Have you ever reflected on what it means for us to have a relationship with God? Do you ever stop and think how amazing it is that the Infinite God would not only permit, but actively pursue, intimacy with finite, sinful humanity?
I've been thinking about this idea a lot recently. It first came up during a discussion in my women's Bible study on the book of Galatians. Even though the idea of knowing and being known by God isn’t necessarily a major point in Galatians, it's stuck with me ever since that discussion. I’ve been turning this idea over in my mind, contemplating what it means and how it should impact my thoughts and actions.
Context in Galatians
“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified . . . for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:16, 21
In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle makes a passionate plea to the Galatians to remember that their justification is by faith alone. False teachers were misleading them to believe that they were obligated to follow the Law of Moses to be righteous. Paul’s letter reminds them that, to sinful humans, the standard of perfection that the Law demands is impossible, so it can only bring condemnation. Our righteousness can only come as a gift through faith in Christ. When Christ died in our place, he gave all believers the gift of God’s own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) and that that gift is perfect and permanent. If we needed to do good works to be righteous, then the Cross would be meaningless.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” Galatians 4:8-9
By giving us His righteousness, Christ has opened the door for us to have an intimate relationship with God. We are given the remarkable privilege of knowing God and being known by Him, so why would we want to enslave ourselves to striving to attain justification through works?
Although finite beings can never fully grasp an infinite God, we have been generously equipped with everything we need to grow in our knowledge of Him as we become more like Christ.
His Creation: All of creation reveals his magnitude, provision, and ingenuity.
His People: God lovingly created us for interdependence with our fellow Christians! Community with other believers is an opportunity for us to give and receive godly encouragement. We have a holy calling to reflect the image of God in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
His Word: This passage sums it up perfectly: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17] What more could we ask for than to be given everything we need to accomplish the good works God calls us to?
Himself: Prayer gives us direct access to our loving Father. Union with Christ grants all believers unlimited access to the God who desires to be in relationship with us and is never too busy for our prayers.
Being Known By God
It is amazing that believers are granted the privilege of knowing God, but notice Paul’s words in Galatians 4:9: “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God.” This is not to deny that believers are able to know God, but to place emphasis on the fact that our relationship with God is based in His initiation through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross.
God knew us before we were even born:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” Jeremiah 1:5
He knows us deeply and intimately:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” Psalm 139:1
He sees every bit of our sin, but loved us enough to redeem us through the sacrifice of his own son:
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
He chooses us to become a part of his family*:
“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:4-5
How Do We Respond?
Remembering that we know and are known by God will inspire many feelings about our Creator and ourselves: reverence, faith, humility, and security, among many others. But what should our emotional response to these weighty realities prompt believers to do? To put it simply: it prompts us to obey God by doing good work.s (Remember how 2 Timothy assures us that God’s Word is perfectly equipping us for those good works?) Faith without works is dead (James 2:7), not because good works make us righteous. Again, Paul clearly argues throughout Galatians, as well as many of his other epistles. Instead, our acts of obedience to God show that our faith is active and alive.
*I’m not really inclined to divert to a tangential debate on sovereign election vs. free will, but I think the Bible makes it clear that God chooses to have a relationship with us through Christ. Even though this is an area of doctrine that I wrestle with, I am convinced that Biblical passages that declare that God has chosen us are meant to be a blessing and encouragement, not a stumbling block.
For Further Study:
Geoff Ziegler’s Galatians: A 12-Week Study.
Meditate on the idea of knowing and being known by God this week. How are you being prompted to act because of the faith that these realities inspire?