To Know God in the New Testament

HOW can we get to know God? The Scriptures give a clear testimony. We have given a very brief introduction to this thought in our first article dealing with the Old Testament. A very fruitful study to be recommended is the application of Old Testament names used of the Father and applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Each of the names of God with its connotations finds its embodiment in Jesus Christ in the New Testament. . .

HOW can we get to know God? The Scriptures give a clear testimony. We have given a very brief introduction to this thought in our first article dealing with the Old Testament. A very fruitful study to be recommended is the application of Old Testament names used of the Father and applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Each of the names of God with its connotations finds its embodiment in Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He is truly the Word of God. He is able to say: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty" (Rev. 1:8). And Ellen G. White says, "However much a shepherd may love his sheep, he loves his sons and daughters more. Jesus is not only our shepherd; He is our 'everlasting Father.' " The Desire of Ages, p. 483.

If we wish to get to know God in the New Testament, we must know Jesus Christ.

The apostle John was anxious that the believers should learn to live apart from sin; but should a man sin, he should know he has an Advocate, Jesus Christ, who is in intimate communion with the Father. That is to say, the interruption of fellow ship between the Father and His child is remedied through Jesus Christ. Then the apostle tells us how we can be certain that we really do know God the Father. He continues: "In connection with this we know [present tense] that we have known and still know [perfect tense] him, if we are understandingly, sympathetically, living in obedience to his commandments" (1 John 2:1-3).

To explain the above, first, John does not use oida, a common word in the New Testament which basically means that an object has simply come within the scope of the knower's perception, a mere intellectual activity. But the apostle uses ginosko, which means "to come to know, to under stand completely." In the New Testament it frequently indicates as in our verse above a personal relation between the person known and the person knowing. Further, what is known is of importance and value to the knower; so ginosko frequently implies an active, personal relationship between the person known and the knower.

Again, John is telling us that we know from personal experiential knowledge that we know that we know God the Father. Here John uses the perfect tense, which denotes an action that is regarded as complete at the time of speaking and that its results are still regarded as existing. So John is saying that ever since the truth, as embodied in the gospel of Jesus Christ, revealed God the Father to us, and also at this present moment, we know that we know Him.

To illustrate: The Jewish people know Christ (oida, "to perceive intellectually," "be aware of"): His name, His parents, where He was born and lived, His trade, how He died. But such knowledge has no saving grace. The Moslems know all that the Jews know of Christ, plus the fact that He was a prophet sent of God, and that He was without sin. Yet this knowledge does not save them. So knowledge as dis cussed by John is not confined to the intellect as is the case of the Jews and Moslems, but is a knowledge of God and Christ that regulates a man's life and affects all his doings.

How do we know that we know God? How can we be sure we are not deceiving ourselves (chap. 1:8), are not lying (verse 6), when we say we know God? Is being born in a Christian family, being members of a Christian church enough? John didn't think so. He says we know God "if we keep [pres. tense] his commandments." Here the apostle has changed to the present tense of the verb "to keep." This is the tense that denotes action in progress, action that is customary; so the apostle is speaking of what the true believer does as a way of life. The phrase "to keep the commandments" is characteristic of John. It is found in his Gospel twelve times, in his first Epistle six times; also in the Revelation.

In speaking of keeping the commandments John does not use phulasso which means "to watch over, to guard," but he uses tereo, which as opposed to phulasso denotes a sympathetic obedience to the spirit of the commandments. This implies, not a rigid carrying out of the letter of the law, but a living after the spirit, the intent; that is, the magnification, of the law as lived and preached by Jesus Christ. To know God and to keep His commandments goes clear through to the inmost spirit of a man in a life of personal, sympathetic obedience. By obeying the magnified commandments that are the commandments of the Father the believer comes into personal relation with both Father and Son.

The three synoptic Gospels say very little that has a direct bearing on the topic of a man's knowledge of God. But in Mat thew 11:27 a statement made by Christ gives a wonderful basis for hope. The Lord said that the Father has delivered over to Him the entire administration of the kingdom of grace. The aorist tense of the verb, paredothe, involves the thought of a pretemporal existence for Christ; for the Father would not give over such full and wide saving authority to one who was merely human. It implies a pre-existence for the Lord. Only one who is truly God could have handed over to Him such authority to be the giver of eternal salvation, the Lord over all things. The fact that this authority was handed over (passive verb) by the Father also suggests Christ's humanity. Christ is thus set forth as true God and true man.

The Lord then makes the statement that there is perfect, sympathetic, experiential, mutual knowledge between Him self and the Father of each other's person. A higher claim for equality of the two Persons could scarcely be made; it nails down the fact of Christ's divinity. The force of this is seen in that Christ does not use the simple form ginosko, which we have been considering up to this point, but He uses the compound verb epiginosko.

We are told that the compound form of this verb suggests a more special recognition of the one known than the simple form of the verb does; it suggests special, advanced knowledge or special appreciation, to recognize the object for what it really is. This is knowledge directed to ward a particular object, and lays stress on mutual participation (see W. E. VINE, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 299).

The Master is stating three things: That the Father knows the Son full well; that the Son knows the Father full well; and that the believer may share in this special knowledge as the mind of the Lord admits: "To whomsoever the Son will reveal him." The Lord does not use thelo, the thought of which is to will, to desire; but He uses boulomai, which expresses the deliberate act of volition much more strongly, suggesting a wider range of one's inclination: The Lord is strongly inclined to have a believer begin to share in this wonderful knowledge of the Persons of the Godhead. One could not but pray and so order his life under the control of the Holy Spirit that he could be so blessed by the Master.

The mutual desire of the Father and the Son is now expressed by Christ: "Come," here using an adverb (deute) as an imperative to express His intense desire (verse 28). ". . . unto me," He adds; for there is no other who has the authority and power to save from sin and impart the deep knowledge of God.

Now the Lord uses a present participle that pinpoints a particular class: "All you who are trying to obtain salvation by an intensive doing of works." The present participle is kopiontes, the verb of which means "to labour, to suffer, to become exhausted by doing." It is related to the noun kopos which denotes "a striking, a beating," akin to kopto, "to strike, to cut." The Lord has in mind the people who were loaded down with works to be carried out, as imposed by the Pharisees. It is applicable today to much that is done in the carrying on of numerous campaigns that can have no value for personal salvation.

The second condition of the invited is now described as weighted down with guilt, weaknesses of every kind. The perfect passive participle now used (pep'hortismenos) is describing a condition from one's birth to the present moment. This verb is used for loading cargo on a ship; and the noun is used for the ship's cargo.

The constant laboring and the being loaded down are the opposites of rest and peace. So the Lord adds, "I myself [ego] will give you rest," here employing the word [anapauo] which means "intermission from labour, to refresh, with the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections." Which means, of course, that one now finds in Christ and the Father perfect satisfaction, contentment, and development, with no sense of condemnation. The apostle Paul expressed the same thought:

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).

To truly know God and Christ is to live a life of service in newness (kainos, not new in point of time, but new in quality) of spirit (Rom. 7:6).


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May 1970

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