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Volume 7, Issue 2: Doctrine 101

God's Revelation to Man

Chris Schlect

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 points.
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 revealed.

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