In my earlier posts on the necessity of the Bible I observed that the Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel (and being saved), maintaining spiritual life, and knowing God’s will but that it isn’t necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about His character and moral law. The latter can be known through observing what God has made, seeing His actions in history, and sensing His moral laws by means of one’s conscience and is often called “general revelation.” It should be emphasized that although people can know that God exists and know something about His character and moral law through general revelation, they cannot know the Gospel and get saved apart from God’s words addressed to specific people, which is called “special revelation.”
First though I’ll explain why I’m devoting this post to expanding on what I said about general and special revelation instead of to reporting on what my family and I read from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in our after breakfast Bible reading yesterday. Yesterday we discussed the application questions which Wayne Grudem provides for Chapter 7, “The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (3) Necessity.” To tell you about our discussion, I’d have to give the questions that prompted it, which would violate the book’s copyright, and so I decided not to. As well, not being familiar with the hymn with which Grudem closes the chapter, “Teach Me, O Lord, Your Way of Truth,” I decided not to share it in our family reading or here. Thus, not having our discussion or a hymn to report on, I decided to expand on what I’d said about general and special revelation instead.
The general revelation of God is found in nature, history, and conscience; is accessible to everybody; and is intended to persuade people to seek God. In my last post I quoted some verses illustrating how nature and conscience reveal God, but I didn’t say anything about how history reveals God. Although the Bible describes God’s dealings with different countries, it concentrates on His dealings with Israel, His revealing Himself in the continual cycle of sin, repentance, and deliverance that it experienced not only to it but also, as Deuteronomy 28:10 (“And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you,” ESV) promised, to the whole world.
In my last post I defined special revelation as “God’s words addressed to specific people, such as the Bible.” Thus besides the Bible it includes words spoken by Jesus and possibly words spoken by Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles that are not recorded in the Bible; I said “possibly” because the only words spoken by prophets and apostles that would be special revelation would be those inspired by God. Moreover, special revelation is generally taken to include miracles, prophecy, Jesus Christ, and personal experience as well as the Bible. With all of those means of special revelation, why would the Bible be necessary? Possible reasons are that it provides an objective standard for testing the various claims of religious belief and practice and that it is the best way of preserving and transmitting accurately what God has revealed.
In conclusion, we can know that God exists and something about His character and moral law by general revelation but special revelation is necessary for knowing the Gospel (and being saved), maintaining spiritual life, and knowing God’s will. And the Bible is a vital part of that special revelation.