The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
(ESV: Deuteronomy 29:29)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
(ESV: Romans 1:16-17)
How do we know God and who He is? Is it possible, as some believe, to know God through our own abilities? Can we use our own intellect and reason to know Him? Some people maintain that it is possible for us to know God by our own wisdom. However, the Bible is clear that the only way we may know God is through His revelation to us. Out of His gracious will, He chooses to reveal Himself to us through His chosen manner. We cannot know Him apart from His revelation.
God is frequently referred to in the Bible as our Heavenly Father. I think that the term “Father” is instructive and illustrative of His relationship to us. We all have earthly fathers, and likewise I am a father to my two young children. My children do not know me apart from the way I make myself known. As their father, it is my prerogative and right to decide how I choose to reveal myself to them. They do not, and can not, know me apart from the way I have revealed myself to them. No matter how hard they try, or how hard they contemplate, they can never know my history, my past, my thoughts, my will, or anything else about me. All that they know of me is due to how I have shown myself to them.
Likewise, we cannot know our Heavenly Father apart from His revelation to us. Like our earthly children, we can never think enough or ponder enough to know God by our own abilities. We can only know Him as he has chosen to reveal Himself to us. And how has God chosen to show Himself? He has revealed Himself to us through His Son. As Matthew records in his Gospel:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(ESV: Matthew 11:25-27)
Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, who died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected for our salvation, has made God known to us. We can not come to the Father except through the Son. As Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is God’s prerogative to choose how to make Himself known, and He has chosen His Son to reveal Himself to us.
The cross of Christ is our invitation and entryway into communion with God. It is only through the cross that we can come to Him, because it is through the cross that He first came to us. We can not come to Him due to our own works, abilities, or intellect. Only by the foolishness of the cross can we know God and be reconciled to Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18). Excluded are the vain contemplations into the hidden nature of God. He retains His mysteries which He has not chosen to show us. Out of his generous, undeserved grace, however, he has chosen to reveal to us a way to salvation. He has given us His Son and the cross of his sacrifice for our redemption.
What does the cross reveal to us about God? It shows us that God, knowing that we could never overcome our sins under our own power and due to our own abilities, sent us a way by which we can be reconciled to Him. His desire is that we enter into eternal communion with Him and His Goodness. However, the only way for sinful, mortal humanity to commune with a righteous, all-powerful, eternal God is for us to become sinless, righteous, and immortal. It is not within man’s capacity to effect this reconciliation, however. In fact, God gave us his Law to help us recognize that we can never overcome our sinful nature through our own works; we can never truly keep His Law. The Law shows us our sins and our need for a savior. Once we recognize our need for a savior, we are better able to trust in God’s promise given us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.
The cross shows God’s love for us. Knowing that we can not come to Him, He came to us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Christ comes to us, takes the sins burdening our backs, and nails them to the cross with his body; he buries our sins in his tomb and raises us to new life with his resurrection. Through his cross we are redeemed from our sins and reckoned righteous to live with God forever.
When we seek to know God, we should fix our eyes on the cross. We don’t need to look around, under, or over the cross to find the hidden God. He has clearly revealed Himself to us through the cross and that revelation is one of love. Secure in His grace and promise of redemption given us through the cross, we can rest confidently, let God be God, and let Him keep His “hiddeness” hidden. The cross shows us all we need to know about God; it shows us His love and concern for us as our Father.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
(ESV: Ephesians 3:7-13)