Volume 7, Issue 2: Doctrine 101
God's Revelation to Man
In my previous columns I explained that the subject of theology affects the
method of theology. Since the God of Scripture is the subject of our theological
study, our approach to Him in study differs greatly from the approach we would
take in studying a god like Zeus, for instance. Zeus was created and finite;
he was neither absolute nor sovereign, and his purposes could be foiled by other
beings. By contrast, the God of the Bible is the creator; He is absolute and
sovereign. Unlike Zeus, He sets the conditions by which we may study Him. He
even sets the conditions by which we may consider whether or not He exists.
In fact, He sets all conditions, and man is wholly subject to Him in everything.
By recognizing that God sets all conditions we have barely begun. We should
then ask ourselves, what are these conditions that God has set? Thankfully,
the absolute and sovereign God is not silent. He has informed us about Himself,
about creation, and about how we should live. We call God's unfolding of truth
to man His revelation to man. Without God's revelation man would be in utter
darkness, knowing neither good from evil, nor truth from falsehood. The importance
of revelation prompts us to examine it in some detail. Consider the following
1. All revelation is through Christ. Have you wondered how it could be that
the eternal, absolute, and sovereign Creator could interact with man? For unlike
God, man is finite, temporal, limited, and dependent. Isn't there an insurpassable
gulf fixed between the infinite and the finite? The eternal and the temporal?
God and man? Indeed there is such a gulf, which is insurpassable to us , but
not to God.
In the person of Christ, God became man. He is the only mediator between God
and man (1 Tim. 2:5). John describes Him as the Word, God Himself, Who became
flesh and dwelt among men, and whose glory was beheld by men (Jn. 1:14). While
no one has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son has declared Him (v. 18).
Christ is the One by whom God is made known to man.
This point is developed in Colossians 1 and 2. Christ is the image which can
be seenof the invisible God. All things were created by Christ, through Christ,
and for Christ, and all creation is sustained by Him (1:15-17). Of course, creation
includes man's mind, as well as the things which are known to man. Hence, all
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (2:3).
2. God reveals Himself through Christ in nature. As noted above, Colossians
1 declares Christ's preeminence in all creation (cf. Heb. 1:2). By Him God created
all that has been created, and God sustains the created order through Him. (Unfortunately,
many Christians neglect Christ's role in creation and providence, restricting
His work to redemption only.)
Since all creation is subject to Christ, and since Christ is the manifestation
of God's glory to man, creation holds an important place in God's revelation.
The heavens above declare God's glory (Ps. 19), and His name is excellent in all
the earth (Ps. 8). Among these the most obvious revelation in all creation is
within man's own constitution, which even the most hardened unbeliever cannot
deny (Rom. 1:19-20).
All things that man may know, from the arrangement of the stars to the properties
of the elements, he knows because God has revealed them to him.
3. God reveals Himself through Christ in Scripture. The "natural revelation" discussed
above is clear and compelling; it comes to all men, leaving unbelievers without
an excuse for rejecting it. But there is a "special revelation" that is even more
clear and compelling: words in human language spoken directly by God.
Today these words are in written form in the sixty-six books that make up the
Bible. In ancient times God spoke through prophets, using them to gradually
reveal more and more to His people over the centuries. This continued into the
first century A.D. , when the fullness of God's plan was revealed with the coming
of Christ and the preaching of His apostles. The Scriptures that we have today
are a record of the ancient revelation that God has preserved for us.
The revelation preserved in Scripture is greater than both natural revelation
and the prophetic revelation of ancient times. It is greater than natural revelation
because, like all prophetic revelation, it is not corrupted by fallible human
interpretation. Peter notes this as he marvels at having eyewitnessed Jesus' transfiguration.
The prophetic word of Scripture, he says, is even more certain than what is
seen with the eyes (2 Pet. 1:16-21). Knowledge from Scripture is more reliable
than knowledge gained through sense experience.
Scripture is greater than ancient prophetic revelation because of its completeness.
While those who heard the prophets had infallible revelation from God, they
did not have complete revelation. Such completeness was not achieved until all
of the New Testament was written (1 Pet. 1:10-12, Heb. 1:1-2).
The privilege of having God's revelation carries responsibility. God reveals
Himself to us in the created orderenough so that unbelievers have no excuse for
rejecting it. More than this, we also have Scripture, wherein we read that God
chastised and even cut off His people for rejecting the revelation that came
through the prophets. How much worse will it be for those of us who reject so
perfect and complete a revelation as Scripture! Let us attend to what has been