What is the difference between "knowledge" in

Ephesians 3:19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. ( AKJV )

& "wisdom" in

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:


What does passeth knowledge mean in Ephesians 3: 19?

When Christ becomes our "wisdom" do we know "love that passeth knowledge"? What does this really mean?

  • I think it would be best to treat these as separate questions. Aug 30, 2019 at 5:46
  • 1
    Keeping it as one question helps to compare and contrast. Aug 30, 2019 at 18:10
  • Or are you asking to separate the first question from the second and third? Aug 30, 2019 at 18:11
  • I agree to keep it as one. The question is 'What is the difference ?'
    – Nigel J
    Aug 30, 2019 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Siju George. Reading and comparing three or four versions might help you. I currently only know a few greek words ( and probably don't say them correctly). I generally read the KJV and refer to a NLT, AMP, NIV and a Strong's concordance, because I someties miss the meaning in the old English. re: Eph 3:19 Christ's love is more than we can humanly understand. re: 1 Cor 1:30 God's wisdom was manifested in Christ. Wisdom is when me make the right choices in line with what God says. John 1 says the Word became flesh (human) so we see Wisdom being lived out through Jesus Christ.
    – Michael
    Sep 2, 2019 at 21:09

7 Answers 7


I have an NIV Study Bible and an NIV Interlinear by William D. Mounce from which I have found a few helpful comments to shed light on the meaning of the Greek word ‘gnosis’ translated as ‘knowledge’ (which appears in Ephesians 3:19) and the Greek word ‘sophia’ translated as ‘wisdom’ (which appears in 1 Corinthians 1:30).

NIV: Ephesians 3:19 – And to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God. NIV Comments: surpasses knowledge – Not unknowable, but so great that it cannot be completely known. NIV Interlinear says ‘gnosis’ can mean Christian enlightenment. The Greek word ‘gnosis’ means “to know.”

NIV: 1 Corinthians 1:30 – It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. NIV Interlinear says ‘sophia’ translated here as ‘wisdom’ means ‘revealed wisdom’ (superior wisdom as compared to human wisdom or general wisdom/knowledge)

Gnosis means to know. Sophia means wisdom. However, knowledge and wisdom are not always synonymous. It is possible to to be knowledgeable without being wise, but it is not possible to be wise without having knowledge.

However, the knowledge and wisdom of the world is quite different to the knowledge and wisdom of God. Here are a couple of Bible verses that explain the difference:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

You ask for credible sources. I don’t know if Got Questions fits the bill, but it certainly provides a biblical explanation regarding the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Part of the article says this:

Knowledge is what is gathered over time through study of the Scriptures. It can be said that wisdom, in turn, acts properly upon that knowledge. Wisdom is the fitting application of knowledge. Knowledge understands the light has turned red; wisdom applies the brakes. Knowledge sees the quicksand; wisdom walks around it. Knowledge memorizes the Ten Commandments; wisdom obeys them. Knowledge learns of God; wisdom loves Him. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/wisdom-knowledge.html

The love of Christ which “surpasses knowledge” means that it is so vast, so great, so overwhelming and so divine that it is outside of human knowledge. The only way it can be grasped is spiritually, through the Spirit of Christ which is the Spirit of God, which indwells the believer. Christ is the wisdom of God and by receiving Christ, we receive the wisdom and the love of God, something that mere human knowledge can never grasp. It cannot be comprehended by the unbeliever.

This view is expressed in a sermon ‘The Love of Jesus’ by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, delivered on 18 June, 1862, based on Ephesians 3:19 (Sermon No. 455):

It is the distinguishing mark of God’s people that they know the love of Christ. Without exception all those who have passed from death unto life, whatever they may not know, have learned this. Without exception, all those who are not saved, whatever they may know besides, know nothing of this. An ungodly man may know something about Christ’s love; he may believe in the fact of it; he may perceive something of the theory of it. He may even be able to follow believers in certain expressions of its enjoyments. But to know the love itself, to taste its sweets, to realise personally, experimentally, and vitally, the love of Christ as shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is the privilege of the child of God, and of the child of God alone. This is the secure enclosure into which the stranger cannot enter.

Towards the end of this very lengthy sermon, Spurgeon makes reference to the words of the Apostle Paul: “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “That is where we must get”, says Spurgeon, “when the man ceases to feel himself the “I,” and only recognises himself as part of Christ.” Towards the end of the sermon, he says:

The Brahmins believe that the highest perfection is to be absorbed into God, and there is a certain truth in it, though not as they mean it. When we are lost in God we are highest, and when it is not we, but Christ, and we have come to be with him, and his heart is ours, and his love, and soul, and wish are ours, then it is that we comprehend the height, and depth, and length, and breadth, and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Source: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-love-of-jesus#flipbook/

I realise that Spurgeon isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I believe he presents a Reformed Protestant view on the subject. I hope you will find these snippets helpful.


The word translated into English as “passeth” (KJV) is ὑπερβάλλουσαν, a participle conjugated from the verb ὑπερβάλλω. In this context, the verb ὑπερβάλλω means “to surpass.”1 For example, Herodotus wrote concerning the Lacedaemonians that «ὑπερεβάλοντο ἀρετῇ Λακεδαιμόνιοι»—“they surpassed [all] in excellence.”2 The apostle Paul is writing to the Ephesians that the love of Christ3 surpasses knowledge—that is, the mundane knowledge that humans possess.


1 LSJ, p. 1860, ὑπερβάλλω, II., 1.
2 Book 9, Ch. 71, §1
3 The love that Christ demonstrated to, and has for, us (subjective genitive). See: Stegman, Thomas. The Character of Jesus: The Linchpin to Paul’s Argument in 2 Corinthians. Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2005. (p. 169)


Herodotus. Ἱστορίαι (Histories).

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.


If I have never been to Australia but I know a great deal about Australia because I study it in books and other sources, then I may be wise, sophisticated [sophia] in my pronouncements about it. I might even write an authoritative book on it but I would not have first hand experience of it.
On the other hand if I have always lived in Australia and know the smells, sights and sounds of it I have first hand experience, or, 'I know Australia' even if I could not recognise it on a map.
There is then 'knowing about' and 'knowing'.
I suggest we know the love of Christ as Eph 3:19 says with our spirits. Here first hand experience is possible because we have spirits. God is a spirit and spirit can have direct communication with spirit: Romans 8:16 'The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit' ESV.
In Eph 3:19 we know [first hand experience] the love of Christ that surpasses two things, I dare suggest: 1. It surpasses knowing about God.
2. The love of God in this world is surpassed by what we will experience . We can have first hand experience of Australia without knowing every blade of grass and every grain of sand. So we can have first hand experience which though convincing and transforming is still not the whole story. Knowing Him [John 17:3] we can grow in till eventually in heaven we know as He knows us [1 Cor 13:12].
Knowing God [first hand experience] is then primarily, I consider, a spiritual activity. e.g. a Christian in a coma may know the peace of God when their brain is not functioning but their spirit is in Christ.
The mind knows about. Sermons, the Bible and logical words activate the little grey cells. Our spirits inform our minds, "Yes, God is real I have met Him". Our minds respond with faith. It is wise to believe in what we know to be true.
Wisdom, I think , is intellectual response to spirit knowledge. In Eph 4:13 faith and knowledge are mentioned together. However closely they work together they remain separate words and activities. We can love God with our hearts if we know Him and our minds if we know about Him.


The expression "know love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge" can have two possible meanings:

  1. The two usages of "know" in this sentence stand for two different realities, different types of knowledges, indicating that the knowledge of this special thing [love of Christ] surpasses all other types of knowledge. To give a clarifying analogy, when one says: "taste Burgundian wine that surpasses all wines" does not mean that Burgundian wine itself is surpassed, but that its unique taste surpasses the tastes of all other wines. Like in Paul's expression in Philippians 3:8: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord", in "all things" he implies also the knowledge of all the ancestral traditions that he counted as "dung" in order to "win Christ" (ibid.).

  2. The two usages of "know" in this sentence stand for one and the same reality, one and the same type of knowledge, or better to say, knowledge in general, which means "to delimit something with powers of one's intellect"; and then we get a paradoxical sentence, that there is such a special sort of knowledge that surpasses the very reality of knowledge. This will be the similar paradox as in the Socrate's expression "I know that I know nothing", that is to say, Socrates knows that knowledge of mysteries of reality is such as to always leave the unknown and thus always merge with the unknowing whatever extended this knowledge may be. Similarly here: if you know the love of Christ, you know also that it cannot be known like other things, for other things are finite, whereas the love of Christ infinite, thus to know it means to rub, so to say, with infinity and unknowing. That is a paradox of knowing something that is in principle impossible to know, that is to say, to exhaust and delimit, unlike other objects of knowledge that are exhaustible and delimitable.

And of course we can know love of Christ only through His Wisdom which we possess by participation in it through faith (1 Cor. 2:16), but we, or our created minds are never identified with the Uncreated Mind of Christ, and we possess the Latter only by an apportionment, in accordance to our preparedness and growth in faith, for Mind of Christ is just as infinite as the Love of Christ.



Ephesians 3:19 should probably be read within Ephesians 3:14-21.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (AKJV) 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Paul conveys the immensity of the love of Christ, that being His death on the cross for the redemption of everyone, and God the Father allowing it. “To ‘know’ the love of Christ” is to realize and appreciate what He did for us with His death on the cross. That surpasses our mere knowledge that the event occurred.


1 Corinthians 1:30 is about Christ Jesus being our “wisdom” sent from God the Father. The closer we get to Him, the more wisdom we obtain. He is our “righteousness”, the source of all holiness.


What is the difference between “knowledge” in Ephesians 3:19 & “wisdom ” in 1 Corinthians 1:30?


"To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge."

Ephesians 3:18-19 (NRSV)

18" I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

One way to comprehend the Bible , is to make a persistent effort to study it, and so grasp the "breath and length and height and depth" of the message in it. Therefore Christians should not be satisfied with elementary knowledge to be found in God's word,but on the contrary , should strive to deepen their comprehension of the scriptures and consequently strengthen their faith and love for God , Paul wrote:

Hebrews 5:12 (NRSV)

12 "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food."

The Bible urges Christians "to know the love that surpasses knowledge". The gospels teach us many things about the love of Christ, it involves more than just accumulating information that the Bible says about him, but also to follow his example, and so experience love by giving ourselves to others, showing compassion , understanding , be forgiving and attending to their needs. In this way we can really appreciate the way Jesus felt about others, so by experience we come "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge"


"Jesus who became for us wisdom from God"

"Wisdom from God", refers to heavenly wisdom and not to human wisdom,despite having immense wisdom, the possessors of human wisdom may lack the spiritual wisdom that the scriptures advocate. Because Jesus is the key character in the manifestation of God's purpose and redemption form sin , Paul wrote that "Jesus became to us wisdom from God"

1 Corinthians 1:30 Amplified Bible (AMP)

30 "But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin]."

Attributes of Heavenly of Wisdom.

James 3:17 (NRSV)

The disciple James describes the qualities of wisdom : "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy." If we have truly acquired Godly wisdom, it will be manifest in our daily life , to acquire it ,we must pray for it and also dig for it. (Proverbs 2:1-5)


Some say that having a large fund of knowledge makes them wise, this is not so, Satan for example ,knows more about the Bible than any Saint mentioned therein , or any other time, but this does not make him wise in the eyes of God. Similarly two persons sit for their driving license examinations and both pass, the wise person drives safely and obeys the road regulation, the foolish one drives recklessly endangering his and others person's lives.

Wisdom in the absolute sense is found in God, who is “wise alone” in this sense. (Romans 16:27, Revelation 7:12) This is so , because He is the source of heavenly wisdom : "For Jehovah giveth wisdom; Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6 ASV) Even God's Son Jesus ,said that he does not rely on his own wisdom but says that he spoke as directed by His Father.

John 12:48-50 (NASB)

48 "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

Some wise examples of wisdom from the scriptures.

Joseph resist temptation to lie with Potiphar's wife , He says to her : "How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:6-10)

Jesus rebuffs all three temptations from Satan, by quoting the scriptures.(Matthew 4:1-7)

David shows wisdom and refrains from taking revenge against his enemy King Saul. (1 Samuel 24:2-7)


Knowledge surpassing love ! Thats His love that loves beyond what he knows about me. We can have this kind of love for one another through Him

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