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Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Not What You Know

Go ahead. You can finish that, right? "It's not what you know; it's who you know." And in a lot of things these days, that may be true. In one very important item, however, it's not quite accurate, even if most of us think it is. That item is our salvation.

"Now, hang on," I can already hear you saying. "It is about knowing Jesus." You'd think so. That's why it's interesting what Paul writes. "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" (Gal 4:9) Notice that Paul corrects himself in this statement. He first says that the Galatian Christians changed because "you have come to know God." Then he says, "or rather" -- a correction -- "to be known by God." Paul is saying here that the change from dead to life, from sinner to saved, from the former life to the new life is a product of being known by God.

Now, that has to sound weird. We know that God is Omniscient. We know that God knows everyone. But here there is some different element. What is it?

In Jeremiah God speaks about Israel's sin of worshiping Baal and throwing their daughters to burn with Molech. "I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination" (Jer 32:35). Is God saying, "I didn't see that coming"? If He is, He is admitting ignorance and denying Omniscience. Or is He saying, "It wasn't My plan. That's wasn't what was on My mind"? He's saying, "I didn't come up with that idea and I didn't command it." We also know that Scripture speaks often about a husband "knowing" his wife. For instance, in the 4th chapter of Genesis we read, "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain" (Gen 4:1). Now, wait a minute! Adam has been hanging around Eve for several chapters. What's up with this? Well, of course, this is speaking about intimate knowing, not simple mental awareness. So we understand that knowing has various levels and meanings.

Jesus used the same kind of phrase. In the Sermon on the Mount He spoke about the false believers who will come to Him.
"On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matt 7:22-23)
There it is again. What does Jesus mean by "I never knew you"? Jesus knows everything and everyone. How could He not know them? They claimed to act on His behalf, but "The Lord knows who are His" (2 Tim 2:19). Jesus was saying that He didn't command it. They thought they were doing it for Him, but they weren't. They were, instead, "workers of lawlessness."

So what is it, then, that provides us with salvation? Is it our knowing Christ? Yes ... but that's not comprehensive enough because "The Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). Knowledge of God is insufficient. What is required is a relationship with God, and the point Paul and Jesus are trying to make is that God initiates that relationship. God begins that intimacy with us. Paul says that we start out "dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked" (Eph 2:1-2), and the solution is "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us" (Eph 2:4), "made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:5). "Now, wait!" you might be tempted to argue. "God loves everyone." True, but, again, not in the same way, because if that was the love Paul was referring then that love made us all alive together with Christ ... and you've arrived at universalism.

We are called "the church", but the real translation is "the called-out ones." We are "the elect." Not on our own, not from our own efforts, not because we're special, but because of God's choice for His purposes (Rom 9:11) so that none can boast. We didn't choose Him; He chose us (John 15:16). That started with a special love applied to us by God. It started by God knowing us in a special way. That "being known by God" is what initiates our salvation. So it's not what you know or even who you know when it comes to salvation; it's Who knows you ... in a deep and personal way.


Bob said...

I noted that we are often encouraged to read the word so that we may know Him better by way of discovery. we search the scriptures thinking that in doing so; we may have eternal life.
but in light of what you said; it now seems that reading the word is more about what the Lord wants to reveal about Himself to those He has called. this view can be very scary to the uniformed...

Stan said...

I think you've got something there. If we viewed Scripture as "the things God wants you to know about Himself", I think it would take on new weight.