The purpose, goal and benefits of the bible – Part 3
The psalmist (Ps 19:1) saw God’s glory through the spectacles of special revelation. What the psalmist saw was objectively and genuinely there. We can rephrase these observations to say all that can be known about God in a natural sense has been revealed in nature. This is what we call natural or general revelation. General revelation is universal, in the sense that it is God’s self-disclosure of Himself in a general way to all people at all times in all places. General revelation occurs (1) through nature, (2) in our experience and in our conscience, and (3) in history.
In the wonders of the heavens and in earth’s beauty God manifests Himself. Jesus taught that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45), thus revealing His goodness to all. “The living God, Who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them … did not leave Himself without a witness, since He did good: giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and satisfying your hearts with food and happiness” (Acts 14:15-17). God makes Himself known in the continuing care and provision for mankind. The universe, as a whole, serves the Creator’s purposes as a vehicle of God’s self-manifestation.
God also reveals Himself in men and women. They are made in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Humans, as God’s direct creation, are a mirror or reflection of God. People are God’s unique workmanship, evidenced by their place of dominion over the rest of creation; in their capacity to reason, feel, and imagine; in their freedom to act and respond; and in their sense of right and wrong (Gen 1:28; Rom. 2:14-15). Especially through this moral sense, God reveals Himself in the consciences of men and women. The fact that religious belief and practice is universal confirms the apostle’s statements in Rom 2. Yet the creatures who worship, pray, build temples, idols and shrines, and seek after God in diverse ways do not glorify God as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21-23).
Nevertheless, because each person has been given the capacity for receiving God’s general revelation, they are responsible for their actions. God manifests Himself in the workings of history. All of history, rightly understood, bears the imprint of God’s activity and thus has a theological character. Primarily, God is revealed in history through the rise and fall of peoples and nations (see Acts 17:22-31).
God’s general revelation is plain, whether in nature, in human conscience, or in history. Even though it is plain, it is often misinterpreted because sinful and finite humans are trying to understand a perfect and infinite God. What we have seen so far is compatible with the following:
• Religious belief is a nearly universal human phenomenon, even in the conscience of self-deluded atheists.
• Such religious belief is implanted by God.
• People ought to acknowledge God on the basis of what they learned from the world around them.
• People believe in God and show their belief, even though they do not admit it.
• No one, no matter how seemingly insignificant or weak-minded, can be excused for missing God’s revelation.
The light of nature is not sufficient to give the knowledge of God necessary for salvation.
For God’s power (Rom. 1:20), goodness (Matt. 5:45), and righteousness (Rom. 2:14-15) have been revealed but not His salvific grace.
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