Can we really know God?
It is a sad commentary on Christian teachers and preachers that many of them, and the people they teach, believe that God and the Bible are mysterious and unknowable. Well-meaning Christians often quote Isaiah to support their claim.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
As with any passage of Scripture, the context is key to proper interpretation. To whom is the “your” in this passage referring? Who are those people who do not think or act like God? From the preceding verse, Isaiah 55:7, we discover it is the wicked and evil people of the world. Wicked people do not think or act like God (Ps. 5:4; 10:4), but righteous people are to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1). You cannot effectively imitate someone unless you know a great deal about him, and the fact that righteous people are commanded to imitate God shows that we can know much about Him. The very same section of Isaiah tells us God can be known. Just two verses earlier in Isaiah, we read:
Seek the LORD while He may be found.
If God can be “found,” then He can be known. It is clear from many biblical references that God wants us to know Him. In fact, God has revealed Himself so clearly through His Word, His Son, and creation that if we do not know Him, we are fools.
My people are fools; they do not know me.
God is not in hiding. He has revealed Himself for millennia. For example, He made Himself known to Moses and the Israelites.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.
Of course there are some things about God we do not know. There are some secret things, as it says in the following verse from Deuteronomy, but the last part of the verse says the things God has revealed “belong to us.”
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
If God could be known in the Old Testament times as these verses show, then we can know Him even better today because Jesus Christ made Him known even more clearly. John 1:18 says Jesus Christ “has made Him [God] known.” If Jesus made Him known, then obviously He can be known. Therefore, if someone does not know God, it is his own fault, not God’s. The whole Bible is about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and it is not a small book. God wants people to know Him and His Son. He wants people to enter into relationship with Him and to fellowship with Him and His Son.
Interestingly, while God has been trying to reveal Himself to people, they have often pushed Him away. Time and again in the Old Testament it was not God who turned from His people, but the people who turned from Him and rejected His knowledge. God even complained that there was no “knowledge of God in the land” (Hos. 4:1 – KJV), and later He gives the reason why: “You have rejected knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). The same thing is happening today. Rather than pressing in to know God, people are afraid that God will intrude into their lives. They think God will want them to do things they do not want to do, as if He did not have their best interests at heart.
The primary reason people think God will intrude into their lives and that religion is meaningless and burdensome is because of man’s regulations and practices that have been added to true Christianity. Truth is freeing, uplifting, and affirming. In contrast, man’s religion is wearisome, binding, and burdensome. Unfortunately, much of man’s religion has been palmed off on the public as true Christianity. This happens because people have not been taught how to read the Bible and really understand what they are reading. So they end up following whatever their religious leaders say. Jesus Christ dealt with the same thing over 2,000 years ago. The Pharisees’ man-made religion forced all kinds of burdensome practices on people. Concerning the religious leaders of his day, Jesus said, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4). He was speaking of the heavy loads of unnecessary religious practices. In contrast, he said of his ways: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). While man’s religion is burdensome, true religion is a joy and a great blessing.
Because they have been taught unbiblical doctrines instead of the truth revealed in the Bible, Christians often think that God cannot be understood. It would be off the subject of this article to discuss individual doctrines, but if you are one of the people who has been told God is mysterious or you have to “take it on faith,” then you might want to look more deeply into those doctrines to see if they are actually in the Bible. Through my years of study I have come to the conclusion that the truth, God’s truth, makes sense. God made the mind of man in such a way that we can understand and love Him. God created people so He would have a family to fellowship with Him. It would be ridiculous for God to want a family, create a family, and then not reveal Himself to them. He reveals Himself to those who earnestly seek Him (Prov. 2:1-5; Heb. 11:6).
Not only can and should we know God, but we can also understand the Bible and know biblical truth. There are people who assert that no one can really know the truth, but they did not reach that opinion by studying the Bible. God says He wants all men to know the truth. Although most translations of 1 Timothy 2:4 state that God wants us to “come to a knowledge of the truth,” the Greek text is much more forceful, something that is picked up very well in The Amplified Bible.
1 Timothy 2:3b and 4 (AMP)
(3b) God our Savior
(4) Who wishes all men to be saved and [increasingly] to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the [divine] truth.
God would be a liar if He said He wants us to perceive, recognize, and know precisely and correctly the divine truth, but gave us no way to know it. We can know both God and truth if we are willing to give up some time and energy and approach God and the Bible with prayer, honesty, perseverance, humility, and intellectual rigor. Of course, this means taking time out of our busy lives and dedicating it to Bible study and learning about God. But that investment will pay off thousands of times over. If you are a Christian, you will live forever, and God will absolutely repay you manyfold for the effort you give to Him now. Jesus told us that we should seek God’s kingdom first in our lives, and that all the other things we desire will be added to us in time (Matt. 6:33).