Updated: Jul 12, 2019
God wants you to know Him. He created you (Revelation 4:11) because He wants to be friends with you forever.
Stop a minute and let that sink in.
God – the One who holds stars in His hand, died for you, and knows how many hairs you have on your head at this exact moment – wants you (yes, YOU!) to know Him.
He doesn’t just want you to know about Him. He wants to reveal Himself to you so that you can personally know Him as your Creator and Redeemer. He wants to show you how very much He loves you and tell you His secrets (Psalm 25:14), as any real friend would do.
God repeatedly reveals Himself in the Bible, each time unveiling more of His character and plans. In the Garden of Eden, He revealed Himself as the One who created us and seeks us when we go astray. To Abraham, He is the One who calls us to friendship. At Mount Sinai, He rescues His people and thunders against sin and injustice. To Jonah, He was the One who condemns sin but forgives the penitent. In Bethlehem, He is the Babe of heaven, come to bring peace on earth. And at Calvary, He sacrifices Himself that you and I might live.
The Five Ways God Reveals Himself
God reveals Himself in a variety of ways in the Bible. Theologians categorize these into two groups: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation refers to the things we can know of God through 1) nature, 2) humanity, and 3) history. Specific revelation is specific manifestations include God’s words and acts as recorded in the 4) Bible and demonstrated in the life of 5) Jesus.
A brief study of these theological terms and their meanings will greatly enhance our understanding of how God reveals Himself to us. It will also help us better understand why we need daily personal Bible study using the keys that we have learned.
Both of these types of revelation are important to our understanding of God. But it is vital to understand that some ways reveal God more clearly than others. Let’s take a look at the blessings, and potential downfalls, of each one:
General revelation is usually considered to include nature, human beings and history. Each one reveals something about God’s eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). General revelation is accessible to everyone in the world, universally providing the opportunity to follow God. This is how God gets our attention and point us to our need for Him.
1) Nature: Bible writers, including Jesus himself, often point us to nature, “God’s Second Book”. The study of nature reveals much about the creativity, order, and forethought of God, yet nature has been marred by sin and no longer perfectly represents its Creator.
“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth.” Psalm 19:1-4.
2) Human Beings: Humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We can think and reason, as well as discern between right and wrong. We are capable of kindness and emotion. These are God-like characteristics. Human beings also have an intuitive knowledge of God that propels us to search for Him (Acts 17:24-28). Whether we admit it or not, each of us has a “God-shaped void” that only God can fill.
“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5
Yet humanity is far from a perfect revelation of God. We only have to glance through our daily news feed to recognize how far human beings have fallen from their original holy state. We are naturally alienated from God (Colossians 1:21). Our finite reasoning is incapable of fully understanding the infinite God.
3) History/Experience: God is the Lord of history. If we study carefully, we can see how God led kingdoms and individuals in paths that reveal His way. A prayerful view of our own life experiences can also reveal God’s intervening hand.
Yet history and experience fall short of fully manifesting God’s specific plans and methods. The short span of a human life, combined with our sin-darkened insight, prevent us from seeing all God is doing in history. And how often we misunderstand what He is doing in our lives!
“He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.” Daniel 2:21
Can you see how God uses general revelation – nature, humanity and history/experience – to get people’s attention? Yet they are inadequate in themselves of fully comprehending God’s plans without specific instruction.
Think of how God used a burning bush (general revelation through nature) to get Moses’ attention in the wilderness. Then God spoke to Moses (He added the special revelation, language) to explain what was on His mind and His mission for Moses.
Friends, we too need language to help us understand what is on God’s mind and His mission for us. This is why we need the Bible!!! It is only in the Bible, and in Jesus as He is revealed in the Biblical account, that we can clearly understand God and fellowship with Him.
Specific revelation (also sometimes called special revelation) is the theological term that refers to God’s use of language to communicate specifically with us through the Bible and Jesus the living Word. These are the clearest representations we have of God and deserve our most careful study.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” Hebrews 1:1-2
4) The Bible: The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, recorded by His messengers the prophets. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
God spoke to the prophets through dreams, visions, direct conversation and more. The Holy Spirit then guided the prophets as they wrote down the messages God had given them in their own words. God was actively involved in every aspect of this process, so we can trust that the Bible accurately represents God’s thoughts, words and actions.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
5) Jesus: Do you want to see God more clearly? Then you must look at Jesus, the living “Word of God” (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).
Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s character. He is the “exact representation and perfect imprint of the Father”. Hebrews 1:3 Amplified. Jesus himself said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9. Jesus demonstrated in human flesh what God is like so that our finite minds and hearts can understand and love Him.
“The essence of divine revelation [is that] God reveals Himself in words and acts, through many different channels, but most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.” Peter M. van Bremmelen, SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, p. 23.
God’s Filtration System
Every day we experience general revelation through nature, people, and personal experiences. If our spiritual eyesight is perceptive, we will see and understand these revelations pointing us to God. But the busyness of our daily lives often crowds them out of our thoughts. Satan works constantly to twist our perceptions of truth and steal away God’s gentle impressions.
We need a way to filter out Satan’s misconceptions from our daily experiences and thoughts. That is why God gave us the Bible. It is His divine filtration system for our minds. As we daily read God’s Word and plead for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding, God will help us see our lives in the light of His truths.
God’s Word to us – as found in the Bible and the life of Jesus, the living Word – gives us the clearest possible revelation of God. God gave you His specific revelation because you are special to Him and He wants you to know Him.
Every day, He invites you to spend time with Him through His Word. Take time this week to prioritize daily, personal Bible study. Talk to God in prayer about the things you learn and ask Him to guide you. Plead for the Holy Spirit to live in you. As you do, you will come to understand truth and know God for yourself.
P.S. Do you know someone who needs to understand how God reveals Himself? Then share this article with them.
Note: This article is part of a series on How God Reveals Himself. Articles include:
- Five Ways God Reveals Himself – A quick study on the forms of general and specific revelation God uses.
- God, A Heathen King & You – The story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the role of human experience in revealing God.
- Nature’s Role, God’s Call – The story of Moses at the burning bush and the role of nature in revealing God.
- The Reason for Reason – The story of Job and the role of reason in our relationship with God.
- The Best Book of Magic – The Bible is God’s clearest revelation of Himself in written form.
- Jesus – God’s Perfect Revelation – Jesus was both fully human and fully divine so that He could perfectly reveal God’s character to fallen humanity.
* Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version.