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Reason or Revelation? (1)

J McCall, Australia

(Scripture References: Is 55.8-11; Lk 1.1-4; 24.27; Rom 3-5; 1 Cor 2.4-16; 2 Tim 3.13-17; 2 Pet 1.17-21; Rev 22.18.)

This study considers seven aspects of divine revelation.

Revelation and its Character

In the year 2009, when the Word of God is being blatantly questioned and its truth denied, it is imperative that we ask ourselves: Upon what are we prepared to rest our faith, and our future? In AD 57, there arose a tumult in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19.23-41). It was a mob scene involving the entire city. For two long hours the riotous masses chanted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians". Finally, the city clerk managed to quieten the mob, for he knew that the Roman Empire took a dim view of such riots. It was a mixture of religion, superstition, drunkenness, and debauchery. Behind the riot was a man called Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Diana, but his lucrative business was being affected. The reason for the downturn in his idol-making business was the amazing results in the lives of many of the Ephesians through the preaching of a humble tent-maker from Tarsus. His preaching caused many to turn to God in repentance and faith, throwing away their idols.

At the conclusion of this event (v.32) we see something extremely interesting. "Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together". In spite of their apparent unity, we clearly observe a scene of total upheaval and discord. How typical of the results of man’s reasoning and Satan’s strategy. One great design of Satan is to darken or distort teaching relative to the knowledge of God and the body of revealed truth. He creates confused thinking and is the author of the idea that definiteness of belief is impossible. It is vitally important that believers rest their faith and their future upon divine revelation.

The three major opponents of divine revelation are orthodoxy (religious tradition), expediency (accommodating belief to behaviour), and philosophy (the warped thinking of unregenerate intellectuals). What, then, is Revelation as opposed to religion and rationalism? Revelation is the disclosure of truth; the unveiling of God’s mind and purpose. The term is expressive of the fact that God has made known to mankind truths and realities that cannot be discovered by human ingenuity. How has God made Himself known to mankind? And how has He revealed His holy mind? He has done this by:

The Testimony of Creation (Ps 19; Rom 1.19,20)

The physical universe is a manifestation of the glory and majesty of God. The voice of creation proclaims eloquently to created beings the fact of His existence.

The Testimony of Intuition and Conscience

Men and women possess the faculty of reflection and have the ability to think in an orderly way, enabling them to deduce that One of infinite power made all things. Conscience provides the ability to know the difference between right and wrong, leading to the recognition of a moral Governor, God Himself.

The Testimony of Revelation

First, through the Son. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (Jn 1.18). This does not refer to a place that He left, but a relationship that He always enjoyed. This expression, "which is in the bosom of the Father", employs the present participle in its timeless sense, indicating not time but nature. One has said that "Christ came forth from the Father’s bosom without ever leaving it": "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son". This is a full and final revelation.

Second, through the Scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim 3.16). This verse teaches that God was actively involved in the revelation of His truth to the prophets and apostles who wrote it down.

There exists a vital and necessary relationship between the Living Word and the written word. 1 Corinthians 2.9-16 and 2 Peter 1.19-21 combine to unfold the great facts of revelation, inspiration, and illumination. It is essential to observe the clear distinction between them.


Paul explains revelation: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2.9-10). "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him [Is 64.4] - these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (ESV).

i. "Eye hath not seen" - human observation could find nothing here.

ii. "Nor ear heard" – human tradition could not impart such truth.

iii. "Neither have entered into the heart of man" - human intuition could never imagine the wisdom of God.

But God has by revelation communicated the entire body of truth; He has disclosed His mind and purpose that otherwise could not be known. Revelation has to do with its source.

Inspiration is explained in 1 Corinthians 2.13: "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual", or "communicating spiritual things by spiritual words" (W Kelly). This means the process by which divine revelation was given. Each word of the original Scriptures is a perfect expression of the divine thought.

Illumination is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that enables believers to understand what has already been revealed in the written Word. This is explained in 1 Corinthians 2.12: "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God", first in relation to prophets and apostles, but inclusive of all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus, in Luke 24.32,45, opened "their understanding" of the Scriptures. In like manner, believers today can know these in proportion as they are willing to be taught and led by the Spirit of God.

The three great facts of illumination, revelation, and inspiration, are also underscored by Peter: "This is my beloved Son in whom I have found my delight. And this voice we heard uttered from heaven when we were with him on the holy mount. We have also the prophetic word confirmed, to which ye do well in taking heed (as to a lamp that shineth in an obscure place, until the day dawn and the morning star ariseth) in your hearts; knowing this first that no prophecy of Scripture is of its own interpretation, for no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1.16-21, F W Grant).

Illumination - verse 19

The Old Testament prophetic word was like a lamp in a dark, squalid place. Though the world is darkened by sin, God’s Word, pointing to the future, lights up the way for the believer, and will continue to do so until the Morning Star rises. In other words, the truths in the Bible will continue to point to the source of all truth, the Lord Jesus Christ, until He returns in power and great glory.

It is necessary to point out the very important statement at the beginning of v.19: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy", or "We have the prophetic word as a surer confirmation". As vivid as an eye witness account may be (vv.16-18), there is an even stronger confirmation as to the Person of the Lord Jesus. The written Scriptures are even more trustworthy than the personal experience on the holy mount.

Revelation - verse 20

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet 1.20). This has been suggested to mean that, "Scripture should not be interpreted according to one’s own liking". It is better to understand it to mean that "the prophecies did not originate with the prophets themselves". This statement is not describing what it is, but how it came. It is referring to the source of the Scriptures; the writings of the prophets came from God - hence the character of divine revelation.

Inspiration - verse 21

"...but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet 1.21). The human writers were controlled, impelled, or borne along by the divine Author. Yet they were consciously involved in the process; they were neither taking dictation nor writing in a state of ecstasy. Thus we are nurtured through the Word as well as being confirmed in our spirits and minds – for they are the very words of God, just as 2 Timothy 3.16 indicates: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed)".

To be continued.


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