Two of the most important questions anyone can ever ask are, “Can I know God?” and “How can I know God?”
Both these important questions have one answer: we can know God, and we do know God, because He has revealed Himself to us. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 4) says, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being.” Our Lord is beyond us, His creatures, in every way (Isa. 55:8-9; Job 9:10; 28; 37:23; Rom. 11:13). We would not know Him if He did not choose to reveal Himself to us. Praise be to our good and gracious Lord God who delights to reveal Himself to mankind (Prov. 8:31)!
The Scriptures clearly speak of God making Himself known. God’s revelation of Himself is often described in terms of speaking and seeing. The very act of creation is described in terms of speaking: “And God said” (Gen. 1:6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29). Further, in Hebrews 11:3, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” In Psalm 19, we are told, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (v. 1), “Day unto day uttereth speech” (v. 2), and “There is no speech nor language, where there voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (vv. 3-4).
Psalm 19 also speaks of God being revealed by seeing: “the firmament sheweth his handywork” (v. 1), and “night unto night sheweth knowledge” (v. 2). Romans 1 also explains God’s act of revealing Himself as seeing. We are told in Romans 1:18 that “we hold the truth” of God, or, to put it another way, we have the truth about God in our hands. We have the truth of God because “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (Rom. 1:19). Romans 1:20 continues to emphasize that we know Him because He has shown us: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”
Before the complete revelation of God in our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s people received revelation in a variety of ways of speaking and seeing, or, as Hebrews 1:1 states, “God ... at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” The Lord revealed Himself by speaking “face to face” (Ex. 33:11, Deut. 34:10), in dreams (Num. 12:6, Matt. 1:20), through visions (Gen. 15:1, Num. 12:6), miracles (Ex. 7:17, Judg. 6:36-40, Josh. 6:20), divine appearance of God or theophany (Gen. 12:7, 32:24-30), mighty acts of deliverance (Ex. 6:6-8, 10:2, 14:4, 18), symbolic movements and gestures (Jer. 28, Ezek. 4, 5:1-4), and more.
However, since the completion of God’s revelation in Christ, the former ways of God revealing Himself have ceased. Hebrews 1:2 states that God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” The Westminster Confession explains this further:
Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church (Hebrews 1:1); and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing (Proverbs 22:19-21; Luke 1:3, 4; Romans 15:4; Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Isaiah 8:19, 20): which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary (2 Timothy 3:15, 2 Peter 1:19); those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
We now have in Jesus Christ the full revelation of God. Our Lord Jesus is the “brightness” of the Father’s “glory” and “the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15). Our Lord Jesus says, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). All of God’s revealing of Himself through speaking and seeing culminates in His eternal Son, His Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:1-5
How are we to respond to the truth that we can know God because He has revealed Himself to us in Christ?
First, we should look for no further revelation than in Christ according to the Scriptures. People often are tempted to want something more than Scripture to comfort their troubled hearts. In John 14, the disciples had troubled hearts. The Lord Jesus comforted them by directing them back to Himself. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” However, the disciples felt they needed more than the revelation of Jesus Himself. Philip asked for a special revealing of the Father to calm their troubled hearts: “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Our Lord did not offer another revelation; He simply directed the disciples back to the revelation that He Himself holds. He says in John 14:9-10,
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
We need the gift of Spirit-worked faith to believe the revelation of God in Christ according to the Scriptures, as our Lord directed Philip and directs us to do (Eph. 2:8). We need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to savingly behold God as He is revealed in Christ according to the Scriptures: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Ps. 119:18). However, we need no other revelation for our hearts to be comforted than the revelation of God in our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.
Second, we should humble ourselves. God is our Creator and we are His creatures (Rom. 1:25). There is none like Him (Isa. 40:18, 25; Jer. 10:6). We must confess and praise with the psalmist,
For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?
Third, we should be convicted of the foolishness of our idolatry and repent. All others but our God are powerless idols and “they that make them are like unto them” and “so is everyone that trusteth in them” (Ps. 115:8). When the people of Israel saw the fire from heaven consume the sacrifice brought by Elijah, “they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God” (1 Kings 18:39). Let us likewise turn from our own foolish idols and serve the only true God.
Lastly, we should be encouraged to trust Him with everything in our lives. We are not to be like people who follow idols or do not know God. Rather than worrying about money, food, and clothing, we are to look to our Lord. Our Lord Jesus said,
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:31-34
May we ever trust in the sure knowledge of God we have in the revelation of Himself that is in our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.