“Knowing” Christ: Personal Relationship With God

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

One of the great teachings of the Bible is that the God of Heaven desires to have a personal relationship with His people. One of the greatest blessings is enjoying such a personal relationship with the Lord.  

Many in the religious world are uncomfortable with this teaching of the Bible, yet this teaching of the Bible is one of great importance.  

Where does the Bible mention such a personal relationship which God desires with His people?

While there are several passages which teach this idea of a personal relationship between God and His people, we will notice in detail something which the Apostle Paul declared in his Epistle to the Christians at Philippi:

Philippians 3:8-Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. 

Please look carefully at the phrase “the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” This is a very interesting phrase in the Greek New Testament. The idea here goes far beyond the concept of knowledge ABOUT a person; instead, it carries with it the idea of knowledge OF a person (such as in personal relationship).

Notice how the passage is translated in the Amplified Bible: 

Philippians 3:8 (Amplified Bible)-Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),

Peter O’Brien, in his in-depth study of the Greek New Testament, has this excellent note: 

“In the OT knowledge signifies ‘living in a close relationship with something or somebody, such a relationship as to cause what may be called communion’. 1982 To know God was regarded as of paramount importance (Ho. 6:6; cf. 4:1, 6) and meant to be in a close personal relationship with him. Here at Phil. 3:8 Paul is speaking about ‘his own personal relationship with Christ’, something that is absolutely basic and fundamental to his being a Christian. It ‘includes the experience of being loved by him and loving him in return’. 1983”. (Peter T. O’Brien, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistle To The Philippians, 9732 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Another scholar of the Greek New Testament, Gordon Fee, concurs with this assessment: 

“As v. 10 will clarify, “knowing Christ” does not mean to have head knowledge about him, but to “know him” personally (BAGD) and relationally. Paul has thus taken up the Old Testament theme of “knowing God” 21 and applied it to Christ. It means to know him as children and parent know each other, or wives and husbands knowledge that has to do with personal experience and intimate relationship. It is such knowledge that makes Christ “trust- worthy.” The intimacy will be expressed in v. 10 in terms of “participation in his sufferings.” In the light of such expansive language, therefore, the object of his “knowing” is not simply “Christ,” nor even “Christ Jesus,” but “Christ Jesus my Lord.” Here is the evidence of intimacy and devotion. Paul regularly refers to Christ with the full title and name, “our Lord, Jesus Christ”; only here does he reverse the order and substitute the first person singular pronoun. The “Christ Jesus,” because of whom he gladly considers all else to be loss, is none other than “my Lord.” The reason for such devotion and longing is not expressed here, but it rings forth clearly in Gal 2:20, “who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is not simply coming to know the deity it is that, of course but even more so, it is to know the one whose love for Paul, expressed in the cross and in his arrest on the Damascus road, has transformed the former persecutor of the church into Christ’s “love slave,” whose lifelong ambition is to “know him” in return, and to love him by loving his people. There is something unfortunate about a cerebral Christianity that “knows” but does not “know” in this way.”. (Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary On The New Testament: Paul’s Letter To The Philippians, 9220-9240 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Throughout the Old Testament, God had expressed His desire to share in a personal relationship with His people (cf. Psalm 103:11-14; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Micah 7:18-19; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 57:15).

God does not offer this relationship because He is lonely (for He has full perfection with complete happiness and joy within the Holy Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-1 John 4:8; 5:7); instead He offers this gift because He is loving and kind (Psalm 136).

Several passages in the Bible reiterate the intimacy of the relationship that we enjoy with God in Christ. The Bible likens our relationship to that of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33), a vine and branches (John 15:1-8), a Shepherd and His beloved sheep (John 10:1-10, 27-30), a Father and His beloved children (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), and several other illustrations are provided to convey the friendship we enjoy with the Lord.  

This relationship that God offers to us is through His Son, Jesus Christ: 
John 17:3-And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

God desires for us to be saved from the consequences of sin (eternal death-Romans 6:23). Hell is beyond our worst imagining; for it is the very absence of God’s Presence (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

In order to make it possible for us to be forgiven and to enter into that personal relationship with Him, God allowed His Son Jesus Christ to pay for the full penalty for our sins by dying in our place at the Cross of Calvary (1 Timothy 2:1-6). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites all men and women to come to Him to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  

Those who believe in His Word (Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17; John 8:24) are commanded to repent of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized in water (Acts 8:35-38) to have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38).

God adds us to His church at this point (Acts 2:47), and we are to live faithfully to Him even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).

When we as Christians sin and fall away, God commands us to repent of sin and to return to Him (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  

If you need to obey the Lord, I plead with you to do so today. No relationship can compare with a relationship with the Lord and His people.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

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