Thursday, September 11, 2014

Knowing God is the heart of the Gospel

John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

What is the goal and heart of the Gospel - the Goodnews of Jesus Christ? In the opening verse above the answer is made plain: to know God. Pastor John Piper wrote a book a number of years ago entitled: "God is the Gospel". On the back of the DVD study based upon the book, we find the following statement: "Some people say forgiveness makes the Gospel good news. Others suggest that being saved from hell or gaining freedom from a guilt conscience makes it good news. But the Bible tells us the Gospel is good news not because of its many peripheral blessings, but because it brings us to God - and to utter delight in Him as our all-sufficient and everlasting treasure." 

John 17:3 is the clearest definition we have in the Bible of what it means to have eternal life. John 3:16 is often quoted as the simplest definition of salvation: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Knowing God as the core definition of what it means to have biblical salvation will be the focus of today's post. Below are some other passages that aid in fleshing out this truth. 

Knowing God is the heart of the Gospel because unbelievers are defined as not knowing God
The ultimate bad news that the Gospel first brings to us is that we are born into this world alienated from God - and thus do not know Him. Ephesians 2:12-13 explains: "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:4 explains it this way: " in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." The unbeliever outside of Jesus Christ knows about God according to Romans 1:21-23, but without saving faith, possess a non-saving knowledge about Him.

Knowing God is at the heart of the Gospel because it defines what it means to experience salvation
The change that occurs at salvation is explained as me going from knowing about God to knowing God and being known by God. Jeremiah 31:33-34 predicts what would be the current new birth miracle of regeneration in the human soul that works itself out in saving faith:  “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” When we come to the New Testament, salvation is described in terms of being brought to a point of knowing the true God: 1 John 5:20 "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."

Knowing God is the heart of the Gospel because only at the cross by faith do we know God
To say that the heart of the Gospel is equal to knowing God does not mean some generic concept of God. God is not an idea to be studied nor a formula, but a Living reality involving Three Persons in unending movement in and through One another. At the cross, we see the Second of those persons, Jesus the Son, dying in His humanity for the sins of mankind, especially those who are His from the Father by faith. (1 Timothy 4:10) If we try to know God by reason only, or by religious law keeping, we will be in the dark so-to-speak regarding who God is. Hebrews 12:18-21 notes - "For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” So how do we gain access to God? The only place where He will meet and gain access to us: the cross. Notice Hebrews 12:22-24 "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."

Closing thoughts
Today we looked briefly as to why the Gospel can be defined as being brought to the point of knowing God. We noted that unbelievers by definition do not know God. Thus salvation is defined as the point and time we are brought to a true knowledge of God, and that being at the cross. May we who know God make Him known to those who do not know Him. 

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