Daily Archives: 10/10/2016

How are we “known of God?”

HOW ARE WE “KNOWN OF GOD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:8-9). Not only do we in Christ know God. More importantly, God knows us!

Galatians 4:8-9 carries the thought mentioned throughout the previous chapter. While the one true God was dealing with the nation of Israel, preparing them to function as His earthly people, the nations—including the Gentiles in Galatia—“knew not God” and “did service unto them which by nature are no gods.” That is, in their heathen religious services, they worshipped various dead idols.

The Gentiles were doubly-severed from the one true God. They were not only dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). They were also on the wrong side of the middle wall of partition that God had erected (Ephesians 2:11,12). The Israelites, not the Gentiles, were God’s chosen people. Having let the nations (Gentiles) go their way in spiritual ignorance at the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11, God took Abraham and began to form His special nation in chapter 12. Romans chapter 1 shows us the nations’ blatant rejection of God’s clearly revealed will, and their subsequent spiritual ignorance. This was the former state of the Galatians in Galatians 4:8-9. It was also the lot of our Gentile ancestors in the centuries before Christ!

Did God not care about the Gentiles? Why, of course He did! God’s will was to take the nation Israel, convert them, fill them with His Word, so they, as His kingdom of priests, could then take that divine revelation to the nations (Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 2:1-3; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23). Israel, as we all know, failed in that regard. But, God, in eternity past, devised another way to reach Gentiles until Israel’s national conversion. Galatians 4:8-9 provides a clue as to how He did it. We Gentile believers in Jesus Christ “have known God” and “are known of God.” Just what exactly does this mean? Let us search the Scriptures to find out!

Departing Moses admonishes Israel to remember she alone is God’s special people. Deuteronomy chapter 4: “[5] Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. [6] Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. [7] For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? [8] And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”

Once Israel entered the Promised Land, Gentiles were to literally see their unique Law-keeping behavior and respond: “Our dead idols do nothing for us, but, LOOK!, an all-powerful, wise, loving God works mightily in Israel! Let us turn to that God and forget our superstitions and statues!”

Romans chapter 9 describes Israel’s privileges in “time past:” “[4] Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; [5] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Israel was to be God’s “son-nation,” His earthly coworker-nation. They had His presence, His covenants, His Law (Word), His priesthood, His promises, and His earthly ministry (Matthew through John). Of the Gentiles like us during that time, Galatians 4:8-9 says,[Y]e knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.” Thank God, we have moved from “time past” to “but now!”

Ephesians 2:11-13 lays out the Bible timeline: “[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

In time past,” God dealt with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). He had separated unto Himself the nation Israel from the world (see Romans 9:4,5). Ephesians 2:11-12 says, during that time—Gentiles were “without Christ” (Christ’s earthly ministry was to Israel only; Matthew 15:24), Gentiles were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (not members of Israel), Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants of promise” (God made covenants with Israel), Gentiles “ha[d] no hope” (no promises from God), and Gentiles were “without God” (no Levitical priesthood of God). This correlates to the first part of Galatians 4:8-9: [W]hen ye [Gentiles] knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.”

Verse 13 of Ephesians chapter 2 says, “BUT…,” a contrast to our previous statements: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off [Gentiles] are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” This links to the next part of Galatians 4:8-9: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God,….” In what Scripture calls but now,” our present-day, God deals with all of mankind without distinguishing between Jew and Gentile. We proceed to show how this new way of God dealing with mankind began with the Apostle Paul’s salvation and commission.

While Israel had a special status before God in “time past” (Romans 9:4,5; Ephesians 2:11,12), she was unappreciative. She forgot that God had not chosen her as His special people because she was so lovely and loving, but rather because He, in His love, wanted to use her to reach all the nations on His behalf (Genesis 12:1-3). During Christ’s earthly ministry and early Acts, Israel demonstrated she was unwilling to be God’s channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles.

So, God turned to Gentiles without Israel. Israel fell before God—albeit temporarily. This is where the Apostle Paul enters. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote in Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:”

If you read the latter part of the book of Acts—chapter 13 onward—you will cover the bulk of Paul’s ministry. While he did visit synagogues (Jewish places of worship) to warn Israelites of their nation’s temporary fall before God, he also ministered to people who were completely unaware of Israel’s God. None of these people had ever heard the name “Jesus Christ.” Rather, they had their idols of superstition, pagan education, Satanism, wood and stone, et cetera (see Acts 14:1-18, Acts 16:16-18, Acts 17:16-31, Acts 19:21-41, and Acts 28:1-8). This was where Paul found the Galatians (see Galatians 4:8-9). He preached to them the wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God. They came to know the one true God!

Today, it is very difficult to find someone who has never heard of “Jesus.” Contrariwise, when the Apostle Paul began his ministry, it was very difficult to find someone who had heard of “Jesus.” When JEHOVAH God’s apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, entered Athens, Galatia, Thessalonica, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Antioch, Berea, Ephesus, and innumerable other Gentile areas, it was His first attempt ever to directly reach those Gentiles. The nations that He had given over to Satan’s control back in Genesis chapter 11, He was now reaching down so they could reach Him.

In Acts chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas preached to the idolaters at Lystra: “[15] …[T]urn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: [16] Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.” Paul preached in Athens (chapter 17): “[23] For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. [24] God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; [25] Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;… [29] Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. [30] And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:”

Paul preached a similar message to the idolaters in Galatia (Galatians 4:8-9). It was via his Gospel message they could know God and He could know them! To the pagan Gentiles, Israel’s God was the “UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). Dead in trespasses and sins, under Satan’s control, Gentiles had no relationship with Israel’s God (Ephesians 2:1-3,11,12). Once we move in the Bible from “time past” to “but now,” however, Israel’s God becomes “known” to the Gentiles. Israel’s God decided to reveal a secret He had kept to Himself for thousands of years. He chose Saul of Tarsus, His arch-nemesis, saved him by His grace, and sent him (made him an apostle) for a very special purpose. Paul would preach a worldwide Gospel message. “THE UNKNOWN GOD… him declare I unto you!(Acts 17:23).

Paul’s own admission is 1 Timothy 2:5-7: “[5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

Israel’s rejected Messiah, Jesus, had become the Saviour of the world. Now, through Paul’s ministry, all people of all nations learn “Christ Jesus… gave himself a ransom for all.” This message was first preached by Paul (not Jesus in His earthly ministry, not Peter, not James, not John, et cetera). Through Christ’s shed blood, we have fellowship with Father God: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). When we trust Jesus’ finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins, we “know” God intimately. And, more importantly, as a parent would commune with his or her child, He “knows” us.

There was a time—“time past”—when the idolaters of Galatia, nonmembers of Israel, did not know the one true God personally and intimately (Ephesians 2:11,12; cf. Romans 9:4,5). However, Paul wrote to the Galatians that that time had passed. Mankind was now living in “but now.”

Ephesians chapter 2 declares: “[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ… [18] For through him [Jesus Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father. [19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Through Paul’s Gospel—Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)—we Gentiles have “access” to Father God. Furthermore, when we believe that Gospel of God’s Grace, He comes to live inside of us personally via the Holy Spirit. In His Word rightly divided, He has made known unto us His will. We need not revert to our former ways of spiritual ignorance. No need to return to works-religion (as the Galatians were doing in Galatians 4:8-9—using the Mosaic Law). Works-religion will only hinder God’s relationship with us, and ours with Him. He has already given us His grace, His Son, and His fellowship. We need give Him nothing but our trust.

The God of creation will be known of us, and, most importantly, we will be known of Him! 🙂

Also see:
» Can you explain 1 Corinthians chapter 8?
» Who are God’s family in heaven and on earth?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?