Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mathetes 12 - Knowledge is Needed for Spiritual Life

This is a continuation of my series on Mathetes letter to Diognetus. If you are unfamiliar with Mathetes or his letter to Diognetus, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

When we give head to the message of God and yield ourselves to His will, it is as if we are presenting ourselves to Him as a garden for His planting; even as the Garden of Eden itself. A garden that brings forth fruit, spiritual fruit, unto God.
"When you have read and carefully listened to these things, you shall know what God bestows on such as rightly love Him, being made [as ye are] a paradise of delight, presenting in yourselves a tree bearing all kinds of produce and flourishing well, being adorned with various fruits." (Mathetes 12)
In reflecting on the Garden of Eden, Mathetes recalls that God planted both the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life and, while the Tree of Knowledge served as the source of Adam and Eve's down fall, it was not the tree itself that caused their expulsion from Eden but rather their disobedience.
"For in this place the tree of knowledge and the tree of life have been planted; but it is not the tree of knowledge that destroys— it is disobedience that proves destructive." (Mathetes 12)
Mathetes was not the only one who wrote to defend the Tree of Knowledge and to point out that the cause of Adam and Even's fall was not the tree but their lack of obedience. Theophilus in his second book to Autolycus wrote,
"The tree of knowledge itself was good, and its fruit was good. For it was not the tree, as some think, but the disobedience, which had death in it. For there was nothing else in the fruit than only knowledge; but knowledge is good when one uses it discreetly.81 But Adam, being yet an infant in age, was on this account as yet unable to receive knowledge worthily." (Theophilus, Book 2, Chapter 25)
Theophilus, who wrote around 168 AD, believed that God forbade access to the Tree of Knowledge because some knowledge was only fit for, and therefore reserved for, those who had achieved a stature of life and the a degree of wisdom commensurate with that stature. Mathetes also believed that knowledge was as essential to life as life was to knowledge and that God forbidding access to the Tree of Knowledge was not an indictment against knowledge.
"Nor truly are those words without significance which are written, how God from the beginning planted the tree of life in the midst of paradise, revealing through knowledge the way to life, and when those who were first formed did not use this [knowledge] properly, they were, through the fraud of the Serpent, stripped naked. For neither can life exist without knowledge, nor is knowledge secure without life. Wherefore both were planted close together." (Mathetes 12)
The problem with knowledge arises when we seek for it apart from God. Remember what the serpent told Eve, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5) The lure of the Devil was that Adam and Eve could become like God, knowing the difference between good and evil, without God. The serpent promised that they could obtain knowledge by themselves, without the aid or relationship with God. However, knowledge apart from God is folly.
"The Apostle, perceiving the force [of this conjunction], and blaming that knowledge which, without true doctrine, is admitted to influence life, declares, 'Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.' For he who thinks he knows anything without true knowledge, and such as is witnessed to by life, knows nothing, but is deceived by the Serpent, as not loving life." (Mathetes 12)
It is very possible that Mathetes learned this directly from Paul himself being that he was discipled by the apostles. The knowledge that puffs up is a knowledge that does not come from God. Mathetes understood that life does not come from knowledge but knowledge from life. The Tree of Knowledge only makes since after we have eaten of the Tree of Life, not the other way around.
"But he who combines knowledge with fear, and seeks after life, plants in hope, looking for fruit. Let your heart be your wisdom; and let your life be true knowledge inwardly received." (Mathetes 12)
Knowledge from life is the way of the kingdom. As we pursue our life in Christ, in obedience and faith, we come to learn and acknowledge true knowledge and understanding. When we learn to first eat of the Tree of Life, then we are made fit to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and the knowledge we gain serves to move us closer to God rather than drive us further away by our own conceit and pride.
"Bearing this tree and displaying its fruit, thou shalt always gather in those things which are desired by God, which the Serpent cannot reach, and to which deception does not approach; nor is Eve then corrupted, but is trusted as a virgin; and salvation is manifested, and the Apostles are filled with understanding, and the Passover of the Lord advances, and the choirs are gathered together, and are arranged in proper order, and the Word rejoices in teaching the saints,—by whom the Father is glorified: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (Mathetes 12)
Knowledge is essential to our spiritual life just as life to knowledge, but knowledge does not begin with us, it flows from the life we have in Christ. If we pursue first our life with Christ then knowledge will follow. However, if we pursue knowledge first, then we will never find life with God. God is the god of all knowledge and it is only in Him that we can truly be filled with all knowledge and truth.

David Robison

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