Revelation and its Course
This is a reminder of the fact of "progressive revelation". However, there is no such thing as "continuous revelation". The canon of divine revelation is complete, as Paul reveals: "But when that which is perfect (complete) has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1 Cor 13.10).
There was no further need for the temporary gifts as the context indicates. It was given to Paul "to fulfil (fill up) the word of God". This was in relation to the truth concerning the Church (Col 1.25-26), "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God [or to make the word of God fully known]; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints". It was left to John the apostle to complete truth relative to "the things to come". Jude wrote of "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (v.3).
Isaiah 55.8-11 points out the fact that God has spoken. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (v.11). Speech is the fullest and the most flexible means of communication. The only way one can tell what is going on in the mind of another is by speech. Isaiah also says, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven...watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word..." (vv.10-11).
Notice the second reference to "heaven" and "earth". It is because the heavens are higher than the earth that the rain comes down to water the earth. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (v.11). This is similar to what Isaiah said in 40.5: " the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it". There he is referring to one of his own oracles, but describes it as a message coming out of the mouth of God. This is exactly what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3.16: "All scripture is breathed out by God..." (ESV).
God has spoken in human words. The Bible was written through human agents. Sixty-six books, written by about forty writers drawn from all walks of life were written over a period of approximately 1,600 years. They wrote the very words of God, and some of these authors were separated by 1,500 miles. The opening verses of Lukes Gospel are most appropriate: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Lk 1.1-4).
These verses show the necessity of a written revelation. The beautiful and classical words with which Luke introduces his Gospel may be taken as representative of the whole concept of the appropriateness of divine revelation. By recording the facts in writing, guidance and instruction for each successive generation has been secured. "For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know..." (Ps 78.5-6).
A written revelation is indispensable. In Hebrews we read that "God spake unto the fathers by the prophets" (1.1), and in 2 Peter "holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (1.21). Both of these aspects are true.
- The means of the knowledge of God is revelation, i.e. the Bible.
- The Word of God is a transcript of the mind of God. The Faith, the thing to be believed, "The faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude v.3), is the entire extent and content of Scripture.
- The knowledge of God imparted in His Word is an organic whole.
- There is one central revelation for all, not a separate revelation for each. The Bible does not contain the Word of God; it is the Word of God.
Revelation and its Contents
The following outline is suggested:
- Genesis to Deuteronomy: Patriarchal - Revelation
- Joshua to Esther: Chronological - Preparation
- Job to Song of Songs: Poetical - Aspiration
- Isaiah to Malachi: Prophetical - Expectation
- Matthew to Acts: Historical - Manifestation
- Romans to Jude: Doctrinal - Realisation
- The Revelation: Apocalyptical - Culmination.
Revelation and its Concentration (Purpose)
Central to the vast revelation of the mind of God in Scripture is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the key to its structure, unity, and purpose. He is the Christ of prophecy, history, and destiny. His all-pervading presence makes it one book - one revelation.
Many years ago, Dr A J Gordon of Boston, USA presented his children with a somewhat elaborately dissected map (like a jig-saw puzzle). He instructed them not to try to put it together any way, only the right way, as to do so would break and spoil it. He returned a short time later, and to his surprise the map was put together perfectly. And just as Isaac had said to Jacob, Dr Gordon responded, "How is it that thou hast thou found it so quickly, my son?" (Gen 27.20). His boy replied, "Father, there is a man on the back of it!" Sure enough, there was a figure of a man painted on the back for some publishing purpose and the children had discovered a head, foot, ear, and eye, and so had simply put the map together.
There is a Man who is at the centre of divine revelation: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself" (Lk 24.27). This is why God has spoken, but, wonder of wonders, unworthy sinners have been saved, enlightened, and uniquely linked up with the "Man of divine purpose". The church, Israel, and the nations have found a privileged place in the outworking of that purpose.
Returning to the text in Isaiah 55.10-11, it is noted that the rain and snow coming down from heaven accomplished a purpose on earth. Isaiah is very clearly showing that in a spiritual sense the going forth of the word of God will accomplish Gods intention. Creation certainly displays Gods skill, power, and faithfulness, but only the inspired Scriptures tell out His plan and purpose in salvation.
To be continued.