God Has Spoken
The best way to really know someone is for them to tell you about themselves, assuming, of course, that what they tell you is true. When someone discloses their secrets—when they reveal what they honestly think and feel—you begin to know them more deeply.
Do you want to know God? Look to His revelation of Himself in creation, in Scripture, and in Jesus Christ.
It's something like this with God, only much more so. It's possible to learn about another person by snooping to find out things they would rather keep hidden, but when it comes to God, there is no such thing as discovering secrets. Romans 1:19 tells us "what can be known about God" is known "because [He] has shown it." We are entirely dependent on God's self-revelation to know anything about Him, and anything beyond what He chooses to reveal remains His secret (Deut. 29:29). We can only ever know what God discloses to us, and if He had not spoken, we could not know Him at all.
General Revelation—Impossible to Miss
But God has spoken! He speaks, first, in a way that announces His existence and something of His nature to every person. God created the world; He cares for it; He directs its history—and everybody sees it. Psalm 19 says the sky tells of God's glory and power, and all the earth hears it. When God sends rain and sunshine to grow crops, He is declaring His own existence and goodness by providing the food we all eat (Acts 14:17). These acts of God are general revelation because they send a message around the world, proclaiming everywhere that there is a God and everyone should worship Him.
General revelation also includes what God tells us about Himself through our inborn sense of right and wrong. "The law written on [our] hearts" (Rom. 2:14–15) is a reflection of God's own character, so our consciences gives us knowledge of God, along with knowledge of our obligations to Him, too.
Unfortunately, general revelation isn't enough for us, because as fallen people, we do our best to stifle its message. What God tells us in creation may be impossible to miss, but that doesn't keep us from trying to convince ourselves we can't see it.
What's more, general revelation teaches us that we have a duty to obey God, and along with the knowledge of our duty to obey comes the knowledge (if we are honest with ourselves!) that we haven't obeyed. General revelation is good for showing us our problem, but it doesn't tell us the solution. It can—and does—condemn us, but it can't unlock the secret of God's forgiveness.
Special Revelation—Sufficient to Save
To know God's forgiveness, we need God's own words. We need the special revelation found in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit moved the human authors of Scripture to write what they did (2 Pet. 1:21). The process is mysterious, but the bottom line is that the authors of the Bible are speaking from God, telling us again what we should already know from general revelation, and adding more, explaining God, His plan, and His work more completely.
The centerpiece of special revelation—the focus of all of Scripture—is the unfolding story of redemption. Scripture explains how God can offer us forgiveness and what our response should be. That's why Paul says that Scripture can "make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15). Or, to put it another way, all of Scripture is the story of Jesus Christ, who came as the Old Testament promised, and gave Himself to redeem us as the New Testament explains.
Son Revelation—The Story of Scripture
And Jesus Christ is God's final revelation. "In these last days," says Hebrews 1:2, "God has spoken to us by his Son." The incarnate Son shows us God in a form we can see—or at least in a form those who were with Him during His life on earth could see, and a form those who live afterwards, like we do, can see described in the New Testament.
God's special revelation in Scripture and His ultimate revelation in the Son are tied together and can't be separated. The Old Testament sets the stage for the Son revelation, and the New Testament is a record and explanation of it. In Scripture God tells us of the Son through whom He finally and fully speaks.
God's Revelation—Source of Truth
Since God's own revelation should be the source of all theology, "God Has Spoken" is first in this series of Theology for Everyday Life. What God has spoken is foundational to everything else. We could know nothing about God, His works, or ourselves in relation to Him unless He disclosed it to us.
Do you want to know God? Look to His revelation of Himself in creation, in Scripture, and in Jesus Christ. The God who speaks has spoken to us, telling us everything we need to know about Him, and what we need to know about ourselves, too.
Heavenly Father, thank You for speaking so that we can know you truly. Give us a desire to read and study Your words recorded for us in Scripture, and keep us satisfied with what You have revealed to us there. In Jesus' name, amen.