With Great Spiritual Knowledge Comes Great Responsibility

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

With great “Spiritual” knowledge comes great responsibility There are many people, especially in America, who possess knowledge about God, but have never applied that knowledge to their lives. Having grown up in a “Christian” nation, possibly in a “Christian” household, they think that simply knowing about God is the same as knowing God.

However, this is not the case.  An intellectual assent to a truth is not the same as allowing that truth to change the way you live.  I can believe that a certain medicine will make me well, but if I do not take that medicine, I will remain sick.  The same thing applies to a person’s spiritual life.  If one knows about God, but refuses to make the truths of the Bible part of his or her life, that person will remain condemned for their sins.  In fact, the Bible indicates that one who knows the truth about God, but does not act on that truth, is worse off than someone who has never understood his or her responsibility to Him.

For the most part, knowledge is a good thing. Knowing that a fire is hot keeps us from being burned. However, knowledge also carries responsibility. Knowing one’s responsibility, obligations, or restrictions, but choosing to ignore them, can reap negative, even tragic, consequences.  This is true of spiritual matters also.

Knowledge and salvation

Many times, people hear the Gospel, understand it clearly, but reject God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  The apostle Peter writes, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21 ESV). Clearly, and obviously, one who has been shown the way to forgiveness is more accountable for his or her response than a person who does not know the truth of the Gospel.

We instinctively know that this principle is correct: one who knows the standard is more responsible for that knowledge than one who does not know the standard. For example, when one is learning a game, he is allowed some leniency as he learns the rules of the game. However, after he has learned the rules and has gotten some experience under his belt, he is held to higher expectations to play the game according to the rules. Following this metaphor, if an experienced player  continues to ignore the rules of the game, they have the choice of playing right or being ejected from the game.

Jesus’ words about acting on what one knows

Knowing one’s responsibility, obligations, or restrictions, but choosing to ignore them, can reap negative, even tragic, consequences.

Knowing one’s responsibility, obligations, or restrictions, but choosing to ignore them, can reap negative, even tragic, consequences.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told a parable that illustrated this same principle, “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful” (Luke 12:42-46 ESV).

This passage shows the actions of a servant who, although knowing full well what his master expects of him, chooses to disobey his master’s orders while the master is away. This is a picture of willful disobedience. When the master returns, however, the disobedient servant’s actions will be swiftly and powerfully dealt with.  This passage clearly tells us that willful rejection of God’s will is worse than not obeying Him because we are ignorant of His will.

Knowledge and obedience

Both the passage in Second Peter and the passage in Luke declare that this person’s fate will be worse than that of a person who never heard the Gospel in the first place. In the Luke passage, when the master returned, he dealt more harshly with the servant who was aware of his master’s expectations than he did with the servant who did not know what was required of him,  “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating” (Luke 12:47 ESV).

Anyone who has sat under the preaching of the Gospel or had someone witness to them concerning the truth of the Bible, the sinfulness of man, and the love of Jesus, has knowledge that carries responsibility. That person is now responsible for his decision to accept or reject the truth of Jesus Christ. They will receive more condemnation than the person who has never heard.  Likewise, Christians who know what God wants them to do, but do not do it, will be find themselves out of the will of God and could feel His loving, but firm, hand of discipline.

God has given us the ability to reason, but He expects our reasoning to lead us to believe in Him and follow Him. When we use our God-given abilities to reject Him, we incur a higher level of judgment because we had all the opportunities to receive His grace, but chose to reject the Truth of the Creator’s plan.

Better to not know?

However, some would say it is better to not know God’s will; then they would not be held accountable for obeying it.  However, that kind of thinking is simply futile.  The Bible tells us that no one can claim ignorance when it comes to the knowledge of God, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV).   No one can honestly claim they do not know there is a God.  Now, the fool can, and does, say there is no God (Psalm 14:1, 53:1), but that is exactly why the Bible labels that person a fool.

As far as the professing believer remaining willfully ignorant of God’s will, just to keep from having to obey it, this reveals a heart that does not love God as it should.  This is not an attitude that says “I love Jesus and want to please Him”.  A professing Christian exhibiting this attitude should question whether he or she is truly saved or not.  The Bible contains God’s general will for humanity, and His more personal will for those who claim to follow Him.  James makes it crystal clear when he writes,  “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17 ESV).


God does not want people to remain ignorant of His plan of salvation, nor does He want believers to remain ignorant of His will for their lives.  He has given us His Word to teach us these things.  He expects us to study the Bible in order to learn His will, obey His will, and then share His will with others so that they might be forgiven of their sins and enter into an eternal existence with the Creator of the universe.  It is foolish to ignore God and His Word.

Here is another article you might like:

Why God Created us

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: