Posted in theology

Mail Call: Knowing God vs Knowing About God

By Elizabeth Prata

Mail Call on the TV SHow M*A*S*H

I was asked recently how one knows the difference between knowing that you know God or if you’re fooling yourself that you’re only knowing about God.

False conversion is a real issue, and one that I never dismiss lightly. Too many people respond to a question like this, breezily, ‘oh, that’s just satan making you doubt.’ No, it could be the Holy Spirit convicting your mind. It might be a really important issue you need to look into. Matthew 7:21-23 is very real. Here is a resource:

Is It real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

Now, the potential false conversion issue aside, if you believe you’re a genuine convert, then the question is a good one. Let’s start with the basis.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” Romans 1:19-20.

From Romans we know that everybody knows about God. Everyone. That is the basis.

But some people in the Bible knew more about God than others. Nicodemus knew about God, but didn’t know God. Saul/Paul knew about God but didn’t know God. Felix listened to Paul a lot, and knew about God, but didn’t know God.

So, what KIND of knowledge allows us to know Him and not merely about Him?

The Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us illuminates the Word, who is Jesus. If we want to know God, we know Jesus. It’s the relationship. With the Spirit in you, you can’t help but know Jesus.

Knowing God means having a relationship with Him. The difference is relationship. The people that Romans 1 verses above are speaking of, are folks that know He exists and might even acknowledge His work in creation, but don’t know Him in relationship.

How do we have a relationship with Him? If we have repented and believed the Gospel, then we have the indwelling Spirit given us. Saul/Paul and Nicodemus eventually had the Spirit given to them. For all we suspect, Felix never did. Paul and Nicodemus had the indwelling Spirit in them, thus they sought Him and served Him and obeyed Him. Paul’s and for all we suspect Nicodemus, obeyed Him and bore fruit. Thus they had a relationship. The difference between their lives before and after were new affections.

Also, they had new affections. Paul forewent stature, relationship with colleagues, and money. Paul said everything he did or wanted “before” was dung. Nicodemus was courageous in that the Jews were throwing people out of the synagogue for believing on Jesus, and here Nicodemus participated in Jesus’s burial. He forewent career, relationships, stature, and perhaps means, having been THE Teacher of Israel. He did this because his new affection was for Jesus and not any of the earthly things he had “before”. The difference was the Spirit giving them new affections.

How can you tell for sure if you have the Spirit besides a desire to obey and your new affections? Another way is if you bear fruit. Mainly, if you manifest fruit, the chief of these will be love.

The Prominence of Love: You say, “Well, where does it come from?” Well, we’ve said this last time, I’m simply going to remind you of it: When you walk in the Spirit – and to walk in the Spirit means you turn your life to His control, you confess your sin, you allow the Spirit of God to govern your thought patterns – as the Spirit of God controls you, He produces fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, and love will only come in that way. So the way you approach it is not in a self-righteous determination of your own mind; the way you approach it is simply to yield your life to the Spirit of God, “Holy Spirit, control me today, take over my life, live through me,” and the fruit of love will be manifest. ~John MacArthur

One sure way to know if you love is to ask yourself:

Have you ever sacrificed for the people you love? (John 15:13).

We read of people who knew a lot about God only to find out that they never had actually known God at all. Mainly this happens when you are a false convert. When you have prayed a prayer or walked an aisle, or been brought up in the church and was assured you’re saved because you did all the right things…these people know a lot about God but without the Spirit they never knew Him in relationship.

For those who claim to know Christ.
On what basis did you come to Him?
Was life difficult and you needed help?
Oh, my friend. Re-think things.
Christ is not some invisible opiate who dulls the pain when you feel bad about life.
He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance.
If you have not come to Christ to forgive and deliver you from sin, you have not come to Him at all, no matter how you may think He has helped you in earthly matters.
Yeah, I know I’m stepping into people’s kitchens here.
But we really need to get this straight.
God is not a cosmic problem solver for men, in general, to draw upon when they don’t know what else to do.
He is a holy God whose wrath against sin must be satisfied or everlasting judgment awaits you.
You must come by faith alone in Christ alone to be saved from judgment. Any other basis is a false hope that will not save you in the end.
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance'” (Luke 5:31-32). Pastor Don Green, Truth Community Church

I think it is less common to have a genuinely converted person knowing about God but failing to know Him. You’d have to be an extremely rebellious Christian for that, and someone in your church would shortly notice and bring you up in reproof. The Spirit would too.

Galatians makes the point here that it is all about whether God knows YOU. Matthew 7:21-23 ends with the damning phrase, “Depart from me, ‘I never knew you.’ Here in Galatians, Paul makes the point that ‘now that you know God, or rather, to be known BY God…’

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. (Galatians 4:8-10)

Repent, submit, obey, manifest fruit, love biblically, develop new affections…these show you know God and not just about Him.



Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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