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    CHAPTER III. THE ESSENTIALS TO KNOWLEDGE

    WE may be told that which is veritably true, the essential truth of God; yet if we doubt it, and so long as we doubt it, we never can know it. Therefore, doubt is essentially and only the open door to ignorance.PBE 17.1

    Further, we may be told that which is altogether false, an outright lie; yet though we believe it, however implicitly, we never can know it. This, for the simple reason that it is not so; and it is impossible to know what is not so.PBE 17.2

    Therefore there are just two things which are essential to knowing. These two things are truth and faith.PBE 17.3

    Truth and faith are the two essentials to knowledge: and the first of these in order is truth. This, for the reason already stated, that however implicitly we may believe that which is not so, we never can know it. Therefore, since that which is believed must be true in order to be known, it follows that truth is the first essential to knowledge. And since even the sincerest truth, when told, can not be known without our believing it, it follows that the second essential to knowledge is faith. Truth and faith, therefore, working together—the truth believed—is the way to knowledge.PBE 17.4

    This can be illustrated by an experience familiar to almost all. It is the truth that A is A. We believed this truth, and thus, and thus only, we know that A is A. If we had not believed that truth when we were told it, we should not now know that A, B, C, D, etc., are what they are; and had we never believed this, we never could have known it. If in this we had asked for proof as a basis for belief, we never could have had it, and so never could have believed, and so never could have known this fundamental thing in all literary knowledge. We could have had no proof, apart from itself, that A or any other letter of the alphabet is what it is.PBE 17.5

    There is proof of this, but the proof is in the letter itself; and by believing it, by receiving it for what it is we obtain the knowledge; and in this knowledge and by experience we obtain the proof. For in each of the letters of the alphabet there is a value which responded to our belief: a value which has never failed and which never will fail us. We know that each of the letters is what it is: and all the philologists, philosophers, and scientists in all the world could not convince us that any letter of the alphabet is other than it simply is. And yet the means by which we know this is simple belief of a simple, and simply-told, truth.PBE 18.1

    This thought, this illustration, does not stop here. The first two letters of the Greek alphabet are Alpha and Beta. Dropping the “a” from Beta, these two Greek letters give us our word Alpha-bet. This word “alphabet” signifies all the letters of the English language. How comes this, when the word itself is derived from only the first two of the letters of the Greek language? It comes in a very simple way. When we in our language wish to ask whether a person knows, or we wish to say that a person does not know, the alphabet, we most commonly ask not. “Does he know the alphabet?” nor, “Does he know the A B C D E F G H I J K L M N.” and so on through to “Z?” but we ask, “Does he know the A B C’s?” or we say, “He does not know his A B C’s.” The Greeks did the same way: When they wished to express the same thought, they did not say, “Does he know the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon,” and so on to “Omega?” but simply, “Does he know the Alpha Beta?” or, “He does not know the Alpha Beta.” And this Greek abbreviation of the whole list of the letters of that language into only “Alpha Beta” comes down to us with the dropping of the “a” from Beta; and so becomes our word “alphabet,” the abbreviation of the whole list of the letters of our language.PBE 18.2

    In common English there is a concise way of saying that a person knows little or nothing of a subject, in the expression, “He does not know the A B C of it.” The Greeks had the same, “He does not know the Alpha Beta of it.” On the other hand, there is a concise way of saying that a person is thoroughly informed, or knows all of a subject, in the expression, “He knows that subject from A to Z,” or, old style, “from A to Izzard” The Greeks had the same, “He knows that subject from Alpha to Omega”—he knows all there is to be known of it. And this is the basis and the thought in the expression of Christ in the book of Revelation several times, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”PBE 19.1

    Jesus is the Alphabet of God. As the expression “Alpha and Omega” signifies the whole alphabet, and embraces all there is in the Greek language; and “A to Z” signifies the whole alphabet, all that there is in the English language; so Jesus Christ, the Alphabet of God, embraces all that there is of the language or knowledge of God. As in the twenty-four letters of the Greek Alphabet from Alpha to Omega there are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in the world of that language; and as in the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet there are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that there are in the world of the English language; so in Jesus Christ, the Alphabet of God, there are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that there are in the universe of the language of God.PBE 20.1

    And this Alphabet of God is learned in precisely the same way and with precisely the same faculty as is the alphabet of Greek, or English, or any other language. The Alphabet of God is the truth. We believe that truth and thus we know that He is what He is. There is proof of this, but the proof is in Himself. By believing this Alphabet, by receiving Him for what He is, we obtain the knowledge; and in this knowledge and by experience of it we have the constant living proof. For in this Alphabet of God, in each letter, yea, in each jot and tittle, there is a value that responds to our faith: a value that never has failed, that never will fail, and that never can fail, to respond to any man’s belief of that Alphabet. And to him who thus knows the Alphabet of God, all the philosophers and all the scientists and all the unbelievers in all the world can not prove to him that any part of this Alphabet is not what He is. Indeed, any one attempting to prove any such thing only thereby reveals the fact that he does not yet know the true Alphabet: he does not yet know his A B C’s.PBE 20.2

    It is only as a little child that we learn, it is only as a little child any one can learn, the alphabet of the English language. Though a man were a thousand years old, and fully possessed of all his faculties, and yet did not know the A B C’s, the alphabet of English, he would have to become as a little child in order to learn it, in order to receive the knowledge that A is A: he would have to simply believe it as does the little child, and by believing that each letter is what it is, when he were told, he would know. And if he should refuse to believe this, by this very refusal—by his unbelief itself—he would be condemned—he would thus condemn himself—to everlasting loss of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hid in the world of English.PBE 21.1

    So also it is with the Alphabet of the language and knowledge of God. It is only by believing this Alphabet that any person can ever know Him. If any one refuses to believe, he can not know. And whosoever believeth not is by this very unbelief condemned—he by this condemns himself—to everlasting loss of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God: all of which lie hidden in the Alphabet of God. For as it is by various combinations of the contents of the alphabet that words are formed, and words express thought; so the manifold combinations of the contents of the Alphabet of God form the Word of God, and the Word of God expresses the thought of God.PBE 21.2

    Therefore Jesus Christ announced the eternal principle of true learning when He declared, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in nowise enter therein.” The little child does receive the kingdom of God. He receives it by simply believing the simple statement of the Word of the kingdom. This is how every one receives, and how every one must receive, the kingdom of English or of any other language. It is how every one must receive the kingdom of God. To receive the kingdom of God, and to know the Alphabet of God, is as easy as to know the A B C’s. Therefore to learn, not as a philosopher, but as a little child, is the true way to knowledge. The truth and faith, working together—the truth believed—is forever the true way to knowledge.PBE 22.1

    Accordingly when God would seek to save the world from the ruin of its ignorance, He did it by presenting to the world the truth to be believed. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching [the preaching of the Word, which is the truth: the preaching of Christ, who is the Truth] to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-24.PBE 22.2

    We have read the words of Inspiration that it was by wisdom that the world knew not (was ignorant of) God. We have also read the words of Inspiration that the Gentiles were alienated (separated, cut off) from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them. We have seen that in the wisdom of God, and in the essential truth of the case, the world’s wisdom was ignorance: and that not only was the world in its ignorance alienated from the life of God, but that it was by this ignorance itself that the world was alienated from the life of God.PBE 23.1

    Since, then, it is the characteristic of ignorance to separate men from the life of God; on the other hand, it is the characteristic of knowledge that it joins men to the life of God, which is eternal life. Accordingly, it is written. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” This is equally true, read only in the words, “This is life eternal, that they might know.” So that, as certainly as ignorance, being the product of doubt, by which men can not know, alienates men from the life of God; so certainly knowledge, being the product of faith in the truth, by which men certainly know, unites men to the life of God.PBE 23.2

    We have seen that it is belief of the truth alone which brings men to knowledge: and since Jesus Christ is “the Truth,” it follows that faith in Christ as the Word of God is the only way to knowledge. Accordingly, again, Inspiration draws clearly the distinction between the world of Greek wisdom, which was ignorance; and faith in Christ, which is the way of knowledge. And so it is written 1[Page 24] The Twentieth Century New Testament translation of this passage (Colossians 2:2-10) is so expressive that it is here used. : “My aim is that they may be encouraged, and be bound to one another by love, so attaining to the full blessedness of a firm and intelligent conviction, and to a perfect knowledge of God’s secret truths which are embodied in Christ. For all God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found stored up in Christ. I say this to prevent any one deceiving you by plausible arguments. It is true that I am not with you in person, but I am with you in spirit: and I rejoice to know of your good order and of the solid front which you present through your faith in Christ.PBE 24.1

    “Since, then, you have received Jesus, the Christ, as your Lord, live your lives in union with Him—rooted in Him, building up your lives upon Him, growing stronger through your faith, true to the teaching you received, rich in faith, and always giving thanks. Take care there is not some one who will capture you by his ‘philosophy’—a hollow sham! Such teaching follows mere human traditions, and has to do with puerile questions of the world, and not with Christ For the Godhead in all its fulness dwells in Christ in a bodily form; and, by your union with Him, you also are filled with it.”PBE 24.2

    Again, this contrast between the world’s ignorance and God’s knowledge is clearly drawn in 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 2:10, and, as translated in the Twentieth Century version, reads: “The Message of the Cross is indeed mere folly to people who are on the way to Ruin, but to us who are on the way to Salvation it is the very power of God. Indeed, Scripture says—PBE 25.1

    “‘I will bring the wisdom of the wise to nothing,PBE 25.2

    “‘And make the cleverness of the clever of no account.’PBE 25.3

    “Where are the wise men? or the teachers of religion? or the critical people of to-day? Has not God shown the world’s wisdom to be folly? For since the world, in God’s wisdom, did not by its own wisdom get to know God, God saw fit, by the ‘folly’ of our proclamation, to save those who believe it! While Jews are asking for miraculous signs and Greeks are seeking for wisdom, we are proclaiming Christ who has been crucified! To the Jews He is an obstacle, to the heathen He is mere folly, but to those who have received the Call, whether Jews or Greeks, He is Christ—God’s power and God’s wisdom. For God’s ‘folly’ is wiser than men, and God’s ‘weakness’ is stronger than men!PBE 25.4

    “Look, Brothers, at the facts of your Call. There are not many among you who are wise as men reckon wisdom, not many who are influential, not many who are high-born; but God chose what the world calls foolish to put its wise men to shame, and God chose what the world calls weak to put its ‘strength’ to shame, and God chose those whom the world calls low-born and beneath regard—mere nobodies—to put down its ‘somebodies,’ so that in His presence no human being should boast. But you, by your union with Christ Jesus, are God’s offspring; and Christ, by God’s will, became not only our Wisdom, but also our Righteousness, our Holiness, our Deliverance, so that—in the words of Scripture—’Let those who boast, boast about the Lord.”PBE 25.5

    “For my own part, Brothers, when I came to you, I did not come to tell you of the secret truths of God in the fine language of philosophy; for I had determined that, while with you, I would know nothing but Jesus Christ—and Him as one crucified! Indeed, when I found myself among you, I felt weak and timid and greatly agitated. My Message and my Proclamation were not delivered in the persuasive language of philosophy; but they were accompanied by manifestations of spiritual power, so that your faith should be based, not on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God.PBE 26.1

    “Yet what we speak of among those whose faith is matured is really wisdom, but it is not the wisdom of to-day nor the wisdom of the leaders of to-day—men whose downfall is at hand. No, the wisdom we speak of, when we deal with secret truths, is divine; it is the long-hidden wisdom, which God, before time began, decreed, that it might bring us glory. This wisdom is not known to any of the leaders of to-day. Had they known it, they would not have crucified our glorious Master. But Scripture speaks of it asPBE 26.2

    “‘What no eye ever saw, what no car ever heard,PBE 27.1

    “‘What never entered the mind of man—PBE 27.2

    “‘All that God prepared for those who love Him.’PBE 27.3

    “Yet to us God revealed it through His Spirit; for the Spirit fathoms everything, even the profoundest secrets of God.”PBE 27.4

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