Quest. 4: How may we know God?
Ans: We may know God only as he has been pleased to reveal himself to us.
Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
Psa. 19:1–3. 1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Acts 17:27–28. 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being...
See also: Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:9, 18; Rom. 1:18–25; 2:14–16; Col. 2: 9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb.1:1–3.
God is our Creator; we are his creatures. The Scriptures are careful to maintain this Creator–creature distinction and relation. Therefore we can only know him as he is pleased to reveal himself to us. He is infinite; we are finite. He is absolute [self–existent and without any external limitations]; we are relative [dependent upon God and outward circumstances for our existence and meaning]. We are not only limited by our creatureliness, but also by the intellectual consequences [noetic effects] of sin (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).
God has revealed himself to us in various ways. These ways are progressive in nature and history: first, God has revealed himself to us through the light of nature. Man is the image–bearer of God, and possesses an instinct for the Divine. The noetic effects of sin have dulled and distorted this. Man by nature is incurably religious, but lacks both the ability and motivation to seek God aright (Acts 17:22–31). He is “epistemologically bankrupt,” i.e., sinfully futile in his incapacitated reasoning and suppresses what truth he does know, as his inner being is “darkened” (Rom. 1:18–25; Eph. 4:17–19). Second, God has revealed himself in and through his creation to the extent that fallen man is inexcusable, although he suppresses this witness (Rom. 1:18–20). See Question 10. Third, God has revealed himself through his providential dealings in history, but man interprets such superstitiously from his own presuppositions in terms of chance, fate or luck, not giving glory to God (Rom. 1:21–25; 2 Pet. 3:3–6). See Question 35. Fourth, God has revealed himself through his Word. This revelation has been inscripturated and preserved (Jn. 17:17; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). It remains for all time as a witness to God’s nature, character, purpose and veracity. In the Scriptures alone is the message of salvation and reconciliation. Finally, God has revealed himself in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, his eternal Son and the only Redeemer (Jn. 1:14, 18; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–4). See Questions 25, 70–75.
It is through the Scriptures that we may know God, ourselves, understand the world about us, and have a definite and authoritative revelation concerning salvation from sin, righteous living, human history and our own destiny. Do you know him? Do you know him and yourself as revealed in his Word? Do you know him savingly in the Lord Jesus?
By Dr. W.R. Downing