And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. – Hebrews 8:11
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost… – Matthew 28:19
Study these two verses. Both present important principles with which a Christian must be concerned. Both texts also incorporate the term “teach.” At first glance, a newcomer to these texts might perceive a contradiction between these two statements. (Note: No contradiction exists in Scripture, for it cannot be broken. Contradictions only exist in a person’s understanding of Scripture)
The first text clearly says that a person cannot teach someone to “know the Lord.”
The second text clearly says that ministers are to go and teach people of Christ.
How do you reconcile these two texts? The answer is simple, and it provides us a helpful way to illustrate two distinct Bible truths, Sonship and Discipleship, or Regeneration and Conversion.
In the Hebrews 8 text, God is speaking to us (through the hand of Paul) about Regeneration (Sonship). He is telling us that the New Birth is accomplished exclusively by God Himself. God Himself writes His laws upon the hearts and minds of His Elect (Spiritual Israel – Romans 2:28-29). This occurs at an event with which we are all familiar, the new birth (regeneration, quickening, passing from death to life, etc.). In Regeneration, God takes a “dead, alien sinner” and gives him eternal, spiritual life. This vital change in a person is under consideration in Hebrews 8. God’s laws now reside in the heart of a once depraved sinner, and the sinner knows Jesus Christ. God is the only active agent in this miraculous event. This event happens to ALL of God’s elect.
The second text, from Matthew 28, is depicting something else. While only God can teach one to “know him,” the ministry has been charged to teach people about him. This text pertains to discipleship (conversion)! After God has given someone spiritual life (our Hebrews 8 text) the person has a natural thirst for things Divine and a conviction of sin. This is where the minister comes into the equation! The minister preaches the Gospel to the burdened sinner in hopes of teaching him of Christ and converting him to the truth!
In short, we cannot teach a man to “know God.” However, we certainly can teach those to whom God has made himself known “about their God.”