We had a great time kicking off “What’s in the Bible?” this past Sunday. In our first week, we covered some fundamental issues by looking at how God communicates with us and what He says. The purpose of the first class was to set the table by helping us to appreciate just how remarkable it is that God has communicated to us through the Bible. Over the next few weeks we will eat the main course as we examine some of the major themes of the Old and New Testaments.
God is the creator of all things and he possesses complete knowledge about all things. This is the fundamental truth of all reality. God created the entire universe from nothing. He does not take pre-existing material and form it into a universe. He creates the universe from scratch. All of the universe's attributes or properties come from God. God knows what the universe was in the beginning, knows what it is now, and knows what it will become. He created it in its minutest detail. Accordingly, he must understand it in its minutest detail. We call God’s ability to create a universe out of nothing His omnipotence. We call God’s categorical and exhaustive knowledge of that universe His omniscience. Understanding God’s creative power is absolutely essential to understanding our complete dependence on God for knowledge. God is the Author of reality. He speaks and the universe leaps into existence. He is saying something to us through the creation. If we are going to understand anything about the universe, we must understand what God is saying.
We are part of God’s creation. We rely on God to reveal to us truth about the universe. It is through Nature that God first reveals himself. David sung in Psalm 19:1-2 that "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul argues in Romans 1:20 that “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God speaks to us through his creation. We call it His “General Revelation” to Mankind. It is general because it is made to everyone who can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the world around them. But even though it is general in its distribution, it is specific in its message. That message is this: God is all powerful and has created everything, including us.
There is a problem; we reject God’s General Revelation. Mankind is self-centered. We are the center of our own universe from the moment we are born. Infants care only about what they can immediately see, touch, taste, hear, and smell; things beyond their immediate perception may as well not even exist. Our education is a discovery that things do exist beyond us; it is a discovery of reality “out there”. But most stop far short of the ultimate conclusion of a reality beyond us. Most refuse to recognize that the reality beyond us points to the Author of that reality who we should worship in gratitude. This Author has given us everything we have; we owe our existence to Him. But we are not grateful. We will worship only those things that we can understand, control, or that serve us. We exchange the truth about God for a lie. We worship the creation rather than the Creator.
God does not stand the lie. His wrath is directed towards mankind because we lie. We worship things that are not worthy of worship. God will put a stop to it. It will be stopped either by destroying the liar or transforming him.
God has chosen to transform Mankind. He has chosen to call to himself a people who will be his representatives; who will speak the truth. It is through God’s Special Revelation that we learn of God’s plan to transform man from a liar to a bearer of truth. Special Revelation is God’s declaration of His plan to save Mankind.
Special Revelation is a part of God’s General Revelation. God’s entire created order is his General Revelation, Special Revelation is that part of it that is sanctified [i.e. set apart] to redeem mankind. Without Special Revelation we would be ignorant of God’s plan to save us. God’s Special Revelation comes to us through his direct speech to the Patriarchs, Moses, prophets, and finally through His Son. It is the voice of God that reveals the purposes of God in our redemption, the drama of our redemption as it plays itself out in history, God's imminent final judgment on sin, the person and work of our savior Jesus Christ, God’s instruction to his people for salvation and good works, and God’s final victory.
Special Revelation is compiled into Sacred Scripture, or what we commonly refer to as the Bible. The Bible is an amazing repository of God’s words to Mankind. Its purpose and function is to shake the foundations of our self-centered worldview and direct our gaze to the One who made us. Written over 2000 years, by more than forty authors, and containing sixty-six separate books it maintains a consistency that speaks to its divine Authorship. God uses the human authors as his agents to write a truly divine book with a plot and a narrative that climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament points toward, anticipates, and foreshadows the coming of the Christ. The New Testament reveals the watershed moment when Christ defeats sin and death and secures the redemption of Mankind at the Cross.
God uses the Bible to change the hearts of men and women. His words have been used for centuries to turn hearts towards Him so that we begin to see God as preeminent in all things. When we see God as preeminent, it transforms us. We see our own failings more clearly and we repent. We come to understand our need for a savior and so believe in Christ and His work. Finally, we begin to love and desire the good purposes of God and so we obey Him; seeking to accomplish His purposes in this world. We become God’s representatives of the truth.
Join us in studying this amazing book!