CRSA Bibliology: Session 2 – General and Special Revelation

This session is an introduction on General and Special Revelation

Let us start by saying that Christianity is not based on speculative philosophy; it is a revealed faith. The basic claim of the Christian faith is that the truth we embrace comes to us from God Himself.

The Christians have only one infallible Textbook. But what is a reliable textbook? The things below mark a reliable textbook:

  • Free from errors if it is to be trustworthy
  • It must be simple to understand*
  • Universal in scope
  • Variety of cultures
  • Nomadic tribesman
  • University professor
  • Spread over four thousand years of man’s history
  • Unusual in the plainness of its message
  • Powerful in the effect of its message
  • Universal in the attractiveness of its message

We heartily affirm that only the Bible meets these requirements!

The Triumph of the Bible

All through its history, even during the days when it was being written, the enemies of the Bible have tried to destroy it. It has been burned. It has been banned. People have been punished for reading it. This is still the situation in many parts of the world today. Yet, the Bible continues to thrive in great popularity!

Why is the Bible being attacked? It is not because it is a book of low moral standards that encourages people to rebel against governments and rulers but it is because it makes great claims for itself. It claims to be the Word of God and therefore to carry the authority of God with its every sentence and line.It claims to be the only infallible rule to govern men’s lives, and this word “infallible” means not merely that the Bible is found to be without error, but that since it is God’s Word it is not possible for it to contain error.

In fact, it is generally accepted that no book ever written by man maintains such a consistently high standard of morality over such a long period. The writing of the Bible was spread over a period of about fifteen hundred years, and it always encourages men to be loyal to those in authority, however godless the leaders might be. Why then has the Bible been so bitterly attacked?

The Bible claims that its laws and statements, because they come from God, are higher and more important that those of governments or churches.

It also claims that its history, geography, and any other subject it deals with, are accurate and more valuable than any of the theories of men.

The Bible claims to reveal the only reliable truth about man and God and to point mankind to the only way of salvation.

The Bible never claims to be a holy book among many, but the holy book above all.

Literally millions of true Christians, for the past two thousand years, have taken this book as their rule and guide for life. They have glad obeyed it, and willingly died for it.

Philosophy and religion may reform, but only the Bible can transform

For thousand years the Roman version of Christianity feared the power of the Bible to guide men and women into the truth and, in order to protect its own beliefs from being tested by Scripture, the Romish “Christianity” forbade ordinary people to read the Bible. From the year 1401 it was illegal to own a copy of the Bible, and the penalty for disobedience was often death.

John Wycliffe- During the 14th century John Wycliffe translated the Bible from Latin into English, and then he sent out volunteer preachers, carrying their handwritten copies with them, to proclaim God’s Word all over England.

Church authorities in England insisted that the Bible would be available only in Latin and that only they would be able to read and interpret it.

Exhumation Of John Wycliffe – By order of the Council of Constance (1415)

The hatred of the Roman Church for John Wycliffe is perhaps best shown by an event which took place about forty years after his death. By order of the Council of Constance (1415), the reformer’s bones were to be dug up from their grave and refused reburial. This was carried out in 1428 when the Bishop of Lincoln burned the remains, and scattered the ashes upon the waters of the River Swift which runs through Lutterworth.

And though his bones from the grave were torn.

Long after his life was ended,

The sound of his words, to times unborn

Like a trumpet-call descended

Indeed, Wycliffe was the Morning Star of the Reformation which commenced in the 16th century!

Such a revival of true Christian faith followed Wycliffe’s ministry that, more than a century later, Sir Thomas More, a great enemy of the gospel was grumbling about the fact that you could not meet two men on the road without discovering that one of them was a “Wycliffe!”

1524–26: Thousands of copies of William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament were printed in Germany and smuggled into England, where they were publicly burned in 1526 on the orders of London’s Roman Catholic bishop.

In 1536, as a result of a plot masterminded by the English, Tyndale was arrested in Belgium, tried for heresy, and strangled and burned at the stake near Brussels. A few of his translations were burned with him.

Today, only three original copies of Tyndale’s New Testament survive.

Throughout the history of Christendom, there were different kinds of Criticisms against the Bible (more on these on our future sessions). Here they are based on various sources.
  • Textual Criticism – it is the technique of restoring texts as nearly as possible to their original form. 
  • Literary Criticism – it is the reasoned consideration of literary works and issues
  • Source Criticism – it seeks to identify independent source documents behind the present biblical texts. 
  • Form Criticism – It is a method of biblical criticism that seeks to classify units of scripture into literary patterns (such as love poems, parables, sayings, elegies, legends)
  • Redaction Criticism – it is a method that attempts to “investigate” Scriptures to make judgments about their authorship, historical trustworthiness, and date of writing. 
  • Historical Criticism – It is literary criticism in the light of historical evidence or based on the context in which a work was written
  • Canonical Criticism – It is an interpretative strategy that focuses on reading the final form of the biblical text in relation to its context in the biblical canon.

The Necessity of Revelation

Imagine seeing a man standing in front of you. No words, no actions, no voice comes from his mouth. We are free to speculate, but unless the man speaks up to reveal his thoughts to us, we can never be sure what he could be thinking!

1 Corinthians 2:11 – In the same way, GOD MUST SPEAK UP to reveal Himself to us!

We might think that man would know how he should live and what he should do to please God. After all, the birds know how to migrate and animals know how to look after their young, and nobody gives them a set of instructions.

But man is different! Something has happened to his knowledge of God and of right and wrong.

Man sinned and everything was spoiled. The immediate result of the Fall was that man broke fellowship with God: “The man and his wife… hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (3:8). Adam and Eve wanted to avoid God and what he had to say to them.

The second result of the Fall was that God took away their privileges in the Garden of Eden: “He drove the man out” (3:24).

This is Spiritual Blindness. As a black storm cloud hides the clear brightness of the sun, so sin caused man to lose sight of God, and he has lost his way in life also.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Man’s natural condition, in the state of sin, apart from Christ, is seen also as spiritual darkness.

Christian: Rescued from darkness

Colossians 1:13 – “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

1 Peter 2:9 – “…who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

God must draw back the curtain!. Because man is spiritually blind and in a darkness of ignorance and disobedience, if he is to know anything about God then it must be God who takes the first step.

He must remove the thick cloud.

He must reveal Himself and His will to man.

The Nature of Revelation

Revelation is God showing us who He is!

The Purpose of Revelation is to restore man to true fellowship with God and to show us the truth about Himself in order that we might come to love, worship and obey Him. Revelation must therefore be true and reliable, or else it is meaningless.

Christianity makes a distinction between general revelation (in creation) and special revelation (in the Bible).

GENERAL REVELATION

God’s general revelation is called general because it is given to every human being in the entire world. Not all will see it, but none will have any excuse for ignoring it, because God has made it plain.

General revelation comes to us in three ways:

Revelation in Nature – The whole creation has a voice that “speaks” about God and presents a picture that describes Him and, according to the psalmist, the whole world can hear this voice and see this picture. No one is excused for not listening and looking and then worshipping (Psalm 19:1-4, Psalm 8:3-4, Isaiah 40:12, Acts 14:15-17, Romans 1:19-21).

No generation, no tribe, no nation has ever been left without a revelation of God.

Revelation in Man’s Heart. Man’s Native Conviction •WorshipBelief in life after death

Wherever we find people, we find them worshipping and believing in life after death. They may worship evil spirits, idols, or even their ancestors, and they may fear death or some may look forward to it gladly. But they are worshipping; they do believe in a god or gods, or something.

Man feels that he must worship (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Man is made to worship God, but sin has so spoiled his mind and soul that instead of worshipping the Creator, he worships the creature; he exchanges the glory of God for an image of creation (Romans 1:23). Once again, it is not the revelation that is at fault, but man’s heart and mind.

However, in spite of this clear revelation by God of Himself through nature, man’s spiritual blindness is so great that he will never find God by this means. It is not the revelation that is at fault, but man’s mind and heart (Romans 1:21-32).

Romans 2:14-15 This knowledge of right and wrong is also part of God’s revelation, but because of sin it is unreliable. Yet, once more, it is not the revelation that is at fault, but man’s heart and mind.

Revelation in Providence & History. This refers to creation, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the provision of food and clothing (Acts 14:7), and ultimately, the cross.

History is “his story.” BUT, fallen man cannot reliably see God through history and he will reject what he sees. It is not the revelation that is at fault, but man’s heart and mind.

GOD’S SPECIAL REVELATION

  • Appearances, Visions, Dreams & Miracles
  • Theophany
  • Dreams and visions – Even godless kings like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar received revelations of God’s purposes either through dreams, a direct voice from heaven, or some other appearances.
  • Miracles

But such was the darkness of man’s mind that many ignored or misunderstood the love of God in the revelation.

CHRIST and the WORD

  • John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
  • John 14:9 – “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
  • Hebrews 1:3 – “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by His Son…The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of His being…”

What could be more clear? There is no greater visible revelation of God than Jesus Christ. But since Christ is no longer visible to man, how can we be sure of this greatest revelation?

The Word Incarnate & the Word Inscripturated

The expression “Word inscripturated” is the counterpart of “Word incarnate”; for, as Jesus Christ is the Word of expressed in the life of a man, so is the Bible (or Scripture) the Word of God expressed in the pages of a book. Jesus Christ is the living word and the Scripture is the written word. But it doesn’t mean that the written word is not living for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

The Scriptures are the Father’s means through the Spirit in revealing Jesus to you so you can know God. Therefore, though you should distinguish between them, you should treat the Scriptures as you would treat Jesus.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!


*This blog post is based on our notes on Bibliology provided by our pastor. 

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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