Volume. XXXIV, No. 52
Sunday, 28 June 2020


From the Pastor’s Heart: The Knowledge of God


Acts 17 is an interesting chapter to read.  There are two churches mentioned in the first half of the chapter: the Thessalonian and Berean churches.  Both churches are commended for specific reasons.  For example, Paul testifies of the soundness of the Thessalonian church in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”  He also testifies that the Thessalonian believers turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1:9).  The Berean church is no less significant than Thessalonian church.  Acts 17:11 says, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  In other words, both churches were clear in their conversions and knowledge of God.  One church turned away from idolatry in order to serve the living and true God, while the other church searched the Scriptures to know more about Him.  They knew God and believed in Him.

 

As you are able to guess by now, I am going to talk about the relevance of the knowledge of God to the believers.  There is an incident over resurrection between the Sadducees and Jesus in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20.  The Sadducees were of the priestly people and the Temple service was in their charge.  They were passionate for their religious causes, obviously, and they could not tolerate anything that might trouble the traditional Jewish religion through the Temple services.  One of the features of their doctrinal beliefs was the denial of resurrection.  They challenged Jesus who shamed them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29b).  Jesus went even further to say, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (vv. 31-32).  If we put them all together, the Sadducees, the keepers of the Temple services, did not know the Scriptures.  They did not know the power of God, which refers to His attribute (omnipotence-all powerful).  On top of these rebukes, Jesus also said, by expounding the name of God - “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” that they did not even know that God is the God of the living!  In other words, though they worshipped God and kept and protected the Temple premises with their best knowledge, they did not know God!  Possessing true knowledge and faith in God is one thing, and assuming that we have true faith and knowledge of God is another.  We may assume that we know God, but we may not have the knowledge of God.

 

While I have been reading the Old Testament chapters, I have been very surprised by extremely casual and almost ritualistic uses of the name of God (implying the knowledge of God by claimers of faith in God).  For example, I have been observing Absalom, David’s son, handsome and mischievous.  He killed his stepbrother, Amnon, to revenge his atrocity against his sister.  Then, he exiled himself for a while and returned.  He was an ambitious man.  He wanted to be a king of Israel.  Well, why not?  After all, he was a prince and could have a chance to be a king.  (We acknowledge here that God had a different thought from Absalom.  Solomon was God’s chosen one).  Apart from God’s providential work and wisdom for Solomon, we simply say that Absalom was in a position to dream of being a king someday.  However, there was a serious problem with his ambition – he wanted to be a king while his father, David, was still on the throne!  It means that only treason or mutiny could bring him to the place where he wanted to be.  He used lies and deceptions not only to the people but also to his father, the king.  Well, so far, the story is not new to such historical upheavals.  Listen to what Absalom said to his father, David, in 2 Samuel 15:7-8, “And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. 8 For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.”

 

Absalom invoked the name of the LORD (Jehovah), the name of the covenantal God of Israel, to ensure that his lies could appear to be sincere.  His next move is our concern.  King David allowed him to go as Absalom asked.  2 Samuel 15:10 says, “But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.”  We know what happened afterwards.  Absalom must have grown up with the religion of his father, David.  He must have been present when his father praised God and offered sacrifices.  He must have seen how his father feared the Lord.  Naturally, Absalom called upon the name of the Lord, and it was neither an unusual nor a strange practice to him, at all.  That was the limit of his knowledge of God. 

 

Here comes both a challenge and an exhortation.  How much do we know of God?  Do we really know God?  God is infinite.  Thus, there is no way that anyone can describe God with words or pictures.  The best way to know Him is through His attributes.  That was the way that the forefathers confessed God by faith.  For example, The Westminster Confession of Faith II, 1, reads, “There is but one only, living, and true God: who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

 

Reading the confession is one thing, and appreciating and living by it is another.  If we truly subscribe to the confession of faith we just read, then we ought to believe and follow God as we confess.  For example, God hates all sins, does not clear the guilty, and is terrible in His judgment.  If we believe and know such a God, what shall we do when we find sin and guilt within us?  We are not able to maintain perfect purity 24/7 but if we believe in such a God described above, what shall we do?  How many Christians are able to say that they have served God in fear and trembling?  Why do we not keep His commandments (we do not have to think about even the Ten Commandments.  Think about commandments like “forgive one another as I forgive,” or “love one another as I love”).  If we really believe in the justice of God and His fearful wrath, then why do we not live accordingly? 

 

I hope everybody can see that the knowledge of God must not remain with doctrinal statements.  The knowledge of God must be practiced and demonstrated.  The knowledge of God must come to us with practical applications.  If we really believe and know that God hates sin, then we ought to hate sin.  If we really believe and know that God is holy, then we ought to strive to be holy.  If we really believe that God is loving and patient, then we ought to love and be patient with one another.  Otherwise, the knowledge of God is only in words.  It will neither change our lives, nor help us walk with God closer, nor make us godly.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of self-help YouTube videos and books to teach us how to do this or that.  We need devices and gimmicks to do all of them.  It is only a sign that we do not have the knowledge of God.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:34, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”  Are we different from Absalom?  Then, how?  What shall we do?

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

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  • God’s daily guidance, protection & providence.
  • Church in-person & virtual Sunday Worship Service & other activities in the past week.
  • For further restrictions lifting & God’s wisdom & guidance to the government in managing the crisis.

 

Prayer

  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); and others who are sick.
  • University students having exams.
  • COVID-19 virus – for God’s grace & mercy; for health care workers; for God’s continuing guidance & wisdom to the government in managing the crisis; for those affected physically, mentally & financially.
  • Missions – Sis Esther Kim & orphanage (Bandung).

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063