Can God Be Known?

A more important enquiry cannot be made. When one thinks of what that God must be by whom all that is seen is professedly made, and to whom man is presumably responsible—a God infinitely powerful and holy, and who takes unquestionable interest in His creatures, it is clearly a profoundly solemn matter that such a question should be answered aright.

But where can that answer be found?

Shall we turn to creation, to the material universe around us, and, by the aid of telescope and microscope, sweep the heavens or analyse the blade of grass?

This has been done with astonishing and convincing results to the unbiassed mind. Difficulties are, doubtless, found; and science, still in its infancy and daily learning errors in its own too hasty conclusions, is prone to magnify those difficulties, and to shut out from creation the idea of a Creator’s hand.

Nevertheless, by strange coincidence, fresh evidences are constantly accruing which go far to convince even the unwilling scientist of the presence of a Designer’s hand. Stones cry out! Nature speaks!

Creation should, indeed, speak, and its voice be heard. What is invisible in the Creator should be and is seen, and seen clearly, being understood by the things that are made—even His eternal power and Godhead—not, indeed, His grace, or truth, or love, but infinite power and design, so much so that people are left thus without excuse. (See Romans 1:20.) Creation declares the power of God. It does not reveal what He is in Himself—His nature—but to any, except those wilfully blind, it is evidence sufficient of the existence of a Creator-God!

Still the knowledge of the existence of God is not the same as the knowledge of God Himself; and it is the latter that is our enquiry.

But just at this point a sadly interesting element must be introduced. How is it that God should be unknown to His creature man? The fact that He is unknown implies the presence of sin. A moral distance has been placed between God and man—a cloud, a film has darkened our spiritual vision—a spring of enmity has poisoned our affections, and has warped and vitiated our mind and judgment. Man has lost by sin his knowledge of God. He is fallen. This is sad indeed, but the admission of it goes far to help the honest enquirer out of his difficulty.

How, then, is this moral distance to be bridged? How can man possibly reach to God? Creation with its complex wonders cannot help him. The wisdom of the world is only speculation, leaving the hapless student in the cloud-land of uncertainty. The mind of man, in its grandest flight, carries him no further than supposition, whilst his affections plunge him into the horrors of idolatry. God is still unknown, and man hopelessly lost! Despair may lead its victim to say, “There is no God,” and seek to quiet his restless mind and guilty conscience by such an opiate. But still the cry of man is, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” (Job 23:3). For, after all, the poor needy creature longs for a knowledge of his Creator, and man must find out God.

What, then, is necessary? How alone can this knowledge be obtained? By revelation. It is essential, if man is to know God, that God should reveal Himself. He must, in pity, penetrate the cloud and make Himself known, not now in power, but in grace and truth.

This, blessed be His name, He has deigned to do—He has given a revelation of Himself.

But this revelation is not public. It is not for the outward eye or ear. It does not catch the senses. There has been, and there will be, many an expression of His wrath and of His favour, many a momentary display of His hand in mercy or in judgment; but this revelation is distinct from anything of that kind. We read that “the righteousness of God is from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). It is a personal revelation of what He is to faith in the blessed recipient. Revelation necessitates faith, just as faith responds to revelation. The two are co-relative.

Now we reach our point: God is known to faith. The believer possesses this inestimable boon—he knows God! Wonderful grace, indeed! That which neither creation nor the wisdom of this world can bestow is the portion of the man who believes.

Hence Paul says, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). Faith and the knowledge of God went together—he knew God.

But what is the ground of this wonderful knowledge? It is in redemption. This transcends creation. It tells of love as creation speaks of power, it wins as the other overwhelms, it unveils a Heart as the other displays a Hand.

“God is love,” the proof being in the gift of His only-begotten Son. Amazing gift, unthought of and unwhispered by creation—a gift unsought by man, and, alas! how coldly spurned, too. The Son declared the Father, so that now God might be known as Father. The Son died to meet the judgment due to the sin that had created the distance, and alienated men from God. Now, the judgment borne and redemption completed in His death and resurrection, the barrier is removed; and God can righteously reveal Himself as a Saviour-God and as Father to all who, by His grace, believe on the Son. Hence that welcome word, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

And this, again, leads to the closest possible intimacy of communion—“My Father will love Him, and We will come unto Him, and make Our abode with Him” (John 14:23). Thus God may be known, and may become the spring of unutterable and holy delight. “God my exceeding joy” is an Old Testament expression (Ps. 43:4), whilst we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation,” is the gladsome language of the New (Rom. 5:11). Thus God is made known by the gospel. It is the revelation to us of what He is. But the rejection of the gospel is the refusal of this wondrous light; and that, again, means the judgment of the refuser. Vengeance must fall on them who know not God. (See 2 Thess. 1:8.) If, then, God cannot be known, it would be unrighteous that such should suffer vengeance; but if, conversely, He can, and may, and should be known, then it is but righteous that the despiser of His grace should receive the eternal award of his unbelief.

Eternal life goes along with the knowledge of the Father and the Son; everlasting destruction is the doom of him who “knows not God, and obeys not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and let us remember that “everlasting destruction” is a destruction that is lasting ever. It knows no end.

May the reader see to it that he has the knowledge of God, as revealed to us in the gospel of His Son.