Who Knows? You Do!
Copyright © 1996 Fred G. Zaspel
Published by Word of Life Baptist Church
Who knows whether or not God exists? And if He does exist, who knows what He expects of us? And how can we know it?
To put it in more theological terms, What has God revealed? What Has He revealed about Himself? And what has He revealed about our responsibilities?
Now on one level this question is an easy one. The Bible itself claims to be the revealed Word of God. All we have to do is read it and we know what God says about these questions.
But what about those who don't have a Bible -- and those who just don't read it? Can they know that God exists? How can they know? And how can they know what He requires from us?
Interestingly, there is a "second volume" of Divine revelation. That is, God has made Himself known not only in the Bible. He has made Himself known in the works which He has done.
Several times the Bible talks about this "other book" in which we can read of God. Acts 14:17, for example. Here the apostle Paul is speaking about those nations who do not have the Scriptures, and he says of them, "Nevertheless, He [God] did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." That is to say, all these general blessings which come to us, come from the good hand of God. And in fact it is recognizable as such. Behind the rain and seasons we see a God who is both powerful and good. This is His witness to Himself.
The same apostle in Acts 17 speaks of this again. And again he is speaking to a pagan audience, men who had no contact with the Bible. In verses 24-27 he points out some things that he, as a Christian, held in common with these other men. They together acknowledged that God had created the world, that He is sovereign over all, that He is self-sufficient and independent, that He is the giver of all life, that He is wise, and that He is everywhere present in His creation. These things, they agreed, were obvious and self-evident truths. And so the apostle goes on to point out that all this was so "in order that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might find Him" (v.27).
That is, God has revealed Himself with a purpose. And that purpose is that men would seek to have their relationship with Him restored. A simple look at the evidence demonstrates both that God is and that He is good. A realization of that, the apostle Paul says, should drive men to seek Him.
There's more. In Psalm 19:1 the prophet David acknowledges that "The heavens declare the glory of God." That is, a thoughtful look into the heavens will reveal something of the wonderful power of the God Who created it all. Then he goes on to explain that this witness to God in creation is perpetual (v.2) and universally understood (vv.3-4).
There is a story coming from the French revolution. It seems a group of atheistic soldiers in the revolutionary army announced to a Christian peasant, "We will pull down all your steeples, and then you will no longer be reminded of your old superstitions!" To this the Christian is said to have replied, "You may take away our steeples, but you can never take away the stars!" This is the Psalmist's thinking exactly. You may take away every man-made reminder and explanation and instruction about God, but so long as the sun and stars are in the sky you cannot remove the witness to the majesty and glory of God. There it is. And there it stays. It is relentless. And it is undeniable.
It is in this context that we can understand David's indictment, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1). Only a fool can deny self-evident truths. And notice, David does not say that the fool " thinks in his heart 'There is no God.'" No, he can't. He knows better. He must settle for " saying in his heart 'There is no God.'" He says this to himself in desperate attempt to convince himself of it, knowing all the while that it is not so. This is a fool indeed! He lies to himself and then tries to believe it.
This raises a very important observation. Man's attempt to deny God does not stem from a lack of evidence. It is not that he has examined the situation carefully and has honestly concluded that there is no God. No. The problem is that he is not comfortable with the God Who is, and so he attempts to explain Him away. The God Whom he recognizes makes certain demands, and those demands are not convenient. So if he can just convince himself that this God is not really there, then he is off the hook! So he tells himself "There is no God," and he tries desperately to believe it.
What makes this man a fool is that he is arguing against the obvious. God has left his imprint on creation, and it is undeniable. It is both recognizable and recognized.
But if this is true of creation generally, how much more true should it be of man himself who is created, the Bible tells us, "in God's image." If God's imprint is left on creation generally, then should not this imprint be all the more obvious in man himself? Should we not expect that within us there would be some intuitive recollection of God? In other words, if we are indeed created in God's image, then our knowledge of God should not only be acquired from without; it should be intuitive.
And, in fact, this is obvious also. This is one truth shared in common by all peoples -- the Christian theologian as well as the most primitive savage. We all are aware, intuitively, that God is. Who knows that God is? Answer: everyone.
The apostle Paul deals with these two ideas (intuitive and observable revelation) in Romans chapter 1. There he says even that men are intuitively aware of a coming judgment and that judgment will be according to righteousness (v.32). Now that is a healthy bit of knowledge! Man, he says, knows not only that God is but also that He is holy and just and as such He will judge us! This is an intuitive expectation which we all share.
How does man know that? The apostle explains in Romans 2:14-15 that even these who have never been given the Bible -- the ten commandments or anything -- "have the law written in their hearts." That is, their knowledge goes even to this extent: they recognize intuitively something of the moral requirements of their Creator. With that knowledge their conscience is alive and well, either "accusing or excusing" them. This again is evident. There is no tribe of people so remote that they do not recognize wrong when it is done.
In Romans 1:18-20 the apostle explains still more. In the various calamities that occur man should take notice of "the wrath of God." These provide observable evidence of it.
Moreover, while this knowledge is "manifest in man," it is "suppressed." That is, man holds it down in attempt to deny it, obvious though it is. These truths are "shown to them" and are "since the creation of the world clearly seen," yet they are denied. But you see the point: You simply cannot get away from this idea of God and morality and judgment. Suppress it if you will, but there it is -- suppressed. It is not gone.
So again we see that familiar trait of man. His problem is not a lack of evidence. His problem is rebellion. He is not comfortable with the God Who most obviously is, and so he tries to deny Him. Knowing full well that God is, that He is wise, that He is powerful, that He is holy and righteous and just, that He will punish evil; and knowing full well that God is good and that his relationship with Him must be -- and may be -- restored; knowing all this he still rebels.
This is God's answer to that often-asked question about the heathen. Those who live in remote places and have never heard the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, are they responsible? Will they be punished for their sin? Well, God says, is their problem really a lack of information? And are these men, then, good or sinful?
You see, the problem with us all, universally, is not that we have not heard enough. The problem is that what we have heard and seen we have refused. The problem is not ignorance; the problem is rebellion. You can argue all day that the primitive heathen don't know enough for salvation, but the fact remains that they know plenty to establish their condemnation. And this is true of primitive savages and men of modern sophistication also. What they know has been, to some degree, refused. As such they are guilty.
This fact of man's universal rebellion against God partially explains also the question of the various tragedies that occur. How could God allow it? Good question! And the answer is obvious: these are but tokens of a coming wrath that is justly deserved (Romans 1:18, 32). The warning should be carefully heeded.
So far this study has only pointed up a terrible problem. Man has himself in an awful predicament. He has sinned, knowingly and willfully. And for this rebellion he must be punished.
So how can we escape the punishment? To answer that question exactly, God has given us that Book of special revelation -- the Bible. In it He tells us of His love for sinners and what He has done to save them. And what He did is the greatest act of love and grace ever known. He sent His own Son to come as one of us in order to die under the punishment which we deserved. When God the Son came, He came as the sinner's perfect Substitute. And on the cross He died in the sinner's place, the sinless One for sinners.
Now we have all already lost every hope of saving ourselves, given our rebellion that must be punished. But God says to us that if we will trust ourselves to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, He will take us for His sake. That is, if we will come to Him acknowledging our sinfulness and unworthiness but pleading the merits of Jesus instead, we may be saved. This, He says, is our only escape. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, but he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). "He that has the Son has life, but He who has not the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).
Friend, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can make it on your own. You know in your heart that you are guilty before God. Nor can anyone else help you, for we all have sinned against Him. So then heed the warning which God gives, and run for safety to the only One who can help, the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him, and be saved.