“We know Him by two means: first, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely, His power and divinity, as the apostle Paul saith, Romans 1:20. All which things are sufficient to convince men, and leave them without excuse. Secondly, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation.” (Confessio Belgica, Art. II)
We shall attempt to set forth a few principles of the truth concerning the revelation of God and our knowledge of Him by it over against the many prevailing misconceptions of this matter which confuse the knowledge of God with knowledge about Him. The latter is purely a matter of the mind but the former is a spiritual matter of the heart. To know about God, one has need only of an average intellect and a copy of the Bible, while knowing God requires a regenerated heart and the gift of faith. Mere knowledge about God aggravates the judgment of those who hold the truth under in unrighteousness, while knowing God is life eternal. (John 17:3) It ought to be evident, therefore, that in speaking of these two things we must carefully distinguish them, for they are by no means the same. They are related only because knowledge about God is essential to knowing Him, but they should never be confused. Too many mistakenly identify the former with the latter and even a great deal of the so-called mission endeavor of our day proceeds on the supposition that knowledge about God is adequate to salvation. This, according to the Lord’s own words in Matthew 7:21, however, is plainly in error, for many who know about Him will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven in the last day. Others mistakenly connect these two by an act of man’s will and thus reveal ignorance of the truth concerning “knowing God.” Say they, “All men must be given the opportunity to know about God in order that they make ‘make their decision, accept His offers, surrender to Him, etc.!’” We will readily discern the sheer nonsense of this error when we understand the truth concerning the knowledge of God.
To arrive at this truth, we shall attempt very briefly to enumerate several principles of fundamental importance. For the sake of clarity, we will enumerate and paragraph these principles:
- The first principle concerns a correct conception of God. He is not a cold, abstract power or a deaf and dumb being as are the idols of man. God is the living God. He is Triune Being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one Divine Essence. He is the I AM, the self-existent, independent, infinite One. He knows Himself and all things perfectly, having no need of any object outside of Himself, for He is all Wisdom. God is a Knowing God!
- From this it follows that God is also a Speaking God. He speaks of Himself and to Himself. Certainly His speech must be distinguished from the speech of man. The latter’s is imperfect and limited by countless factors. The former’s is perfect and eternal, expressing the entire fulness of the infinite mind of God.
- Now then, it has also pleased God to speak concerning Himself outside of Himself. Suffice it to say in this connection that this is solely an act of His own Sovereign good pleasure and purposes to manifest His own eternally perfect and infinite self-glory. To this speech of God belongs all of creation which is before our eyes as a most elegant book. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” (Psalm 19) To it belongs also the preservation and government of the universe, for it is because God speaks that the world continues to exist, for He upholds all things by the Word of His power. (Heb. 1:3)
- More, however, must be added. Without anything additional there is as yet no revelation. All this implies that there must also be a creature who is capable of hearing, interpreting and understanding the speech of God. Such a creature does not exist by himself and, therefore, revelation implies the creation of such a being. That creature is man whom God has made in His own image and likeness and endowed with many excellent gifts whereby He is able to hear and grasp the Word of God, and by the power of speech to express that Word and thereby declare the glory of God. This is the purpose of our creation and all our existence in time and eternity.
- The important change, however, that is effected through the entrance of sin into the world may not be ignored. Firstly, it may be said that in addition to the speech of God declaring His power, glory, and majesty, another speech of God is heard declaring His holy wrath against sin. (Rom. 1:18) The whole creation is made subject to the bondage of corruption and death. The curse of the Lord is pronounced and evidenced everywhere as God speaks of His justice and holiness. There is no common grace!
Secondly, as far as man is concerned, it may be said that he can no longer perceive the truth of God in the things that are made, for the light in man has become darkness. “The natural man cannot understand (discern) the things of God.” (I Cor. 2:14) It is true that man retains glimmerings of natural light but even these he is incapable of using aright even in things natural and civil. (Canons III-IV, 4) What is more, man, being perverse, speaks the lie concerning God and all things. Man distorts the true conception of God and bows himself before an idol of his own making.
- Finally, we must mention one more change that is effected through God’s speaking once more through Jesus Christ our Lord. That speech is the content of the inspired Holy Scriptures, the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the prophets, apostles and holy men of God. Even this speech the natural man is incapable of understanding. In Christ a marvelous change is effected in the hearts and minds of His people whereby they are re-created after his image and the eyes of their understanding are opened. This is the wonder of redemption. Through the wonder of regeneration, effected by the quickening Spirit Who bestows the gift of saving faith, the children of God are made capable of hearing, understanding and interpreting the speech of God concerning their salvation and to declare the praise of His glorious grace. That is our salvation, for “This is life eternal, that we may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent.” (John 17:3)