HOW CAN WE KNOW GOD?
Theology is the study of the existence and nature of God. This includes who He is in person and personality. This is an absolutely fundamental belief of Christianity. In the pages of the Bible it is taken for granted by the writers that God does exist. The Bible opens with the words that God created the Heavens and the earth, He is the source of all life. We must remember in the bible God is not about answering our intellectual curiosity, It is telling us about him and ourselves what we need to know.
The majority of people in the world have some notion of “God”, this knowledge based on a great deal of different sources like; religious teaching, mythology or fictitious ideas, stories, traditions or legends that have been handed down through the generations.
The perception of God in culture is important as it inverabley is a major influence that shapes thinking and behaviour. For example if “God” is perceived to be cruel and intolerant then the worshippers are more likely to live in fear and have a tendency to religious conformity, on the other hand if “God” is perceived to be weak and tolerant the worshippers are liable to be self pleasing and slack in their religious conformity.
The Bible was not written to prove that God exists but to reveal Him as the one and only, unique and supreme creator of all things, the giver of all life within the entire universe. The correct understanding of God is essential for a sound grasp of the Christian Faith. We can only truly know God in a personal way through Jesus Christ. “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well” .
- John 14:7 “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14.
There is a big problem however, for although we can imagine, speculate and invent our own notion of God the fact is human beings are unable to discover God by their own initiative,through their knowledge or by their natural senses. God has explained this to us in these verses from the bible.
- Isa 55:8 — Isa 55:9......“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God has provided a remedy to this problem initiative and reached, as it were, down to us and revealed himself to humanity.
God’s revelation of himself is generally classified in two ways: general revelation and special revelation.
General revelation teaches that it is possible to know God through the world and the universe we live in. There are many theories explaining the way the universe came into being, views which might be based on science, physics, philosophy or religious teaching. We will not all agree on the way the universe came into existence, however,it cannot be disputed that we live in a wonderful world. It is impossible to know every detail no matter how advanced our scientific knowledge becomes or however large and sophisticated our scientific instruments, telescopes or microscopes are.
General revelation means that the wonder of our natural and physical surroundings can be appreciated by the conscious human mind and seen as the work of God. It is, however, not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, which is necessary for salvation.
Because of this, God has graciously given some a special revelation of Himself and Christ's redemptive work on the cross.
While general revelation was granted to all peoples, at all times and in all places, Special revelation is granted to particular persons, at particular times, in particular places.
This verse in the bible written by the apostle Paul in the first century explains general revelation very well.
- Rom 1:19 — Rom 1:20 ....."since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
God has taken the initiative to make himself known to us in a more complete way than general revelation and has done so appropriate to our understanding.
In special revelation, God reveals Himself through the miraculous, through supernatural manifestations of His power, through the Bible, and most important, through his son Jesus Christ.
The bible is the primary source of special revelation. It is through human authors led by the Holy Spirit that God communicates His mighty acts in time and space, His law, His truth, and His plan of salvation. The Bible serves as spectacles by which humanity can now rightly see what, because of sin, they were unable to see in General Revelation.
Special Revelation shows sinful mankind the means of their salvation through Jesus Christ.
Only through Special Revelation can one learn that Jesus Christ is the truth, the life, and the only way to be reconciled to the Father (John 14:6).
HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT GOD IS LIKE?
- In the process of revelation, God teaches us a great deal about himself, his nature, his personality and his ways which teaches us how we can relate to Him. As we have stated earlier he is not like us.
- God is spirit; that is, he is not composed of matter and does not possess a physical nature. He does not have the limitations involved with a physical body, he does not depend on anything outside of himself.
- God is living and not an inanimate object, but unlike all other living beings, that need nourishment, warmth, protection to sustain that life. God is independent in the sense of not needing anything else for his existence, this is not to say that he is aloof, indifferent, or unconcerned.
- God relates to us, in a personal way, but by his choice, with self-consciousness and will, capable of feeling, choosing, and having a reciprocal relationship with other personal and social beings.
- He is not part spirit and part body as man is, He is spirit without form or parts, and for that reason has no physical presence.
- God has no limits or boundaries in time or space, he has no beginning or end, he is not subject to limitations of space, it is improper to think of God as present in space at all. All finite objects have a location, they are somewhere, which prevents their being somewhere else. With God, however, the question of whereness or location is not applicable. God is the one who brought space (and time) into being.
- God's knowledge is also unlimited, his understanding is immeasurable. We are all completely transparent before God. He sees and knows us totally, he knows the future, as well as the past and present.
- God has unlimited power, he is able to exercise power over all creation in any way or by any means whether cosmic, natural or by human agencies. However, He cannot act contrary to his nature— he cannot be cruel or unconcerned. He cannot fail to do what he has promised or do what he said he wouldn't.
- God’s decisions and actions are not determined by consideration of any factors outside himself. They are simply a matter of his own free choice.
- God, unlike humans, doesn't act on whims, emotions or feelings, is not malicious or vindictive, he doesn't wake up in a bad mood, fails to do what he has promised or do something he said he wouldn't do. He does not change his mind, his plans, or actions, rest on his nature, which remains unchanged no matter what occurs. He can be trusted and relied upon completely in every way.
- God is morally pure which he demonstrates by his holiness, righteousness, justice and love.
- Being holy means being set apart, God is separate, or cut off, from everything that is sinful and evil. He cannot tolerate sin.
- The righteousness of God is a true expression of his perfect nature.
The Bible reminds us that it is the responsibility of all humans to show God the reverence, trust and honour that He deserves. However intimate, rich and warm hearted His love; God remains God, sovereign, majestic, amazing and awesome.
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