What Does It Mean to Know God?
Today our guest contributor is Parker McGoldrick, our current Church Planting Resident who, Lord willing, will be launching Ankeny Gospel Church sometime in 2022.
Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Knowledge is a funny word because we use it to mean many things. It can be broad: I know cars (for what it’s worth, I definitely do not know cars). What does that mean? That means I know how cars work, I know what happens when something goes wrong, and I know how to fix them. But this knowledge is one way: I know cars, but cars don’t know me! It’s simply an intellectual knowledge, most often of an inanimate object; it’s something stored away in your brain and used when necessary. That’s one way we use the word “know.”
Then there’s another type of knowing, but it’s a cursory knowledge. It’s a vague knowledge. For example, we might say, “I know Katie.” But then when we are asked more about her, we say, “Well, I know of Katie, I don’t really know all about her.” What does this mean? This means we’ve had a few interactions with Katie, know her face, her name, maybe what she does for a living, etc. And, maybe Katie “knows” the same information about us. So it can be two-way knowledge, but it doesn’t go beyond the level of information. It stays casual and maybe even superficial. Yet again we use the same word: know.
Finally, there’s a deeper and greater knowledge. This is the knowledge we come across in the Bible. This is intimate knowledge; experiential knowledge.
One of the first uses of the word “know” in the Scriptures is from Genesis 4:1 where Adam “knew” his wife, Eve. This is not merely an intellectual knowledge, and definitely not a vague or cursory knowledge. This is intimate. This is experiential and personal.
Later, this same word is used in Isaiah when God says he “knew” His people Israel, but they did not “know” Him. Rather, they decided to know and trust other gods. Does this mean that Israel didn’t intellectually know of God? No. Did this mean Israel couldn’t tell you some stories about God? No. This means that Israel failed to trust and follow God intimately and experientially.
When we get to the New Testament Scriptures, Paul makes a profound statement: not only do we know God, but we are “known by God” (Galatians 4:9). Because we are sons and not slaves, we know God, and, better yet, God knows us!
God has decided to know us experientially and personally. Yes, he knows us informationally too: He knows how many hairs are on our head, He knows our names, He knows where we will be in 10 years. But more significantly, He knows us intimately. In the same way you simultaneously know information about a family member/spouse/best friend and yet you also actually ‘know’ that family member/spouse/best friend beyond mere information, so also God knows about you while also knowing you more deeply. Can you say the same about your knowledge of Him?
Most of the time we know about God, but it’s just that: some truths or facts about God. But do we actually know God? Can we say we intimately and experientially know Him in our day to day lives? Can we say that knowing God is the foundation for everything we do? According to Jesus, knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3). It is not a one-way knowledge, it is not merely an intellectual knowledge. It is this personal, life-transforming, intimate knowledge that gives us eternal and abundant life.
That is what it means to know God.