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PERIL #21: “EVER LEARNING AND NEVER ABLE TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH ”
by Philip Owen

            The peril addressed here today, brings to twenty-one the number of dangers against which the Spirit of God warns believers.  It is difficult to recall a more extensive list of any sort in the New Testament.  Clearly, our loving Lord desires us to avoid becoming the victims of religious error or of falling prey to its purveyors.  We would do well to give heed to the faithful warnings of Scripture.

 

“Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7).  The life of a believer is to be characterized by unceasing instruction from the Word of God.  We should submit ourselves to the ministry of a fundamental local church for the regular preaching and teaching of Scripture, and that ministry should be supplemented by daily personal study of the Bible.  But the peril addressed here is characterized by two dangerous elements involving spiritual learning.

 

Ever learning.”  It is not a thirst for knowledge that God would condemn or warn us against.  But it is a lack of discretion and discernment in that thirst that represents the danger.  A thirst for knowledge is a good thing only when it is governed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  In fact, an insatiable seeking often indicates that what the seeker is feeding upon contains no nourishment.  Paul described his experience with the Greeks in Athens in similar terms.  “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there [on Mars’ hill] spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21).  Such was both their zeal and their superstition, that they even had an altar erected “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD,” lest they ignorantly neglect one.  Such is much the case with those described in our text.  Their insatiable appetite for spiritual learning is not the wholesome appetite of a spirit regularly exercised in the truth of God; rather, it is the rapacious and unsatisfied craving of a starving soul that has received no nutrition from the religious error it has consumed and, so, goes on eating in the vain hope of being filled.  They have an appetite for the wrong things, and their diet consists of the wrong spiritual food.  But they continue to eat.

 

“Never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  In I Timothy, Paul uses this phrase as a synonym for salvation.  He speaks of “God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:3b, 4).  Religious information they have in abundance, but they lack the reality of salvation.  They have given themselves over to religious charlatans whose message has left them lost in sin and awaiting God’s wrath.  There is a soberness to the observation that they are “never able” to be saved.  The message that they are filling their hearts and minds with, though religious, is not the message of the gospel as revealed in the Word of God.  One commentator states that “Their problem was that they could not recognize the truth when they saw it.”  Vincent declares even more baldly that “It is a graphic picture of a large class, by no means extinct, who are caught and led by the instructions of itinerant religious quacks.”

 

We live in an age when religious quackery is prevalent and when many well-intentioned but deceived devotees spend much time, energy, and money in the pursuit of religious knowledge that will neither save them from sin nor satisfy their spiritual needs.   When religious charlatans abound (and they do) and their adherents multiply (and they have) peril also abounds for real believers.  “Let us not be weary in well doing,” but let us be wary of evil doing.  

 

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