After an interesting conversation with a lady recently I thought i’d do a few posts about the Bible. The Bible tells a truly incredible story, it is an incredible document, and it’s so much more than that. The problem comes when we make the Bible something it wasn’t intended to be or try to make it say something it was never intended to say. Over these next few posts I’ll breakdown some of what the Bible is and some of what it isn’t. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them and will try to spend some time answering in the comment thread if not in subsequent posts. First things first. Milliard J. Erickson, in his classic presentation of systematic theology, places the Scriptures neatly under the heading, “Knowing God”. This, in itself, speaks volumes about the first claim of the Bible. One doesn’t have to traverse beyond the table of contents to discover that which sets the Scriptures apart from any other book. The Bible, far more than merely containing information about God or a record of the historical events of his self-revelation to mankind, is part of God’s self revelation to us. Theologians use two classifications to describe revelation: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is that which refers to God’s revelation of himself to all people at all times. The two main examples of general revelation are the physical universe and the human conscience. For example:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 …What may be known about God is plain to [sinful humanity], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that humanity is without excuse. — Romans 1:19-20
These verses illustrate that general revelation is universally accessible – that anyone can recognize it, but it is limited in scope to revealing His existence and His incredible thumbprint in creation. Special revelation refers to the acts of God whereby He makes Himself and His truth known at specific times and to specific people. Some examples of Special Revelation are:
- Hearing an audible voice (Genesis 6:13, 1 Samuel 3)
- Having a dream (Genesis 37, Daniel 2:1)
- Seeing a vision (Acts 16)
- Being spoken to by an angel (Luke 1, 2:10)
- Miracles – (An unusual event, not solely the product of natural laws, which accomplishes some useful work for God for the purpose of nourishing faith in the saving intervention of God toward those who believe and revealing: the presence of God, the power of God, the goodness of God (through healings and provisions), the righteousness or justice of God, and of course the supremacy of God (e.g. toward Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3),
- Prophecy – The giving of instruction and teaching or the foretelling of future events through a direct communication from God.
- The Incarnation of Jesus Christ! The incarnation of Christ is the most obvious and profound example of the self-revelation of God.
“In the past, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, and through whom he has made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word… Hebrews 1:1-3
John 1 shares how the Word who was God has come as a man to reveal his
The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… No man has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. John 1:14, 18
I find the Message translation captures powerfully what incarnational self-revelations looks like.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day. John 1:14,18 (Message)
- The Scriptures, the Bible, the good book! The thing I don’t want you to miss in special revelation is its relational motivation. God intersected with mankind through these acts in order to reveal His nature, His character, His desire to be in relationship with people like you and me.
In this way, the Bible profoundly qualifies as revelation. Its purpose is to reveal the nature and character of God, his desire to be in relationship with mankind and the path that we must follow to achieve that relationship. The Bible is more than just a book! It is a tool that God used to reveal himself and his purposes to us! How has God revealed Himself to you? Where or when do you feel closest to him?