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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Knowing God

In Matthew 11 Jesus makes a startling statement that we seem to read right past.
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27)
"Oh, great," I can hear some readers already saying. "Here goes Stan on his 'Sovereignty of God' kick." Well, if you saw it in there, I suppose I could. I saw it, too. That is, if "All things have been handed over" to Christ, then that would include ... all things. That's Sovereignty. But you can relax. I'm not going there.

I'm not going there because I said there was a startling statement and that was not it. What was? Well, the rest of it. All of it. Jesus makes this startling claim that "No one knows the Son except the Father." But ... we do, right? Apparently this is not natural. He goes on to say, "No one knows the Father except the Son" which would stand to reason, I suppose, from the previous statement, but, still, don't we know God? Jesus answers that. He adds an exception: "and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." Are you catching the magnitude of the statement?

Jesus is saying that knowing the Father -- knowing God -- is not normal, but exceptional. Of course, we're not talking about an awareness of God. Knowing that God exists is natural indeed (Rom 1:19-20). This isn't γινώσκω -- ginōskō -- which is simple knowledge. This is ἐπιγινώσκω -- epiginōskō -- full knowledge. This is relational knowledge, the idea of knowing someone in a personal relationship. That is, we know of God, but we do not know God personally. Jesus is saying that actually having a working relationship with the Father is uncommon and only possible by first being enabled to do so by the Son.

Now, we like to think that we initiate this. We come to God. We want to know God. We even have this idea of a "search for God". But Jesus says that actually connecting with God only occurs when the Son does it. We lack the ability and inclination on our own. The only way to bridge that gap is for Christ to work first. The prerogative for knowing God belongs to Christ, not us.

Now, to me, that's pretty amazing.


Josh said...

My question as I read this passage in Matthew is, "Why does Jesus choose to reveal the Father to some?" You son't address this question outright in your post. When I read what you wrote, my impression (which could be wrong) is that it is arbitrary. This is where we delve into conjecture. I think it would be fair to conclude that Jesus sees our hearts, and decides based on what lies in there. I would think this seems even more reasonable, considering Jesus invites all who are "weary and heavy laden" (conditions of the heart) to Him in the very next passage.

Stan said...

Assuming it is arbitrary makes no sense. "The only ones in my house that got cookies were the ones to whom I gave them" does not require arbitrary. I wouldn't like to guess at why God does something when He doesn't tell us, but I have no reason to assume it is arbitrary. I believe He does give us a general hint when we read, "... in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls." (Rom 9:11)

I know the whole "He sees our hearts and gives it to those of us who deserve it" sounds really good, but to me it is unfathomably problematic. When we get to heaven and the angels want to know, "Why did Jesus reveal the Father to you and not to your neighbor?", I would find it impossible to answer, "Because I deserved it and he didn't" in any sense. Others, I suppose, are much more comfortable with that position. I'm stuck with "so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9)

Note, by the way, that a general offer like, "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden ..." does not require either "all will" or even "all can" to be true or meaningful. Even Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt 22:14)

David said...

In what way can "what's in our heart" be a factor for salvation without a reward? Salvation is the unmerited gift God gives to us. If something in our heart merits salvation, it is no longer unmerited salvation. How can there be anything in us, from us, worth saving? Anything in us, from us that grants salvation nullifies unmerited favor. While who gets saved would seem arbitrary from our point of view, it all falls perfectly into His plan. The randomness of salvation is merely a failure on our part to see the BIG picture. Why are some chosen and others not, for His good purposes. Nothing else can make sense in light of Scripture. Anything in us that makes us worthy of salvation makes Christ's sacrifice meaningless since we had the power all along.