Saturday, February 21, 2009

God’s general revelation of Himself to mankind

When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made and what He has made is not God.

If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.

(“God Incomprehensible”, by A.W. Tozer, from his book “Knowledge of the Holy”)

Basic truth: God has revealed Himself generally to mankind through creation and conscience.

[1] God reveals Himself to mankind through creation.
Psalms 19:1-4

1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.

Romans 1:18-20

18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
[2] God has revealed Himself through man’s conscience.
Romans 2:14 15

14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15. Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
The purposes of general revelation

Through general revelation, men understand that (1) God exists; (2) He is the Creator; and (3) He has established absolute and complete standards of right and wrong which must be obeyed (Romans 1:18-20, and 2:14-15).

General revelation renders men inexcusable before God. When men reject God, they are without excuse because He has clearly revealed Himself to all men (Romans 1:20).

The limits of general revelation

General revelation, however, cannot save. General revelation communicates enough truth about God to make men responsible to seek Him for salvation. However, it does not communicate the content of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15). It communicates only enough truth to condemn men.

On the other hand, man’s conscience is a fallible guide to what is right and wrong.

Mankind responds to general revelation by suppressing it (Romans 1:18).

What about those who have never heard the Gospel?

If a man, looking at nature, the stars, etc. does what is right and wrong according to his conscience, won’t he be saved?

[1] “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

[2] “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Definition of terms

[1] Revelation: in terms of divine revelation, it is God making himself known to the objects of that revelation, e.g., angels and people. The fact that God must make himself known in order for us to know him is necessary since we are finite and he is infinite, and we are sinful and he is holy. (from “Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God?”)

[2] General revelation: God making himself known in creation, providentially orchestrated history, and conscience (i.e., in conjunction with the moral law). Thus, it is general in the sense that it is equally available to all men and women, everywhere, all the time, and is less specific information about God than one acquires in special revelation. Special revelation refers to God making himself known through special acts (e.g., signs and miracles), appearances, Christ, and Scripture. (from “Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God?”)

[3] Mediate general revelation: God reveals Himself through the medium of creation.

[4] Immediate general revelation: God implants in all human beings an innate knowledge of Himself.

[5] Conscience: “the part of you that judges the morality of your own actions and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for.” (from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary )

Further study (Be like the Bereans! Acts 17:11)

[1] Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God? by Greg Herrick Th.M., Ph.D.

[2] The Revelation of Righteousness, by Allen Ross, Th.D., Ph.D.

[2] No Excuse for the Heathen (Romans 1:18-32), by Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M.

Sermons/ illustrations (Be like the Bereans! Acts 17:11)

[1] Are You Ashamed?

[2] God’s Wrath Against Unrighteousness

[3] For other available sermons, please surf to Sermon / Preaching resources. Sermons are also available from South McGehee Baptist Church, McGehee, Arizona; Central Baptist Church, Lowesville; First Baptist Church, Mountain View, Missouri; Swift Creek Baptist Church; Word of Life Baptist Church, Pottsville, Philadelphia; Palm Springs Baptist Church, California; South Woods Baptist Church; Grove Baptist Church, Ulster; Dudley Baptist Church, United Kingdom; Independent Fundamental Baptist Sermons, Fundamental Christian Radio Broadcasts, Off-Site Audio Page and The Christian Radio Tuner

Notes: (1) This blog uses RefTagger. Simply mouse over any verse reference and a popup box will appear with the KJV citation; (2) This ministry does not necessarily endorse or share all the views and opinions expressed in the materials, resources or links mentioned in these posts. Please always refer to the Articles of Faith and Biblical distinctives of Baptists when you study these materials. (3) This lesson is part of the projected 300 plus lessons. From time to time, the lessons will be updated, revised, combined, formatted, and edited to comply with the VOA Simplified English word list. Later on, these lessons will be categorized, numbered sequentially, and made available as PDF downloads.

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