Summary: Introduction to Theology Proper: Knowing God is the highest good we can seek in life and from this intimate knowledge every other good flows.
Knowing God as the Highest Good
In Latin, there is a phrase called summum bonum, which means “the highest good out of which all other good flows.” In this section, we will see how Scripture teaches that knowing God is the highest good above all other good things. The highest good is not helping people, it is not attaining great wealth, it not attaining tremendous knowledge. The highest good is to know God and as a result every other virtue flows from this knowledge.
Look at what Jeremiah said about this:
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me. (emphasis mine)
Here the Lord says through Jeremiah that the knowledge of him is our greatest pursuit. God names three of the more common pursuits of men and women in life. He names the pursuit of wisdom, as education is a major priority in most societies. He names the pursuit of strength, as many give themselves to the endeavor of developing their bodies and beauty. He names the pursuit of wealth. Wealth many times is the fuel behind building the mind and the body. God says the greatest boast, and therefore, the greatest pursuit is understanding and knowing God.
J. I. Packer eloquently said the same thing in his book Knowing God. He said:
What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance, and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?
There is no higher or more exalted goal than knowing God and that will be the goal of this study. It is not just a desire to have “knowledge about God.” The word “know” as it is used in the Scripture typically implies intimacy. In Genesis 4:1 (KJV), the word “know” is used to describe sexual relations. It was said of Adam that he “knew” his wife and they had a child.
God is not saying that academic knowledge of him is great, though that is part of it. It is an “intimate and experiential” knowledge of God that we are to pursue. God used the word “know” to describe our relationship with him, a word that was used of the “closest union” one can have with a person on the earth—a sexual relationship. Let this study not just be an academic venture. This should be a pursuit of intimately knowing God.
Example of Paul [Note to layout: Subheading 1]
Similarly, Paul said this: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (emphasis mine), for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
Paul was a top Pharisee of his day. However, he lost his career, his family, his friends, and his comfort, all for the sake of knowing Christ. He saw this as the highest goal of life and one worth giving up all things for. In fact, he said he counted everything lost as rubbish, or dung, in order to know Christ and have an intimate relationship with him.
Have you found knowing Christ such a worthy pursuit that you are willing to give up everything to know him?
This often occurs when people get married. They find a man or a woman and the trajectory of their lives changes. In a similar way, God is the highest good and worth leaving all other pursuits for (cf. Matt 13:45-46).
Transformational Knowledge [Note to layout: Subheading 1]
Finally, it should be noted that we will not be considering God primarily from an academic perspective or simply for intimacy. We will be considering him also to be transformed. Listen to what Paul said about beholding God:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Paul uses a picture of Moses going up on the mountain in Exodus and viewing God. He came down from the mountain and his face was shining. In the same way, studying God is like going up on the mountain to see God. As we study his personality and his characteristics, it should make us look more like him and change us from glory to glory. As God was a shining light, so also, Moses came down from the mountain with his face shining.