The Christian's Greatest Need
by E.W. Bullinger
There is one thing that the Christian needs more than he needs any
other thing. One thing on which all others rest; and on which all others
It is certain from the Word of God, and also from our own
experience, that "we know not what we should pray for as we
ought". But "the Spirit Himself helpeth our infirmities"
(Romans 8:26). He knoweth what we should pray for. He knoweth what we
need. He maketh intercession for us and in us. He teacheth us how to
pray, and in Ephesians 1:17, we have His prayer set forth in these
words: "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in
the knowledge of him."
This, then, must be our greatest need: A true knowledge of God. If the Holy Spirit thus puts it before all other things, it must be
because it is more important than any other thing; yea, than all others
This, it is, that lies at the foundation of the Christian Faith; at the
threshold of Christian life.
It is the essence of all trust.
We cannot trust a person if we do not know him. At least, it is
safer for us not to do so; and as a rule we do not.
But on the other hand, when we know a person thoroughly well, we
cannot help trusting him!. No effort to trust is required when we
perfectly know a person. The difficulty then is, not to trust.
Why, then, do we not thus trust God? Is not the answer clear? It is
because we do not know Him!
Thus we see how this knowledge of God is our greatest need; the very
first step of our Christian course. Our trust will ever be in proportion
to our knowledge.
If we knew, for example, a billionth part of God's infinite wisdom, we
should see our own to be such utter folly, that we should not merely be
"willing" for His will, but we should desire it. It
would be our greatest happiness for Him to do and arrange all for us. We
should say, "Lord, I am so foolish and ignorant; I know nothing,
and can do nothing; I can see only this present moment; I know nothing
of to-morrow. But Thou canst see the end from the beginning. Thy wisdom
is infinite, and thy love is infinite; for, our Saviour and Lord could
say of us to Thee, as Thy beloved Son -- "Thou hast loved them, as
thou has loved me" (John 17:23). Do, then, Thine own will. This is
my desire, the desire of my heart. This is what I long for above 'all
This is far beyond being "willing". We may be willing for a
thing, because we cannot help it. It may be even a low form of Christian
fatalism. A Mahommedan may be thus resigned to the will his god.
But what we are speaking of is far, far beyond the modern gospel of
holiness; far in advance of merely being "willing".
Those who are in the still lower condition; not "willing," but
"willing to be made willing," do not see that this condition
arises from not knowing God; not knowing how infinite is His love, how
vast is His wisdom, how blessed and how sweet is His will. If they did
but know something of this, they would yearn for His will. It would be
the one great earnest desire and longing of their hearts for Him to do
exactly what is pleasing in His own sight, in us, and for us, and
Not knowing this secret, Christians, everywhere, are striving and
labouring to be "willing" by looking at themselves; and by
some definite "act of faith" to do something of themselves.
Instead of thinking of His wisdom and His love, they are thinking of
themselves and of their "surrender".
But this is labour in vain. Even if it should seem to accomplish
something, it is only like tying paper flowers on a plant. They may look
natural and fair; but they have no scent, and no life; no fruit, and no
seed. It is an artificial, fictitious attempt to produce that which, if
they did but know God, would come of itself, without an effort: yea,
the effort would be to stop or hinder the mighty power of a true
knowledge of God.
The trouble with us is, if we prove our hearts to their depth, that, at
the bottom, we think we know better. We would not say it for the
world, we would hardly admit it to ourselves. But there it is; and the
difficulty of being "made willing" is the proof of it.
If we really knew Him, and believed that He knows better than we do what
is good for us, there would be no effort whatever, but only a
blessed irrepressible desire for His will.
Before we proceed further to consider some other of the practical
effects of this knowledge, let us notice the fact that there are two
words in the original for this knowledge of God, two verbs which mean to
know. As these are used some times in the very same verse, it is
very important that we should carefully distinguish that which the Holy
Spirit has so especially emphasised. There are, indeed, six Greek words
which are translated to know, but these two are the most common.
1. The one, oida, means to know without learning or
effort; and refers to what we know intuitively, or as a matter of fact
2. The other, ginosko, means to get to know; by effort, or
experience, or learning.
Practical Christian living
The importance of getting to know God is our one great need.
This knowledge is not only the basis of trust in God; not only the
foundation of Christian faith; but of Christian life. Practical
Christian life and walk will be in direct proportion to our knowledge of
Look at Colossians 1:9,10, where we have the practical outcome of the
prayer in Ephesians 1:17. In Ephesians 1:17 we have the prayer itself.
In Colossians 1:9,10, we have it applied for our correction and
instruction. Carefully weigh the words. "For this cause, we also,
since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to
desire" -- Desire what? "that ye might be filled with the
knowledge (the noun from No. 2, i.e., acquired knowledge) of his
will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Why? For what
purpose? To what end? "That ye may walk worthy of the Lord unto
all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the
knowledge of God."
Then, to walk worthy of the Lord, I must know Him? Exactly so. If I
would please Him in all things I must know what will please Him. Is this
all that is required? All that I have to do? Yes, this is all. Then I
have not to rush hither and thither; from Convention to Convention? No,
I have to sit down before God's Word, and get to know Him through
that. There is no other way of getting to know Him. And He has given us
His Word, and revealed Himself therein, on purpose that we may study it
and find out what it is that pleases Him; what it is He loves; what it
is He hates; what it is He does. To get to know His wisdom, His will,
His infinite love, His almighty power, His faithfulness, His holiness,
His righteousness, His truth, His goodness and mercy, His
long-suffering, His gentleness, His care, and all the innumerable
attributes of our great and glorious God.
See how this knowledge is absolutely necessary, if we would please God.
We cannot please any of our friends unless we know what they are pleased
with. If we would make a present to one of them, we naturally think, or
try to find out, what it is he or she needs or would be pleased to have.
If we are receiving a guest, we naturally try to remember or find out
what pleases him in food or drink, in occupation or recreation. If we
cannot find this out, then we have to guess at it, and we may or may not
succeed in our effort to please. We may take the greatest trouble and
pains, and yet, after all, we may arrange for or provide the very thing
which is most disliked. It is even so with our God.
Where can we go?
How are we to find out the things that please Him? How are we to
discover the things He approves?
Only from His Word.
There, and there alone can we get to know Him. There alone
shall we learn the fullness of the Spirit's prayer for us in Ephesians
1:17; and the blessed practical outcome of it in Colossians 1:9,10.
No man has this knowledge of God intuitively. No minister can even help
in imparting it, except in and by the ministry of that Word. His own
thoughts are valueless. Only so far as he enables us to understand that
Word can he be of any assistance to us. He may be mistaken himself, and
very easily be a hindrance instead of a help. God has revealed Himself
in His written Word, the Scriptures of truth; and in the Living Word His
Son, Jesus Christ. And it is by the Communicated Word revealed in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost that we begin thus to get to know Him,
whom to know is Life Eternal.
This is the one great reason why the written Word is given to us. It is
not given merely as a book of general information, or of reference; but
it is given to make known the invisible God.
Why do we read it? Why do we open it at all? What is, or ought to be,
our object in reading it?
Do we read a portion that someone else has selected for us? Do we read
that portion because we have promised someone we would do so? Or do we
open it, and sit down before it with the one dominant object to find
out God; to discover His mind; to get to know His will.
Those who are not thus engaged make their own god out of their own
thoughts and imaginations. They have to fall back on what they think their
Thousands make their gods with their hands, out of wood, or stone, or
bread. Thousands more make him out of their own heads. But, being
ignorant of God's Word, they are alike ignorant of the God Who has there
We must worship Him in spirit
See the power of this truth as it is applied to what is called
"Public Worship" or "Divine Service". How many still
worship "the unknown God", and serve themselves; and do what
is pleasing in their own eyes, studying only their own tastes! Ignorant
of that great rubrick, John 4:24, "God is a Spirit, and they that
worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (i.e.,
truly in spirit), they talk of the kind of service they prefer, and
say, "I don't like that at all"; or, "I do like that so
much"; as though "places of worship," so-called, were
opened merely for persons to go in and do what pleases themselves,
forgetful of that word "must," which dominates the whole
sphere of what we call worship.
Worship "must" be only with the spirit. We cannot worship God
-- who is a Spirit -- with our eyes, by looking on at what is being
done. We cannot worship God with our noses, by smelling incense,
whether ceremonially or otherwise used. We cannot worship God with our ears,
by listening to music, however well it may be "rendered".
No! worship cannot be with any of our senses; or by all of them
put together. It must be spiritual, and not sensual. The worshippers
must be spiritual worshippers, for "the Father seeketh such to
worship Him" (John 4:23).
How many of such worshippers frequent our churches and chapels? How
many are still worshipping "the unknown God" (Acts 17:23)?
Is it possible that, if the true God were known -- the great, the High
and Holy God, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands; the God who
inhabiteth eternity; the God in whose sight the very heavens are not
clean, and who chargeth His angels with folly -- is it possible, we ask,
that any who know Him could imagine, for one moment, that He
"seeks" or could be pleased with, or accept, or regard a
congregation turning the Bible into "a book of the words," and
listening, for example, to a girl singing a solo, getting as high a note
as she can, and holding it out as long as she can! Is that what
The Great and Infinite God is seeking ? Is that the occupation of the
heart with Himself which He says He "must" have? No indeed!
and the greater the ignorance of God, the deeper and more degraded will
become the accompaniments of what is called "Public Worship".
A true knowledge of Christ
So far we have spoken only of a knowledge of God -- the Father. But
it is also of the greatest importance that we should have a true
knowledge of Christ.
This is the Christian's one object, as well as his greatest need.
This is set forth with remarkable clearness and force in Philippians 3.
In the ninth verse we have our standing in Christ expressed in the words
"Found in Him."
This is explained as not having our own righteousness, but that which
is through the faith of Christ; "the righteousness which is of God
Clothed in this righteousness, nothing of self is seen by God. Like the
stones in the Temple, they were covered over first with cedar-wood; and
the cedar-wood was covered over with gold. Then it is added, "there
was no stone seen". These words are not necessary either for the
grammar, or for the sense; for how could the stone be seen if thus
doubly covered up? No! the words are graciously added to emphasize the
antitype, and to impress upon us the blessed fact that, when covered
with Christ's righteousness there is nothing of self seen in our
standing before God. We are already "in the heavenlies, in
Christ"; and are comely in all His comeliness, perfect in all His
perfection, accepted in all His merit, righteous as He is righteousness;
yea, holy as He is holy, and loved as He is beloved. All this is
included in those words, "found in Him".
And being thus "found in Him" for our standing, we have
in verses 20, 21 our hope; which, is to be
in resurrection and ascension glory at His coming. Hence "we
look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile
body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to
the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself".
This is our "blessed hope". We have referred to it here, and
not in the order in which it stands in this chapter, in order to show
what it is that lies between the two -- the beginning and the end of our
Christian course. What is it that is to fill the place between these
two? What is to occupy our hearts from the moment when we were in
Christ, who is our life, to the moment when we shall be like Christ, who
shall be our glory? What is the one object that is to ever fill
our hearts and occupy our minds?
"That I May Know Him."
This is henceforth the Christian's great object. Nothing but this aim
to get to know Christ (for this is the word used here, in
As verse 9 contained the explanation of the words "found in
Him," so this verse (10) contains the explanation of how and why we
are to get to know Christ.
We are henceforth no longer to know Him after the flesh, but to get to
know Him as risen; the head of the New Creation in resurrection (II
For this is how this knowledge is explained: "that I may get to
know him and the power of his resurrection". Not to know merely the
historical fact of his resurrection, but the "power" of
it: i.e., what its wondrous power has done for us. But how can we
get to know this "power"? Ah! only by experiencing "the
fellowship of His sufferings": by learning that when He, the Head
of the Body, suffered, all the members of that Body suffered in
mysterious and blessed "fellowship with Him". Thus shall we
get to know how we were "made conformable to Him in His
death". Only when we have thus learned that we suffered when He
suffered, and died when He died, can we begin to learn how we have risen
also with Christ; and "get to know the power of His
How few of us know what this "power" is, as it takes us out of
the old creation and sets us in the new creation, where "all things
are of God" (II Corinthians 5:17).
This then is our object, to get to know all that Christ is made unto us
in resurrection power.
How startling must these words have been as they fell upon the ears of
Greeks (for this is the first city Paul set his foot in Europe). They
had been brought up on the great motto of Solon, the wisest of the seven
wise men of Greece. His motto was supposed by them to embody in itself
the essence of all wisdom; and it consisted of only two words, which
were carved over the entrance to the schools and colleges of Greece:
But yet, how foolish are those words. For how can one know anything
of himself by considering himself ? If he looks at others, then he can
see how different he is from them; and how much better or worse he may
be than they.
But it is only when we compare yourself with Christ, who is the wisdom
and glory of God, that we learn what we really are; and how far short we
come of that glory (Romans 3:23). It is only as we see ourselves in
"the Balance of the Sanctuary," or by the side of the
plumb-line of that Perfection, that we see, and get to know, our
absolutely lost and ruined condition. Hence this new motto was thundered
from heaven into the ears of those who sought to know themselves --
"That I may get to know Him."
Yes; this is our one object. This it is that will have the mighty
transforming power over our lives. Every moment spent in seeking to know
ourselves is a moment lost: and not only lost, but used to keep us from
the one thing that alone can accomplish our object and teach us
ourselves. Trying to know ourselves, we not only fail in the attempt,
but we cease to learn Christ, which alone teaches us to know ourselves.
And yet, how many are spending their lives in this vain search? Running
hither and thither to hear this man and that man. And, being constantly
directed to this self-occupation, self-surrender, and self-examination,
they are only led into trouble; or, into a joy which lasts only while
the excitement is kept up.
Oh! to be occupied with Christ; to have Him for our object; and His
resurrection power for our lives.
This we shall have; and have increasingly as we get to know Christ.
Again. What was it that led the heathen world into all its darkness,
corruption, and sin? Just this: "they did not like to retain God in
their knowledge. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of
corruptible man" (Romans 1:22,28).
Like people to-day who, ignorant of God as He has revealed Himself in
His Word, make their god, some with their own hands, or out of their own
heads, vainly imagining He is what they think He is, and worshipping,
like the heathen, "the unknown God," such an one as
What was it that led Israel astray and brought upon them all their
sorrows and sufferings? Isaiah opens with the Divine indictment, which
gathers up in the briefest form the one great cause which lay at the
root of all:
"The ox knoweth his owner, And the ass his master's crib; But
Israel doth not know, My People doth not consider."
See how the Lord Jesus confirms this in Luke 19:42-44, as He weeps over
Jerusalem. All is summed up in the opening and closing words:
"If thou hadst known!
even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy
And then, turning to the reason for that judgment He adds: "Because
thou knewest not the day of thy visitation."
And what is to be the acme of Israel's glory in the day of her
Ah! then it shall come to pass that "they shall no more teach every
man his neighbour saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me,
from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord"
And what shall be Creation's glory; and the peace and joy of the whole
earth? This sums up all:
"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of God,
As the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
And what is the secret of our being able to glory only in the Lord,
and to enjoy His blessing in this the day of our visitation? It is given
in Jeremiah 9:23,24:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Neither let the mighty man glory in his might,
Let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth, glory in this,
that he understandeth and knoweth Me."
We are thus brought round, and brought back to the one great duty, which
should henceforth absorb our hearts and minds, and fill our days and
years; viz., to be instant in our study of the Word of God, which is
given to us with the one great, express, commanding purpose -- the
revelation of Himself, in order that we may
Get to Know Him.