THE REVELATION OF GOD – 3
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
The Bible Reveals God
In our first lesson, REV. 1, we made plain the difference between our denominational friends and the churches of Christ in reference to the work of the Holy Spirit. Many of them believe the Holy Spirit converts men outside of the Gospel. We believe that the Holy Spirit converts men through the Gospel. Why do you read the Bible? For its poetry, its history, its law? Do you read it expecting that God will impart His Spirit to make it true, and to enable you to understand it? If so, you read it like an infidel, for he does not believe that God is in it; and if He is not in the Bible (as some seem to think), if the Holy Spirit is not in it until He imparts additional power, it is devoid of inherent truth, and is no more the revelation of God than the productions of men. Is the Bible as it is the word of God? If not, it is not worthy of our time and attention.
We closed REV. 1 with this thought-provoking question: Why are the thoughts, the works, and the productions of men insufficient to save us? One of you rightly wrote and said because of the teachings of Jeremiah 10:23 and John 14:6. Man’s ways are also insufficient to save because they are only the achievements of human minds; and the deepest philosophy, the grandest poetry, or the most beautiful system of religion, that bears only the impress of human intellect, can never lift us higher or make us better than the mind from which it originates.
Why, therefore, do we consider the Bible such an important book? Answer: Because it presents to us the thoughts of the mind of God, and proposes to lift us up to Him. How many of you really and unqualifiedly believe that the Bible is the word of God, the revelation of God? How many of you are willing to receive it as a message from Him, as a perfect and beautiful portraiture of the Divine mind? How many of you read it simply as a law book, and not the bright and smiling face of the loving Father? How many of you are willing and ready to lay it aside for the mysterious, the speculative, or the uncertain? O for a deeper, stronger and more abiding confidence in the living word of the living God!
The will of God is not the expression of despotic power, but the revelation of a Being of infinite power, wisdom and goodness. The plan of salvation is not only the revelation of a nicely constructed system, but also the manifestation of a Father of boundless sympathy, love and mercy; the adaptation of God to the wants and to the understanding of men. As the sun bursts in glorious splendor through the rifted clouds and fills the world with light, so God, yes God shines through the Bible, His own word, "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 6). We have affirmed that it is impossible to separate God and the Bible; that you cannot accept one and reject the other, or reject one and honor the other. Do you ask for proof? To the proof let us turn:
The nations that are destitute of the Bible
worship many gods. They are without hope and without God in the world
(Eph. ). The Grecians were among the enlightened
nations of the past. They were wise in philosophy, government, and
oratory. Yet it is said that they worshipped many thousand gods. The
Jews had the oracles of God (
If God is revealed in the truth, if His presence keeps it alive, does not He work in us through it (Eph. 1:18‑23)? His thoughts turn our thoughts heavenward (Isaiah 55:7‑9; 2 Cor. 10:4-5); His facts or truths unlock our understanding (Luke 24:45); His commandments conquer our stubborn resistance (1 Pet. ); His promises lift us into a higher life (2 Pet. 1:4). It seems to me that people who appeal from the Bible and ask for the knowledge of salvation from heaven, are not only guilty of insulting the revelation that God has made of Himself, but of treason of the blackest form against the very foundations of His government.
What is meant by our assertion that God reveals Himself to man through the Bible? We will endeavor to enlarge the thought, and make it plain even to the most careless observer. Does the Bible reveal God’s person, or His attributes? Answer: Both. Is He capable of sympathizing with suffering sons of men? The Bible answers: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Ps. 103:13). Is He a Father? The Bible answers: "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust” (Matt. ). Is He strong and wise? The Bible answers: "Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any; He is mighty in strength and wisdom” (Job 36:5). His fatherly feeling for His suffering creatures shines through all His ways. His wisdom is proclaimed in every message of the Bible, for no one but the God of truth, knowledge, and wisdom could have arranged such a plan as it unfolds.
Do you say the Bible is the work of man? If so, its author is great enough to be a God! The Bible reveals the God of infinite power, of inexhaustible wisdom, of unceasing goodness. Man is limited in power; circumscribed by mental and physical frailties; full of imperfections. Could he invent such a God, as the Bible makes known? The God of the Bible knows all things, and therefore makes no mistakes. Man does not know anything; there is a mystery, deep, unfathomable and eternal behind everything he professes to know. Could he imagine a God who comprehends all mystery; to whom darkness is as bright as the day? NO SIR!
If man were perfect he could of his own power imagine or invent a perfect ideal, and if one man had written the whole of the Bible, our minds might grasp the idea that he originated it. But when we reflect that it was written by thirty‑six men, during a period of sixteen hundred years, and that it harmonizes in all its parts; and when we further reflect that they lived in different ages, surrounded by different circumstances, we are driven to the irresistible conclusion that it is not the work of man, unassisted by the Lord.
All history sustains these declarations, for the gods of men are nothing more than the offspring of sinful hearts and clouded imaginations. You may aggregate the gods of the heathen of all ages and countries, and combine all that is attributed to each into one grand ideal, and he will be like the source from which he came, impotent, sensual, and earthly. It is, therefore, undeniable that the Bible is the Revelation of God, of His power, of His wisdom, of His glory, of His presence.
From Adam's transgression downward, man's corrupted mind, frail body, and breaking heart cried out after God. Man needs a power above himself; a god he will have. Sin was a dark and stormy gulf, whose waves chanted the notes of despair. On one side, man sinned, suffered and died. On the other, full of love and compassion, shone the majesty and glory of God. Man was unable to cross these turbulent waters. God, out of pity and love, would not, for His presence is a consuming fire (Heb.12: 20-29); and no sinner can see His face and live. Hence, the first revelations of His person were vague, indistinct, and unsatisfactory. In this way He appeared to Jacob (Gen. 28:11‑28), and many others who lived in the patriarchal times. Man at that time could not endure more.
See the little drop of water resting in the bosom of the ocean wave. God wants it. Does He send an angel to lift it up and help it on its mission of mercy? No, He sends a golden sun‑ray to warm it, to expand it, to spread light through it, and, wonder of wonders!! it begins to rise. Did God send an angel to lift man up to nobility of character? By no means. He gave him a promise, a vague and imperfect outline of Himself, far away in the dim distance. Man’s heart began to get warm, his mental vision began to brighten, and his aspirations began to grasp after the pure, the good - the everlasting.
Moses saw Him in the burning bush (Ex. 3:1‑6), but this did not satisfy the longings of his mind. It was only a faint reflection of his majesty and power. Hence Moses said: “If I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way." The Lord answered this by promising to be with him and give him rest. This did not meet his wants, for he desired to see God. And he replied: "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory." The Lord answered: "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock; and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen” (Ex. 33:12-33).
The Lord was with them, for it is said that when the tabernacle was completed: "A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Indeed, the entire Mosaic system teaches that God was present to bless them. They were honored above all nations of the ancient times; yet how few of them possessed a clear conception of the love and purity of God. They had law, statutory and ceremonial; LAW IN ABUNDANCE; but in their imperfect understanding of the truth, much of their work became mechanical, lifeless, and unacceptable.
True, they saw the glory of God when Sinai's cloud‑capped and hoary summit echoed His mighty footsteps, thundered His existence through every heart, and painted consternation on every face. But this demonstration, awful as it was, did not reveal His love, nor enforce upon them the thought that He is ever present in His word. Few of them felt His presence in after years. Few of them meditated upon His word until they came so near the gates of eternity that they could feel the throbbing of His wondrous life. Yet their motive to do well, and to be good, was in the law under which they lived. Their obedience and purity as a nation rose and fell with their appreciation of the fact, that God revealed Himself to them through their law, His law.
Loved ones, the manifestations of God during the patriarchal and Jewish dispensations, were only preparatory to the greater, higher, grander, clearer, fuller manifestations of God under the Dispensation of Grace.