What does it mean to know God? JI Packer in his book, Knowing God, presents three ways to us what it means to know God. He says
1) Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing, as is all direct acquaintance with personal beings. Knowing him is a necessary condition of trusting him. (p. 39)
2) Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement—mind, will, feeling. Packer says without this, your relationship with him will be “superficial and flavorless.” The psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8) (p. 39)
3) Knowing God is a matter of grace. “It is a relationship in which the initiative throughout is with God—as it must be, since God is so completely above us and we have so completely forfeited all claim on his favor by our sins.” (p. 40-41)
The third point here is crucial. The knowledge of God is ultimately an exercise in grace—God extending himself to us. God decided to make himself known, and this is grace. Knowing God also requires an understanding of who God is. We don’t simply get to know a God who just makes us feel good, a being we can tap into who simply hovers among the clouds. God is Tri-Personal—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know God the Father, through God the Son by means of God the Holy Spirit. In his grace, the Father sent the Son to reconcile us to himself and we come to this knowledge and grow in godliness by means of the Holy Spirit’s regeneration and transformation. This relationship, or communion, with God by the ever-transforming power of the Spirit is the abiding relationship spoken of by Jesus in John 15. This is the experience of communion with God. Though we wax and wane due to sin, God’s communion with his people is real and sure.
This communion with God comes only through union with Christ. There is no communion with God without union with Christ. The idea of union with Christ is most vividly displayed in Galatians 2:20. Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We also see Paul describing this union in Romans 6:1-14. The life of a believer mirrors the life of Christ because we have been brought into union with him. This union affects everything we do. The Puritan divine John Owen describes the effects of our union with Christ as the Spirit living in us. He gives three effects of our union with Christ, specifically in how it affects our prayer life:
1) The Spirit of Christ reveals to us our needs, so that we can take these needs to Christ
2) The Spirit of Christ helps us to express our desires in words
3) The Spirit of Christ helps us to pray according to the mind of God
Ephesians 2:18 shows a simple understanding of our communion with God. Through him (Christ) we (those who have come to faith in him) have access in one Spirit to the Father. Therefore when we think about prayer, we must think of prayer in a specific Trinitarian way. The actions of each person of God are inseparable from the other. Paul says to the Corinthian church, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9). When we think about our knowledge of God, we must remember that he is faithful even we we fail. It was he who first called us. We have fellowship with God because of what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf and revealed to us by faith through grace.
The knowledge God is personal. To know God involves one’s will, emotions and actions. But ultimately knowing God is an act of grace wherein the triune God has made known to man the joy of salvation in Christ alone and extends an invitation to commune with Him for eternity.