If anybody could qualify to have a relationship with God based on their Jewish heritage under the Old Covenant, Paul would be the leading candidate. He was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), and “as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (vs. 6). Paul was a zealous defender of the faith and knew all about God, but until the Lord struck him down on the Damascus road, he didn’t know Him at all. He had an Old Covenant relationship with God, but not a personal one. After his conversion, the apostle Paul reflects on his lost status in the Jewish community. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (vss. 7,8).
Everything depends upon our belief in God, but our faith will never be perfected unless we know the One we put our trust in. The Westminster Confession says, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” That is a good definition, and it helps me to know about God, but can we actually know Him personally? Scripture declares that God is incomprehensible. “How great is God-beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out” (Job. 36:26). Being finite we cannot fully comprehend the infinite, but yet we can truly know Him. The apostle prays, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17).
God has made Himself known through His Word, but the written word by itself can only give you an intellectual knowledge about God. The ultimate revelation of God is Jesus, His Son. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9b). It is through Christ that we personally come to know our Heavenly 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” (Matt. 11:27). The triune nature of God is fully revealed in our relationship as children of God with our heavenly Father. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and He in us, because He has given us of his Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:12,13). Because we have a personal relationship with God, we know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When I was working on my first Doctorate at Pepperdine University I developed a friendship with a man from Saudi Arabia. We studied together, and I invited him and his family to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. One day he asked me what it meant to be “born again,” which was the title of a popular book by Chuck Colson at the time. I shared the whole message of creation, the fall, the gospel, and how he could be united with God. He responded by saying, “You talk as though you have a personal relationship with God. This I cannot accept!” Such is the difference between Christianity and Islam or any other religious orientation. There is nothing more personal than an intimate relationship between a loving Father and His children. He is my Father, and I am His child.
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