We believe that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God, the final authority for faith and life. God’s revelation in the Old Testament through creation and the covenant was a preparation for the supreme revelation through Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
One of the very encouraging aspects of the Christian faith is that we worship a God who doesn’t make us guess at who he is and how we relate to him. The Christian faith is certainly about the God who reveals Himself to us.
Theologically we say that God has revealed Himself to us in two unique ways, one is through universal or general revelation, and the other through particular or special revelation.
Psalm 19:1, 2 classically declares God’s universal or general self-revelation, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Add to this Paul’s perspective (Romans 1:20), “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that we are without excuse.”
At a very minimum, God speaks to us about himself and his relationship with us simply by what he’s created around us. Ironically, many people see God’s self-revelation through creation yet conclude that there is no God. This is attributable to either ignorance, or to willful blindness. The point is, simply observing creation ought to provide us with enough evidence to conclude that we are not the product of random chance, but rather that of an intelligent creator. Is this enough?
God cares deeply about His relationship with us and so He doesn’t stop at a universal or general revelation. He also reveals Himself to us through particular or special revelation. Millard Erickson has a good definition, “By special revelation we mean God’s manifestation of himself to particular persons at definite times and places, enabling those persons to enter into a redemptive relationship with him.” The Bible is full of stories of real historical people who encountered God and to who He revealed Himself. The Bible is also full of speeches to people that come directly from God.
Everybody must at some point come to terms with the Bible. Why? Because of what it says. In 1966, Carl F. H. Henry observed, “Human beings cannot escape the presupposition (assumption) that truth exists. Wherever they take this presupposition seriously, and seek the whole truth, they must contend with the truth of God, and the God of truth.” But who says the Bible is truth? Jesus
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sets the tone. When he prays for the disciples He makes this request to God His Father (John 17:17), “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.” God invites us to receive His Word as objective truth and act on it.
We believe the Bible is the written record of God’s self-revelation to us. Is the Bible designed to tell us absolutely everything there is to know about God? No. God is an eternal, holy, infinite being whose person transcends our finite mind’s ability to grasp fully. Yet what the Bible does say is that we can know enough of him so that we can make wise choices and enter into relationship with him (Proverbs 1:7).
Some people see the Bible as simply a book much like any other. But it makes two claims on which everyone must make a decision. Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for every good work.” Peter said, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
These two Bible verses declare a concept we hold near and dear to our hearts, God has revealed himself uniquely through the pages of Scripture. The Bible doesn’t contain our thoughts about God, rather it is about God revealing Himself to us and telling us what He thinks. And He communicates his inspired thoughts through the various human writers we find in it. So, the Bible certainly involves human writers, but the ultimate author is God Himself. And as such we believe that what the Bible communicates to us, it does so infallibly. Technically we call this verbal plenary inspiration. This is hard to comprehend, but it says something important about God. He loves us and deeply desires to make himself known to us.
Then of course the most powerful demonstration of God’s self-revelation comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Describing Jesus, John’s gospel speaks with absolute clarity (John 1:14), “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:1-3a) adds, “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. He is the exact representation of his nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
Why this matters to us
So, why does all this matter? Erickson hits the nail on the head. Redemption is the goal of God’s self-revelation. God’s communication to us has as its ultimate goal our coming to know God and his plan for us and our redemption from sin. Added to this, let’s return to Henry’s observation, does truth exist? I mean is there an objective yardstick by which we can measure whether something is true or not? For the subjects addressed in the Bible this is not a question with minor consequences. We live in an age where the objectivity of truth has not only been severely challenged, but effectively stabbed in the heart. What are the implications for us concerning God’s
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self-revelation as truth we need to read and heed? If what God has revealed is objectively true, we have lots to think about, and serious decisions to make.
- God says he made us as the pinnacle of his creation (Genesis 1, 2). We matter to God.
- God says we messed up, we sinned, by rejecting his instruction choosing instead to follow our own path rather than his (Genesis 3). We became separated from God.
- God says that we face judgement because of our sin. Sin cannot exist or abide in God’s presence unchallenged, and undealt with (Genesis 3).
- God says that while we face judgement for our sin, he put into motion a plan for our redemption (John 3:16). He sent His Son Jesus to die for us so that through faith in Jesus alone as the one who guarantees eternal life, we can receive everlasting life.
- God says He is going to one day recreate everything when Jesus returns to gather for eternity those who have believed Him by faith (Revelation)
God has certainly revealed Himself to us, the question is, how are we responding to Him?
Dale Dueck, Pastor
Winkler EMM Church, Manitoba
Member of EMMC Theology and Ministry Committee
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 4 of 12-part series
November / December 2014 The Recorder