Friday, March 14, 2014

The Sovereignty of God in His Revelation of Himself

The next installment from my statement of faith has to do with revelation, answering the question: "How has God revealed himself to his creation?"

God's Means of Revelation
Revelation is the means of God's self-disclosure of himself to his creation, particularly human beings.  God so reveals himself to his creation for the purposes of making them aware of his presence, producing an awareness of righteousness and sin, and revealing the way unto salvation.  I believe that God reveals his character and nature to humankind through four distinct ways:

a) God reveals himself to humankind through what has been created (Romans 1.20).  Through the creation it is made evident that an all powerful creator God exists, and so, all people have knowledge of God.

b) God reveals himself through the law having been written on the hearts of human beings (Romans 2.15).  The knowledge of a universal moral law supposes the existence of a Universal Moral Law Giver, namely God.  Through this means of revelation all human beings have a knowledge of righteousness and sin, and the Righteous Judge.

c) God reveals himself through scripture.  Through scripture God reveals his character and nature, the fallen state of humankind, how he interacts with his creation, and what he expects from human beings.

d) God reveals himself through Jesus Christ.  As the second member of the triune godhead, the incarnation of Christ clearly and visibly reveals God to the creation (John 12.45, 14.9).  In Christ we are able to observe God's glory and his character and nature (Hebrews 1.1-3).

All human beings are given at least the first two types of revelation (creation and the law), and many are also exposed to the revelation of scripture.  I believe that God, in his sovereignty, is able to perform his redemptive work through any combination of these four means of revelation (that is, he is able to redeem those who have no access to scripture or the Bible).  Furthermore, I believe all human beings to be accountable for their own personal response to the level of revelation that God has given them (Luke 10.13-14, Ezekiel 33.8-9).

God inspired the writers of scripture to communicate the precise message he intended to put forth, but while not violating the personality, style, context, etc., of the human author (Psalm 19.7, 2 Peter 1.21, Acts 4.25).  The message of scripture was written to a specific audience in a specific time in history, and located in a specific geographical region.  It was also, however, written as universal truth for all people throughout time, culture, race, language, etc. (2 Timothy 3.16-17)  Careful work on the part of the interpreter must be done in order to differentiate between the two.  While the meaning of scripture is grounded in history and remains constant, its application varies on an individual basis.

Scripture is the ultimate authority regarding the testing of truth claims.  It is sufficient and free of error in matters of doctrine and conduct (2 Timothy 3.16), and is therefore trustworthy.  As the word of God, scripture is to be held in high esteem, and is worthy and capable of holding the Christian's trust for all matters of life.  We are able, indeed expected, to examine all matters of doctrine and conduct against scripture to determine what is true and what is right.

The Bible is without error in its original manuscripts (Proverbs 30.5, Psalm 12.6).  It is precisely the message that God intended to communicate through its human authors (Matthew 5.18, John 10.35).  Its translation and interpretation may contain false information, however, which lead the interpreter to errors in understanding and application.  In all cases error never rests in scripture but in the interpreter.

God enables those who would seek to understand the Bible to do so (Romans 10.17, 1 Corinthians 2.12-16, Hebrews 3.7).  Understanding of the scriptures, beyond a mere intellectual understanding, is impossible without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  The aid of the Spirit is necessary for overcoming several factors that might limit understanding such as: cultural differences between the reader and the original audience, the particular hermeneutic of a religious group or sect, limited interpretive abilities, and, of course, sin.  Furthermore, the Spirit empowers those who have been enlightened to the truth of scripture to be able to continue in further understanding as well as to believe, apply, and live out the truth of the Bible (Psalm 119.34, Luke 24.25, Ephesians 1.17-18).

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