When one reads a book like the Bible, whether friend or foe of it, they will find that it is inevitably a galvanizing book. The words contained within its’ pages will either make you shake with fear, or shake your fists in anger. Part of what makes the Bible such a mercurial book is the fact that it contains fantastic claims. It claims unashamedly be the written word of the God of the universe who created all good things. It also claims to be inerrant (reliable), and infallible (tells the truth).
What makes those who disagree with the Bible so angry is that if what is said within those 66 books of Scripture is true, then all who disagree with it are destined to a fearsome end. What makes the Bible even more incredible is that it claims that you don’t have to believe in the Word, but in the One (Jesus) that the word speaks of. Even when we get to that point, we have to then talk about what belief means. But that’s another topic for another day.
Today, I’m finally going to get past the introductory material of Bibliology, and really get into the theology of understanding the Bible.
God’s General Revelation
Let’s begin with two questions: What is the difference between general revelation and specific revelation? What is Progressive revelation? Let’s begin with general/objective revelation.
General, or objective, revelation is available to all people. The word revelation is derive from the Greek word apokalupsis which means “disclosure” or “unveiling.” This is why the final book of the Bible is called “Revelation”, or the “Apocalypse of John”.
When we talk about general revelation, we mean that God has revealed Himself to all (Romans 1:16-20). This revelation of God is seen in the way that the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God, in how he saves those who have repented and trusted in Jesus for salvation. But God is also revealed in His wrath in how He judges all ungodliness in the world. What these verses say, at their base definition is that every single person to ever live knows that God is real inherently because mankind is made in the image of God, and God made it evident to them. What sinful man does with this knowledge, is suppress it, and replace it in unrighteousness. Paul states in this passage that the attributes of God are clearly seen through creation, and that all people are without excuse.
I don’t have time to get into the nitty-gritty of these details of theology, but I will one day, I promise.
So, God has revealed Himself through two different aspects of general revelation. These aspects are creation, and the attributes of God seen in lesser forms in mankind. Thus, God’s revelation is clearly seen by all, and all mankind will be without excuse as they are judged according to the law of God (Romans 1:20; 2:12; Exodus 20). Therefore, God has clearly revealed Himself through His acts of creation; however, mankind rejects His revelation rather than responding in faith.
If we could sum up general revelation into three points, one could say it this way:
1. It is given to all mankind, so all know that God exists.
2. General revelation is sufficient for condemnation. General revelation is not enough to bring someone to saving faith in Jesus Christ. What general revelation does is tell us what our predicament is exactly.
3. Lastly, General revelation is designed to declare God’s greatness. It shows that He is in fact a good and righteous judge who hates injustice, and will punish all injustices one day when they are presented in His court.
Now that we’ve discussed that, let’s take this time to look at the other side of the coin. Since there is general revelation, there must be specific revelation.
As stated before in this series, God has specifically revealed Himself through specific revelation. Specific revelation is focused on Jesus the Christ, and the Word of God. Since this is a series on bibliology, let’s stick to defining Scripture as specific revelation.
What is Scripture?
Scripture is the Word of God, inspired by God, written by men who were superintended by the Spirit, so that all words are inerrant. This is the first staple of the understanding of Bibliology. The Bible stakes its reputation on the character of God Himself. Why is this important? Because Scripture is written to tell us about Christ, and how we can come to have relationship with Christ.
So let’s look at Specific revelation in Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16, 17 – Reveals all the doctrine, rebuke, correction, and guidance that the Christian needs for good living.
2 Peter 1:21 – Reveals all that God has chosen to disclose through human authors directed by the Holy Spirit.
Specific revelation is also revealed in Christ.
John 1:18 – Reveals what the Father is like.
John 5:36-37 – Reveals the Father’s compassion.
John 6:63; 14:10 – Reveals that the Father gives life to those who believe in the Son.
So revelation is specific because it is necessary for mankind to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Because mankind fell, man was put in a bind, or rather, they were bound to die and be separated from God forever. But specific revelation makes it possible for mankind to be saved. This revelation comes through Scripture, and through Christ.
Therefore, because specific revelation comes through the living word, Christ, and the written word, Scripture, we can come to understand that specific revelation is salvific (i.e. it saves). So if we had to sum up specific revelation in two points, it would be these:
1. Given to some. Specific revelation is given only to those who come to a saving knowledge of Christ. This would be in line with the doctrine of Calvinism. Namely, the doctrines of predestination and foreknowledge. Ephesians 1:4; 2:8-10 (this will be a discussion point when I get to Soteriology, the study of salvation).
2. Effective for salvation. Specific revelation saves those who place their faith in the word and work of Christ. That’s how salvation has always worked in the OT and NT. Old Testament saints looked forward to the coming Redeemer (Genesis 3:15), and the New Testament saints have seen Christ.
I believe that will scratch the surface of revelation and it’s variants. I know that it’s slow going, and I apologize for that, but it’s necessary to understand all this stuff so that we can better understand why the Bible is accurate, and why it works. I promise that I’ll be getting into Bibliology and the real doctrines of Scripture next week. It’s gonna be fun, and incredibly interesting for me to look at all this again with you all.
Notes for this post are taken from my class notes from Mr. Smith, as well as from Paul Enns’ Handbook of Theology.
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