The Knowledge of God
February 20, 2005 -
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
1) GOD CANNOT BE KNOWN UNLESS HE INITIATES THE RELATIONSHIP - Revelation is the important word here. The Bible teaches that when it comes to understanding and knowing God man has two enormous obstacles:
a) Man is FINITE while God is INFINITE - see Isaiah 55:8-9, 1 Corinthians 1:21.
Isaiah 55:8-9 - “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
1 Corinthians 1:21 - “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
God is in a totally different arena when it comes to the data man tries to measure and grasp with his mind.
b) Man is SINFUL while God is HOLY - Isaiah 8:17 is one picture of how sin has erected a barrier between man and his Creator - “I will wait for the Lord, who is
hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.”
Both these reasons create the foundational need for divine revelation. If man is going to encounter and discover truth about God, God must take the initiative.
2) HOW GOD HAS CHOSEN TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO MAN - First, there is GENERAL REVELATION:
a) Through the heavens and the earth - Psalm 19:1-2 - “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” See also Romans 1:20, Acts 14:17. This is why the Bible constantly refers to creation whereas we usually refer to nature.
b) Through the nature of man himself - Genesis 1:26 - “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." See also Romans 2:15. The moral nature of God is revealed in the way mankind is constituted. This is true even after the Fall.
3) THE CONTENT OF GENERAL REVELATION - What does this general revelation teach us about God?
a) His eternal power and deity - Romans 1:20 makes it clear that man can easily see something of the vastness and glory of God from looking at His creation - “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
b) His benevolence and concern - Psalm 145:15-16 - “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
c) His righteousness and justice - Romans 1:32 tells us that even though powerless to change his ways, man is fully aware of the judgement of God and the corruption of his sinful ways. He knows sin is wrong even as he justifies it - “Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
4) THE RECEPTION OF GENERAL REVELATION - Paul takes great pains to show how God's general revelation of Himself gets distorted and darkened by sinful man's response to it (see back to point one, section b).
a) Men suppress the truth of God - Romans 1:18-19 - Paul works hard to point out that man's problem isn't a lack of information, but a lack of submission - “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”
b) Dishonor and thanklessness - Romans 1:21 - Again, a clear decision of the will is involved. Man chooses not to give honor to Whom honor is due - “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
c) Futility in thinking and darkness of heart - Romans 1:21is again relevant here. This is the tragic result of suppressing the truth. Man has lost the ability to think truly about God. He then replaces the true God with the idols of his own fallen imagination - Romans 1:22-23 - “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
5) CONCLUSION ON GENERAL REVELATION - Two truths need to be pointed out: FIRST, man no longer has the capacity to come to God on the basis of general revelation itself. Sin has turned general revelation into condemnation. Man finds in his heart a strange mixture - some stirrings of God deep in his heart, some mixed up desires about God - yet he turns away from what remnants of truth remain. SECOND, mankind now lies universally guilty for his sin. Paul says man is now "without excuse"(Romans 1:20).
6) GOD'S SPECIAL REVELATION - First, it's characteristics:
a) It is verbal - See the contrast with general revelation in Psalm 19:2-3. In God's special revelation in His Word the general becomes concrete, the unexplained, explained. Truth is placed in propositional statements that carry specific truth content designed to inform and change our lives - 2 Timothy 3:16 - “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...” Here, the truth does more than just condemn.
b) It is progressive - There is a timing involved in the disclosure of God's revelation from Old Testament to New. God accommodates Himself to where His people are.
But notice this distinction - while the revelation does progress, it does not change. There is fulfilment, not contradiction. For example, an "eye for an eye" in Exodus is not God's final word. It needs "Do not resist the one who is evil" from Matthew to complete it. The hardness of hearts and the presence of redeeming grace create instructions that look contradictory until the full picture is grasped. An “eye for an eye” restricts personal vengeance. “Do not resist the one who is evil” encourages grace and forgiveness.
c) It is saving - This is where the big distinction lies. General revelation merely shows man's sin and guilt. Nature does not reveal God's redemptive plan in Christ.
d) It is personal - God not only speaks, He enters our world in Christ. Truly, "the Word became flesh"(John 1:4).
7) THE MEDIUM OF SPECIAL REVELATION - Primarily there are three. FIRST, the Old Testament Prophets. See Amos 3:7 - “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” The Prophets interpreted God plans and actions so they would be discernable to the people (note: I am including people like Moses and David under the broad heading of Prophet).
SECOND, the Person of Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 1:1-2 - “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” This is the zenith of all God's revelation. God addresses His people immediately in Christ Jesus.
THIRD, the New Testament Apostles. These were the ones who explained the death, and resurrection of Jesus. They revealed additional truths about the Church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Spiritual Gifts, etc.