Intro: Isaiah began his prophecy with these words… Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken… (Isa 1:2)
Last week we examined the question, “Does God exist?” We noticed that the evidence clearly points us to a resounding “YES”. However, to know that HE exists is not enough. There is another question to ask.
A growing segment of our society aspires to the beliefs and worldview known as Deism (though that term is not used much today) The Deists have been around a long time. The movement primarily dates back to the age of Renaissance in France and Great Britain in the 17th The Deists acknowledge that there is a God (supreme power) who created the world, but that He is detached from His creation. He provided man with life and reason, but he has not intervened.
A modern definition created and provided by the World Union of Deists (WUD) – Deism is the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature and the universe, perpetuated and validated by the innate ability of human reason coupled with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions of having received special divine revelation.
So, another question to be asked is, Has God Spoken? Can we know Him? And if so, how?
In our study of the “present truth” this month we will consider the Bible. So please read through it before next week and there will be a test! No, not really. Our study of the Bible will focus on its identity as the revelation of God’s word, or will.
I am not an atheist. I believe God exists. I am not a Deist. I am firmly convinced that God has spoken. Let me share with you why I hold this conviction.
I. The Knowledge of God – Zophar rebuked Job with these words… “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than heaven — what can you do? Deeper than Sheol — what can you know? (Job 11:7-8). This question points out an important truth. God is transcendent. He is infinite. Humans cannot discover God, or find out about Him if He chooses to remain unknown.
A. But God has never been that way. He wants us to know Him. In Acts 17, Paul told the Athenian philosophers that God created man and sovereignly determines their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:27-28) Isaiah wrote in Isa. 11:9… “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea.
II. Revelation: Our knowledge of God begins with the divine act of revelation. The scriptures themselves use several words to denote this act. What is clear if that God has revealed Himself. God makes himself known to human beings in a variety of ways that fall into two main categories: 1) General revelation and 2) special revelation.
A. General, or natural revelation refers to a revealing by nature that is available to all mankind, and provides a general knowledge of God. Psalms 19:1-4 – 19 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. Paul and Barnabas declared to the idolaters at Lystra that they should have known the true God, because “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Romans 1:20 – 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
1. In addition to the revelation from creation, some see another element of general revelation in the heart of every man. Romans 2:14-15 – “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts.” Even those who do not have a special revelation, by the fact that we are created in God’s image, instinctively know that certain acts are right and others are wrong. This is an innate knowledge of the basic moral law of God.
2. Although general revelation is powerful and important to our knowledge of God, it is limited. It may point us to accountability to God, but does not speak to the mercy of God, or to a Savior, or salvation.
3. General revelation is also limited in its effectiveness. Both the conscience of man, and the created world around us is susceptible to corruption through the presence of sin. We can see beauty, but also evil. The presence of natural evils in the world, such as suffering, killer tornadoes and killer viruses, seems to nullify the positive testimony found there.
B. Special, or supernatural revelation; God has also revealed Himself to certain individuals and groups of people, at special times, in different ways. Included in this revelation is all we need to know about sin and salvation. Num 12:6-8 – Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” Hebrews 1:1-3 – 1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; God revealed Himself in various ways. Jack Cottrell breaks it down into 3 avenues of special revelation:
1. Deeds and Historical events (non-verbally) – There were times when God miraculously intervened in history in order to perform a specific act, or accomplish His purposes.
a. a dream or vision; symbolic of a coming event i.e. Nebuchanezzar’s dream of a statue crushed by a stone in Dan. 2, or even what God was requiring, such as Peter’s vision of the unclean animals in Acts 10] The sole purpose of such dreams, visions and interventions was revelation.
b. God intervened by causing certain events – [the Exodus; the raising of Lazarus,] n order to reveal His character and intentions. These events were often called “signs” because they evidenced the truthfulness of God’s words spoken by His prophets and messengers.
c. These revelatory acts were incomplete without some accompanying explanation given in the form of words – (Daniel had to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; God had to interpret Peter’s vision, and even the cross must be interpreted through the words of the gospel.
2. Personal Presence – The second way of special revelation is through God’s personal presence. There were times when God appeared (theophanies) in a visible phenomenon designed to represent the Divine Person (pillar of cloud and fire; visitors to Abraham, etc) But the most significant example of this type of special revelation is the incarnation. Jesus was not just a representation of God; He was God Himself in human form. John 14:9… He who has seen Me has seen the Father. Col. 1:15 – image of the invisible God. The main purpose of the incarnation was redemption, not revelation. He came to redeem sinners.
3. Words (verbally)–the third form of special revelation – words. God spoke His will and mind verbally in human language. Sometimes this spoken revelation was given indirectly, through angels (such as to Mary and Joseph) or prophets (Israel & other nations), or apostles. Sometimes God himself spoke directly, as from the burning bush (Exod 3) in the giving of the ten commandments (Exod 20) and at the baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:17). The words were both orally spoken and written.
C. The Crucial Place of God’s Words: What is most crucial to our knowledge of God? The word revelation is essential to our understanding, and ultimately, our salvation. More recently, religious scholars, and others have denied the place of propositional or verbal revelation. They espouse that God has spoken through historical events, but the words that describe these events are not important. This gives them a position from which to deny the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, while still holding a connection to its truths.
1. But word revelation is thematic from the beginning of Biblical history. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden, to Noah, Abraham, the Patriarchs, Moses, Samuel, and to the Prophets of the OT. The messages delivered by prophets to others are described as words from God; “thus says the LORD” is their cry. Statements such as “God said...” or “these are the words of the Lord…” appear over 4,000 times in both the Old and New Testaments. “There are 2,700 such statements in the Old Testament alone, all of which make direct claim that the Bible is the Word of God” (Ridenour, 1967, p. 2).
a. The very concept of “prophet” implies word revelation. The Greek prophetes comes from phemi, “to speak,” and pro, “before”; a prophet is basically a spokesperson, one who speaks for someone else. (mouthpiece, as Aaron was for Moses). A prophet of God spoke words.
2. The NT’s testimony to word revelation is clear. Since Jesus himself was God incarnate, every word he spoke while on earth was divine revelation. After claiming to be the Bread of Life, and speaking to the crowd about His incarnation (came down out of heaven) He said… John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. …v. 66-68 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
a. Paul and the revelation: Ephesians 3:2-5 – if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: Paul claims revelation. But what type of revelation? When you read what I have written, you can understand my knowledge in the mystery (what has been revealed). This is word revelation through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
b. Peter and the revelation: 1 Peter 1: 10-12 – Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things which angels desire to look into.
Conclusion: God has spoken! What does that mean to you? How important are the words of God? Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Jesus places enormous value of God’s words. His words are the source of our very lives. If you believe that God created you, then you must believe this as well. If God has spoken, then as His creation, we must pay attention to every syllable. Our claim today is that God has spoken. In fact, the Bible that you hold in your hand is His revelation, once for all given. God wrote a book, and as such it is the greatest book ever written. Its value is immeasurable, even to you personally. In our study next week we will consider the second part to the process. God’s Word given to us involves 1) revelation, and 2) inspiration. Next week we will study the inspiration of the Bible.