Lesson 6: God Has Revealed Himself to Man | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 6: God Has Revealed Himself to Man

To study God as we have done in Lessons 1-5 is an awesome task. It is impossible for finite sinners to fully grasp the greatness and goodness of their Creator. [Part of what is called the incomprehensibility of God–God can be truly known but not fully known.] What is perhaps even more awesome is the fact that this infinite God has chosen to communicate to finite men. Yet this is exactly what God has done. In this lesson, we will learn that God has chosen to reveal truth about Himself to mankind both generally and specifically.

I. God Has Revealed Truth About Himself Generally.

God has revealed general information about Himself to every man. Theologians call this revelation “ general ” because it is general in content and is available to all men in general. This means that everyone has access to some knowledge of God.

A. The means of general revelation

1. God has revealed Himself through creation .

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 ends of the world.   Psalm 19:1 4

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, 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 men are without excuse.   Romans 1:18 20

2. God has revealed Himself through man’s conscience .

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.   Romans 2:14 15

[Conscience is that internal sense of right and wrong that everyone has to one degree or another. The ability to understand right and wrong is part of the image of God in man. Conscience can be callused or seared, making it less sensitive.]

B. The purposes of general revelation

1. General revelation reveals general truth about God .

According to Romans 1:18 20 and 2:14-15, general revelation communicates a

limited message to man. Through it man understands that:

a. God exists .

b. God is the Creator .

c. God has established standards of right and wrong which must be obeyed .

Note: While men do have some knowledge of right and wrong, it is only through God’s Word that they can learn all of God’s standards of right and wrong.

[What do you think of the statement “Let your conscience be your guide”? Not exactly right. Conscience decides on the basis of the standard given it. If the standard is wrong, the behavior will be wrong. Conscience is not infallible. People often feel no guilt whatever about their sins/crimes, so conscience is not a reliable guide.

General rev. shows man that there is a God, that God created him, and that he is thus responsible to God for how he lives. ]

2. General revelation renders men inexcusable before God.

a. General revelation will always be rejected by men.

An unsaved man will never accept the implications of the truths of general revelation. Therefore, he is “without excuse” before God. We will examine the reason for this in Lesson Twelve.

[Rom 1 says that men suppress or hold down what truth they get from general revelation. ]

b. General revelation cannot save .

General revelation communicates enough truth about God to make a man responsible to seek God for salvation. However, it does not communicate the content of the gospel. It communicates only enough truth to condemn men.

[In order to be saved, a person must understand the content of the gospel. One cannot be saved by observing the natural world. General revelation is condemnatory—it takes away man’s excuse, but it does not provide enough info to save anyone. No one responds to general rev. by being saved. There’s not enough content. That’s why we need special rev.

The following scenario is often brought up: What about the native in some remote corner of the world who has never heard the gospel? If he follows the light that he has, acknowledges the God revealed in nature, and sincerely seeks to do what is right, won’t he be saved? Answer: John 14:6; Acts 4:12. ]

II. God Has Revealed Truth About Himself Specifically.

God has revealed specific information about Himself. Theologians call this revelation

special ” because it is specific in content and is revealed only to specific individuals.

[Special rev. is special because of it’s content (direct rev.) and it’s recipients (a select person or group). ]

A. The means of special revelation

1. In the past, God revealed specific information about Himself in different ways .

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.   Hebrews 1:1

a. God revealed Himself through dreams (Genesis 20:3, 6 and 31:10 13).

b. God revealed Himself through visions (Isaiah 1:1 and 6:1).

c. God revealed Himself through angels (Luke 2:8 14).

d. God revealed Himself through direct address (Exodus 3:4ff).

e. God has revealed Himself through the prophets (Habakkuk 2:2 3).

  1. God’s special revelation culminated with Christ.

[Culminate = brought to it’s highest point or perfected with Christ.]

a. Christ is God’s final revelation to man.

1) The Old Testament pointed to Christ.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (i.e., the whole Old Testament), he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.   Luke 24:27

2) Christ is superior to all other means of special revelation.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers 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 appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.   Hebrews 1:1-2

b. Christ spoke through the apostles .

The apostles were a select group of men chosen by God to perform some unique tasks essential to the founding of the New Testament church. They were chosen by Christ (Acts 1:1-2), witnesses of His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22), and commissioned to record Scripture (John 14-16) and authenticate its message through miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:3-4). There are no apostles today because there is no longer anyone who meets these qualifications.

[The purpose of the miracles the apostles did was to authenticate their message. The “Jews require a sign” (1 Cor 1:22). Miracles proved that they were sent by God.

It’s interesting to note that miracles did not always change people’s mind regarding the gospel. That is, many people saw the miracles and still rejected Jesus, his message, and the apostles. E.g., the Pharisees at the resurrection of Lazarus admitted that a great miracle had been done, but still sought to kill Jesus. ]

B. The purpose of special revelation

1. The explanation of the purpose

The purpose of special revelation is to enable us to know God’s will and to do it. The Bible is the only vehicle of special revelation through which God communicates His will today.

[Why is it dangerous to separate knowing God’s will from what God has revealed in the Bible? Because finding God’s will usually ends up being subjective/feeling-based or situation-based.]

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:14 17

2. The accomplishment of the purpose

Since the purpose of the Bible is to enable one to know God’s will and to do it, one must understand how this is accomplished.

a. Illumination enables us to know God’s will.

Illumination is that act of the Holy Spirit whereby He enables believers to understand the significance of God’s Word. We are illumined only after determining the meaning of Scripture by properly interpreting it.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.   1 Corinthians 2:14

[Can an unsaved man understand the meaning of the Bible? Yes–an unsaved man can understand words/language just as well as we can. Can an unsaved man understand the significance of the Bible? No. One can understand the text and yet reject it’s significance. You act on what you believe.

We’ve got to be very careful about interpreting the Bible correctly. It’s easy to come up with “horseback interpretations” if you ignore the rules of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation–we’ll study that later).]

b. A biblical mindset enables us to do God’s will.

God wants us to approach life with a “ Bible soaked ” logic. As we learn of God and His will through His Word and begin to view life as He does, we will be able to make decisions that honor Him. The key to making proper, God honoring decisions is knowing God’s Word and, thereby, learning to think as God thinks.

[A “Bible-soaked logic” is the state of mind in which biblical principles are so well understood and accepted that one naturally applies them to any circumstance. You determine the will of God when it’s not directly revealed in the Bible (e.g., who to marry, where to go to college, what career to pursue, etc.) by applying biblical wisdom to the situation. How do you get a “Bible-soaked logic”? By repeated exposure to the Bible and a commitment to obey it in all areas of life. You eventually come to see and appreciate general biblical principles that apply to many situations.]

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

  1. God has revealed truth about Himself generally. We call this general revelation. Creation and conscience are the two means of general revelation.

  1. God has revealed truth about Himself specifically. We call this special revelation. The Bible is the only means of special revelation today.

Learning to Live It

Your cousin calls you one evening and excitedly relates her experience at a recent charismatic church service. She states, “God revealed to the pastor that he is supposed to build a youth complex and that all those who do not sacrificially give toward it are disobeying God.” What kind of revelation is the pastor claiming to have received?

special or direct revelation

What is the only means of special revelation available today?

the Bible

Therefore, what kind of authority is the pastor assigning to his words?

He is saying that his words carry the same weight as Scripture.

Whom did God commission to produce Scripture?

the apostles and those in close relation with the apostles, like Luke

Is your cousin’s pastor an apostle? Why not?

no; He doesn’t meet the qualifications.

Therefore, is the pastor’s claim valid? Why not?

no; because God is no longer giving special revelation, and since he’s not an apostle, he has no commission to produce Scripture. Other dangers: no check on the system of receiving revelation. That is, anyone could claim to be receiving revelation.

How would you advise your cousin?

1. Show her that the pastor has no right to claim that he has received revelation directly from God because he is not an apostle. 2. Tell her to be careful about any claims from such a person. 3. Tell her to find a church where they preach the Bible rather than what someone claims is the word of God.

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