The unknowable, unsearchable God has graciously revealed Himself to mankind. Apart from this revelation, man would have no way of knowing God and would therefore be utterly without hope for reconciliation to God. Revelation comes to man in three primary ways: general, special, and written.
GENERAL REVELATION. God has revealed Himself generally through nature (Ps. 19, Rom. 1:19-20), history (Isa. 10:5-13, Acts 17:26), and humanity (Rom. 2:12-16). The clearest and most objective form of revelation is nature; from the magnitude of the galaxies to the tiniest strand of DNA, nature cries out for the existence and character of God. History also speaks to God’s active work, though less objectively than nature; one can look backward at history and see only coincidence and repetition, or one can see the hand of God. Finally, humanity itself offers evidence, created as we are “in the image of God” – namely, as moral and spiritual beings. As with history, however, the evidence from humanity can be (and has been) used almost as often as a case against a creator…certainly a benevolent one. (Rom. 1:21)
While none of these areas of revelation—nor any combination of them—is adequate to draw a person to saving faith in God, they nonetheless all give substantial evidence for the existence and character of God to all people in all times; that is, to “those who have ears to hear.”
SPECIAL REVELATION. In part due to the inadequacy of general revelation for salvation, and in part out of the depths of His very character, God has revealed Himself specially to individuals and groups through a variety of means, beginning with His personal relationship with Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:15ff, 3:8ff) and culminating in His incarnation in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18). In the intervening millennia, marred as they were by sin, God’s special revelation came in the form of dreams and visions (Gen. 15:1, 1 Kings 3:5, Acts 9:10), direct speech (Exod. 8, Josh. 7:10ff), angelic visits (Num. 22), and prophetic voices (over 1,500x in the prophets is a phrase like, “the LORD says”). Salvation ultimately came to all mankind through God’s greatest and most gracious revelation of Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.
SCRIPTURE. Apart from a continual re-incarnation of His Son—which would have diminished Jesus’ humanity—God’s most lasting special revelation available to the masses of humanity is His written Word, the Bible. The Bible is “God-breathed;” that is, it is inspired by God. Inspiration is both plenary (all Scripture; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and verbal (the very words; John 10:34-35). It is a work of both divine and human origin, the Spirit of God having inspired human authors such that the resulting text is confidently and correctly asserted to be the Word of God.
The Bible is inerrant in its original writings and contains all that is needed for salvation and right living in relationship to God and mankind. Authoritative Scripture is complete in the sixty-six books we know as the Canon. The claim of inerrancy cannot be equally applied to copies and translations beyond the original autographs, which alone are wholly true; nor should it be applied to books outside the Canon, regardless of their apparent accuracy or harmony with the Canon. Nonetheless, we can approach Scripture today with the highest confidence that we have the full Word of God at our disposal.
Just as the Holy Spirit inspired the original authors of Scripture, so He illumines that same Scripture for believers (2 Pet. 1:20-21) to the end that they recognize its authority, are able to grasp its enduring and personal meaning, and apply it appropriately to their own lives. It is the privilege and responsibility of believers to study Scripture individually (2 Tim. 2:15) and in community (Acts 17:11), yet without quarrelling or divisiveness (2 Tim. 2:14).
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