ESV - 9 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?
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I agree that the way this verse is worded raises questions such as the one being asked. However, I think that the emphasis that Paul is trying to make here is on the fact that, just as he had said elsewhere (Ephesians 2:8-9) that even the faith that saves Christians is not of their own doing, but is a gift from God, the ability to know God is also entirely at His initiative. We could not know Him unless He were willing to make Himself known. If He were not willing, nothing that we could do would be able to find Him and know Him. In that context, "becoming known by God" describes the process by which He enlightens us as to His existence and nature, even though (from our perspective) we are the ones who are coming to know Him. Martin Luther made this same point in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed (the one that starts with "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church...", etc.). Luther began his explanation of the meaning of this article by saying, "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, (and) sanctified and kept me in the true faith." The English Christian apologist C. S. Lewis included an enlightening discussion of this very point in his book Mere Christianity in a chapter entitled, "The Three-Personal God". The book is fully viewable online at http://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/documents/apologetics/mere-christianity/Mere-Christianity.pdf (The chapter I'm referring to begins on page 72 of the e-book.)
My opinion is that God gives us all his spirit as is stated in verse after verse, one that stands out is John 3:34...For he whom God sent utters the words of God, for he gives the spirit without measure. So to me that means I already have the spirit in my heart, but if I never seek him and initiate a desire to grow that spirit through faith and obedience and do his will he will truly not know me. Much like someone gives me a treasure chest full of treasure, if I never open it I will never know the value of what’s in it. And I believe he clearly tells us loud and clear in Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ God loves us and he wants to know us but it is up to us to receive his grace by faith, hope and love.
This phrase "become known by God" is not to imply that Jehovah is getting ready to learn of something or someone whom He previously was unaware of. God is all-knowing, omniscient. To "know" Him is to be acquainted with Him in a personal way that is only possible by worship "in spirit and truth."John 4:24. To "become known of Him" is to begin a spiritual relationship with Him; to now be intimately involved with the Lord God Almighty by His word, His beckoning call, HALLELUJAH... You'll know what it is to be "known by Him" and to "know" Him after He answers your pleads, your prayers for worship. Continue to pray and pant for Him the way the deer does for the water Brooks (Psalm 42:1), and He will make Himself known to you. You won't have any doubt of whom it is you've come to "know."
This question is loaded with potential controversy. In its simplest form it is about Predestination/free will (See Romans 8: 28-30). Beyond that it asks you and I to evaluate the veracity of God's attribute of omniscience (all-knowing). The simple answer is that those who do not acknowledge him, He may consider unknown. Just as I may live around the block from you, and have seen you, but we never meet, I do not know you and do not invite an introduction to you. Thus, we have no relationship. So those who are not in the faith are unknown to God relationally. That does not mean that He does not know of their existence nor does it mean that He is unwilling to see the circumstances change. He has, in fact, made a provision for that through spreading the gospel of Christ. In mainstream orthodox Christianity, God's omniscience is unquestioned. To say less would mean that God is not GOD. But you should know that there is a movement in theological circles, Christian colleges and seminaries, gaining influence that undermines God's attributes beginning with His omniscience. It is known by several names or phrases such as neo theism, Open theism, Process theology, The Openness of God. The thought process in this heresy seeks to limit God in both knowledge and ability. I do not believe the question was presented to bring up this subject. Yet here we are. Predestination, human limited sovereignty (free will), Election are all biblical doctrines that are misunderstood by many to be contradictory to each other. They are not. The are intertwined and complimentary to one another and hermeneutically sound doctrines of the faith. The bible says he knows all things and he knows us before we are born. The verse sited appears to be a contradiction to this truth. But what is the context. It is about, once we know God or have claimed the faith, we or they look back on the sin that should be left behind. Its pleasures are still desired; similar to Lot's wife looking back. Through Christ, God knows us intimately but we return to our sin as a dog returns to its vomit. Paul is addressing this behavior of returning to sinful desire. And not whether God is limited in knowledge. In as much as Christ died and paid the penalty for the sins of all Humanity, it seems ludicrous to suggest that God may not have a knowledge of the existence of anyone.
I believe that God made this pretty clear in the Old Testament after He tested Father Abraham. Remember Abraham was to take his son, his only son Issac and offer him as a burnt offering unto the LORD? The only reason Isaac was not sacrificed is because the LORD provided a ram for the offering. Yet, what did the LORD say? "Now, I know that though fearest God..." Gen 22:12. Abraham had given the LORD an experience of worship. With his whole heart, body, mind, and soul he was willing to lay down everything! This is how God knows us. When we lay down everything and give Him an experience of true gratitude worship, then God will come and be joined to us in a new way we've never experienced or expected. A oneness like nothing else in this world is to be connected to your Creator. Be Blessed Lena
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