The more time I spend with the Bible learning who God is, the more I recognize the continuity between the Old and New Testament. God stays the same in both periods of time. While the Old Testament may recount more battles, sieges, and exiles than the New Testament, God’s call to man remains consistent.
He creates the first man and woman and gives them two jobs: to know him and make him known as they steward the world and are “fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1). God offers a similar assignment to Abram, saying that his obedience will produce a blessing for all the nations (Genesis 12). He delivers the same message to the Israelites. Their worship of the one true God sets them apart from the nations and glorifies his great name.
The New Testament follows the same pattern. John says, “We know (emphasis added) love by this, that he (Jesus) laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Peter, Paul, and the other New Testament apostles echo John. They all call for believers to pursue — to know — God and to make him known through the lives they lead.
It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul, that he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. (Deuteronomy 11:13-4)
The believer’s first priority is to know God. Such knowledge refers not to distant intellectualism but to intimate knowledge, relational knowledge. God desires people who worship him in spirit and truth, not in mere words or church attendance.
Jesus brings the point home when he calls the religious elite “whitewashed tombs.” They appear holy on the surface, but they reek of death (Matthew 23:27-8). They do not know God; in fact, they seem to want to have nothing to do with God and what it really means to follow him.
In another gospel, Jesus relates a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee “prays” and thanks God that he’s not like all the other people. The tax collector, in contrast, stands at a distance and refuses to lift his head toward heaven. He keeps his head bowed and prays, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”
The tax collector knows God and knows him to be holy and just. He cries out for mercy in response to that knowledge because he knows another fact: God is love. He can beg for mercy and expect to receive it, just as David in Psalm 51.
Make God Known
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
While knowing God is the first role of the believer, it is not the only one. A believer knows God so that he or she can make God known. God never means for his blessings to stop at the individual. Rather, he intends for blessings to come from him and travel through the recipient.
Jesus settles the question in Matthew 22. A lawyer asks him for “the great commandment.” Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy, replies with not one, but two, commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:37-8).
Jesus could end there — he’s technically answered the lawyer’s question — but he doesn’t. He continues, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:39-40).
Love, or knowledge, of God is bound up in loving God and others. By loving others, people show the world who God is. By following God’s commandments to live holy, set apart lives, they reveal God’s character. They demonstrate that God is not only holy and just but also “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Believers have two jobs. First, they know God—intimately. They love God and have a relationship with him. Second, they make God known by walking in holiness and loving everyone, from the beggar to the king.
Image: Savio Sebastian (Creative Commons)