What type relationship do we desire to have with God? The Bible describes various relationships that God has with His creation, the relationship corresponds to a level of intimacy with God. These should not be viewed as complete or authoritative – it’s just my thoughts. At which level of intimacy do we desire most with God? Our answers are revealed in how we respond and relate to God.
God as Creator – this relationship is foundational, but not salvational. This relationship acknowledges God as Creator. It seems many people in the world are at this level, but God calls us to a deeper intimacy with Him. Some agnostics perhaps are here, admitting a Creator, but not relating to Him. They may have been wounded by God and are upset with Him. A Biblical example is Adam & Eve or Cain. Other religious people are here, too – acknowledging there is a Creator. James writes, “You believe there is One God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble” (James 2:19). Focus here may be on the moral law (10 commandments) and sometimes religious and/or political activity far outweighs any deeper relationship with God. Saved people certainly recognize God at this level and relate to Him, but their on-going relationship is much deeper.
God as Provider – this relationship is based on God meeting our basic needs as His creation. God relates to people at this level by what some Christians call “common grace.” God provides His common grace to all men and women; things such as rain, growing food, etc. God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air. To relate to God at this level is just to receive His common blessings. The Creation is at this level as the creation depends on God’s provisions. Thus those who turn from the Lord are confused. If these people do not move to Jesus as Savior, they will not be saved and will know God in the final sense as a Righteous Judge (Gen 18:25; Psm 50:6; 75:7; Acts 10:42).
Slave or Servant / Master – this relationship varies in the Bible and seems a bit complex. It seems to include both general believers in “God” (not saved) and saved believers – those trusting Jesus for salvation. Jesus says about this relationship that a slave does not abide in the master’s house forever, but a son abides forever (John 8:35). The parable of the talents describes a lord and his servants. One was lazy and was cast out. When the disciples desired to have Jesus increase their faith, Jesus gave a parable (Matt 17:5-10) that related to their level of intimacy at the time – a servant does what his Master tells him to do and then he is considered an unprofitable servant. Later, just before the cross, the disciples would be called “friends” (John 15:15). Paul muddies the waters of my thoughts on this a bit when he writes in Romans about salvation that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to God (Rom 6:19). Sometimes legalism (letter of the law obedience, which Paul says results in death 2 Cor 3:6) can rule a person’s relationship with God at this level. Whether that person is saved or not depends on God’s working, which will produce fruit.
Sheep / Shepherd – Welcome to the flock. The very basic relationship where a new creation in Christ seems to “normally” begin – if that makes sense. Sheep are not very smart animals and need lots of care. They are spiritually immature and tend to stray. They are almost totally dependent upon the Shepherd. Jesus assures the sheep that if one goes astray, He as the good Shepherd will leave the 99 to go search out the one lost sheep. He also offers assurance to the sheep, which are easily spooked and scared, that He gives them eternal life, they shall never perish, and no one can snatch one of these from His hand (John 10:28).
God as Friend – James challenges the worldly, immature believer to the level of friend by stating, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” At the friend level is where a real relationship is started. Trust is established and built. The individual gains confidence in his walk with God. He talks to God, not just when in trouble, but relates on a more intimate level. God also relates to His friend on a more intimate level, and provides more revelation. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Communication amongst friends is intimate. Abraham was a friend of God (Genesis 18:17; James 2:23). Friendships are sometimes tested by challenges that arise.
Child / Father – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1). This relationship is one of much deeper intimacy than all the others prior. Jesus draws analogies of son and Father: in asking for help in Matt 7:7-11; prodigal son in Luke 15; as well as heirs. Paul does the same by writing, we cry “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:15). The term “born again” can be applied here. Peter describes this relationship as “born (past tense) of incorruptible seed” (1 Peter 1:23). So following the level of intimacy and analogy, a child is “in.” While their salvation is secure, discipline and pain will be a reality, too for misbehaving children (Heb 12:5-12). There can be tendencies at this level of intimacy for the child toward legalism as the child matures. The child should seek to mature to a much deeper level of intimacy, confidence and trust with the Father.
Wife / Husband – The church in general is referred to as the “bride of Christ.” The bride has made herself ready. Hosea. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5). Jesus came to earth to marry His church / bride, but was cut off. There will be a wedding supper in heaven for his bride called “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9) where Jesus will drink the final cup of the Passover meal with His bride (Luke 22:17-18). A bride follows her husband’s lead out of love and focuses on the love her husband has for her (Eph 5:25-27). The relationship, though founded on legal terms, is not lived out day to day from obedience and the perspective of a legal relationship. Mutual love and respect make a marriage. Obedience and legalism destroy a marriage.
God as Intimate Lover – seeing God face to face (Psm 27:8; 17:15; 41:12; 105:4; 1 John 3:2-3). Intimacy (SS 1:1-4); A betrothed virgin waiting for her husband to return. The rose of Sharon; the lily of the valley (SS 2:1); being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18); Rejoicing in the Lord (Isa 61:10; Psm 33:1; Phil 4:4); Gladness in the Heart; Getting to know Jesus very intimately and sharing in His suffering (Matt 5:12) – He becomes treasured above everything else. His voice is easily recognized (SS 5:2); His features well known (SS 5:10-16 & Rev 1:13-18). Perhaps some of these won’t be attained until we’re glorified.
These are created from my own thoughts, although years ago I read something that vaguely referenced some of these levels of intimacy, but I honestly do not remember where. I’m sure these levels are different and do not match what I read. Theologically, I’m sure it’s quite scattered and dangerous, but might provide a bit of insight. All the best!