People everywhere seek answers to the big questions of life: where did I come from? where am I going? what is the meaning and purpose of my existence? We innately know that these answers are available somewhere, but where! Enter the doctrine of Revelation—the starting point for all religion. God speaks to mankind to answer these questions (and others) and that revelation has been written down. Those sacred writings are termed “Scripture” (literally, ‘writings’), hence the convergence of terminology between “Revelation” and “Scripture”. As we’ll see in the material that follows, for mankind to know God it is necessary for God to reveal himself, God has revealed himself, and that revelation is recorded finally, authoritatively, & inerrantly in the Bible. This is why we need and read the Bible which is the only rule given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God forever.
Herein we will be looking at God’s Revelation to Mankind. We’ll do so under the following headings: [The general outline for this discussion is adapted from Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Part I; which is of course framed by the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter I.]
- The Fact of Divine Revelation
- The Inspired Nature of Divine Revelation – Later Article
- Christ’s Authentication of the Bible
- New Testament Writers’ Identification of God’s Word
- The Attributes of Divine Revelation – Later Article
- The Bible’s Necessity
- The Bible’s Inspiration
- The Bible’s Self-Authentification
- The Bible’s Authority
- The Bible’s Sufficiency
- The Bible’s Perspicuity
- The Bible’s Finality
The Fact of Divine Revelation
Some people doubt that God, if he even exists, has ever revealed himself in any way. If this is true, then we actually know nothing at all. For if God has not spoken then there is no way to know that our thoughts make any sense (including the thought, “There is no God.”); God’s revelation in the Bible explains the fact that we do think rationally and our thoughts do make sense. God is the starting point; then comes his revelation; then comes man, whose being and rationality are explained by God in his revelation. It is impossible to work backwards from man to God; we must accept God’s witness of himself, that is, his revelation. Put otherwise: his revelation to mankind is an incontrovertible fact because without it we have nothing, know nothing, and are nothing.
Knowing for a fact that God has revealed himself, it is wise to ask, “How does God reveal himself?” In all ages God has revealed himself. Having made people in his image he reveals his existence and moral precepts (Prv 20.27; Rom 2.15). In creation he reveals his glory (Ps 19.1; Rom 1.20). Through ordinary providential acts and special redemptive acts he reveals his wisdom and power (i.e. The Flood, The Exodus, The Cross).
In times past God revealed himself in various unique ways (Heb 1.1). He gave “instruction” via prophets who “saw” visions and spoke to the people in order for God to “make known” and “reveal” truth. After an extensive silent period—about 400 years between Malachi and the opening of the New Testament era—God spoke again by the angel Gabriel (Lk 1.13-20, 28-37) and in dreams/visions (Mt 1.20;2.12,13,19,22). Ultimately, he spoke by his Son (Heb 1.2): the Son’s person revealed God’s name and nature (Jn 17.6), his work revealed God’s work (Jn 17.4) and his words revealed God’s words (Jn 12.44-50; 17.8).
Primary in all this is the fact that God speaks: God spoke to prophets, the prophets spoke to the people what they saw in the visions, Jesus spoke to audiences large and small, the gospel writers wrote down what Jesus spoke, etc. Verbal revelation is the key component here as is the inscripturation (‘writing down’) of that verbal revelation in the Bible.
Can God Reveal Himself in this Manner? It is postulated that God’s acts are more important than his words; the former being more concrete while the latter are cloaked in the language, culture, and understanding of the times (which are, “of course”, different than ours). In response, it must be noted that the essential truths behind God’s great acts are only known via the verbal explanation that accompanies them. God acted by taking Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to Palestine (Gn 12); how do we know the significance and import of this divine act? This critical knowledge is only gained by verbal revelation recorded in the Bible (Neh 9.7-8; Ac 7). Also, knowledge of the “mere” act itself is only obtained in the same way: through the verbal revelation recorded in the Bible—if not for the the Bible we would not know the what or the why of Abraham’s journey. It may also be asked in return, “How do you (the skeptic) know that verbal revelation has inadequately conveyed the true meaning God intended? What is your more accurate and more authoritative source of information by which you critique the Bible?”
Did God Reveal Himself in this Manner? Accepting the previous conclusion that God can reveal himself through verbal revelation, it remains to consider whether or not he did. On this point the witness of the Bible gives a resounding, “Yes!” God spoke directly to Adam (Gn 2.16-17), Cain (Gn 4.6-12), Noah (Gn 6.13-21), and Noah’s sons (Gn 9.1,8). God commissioned Moses to be his mouthpiece (Nm 12.6-8; Dt 18.18) thereby spoke to the people through him as he did with later prophets. Thousands of times we read “the Lord says” or “the Lord has spoken”. If God did not verbally communicate to mankind then the Bible is wrong on this point and cannot be trusted generally. This, however, is an impossibility because it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6.18; cf. Tit 1.2).
The fact of the matter is that we depend on God to reveal himself to us. We meet him on his terms, not on ours. This is in itself evidence of God’s mercy; he didn’t have to condescend to communicate with us yet he has. We, mere creatures, are made in his image and are able to commune with him! Extraordinary!
God can communicate with us and he has communicated with us. If he hadn’t done so we would be groping around in the dark with no sure word from God. Thankfully he has given us his words whereby we can know how to glorify and enjoy him forever!
Next, Part 2.