Knowledge is essential to life. Imagine not knowing how to drive a car, how to use a microwave, or tell time. Think of what it would be like if you were illiterate. We would be severely hindered, limited, and handicapped in our ability to live. Therefore, knowledge of God is of the utmost importance. If there is a loving God we should expect that He would reveal to us the knowledge we need to know in order to be in a right relationship with Him. He does in two ways:
1) Natural Revelation
Natural revelation is defined as that knowledge which is available to all people simply because they live on earth.
The Bible declares that the heavens (or universe) declare God’s handiwork (Psalms 19:1-6). Ancient man could simply look to the sky and understand there had to be some sort of supernatural being. A 5-minute meditation on the vastness of our universe opens our hearts to this understanding. Now, with modern scientific discoveries, we have a plethora of information about our universe that continues to support the claim of Psalm 19. This leads us to our next point.
The Bible also says certain aspects of God’s nature can be clearly seen through that which has been made (Romans 1:20). Any person can look into nature and see the depths of the ocean, the height of the sky, the power of a flood, and understand the creature of all this has to be extremely powerful. They can also examine the design of the universe or of biological life and see His creativity.
The Lord has also put a sense of morality on the hearts of all men (Romans 2:14-15). No matter what culture you study everyone has a sense of morality. We may disagree on certain aspects but we still all have some sense of right and wrong. This sense can become distorted through sin but even Hitler thought it was “right” to create a superior race.
Natural revelation can be examined through our 5 senses and our reason. Scientific discoveries continue to show the power & creativity of God. Our Reason helps us to know there had to be a creator. For example: If everything that begins to exist needs a cause and the universe began to exist then it needed a cause outside of itself. Another example is, if all laws need a lawgiver and we all inherently have a sense of moral law then there is a moral lawgiver.
But natural revelation is limited. We can see only certain aspects of God’s nature but not the complete picture. The universe can declare His power and creativity but it cannot declare His grace; this only comes through the next means of revelation. To those who continue to seek (Luke 11:9-10) after the knowledge of God He will lead them to His Word Revelation.
2) Word Revelation
Word Revelation is when God communicates knowledge to man; the sort of knowledge we wouldn’t be able to surmise without His communication. For example, we wouldn’t know angels existed by looking at natural revelation but we would if God told us there were such beings.
Christians believe that today the Bible is the only source we can be absolutely certain that God has given us a Word Revelation. Earlier we said the Bible is a collection of 66 Books, all inspired by God, to tell us His story. Thus, it was given to us in order to answer the main questions of life:
• How did we get here? (Genesis 1-2; Psalms 139:13-16; John 1:1-3)
• Who is God? (Exodus 34:6-7; John 3:16; Isaiah 6:3; 1st Samuel 15:22)
• Why am I here? (Ecclesiastes 12:1-3; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:13-16)
• What is my final destiny? (2nd Peter 3:10-14; John 5:28-29)
Take note that the Bible does not contain all knowledge of reality. It is not a scientific textbook, a philosophy textbook, or a study on the history of the world. The purpose of the book is to tell us God’s plan for Redeeming man. It gives us the information we need in order to be saved (2nd Timothy 3:15) and tells us how He expects us to live (Ephesians 2:10).
Understanding God’s Word Revelation
The Bible is unlike any other book for it has a divine source. We do not study it for information purposed only but for transformation. This is done through not just reading but meditating on its precepts (Psalms 119:48). But how can we meditate on them if we don’t understand them? Even thought the Bible has a divine source it is still a book! We study it with the same techniques we would any other book for God did write it in intelligible human language.
The key is to keep it in context. Imagine you overheard a conversation and someone said, “And then Bob cut my wife’s abdomen wide open.” You might Bob is a sadistic man who needs to be locked up with the key thrown away. Upon further context you realize Bob is a doctor at hospital and the man’s wife was having a C-section. Context is everything.
Therefore, when you sit down to read the Bible make sure you pick one of the books of the Bible, begin at chapter 1 verse 1 and read it all the way through. If you received a letter from a loved one in the mail you wouldn’t skip to page 2 paragraph 4 line 7 and expect to understand the whole letter.
So what principles do we use?
- Who is speaking?
Did you know the Bible says, “There is no God”? If you were to read Psalm 14:1, though, you would see that quote comes from a fool. It makes a difference who is talking.
- Who are they speaking to?
The book of Leviticus is addressed to the Priests of Israel, the book of Ezekiel is addressing the Nation of Israel as they are in exile, and the book of Romans is addressed to the church in Rome. Some commands are not meant for you. For example; God once gave a command to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). Upon further examination we see God gave that as a specific command to the prophet Hosea to use it as an object lesson. The point was Israel was like the prostitute and God is like Hosea; He continues to be faithful when she is not. It would be a grave error to take this as a universal command!
- In what Testament was the command given?
Some of the commands in the Bible are not meant for us today. Some are only meant for the nation of Israel (Exodus 34:27). At one point God commanded the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8) but later He said Christians don’t have to obey it (Colossians 2:16). If we don’t understand the different periods of the Bible then we will heap unnecessary burdens upon ourselves. The Bible says we are to make a distinction between the OT & NT (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Only the NT shows us the way to obey the Gospel so we can have salvation in Christ. But as we said earlier the OT is beneficial for it points us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25).
- Are there cultural features that would clarify this command?
God commanded the Israelites to refrain from shaving certain parts of their head (Deuteronomy 14:1; Leviticus 21:5). God is not against certain hairstyles. He is against any practices that are associated with the occult. This leads us to our next question.
- What is the universal principle?
Lets take the last example of God forbidding certain shavings of the head. That is the command but what is the principle? When we discover that it has to do with distancing Israel from being associate with occult practices we can see the point. The universal principle is this; don’t practice things that would associate you with idolatry or occult practices. Therefore, today we would apply that to tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes, psychic hotlines, etc… Every command, statement, or story in the Bible might not be directed specifically for us but we can still draw universal principles from it which can be applied to us.
We said earlier that the Bible is a collection of 66 different books. These books have different authors who range from shepherds, doctors, priests, farmers, prophets, kings, fishermen, to tax-collectors. They wrote over a 1500 year period (from Moses to the Apostles), on three different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe), and in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). There are all sorts of different genre in these texts. There is Law, Poetry, History, Prophecy, Teaching, Parables, etc… You wouldn’t read a biography of George Washington in the same way you read a poem from Kipling! These text use all the literary devices such as Allegories, Sarcasm, Irony, Similes, Metaphors, Anthropomorphism, Chiasms, Euphemism, Hyperbole, Personification, etc… God doesn’t really have an arm (Jeremiah 21:5) and Wisdom isn’t really a person (Proverbs 8). Therefore, we cannot simply take the Bible literally. If by that we exclude the use of these different types of human speech devices. We take the Bible for the intent of the original authors.