In preparing for a Bible study of Paul's letter to the church at Galatia, Galatians 1:12 jumped off the page at me. I’ve read that verse many times before, even studied it in depth. Yet, this time it made a unique impression one me. In that verse Paul tells us,
I did not receive it [the gospel he preached] from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Revelation - God's Personal Disclosure
One of the most helpful books I purchased and read back in my seminary days was Volume 2 of Carl Henry’s series on God, Revelation, and Authority. That book was quite a contrast for me since the two theologians my Systematic Theology class in seminary dealt with primarily were, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth. It was helpful for me to read way back then, (about 1990), what an American evangelical author had to contribute to the debate regarding how God reveals himself. I’ve read many useful critiques of Tillich and Barth since then, but it was Carl Henry who first gave me such nutritious food for thought.
In his six-volume series, Henry lays out fifteen theses related to how he understands the Bible’s teaching on divine revelation. You may find yourself bickering with a point here are there, but I have found them succinct and helpful in explaining to others how God reveals himself to his creatures who are slow on the uptake, and who certainly would have never "discovered” God on their own.
Below are Henry’s fifteen theses with no added comments from him or me. (You can purchase his six volumes if you are craving his explanations for each.)
God is not the Great Perhaps, a clueless shadow character in a Scotland Yard mystery. Far less is he a nameless spirit awaiting post-mortem examination in some theological morgue. He is a very particular and specific divinity, known from the beginning solely on the basis of his works and self-declaration as on the one living God. Only theorists who ignore divine self-disclosure are prone to identify God as the nondescript John Doe of religious philosophy.
1. Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communication by which he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.
2. Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God.
3. Divine revelation does not completely erase Gold’s transcendent mystery, inasmuch as God the Revealer transcends his own revelation.
4. The very fact of disclosure by the one living God assures the comprehensive unity of divine revelation.
5. Not only the occurrence of divine revelation, but also its very nature, content, and variety are exclusively God’s determination.
6. God’s revelation is uniquely personal both in content and form.
7. God reveals himself not only universally in the history of the cosmos and of the nations, but also redemptively within this external history in unique saving acts.
8. The climax of God’s special revelation is Jesus of Nazareth, the personal incarnation of God in the flesh; in Jesus Christ the source and content of revelation converge and coincide.
9. The mediating agent in all divine revelation is the Eternal Logos – preexistent, incarnate, and now glorified.
10. God’s revelation is rational communication conveyed in intelligible ideas and meaningful words, that is, in conceptual-verbal form.
11. The Bible is the reservoir and conduit of divine truth.
12. The Holy Spirit superintends the communication of divine revelation, first, by inspiring the prophetic-apostolic writings, and second, by illuminating and interpreting the scripturally given Word of God.
13. As bestower of spiritual life the Holy Spirit enables individuals to appropriate God’s revelation savingly, and thereby attests the redemptive power of the revealed truth of God in the personal experience of reborn sinners.
14. The church approximates the kingdom of God in miniature; as such she is to mirror to each successive generation the power and joy of the appropriated realities of divine revelation.
15. The self-manifesting God will unveil his glory in a crowning revelation of power and judgment; in his disclosure at the consummation of the ages, God will vindicate righteousness and justice, finally subdue and subordinate evil, and bring into being a new heaven and earth.
Featuring R.C. Sproul
Produced by Ligonier Ministries
John 3:1-15 (ESV)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
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