds understanding it to a degree.