“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. ” (2 Timothy 3:14–15, NAS)
Reading 2 Timothy this morning, this jumped out at me. Especially "the things you have learned and become convinced of…." When Paul writes this to Timothy, he speaks of the two facets of discipleship and faith.
What are those two facets, you ask? Well, maybe you did…
They are both related to knowledge. We need to clear something up about knowledge and Biblical Christianity. The New Testament knows of no Christians that do not act on what they know. Discipleship is the process of learning what is required and acting on what is learned. Christian Discipleship, therefore, is learning what is required by Christ and acting on it.
Two facets: intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. We have a tendency out here in Western Christianity to prefer one to the other, but let's take a moment and realize what these words mean and why both are important.
Intellectual knowledge is, well, facts and details. It is composed of the things that you know (or I know) that we learn from reading and teaching. This is a crucial part of our life as disciples of Christ. Why? How do I know Jesus was born? How do I know of the lives of those who have gone before in the faith? All of this is, in truth, intellectual knowledge. I can claim that my life shows that I know Jesus lives because He lives within my heart, but I really know this because I have read it and been taught it.
Experiential knowledge is the things that I have experienced. It's the things I know because I have seen and experienced them in my own life. Whether it be the ability of God to mend a broken heart or His power to heal where doctors are at a loss, the work of the Spirit to bring peace to relationships or to change a sinner's heart and life, these are things that I not only know from intellect, but from experience.
We have a tendency to pick one of these and prefer it, as I said above. Some would hold that only what is written and passed on by those before us is valid, that there is no place for "I have seen…." Others, meanwhile, would discard all teaching from others and only acknowledge what they, themselves, have experienced.
Yet Paul commends to Timothy to remember what he has learned. He highlights the sacred writings and reminds Timothy of them. These are not things Timothy experienced or ever would. After all, Timothy would learn of the parting of the Red Sea, but not experience it. We cannot downplay the importance of learning intellectually.
Neither can we deny learning experientially. Paul has this in mind when he highlights have become convinced of. This speaks of things that Timothy knows not just from intellect but from seeing them in action. By his own experience, Timothy has seen God at work, has seen God's power, and proven God's trustworthiness.
As we grow to follow Christ, we have to start with what we've learned from others. In the course of life, we'll see some aspects of our faith proven to be true. From those experiences, we learn to trust the intellectual that connects to them.
We cannot live without both. We dare not become bookworms that do nothing nor busy bees that know nothing.