What do people mean when they say the Christian religion is a relationship? Some of the simplest and most profound words I’ve read so far in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics are these:
To be unknown is to be unloved (1:268).
In reference to God, not only is this the motivation for theology, but it’s the basis for the Christian religion. We could sum up true religion under three principles: (1.) God wants to be known and served. (2.) He has revealed Himself to us. (3.) He has made us able to receive that revelation (1:279).
Knowledge of God is the core. Jesus equated the knowledge of God with a personal relationship with God when He prayed: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). True religion is fundamentally about knowing God through Jesus Christ. As D. A. Carson put it,
Eternal life turns on nothing more and nothing less than knowledge of the true God. Eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One (556).
God wants to be loved (Deut. 6:5). You must know Him through His revelation. And He has graciously revealed Himself in supernatural revelation (of both the general and special variety). And He has graciously made it possible for us to know Him. As Bavinck points out, “God does not do half a job” (1:279). We are made in His image with intellect, emotion, and will. We can know God through His revelation.
The motivation for doing theology I mentioned at the beginning is also love. To grow in your knowledge of God is to then grow in your love for God. He has designed us for this task. And while I know many Christians who take the privilege of knowing God very seriously. I know many who do not. They care little for God’s revelation. And there have been times in my own life when I could say the same for myself. We all could. Let this be a challenge to love God by knowing Him.
To be unknown is to be unloved. But to be known is to be loved. Make the latter true of God in your religion. That’s why the Christian religion is rightly called a relationship.
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