Why does God say that He wants to get to know His people? Doesn't God know everything?


Even though God COULD know everything, He has decided NOT to know–generally speaking–how we will act under pressure. God’s purpose is to create in us holy righteous character, which requires free moral agency and the opportunity to chose right from wrong. God tests us to see HOW we will act–that is, He tests us to get to know us better in the process of our overcoming the wrong way and accepting and living the right way. Since God knows even the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21) and our thoughts (Psalm 94:11), He knows what kind of trials He can bring upon us, so that we CAN pass them, and which would not be too difficult for us to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). [Please read pages 58-69 in our free booklet– “Teach Us To Pray!” –for a further explanation of why God tests us, and why we are to pray not to be led into temptation or very difficult trials.]

For instance, we read in Deuteronomy 8:2:

“And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you to KNOW what was in your heart, WHETHER you would keep His commandments or not…”

In addition, Deuteronomy 13:1-4 says: “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to KNOW WHETHER you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”

We should take note of what God told Abraham, AFTER he proved to Him his unconditional obedience, manifested by his willingness to give up his son Isaac:

“And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for NOW I KNOW that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me'” (Genesis 22:12).

God had said earlier, in Genesis 18:19, about Abraham: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD…” Most translations use the expression, “I have chosen him…” or “I have singled him out.” God called Abraham so that he would pass on his knowledge about God’s way of life to his children. But God still had to get to know Abraham, through tests and trials, to see whether there would be any limit to his loyalty and obedience towards Him. We even read that God “knew” Jeremiah before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5)–but this only means that God had predestined to call Jeremiah in his lifetime and give him opportunity to chose His way of life. Jeremiah understood that God had to come to know him–how he would act in trials and challenges. He said in Jeremiah 12:3: “But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You.”

In order to really get to know us, God must thoroughly examine us (Psalm 139:1). David understood this, and so he asked God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

God gets to know us through trials and problems. We tell Him, through our conduct in trials, whether we love Him unconditionally–or whether we are willing to draw a line in the sand, saying, “We will go that far, but no further, in obeying God.”

Paul spoke very highly of Timothy, in Philippians 2:19-22:

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly… for I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you KNOW HIS PROVEN CHARACTER, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” The Authorized Version says here: “But ye know the PROOF of him…”

On the other hand, Christ will say to those who disobeyed God, but who claimed that they did mighty miracles in the name of Jesus: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). These people were never known by God–the implication is that they were not even called by God in this day and age. The Greek word for “knew” in this passage is “ginosko,” which does not have to describe perfect or complete knowledge, but it can refer to the process of getting to know someone. Those who practice lawlessness have, in God’s eyes, not even started the process of becoming known to God, in the sense of overcoming and becoming obedient.

God “knows the hearts of man”–good and bad (Luke 16:14-15; compare also John 2:24-25; 1 Corinthians 3:20). He knows those who disobey Him (John 5:42: ” I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you”). However, the context of Matthew 7:23 is that God did not accept these people as His people, and did not know them as such, as they never began the process of overcoming their lawless way of life. On the other hand, Christ says: “I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14; compare John 10:27-28). When we love God, we are known by Him (1 Corinthians 8:3). Paul was confident that he was known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12). God says in 2 Timothy 2:19: “The Lord knows those who are His.”

We explained this concept in our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” page 32, when discussing the parable of Luke 19: “Christ gave the servant with the ten minas [the one who had overcome the most] another mina, that is, a rulership position over an additional city. He KNEW what that servant would be able to handle. He had PROVEN this to God in this life” (emphasis added).

Since God also knows those who are NOT His and disobey Him (compare again John 5:42), the meaning in 2 Timothy 2:19 is that God approves of those who are His, who have proven to Him, through their obedience, even in trials, that they really want to be His. But Paul adds the admonition: “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (same verse).

Christ utters a similar statement in Luke 13:25-28 about those who claim to know Jesus: “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’… He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from… I tell you, I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see… yourselves thrust out [of the kingdom of God].”

In that passage, a different word for “know” is used in the Greek, i.e. “oida.” According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “ginosko [which was used, for example, in Matthew 7:23] frequently suggests inception or progress in knowledge, [while] oida suggests fullness of knowledge.” This seems to say, then, that while Christ did not know at all the people mentioned in Matthew 7:23, He “knew” the people mentioned in Luke 13:25-28 at one time–that is, they were called–but they did not really forsake their way of lawlessness or iniquity. Christ never got to know them fully–He never KNEW whether they would overcome, as they never showed Him through their conduct that they were willing to overcome. And so, they will not enter the kingdom of God, but will be thrust out.

Christ gives a similar warning message in Matthew 25:12, when addressing five wise and five foolish virgins. When the five foolish virgins, who did not have enough oil–symbolic for the Holy Spirit–and who were not ready, tried to enter the house where the bridegroom was, he answered them: “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Christ continued, in verse 13: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

The word for “know” in that passage (“I do not know you”) is also “oida,” suggesting fullness of knowledge. These five virgins seemed to have been known by God to an extent–after all, they were virgins (compare the use of the word “virgins” in Revelation 14:4)–but they had not shown God through their way of life that they were really willing to be ready for Christ’s return. God did not know them well enough. And so, they will not enter the kingdom of God at Christ’s return.

By contrast, Paul was convinced that he was “well known” by God, as he states in 2 Corinthians 6:9. The Greek for “well known” is “epiginosko” and means, “to know fully.” Earlier, he had said that he was “known by God” (1 Corinthians 13:12), using the word “ginosko,” which describes the process of getting to know someone. But in 2 Corinthians 6:9, Paul uses a different Greek word (“epi-ginosko”) to express his conviction that by now, he was WELL known by God.

God had come to know him fully–He knew that Paul would not fall away–he had proven this to God by the way that he lived his life. The same word is used, for example, in Matthew 11:27, where Christ says: “… no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

At the same time, we must realize that we can turn away from God, even though we have begun the process of becoming known by Him. Paul says in Galatians 4:9: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how it is that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

In the messages to the seven churches, in the book of Revelation, Christ points out that He knew the works of each church (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). In each case, He uses the word “oida,” implying perfect knowledge. He observed the way of life of the seven churches, and came to know them. But, not all the works were perfect (compare Revelation 3:2). In fact, He says to the church of the Laodiceans that “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot… because you are lukewarm… I will vomit you out of My mouth… I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (verses 15-16, 19).

It is striking that Jesus tells those of Laodicea that they need to repent in order to have a close fellowship with Him: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). These statements by Jesus show that some in the Church are not proving to God that they are really committed in their obedience to His way! Jesus promises only to those who overcome that they will enter the Kingdom of God (compare verse 21)! The others do not allow Jesus into their lives sufficiently to be tested and proven–to be known by God!

But as long as we are focused on overcoming sin and living in righteousness, and are zealous about God’s way of life, we won’t cease to be His, even though we slip and fall and obtain forgiveness from God after repentance (1 John 1:9). God says in 1 John 3:20: “For if our heart condemns us [because we have sinned], God is greater than our heart, and knows all things [and so, He forgives us upon repentance].”

When we go through trials, we need to realize that God allows them–or even brings them upon us–to get to KNOW us and to qualify us for His kingdom. This understanding can help us to act as the early apostles did, as we read in Acts 5:41: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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