One distinguishing mark of humanity is its desire for knowledge; thereby its binomial name, “homo sapiens,” was given. The name in Latin means ‘wise man’ and is widely used in the lofty scholarship of the evolutionists. Ironically, the name was coined by a Christian scientist, Carl Linnaeus, also known as the Father of Taxonomy. Linnaeus explains humanity in this way:
Theologically, man is to be understood as the final purpose of the creation; placed on the globe as the masterpiece of the works of Omnipotence, contemplating the world by virtue of sapient reason, forming conclusions by means of his senses, it is in His works that man recognizes the almighty Creator, the all-knowing, immeasurable and eternal God, learning to live morally under His rule, convinced of the complete justice of His Nemesis.
Linnaeus, as an excellent natural scientist, describes accurately the teaching of Scripture on natural revelation that leaves all men without excuse. In addition, Linnaeus points out an important aspect of what it means to be a person created in God’s image; that is, the ability to know him personally and live according to his ways. However, we know that in the world today and throughout human history, not every man has come to knowing God personally. Since the Fall of Adam in the garden of Eden, because of the noetic effects of sin, human ability to know God personally was distorted to the point that not even one seeks God. Therefore, all true personal knowledge of God comes from being drawn by God, receiving faith in Christ by inner working of the Holy Spirit.
Our knowledge of God is derived from a personal encounter and experience with the Triune God, who graciously draws the humble. And because the subject matter of the knowledge of God is a living person who is holy, the nature of knowledge cannot be merely intellectual. It is relational. In this very context of true personal knowledge, I would like to explain how knowing God more leads to loving him more. First, I will show how knowledge of God gives us reasons to love him. Second, I will add how knowledge of God refines us to love him better. Lastly, I will consider how knowledge of God refreshes us to pursue God until we see him face to face.
Knowledge of God Gives Us Reasons to Love Him
First, it is important to define what constitutes knowledge of God, before we look at how it gives us reasons to love him. As Bavinck said, “all our knowledge of God is from and through God”; it is God’s revelation that all our knowledge is grounded in. We cannot separate our knowledge of God from his revelation. If our knowledge of God was up to individual postulation or private interpretation, there would be no objectivity. Men would boast in their creativity and never arrive at knowing the one true God. So, it is from God’s revelation—his handiworks of creation and his Spirit-inspired handwritten Scripture—that we discover and encounter what God is like. Our personal exposure to God according to God’s disclosure is our knowledge of God.
When God reveals himself, he unveils his magnificent qualities and perfect excellencies for his glory to be clearly displayed. In Exodus 33:19 when Moses asked the LORD to show him his glory, he answered, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” And when the LORD descended in a cloud to pass before Moses, he displayed his glory by disclosing his goodness of being “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). Given such knowledge of God, Moses’ obvious and immediate response was to bow down and worship.
Therefore, the knowledge of God according to His own revelation contains clear and glorious reasons to adore him. The more we acquire knowledge of God from his revelation, the more grounds we will find to desire God in adoration. It is like going to a house auction that allows anyone to bid any price but disallows anyone to go inside for viewing. Without the knowledge of what the inside is like, not many will be quick to sell all his properties to buy the house. However, if the seller of the house discloses to a bidder bit by bit that the house has crystal floors, sapphire walls, jewel-covered golden furniture, and closets full of royal silk robes, the bidder will grow in his desires to sell all that he has to buy that house. Likewise, knowledge of God fills our minds with worthy and marvelous reasons to love God.
Knowledge of God Refines Us to Love Him More
In addition to providing reasons for loving God, knowledge of God contains refining power as God’s revelation includes sanctifying truths. We see an illustration of the refining power in the aforementioned event of Moses tasting God’s glorious goodness. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after his encounter with God, his face was glowing so radiantly that he had to veil his face for the fearful Israelites. Moses did not realize that his face was shining. It was inevitable for his face to shine because he was with the LORD who dwells in unapproachable light. For Moses, the residual effect of experientially knowing God was reflection of God’s light.
However, we come to realize that Moses’ reflected light on his face faded away. In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul explains that Moses’ veil, covering the old covenant of the law that was coming to an end. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul does not leave us veiled but points us to a clearer and better picture of the refining power of knowledge of God in Christ. He proclaims, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He continues in crescendo: “for God, who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
So, it is through that illuminating knowledge of Christ—the good news of his perfect life, self-sacrificing death, and victorious resurrection–that a sinner of darkness can behold to be brought into light, and then be refined to become a saint of light. Increase in the knowledge of God in Christ results in greater refinement of the beholder as the Holy Spirit delights using the knowledge of Christ Jesus to expel the shadows of sins and to expose the darkness within. In Calvin’s words, resembling the words of Christ, it is the Holy Spirit’s proper office “to bring to remembrance the things which he had verbally taught.” Things that Jesus Christ had taught becomes our knowledge of God. While physical light does not require a medium to travel, the sanctifying light of the Holy Spirit takes the knowledge of Christ as the medium to travel the depth of human heart to purify him and to purge him of darkness. Our knowledge of God attained from knowing Christ Jesus refines our heart and soul to cast away our false lovers and to love him better.
Knowledge of God Refreshes Us Until We See Him
Lastly, in growing in our knowledge of God to attain more reasons to love him and in attesting to the refining power of knowing him, we must acknowledge that on this side of history before Christ returns to restore all things to glory, we only have partial knowledge of him. As the Apostle Paul said, “for now we see in a mirror dimly,” (1 Corinthians 13:12) our knowledge of God is, in our present condition, not immediate knowledge that God has of himself but one that is reflected in an imperfect human power of comprehension. There will be fuller knowledge when we are glorified to see him face to face; but for now, with great eagerness and expectation, we must strain forward to what lies ahead. What refreshes us to press on is our knowledge of God. As our knowledge of God increases to see how he is all the more satisfying with his infinite richness and fullness, we are strengthened and nourished to plunge ourselves further into the unsearchable depth of God’s riches.
We see a picture of the effects of being with the all-satisfying and strengthening God, again, with Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses did not eat or drink water. It is very likely that he did not sleep either. Having such nearness of communion with God, Moses’ earthly desires and cravings were forgotten, and his needs for strength was repleted by the refreshing presence of God. When one humbly approaches God to acquire more knowledge of him to trust him, God lovingly refreshes him. Isaiah the prophet said, “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faith” (Isaiah 40:31). While the Israelites were waiting for the LORD’s deliverance from their enemies, we are waiting here and now for the return of our Lord Jesus to make all things new. Until we are glorified to enter into God’s rest and rest in our Father’s embrace, we are to keep on running to finish the race to know God more fully. Our knowledge of God refreshes our strength to continue pursuing him until we will see him face to face.
In conclusion, as we have looked at how our knowledge of God feeds into our love for him, we remember the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). In order for our love for God to grow, we must rejoice with the truth. Our knowledge of God must grow as we feast on the living bread of God—truths revealed in the Scripture. As it is written, you shall love your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength. Our knowledge of God affects our mind, filling it with reasons to love him. Our knowledge of God affects our heart and soul, cleansing it by the refining power of knowing the God of light. Our knowledge of God affects our strength, refreshing us to press on toward the goal for the prize of upward call of God in Christ, to be glorified by God to know him fully.
- Carl Linnaeus, Nemesis Divina, trans. Michael John Petry (Boston, MA: Springer, 2001), 22
- Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol.2: God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 110
- John Calvin, Institutes 3.1.3
- Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol.2: God and Creation, 110.
Keith Ryoo serves as a pastor at Emmanuel Community Church. He is currently a M.Div. student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Eunice, have three boys: Jin, Rhee and Yehohn which mean “truth reigns, gifting beautiful peace” in Korean. On a side note, he enjoys serving others and himself coffee, morning and evening. While Spurgeon said of Bunyan “prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline”, Keith’s friend said “prick Keith, he will bleed caffeine.”