Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
The Knowledge of the Holy: God's revelation and the revelation of God
by I Gordon
We have started a series on the knowledge of the Holy in which we'll explore what the Bible reveals about the God whom we serve. It is essential that we don't just come up with our own thoughts but allow God, as He has revealed in His word, to teach us. Now I love that quote to the right which says "In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since!" I like it not because it tells a great story of man's history in relation to God but because it expresses a truth that desperately needs to be avoided! We do not want to make a God in our image. So in this study I want to look at God's revelation and the revelation of God. They sound like they are the same thing but, well, they're not. In any study of the knowledge of the Holy we must look at the One who through every word and action expressed God's exact nature - that is, (and no surprises here!) Jesus! He is God's revelation to mankind. He is the exact representation of the invisible God scripture tells us (Col 1:15, Heb 1:3)
But we also need to explore the revelation of God. That is, how do we learn more about this infinite God? How does he reveal Himself to us? Can we understand Him with God actually supernaturally reveling Himself to us? And what is the 'spirit of revelation' that Paul prayed all Christians would have to understand the Holy One? Let's forge ahead through some familiar and some possibly unfamiliar waters.
|"In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since."
How would a greater revelation of God affect us?
As we begin I want you to think about how the knowledge of God affects your life... If you had a greater revelation of who He is, in what ways would it affect how you live and your relationship with Him? I'm not trying to give answers here but just want you to think about it for a moment. To help try stimulate your gray-matter, these questions may possibly help...
Do you think that our understanding of God's character and attributes would affect:
How we pray?
Our confidence before God?
Our confidence before man?
How we worship and honour God?
How we witness?
How we face trials and difficulties?
The life that we life and the expression of His character in our life?
Clearly all of these aspects would be affected and for the better. So this topic of the 'revelation' of God's character and nature is very important. Let's begin by looking again at the One who is God's revelation to mankind - Jesus Christ - for it is Only through Him that we can see and know God.
Jesus - God's Revelation
Luke 2:25-32 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. (26) It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (27) Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, (28) Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: (29) Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (30) For my eyes have seen your salvation, (31) which you have prepared in the sight of all people, (32) a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
Here is a wonderful story and a great place to start when looking at how Jesus is the very revelation of God. Simeon, a godly Jewish man, had been promised that he would not die until his eyes had seen the Lord's Messiah. Led by the Holy Spirit into the temple, seeing the baby Jesus with his parents Mary and Joseph, Simeon immediately knows that this is the One! Prophesying over the child, Simeon declares that this child would not only be a glory for His own people Israel but would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles as well. In other words, this child would be God's revelation. He would be God's light. If you wanted to know what God is like, well now everyone would be able to know for God was now being revealed!
John 1:16-18 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
Let's do a very quick little role play. Ready? If you'd be so kind, put yourself in the position of someone living in the first century before Jesus has started His public ministry. You have long hair. You wear sandals. Sorry about that! The only scriptures that you have are what we now call the Old Testament. You wonder what God is really like. You've read many of the stories but wonder what is God REALLY like? Well, you may not have to wonder for much longer for there have been rumours that God is coming to visit planet earth, and Israel specifically, in human form! That seems like a crazy thought to you, but you can't help wondering... 'What will He be like? Will this God be angry?' 'Will He be fed up with mankind?' You would understand if He was for you see your own sinfulness and that of those around you all too clearly. 'Maybe He'll be wrathful?' you think to yourself. 'Maybe, argh, He'll come and destroy us all?...'
And then He comes. The God that no man has seen is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. And He is not like anything you imagined! What a person He is! The law came through Moses but GRACE and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ! If you were someone living in the first century wondering what God is like what a surprise you would have had! This One was kind. So kind. And compassionate. He had such a heart for the struggling, the poor and the many lost sheep. He seemed to gravitate towards those that were down and out - the ones that society cared little for. The wonder of Jesus coming was that in everything that He did, everything that He spoke, every gracious or patient act, here was God Almighty. He was meek, but not weak. full of compassion but uncompromising in the truth He proclaimed. Always willing to give grace to the humble but firmly resisting the proud. He delighted in the fear of God but feared no man Himself. Thus Jesus could say to His disciples 'He who has seen me has seen the Father!'
John 14:7-10 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." (8) Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." (9) Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (10) Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
Amazing. So mankind doesn't need to be in the dark concerning what God is like. Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, has fully revealed Him. In every decision, in every situation, whether tired or hungry, early or late, every act and word expressed the living God. He truly is God's revelation to mankind.
Needed - The revelation of God
So we have seen that Jesus is God's revelation but let's talk about the revelation of God. How do we get to know our Lord better? We have seen that our understanding of God has been immeasurably helped by God becoming a man that humanity could see and touch, listen to and ask questions of. But for those of us living now, how do we come to understand a God we cannot see? How can that which is finite understand the infinite? How can that which is earthly understand the heavenly? How can that which is physical understand the spiritual? In a word, REVELATION! We first of all need to understand that any understanding we may receive about God, requires God! Let's look at a couple of scriptures:
Matthew 11:27 All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
So Jesus clearly said that no one can know the Father EXCEPT the Son reveals Him to the believer. So we all need revelation. God will reveal new things about Himself to us but we need to desire to know Him and ask! It should be our prayer and desire as the Apostle Paul prayed:
Ephesians 1:15-19 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your understanding  being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power...
Remember also the words of Jesus who said that it was the Father's good pleasure to hide things from the wise (those wise in their own eyes!) and reveal them to babes:
Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
So how does this revelation come about in practice?
Here are some simple things to remember when it comes to learning more about God:
God's word - This is obviously critical. We need to read! God has revealed Himself through the Bible and that HAS to be our primary source for what we know about God. Nothing that we learn elsewhere should contradict anything that is taught here. Our reading of God's work also requires 'chewing'. That is, we need to chew it other in our thoughts and minds. This is called meditation and it is this process that allows the Holy Spirit to bring other thoughts and truth to mind. Speaking of which...
The Holy Spirit - Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans but would send the Comforter and Teacher who would lead us into all truth (John 16:13) A.W Tozer said 'The Bible is a supernatural book and can be understood only by supernatural aid.' That supernatural aid is the Holy Spirit. He is to be our Teacher. That is what Paul prayed about above where he desired that believers would have the spirit of wisdom and revelation that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened. This Is a spiritual gift from the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Prayer - As mentioned above, we need to ask! As we read, as we go about our day, speak to God and ask Him questions! As you read His word ask for revelation. As an example, when the children of Israel left Egypt they were fed in the wilderness for 40 years. God provided 'manna' for them which physically sustained them. In like manner the Word of God is to sustain us spiritually. So what does manna mean? It means 'what is it?' Odd name I know but it gives a clue as to what we should be doing when being feed spiritually. As we read God's word we should be asking 'what is it?' 'What is it Lord that you would want to teach me here?' 'What is it Lord that I can learn about you here? 'What is it Lord that I can do to help others?' Pray as you read and ask questions!
- Desire - No revelation occurs without a desire to know Him better (as Paul had - Phil 3:8,10) If you desire to know more, Jesus said that even to the one who has, more will be given and they will have an abundance! (Matt 13:11-13) He said that the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven would be revealed to the one who desires to know them. But without it, the mysteries remain just that - mysterious.
- Humility - We need to always remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is a principle that is stated multiple times in the Bible (Prov 3:34, Jam 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5) and applies to receiving ANYTHING from God. And it definitely applies to receiving revelation from God about Himself. As you learn and receive more always remember that knowledge can 'puff up' (1 Cor 8:1). Now God wants us to have a great knowledge about Him so we should add that knowledge DOESN'T HAVE to puff up. But it can. So watch your heart and always remain humble and teachable before God.
- Use what is given - There is also a biblical principle that as we use what we have been given, more will be added to us. This applies to many areas of our life including revelation from God. 'Give and it shall be given unto you' Jesus said (Luke 6:38). The parable of the talents also shows us that when we use that which has been entrusted to us, God will give more. (Luke 19:26) So how does this apply to knowing God? It means that as God shows us something, share it with someone! It may just be someone close...it may be sharing it with your church or home group. Or, if you are like me, it might be putting it online so that others can benefit from it (hopefully!) Just remember than the more we give out the more He supplies. God's heart is ALWAYS for others.
'The best interpreter of a book is generally the man who wrote it. The Holy Ghost wrote the Scriptures. Go to him to get their meaning, and you will not be mislead.'
Charles H. Spurgeon
"When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others - not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one."
Without God's revelation we will NOT get to know Him. He must enable us to understand and reveal Himself to us. But we must desire to know Him and set aside time to ask questions and learn from Him. And we have to remain humble and soft before Him so that we can receive His grace. The next study will focus on how God reveals Himself in scripture looking at two key passages - One from the Old Testament and one from the New.