God – What is He Like and Can I Know Him?
“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov. 9:10). “…For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…for although they knew God they did not honour him as god or give thanks to him…” (Rom. 1:18-31). “The man who would now God must give time to Him”. “The Christian is stronger or weaker depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.” “We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is” A.W. Tozer
We live in a troubled world, a world were many voices are clamouring to be heard. Our world is moving fast pace with rapid changes and never ending information and it is difficult to keep up with these changes. However the voices are all telling us different things. It is evident that mankind is on a downward spiril that will thrust him into the abyss of judgment. Decadence is everywhere. The free spirit that has been cultivated has led us into bondage. This freedom gives rights to people who are decadent and the laws and judicial powers have lost their bite. Since things are changing so fast we must ask “Is there any solid ground or must we continue to sink in the quicksand?” Who can we trust? The politicians have failed us, governments have failed to change society for the better, science has made progress but not in the morality of mankind, the Church has fallen into error and sin. What then do we have that is dependable and constant?
The answer is God’s Word, it does not change, and it is dependable and stands forever. “The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8). In a time of confusion, uncertainty, turmoil, perplexity and distress God speaks and we can trust Him. The best ways to develop intimacy with God is to spend meaningful time in His Word — thinking about it, studying it, and making it your own. God has given us one infallible, unique book it is the Bible. The only way we can know God, His will is to have it given to us in a way that is unmistakable and it is in a book, the Bible. It s the only authority from God. Men have revelations (i.e. the book of Mormon, the religious gurus, Mary Eddie Baker, the Koran, all the false prophets and world religions are all deception) they are not from God but from a demonic source). They all compete with the Word of God. All we need to know about God is revealed in the Bible. Current trends in the church are to add to Scripture by experiences, new revelation, and includes new theology or concepts such as the Emerging Church, business techniques, and ecumenism and inclusive that blurs everything. The only way to error is to come back to the Word of God. Jesus taught we get to know God by Scripture and scripture cannot fail or be broken (Jn. 10:35).
Our desire in these studies is both to know what God tells us in the Bible about Himself, His way and His truth which in turn gives us deeper insight as we study it and draws us into a deeper personal relationship with Him. It is knowledge with a spiritual insight.
General Definitions of theology.
The word “theology” is derived for the Greek word “theos” meaning God and “logos” meaning rational expression or study “The rationale which treats of God.” Other helpful words are “biblical” which has its origin in the Bible, “systematic” = “sunistano” meaning to put together as a whole, to organize as in Systematic Theology, which involves a high degree of investigation and integration. There is a body of truth to be known and it is possible for the truth to be expressed in an orderly form. The word “religion” is from the Latin is “religare” = to bind fast. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes or practices that indicate the conviction of a group of people, it can be a way of life. As a religion Christianity includes all of these. Christianity is a wider term than theology as it includes customs, practices, habits, institutions and cultures. Those who call themselves Christians will believe that Jesus Christ taught and practiced, they make him the authority by which they conduct their lives. You are about to launch out into this series to understand God and His ways better. Theology is not merely knowing about God but knowing God. It is having insight into his person and a relationship with him. Because God’s thoughts are not ours and He is infinite, unlimited in everyway we can imagine, He has to reveal Himself to us (Isa. 55:8-9). We cannot comprehend Him (Job 11:7; 23:3; 8,9; Isa. 40:18), but He has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible so that we can know about Him and know Him (Deut. 29:29; John 14:7; 17:3; 1 John 5:20).
Specific Definition of Theology
It is the study or science (knowledge) of God. It includes God’s work and mans relationship with him i.e. creation, man, redemption, angels, nature, the past, present and future.
1) Theology is biblical, 2) it is systematic, that is relating certain portions to one another, 3) it relates to culture and learning i.e. the origins, the concepts of providence, human nature, 4) it is contemporary while at the same time treats timeless issues; it makes use of language, concept and thought forms that make sense in the present time. The Christian message must address today’s questions, 5) theology must be practical and relate to living and not just a set of beliefs. Christians are to “comfort one another” (1 Thess4: 18).
Senses of Theology
The widest sense of the word takes in the Old Testament, the New Testament, church history, biblical theology, preaching, teaching, counselling etc.
The narrow sense treats specifics i.e. Biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology.
Systematic Theology contains various doctrines such as bibology anthropology, Christology, the doctrine of God.
Biblical theology is simply based upon and faithful to the Bible says. Our goal is to be pure and true to the Word. It is not only based upon Biblical Theology; it is biblical. This will become evident when we study interpretation of the Bible (Hermeneutics), which gives us a true understanding of scripture.
This is the study of theology as it has been developed through the centuries of the Churches history. Archaeology gives us a better understanding of ancient history. Better scholarship in biblical languages can give us better insight to God’s revelation in scripture. This present study we are engaged in uses reference works from systematic theologies held and taught by various theologians (see below). Historical theology examines the work of the Holy Spirit in today’s world, missions, the church today, its progress and apostasy from truth etc. It helps us examine our positions with a different culture or historical understanding i.e. church life can be viewed from a different perspective. This changes us but does not change God’s infallible Word.
Sometimes it supplies content for systematic theology, it may establish or defend truth. However, it only gives a minor contribution. Theologians who have given it a major position have become liberals or modernists and have moved away from true biblical truth.
Some say they don’t have time for theology or ask, “If I have Jesus is that not enough?” or “Theology or doctrine complicates the Christian life and message, it divides believers, doesn’t it?”
1) Doctrinal beliefs are essential for a proper relationship with God. i.e. His existence, His being and character, Christ’s deity (Matt. 16:13-19). It is not enough to have a warm positive feeling towards Christ. “Doceists ” maintained Christ was only human, first John was written to combat this thought (1 Jn. 4:2-3). Paul ties in with the Resurrection belief into the salvation experience; it is both an historical event and a doctrine (Rom. 10:10). Correct belief therefore is essential.
2) Theology is necessary because truth and experience are related. The truth will affect our experience in the long term.
3) Theology is necessary because the large numbers of alternatives. i.e. New Age religion, Humanism, Cults, Marxism, Eastern beliefs, philosophies, political and otherwise, self-help systems, brain washing and mind control groups. False views must not only be determined but also challenged and refuted by the truth.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). And “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov. 9:10).
Knowing God is more than awareness (there is a God), more than “knowing about ” God (or knowledge about Him – Theology) or “experiencing God”. True knowledge of God is being “born again” spiritually, so that we can converse with God and understand the truths He has revealed to us. He becomes our Father, our Friend. It is knowing God in a relationship. It comes because of the work of Christ and application of that work by God’s Spirit. Knowledge of God comes though because He reveals Himself to us in Christ and in the Scriptures. We get to know him as our Father, our Creator, our Provider, the One who cares for us with a tender heart of love and forgives us, even though he knows our every thought, weakness, sinfulness and motive, because he sees the finished work of Christ in us and for us.
The Bible does not argue the possibility that God exists it states His existence. Because God is the Creator of all things (Gen.1: 1) it is not surprising that creation should bear witness to Him. Nor is it surprising that humans carry a recognizable imprint of Him for we are created in His image (Gen.1: 28). This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1-2 were he also informs us that God could be plainly known “For although man knew God they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him” (Rom. 1:18-23).
God was before time, before the creation of the cosmos, before any star system or suns swept through infinity, before light, before energy, He is the eternal, without beginning or without end.
We are not left groping in the dark about God or our origin. It is because of His grace, mercy and love he has revealed himself to us. Because of universal sin mankind has corrupted and lost his relationship with God. (The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s; law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7). Mankind is a war with God. He is alien to God’s ways. God revealed Himself; He took the initiative and revealed Himself and His plan. That is God’s grace in action we do not deserve it.
The highest knowledge one can have is to know God spiritually and personally. This is true wisdom and it is when we come to Christ (Matt. 11:28-29). After we come to know God we can go on to learn more of His revelation and thoughts in his Word. We become aware of His vastness, His immensity, His majesty, His power, His love, and His grace.
We Can Know God Because He Reveals Himself
We can know God because he reveals himself to us. This makes men nervous because He is higher than them (their Creator) and He is a moral God. Men do not want to be held responsible for their wrong doings. But God holds them responsible for their sin and requires man to yield to His plan of Salvation. He is too big and powerful for them and knows w every thought, action and word. Man needs help but his pride will not let him admit he needs God.
“Before a man can seek God, God must have first sought out the man. Before a sinful man can think right thought of God, there must first be a work of enlightenment done within him…” A. W. Tozer “No man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw them.”
We can know him enough for us to worship him but we cannot fully know or understand his immensity and his spirituality. He is infinite and that is enough to humble us. He is a person and makes himself personally known to us. He makes it possible to know him because he takes the initiative. We begin to seek Him. We make discoveries and revolutionize our lives He brings us to a position to a true saving knowledge of himself in his Son whom he gave for the salvation of the world. (Jer. 9:23-24).
a) Early in life you become aware that God exists. You come to a place of God consciousness, which begins a natural curiosity. Since the beginning of time everyone above minimum intelligence and age has gone to the point of God consciousness. You ask questions about the cause of life and creation, what is the source, what is nature, how did laws in nature come about, what is the purpose of things in every day life? You may reject God, develop an unbiblical view of Him or believe He is the only God and He does not hide Himself but reveals Himself to man as the only Saviour of mankind. Whatever the answer your thoughts carry you to investigate more. The search for truth can bring one to a personal crisis. Ones view of God supplies the framework of their lifestyle and what they believe. One may see him as the sun, a tree, a cow, a star, a force, that god is present in all things (Pantheism), or the belief in many gods (polytheism). Others see him as a cosmic policeman, a tyrant, an old man in the sky or someone who hates to see people enjoying themselves (a psychological view). Others believe in an all-powerful creator who does not intervene in the universe (Deism). Some believe in a pantheon (a collection of gods) of gods such as Hindus, Mormons, Greeks, Romans (this is polytheism- poly= many; theism= gods). There are those who do not believe there is a God (atheists- a = no; theism = god). This is not as popular as it used to be as many scientists have been investigating spiritual matters. A famous chairman of an atheistic society in Britain caused a stir in 2005 when he said he now believes in God because of DNA evidence with. Religious theories lead us away from God.
b) It is essential to have an infallible revelation of God. Some people say “I know he is because I can feel him in me” but what happens if the feelings change or go away or are marred by drugs etc? Mormons say they have an inner witness, cults and Eastern religions also believe it. Others say they have experienced God but that is not proof they have experienced the only true God of the Bible. People have so-called spiritual experiences on a drug trip, on an emotional high, or a sexual encounter. These are all fallible but God’s Word is infallible. He has chosen to speak by His Son through it. (Hebrews 1:1-2).
c) The “natural man” cannot know God, or “understand spiritual things” (1 Cor. 2:14) he lacks spiritual understanding. All his religions, all his methods will not help him know the true God. “Natural man” spends millions on psychology, psychiatry trying to know himself. He searches history, looking for his roots, digs deeply into anthropology but is never satisfied. He may become a monk, live in a monastery trying to find the meaning of life, or trip out on drugs hoping to find out the reasons for his being. He may try endlessly to find his origin in evolution but his soul will never be satisfied until it finds rest in God.
Three means of Perception in the Human Race
How we perceive a thing, person or event is important, as that is how we will understand and explain them. We need to have true knowledge and spiritual knowledge also when we deal with spiritual things.
Rationalism. This is the mind and what we take into it. Plato and much of the Greek and Roman thought after him had the idea that God could be known by reason alone. Our nearest equivalent would be the laws of science. We take in data and information but that does not mean all data and information is true, sometimes we take in false information. For instance, some of the laws of science we have been taught are factual and true but some have been wrong and we have had to change our scientific textbooks myriads of times. It is impersonal and can depersonalise a person. Reason can promote ethics but cannot tell us how we ought to be. In a highly technical and sophisticated world we have advanced downwards morally and permissiveness has caused great problems for society and family life. The breakdown of values, Biblical norms and standards leads to a depraved humanity. Information alone is highly depersonalising. Economy can also depersonalise man and use him as a machine, a product, a producer and not a human being created in God’s image.
Empiricism. This deal with the senses and emotions. It is the “emotional experience.” It was a reaction to the Greek philosophy of the impersonal. It was done through intense participation in the rites of the mystery religions. It is experience centred and believers in this theory achieve reality through an emotional “high”. This is followed by a “low” and is therefore inconsistent. It does not satisfy the mind and so people look for a repeat experience but on a higher level. It is never satisfied. Many people trust their experience. Some even in Christian circles depend upon an experience with God, but that is not completely adequate. Drugs, religion, transcendental Meditation, the human potential movement, sex, alcohol, new age and Eastern religions can all give experience but they do not give true knowledge of God. It has no rational content; you do not have to think much to have the experience. This has crept into the Christian church and many have rejected the study of the Word of God. We are told not to think but to experience.
Faith in God. The basis of the third approach is that there is a God who has created all things and who himself gives His creation meaning. Faith is an important perception but it must be placed in the proper person, or truth. For instance you may have faith in a ship like the Titanic but if it hits an iceberg and sinks faith, was misplaced. If your faith is placed on something solid, immovable and certain then you have a foundation for your faith. We can have a measure of faith in people but they may fail us because of their frailty and inability to meet our expectations. However if we put our faith in someone who never changes, who can be depended upon, who is truthful, honest and will keep his word we have a certain faith on one who can not fail. This is what it means to have faith in God. We can know Him, there is a contact between the individual and God. It gives significance to man. He is not a machine, or product of chance, he is a human being created in Gods image cry’s out in desperation, searching endlessly in his soul. It is only when God gets His rightful place in the soul will man be satisfied and contented.
God has a Plan
a) The universal plan originated from God as Creator. He is the source of all that exists outside himself. Everything arose through His will and lives by reason of His created energies (Acts 17:24, 28).
b) Everything belongs to him; He is the author of time, space and energy and therefore has a plan in the history of mankind and the cosmos. Each individual is His instrument, each star in the galaxies have purpose and meaning in His plan. There is nothing left to chance.
c) All things remain subject to Him and will always be at His disposal.
d) He is the goal of all things. Not only is everything form Him but at the same time unto Him (Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16).
Types of Man
1. The Atheist – He says there is no God. He was not born that way but has educated into it. He says to believe is to accept myths and no educated person would believe it. However, some of the most brilliant and intelligent men in history have believed in God.
2. The Agnostic – Says God is not knowable or “I cannot know Him.” His opinion is personal and lacks substance.
3. The Deist – says there is a God “in a limited sort of way”. God made the universe like a clock in motion. He then turned His back upon it and had nothing more to do with it. This means that man cannot communicate with God.
4. The Theist – Monotheist. They accept the idea of one God. i.e. Islam, Jews, and Christians. They believe in God but have not personally trusted Christ for their salvation. A CHRISTIAN is a theist who has also been saved.
5. A Polytheist – These people accept there are many gods. I. E. Hindus, Mormons.
6. A Pantheist – The universe is God and God is the universe. They deny all dualism i.e. infinite and finite, God, and the world, mind, matter, soul and body are all one. It excludes a personal God who brings salvation to men though His son.