There is a huge difference between actually knowing God vs. only knowing about God. As we saw in the last post, it is quite possible to know a lot of facts and information about someone without actually knowing that person at all.
This is the sad reality for many in relation to God. By their own admission and experience, they would say…
- they know God is real;
- they believe He is real and that the info they know about Him is true.
- But they don’t KNOW Him; they’ve had no personal acquaintance with Him.
- They don’t know Him – AND – as far as they are concerned, He doesn’t know them.
- He is real – but He is distant – and they would say that they don’t know each other…
I want to say something to you: God is knowable. He has made Himself known to humanity. Christians have a special word for this – we call God’s actions to make Himself known to us “revelation”. God has revealed Himself to humanity.
Something cool about revelation is this: it’s a choice. It is something God chose to do. He could have remained hidden, or distant, or unknowable. But it was His good & kind & generous choice to reveal Himself to mankind – to show Himself to us – to make Himself known to us.
He could have stayed distant and invisible. He could have remained concealed behind the scenes if He wanted to. He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us. He didn’t have to express His goodness & kindness & generosity & personal nature to us. But He did. And that is awesome!
How has God revealed Himself to humanity? There are two primary ways that God has revealed Himself to humanity:
The first is through Jesus. God revealed Himself to us most perfectly through Jesus:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God… for God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ… for in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. –Colossians 1:15,19 and 2:9
(For further reading on God revealing Himself perfectly through Jesus, see: John 10:30; John 14:9-10; Hebrews 1:1-3.)
The second primary way that God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity is through the Bible. Think about it: how could we know about Jesus or about the perfect character, will, and commands of God if it had not been recorded for us and handed down through the centuries to each new generation?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17
(For further reading on the Christian Bible being the reliable and authoritative Word of God, see: 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20-21.)
So, God revealed Himself to us most perfectly through Jesus. And God reveals Himself to us most reliably through His Word, the Holy Bible.
There are some other ways God reveals Himself to us:
- through creation (see Job 26:7-14; Psalm 8:3-4; Psalm 19:1-4a; Romans 1:20)
- through other Christians – “The Church” – who know and live according to God’s Word (see Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:20)
- through the poor and marginalized (see Matthew 25:31-46)
- through our own circumstances (see Genesis 50:20; Psalm 37:4; Psalm 90:17; Psalm 143:10; Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 16:3; Acts 16:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:17b-18)
- through angels, dreams, & visions (see Genesis 16:7-12; Genesis 19:1-22; Genesis 22:9-18; Genesis 28:10-17; Exodus 3:2-4; Numbers 22:21-34; Judges 2:1-5; Judges 6:11-26; Judges 13:2-25; Job 33:14-18; Zechariah 1:8-21; Matthew 1:20-24; Matthew 2:13-14; Matthew 2:19-21; Matthew 28:5-8; Luke 1:11-22; Luke 1:28-38; Luke 2:8-15; Acts 8:26-30; Acts 10:3-8; Acts 10:9-19; Acts 12:6-10; Acts 16:9-10; Revelation 1:1)
All of these other forms of revelation are valid, as we can clearly see in the Scriptures, BUT… They are all secondary.
The two primary ways that God has revealed Himself to us are through Jesus and the Bible.
We should always check all of these other ways against the two primary ways that God reveals Himself to us. God’s personality and character and commands are all clearly described in the Holy Bible, and these were perfectly demonstrated through the life, teachings, and example of Jesus.
The believers at Berea in Acts 17 are an example of this for us:
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. –Acts 17:10-12
And the warning of John reminds us to test any supposed “message from the Lord” against the example of Jesus and the authority of Scripture:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. –1 John 4:1-3
(See also 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 for more on evaluating possible revelations from God against the dual standards of Jesus and the Bible.)
So God can certainly speak through creation, through other Christians, through the poor, through our own circumstances, and even through angels, dreams, and visions – these are real ways that God can communicate, BUT –
IF they are truly from God, they will never contradict what God has already revealed to us through Jesus and the Bible.
So, if you get a piece of advice from another Christian, and yet it is contrary to something in the Bible, the Bible wins.
If you have a dream, and you wonder if God is speaking to you through that dream, test it against God’s Word and Jesus’ character: if they match, you may have just had a dream from God! If they don’t match, though, maybe it was just something interesting you had for dinner… :-)
This is why religions like Islam and Mormonism don’t work: their founders claim to have received a brand-new message from God that completely contradicted what God had already said through Jesus and the Bible. And so those kinds of teachings cannot be valid.
(Oh! and you can check out these other awesome verses regarding God’s efforts to make Himself known to us: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:12-14a; Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-8; John 10:2-4,14; Isaiah 30:21.)
So – God is knowable. And He wants you to get to know Him, personally, for yourself. That’s the first thing.
In the next post, we will look at the second thing: God knows you, personally and individually.
Click on the following link to download a PDF “handout” version of this 4-part series on Knowing GOD: Knowing GOD handout