Experiential knowledge is much better than second-hand knowledge. A person who has life experience in a particular job skill has much better knowledge and confidence than someone who only went to school. I’ve already talked about how apologists often use historical evidence and other arguments for Christ, but it’s experiencing His love and kindness that produces the strongest faith.
I was reading Paul’s line of argumentation for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, and while he does mention the historical evidence at the beginning of the chapter, it’s what he said later that caught my attention:
31 My brothers and sisters, I continually face death. This is as sure as my boasting of you and our co-union together in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives me confidence to share my experiences with you. (1 Cor.15:31 TPT*)
Paul is telling us that the basis of his confidence in sharing his experiential knowledge was because of their “co-union together in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then he warns the Corinthians against those who would try to teach them but have no experiential knowledge of God:
34 Come back to your right senses and awaken to what is right. Repent from your sinful ways. For some have no knowledge of God’s wonderful love. You should be ashamed that you make me write this way to you! (1 Cor.15:34 TPT*)
We should pause here and note how opposite this is to Western thought. We dismiss experiential knowledge and put our confidence in someone’s credentials, their education, or their persuasive arguments. Paul was a very learned scholar in his day, yet he considered that as worthless compared to experiencing Christ:
7 Yet all of the accomplishments that I once took credit for, I’ve now forsaken them and I regard it all as nothing compared to the delight of experiencing Jesus Christ as my Lord! 8 To truly know him meant letting go of everything from my past and throwing all my boasting on the garbage heap. It’s all like a pile of manure to me now, so that I may be enriched in the reality of knowing Jesus Christ and embrace him as Lord in all of his greatness. (Phil.3:7-8 TPT*)
I’m not against education for most things, and I don’t think Paul was saying that either. He was saying that we can only truly know God experientially. And when we do experience God it will be in context of His wondrous love. As John said, this is how we know God (see 1 John 4:7-21).
This is all certainly true for me when it comes to my faith in Christ.
When skeptics and atheists try to tell me there is no God, they might as well be trying to tell me my wife doesn’t exist. I don’t just know about my wife, we’ve been married for almost 40 years. I didn’t learn about her from books or Google. It doesn’t matter what you think you may know about her; I’ve experienced her love firsthand.
I know how she thinks, what she loves, and what she doesn’t like. We’ve lived our lives together more than we we’ve lived them apart. My believing in my wife is based on this extensive experiential knowledge.
Likewise with Christ. While I do appreciate all the theological and philosophical arguments that apologists give us, and I could give you a solid logical argument for why God exists, that is not why I believe. These arguments are not the basis of my faith. I have faith in Jesus Christ like I have faith in my wife’s existence, because He’s just as real to me as she is. This tangibility is not physical, but my encounters with Him are just as real in a much deeper way.
Clever arguments didn’t lead me to Christ and clever arguments have no power to mislead me away from Him either. As Bill Johnson has said, “A man who has an encounter is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”
I don’t just know that Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so, I know because I have experienced that love profoundly in the deepest part of my being. It has transformed my soul and continues to do so. His love truly is driving out all my fears. My irrefutable evidence is His continual grace and kindness and love flooding my soul with His joy, again and again, sustaining me even through the most difficult times of my life.
To quote from Jonathan David Helser’s song, “Abba”: He’s “more real than the ground I’m standing on.”
Beloved, Jesus is not someone to be simply studied; He’s Someone to be experienced. I know theologically that He holds the cosmos together, but I know Him because He loves me intimately with a perfect love. And whatever else people might think they know, experiencing “God’s wonderful love” is how we truly know anything about Him at all.
This is a truth I hope you grasp. When it comes to the most important things about life, experiential knowing is believing.