“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:8-12).
As we resume our brief summer meditations on the New Covenant, I want to spend a few minutes on the phrase “they shall all know me.”
In the new covenant everyone knows God. There’s no new covenant member who doesn’t know God. This is what the new covenant promises. This is also, in part, what sets the new at odds with the old. In the old, not all knew God. Most did not. The best we can say of those under the old covenant is that most knew about Him. By virtue of God’s choice, of setting them apart from the other nations, and granting much revelation to them, God showed Himself to them. They knew about Him. They knew of God. But most did not know Him. And so it’s possible, very possible, to sit and hear and be the recipient of much preaching and good teaching week after month after year, and know much about God, but not God Himself.
But we must understand something very interesting about how one comes to know God. The Scripture tells us in the previous phrase. Before we’re told all in the New shall know God, we’re told:
“…they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’”
They shall not teach, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because God Himself is the Teacher. The prophet Isaiah prophesies that the children of the new covenant will be ‘taught by the Lord’ (Is. 54.13). Jesus echoes this, saying, “It is written in the prophets ‘And they will all be taught by God.’” And then He says “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45). So, and this is very significant, the knowledge of God of which the prophets speak, which is a blessing of the New Covenant, is not the same as knowing God in the Old Covenant. New Covenant knowledge draws sinners to Christ. That is new. That is something which can only happen in these days, in the days since God revealed Himself in the Person of His Son. This knowledge is deeper, fuller. It far exceeds the knowledge of God old covenant saints enjoyed. But this thing of God Himself being the Teacher, this is a glorious thing, a thing which I say is beyond our full grasp. Yet, we must believe it since the Scriptures make it clear. We see it taught again in 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Paul says that the believers there had no need for anyone to write them about brotherly love. The reason he gives is simple. It’s because they had ‘been taught by God to love one another.’ That’s exactly what Paul says. They were ‘taught by God’ Himself. How this works I do not know. We aren’t given explanations for everything. We must simply see what we see and believe what Scripture tells us. Of course, this is a spiritual reality. It’s a matter of the Spirit of God moving on someone, and even in someone, to teach what no man can teach.
But this new covenant knowledge of God, what marks it? What defines it? And therefore what, by direct application, defines the character of a new covenant member, one of God’s kids? My aim here is to be basic, and not too deep, and certainly not exhaustive. Six things:
To know God is to know about Christ
Every new covenant member, first thing, knows about Christ. He knows God in that he knows about the fullest expression of Him and His Final Word. He knows about Christ as he would know about any other. He knows things which are true about him, things like what he’s done and does, what he likes and loves, what he hates, what makes him tick, who his parents are, where he lives, and things like his character. Before we know Christ, we must know about Him. This is an obvious and also crucial point. We cannot know who we do not know about. And so I press this upon you who profess to know Him: Do you know about Him? Do you know His loves and hates? Do you know what He has done and what He is now doing? Do you know what claims He makes, what He demands of you? To know Him is to know things such as these. Christ – Son of God eternally, the One for whom and through whom and by whom all things were made, the One who far outshines the ‘shadow lands’ of the Old, making them obsolete, the One who fulfills, or fills full the law and the prophets, who gave his life as a ransom for many- this is the Christ.
To know God is to be united to Christ
Second thing, and this is a mystery, but every New Covenant member is united to Christ. By grace alone through faith alone he is in Christ and Christ is in him. There’s a vivid picture of this relationship in Scripture, a powerful one. Sadly, even dreadfully, sinful men and women twist it and pervert it. But I use it here for it speaks of a knowing that is far beyond knowing about someone. It speaks of a union, a close relationship, which ultimately speaks of Christ’s relationship to the Church, His bride. In Genesis 4:1, Moses tells us that Adam knew Eve, [they physically became one flesh] and Eve conceived. Adam and Eve knew each other in such a way that they were united. Of course, to be united to Christ is not to be so physically. We do not so join with Him upon faith. Nor He with us. But the marriage act does speak of an intimate knowledge that far exceeds knowledge about. Paul: “’… a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.”
To know God is to love Christ
To know God, third thing, is to love Christ. To know Him is to love Him. To know someone Biblically is to love that person. Adam knew Eve. God knew Israel. On that final Day, Christ will turn away many professors because He never knew/i.e. loved them. But to love Christ is also to be loved by Christ. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
To know God is to obey Christ
Fourth thing, to know God is to obey Christ. “…by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 Jn. 2:3). Verse 5 should be read also: “…whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God has been perfected.” In these verses, ‘his commandments’ and ‘his word’ are Christ’s commandments and Christ’s word. Of course, those who keep His word and obey Him are those in whom Christ dwells by His Spirit. This internal, living law governs them so that they walk in line with His commands. It’s more than interesting to note the very next verse in 1 John 2, verse 6: ‘whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the way in which he walked.” This is what it means to walk with the Lord. When someone asks us about our walk with him, we are not to think in abstract terms. We must think concretely. We must ask ourselves whether or not our walk matches His, if we’re obeying Him and keeping His word.
To Know God is to Trust Christ
Fifth thing, to know God is to trust Christ. Knowing God and trusting Christ simply go together. They cannot exist independently of each other. God delights in His holiness. He delights in justice for the glory of His name. And those who truly know Him, in all His mercy and severity, righteousness and kindness, sing: “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.”
The Reason/Grounds for Knowing God
Why this? Why this knowledge of God? What is the ground upon which these things are promised? One answer and only one. The ground, the great and marvelous ground, the glorious reason, and only reason is this: The sovereign grace and mercy of God in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Did you hear this? God promises to all those in the New Covenant to forget their sins. He will not call them to His mind. They will be forever lost in the sea of forgetfulness, why? Well, He says it right here. He says, He writes it in the terms of the covenant, a covenant put in force, ratified by the precious blood of Christ, that He will be merciful. He will be merciful! And Christ is that mercy! In Christ, God IS merciful and forgets the iniquities of everyone who trusts Him…and knows Him.
So, the question of the day, before we eat and drink together, is simple: do we know Him? Every new covenant member knows Him. This is promised. Let’s take a moment now and be honest with ourselves before God. Those who know him know about him, are united to him, love him, trust him, obey him, and all because of him…
You know our hearts. Search them now. As we desire to worship Thee in Spirit and truth, make the truth known to us, even the truth of whether or not we know Thee. We glory in the cross. We exult in the glories of the new covenant, even Christ Himself. Let us see and savor and know Thee according to Thy word, according to the promises of the New Covenant, a covenant grounded in the work of Christ, not our work, but a covenant with spiritual consequences such as loving and walking with Christ. We pray these things for your name’s sake and in His name, even the Head of the Church. Amen.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/todd-braye.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blacke, Alberta, Canada. After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, he served a Baptist church in eastern Ontario for six years before coming home to Alberta. He has been SGBC’s pastor since October 1, 2005.[/author_info] [/author]