Thursday, November 24, 2016

Proverbs 11:9 --- Knowledge that Leads to Life

Proverbs 11:9 
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
    but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

This verse is not about slander.  I agree with Derek Kidner that the godless man is not slandering his neighbor, but rather undermining his faith in the Lord.  Kidner refers to an older commentator (Moffatt) and says, "Moffatt takes his [the godless man's] talk to be slanderous, but the second line suggests that it is, rather, subversive, undermining true values.  The best defense is knowledge . . . so that you bypass his distortions."[1]

"The 'godless' or 'profane' person is one who goes through life ignoring God."[2]  Listening, then, to the godless man and imbibing his godless worldview is dangerous to the soul, because it can lead us away from the salvation that comes from knowing the Father and the Son (John 17:3).  Jay Adams recognizes the danger when he says, "You cannot go East and West at the same time without injury to yourself.  You must choose: will you receive God's counsel or someone else's?"[3]

Knowledge is our safeguard against apostasy.  Knowledge or wisdom delivers the righteous from the false teaching and worldview of the godless man (see Proverbs 2:10-16).  The godless man may be a friend or co-worker or pastor or an unbelieving world, mass media, or college curriculum.  But the danger to the soul, wherever it comes from, is real because we live in a spiritual battleground.  The church lives in enemy territory as an outpost or embassy of the kingdom of God.  We seek the salvation and blessing of the world, but nevertheless, we must be on guard, for two kingdoms vie for our souls, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light:
"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).

But, sadly, we live in a time when knowledge of the truth and of our triune God are at all-time lows.  The very knowledge our proverb tells us can deliver from the destruction of apostasy, is itself attacked, even in the church.  Knowledge of the Bible and the truth are downplayed in many circles, even though the knowledge of the Scriptures can bring us to salvation and union with Jesus Christ:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ  Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15). 

Charles Quarles is a professor of New Testament and Biblical Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  For several years, he has given a brief test to incoming students at an evangelical Christian college designed to measure their understanding of the Christian faith.  Over a thousand students have taken the test, and 90% of the students claim to be Christians.  The results are astonishing and sad[4]:

  • ·         78% believe that all people are basically good.
  • ·         65% cannot identify a simple definition of new birth in a multiple-choice question.
  • ·         54% think that faith in Jesus is unnecessary for salvation.
  • ·         54% affirm that Jesus forgives believers but deny that he transforms them.
  • ·         42% believe that people go to heaven because of their personal morality rather than because of Jesus' sacrificial death.
  • ·         32% do not know that Christianity affirms the deity of Jesus Christ.
  • ·         25% do not know that Christianity claims that Jesus literally rose from the dead.

Our proverb today teaches us the need of knowledge that saves us from spiritual destruction or apostasy.  This knowledge is a knowledge of the truth of the Scriptures, which leads to a knowledge of the Father and the Son, which is eternal life: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).  This knowledge alone can save us and transfer us out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of the Father's beloved Son, in whom we have forgiveness (see Colossians 1:13-14). 

The Scriptures inform us.  They give us knowledge.  They teach us about our God, ourselves, our world, and our faith.  Most importantly, they lead us to know the Father and the Son, which is eternal life.


[1] Kidner, Proverbs, 86.
[2] Van Leeuewen, 118.
[3] Adams. Proverbs, 83.
[4] Charles L. Quarles, A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed as Deliverer, King, and Incarnate Creator, 1-2.

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