We are taking a break from the Galatians series this week to answer the question, “What does it mean to know God”? Here is my simple answer to that question:
Knowing God means more than simply having information about him; it means that we have an intimate relationship with him, and can interact with him personally and meaningfully.
Consider John 1:10, which says that although Jesus was in the world (i.e., he was born as a man and lived among the Jewish people), the world did not “know” him. So he was near to a lot of people who knew facts about him (for example, that he was born in Nazareth, that he was a famous teacher, that he healed sick people, etc.), but who nevertheless failed to know him in the sense that John is talking about.
Then there is Romans 1:21, where Paul talks about unrighteous people who run away from God as fast as they can, and says this: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” So these people who want nothing to do with God know him in one sense (in that they can look around them and see through the beautiful creation that he exists and that he is powerful), but in the most important sense they do not know him, because they have turned their back on him and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” for other things that they love more than him.
So knowing God doesn’t just mean having information about him, but it means having an intimate relationship with him. In Galatians 4:9, Paul tells the Christians in Galatia that “you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God.” Think about that for a second—he says that they have become known by God. But God already knows everything about us! Jesus once said to a group of Pharisees (who were rejecting God and did not know him), “God knows your hearts” (Lk. 16:15). So if God already knows everything about us (including the desires of our hearts), what does it mean that Christians have “become known” by God? It must mean that we have entered into an intimate relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
And this intimate relationship with God through Jesus transforms everything! Knowing God enables us to love others as he loves us (1 Jn. 4:7-12). It gives us an increasing experience of grace and peace (2 Peter 1:2). Knowing God enables us to obey him, and changes us so that we love what is good and are able to do the things which are pleasing to him (1 Jn. 2:3; 3:6). Most importantly, knowing God through Jesus means that we receive “eternal life,” which is the life that belongs to God’s coming kingdom, where perfect goodness is restored to all creatures and all of creation, and where God fulfills the longings and desires of every human heart by giving us himself (Jn. 17:3).