Thursday, May 3, 2012

Systematic Theology--Chapter 10

The Knowability of God
Can we really know God? How much of God can we know?

A. The Necessity for God to Reveal Himself to Us

  • If we are to know God at all, it is necessary that he reveal himself to us.
    • Even when discussing the revelation of God in nature, Paul says that what can be known about God is plain to people "because God has shown it to them" (Romans 1:19).
    • The natural creation reveals God because he chose to have himself revealed in this way.
  • With regard to the personal knowledge of God that comes in salvation, this idea is even more explicit.
    • No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27).
    • This kind of knowledge of God is not found through human effort or wisdom, but through God's desire to impart it to us (1 Cor. 1:21).
  • We need Scripture if we are to interpret natural revelation rightly.
    • Sinful people regularly misinterpret the revelation about God found in nature.
    • Romans 1:18, 21, 25: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 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. Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
    • Hundreds of false religions in the world are evidence of the way sinful people, without guidance from Scripture, will always misunderstand and distort the revelation about God found in nature.
    • The Bible alone tells us how to understand the testimony about God from nature.
B. We Can Never Fully Understand God

  • The importance of the term fully should be well noted. It is not true to say that God cannot be understood, only that he cannot be fully understood.
  • Psalm 145:3--Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
  • Psalm 147:5--Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
  • Psalm 139:6--Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-12--these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
  • Romans 11:33--Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
  • These verses allow us to take our understanding of God's incomprehensibility one step further. It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God.
    • His greatness (Ps. 145:3)
    • His understanding (Ps. 147:5)
    • His knowledge (Ps. 139:6)
    • His riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33)
    • His power (Job 26:14)
  • The beauty of this doctrine is that it means we will never be able to know "too much" about God, for we will never run out of things to learn about him, and we will thus never tire in delighting in the discovery of more and more of his excellence.
  • Even in the age to come, when we are freed from the presence of sin, we still will not gain full understanding of God. This is because God's incomprehensibility is not due only to our sinfulness but also to his infinite greatness. For all eternity we will be able to go on increasing in our knowledge of God and delighting ourselves more and more in him.
C. Yet We Can Know God Truly

  • Even though we can't know God exhaustively, we can know true things about God. For example:
    • God is love (1 John 4:8)
    • God is light (1 John 1:5)
    • God is spirit (John 4:24)
    • God is just/righteous (Rom. 3:26)
  • Even more significantly, it is God himself whom we know, not simply facts about him or actions he does.
    • Jeremiah 9:23-24--Thus says the Lord“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
    • John 17:3--And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
    • 1 John 5:20--And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
    • Galatians 4:9--But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
    • 1 John 2:13--I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
  • We have a far greater privilege than mere knowledge of facts about God.
    • The Christian life includes a personal relationship with God.
    • We speak to God in prayer, and he speaks to us through his word.
    • We commune with him, we sing his praise, and we are aware that he personally dwells among us and within us to bless us.
    • The personal relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit may be said to be the greatest of all the blessings of the Christian life.

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