Is it really possible to know God? The idea of knowing God can seem like attempting to climb an impossibly tall mountain that ascends to elevations that are insurmountable for human being. While it is true that God is infinite and a finite human mind cannot fully comprehend Him, there are things we can know about God’s nature, character, and existence.
God is knowable to the extent that He reveals Himself. Since we are finite and He is infinite, we could never fully know and comprehend His being, nature, or existence. However, what He chooses to reveal to us is knowable – This is what is often referred to as the knowability of God.
Too often, people try to conceive of what God is like through their own train of thought. This is incredibly dangerous because it is far too easy at that point to create a god in the image we desire while ignoring who God actually is. We need an objective source from which to draw conclusions about who God is and what we can know about Him.
So then… How has God revealed Himself to mankind so that He can be known by mankind? There are three ways in which God has revealed Himself:
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). What Paul is saying is that you can know that God is powerful, eternal, and divine simply by observing the complexity, beauty, and awesomeness of creation. The universe displays order and design which points to the fact that there is a Designer. As we observe these things, we come to know a little bit about the character and nature of God. For example, because the world contains so many beautiful landscapes filled with colors, we can know that God loves beauty. Because we have an innate awareness of the value of human life, we can reasonably conclude that God values human life as well. We can know a bit about God simply by observing nature around us.
We cannot stop here however. When one only draws from creation in order to know about God, one concludes that creation is somehow related to or a part of God Himself. This is where pantheism, new ageism, and other oneness-based, nature-worshipping worldviews come from. This is a detrimental error that should be avoided.
If God can be known in some ways through creation, then it makes sense that we would need an additional source that can function as a lens through which to view creation so that we can know who this God is who created the heavens and the earth.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. While it was written by men, they were led by the Spirit of God to write what He wanted them to write. Peter writes, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). This means that the message of the Bible is a divine message and it contains exactly what God wanted it to contain.
From the Bible, then, we can know God through the ways that He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We can know about God’s omniscience (infinite knowledge) and His eternality by verses like Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…” We can know about God’s character and nature as a loving Father who is also a just Judge through verses like Exodus 34:5-6 in which God says, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). God has revealed Himself through Scripture and so if you want to know who God is and what He is like, you have to read what He has said.
THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
The third way that we can know God is through the incarnation of God the Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible makes clear that Jesus was fully God in the flesh who left His heavenly throne to become a man, living the perfect life we could not live and dying the substitutionary death that would pay the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven. However, Jesus life and death did not only accomplish the forgiveness of our sins and the securing of our salvation (though we are definitely glad that it did accomplish that!); it also accomplished the physical manifestation of the character and nature of God.
Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Additionally, John writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). These verses reveal that Jesus showed us what God is like – If you ever wonder what God is like, look at Jesus. If you want to know how God feels about the needy, look at how Jesus responded to the needy. If you ever wonder how God feels about hypocrisy, look at how Jesus responded to hypocrisy. Jesus is God the Son and his incarnate life on earth reveals very specific aspects of who God is and what He is like.
While we may not know everything we would like to know about God, through creation, Scripture, and the incarnation of Jesus Christ we can know what we need to know about God and can live our lives according to who He is and what He expects of us.