In conversations with various people throughout the years, I have been asked if I know some particular person. I most often answer that I do not. But, on some occasions, I have answered that I “know of” them. Usually, that means that while I never have actually met the person, I have learned some things about the person from friends of mine that do know them. I really don’t know the person, and undoubtedly the person in question doesn’t know anything about me.
There is a big difference between knowing someone and “knowing of” someone. Knowing a person can have many levels, but in all of them, there is a degree of relationship. The relationship can be intimate as in that of a spouse, or close family member, or as distant as an acquaintance. However, “knowing of” a person has no relationship at all.
In Acts 19, verses 13-17 we see a short story about an occurrence in Ephesus. The seven sons of a Jewish high priest traveled from place to place earning their living by attempting to cast out demons from people as a means of healing them or removing some oppression they were under. They were fakes; essentially con-men.
Having seen Paul heal and cast out demons in the name of Jesus, they decided to up their game and hopefully their income by using Paul’s more successful method. They learned very quickly that this was a mistake.
They tried to cast an evil spirit out of someone saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” They spoke this way because they did not know Jesus in a personal way. They were honest in that they could not proclaim Jesus as someone they knew; they “knew of” Jesus. Notice the response they received.
“But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’” The demon’s response is telling. Even demons recognize the authority of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and know Paul’s authority came through Jesus. However, these men have no such authority. “And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
The sons of Sceva thought they had found a formula for an exorcism that would profit them. They had witnessed Paul healing and casting out demons because of the relationship he had with God through Jesus. Paul moved in the Spirit in each of his acts of mercy.
The distinction here is not in “what you know,” but rather in “who you know.” Paul knew Jesus, and Jesus knew him. The sons of Sceva only “knew of” Jesus and Paul. It reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many
will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons
in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to
them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
We need to be sure that our Christian walk is based upon actually knowing Jesus. True Christians have an intimate relationship with God and are moved by the Spirit of God, rather than just going through the motions of doing things that appear to be Christian. You can have that relationship by truly repenting of your sins and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Personally knowing Jesus is amazing and powerful. “Knowing of” Jesus is of no value at all.