How do we know God? A seemingly simple question but how would you answer it? Is God just a feeling, a force, something we feel to be there? Or can we have an assurance and a proof of His existence? Can we know what God is like? It is a simple question, and one that is absolutely fundamental to our faith. There are many different views on who God is. Many people think that God is a force or power that can’t be known; or they may think they know God because they have heard something about Him. However, we as Christians claim to Know God - to know Him personally. What do we mean by that and how can we be sure?
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV) [Emphasis added]
Through His Creation
Well the first way we know God is when we look around at His work: when we look at creation. This is described in the following verses:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse – Romans 1:20
‘o the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
– Psalm 19:1-4 [emphasis added]
What is described here in Romans and Psalms is what is known as General Revelation. General revelation is the understanding of God revealed in nature, His creation. We can look around and see the work of God, His creation reveals and declares that God is the creator. A generally accepted theological definition of general revelation is:
“[T]he disclosure of God in nature, in providential history, and in the moral law within the heart, whereby all persons at all times and places gain a rudimentary understanding of the Creator and His moral demands.”
This form of revelation does provide humanity with an understanding of the creator God. It is only a rudimentaryunderstanding of God. In fact, it does not leave us with the knowledge of which god is the one and only, true creator God, and has been the cause of many pagan religions and false gods over the centuries.
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. – Galatians 4:8
God however did not leave the revelation of Himself only to that of the natural world around us. If He had, I dare say, we would have been even more confused. There are two vitally important and closely linked ways that God has revealed Himself. This is through firstly, the person of Jesus Christ and also through God’s revealed Word.
Through His Son
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. – Colossians 1:15
Jesus Christ, the Word, the second member of the triune God, became a Man, and dwelt among us (mankind). As such He was, is, and remains the image of the invisible God. Jesus was (and is) fully human, He has flesh and bone just like you and me but he is also fully divine. Jesus, also, on many occasions claimed to speak with the authority of God Himself. One such time is John 14.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.’ – John 14:6-11 [Emphasis added]
This passage speaks of the theological concept of mutual indwelling or ‘perichoresis’ (Why do theologians use complex terms?). This term describes the way God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to each other. Jesus makes a number of statements in this passage that attribute His and God the Father’s authority as being the same. Jesus claims that knowing Him is knowing God, seeing Jesus is seeing God, and that the words Jesus speaks and works He does are the words and works of God. In other words Jesus is claiming to be God.
It is important to understand the person of Jesus, for (as the late Aeron Morgan once mentioned in a message on the all-sufficient Christ) all cults begin with a lack of understanding of who Jesus is. If we do not know Christ we cannot fully know God. We will end up worshipping a foreign god. So how do we know Jesus? He no longer is walking this earth? Simple, through God’s word: the Bible.
Through His Word
We have looked at how God has revealed Himself through His creation, and through the incarnation of Jesus. This now brings us to the ultimate authority and revelation of who God is. That is how God has and does reveal Himself in His word. During the recent debate (4 th Feb 2014) between (creationist) Ken Ham and (atheist) Bill Nye on the ever-present topic of Creation verses Evolution, Ken Ham said ‘There’s a book, Bill, called the Bible, it is a very unique book.’ It is indeed a very unique book; its author is the creator of the universe. It is a book that God has written, through holy men led by God, to reveal Himself to us.
During the Protestant Reformation the term ‘sola scriptura’ was penned as a cry to the sufficiently of Scripture . The phrase is Latin and literally means: alone/unique writing. The English equivalent is therefore ‘Scripture alone’. John MacArthur on the topic of Sola Scriptura states, “Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.”
One of the main emphases of Sola Scripture is the sufficiency of God’s Word. It contains everything we need and it is complete. 2 Timothy tells us this.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
– 2 Timothy 3:16
What a precious thing it is that we have the Scriptures. We can study them over and over, each time gaining a new glimpse into the unsearchable riches of God’s love. As A.W. Tozer once said,
Let us seek to know Him in the Word. It is in the Word we will find the Holy Spirit. Don’t read too many other things. Some of you will say, “Look who’s talking!” Well, go ahead and say it, I don’t mind; but I am reading fewer and fewer things as I get older, not because I’m losing interest in this great, big, old suffering world, but because I’m gaining interest in that other world above. So I say, don’t try to know everything. You can’t. Find Him in the Word, for the Holy Spirit wrote this book. He inspired it, and He will be revealed in its pages.
What does this mean to me?
What can we draw from and learn from, how God has revealed Himself to us? Firstly, may it act as a reminder that we should never stop seeking the Lord in His word; to be continually reading, and not just read, but studying it. As Chuck Missler said during a message, ‘You say I read my bible every day, that’s devotional reading, I take it for granted, I’m talking about a serious study of the scripture.’ How important it is to be making the time to delve deep into God’s Word so that we can know God more.
If God has revealed everything we need to know about Himself in His Word then we can test what others say about God. When someone says that they know something new about God, they know God in a new way, a different way, we can check what they are saying with who God is according to how He has revealed Himself to us; checking everything with His Word – The Bible to see if they are correct. God is not a mystical being that we do not and cannot know, but one who has revealed Himself to us in His written word: the Bible. During the aforementioned Ham vs. Nye debate, Ken Ham also said, “I’m a Christian and as a Christian, I can’t prove it to you but God has shown me very clearly through His Word and shown Himself through the person of Jesus Christ that the Bible is the Word of God and that’s where I start from.” May WE also start with God’s Word, not letting experience, circumstances, or what others say, take priority. God’s Word is the starting point.
Knowing the God of the universe is an amazing thing. Knowing Him personally as saviour is mind-blowing. This knowledge must affect us personally. It has to have a practical implication on how we live. Paul, when writing to Titus, gives a warning about those who say they know God but their actions don’t show it.
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.’ – Titus 1:16
The Good News of Jesus Christ needs to affect each one of us. So how should we live? How should one who professes to know God live? John in his first epistle writes a number of things that act as ways of differentiating between one who truly knows God and one who doesn’t.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practise the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin – 1 John 1:6-7 [emphasis added]
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6 [emphasis added]
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:10
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8
These verses are just a sample. There are plenty more. However, we can see that we are to be: walking in the Light, walking as Jesus walked, keeping His commands, loving Jesus and not loving the world, loving one another, and practising righteousness. We can’t do these things in our own strength. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit and the regeneration that occurs when we trust in Jesus that we can live according to the knowledge we have of God.
Let us live as Children of God. Let us live as those who know God, through Jesus who is the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; who has revealed Himself through the Bible; by the Holy Spirit. God’s Word has and does work in each one of us to produce good fruit. Amen.
About the Author
Peter (PJ) Stringfellow lives in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) were he works. Previously a member of Christian Witness Ministries Fellowship (CWM-F, Brisbane), PJ still maintains a close relationship to the fellowship. As a young man he has a heart to serve the Lord, for the word to be preached faithfully and to see others come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
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