Knowing Jesus vs. Knowing About Jesus – A Question for Readers

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Two quick questions for readers to help me forge an important upcoming post:

1. What is the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus?

2. How do the distinctions between those two show themselves in practical, everyday Christian experience?

Comments are open. Thanks for your input.

31 thoughts on “Knowing Jesus vs. Knowing About Jesus – A Question for Readers

  1. beatnik

    A lot of people know about Jesus. They may have studied “religion” in college or in books. They can tell you almost everything that is wrong with “religion”, about the horrible things done in God’s name, and have a dozen reasons why they are “above” going to church. The knowledge of Jesus does not impact their lives at all except to make them smug and proud of their “knowledge”.

    A few people know Jesus and it shows in their daily lives. They act in love, they pursue holiness (to be set apart from the bad influences of our culture), they touch the untouchable, love the unloveable, and give grace to everyone they meet. These people follow so close to Jesus that you can almost smell the dust of Gallilee as they walk by.

    So to answer your questions, those who know Jesus have that knowledge impact their lives at all times. Those that know of Jesus see little impact.

    We who know Jesus are commanded to love God with all of our hearts and love each other as ourselves. If we do those two things, we should become the most popular kids in school because everyone will know that if they come and sit down next to us they will receive a full measure of love and an overwhelming portion of grace.

    I don’t know about you, but I want the people that follow those commands around me all the time because it is there I am going to find what our world is looking for.

  2. Knowing Jesus is having personal interaction with him. To have conversation with and experience give and take with him. To walk with him as the disciples did in personal fellowship.

    Knowing about him is to be versed in, and believing information about him (e.g. the virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious atonement, resurrection from the dead, his commands to witness and to love each other, etc.).

    Knowing Jesus makes one more mystical and experiential in his or her faith. One who knows Jesus will report direct personal guidance and be less academic and mechanistic in his or her approach to the Bible and Christ. Knowing about Jesus, in the absence knowing him, will produce someone much more religiously oriented– more into duty, rites, rituals and doctrine, but doesn’t preclude heartfelt worship of him. Either modality may produce a person who helps the poor, seeks justice, is dedicated to church, or even moves in the miraculous. Which approach is better or more intended by Christ? I think Matthew 7:21-23 comes down on the side of the former.

  3. To use an analogy from the every day life of my generation, and I know you’re not big on the social networks, but it’s the difference between knowing someone, and looking at their Facebook profile. Many people have a lot of “friends” and think they “know” a lot of people simply because they know information about them. They look at their pictures, they read their updates, they see who they’re talking to – they are Facebook stalkers. Many people approach Jesus and scripture like a Facebook profile – they’re interested to see what’s going on, and they even like talking about it and are “amazed at the teaching” – but when it comes to really communing with God and doing life with him – that territory is off limits. They want to know Jesus from a distance, where it’s safe, they know what’s going on, and are in control. They want to avoid the nitty gritty where everything is brought into the light and is on the table, intimacy happens, life change is demanded, and ultimately where real relationships and life are found.

    Imagine a marriage where all you had was information about your wife, and no interaction/conversation/experiences with her. It’d just be weird!

    • jac9z

      The difference is revelation vs. theory, I know that when I began to get revelation knowledge my life changed and is continually changing from faith to faith and glory to glory. I react differently today and my heart is filled with compassion that I never had before. It is something that is difficult to share unless you have actually met the Living Word, Jesus. I like your explanation as it applies to marriage. For me to know my wife it takes effort to spend time getting to know her, it also takes trust on both of our sides to open up and not be afraid of rejection. I know that Jesus loves me even when I fall short and I know that he will not reject me so I am not afraid to get real with him for I know that he already knows all my heart even more than I know myself. So I can be completely honest with Him. For instance He has healed me of addiction to drugs. I know that until I completely trusted Him I was unable to change my life, and I know that it was his power that has transformed this “junky” into a new man. Praise you Lord for you have done for me what I was unable to do for myself until I truly began to “know” you and the power of your resurection.
      Truly the Power of the “Gospel” is Good News to this soul.

  4. Chad Adams

    I think the question itself is revealing.

    At the core level the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus is no different than the difference between knowing Dan Edelen and knowing about Dan Edelen.

    Knowing someone implies a relationship. Knowing about them does not. The reason I think the question bugs me is because Christianity is all about the relationship with Jesus, not how much you know about Him.

    Chad

  5. Becca

    You could put it this way.

    To know about a person would be to read their biography in on a book or watch a documentary about them on TV. You might even correspond with them once or twice by mail, but even if you exchange pictures, they would probably not recognize you on the street or have much to say to you in person.

    To really know a person is to spend time with them on a regular basis learning their likes and dislikes, the way they handle themselves in different situations, their verbal and nonverbal communication, and so on. You listen and respond to them, but they also listen to you and interact with things in your life. You can recognize their voice on the phone, pick them out in a crowd, mimic some of their habits, and so forth. Sometimes, due to spending so much time with the other person, you start to adopt their accent, their slang words, their hand motions, their favorite foods and drinks as ours, and the like. Some people may even start to say that you look and act like siblings. They are welcomed in your house even when it is a wreck and no matter if you are dressed in your grubbies because they can see past these nonessentials and still accept you as a friend.

    Really knowing Jesus is like building a “best” friendship or adopting a new family member. The more time we spend interacting with Him the more He is reflected as an intricate part of our life. We invite Him to share in our daily activities. We start to consult Him before making decisions. We choose not to do anything that would offend or shame Him, so as not to damage that important close bond we’ve developed. We admire Him and look to Him as an example of how to live. And because we have walked alongside Him in true friendship and fellowship, we can with authenticity say that we know Him and know how he would act in most any given situation.

    People who have only read the biography of Jesus may think they know Him, but it’s not that much different from reading the biography of George Washington. These people are those at the end of time who Jesus will reject because they knew Him not. They only correspond with Him in time of crisis — when they have no other place to turn. They can’t recognize His voice in a quiet room let alone a crowded one. They can only guess from what they’ve read in the bio how He might react in today’s culture.

    It is only when we get past seeing Jesus as an historical or celebrity figure and invite Him into our life as a best friend that we can truly know who He is and reflect that in our life. But it takes effort to build such a strong relationship.

  6. I was sitting in a Carl’s Jr. chewing on some deliciously unhealthy fries some years back when I overhead a conversation going on quietly next to me. An older man was sitting across the table from a younger man and was describing his life since he’s come to know God: How good it’s been, how he savors and appreciates and loves his family more, how ultimately satisfying and peaceful his life has become–and he didn’t fail to acknowledge that his life as a Christian remained an imperfect, but still joyful work. The young man was listening and describing his own “unreligious” upringing, how he and his sister had not been raised in the church or to be spiritual and I marveled how very much like the younger I once was and like the older man I’ve become. Knowing Christ is being transformed in the 2 Cor. 5:17-18 sense of becoming a truly new creation. I am my own best evidence of that: Of internally being radically transformed in terms of how I think, what I believe is right and wrong, what I accept into my mind and my life and the life of my children, my wife, and my household. Knowing Christ and being transparent toward Him makes those things and the content of how we choose to live – the grace we extend to our family, our friends, our business associates and co-workers – immeasurably important. Other than that – knowing about Christ – well, almost everyone knows about Christ. 80-85% of Americans claim to be Christians yet it’s clear very few actually know Christ. If that were even remotely true our cultural and social landscape would look very, very different than it does today.

  7. “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7 KJV).

    I know a lot about the acts of Jesus. I do not know so much about His ways. For example, my legally blind friend needed staples and paper clips this morning. I have a surplus from what I bought years ago. I showed up at college, interrupted her professor at the beginning of class, gave her the goods with a nudge on her arm, left, and walked into my own class late.

    My act of “generosity”, by my own sizing up of what Jesus taught, violated several principles:

    1. I gave out of my abundance (Mark 12:42-44).
    2. I was rude towards the professor, even though I sheepishly entered and apologetically exited the class, because I did not want to waste time waiting for another opportunity after class (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
    3. I disobeyed the explicit ground rules of the college and my own professor by showing up late (Romans 13:1-5).
    4. I complained, to myself, at least, about having to do this when I had so much else I had to do this morning, after having gotten only about four hours of sleep the night before (Philippians 2:14).
    5. I am telling you about my act of charity (Matthew 6:1-2).

    At best, I feel like the man whose friend knocked at his door, asking for three loaves of bread in the middle of the night (Luke 11:5-8). At worst, I feel like I went to this little trouble for my friend, yet I will get no reward in heaven for it, when I could have a reward in heaven, on top of being born again, if I really knew the ways of Jesus, if I really knew Jesus!, and walked in them and with Him.

    Some Christians would be impressed that I can apply so much Scripture to this seemingly trivial situation. The Pharisees also had an impressive knowledge of Scripture. Some would brush aside my concerns as overanalysis, “their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:15 KJV), never mind that an excuse is neither license nor forgiveness with our God.

    I could point out more ways in which I violated Scripture, by what I understand, with all of the implications attendant thereto, along with all ways in which I have learned that I should pursue reconciliation in this instance, if reconciliation is required – and that itself speaks but volumes of my ignorance! – but this should suffice for this thread.

  8. Andrew Cairns

    “You diligently study ï»¿a the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40 NIV)

    So we see that it’s possible to know about Jesus but still not ‘own, embrace, and receive him as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world’, which is to say to truly know him.

    This is because the knowing about Jesus from the inspired Word of God is a human endeavour. God has determined the boundaries and accorded us the capacity to learn about his Son for ourselves.

    But God has not also accorded us the capacity to know him by our own efforts alone. He reserves that grace for his own use; to be employed in his own time and offered only to whomever he chooses. Matt 16:15-17 shows us this very clearly:

    “But what about you? he asked. “Who do you say I am?
    Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, ï»¿a the Son of the living God.
    Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

    Here, Peter came to know Jesus in the deepest and truest sense, only when God the Father opened his heart to this deeper truth. Now Peter not only knew about Jesus (he had that capacity from his study of the Scriptures and personal observance of Christ’s teachings and ministry). He also knew him through a personal faith which can only operate in a divinely-regenerated heart (which, by definition, we have no capacity whatever to achieve for ourselves–it is a gift of God).

    • Jeff Curtis

      There is different levels of knowing even Peter didn’t know Jesus in the revelation of knowing Him until it was revealed by our Father. For many years I thought I knew Jesus but I am beginning to see that my understanding is clouded. As I continue in this relationship with Jesus I am starting to see how little I really know him. The intimacy has begun and I long to spend my time with Him in moments, because when He overwhelms me with His Love I break down and can’t handle to much at a time. Maybe it is fear of complete death to self that causes me to back off when I am truly touching Him or He is touching me.

  9. David

    Knowing Jesus vs Knowing about Him is like knowing any other person. I know about a lot of people. There is a surface knowledge gained from others that is easily manipulated by anyone who comes along with another tidbit of gossip about that person.

    Knowing someone, however, allows me the pleasure of sorting fact from fiction, gossip from reality. If I know someone, I have a glimpse of the inner workings of their soul: Why they believe as they do, why they act as they do. It’s knowledge that I have gained from that person, either from their telling me, or through my own observation.

    Degrees of intimacy are nothing, though, next to the reason for that closeness. Why do I seek to know someone? What drives me to leave behind mere acquaintance and delve deeper? Because becoming intimate with someone requires that I give up something of myself as well.

    Leave behind the pithy scriptural references and treat Jesus as the flesh and blood man that He is, and then question if you know Him, or just know about Him. I’m still working on it.

  10. Great questions!
    I remember that during the last presidential election campaign my mother-in-law, who lives down stairs in her own space, came running up stairs exclaiming that she’d just gotten a phone call from President Bush. Well, it turned out to be one of those recorded phone calls soliciting her vote.
    I then began to wonder what would happen if Eva had called the White House to thank the President for his call. She wouldn’t get through because she really didn’t know the President. But, on the other hand, if Bubba from Texas had called to speak to his ol’ buddy George, he’d probably get through.
    As another commenter said, it’s spending time together that fosters familiarity. It’s all about the “abiding that Jesus talks about in John 15 and other places too.
    One more thing †“ Herod knew about Jesus, as did Pilot. They both were fascinated with this strange man or prophet or whatever. But if they had really known Him, things would have been a little different.
    In his letter to the Philippians Paul said it for many of us I think: “that I may know Him…
    Blessings,
    –Jerald

  11. Pingback: Something to consider « Susannah Prill’s Weblog
  12. Perhaps an even more important question would be this: what does it mean to be known by Jesus? Been thinking a bit about Matthew 7:21-23 recently.

    In His grip,

    Ron

  13. What practical difference does it make?
    (I’m assuming that the people who know Him know about Him as well)
    it’s the difference between knowing you you have a ‘free pass’ to heaven and enjoying His fellowship on the journey now.
    it’s the difference between wanting to get your theology right and wanting to worship Him more than anything else.
    it’s the difference between condemning others for our theological differences (Calvinist vs Arminian anyone?) and being glad we know the same saviour.
    it’s the difference between trying to construct an explanation for our pain and crying in His arms.
    it’s the difference between a philosophy and a life ..

  14. loneman

    ..when ‘I ‘ know about Him,
    ‘ I ‘ can respect Him, or even make a room for Him in my heart, which I dress up nicely.
    However, everyday ‘I ‘ live in the other secular rooms; just like the first heathen – but ‘I ‘ can jusitfy my ways, by pointing to my Sacred Room.

    ..but if He knows ‘I ‘,
    than when He smiles it is like ‘I ‘ am walking in a garden ( inside), with the most exquisite and colorful and odorous flowers
    – totally helpless for whatever mood He wishes to express, every second new and fresh and deep – and ‘I ‘ LOVE it to be so…

  15. Hans

    ……and Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness…..

    I’m always amazed at how often people don’t get that there is no “in” in that statement and what a difference that makes……..

  16. Mark

    To know Christ is to follow Christ- intent is the issue, I think.
    We must ask ourselves- am I truly a follower of Christ-
    or am I am I just a believer in Christ?

    To know about Christ- this is merely believing in him.
    I believe we can have many beliefs, even contradictory beliefs, at the same time- but you can only follow one thing at a time. Therein lies the difference- to forsake all and follow him, vs merely believing in what he said, or who he claimed to be.

  17. Mveliso

    Hi Pastor I like to thank for your comments and I wish to have more
    time spent to view them but Im using an library internet so is limited
    I this quetion came accross without expatation and it rang on mind
    but now I got solution.

    I want to know Jesus more than knowing about him, I wish to recieve
    His blessing on his knowledge and wisdom I wish your prayers
    may help me, Im a born again wish to work for the Lord.

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  19. One does not know without knowing about, but the latter is a subset of the former. And knowing Christ is not “knowing” in the mental way we normally think of it.

    There is much I don’t “know about” my mother. But what I do “know about” her (from actual life experiences, and her recollections as well as those of others) helps me get a good grip of who she is and what she’s about, and it is the latter ‘knowledge’ that matters to me. It’s not really a ‘knowing’ in the same way I’d know a math equation, but a ‘trusting’ even where I don’t know, and even when I don’t have contact with her. It’s a different way to ‘add it up’.

    I trust Jesus with my life, even though I have neither met nor seen Him, nor heard His actual voice or felt His physical touch. The Spirit speaks through Scripture about Him, and what the Spirit speaks is intimate, about a real person who makes it possible to relate with God and the Kingdom instead of being far away because of my sin and foolishness.

    (Any more quotation marks, and you’d think I was turning into Helen Steiner Rice.)

  20. Ray Nocton

    It saddens me greatly to see Americans in the 21st century obsessing over God and Jesus and unable to comprehend where they fit in to the overall scheme of things with regard to religion and in particular Christianity. I was raised a Roman Catholic in Ireland (who wasn’t for the most part) and I am so thankful that I managed to wrestle myself free from the blinkered and narrow view of the world that I see in the above comments, the incessant guilt over every little decision made on a daily basis. There is no god, I realised this on my own and through using my human brain, we all think there is one because our parents told us, and their parents told them and so forth. Be free!

  21. nia.wilson

    my practical,everyday christian experience.I serve and love others, and to love honour my husband to love my kids, and to love God
    Galatians 4:8Formerly,when we did not know God we were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.
    Galatians 5:7-8 You were running a good race.Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth.That kind of pursuation does not come from the one who calls you.
    John 15:7If you remain in me and my words remain in you,ask whatever you wish,and it will be given you.
    Thank you Jesus for growing in me as i grow in you.AMEN

  22. john craske

    This is totally baffling for an atheist such as myself. If you really “know” someone, you talk to them and they talk to you. In short, you communicate with that person. But when I ask Christians what Jesus actually says to them, they can never give me an answer. Do they hear a voice? Or see him appear before them? No. Does Jesus warn you of bad things that are about to happen? No. Or good things? No. Does he say interesting things? No. So this “knowing Jesus” is one-way traffic. Makes me think it’s all wishful thinking and their “friend” is not only invisible but also non-existent.

    • John,

      I would hope that Christians hear Jesus. Voice, “tap on the shoulder,” warnings, directions, guidance—it should all be there. If Christians don’t encounter Jesus and hear Him in any or all of those ways, then something is wrong.

      A quick example from my own life. I was reading the newspaper at home around lunchtime, when the Lord told me to get up and go to the end of my driveway. Seemed like an odd request, but I obeyed. Right at that moment I arrived at the end of my driveway, a young mother with a baby had her car die just a few feet away from me. She had run out of gas. As the place the car died is blind and dangerous, she was in a precarious spot. I quickly helped her move the car out of the way of the worst section. In addition, I had recently filled the gas container I store in my garage, so it was full. She confessed to me that she had prayed to God when she realized the car was running out of gas. That was about the same time the Lord told me to go to the end of the driveway. I was able to fill up her car, pray for her, and help her on her way. Oh, and we had barely gotten her car out of the way when another car came zooming by (it’s 55 mph there), and it probably would have hit her full speed if we had not moved her car.

      That’s the normal Christian life, John. At least it should be. Some people have a tendency to dismiss those kinds of communications, which is why they never experience them. Our rationalistic culture does that to people. Jesus encountered it too. When people took Him for granted and dismissed Him, He could do few miracles in their town, remarking on their astonishing lack of faith.

      I hope that helps answer your question. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings.

  23. Ted Bates

    For me knowing Jesus includes knowing about Him as He is revealed in His written Word. Then I need to apply what I know about Jesus in my actual personal walk with Him. Prayer is talking with God. It is taking personal time with Him and He with me! Jesus said: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.” When we eat with a friend, we talk and we listen. We share with each other! This is what Jesus wants with you- a personal relationship- a personal walk with the Living God! We indeed learn about God and His Son Jesus in His written Word- the Bible, but we also need to walk with the “Living Word” Jesus. It has been said that you become like those you hang out with. If we hang out with the Lord on a daily basis, He will rub off on us- and we will become more like Him in our character. Romans 8:28-29 says something like: “God makes all things work together for the good to those who love God Who are called according to HIS PURPOSE” Then the verse continues to say that God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son. By walking with God and not only reading about Him but applying what we learn about Him in our real daily walk with Him, we will get to know Him personally and become more like Him ourselves. The Bible continues to share that Jesus is the express image of His Father; so to become like Jesus is to be remade in the image of God as was intended in the beginning. As we become more like God, we do really know Him in a personal way. Psalm 63:3 reads: “Thy loving-kindness is better than life.” What I have experienced is that sometimes life in itself can be a bit disappointing, but the fact that in the midst of life’s disappointments I find the sweet fellowship with the Lord, makes what might be bitter into something that is sweet!

    • Ted Bates

      I shouldn’t reply to my own statements. But I also want to share that Jesus said: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom You sent.” (John 17:3) Here we are told that eternal life is not only knowing about God but actually knowing Him for ourselves. As you can see I do consider it to be extremely important to know God’s written Word. I know that there are people who are in communication with spirits that pretend to be spirit guides for our benefit, but actually they are demonic spirits that deceive, that are things of the occult. The Bible warns us to beware of “doctrines of demons” and that Satan “transforms himself into an angel of light” to deceive. The only way to enter into a personal relationship with God is through the cross of Jesus Christ. This is first base, bending at the cross and asking for forgiveness for your sins. We all are sinners. But God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” The motivation for God giving us His Son was that “God so loved the world”; the word “so” adds emphasis to how much God loves us. But Jesus is a gentleman; He stands at the door and knocks: but it is up to us individually to open the door. The door handle is on the inside. So, if you want to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom [He] sent”, You need to invite Jesus in for yourself. Again Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me. (John 14:6) I know it sounds exclusive the Jesus is the only way; However anyone can enter if He enters by the gate. Jesus is that gate!

      • Ted Bates

        I have found Jesus to be closer to me when I was weak and new to my faith. I have followed Jesus for 38 years, but when I was 19 I became severely ill, suffered from severe depression and was tempted to take my life. At this time when I was all but eternally lost in hell, I became aware of a Presence and a lot of coincidences happening in my life. I finally came to God, not because someone talked me into being a believer, but because I was aware that it was God Himself Who was drawing me. Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” (John 6:44) I became aware that God was drawing me and I came! In Isaiah 57:15-18 God says that He dwells in the high and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Somewhere in the Psalms God says that He draws near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. So for me I got to know the Lord more personally than have most Christians simply because I was so broken hearted and crushed. I remember after some time I moved out into my own apartment and worked as a driver. I would take the bus home. One day as I got off the bus and was walking up to my apartment, I was a bit short on money and I asked the Lord to put 50 dollars in my mail box. When I opened up my mail box someone had put an envelope with 50 dollars in my mail box! Now a days I find myself sending 50 dollars to people I think are in need, and I don’t often have such obvious experiences of the Lord’s presence in my life. He usually works through providence but not always so out in the open and obvious. Back then I was just getting out on my own after being ill with depression and I was isolated. Here the Lord was simply encouraging me that He is with me and will never abandon me, because I needed it at that time, and I don’t mind at all if He does things like that more often. Later I had a dream to move to the mountains and I got up and lived in some remote areas of the mountains in California and supported myself mostly with service contracts with the Forest Service. I learned that Smokey the Bear is a real bear! People were pretty tough and treacherous up there. However, the Lord was working in my life to build character and conform me to the image of His Son, and He has always given me what I need. Five days ago I watched my Dad take his last breath. That is a hard thing I think for anyone to see. It’s times like this that I am so grateful for the faith I have in the living God and His Son Jesus Christ, and that I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In Christ I am “the salt of the earth” “the light of the world” “a child of God”. I have “a future and a hope…” But in myself I am a hopelessly lost sinner without a prayer. That’s what knowing Jesus has done in my own life, and He can do even greater things in yours!

        • linda

          Hi Ted,
          The Lord knows what we need and he is in the business of ‘keeping us’ for himself. Life takes some turns that we don’t anticipate. I’m sorry that your dad is gone. My own parents died close together just after year 2000. I was with them when they both went.

          You said in one of your comments here ‘It is taking personal time with Him and He with me!’ This statement ministered to me. When we spend this time with Him, he spends this same amount of time ‘with us’. That’s a marvelous thing to think about. Why do believers often use all or most of this time to petition for things they want? Doesn’t make sense to me. Pray to be in the presence of God. Wonderful!

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