The Knowledge of God
Almost two thousand years ago, sometime between 60-62 A.D., the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus 1. He told these believers that he was praying for them. And here is the first request in his prayer.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him . . .(Ephesians 1:15-17)
In his prayer for the believers in Ephesus, the apostle Paul prayed that these Christians might have a full knowledge of God. He desired for them to have a clear and accurate knowledge of God, full of wisdom and insight. The apostle believed that a comprehensive knowledge of God was the Christian’s greatest need. But almost two thousand years later, is this still our greatest need?
With all of the problems and concerns in our world, surely there must be something of greater importance to learn about and apply in our lives. Shouldn’t we spend more time learning about ecology or politics or economics or even race relations? Perhaps we should be studying sociology, psychology or philosophy so that we can better understand ourselves. Though all of these courses of study are important, our greatest need is the knowledge of God. So much of the pain and confusion in life stems from the fact that we lack a clear understanding of who God is and what His will is for our lives. Thousands of years ago, the Old Testament prophet Hosea said the same thing.
Hear the word of the LORD, 2 you children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore the land will mourn; And everyone who dwells there will waste away . . . (Hosea 4:1-3a)
The prophet says that his country was full of lying, killing, stealing, bloodshed and adultery. These charges could be the morning headlines in any major newspaper today! But what was the reason for all of this sorrow and chaos? The answer is given to us at the end of verse 1, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.” And to make the answer absolutely clear it is given again in verse 6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
This lack of knowledge was not about baseball or philosophy or art or science. It was a lack of knowledge of God—His character and His will. Our most urgent need at this time, as in every age, is a true and clear understanding of the one true God—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our totally inadequate or incorrect view of God that accounts for so much of our fears, concerns and troubles. Too many people either think that there is no God, 3 or mistakenly think of Him as a Cosmic Bell Hop, happy grandfather or distant spiritual force. All of these views are wrong and harmful.
When I speak of knowing God, I mean more than just knowing mere facts about Him. The sad thing is that you can go to a church or read a book about God without ever really knowing Him, without having Him rub off on you! A true knowledge of God has an effect on you. It changes you.
But how can we know God? Where can we learn about Him and from Him? We can’t speculate about God. God must reveal Himself to us. And God has revealed Himself to us in two major ways, through creation and in His written word, the Bible.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament 4 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 5 has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4a)
The Scriptures tell us that all of nature declares both day and night that there is a God who is the Creator of all things. The stars, the mountains, the rivers and oceans, the atom and DNA, show us an intelligent, powerful and glorious God. We are told the same thing about the witness of nature in the New Testament too.
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 . . . (Romans 1:20)
From the very beginning of creation to this very day, all of nature reveals the invisible attributes of God. We can see that He exists as Deity and that He is eternally powerful. But nature cannot tell us much more about God. We need another revelation about God that will reveal His heart and character. This we have in the pages of the Bible, the Word of God.
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:1-9)
From this beautiful Psalm we learn that God is great and glorious in majesty. He has great goodness. God is righteous, gracious, and full of compassion. He is slow to anger and full of tender mercies. Goodness, righteousness, compassion, mercy—these are some of the attributes of our God. When we understand these attributes or characteristics of God, we come to understand Him.
When you describe a friend as funny, helpful, energetic and loyal, you are describing her attributes. And as you hear about this person’s attributes, you begin to know something about her. Then as you enter into a relationship with this person you really get to know her. She will rub off on you and have an effect on you.
This is my goal in this book. We are going to explore the attributes of God, so that we gain knowledge of God and enter into a relationship with Him. Let’s begin to learn about our awesome God. And let’s start where God starts, in Genesis.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
What do we learn about God in this verse? First, we learn that He is and that He is the creator of everything. God is the Creator and as such He stands over creation independent of everything and everyone. He needs nothing, and it is He who gives to all life, meaning and significance. Let’s go to the New Testament and listen in as the apostle Paul tells the people of Athens about the one true God.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:22-27)
As I mentioned earlier, God doesn’t need us to provide anything for Him. But it is He who gives to all life, meaning, and significance. He has put all of us in a particular place and time that we might find Him. He is not hiding Himself from humanity. God is the reason for all of life, and He has a purpose for all of life. If there is no God, no Sovereign Creator, then we are left to explain all of life, our tragedies and triumphs by our own faulty speculations. But the Bible tells us that life is not an accident. Your life is not an accident. The Creator gives meaning and purpose to life and that purpose is good.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)
This is from a song that Moses and the people of Israel sang after they crossed the Red Sea. They sang that God is glorious in holiness, a God of wonders and miracles. God’s purposes and mighty acts on behalf of His people are good, because God is holy. In a world full of imagined gods the one true God is unique. He is different, because He is absolutely pure and good and clean. He is morally upright. There is no evil within Him. The apostle John tells us this truth in the New Testament.
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
As the sun in the sky always sheds light, God always is right and does right. When God shows His anger and wrath against sin, He is doing what is holy and right. When God is merciful and gracious, He is doing what is holy and right.
While in the wilderness, Moses asks God to reveal more of Himself, and God graciously responds.
Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generations. (Exodus 34:5-7)
Yes, God is good and holy, and because He is, He will hold us accountable for our sins. God graciously offers to forgive our sins, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. 6 But to those who reject this offer of grace and mercy there is no clearing of guilt. And the folly of one generation is usually passed on to the next.
People say that God must forgive everyone because He is holy and good. But the Word of God declares that God must judge sin because He is holy and good. To know God we must take Him with all of His attributes. A God who is faithful but has no power is little more than a good puppy. A God who is powerful, but not holy, can be a fearful tyrant. To think of God as one who blesses only, but never judges is to have a false view of God. It is to have an idol.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place. (1 Chronicles 16:25-27)
The word “idols” in verse 26, comes from a Hebrew word that means worthless. False gods are worthless and a false view of God is worthless. But a correct understanding of God leads to honor and majesty, strength and gladness!
Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. (1 Chronicles 29:10b-12)
Full power and glory belong to the one true God. He alone possesses total victory. It is He who makes a person truly great. He alone bestows true riches, honor and strength. And notice in verse 12, it states, “You [God] reign over all.” God is the one who is ultimately in total control of history and time. Our world is not in an unending grip of wickedness and chaos. God knows what is happening in our world and why. And he knows where all of history is heading. 7
O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations . . . (2 Chronicles 20:6a)
What a tremendous truth! God rules over all nations. And though presidents and parliaments and even church councils may rebel against God’s laws, it is only God’s counsel that will ultimately prevail.
Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I shall do all My pleasure. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
The one true God—the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, knows the end from the beginning. His Word will prevail! Our God is never surprised by life, never puzzled. He always knows which way to go and what to do. And He gives strength, wisdom and peace to those who wait upon Him and hope in Him.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait upon the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
This is our God—perfect in holiness, in wisdom and in power. He rules and overrules in the affairs of our world. He punishes the wicked and exalts the humble. He gives wisdom and strength to His people. The Bible reveals a God who can be trusted, feared and worshipped. This picture of God is vastly different from the view held by many people.
The prophet Daniel said, “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits (11:32). Let me pose some questions.
- Why as Christians are we often so fearful?
- Why do we hesitate to fully serve God?
- Why do so many of us feel that we are without hope?
The answer is that many of us do not fully know our great and awesome God. The apostle Paul knew his God. This is why he was so full of confidence when he wrote to the Christians at Rome.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these he also called; whom he called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39)
Why was Paul so confident that nothing could ever separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus? He knew his God! He knew His power, love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness. Paul knew that God’s Word and God’s will would always come to pass, so he was confident in his future salvation. Writing to his young associate, Timothy, Paul states:
for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Timothy 1:12b)
The apostle knew his God and had confidence, trust and faith in Him. Great faith flows from great knowledge of God—not just head knowledge, but knowledge rooted in the heart gained from acting on God’s Word. If we desire hope, confidence, strength and peace in life, we need to know God and have Him rub off on us.
We are all worshippers of something. And we will become like the god we worship. Psalm 66:5 invites us, saying, “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.” It is my prayer that as you explore what the Bible says about our God, He will “give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17)”. May this knowledge change you.