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THEOLOGY > Man > Purpose of Man > Know God 


At the time of his creation Adam had knowledge of God, for he was not created with a mind that was blank—no tabula rasa for him and his descendants (see: Innate Knowledge). His knowledge was innate, personal, and surely it was increasing. He was not an intellectually struggling anthropoid, but mentally was fully functioning at the time of his creation, even giving names to all of the animals (see: Intellectually Astute) and enjoying fellowship with God.

But Adam sinned and he died. With the entrance of sin, man’s inherent knowledge of God became contaminated, and even man’s ability to process knowledge became flawed; so that with the passing of time the vestigial knowledge deteriorated even more, resulting in greater moral and intellectual darkness. Both personal and rational knowledge of God was lost.

In different ways the Scriptures substantiates this current state of man:

the world did not know Him (Jo. 1:10);

You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also (Jo. 8:19);

you have not known Him (Jo. 8:55);

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also (Jo. 14:7);

because they have not known the Father nor Me (Jo. 16:3);

O righteous Father! The world has not known you (Jo. 17:25);

and the way of peace they have not known (Rom. 3:17);

the world through wisdom did not know God (I Cor. 1:21);

See also: Ps. 79:6; Prov. 1:29; Isa. 5:13; 45:5; Jer. 4:22; 5:4-5; 9:6; Matt. 22:29; Mk. 12:24; Jo. 10:6; Rom. 10:2; I Cor. 2:7-8, 14; II Thess. 1:8; II Tim. 3:7; Tit. 1:16; I Jo. 3:1; Jude 10.

The need of every man is to know God. Without knowledge of God, man is doomed to loneliness, ignorance, and final damnation. He cannot understand that which is around him, and he has absolutely no comprehension of himself and his purpose on earth; his conception of the exterior (the world) and the interior (himself) is non-existent. Though he is highly educated, he is in abject poverty when it comes to true knowledge. Thinking himself wise, he exhibits foolishness; man, not only does not know, he does not know that he does not know (see: Perverted Thinking).

Even the vestiges of knowledge that remain from his creation and the knowledge communicated to him from that which surrounds him, man suppresses, exhibiting great arrogance and gross misjudgment. Suppression is so great that knowledge of God slowly disappears and the knowledge that is left becomes extremely self-centered. Paul writes of this phenomenon:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 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, because, although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:18-22).

To man in this deplorable state God is the God of Revelation; His purpose is to be known, both personally and intellectually, that is, on the moral level and also on the mental level. So He has revealed Himself: in nature, in the events of history, in the Scriptures, and in Christ. All of this is in order that man may know Him; and by these various means of revelation, God illuminates and challenges both the moral and intellectual dimensions of man.

What does it mean to know God? What is the essence of the knowledge that man has lost? What are the proper concepts related to true knowledge of God? Consider three aspects:

To know God means that one is known by God, a fact which affirms that salvation is God’s doing; the initiation resides with Him. To Israel God announced: “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God . . .” (Ex. 6:7). Their knowledge of God (“Then you shall know”) was subsequent to His knowledge of them (“I will take you as My people”); their knowledge of God followed His determination to be their God—it was then, after His act, that they came to know Him. When He took them, "then" they knew Him.

In the New Testament there is the continuation of this concept which informs us that man’s knowledge of God is contingent on God’s gracious act that precedes man’s knowledge; in fact, man’s knowledge is determined by the gracious act. Man comes to know God because of God’s coming to man.

Jesus affirms: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep and am known by My own” (Jo. 10:14); before He is known by His own, He knows them. And in verse 27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”; the following by the sheep follows the hearing of the voice and the knowledge of them by the Shepherd.

Paul is vivid in his epistle” “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God” (Gal. 4:9); It is possible to know God, but before that reality, there is a previous more profound reality: my knowledge of Him is anchored in His knowledge of me. This is grace.

Not all are known by the Father and His Son; at the last day God will declare: “Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12); earlier Jesus had issued a more emphatic statement that will be uttered at the judgment: “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matt. 7:23; see: Reality of Judgment).

How tragic not to be known by God, but how comforting is the statement: “The Lord knows those who are His” (II Tim. 2:19).

To know God means that one knows he knows God. Assurance of the favor of the Father is consistent with the believing life; it is not arrogance to affirm knowledge of Deity. Several passages, especially in First John, speak of the believer’s knowledge of God and His Word:

I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning (2:13);

I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father (3:14);

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth (2:20-21);

and by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him (3:19);

He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and error (4:6);

Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God (4:7);

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (4:13);

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (5:13);

We know that we are of God (5:19).

Perhaps Paul’s declaration is the most classic statement of the believer’s knowledge of God: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Tim. 1:12).

While theological orthodoxy is essential, note the wording of Paul: “I know whom,” not “I know what.” Salvation is knowledge of Him. It is not the “what” we believe that saves, but it is the “Who” we believe who saves. Content regarding the Person is vital (Rom. 10:17), but the Person Himself is salvation.

To know God means that one is growing in intellectual knowledge of God. As a believer, man’s mind must be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2), and his knowledge of the One he has come to know must be increasing.

The passion of the believer is the knowledge of God; Paul’s wording is to be the verbalization of every believer: “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10). Of course Paul’s intent is a knowledge of and an identification with Christ in every sense; therefore, involved in this zeal of Paul is a determination to know more about Him, in both a mental and personal sense. And in coming to know more about Him on the intellectual level, one comes to know Him and recognize Him at work in the life on the personal level. So while Paul is not excluding the intellectual, he is speaking in a broader and more comprehensive sense.

As is discussed elsewhere, the intellectual is the basis for the personal, the mental precedes the experiential. The intellectual and the personal are not to be set in competition but are to be integrated; they blend and complement. The information is the basis for the transformation: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing of the word of God” (Rom. 10:17; see: Information or Transformation). Transformation of life in all of its dimensions follows the impartation of intellectual knowledge (comprehension of God’s Word) to the mind of the new believer by the Spirit. Truth precedes life, both initially and continually.

In another epistle Paul speaks of the intellectual, when he instructs every believer to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10). The “new man” is renewed and is continually renewed in knowledge, and that knowledge is a growing comprehension of Theism—it is a knowledge of “Him who created him.” As the believer matures in his knowledge of Him, there is an increasing motivation to live for Him.

Knowledge of God comes from God; the origin of all knowledge of God resides with Him. Man could neither in his original state nor in his current fallen state create knowledge of God; he did not have and does not have that capability. Knowledge originates with God and is revealed by Him. Without His gracious act of condescension in Revelation, the believer would continue in darkness. The basis for a growing knowledge of God is God.

For Yahweh gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6);

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God (I Cor. 2:11);

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true (I Jo. 5:20).

That which comes from His mouth is found in the Scriptures. In them He has revealed Himself, and it is there that the believer finds the knowledge about his Lord that he so vitally requires for growth in godliness. A contributing factor to maturity is the Spirit’s teaching of the believer the Truth that God has revealed in the Scriptures.

In the teaching of the believer by the Lord, the most profound lesson is the proper starting point for the believer in his thinking, that is, in his thinking about everything. There is only one place to begin, and that is with the vertical dimension. One either begins in contemplation and evaluation of all things with the earthly and temporal, or one begins with the heavenly and eternal; or, in other words, one begins with the horizontal or the vertical—one begins with man or with God. Two choices await the believer: humanism or Theism (see: Starting Point and Foundations).

What is being affirmed is the only foundation that provides a proper worldview—Theism. A worldview is an individual’s view of the world (that is, reality), and a view of the world that does not begin with Theism is flawed and doomed from the beginning. To attempt to understand life and things without God is foolishness.

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7);

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10);

My son . . . incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding . . . then you will understand the fear of Yahweh and find the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:5).

To give proper place to the priority of knowledge, perhaps the statement of Scripture which equates eternal life with knowledge is sufficient: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jo. 17:3). It is not too much to assert that knowledge of God is all that matters—man’s purpose is to know God.

The confidence of knowing something about the Lord is expressed by Job:
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and He shall stand at last on the earth.”
Job 19:25

Reason searches for proof;
faith asserts the Truth!

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