“God has graciously disclosed his existence in power in the created order, and has supremely revealed himself to fallen human beings in the person of his Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, this God is a speaking God who by his Spirit has graciously disclosed himself in human words: we believe that God has inspired the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record and means of his saving work in the world.”
In the last few posts we have considered our confession of who God is. The Bible teaches us that God is triune, that He is the Creator of and King over all things, that He is immortal, eternal, and all-knowing, and that He exercises His sovereignty over all things to make sure they reach His good purposes. This post begins to answer this question: How do we know these things about God? Our answer is that we know these things about God, indeed we know God, because God reveals Himself to us in creation and through His Word: Incarnate and written.
As Christians we confess that God is not silent. He has not left us without a record of who He is and what He has done. Rather, we confess that God reveals Himself in creation. With the Psalmist we say that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and with Paul we say that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His 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” (Romans 1:19-20). God also makes Himself known by writing the law on our hearts (cf. Romans 2:15), meaning that we have not only an innate sense of right and wrong according to the law, but that we also have an innate knowledge of the Lawgiver Himself.
So God speaks to us, as it were, in creation, and this speech from God ensures that we know God. But, following Paul, we also confess that “although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). Even though God’s speech gets through to us, we “suppress the truth” in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). This means that we have a real knowledge of God (and are therefore held accountable for our rebellion against Him [cf. Romans 1:20]), but not a saving knowledge of God. When God reveals Himself in creation, we really know Him, but, since we are fallen, we do not really love Him. Another kind of revelation is required for us to love God.
This is why, following the biblical teaching, we confess that God reveals Himself in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” making known to us the Father Himself (John 1:14, 18). By sending us Jesus Christ, God has given us a fuller revelation of Himself than He has done in creation. Moreover, this “fuller revelation” is the climax of God’s speech to us. We see in Scripture that God had revealed Himself “at many times and in many ways” previously, “but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
So when we also confess that God reveals Himself in the written Word, the Old and New Testaments, what we’re really saying is that God speaks to us, through His chosen prophets and in language that we can understand, in the written text of the Bible. We say that this Bible contains both the overarching story of what God has done throughout history to save His people, and also that its message is necessary for us to be saved by Him. This is because the Bible, the written Word, is ultimately about Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. One theologian has said that God “stoops down” to talk baby-talk to us, if you will, so that we might not only know Him, but that through His Son, Jesus Christ, we might love Him as well.
Finally, we confess also that the Holy Spirit is the principal author of Holy Scripture, inspiring the text by working through the authors, using their unique backgrounds and linguistic skills, and ensuring that all of it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). And we should note here at the close that all of God’s revelation, whether in creation or through His Word, is gracious. God does not speak to us because we are inherently deserving of His communication; rather, God speaks to us precisely because He is gracious. The fact that God has made Himself known to us in language we can understand should be cause for celebration! He has not left us to our own devices, He has not left us in the dark, and neither has He forsaken those whom He loves. In love, by grace, and for His glory, He has given us “the sacred writings, which are able to make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
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