The Knowledge of God: Podcast Episode 2
Thank you for tuning in to the Bibleofile Podcast with Corey Ramsey.
I am Corey Ramsey and in today’s episode, I am excited to continue in our study of the book titled “The Wonderful Works of God” by Herman Bavinck.
In this episode, we will be looking specifically at chapter 2, which is written regarding the Knowledge of God.
The format in which we do this is something like a summary of the book, expounding on important points from the chapter and talking about what I think Bavinck to be saying, while adding in feedback from my own experience and study.
I would like to remind you that if this is your first time tuning in to the show, you can follow along with us in the book from chapter to chapter, although it is not required in order to benefit from the program.
If you would like more information about the show, you can visit www.thebibleofile.com or follow us on social media, all of which can be found at the website.
Before we begin in our discussion of the Knowledge of God, lets recap what was discussed in the last episode.
Recap & Transition
Recap & Transition
The first chapter in the book and also our first episode, was titled Mans Highest Good.
Bavinck went in depth to explain that God was mans highest good and the many reasons why this was the case.
He said man was created in the image of God and was created in a way that man could not be fully satisfied in anything else other than God.
He explained why the various degrees of study such as science, philosophy, and art were fulfilling but how they ultimately were unable to be the complete satisfaction of man.
Man just simply wasn’t created to find this in the created things but in the creator Himself.
As we move to chapter 2, Bavinck is now saying, here is how one can know the object of ultimate satisfaction.
When you hear the Knowledge of God, you may think theology proper and assume that we are speaking of The knowledge that God possesses, but the knowledge of God that Bavinck is talking about is more related to how we can know God.
Many people today say that they know God but is this the same knowledge that Bavinck is speaking of in this chapter? You can answer this question in The Bibleofile Facebook Group which can be found on the website or the Facebook page.
Lets find out!
The Knowledge of God
The Knowledge of God
The Covenant of Grace
The Covenant of Grace
We start this chapter speaking of the Scriptures as the revelation of God and the Covenant of Grace contained therein, which says, I will be a God to you, and you shall be my people.
He then explains how this promise and its fulfilment go hand in hand.
In the beginning, God called all things into existence by his word.
By his word, he will bring in the new heavens and the new Earth, in which the tabernacle of God will be with men.
In Christ, we see that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
and this Word was with God and was himself God.
He says that, “The full being of God is revealed in Christ.”
“Christ is God expressed and God given.”
The promise is I will be a God unto thee and the fulfillment of that promise is I am thy God.
Finally, to quote Bavinck again, “God gives himself to his people in order that his people should give themselves to him.”
From my experience, many of the people that I have talked to tend to take this as a one sided deal, that simply God gave himself to them and that they must no longer do anything else which is sometimes known as easy-believism.
He makes a great point right here that 1. God gives himself to his people.
He doesn’t give himself to everybody but only to his people.
and 2.this is in order that Gods people should give themselves to Him.
This is the duty of the people of God.
Consider the marriage covenant, which is often compared to the relationship between Christ and the Church.
The husband is to give himself to his wife and the wife is to give herself to her husband.
If one does not give themselves to the other, the relationship fails.
When both parties give themselves to each other, the relationship goes well.
If the church were to give itself to Christ, and Christ was not there to nourish and cherish it, that relationship would fail.
Since Christ is there to nourish and cherish his church, the church in turn gives themselves to Christ and the gates of hell do not prevail against it.
Easy-believism is a false understanding of the gospel and does an injustice to the saving grace of God.
Bavinck points out that this is continually repeated in the Scriptures, God telling His people “I am thy God.”
God says this same thing to his people in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
This church responds “Thou art our God, and we are Thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture.”
Bavinck says, “This declaration of faith on the part of the church is not a scientific doctrine, nor a form of unity that is being repeated, but is rather a confession of a deeply felt reality, and of a conviction of reality that has come up out of experience in life.”
How is it that they came to this understanding?
He points out that this wasn’t realized through the work of philosophy but from what God meant to them and what they owed to him.
God wasn’t a cold concept who was analyzed rationally, he mentions, but a living, personal, force, more infinitely real than the world around them.
How did they respond to this?
He says, “They reckoned with Him in their lives, they lived in His tent, walked as if always before His face, served Him in His courts, and worshipped Him in His sanctuary.”
Once God is known, everything else loses value in your eyes compared to Him.
He says, “For the saint, heaven in all its blessedness and glory would be void and stale without God; and when he lives in communion with God he cares for nothing on earth, for the love of God far transcends all other goods.”
It is most certainly a materialistic world that we live in today.
Many people imagine heaven as a place of all their favorite things.
I can remember before I was saved I used to picture heaven as a place all about me.
I had everything I ever wanted and I was always happy and there was no more pain and sadness.
The only problem with my view of heaven then is that I was the god in my heaven.
It is clear that non-believers take this quote the exact opposite as the Christian.
The Christian believes heaven would be void and stale without God.
The non-believer believes that heaven would be void and stale if they were not god or even if the God of the Bible was there.
The believer cares for nothing on earth. God far transcends all other goods.
The non-believer only cares for things on earth. Their love for goods far transcends a love for God.
This shows me that they do not know God because God has not given himself to them.
Had God given himself to them, they would see that it is far better to have him than anything that he has created.
1 John 2:15 tells us “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
The non-believer is seen to be a lover of the world whereas the Christian is seen to be a lover of God.
“In this sense Christ said that eternal life, that is, the totality of salvation, consists for man in the knowledge of the one, true God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”
This is the concept that we will look at throughout the rest of this chapter.
The Character of this Knowledge
The Character of this Knowledge
So we have just seen that Christ said that the knowledge of God is eternal life but what exactly is this knowledge or what does it consist of?
This knowledge as we will see, is different from any other kind of knowledge.
The first way in which in this knowledge is different from all other knowledge is its origin.
This is a knowledge completely dependent on Christ.
“It can be said in a certain sense that we get all of our other knowledge by reason of our own insight and judgment, by our own effort and study.” says Bavinck.
He points out that unlike that knowledge, this knowledge we must receive as Christ says we should, as little children, and let Him give it to us.
It can be found nowhere else.
Why must Christ give it to us and why must it be found only in him?
He quotes Matthew 11:27 ““All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
No one else has this knowledge to give except God.
There remains another problem.
“We did not know God and took no interest in a knowledge of His ways. But Christ caused us to know the Father.” says Bavinck
This knowledge could be found only in God and we had no interest in finding this knowledge.
If Christ hadn’t caused us to know the Father, we would have never known the Father.
This was his very work say’s Bavinck.
To quote him he says, “He revealed God in His words, in His works, in His life, His death, His person, and in all that He was and did. He never said or did a thing except what He saw the Father doing. It was His meat to carry out the Father’s will.”
There still remains people in the world today that do not have this knowledge.
It is not a matter of the intellect or human effort.
It is not as if they could have figured this out if they were more diligent in their studies.
It is simply based on the fact that this knowledge has not been given to them.
In Matthew 13:11 Jesus told his disciples, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”
When we share the gospel with people, we are not counting on our wisdom in delivering the message nor their wisdom in receiving the message but we are praying for the grace of God that he will reveal Himself to them.
It is a relieving fact that nothing regarding our salvation or that of others depends on our performance but on the power of God.
Next, he says that knowledge of God differs from all other knowledge in its point of object.
What does this mean?
First of all, everything else that can be known is finite, limited, and temporal.
God is infinite, unlimited, and also eternal.
He does, however, point out natural revelation, which is an example of how it can be clearly perceived through creation that there is a God.
Romans 1:20-23 shows how even though people have this natural revelation, it is not the best source, because even with this information they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like a creature.
Bavinck presents a great question?
“How can man know God, the Infinite and Incomprehensible, who can be measured by neither time nor eternity, in whose presence the angels cover their faces with their wings, who lives in unapproachable light, and whom no man has seen nor can see?”
This is clearly a rhetorical question.
He says “What does man know of things in their origin, essence, and purpose?
This reminds me of the story of Job.
Job thought that he had it all figured out until God came and told him how it really was.
Job responded with Job 40:4 ““I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.”
He says, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
There is no way to completely comprehend the incomprehensible.
Bavinck says, “And if you, O man, want to know who God is, do not ask the wise, the Scribes, the disputers of this age, but look upon Christ and hear His word! He Himself is the Word, the perfect revelation of the Father.”
Natural revelation shows us that there is a God but there is yet a better revelation that we can look to.
By looking to Christ, we are looking to the perfect revelation of the Father.
Why would we trust the wise of this world?
The people in Romans who claimed to be wise exchanged the glory of God for images resembling human beings, birds, and creeping things.
The Scribes had God walking right in front of them and did not recognize Him.
The disputers of this age claim to have it all figured out but are proved to be fallible in their conclusions.
Why should any other source be the authority on who God is?
One thing that comes to mind in this instance, and its something that I am guilty of, is something that was pointed out to me by George Mueller.
He mentioned in his autobiography, that many new Christians, instead of reading the Bible itself, tend to find it a good idea to read many books about the Bible.
This is what I believe Bavinck to be talking about in his quote.
Why would we find any other source more valuable in knowing God than hearing it directly from him?
We have looked at the origin and the object and the book says that this determines the essence of the knowledge of God.
This knowledge is not just information but a real knowing.
He uses a great illustration to demonstrate this.
“To get some information from books about a plant, or an animal, or a person, a country or a people is not yet to have direct personal knowledge of such a subject. Such information is simply based on somebody else’s description of a matter. In this sense, information is an affair of the head only. But real knowing includes an element of personal concern and involvement and an activity of the heart..”
I was once in a conversation with somebody and they were saying that this guy, whom I had never heard of, told them he knew me.
How could he possibly know me if I did not know him.
He may know what people have told him about me.
He have seen me at a distance or may know what I look like, but for this guy to say he knew me, I would beg to differ.
Whereas my wife, who lives with me, who sees me and interacts with me on a daily basis.
Whom I reveal my heart to and share my life with, she would have a basis for saying that she knows me.
This guy in the story simply knew of me which is a very limited knowledge.
This knowledge of essence that we are speaking of is similar to the knowledge that Jesus has.
Bavinck points out he wasn’t a theologian by profession but knew God directly, saw him everywhere, loved him, and was obedient to him.
Another great quote, “Indeed, to know God does not consist of knowing a great deal about Him, but of this, rather, that we have seen Him in the person Christ, that we have encountered Him on our life’s way, and that in the experience of our soul we have come to know His virtues, His righteousness and holiness, His compassion and His grace.”
This he calls the knowledge of faith which he says is a confidence in the remission of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are free given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ merits.
He says, “If we understand the knowledge of God in such a way, it need occasion no surprise that its operation and effect is nothing less than eternal life.”
I definitely appreciate the study of theology, which is what led me to start doing this podcast.
I was one swept away in the beginning of my Christian walk with knowing about God rather than knowing God in the personal way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know God in a personal way, I actually thought that I was going about it the right way.
I started off at a church that was extremely shallow on doctrine so when I started actually learning about doctrine, I was blown away by it.
As I learned more about doctrine, I gained more head knowledge of who God is which felt great but I was not looking as I should have been to experience who God is.
Knowing what I know now, I would have spent a lot more time in the Bible and in prayer during those times than spending the majority of my time in books.
On another note, since I have started my study of theology, it seemed a realistic thing to me that I may someday be a theologian because I truly enjoyed this study of God.
Bavinck says that “a true theologian, is one who speaks out of God, through God, about God, and does this always to the glorification of His name.”
Any of us here today who are theologians or aspire to be a good one, should make this a practice in our work.
Bavinck points out in this chapter how true knowledge of God is eternal life.
He spends nearly the whole of the chapter getting down to the bottom of what this knowledge really is and what it isn’t.
He pointed out that it wasn’t simply a head knowledge but more of a heart felt knowledge from experience.
You can tell you have the true knowledge of God when your love for God far transcends all other goods.
What does the knowledge of God look like in our world today?
As R.C Sproul says, “Everybody is a theologian.” and this is true.
Everybody has an opinion on who God is and what God is like but are they getting it from the right places.
If they have not been given this from Jesus, we know that there information is false.
When I was first saved, before I had a good idea of what authors I should be reading, I read a deceitful work by an author named Bart Ehrman.
He claimed to be a biblical scholar, who had given a lot of time in his life to studying the Scriptures, and in this work was really pushing that he did not believe we could trust the The Bible based on the transmission, if I remember correctly.
I think the title was called misquoting Jesus.
It wasn’t long after that I started going to Liberty University where I took an apologetics class and Gary Habermas name had come up, whom I realized had interacted with Ehrmans work.
At this point I realized he was a skeptic and I couldn’t trust what he had written to be true.
The point I am trying to make is that this guy, being a Bible scholar, has probably read the Bible more than a lot of the Christians in the world today, yet he is defined as an agnostic atheist.
The saving knowledge of Christ comes from Christ and unless he gives it, he wont have it.
I believe there are people on the very opposite end of the spectrum.
They know barely anything about the discipline of theology but they know Christ and commune with Him.
Then we have large majority of people who claim to know Christ but do not know him at all.
The Word tells us that there are some he will tell to depart because he never knew them.
I am sure many of these people are people who said the sinners prayer and thought they were saved yet knew nothing of God but were deceived.
People want the quick assurance that they are saved so that they can go back to living their sinful lives in rebellion to God.
God is not deceived.
He says these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.
I like how Bavinck points out in this chapter that knowing God is not mere information but actually knowing.