Two weeks ago I said the Bible is The Book. It is not just a book about God, but a book written by God Himself. Last week we discussed The Canon, why we can trust that the 66 books of the Bible are God’s Word.
Today we’re going to talk briefly about the two ways that God reveals Himself to mankind: General and Special Revelation. Then we’ll focus on Special Revelation as it relates to the Bible.
General Revelation is just that … it’s general. It’s God’s revelation of Himself to all men at all times. He does so through creation: the wonder and beauty of nature, the magnificence of the universe, and the human body, including the conscience.
General Revelation is spoken of in Psalm 19.1-4:
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.(NLT)
And in Romans 1.20:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
We are “without excuse.” Creation itself reveals enough to make us accountable before God to believe in Him.
In fact, Romans 1 goes on:
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.
Special Revelation is more limited. It includes things such as: angels, prophets, dreams and visions, miracles, the lot, His appearances to various people, and through His written Word, the Bible. But the ultimate revelation of God to mankind was through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God has been involved with and has been speaking to people since Creation. He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden (Gen. 3.8), He gave them instructions for living even before the fall (Gen. 2.15-17).
He spoke to Cain and warned him of the lurking danger of sin in his life (Gen. 4.6-7). He spoke to Abraham, Noah, Moses, Paul and many others in both the Old Testament and the New.
He revealed Himself through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire and through a burning bush. He manifested His presence in a cloud of glory and various other ways.
He spoke repeatedly through prophets, judges, and through the intermediary of the Priesthood. He performed miracles: making bitter water sweet, parting the Red Sea, raising the dead, bringing plagues and famines, and protecting from the same. He defeated armies against all odds, healed lepers, caused the lame to walk, and opened barren wombs.
He revealed present and future events through dreams and visions. He brought messages through angels.
He spoke His Words through the writers of the Bible and preserved His written Word even amidst the rubble of defeat:
Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it (2 Kings 22.8).
Then in the fullness of time He sent His Son to be born into the body of a helpless babe. At the age of thirty He began three years of ministry that would turn the world upside down.
The Son revealed the Father to us:
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves (Jn. 14.7-11).
He, also, left us an example to follow:
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (Jn. 13.12-17).
But … we were not alive when Jesus performed His miracles. We were not there in the upper room or on the hillside when He preached. We didn’t see Him carry His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and didn’t witness the crucifixion. We never saw Him raise the dead or heal a broken body. We didn’t see Him ascend into heaven or take part in the Day of Pentecost. We were not there when God parted the Red Sea, brought water out of a rock, or thundered on the mountain top. We know these things because He has spoken to us in His Word.
The primary way we know God today and the way we receive special revelation is through the Bible.
The Word shows us the life Jesus lived. It reveals to us the means of salvation (Eph. 2.8-9) and gives us the power to be saved (Rom. 1.16). The Word encourages us with God’s promises and warns us of the dangers of sin. It shows us His hand throughout history and His ongoing plan for His creation.
The Word is our Bread of Life. It’s truth. It’s practical. And it’s necessary if we are to live a life that is blessed and pleasing to Him.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll talk more about the Word of God, then we’ll move on to some of the other important doctrines of our Christian faith.
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