The Means of Knowing Truth About God (Theology Proper) Conclusion
Our two previous articles examined the biblical claim that nature (the universe) reveals the existence of a divine being (God) who possesses eternal power. Thus nature is one means that God uses to reveal knowledge concerning Himself to mankind.
Now we will consider other means God uses to reveal such knowledge.
Several biblical passages indicate that God uses history to uncover knowledge.
First, in Exodus 7:4–5, God signified that, through His judgments on Egypt in conjunction with Israel’s Exodus, He would reveal truth about Himself to the Egyptians. Years after Israel left Egypt, statements by the Jericho harlot, Rahab, demonstrated that when God parted the waters of the Red Sea for the people of Israel and enabled them to destroy two Amorite kings, He revealed knowledge concerning Himself to the Canaanites (Josh. 2:9–11).
Second, in Isaiah, God calls the nation of Israel “Israel, my glory” (Isa. 46:13). He also states that He created Israel for His glory (Isa. 43:7) and glorified Himself in Israel (Isa. 44:23). The glory of a person is whatever is impressive or influential concerning that person. Thus, these statements indicate that through Israel, God reveals impressive, influential knowledge about Himself to the rest of the world.
God uncovers this knowledge through His historic dealings with Israel. In Deuteronomy 28, God mapped out His future dealings with the nation from Moses’ time to the Second Coming of the Messiah. In verses 1–14, God promised that, if Israel heeded and obeyed His revealed Word, He would bless it more than any nation. It would be the head nation above all others, not the tail nation (v. 13).
By contrast, in verses 15–68, God warned that, if Israel did not heed and obey His Word, it would experience many curses. For example, God would bring oppressive enemies against the Israelites and scatter them among all the nations. There they would have no permanent rest, would be gripped with fear and sorrow, and would have no assurance of life from day to day.
In verse 10 God states the result of His blessing Israel above all nations, if it would heed and obey His Word: “All people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD.” The Gentile nations would investigate why Israel was blessed more than they and discover that it was because of Israel’s obedience to God.
In verse 37 God states the result of Israel’s experiencing many curses for failing to heed and obey His Word: “Thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations to which the LORD shall lead thee.” The number and nature of the curses would so astonish the Gentile nations that they would regard Israel proverbially as the nation of curses.
These statements indicate that God uses these historic dealings with Israel as object lessons to impress the world with two significant truths concerning Himself: (1) He blesses those who heed and obey His Word; (2) He curses those who do not.
In light of this twofold revelational purpose of God’s historic dealings with Israel and the intended worldwide audience of that revelation, it is no accident that God placed Israel in the most strategic geographical location on Earth in ancient times—the crossroads of three of the world’s great continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe. The nations of the ancient world called that location the navel of the Earth. In addition, it is no accident that Israel was restored as a nation-state to that same location in the 20th century. It is significant that the world’s attention is drawn repeatedly to Israel in the Middle East.
A third biblical passage that indicates God uses history to reveal knowledge is Daniel 4. This chapter records God’s intervention into world events to humiliate Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the most powerful man of his time. Because of this ruler’s arrogant pride, God inflicted him with a mental illness that made him act like an animal. God had an ultimate purpose for this historic event: “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (v. 17). In this instance, God used history to reveal that He is the One who is in sovereign control of human affairs in this world.
The apostle Paul referred to the human conscience in Romans 2:14–15. Every person is born with a conscience; therefore, God can use the conscience to reveal certain truths to all mankind. Through the conscience, God reveals that right and wrong actually exist and that people are responsible for what they do and do not do. The conscience gives people a sense of guilt when they do something contrary to it. It also gives them peace when they act in accordance with it.
Scripture records many miracles that God performed directly or enabled people to perform. Examples include the following: God parted the waters of the Red Sea to enable the Israelites to pass safely from Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula (Ex. 14); He caused the wall of Jericho to fall without the use of siege equipment (Josh. 6); Jesus healed many diseases (Mt. 9:35) and brought dead people back to life (Mk. 5:22–24, 35–43; Jn. 11:1–46); Jesus gave the apostles the ability to heal all types of illness, to cleanse lepers, to cast out demons, and to raise the dead (Mt. 10:1, 8); the Holy Spirit instantly moved Philip bodily from one geographical location to another (Acts 8:39–40); the apostle Paul healed a lame man (Acts 14:8–10). Miracles revealed God’s existence and power. Jesus’ miracles specifically revealed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God (Jn. 20:3–31; Acts 2:22).
Dreams and Visions
In Bible times God occasionally used dreams and visions to uncover knowledge to human beings. Through a dream He gave to King Nebuchadnezzar, God revealed the course of Gentile world domination from the time of ancient Babylon to the Second Coming of the Messiah and the future Kingdom of God (Dan. 2). Through visions given to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and the apostle Peter, God clearly revealed that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
At times, God imparted knowledge to people by speaking directly and audibly to them. Through direct speech, God revealed specific knowledge to Noah concerning the flood and told him how to build the ark (Gen. 6:13—7:4). Through direct speech, He called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt (Ex. 3:1—4:17) and, centuries later, clearly identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God (Mt. 3:17; 17:5).
The Bible records several incidents of God sending angels to deliver specific revelation to people. God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal to Daniel His long-range program for Israel and Jerusalem and the specific time Messiah would be on the earth, officially presenting Himself to Israel as its Prince. Gabriel’s message also revealed Messiah would be cut off with a violent death (Dan. 9:20–27). God also sent Gabriel to inform the virgin Mary that she was the woman whom God had chosen to give birth to the promised Messiah (Lk. 1:26–38). It was an angel who revealed to shepherds the birth and location of the Messiah (Lk. 2:8–16).
The Holy Spirit
God also has delivered significant revelation through the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, God revealed to the apostles and New Testament prophets a body of knowledge that the apostle Paul called “the mystery” that was hidden from mankind prior to apostolic times (1 Cor. 2:6–10; cf. Eph. 3:3–9). Jesus declared that the Comforter—the Holy Spirit— would make the unsaved world aware of its sin, its need for righteousness, and its future judgment (Jn. 16:7–11). Jesus also indicated that, during the corporate lifetime of His apostles who were with Him in the upper room, the Holy Spirit would uncover to them “all truth,” all the teaching the Lord wanted the church to have (Jn. 14:26; 16:12–15).
In Bible times God also used prophecy to uncover knowledge. Through the prophet Moses, God revealed how He would deal with the nation of Israel throughout its history (Dt. 28—30). God sent a prophet to the Israelites to reveal the reason for their severe oppression by the Midianites (Jud. 6:7–10). Through the New Testament prophet Agabus, God foretold the coming of a great famine (Acts 11:27–28).
The Scriptures are an extensive means of revelation of God’s truth to mankind. They present all that people need to know about God in order to be saved, to live godly lives, and to minister effectively (2 Tim. 3:15–17). It is significant that the longest chapter in the Bible (Ps. 119) is devoted to the importance of the Scriptures. God required the leaders of Israel to read and meditate on the Scriptures daily (Dt. 17:18–20; Josh. 1:8).
The Historic Life of Christ
The historic life of Jesus Christ on Earth was an incredible revelation of God to mankind. The apostle John indicated this fact when he called Christ “the Word” (Jn. 1:1, 14). John’s point was that Jesus Christ had the same function as words. Just as words constitute the outward expression of invisible thoughts, so Jesus Christ, through His life on Earth, constituted the outward, visible expression of invisible God the Father to mankind (Jn. 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17). Jesus indicated the same thing when He said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). Paul taught that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); and the writer of Hebrews declared that Jesus, as God’s Son, was “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3).
The Christian’s Life
Since Christians, as God’s spiritual children, have been made partakers of God’s holy nature (2 Pet. 1:4), we are to reveal that nature through our world-life view, values, and lifestyle (1 Pet. 1:14–16; 2:9–12). For this reason, Jesus told believers, “Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14, 16). The apostle Paul told church saints that they are Christ’s letter to the world, “known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2).
God, indeed, has used various means to reveal the reality of His existence and other knowledge concerning Himself to mankind. Future articles will examine what that other knowledge tells us about God.