Grace and knowledge are very much intertwined. John MacArthur rightly says, “Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children. They in turn feed on Scripture and commune with Christ, thereby increasing their knowledge of him.”
But knowledge, you may say? We cannot understand God’s grace without having a knowledge of what He has revealed in His Word. In fact, we can go deeper and say that we understand God’s grace when we understand his Law. Why do this? Aren’t we as Christians, as that old hymn says:
Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once and for all.
Again, keep in mind the context: false teachers were coming along. They were questioning whether the Lord would return—and thus afflicting the minds and hearts of the followers. He tells them, “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” He reminds them of how through His Word, he created all things and that judgment will come to the ungodly—once with water as in the days of Noah, but them one day through fire. They overlooked that fact, and thus we must not overlook the fact that God will preserve His people, bringing all the elect to salvation and will come as a thief in the night.
Why do I bring this up? Because if we are to grow in knowledge, and Peter is continually alluding to ‘facts,’ where does this knowledge and these ‘facts’ come from that we are supposed to grow in? Scripture! The false teachers came to twist the Scripture to mean what they wish it to say, and thus we need to know what God has said in His Scripture and to rightly divide this Word so we aren’t taken away by falsehood!
What is the law? The law is the moral law given to man by God, as summed up in the Ten Commandments, but fleshed out in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). While the ceremonial, civil, and dietary laws were fulfilled in Christ and no longer apply, the moral law does apply to all! It sets up the boundaries that God reveals to us.
So where does this knowledge come in, in regards to the Law? For one, the Law cannot save. That was never its intention. God’s revealing of His law was such that it showed how fallen we are. We do not have the spiritual equipment to keep God’s law. Our righteousness is, as Isaiah tells us, filthy rags.
So, Romans 3:20 tells us that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” What’s the purpose of law? The purpose is to expose our inability to keep God’s law (the epitome of sin). The law exposes our sinful hearts! So there’s a disconnect between a perfectly righteous God who demands righteousness from people who wish to be right and have forgiveness and eternal life. But none of us are perfectly righteous and sin free. Yet, he commands us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He also commands us to “be holy, as he is holy” (1 Peter 1:17).
One cursory view of God’s Word makes it clear that perfection and holiness are impossible for even five seconds. And we also see numerous times in Scripture when God shows up—people feared for their lives, lest they be consumed. The holiness, glory, and majesty of God can be a terrifying thing to behold!
So if we cannot even stand in his presence, if we cannot be righteous or holy, if we have no hope in this manner—what can we do? We trust in the one whose righteousness on which we can rely—Jesus Christ!
John MacArthur, 2 Peter and Jude: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press), .
Philip P. Bliss, Free from the Law, O Happy Condition. Public Domain.