Beware of an Unsanctified Knowledge of Christianity
I’m posting this here as a reminder to myself. The following words from J. C. Ryle on Luke 4:33 – 44 grabbed me this morning.
First, the section of Luke about which Ryle writes:
Luke 4:33 – 44
33. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
34. Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee; thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
35. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.
36. And they were all amazed, and spake among theselves, saying, What a word is this! For with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
37. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.
38. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her.
39. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her; and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
40. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
41. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
42. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.
43. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
44. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
We should notice, in this passage, the clear religious knowledge possessed by the devil and his agents. Twice in these verses we have proof of this. “I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God,” was the language of an unclean devil in one case – “Thou art Christ the son of God,” was the language of many devils in another. Yet this knowledge was a knowledge unaccompanied by faith, or hope, or charity. Those who possessed it were miserable fallen beings, full of bitter hatred both against God and man.
Let us beware of an unsanctified knowledge of Christianity. It is a dangerous possession, but a fearfully common one in these latter days. We may know the Bible intellectually, and have no doubt about the truth of its contents. We may have our memories well stored with its leading texts, and be able to talk glibly about its leading doctrines. And all this time the Bible may have no influence over our hearts, and wills, and consciences. We may, in reality, be nothing better than the devils.
Let it never content us to know religion with our heads only. We may go on all our lives saying, “I know that, and I know that,” and sink at last into hell, with the words upon our lips. Let us see that our knowledge bears fruit in our lives. Does our knowledge of sin make us hate it? Does our knowledge of Christ make us trust and love Him? Does our knowledge of God’s will make us strive to do it? Does our knowledge of the fruits of the Spirit make us labor to show them in our daily behavior? Knowledge of this kind is really profitable. Any other religious knowledge will only add to our condemnation at the last day.
– Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1
– J. C. Ryle, 1858