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INTRO: How to know God

Why is it that people characterize God differently? Isn't it because of the diversity of sources from which people derive information about God? Some base their infomation about God purely on their own personal opinion or wishful thinking and often end up molding God into their own image. But if God indeed wants us to know Him wouldn't He tell us about Himself in manner in which He has designed us to obtain information from one another - namely through language? Indeed there is prophetic literature in which God allegedly says things about Himself and His relationship with man. But if God has spoken then would he not also have provided evidence that it was Him speaking? Otherwise anyone could claim to be speaking for God and there may be many such people presenting contradictory information about God. For example the Koran speaks of a God called Allah who is characteristically different than the Bible's God Yahweh. In particular one significant difference is in the area of intimacy. For the God "Allah" is not portrayed as father, friend or husband but simply as lord. Indeed even the Sonship of Jesus is denied in the Koran - not to mention his death and resurrection. But this is where the Bible shows itself superior to all other alleged prophetic literature. For how would God have affirmed His word but through miracles set in such a public context as to be difficult to fabricate.
Now some people ask, "How can I know God has spoken?" 
Just read His word and I'm not jokin. 
Raising the dead and healing the blind. 
Oh, there's lots of proofs, you'll find. 
In the presence of thousands, both friend and foe. 
things not done in secret, don't you know. 
For when God speaks His word, He understands 
we need proof it's His and not man's. 

(For more on the issue of evidence see How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?)

The God of the Bible

This series assumes that the Bible contains the revelation of the one true God and rejects all other sources which contradict the Bible. Thus when the word "God" is used, it is referring to Yahweh - God of the Bible - and not to other versions of "God" such as Allah or a "God" which people make up in their own minds.

God as Lord and Judge

One distinct characteristic of God is that He is Lord God. He demands obedience. This is in stark contrast to the idea of one who merely creates us and then let's us do whatever we want - there being no demands on His part nor ultimate accountabilty. God is Lord and God is Judge. "Everyone must die once, and after that comes judgment." Heb 9:27

God as Friend, Father and Husband

God establishes intimate relationships with those he considers his people. There are those whom God reckons his friends:
"The LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." Ex 33:11
"You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14 
So also God establishes a family for himself - the family of God
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" Ga 3:26
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Godís people and members of Godís household" Eph 2:19
He also uses the marriage relationship to communicate the intimacy and commitment he has toward his people.
 Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband." Jer 3:14
Paul writes to the church saying, "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." 2Cor 11:2
Only those who are his people qualify for these kinds of status. Yet even in these relationships there are varying degrees of intimacy, just as in human relationships. A friendship can always be improved upon - as also a marriage and a relationship between child and parents.

God's Enemies

God has many enemies. In fact you may be or have been one of them - even if you don't think so. For example, have you been a friend of the world?
Of unbelieving Jews, "As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies" Rom 11:28
And nominal Christians, "many live as enemies of the cross of Christ." Php 3:18
Like the baptized Christian in Acts 13:10 the apostle Peter says, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!"
Of Christians before they were saved, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." Col 1:21
While God has provided a way for his enemies to be reconciled with him and brought into the family of God, the destiny of those who refuse such reconciliation is terrifying.
"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." 2Thess 1:8,9
"Love" versus "Like"

God "loves" everyone, including His enemies. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8

BUT God doesn't like everyone. "The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates." Ps 11:5

To be God's friend is to be someone whom God not only loves, but that He likes.

Unfortunately translations often don't bring out these differences in that they often translation the Greek word for "agape" love, which is God's gracious love for everyone, the same way they translate the Greek word for "like", which is "phileo". Phileo speaks of preference or friendship. Consider how it's used.

"Anyone who likes his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who likes his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" Mt 10:37 Here "phileo" I translation accurately as "likes", whereas most translations inaccurately translates is "love", which fails to most accurately translate the author's meaning. Here the idea is that if you are to be found worthy of a relationship with Christ, you must prefer Him above any other. And indeed Paul goes so far to say, "If anyone does not like the Lordó a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!" 1Cor 16:22, which again most translations get wrong.

As an example of a man whom Jesus liked, take Lazarus. People could see that He liked him. "The sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you like is sick.'" John 11:3 And likewise "the Jews said, "See how he liked him!'" John 11:36 Among other things what is implied is that Jesus doesn't like everyone, but only special people. Though, granted, liking someone is a matter of degree.

In John 21 Jesus challenged Peter as to whether he not only loved Him, but liked Him. This again most translations don't bring  out as in John 21:15-17 Jesus changes between speaking a agape love and "phileo" friendship, but the translations inaccurately use the same word.

We're to love everyone. But we're not going to be friends or marry just anyone. You may love Jesus, but do you like Him?

Discussion Questions

How can anything be known about God?
What are examples of contradictory concepts of God?
If God spoke how would you know it?
In your opinion what kind of relationships can people have with God?
What are some roles that God takes on according to the Bible.
What is it that makes a person God's enemy?
What is the destiny of God's enemies?
How intimate is the relationship that God provides for those with whom He is reconciled?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Dec 08,2023