Always Learning and Never Able to Arrive at a Knowledge of the Truth

by Mike Ratliff

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6 ESV)

always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7 ESV)

Carefully read both passages above (1 Timothy 2:3-6 and 2 Timothy 3:7). Notice that the Apostle Paul used the exact same phrase “knowledge of the truth” in both. This a translation of the Greek words ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας in both passages. Notice also that in 1 Timothy 2:4 that Paul clearly is referring to believers coming to an understanding of God’s saving truth in Jesus Christ, however, in 2 Timothy 3:7 he is describing people are are unable to do so. What has truth to do with salvation anyway? I read some articles and emails today from some of these Emergent types and they are of the opinion that there is no such thing. However, here we must do two things. We must stand firm and tell it like it is. 

Here is 2 Timothy 3:7 in Greek:

πάντοτε μανθάνοντα καὶ μηδέποτε εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν δυνάμενα. (2 Timothy 3:7 GNT)

Here is my word for word translation:

always learning and but not yet into knowledge of the truth to come being able.

The word “truth” here is ἀληθείας. It is used in John 1:14, for instance, where it refers to the incarnate Christ: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In John 16:13 we read, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” In God’s economy, in the Biblical sense, in the way God has designed things for His people, the concept of the truth is that which is not concealed. It is what really is true. The genuine Christian understanding of truth is that it is that which is absolute, that which is incontrovertible, irrefutable, incontestable, unarguable, and unchanging. If something is true, it is always true and can never be untrue, no matter what the circumstances. Also, and this makes some post modernists very angry with me for saying it, what is true is true regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not.

With that said, what, then, is true? What is factual? What is absolutely reliable, totally secure and unchanging and still there are those who are always learning, but never able to find it? The answer is God and His Word. No matter what man discovers, no matter what he learns, no matter what advances he makes, if he misses this, he has not found the truth.

I have two examples to contrast with this for you. My friend Ken Silva was making comments on a blog today that was all about Contemplative Spirituality. One of those who objected to Ken’s comments there replied with this:

As I have sat on the sidelines so far all I have seen you do is reassert your opinion without really showing any evidence that you really understand the contemplative tradition at all. It looks to me like you read something somewhere and for whatever reason it bothered you.

What I have not seen either is any recognition on your part that perhaps either your Christian background or your culture colors your interpretation of scripture (it does with all of us).

I have been an evangelical for over 30 years and I am beginning to see more and more that we have been shaped by living in America (as someone is by being in Africa), and that maybe we threw a whole lot of stuff out at the reformation that was true.

Don’t quit digging for truth, but recognize that it does not always sound like something you are familiar with. You can be wrong as well.

Yes, the tone of that you detected there was a patronizing and condescending attitude of, “Well you know, since you have a problem with Contemplative Spirituality then you are obviously not educated enough or you are just hung up with your ‘traditions,’ etc.” This person’s idea of the truth is what? It certainly isn’t the Biblical model we discussed above is it? No, it is a man centered focus. You see, the truth is clear, the right focus is for us to be God Centered in our faith and our religion, in all we do. That means we believe Him and obey Him. We do not seek to find answers from within as this fellow is doing.

The other example is found here. The title of the article is Beer Me, Jesus. I found it very offensive on many levels. It is about one of the founders of Catalyst, which he describes as “a place for “recovering evangelicals.” However, I would like to share with you one of this guy’s quotes that I found to be the very reason he does what he does. He has no knowledge of God because of this. Here is the quote:

“I’m an agnostic every other day,” he proclaims. “As for the Bible, I don’t hold to inerrancy in the text. It’s not meant to be taken literally; I don’t think that the authors even meant it to be taken literally. That’s why I have a problem with Christians who say. ‘This is how atonement works…”

Now, this fellow is arrogant enough to say that all of us are wrong about our faith, but he refuses to accept the concept of God’s truth being absolute. Well there you go…

always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7 ESV)

As I stated above, we have to do two things, stand firm and tell it like it is. I think there is a another thing that is missing as well. It is is time for leadership in the Church to do what it is supposed to do and call out these people. When preachers and pastors and conference speakers, et cetera prove they have no knowledge of the truth of God by what they say and do then they should be rebuked and revealed to be false. However, the visible church is infected with the deadly disease of post modernism which causes it to think that what I just said is the worst sin imaginable. To cause offense is now considered the worst deadly sin. Well, I no longer care.

Soli Deo Gloria!

13 thoughts on “Always Learning and Never Able to Arrive at a Knowledge of the Truth

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Always Learning and Never Able to Arrive at a Knowledge of the Truth « Possessing the Treasure -- Topsy.com

  2. You are absolutely right brother. Amen and amen!

    “Also, and this makes some post modernists very angry with me for saying it, what is true is true regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not.”
    I find it amazing this would anger anyone. In fact, this should give us great peace and comfort and is a reason for us to rejoice.

  3. ”To cause offense is now considered the worst deadly sin. Well, I no longer care.”
    Yes indeed. And in fact if it were the case that that was the worst thing to do, Jesus himself would be the worst of us all!:

    And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
    (Mark 8:33)

    If that’s not offensive, I don’t know what is! And this was to someone he loved dearly.
    The Lord has mercifully offended me into the truth, I have suffered such torment and breaking of heart to get here, able to kneel before his throne ,and I am joyfully thankful for it. This issue is close to my heart. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to find the things of God my husband talked about soooo offensive! I would tell him and he would say,”well I can’t change the truth. People must be offended, its the only way they will ever notice that there is something wrong in them.” He is right. Now when I feel the offence rising up inside me, the holy spirit has taught me to shut up, listen and go away and prayfully examine my heart. There is a definate difference between when our prideful hearts are offended and when the holy spirit in us is offended.I praise his glorious grace, for allowing me to see the difference.
    The Lord bless you Mike.
    Fiona

  4. Mike,
    I am with you 100% on what you have written here.

    I could not get to to your link, so I went and had a look at the Journal entry that the article on CRN is taken from and then went on to find the church that is run by the gent, that your quote was taken from.

    If you have a look at their Core Statement and their Statement of Faith, to all intents and purposes, it appears just like any other and each one has a suitable scripture. Strange that they use scripture after reading his quote…

    Now I know, that some statements of faith are often actually rather meaningless when you really get to grips with what they really believe in. It is easy to write stuff down, which at the end of the day is often just religion, all dressed up and going the wrong way completely. Again, the subtle cunning of the devil as always. How often have we heard people saying “Oh, if it has Scripture and they use the names of Jesus, God and Holy Spirit then it must be ok….”? It boggles the mind…

    The Truth as you said, can not ever be anything else but that. As long as people follow men and their deemed ‘cleverness or supposed spirituality’ which in return makes them feel ‘clever and spiritual’ too, they will be flawed from the beginning in their understanding as it will be based in the human intellect and knowledge not in God, no matter how diligently they study, as the scripture states above. From there, it can only be a steady downhill in understanding of salvation, they will have a world outlook (they wont have a Biblical outlook), and of course their understanding of the Atonement which is at the crux of being a Christian. The Holy Spirit is not present in anyone who is not truly born again – a new creation in Spirit and in Truth and that is why they claim what they do and cannot come to the understanding that they need to. It is all man-based and not God-based.

    Keep on keeping on in this work :-D
    May the Lord both bless you and encourage you today
    Your sister in Christ
    Steph

  5. Jesus caused offense with the intellectuals of His day too….and He alone is the truth! Thank you, Mike, for reminding us that we must adhere to the One Truth! For all other “truth” is nothing but man’s subjective feelings, and can change as the shifting sands.

  6. Amen!!! We must speak Truth. Too many are deceived, especially within the church. In todays day, Truth is not politically correct and therefore it is offensive and hurtful. Gods word is true, period. Speaking Truth and calling out false teachers and false teaching is showing biblical love. When we speak Truth we are showing love. It may not “feel” good but it is eternally good for us. Thank you for teaching Truth, Mike.

  7. Your quote by the self declared agnostic
    “I’m an agnostic every other day,” he proclaims. “As for the Bible, I don’t hold to inerrancy in the text. It’s not meant to be taken literally; I don’t think that the authors even meant it to be taken literally. That’s why I have a problem with Christians who say. ‘This is how atonement works…”

    He is anchored to his own truth. I prefer to be anchored to something more stable…God’s Truth.
    He sounds very much like how God describes the wicked…waves tossing about on the high seas with no peace or rest
    Isaiah 57:20
    But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
    Ephesians 4:14
    Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
    James 1
    5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

    Obviously, we do not have any stability in ourselves…we are tossed and driven… but God’s Truth…now that is an anchor for the soul.

  8. Mike,

    No kidding. This morning I was deemed a damnable hater for condemning the actions of a false religion. The person suggested I go to visit countries to see “how it really is”. I replied if man had all the answers, we wouldn’t be debating hate right now, would we? No, it is hatred for God that fuels the unbeliever, but God’s Word is absolutely inerrant in every way, and God is loved through Jesus as the Scriptures reveal to us. Oh, that I would be more bold in my faith…even though I will be hated for being so.

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