Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 3, 1955
NUMBER 42, PAGE 10-11b

Knowing God

Harry W. Pickup, Jr., Prescott, Arizona

The Spirit of God said this to the Athenians through the Apostle Paul: ". . . . That they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27.) For centuries the Gentiles had been seeking after God; they had been trying to make him "real." But their search for God had been through human invention. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." (Rom. 1:22, 23.) Consequently, they were still far off from God.

Even the Jews did not know God as they should. They "received him not." (John 1:11.) They had the prophets and should have been prepared to receive Christ as the revelation of God; but they did not. They closed their eyes, ears and hearts. They had zeal but not knowledge. "For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:3.) Here is the key to all disobedience: refusing to submit to the sovereign will of God.

The coming of Christ into the world accomplished several things. In Christ's own words he came to reveal the Father to man, in order that man might have eternal life. "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ. I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do. And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gayest me out of the world." (John 17:3-6.)

In these verses Christ makes known several things: how to have eternal life, that he came to glorify the Father and how he did it, the manifestation of the Father to the apostles. It is of utmost importance for men "to know" both God and the Son. In fact, it is for this reason that Christ came. In revealing the Father he also glorified him. Jesus said: "When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him." (John 8:28, 29.)

This is how Christ glorified the Father, by "having accomplished the work" which God gave him to do. The work which he was to do was to teach them of the Father and the Son in order that they might have life eternal. In the sense that Christ uses it here, to know God is to believe him. In the previously mentioned passage — John 8:28, 29 — this comment is made when Christ had finished teaching them of God: "As he spake these things, many believed on him." (Verse 30.)

Christ not only taught men of that age about God but he also taught those who were to teach others. John 17:6 says: "I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gayest me out of the world." As he — Christ — had revealed the Father, so they were to reveal the Son. "The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father biding in me doeth his works . . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." (John 14:10, 12.)

Since Christ is the revelation of God and since men who live this side of his ascension have never seen him or heard him, there had to be some way by which all could receive this revelation of God in order that they might have life eternal. Christ revealed the Father by speaking the truth. "For the words which thou gayest me I have given unto them." (John 17:8.) So the apostles revealed Christ through the word. "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word." (John 17:20.) Thus John wrote: "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." (20:30, 31.)

The purpose of the written word is also shown in 1 John 1:1-4: "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: and these things we write, that our joy may be made full."

By preaching the gospel unto the Athenians Paul was revealing the Father and the Son to them that they might have life eternal. He was making God real to them; thus, God was as near to them as the word which Paul preached. Paul's commission is thus stated: "For to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:16-18.)

Men are turning today from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God by reading the revelation contained in the New Testament.

There are only two ways by which one can know something: by personal experience or by revelation. It is obvious that we have never seen or heard the Christ speak. But we must hear him or else we cannot know the Father and thus have life eternal. How can we do this? We hear him in the apostolic message and in no other way.

All men who are conscious of God have two thoughts — at some time or other — with regard to him; a feeling of guilty, of having transgressed some divine fiat; and a desire to worship the supreme being. With regard to the feeling of guilt there is the desire to be rid of it. Man is then faced with two alternatives: he may evolve his own plan of atonement; or, he may follow the divine plan. With regard to worshipping, he is faced with the same two alternatives: human invention or divine revelation.

After all, idolatry is no more than human effort to come in contact with God through human means.

The plan for man's justification is revealed in the gospel. Romans 1:16, 17, "For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified." (Rom. 8:29, 30.)

The way to enter into the presence of God for the purpose of worship and service is also revealed in the sacred text. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." (Hebrews 10:19, 20.)

The choice is simple: will I do what the revelation of Christ demands, or will I seek God through human invention. One simply has to determine if his service to the Most High God is authorized in the revelation. If it is not it is of human origin, is therefore idolatry and cannot be unto life eternal.