"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
Among Them, God's Knowledge and Fellowship
New Covenant Distinctives
Representations Made by Given O. Blakely
"They shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jer. 31:34). "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (II Cor. 6:16).
In view of the wide prevalence of old-covenant religion in the church, the distinctive new-covenant provisions for people in Christ need to be stressed. That there are radical differences between the two covenants is shown by God's assertion through Jeremiah that the new was to be unlike the old (Jer. 31:34). Attention is here called to two of the innovative characteristics of the better promises and provisions.
The Knowledge of God. Under Christ, all covenant subjects know God. It is not merely that they ought to know Him; they do. That is a fundamental distinction of the new covenant. "They shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them," is the declaration. From that situation, it is evident that, if you do not know God, you are a stranger from the covenant, not a subject of it.
This rule, of course, is in marked contrast with that of the old covenant. People came into it by the natural birth; hence, as natural beings, knew not God, who is Spirit. But we enter the new covenant by birth from above, through faith in Jesus, which, with our union with Him in His death and resurrection, brings us to God. The "knowledge of God" is, thus, everywhere in the apostolic writings taken to be the common possession of those participating in the new covenant (Gal. 4:8-11; Col. 3:9-10; II Pet. 1:2-4, 8; 2:20).
It is with this characteristic of the covenant in mind that the declaration of Jesus in John 10:37, wrested by some to support the Calvinistic error, is to be understood. "My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me." Of course, they hear His voice; that is what made them His sheep; they have been made one with Him by their obedience to the gospel (I Cor. 6:17). They know Him, and hear Him, and follow Him; and He knows and hears them when they pray to the Father in His Name (Jn. 10:2, 14).
It is well to consider that the word "know," as it is employed by Scripture in this connection, denotes personal intimacy. It is used for the union of husband and wife in the marital relation (Eph. 5:30-32). So, to know God in the scriptural and spiritual sense, is to be spiritually joined to Him by faith in Christ.
"Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). A thoroughly scriptural concept and reality that needs to be restored to the modern mind and experience is that the church is in God, as it is in Christ, and thus is acquainted with Him. Its members have been "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13).
The Involved Knowability. Unlike the situation under the Mosaic regime, God now is knowable. "I will give them an heart to know Me," was the prophecy of this era (Jer. 24:7). Again, "All thy sons shall be taught by the Lord" (Isa. 54:13, ASV; cf. Jn. 6:45). So are people made "willing" in the day of God's power (Ps. 110:3), not compulsively or irresistibly, but in consequence of their own freewill choice, as they hear God's voice speaking through the gospel, and come to Christ (Isa. 55:3; Jn. 5:25-27).
When God's intense desire in the case is known, the new covenant's adaptation to its realization is perceived. That desire is to be known by His offspring. Hence, His proclamation through Hosea that He desired "the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (ch. 6:6). The "glory and virtue" of our God is so transcendently great and wonderful that, to know Him, is for the honest and good heart to be drawn to Him (II Pet. 1:3, ASV).
In His infinite Person and attributes, God desires to share Himself with us. Thus, His appeal of old time: "Behold Me, behold Me!" (Isa. 65:1). Again, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" (ch. 45:22). That desire for Selfrevelation and -diffusion, it would appear, was one of the constraints that moved God to create man in His own image. Under the new and better covenant, He has made ample provision for the desire's fulfillment, since we now can know Him through Christ His Son.
The Resultant Fellowship. Closely related to the knowledge of the Most High is personal fellowship with Him through the Son and by the Spirit. "Through Him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18).
It is said that both Enoch and Noah "walked with God" (Gen. 5:22; 6:9). Certainly, now that Christ has come and put away sin, opening the "new and living way" to the Father (Heb. 10:19-22), we may know and walk with Him in a more intimate and lively way. For him who meets the stipulated conditions, Christ said of Himself and the Father, "We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (Jn. 14:23). So may we have "the communion of the Holy Spirit" (II Cor. 13:14, ASV), which is the Divine fellowship in the fullness of its potential for this life.
This experience-that of God's fellowship-of course, is not for the spiritual sluggard, or the casual, lukewarm professor of the faith. God is the living God, and fellowship with Him involves life and keen spiritual sensitivity. So do we now "draw nigh" (Heb. 7:19), having been purged from our sins, and "begotten again" unto "newness of life" by and in Christ (Rom. 6:1-4; Heb. 1:3; I Pet. 1:3; II Pet. 1:9). And in the fellowship with God thereby experienced, we have the firstfruit of His inheritance in us and of ours in Him, as it will be fully realized in the consummate regeneration (Rev. 21:3).
David's delight in the Divine fellowship evinces its great joy, though he lived under the old covenant. It seems that, in spirit, he was a new-covenant saint "born out of due time," so to speak, and as Paul would probably say (I Cor. 15:8). "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, 0 God!" he is represented as exclaiming. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" (Ps. 42:1-2). Again, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11).
The Fruitfulness Thereof. The certain and vital fruitfulness of this knowledge and fellowship for which the new covenant provides needs to be stressed. You cannot experience and continue in them without being effective for Christ. As Peter declares, the results "make you that you shall be neither barren nor unfruitful" therein (II Pet. 1:18; cf. vv. 2-4). "He that abideth in Me, and I in him," promised Jesus, "the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5).
The effects upon the individual of new-covenant knowledge of and fellowship with God are both essential and decisive in the good warfare of faith. They cause him to have the mind of God, to think, act, and react to situations and issues as He does. When you know God as He is, and walk with Him in the communion of the Spirit, you turn from the idols of this world, and everything that is contrary to Him, including false teachers and their doctrines (I Jn. 2:18, 20, 24, 26-27). So the Thessalonians "turned from idols," to serve God, and "to wait for His Son from heaven" (I Th. 1:9-10).
It is because of the need and good results of knowing and fellowshipping with God that the stress thereon is made by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16 and elsewhere, as well as by Peter in Second Peter 3:17-18. It is that we may "grow up in all things" into Christ, being "no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine," as the former put it (Eph. 4:14-15, ASV).
Under the new covenant, therefore, God, by the knowledge of and fellowship with Himself, has fully equipped us for the race that He has set before us (Heb. 12:1-2). That is a prominent respect in which it is different from and better than the Sinaitic covenant.
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).