Several weeks ago many of you had the opportunity to be a part of our second night of equipping and training where we talked about “God Did What…?!” During that evening we discussed why some of the bizarre stories in the Old Testament matter and how they also point to the major covenants found throughout the Old Testament. If you did not get a chance to be a part of that evening we have the podcast, notes, and handout online for you to check out. You can find the resources HERE. Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed some of your questions from that evening.
This week marks the final question in our “God Did What…?!” blog series. With this blog we’ve answered six of your most asked questions regarding God and the Bible. We are concluding this blog series with a question several of you asked. One person asked the question this way: “Why is it that God is more direct with people in the Old Testament (i.e. speaking audibly, sending visible angels…), but now it seems that God speaks more indirectly (i.e. Bible, sermons, creation…)?” Quite honestly, this is an excellent and difficult question. At one point or another we’ve all asked God to communicate with us clearly. We’ve wanted to see the burning bush, hear from an angel, or literally just hear a voice from the sky. Why is it that God seems to have communicated more clearly in the Bible than he does now?
To answer this question we need to discuss the theological concept of Revelation. Revelation is the act of God revealing himself to his creation. The Bible speaks of two types of revelation, general and special revelation (while you won’t find these words in the Bible the concepts are there). General revelation refers to God revealing himself to all people at all times in all places. So, for example, things which provide general revelation include nature, history, and our consciences. While general revelation reveals God to his creation, it is not enough to save someone. Rather, what general revelation does do is leave humanity without excuse. Because of general revelation we know that a God exists and because of this we are without excuse for our sin and therefore held accountable for it (see Romans 1:18-23). Special revelation, however, is different. Special revelation is the act of God revealing himself to particular people at a particular time in a particular place. So when we think of special revelation we should think of God revealing more of himself more clearly than before. Therefore miraculous events, visible manifestations, and God’s word are considered special revelation. In particular, the Bible and Jesus are special revelation. While general revelation cannot save someone, special revelation can. With special revelation God reveals his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. If someone repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus, God will save them. The Bible also is special revelation because it too provides greater revelation of who God is, particularly his plan for salvation through Jesus.
The events in both the Old Testament and New Testament constitute special revelation. In these events God revealed more of himself. However, God’s revelation of himself changed drastically with the coming of Jesus, God in flesh. Several places in the Bible speak to this. Colossians 1:18 says “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 declares “he [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Both of these pictures vividly demonstrate that Jesus was and is the best revelation of God. If anyone wants to know who God is they should look to Jesus.
So we come back to our original question. Why does it seem as though God communicated more clearly to those in the Bible than he does now? While it would seem that God did communicate more clearly to the biblical audience, I would say it is actually the other way around. Today God communicates more clearly to his church. The reason for this is threefold.
First, God cannot communicate any clearer than he did than when he sent his son to earth. We know more about who God is because of Jesus than we would have known prior. Jesus demonstrated God’s patience, wisdom, mercy, justice, grace, and love more clearly than any miraculous event or burning bush ever could. Because of who Jesus was and what he did on earth we have a clearer picture of who our God is. Therefore, while we might not hear an audible voice from God or see a burning bush telling us who he is (Exodus 3), we do have Christ who communicates more about God than anything else.
Secondly, we have the full canon of Scripture. During the time of the Old Testament the people of God slowly came to have and know the Old Testament. In fact the Old Testament probably wasn’t completely written until a few hundred years before Jesus. The New Testament community was no different. Their canon was incomplete because they only had the Old Testament. It wasn’t until twenty to thirty years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that the New Testament was beginning to be written. Today, we have the complete canon, both the Old and New Testaments. Therefore we are able to read the full counsel of God from the beginning to the end. So again, while we might not audibly hear God, we learn and know more about God and his desires for our lives through his written Word, the Bible.
Finally, if we know Jesus the Bible says we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Paul says that because we are filled with the Holy Spirit we literally have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). So if the literal presence of God dwells within us then we should be nearer to God and able to hear his voice even more clearly. Again, we might not hear an audible voice, but through the Holy Spirit God speaks to our hearts, teaching us about him and providing direction for our lives in every circumstance. Jesus himself says “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 15:12-13).
So if we want to hear from God we need to first know Jesus and read his Word. While we might not see God face to face or hear his voice through our ears, through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us we can know God intimately and know what he wants for our lives. Do you know Jesus and if so are you listening to him? If you have questions about Jesus or hearing God please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. May we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to hear what God wants to tell us.