General Revelation – Part 1 – External and Internal Revelation
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom. 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse.
Belgic Confession, Article 2 (1561)
To speak of General Revelation is to speak of God making Himself known (i.e., revealing Himself) to all people everywhere. This revelation is twofold:
- The external revelation of God in nature
- The internal revelation of God in man
God reveals Himself to us through the created world
As we look around us, the evidence of our Creator is everywhere. Consider how fine-tuned the universe is to support human life (anthropic principle); or how amazing it is that Microchiroptera bats can hunt in total darkness by emitting a stream of high-pitched sounds that bounce off their prey and then the resulting echo is received by their very sensitive antennas; or how about the bacterial flagellum with it’s out-board-motor-like propulsion system—complete with a rotor, O-rings, bushings, and drive shaft. Indeed, we live in a world filled with wonders that evidence our loving Creator.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…
God’s creative handiwork is clearly evident to all. Expounding on this point, Paul, speaking to the people of Lystra, said,
Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filing our hearts with food and gladness.
God also reveals Himself to all men internally.
18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19) because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
It is not of a mere external revelation of which the apostle is speaking, but of that evidence of the being and perfections of God which every man has in the constitution of his own nature, and in virtue of which he is competent to apprehend the manifestation of God in his works.
Charles Hodge (1797–1878)
God Reveals Himself to Us Through Our Moral Reasonings
Conversation with an unbeliever: Ever feel guilty? Of course you do. Why? Because you are guilty. Guilty of what? Of breaking God’s law.
It would be rare indeed to find someone in this country who has not heard the summary of God’s law—the Ten Commandments. But what of those who have not heard? Are they off the hook? Do they receive a cosmic “Get Out of Jail Free” card? Many Evangelicals would say yes. Many would say that surly God would not find someone guilty of breaking a law that he did not know.
But is this the case? Is one excused from the law’s requirements simply because he’s never heard them? Paul addresses this issue in Romans, stating “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law . . . show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Romans 2:14-15). In his commentary on Romans, John Calvin speaks of men being “blind,” but “not so blind that we can plead ignorance without being convicted of perversity.”
The actual hearing of the law does not determine the lawbreakers ultimate guilt; for all men know the law of God innately, since all men bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Thus, when men reason morally, experience a crises of conscience, or suffer from guilty feelings they are actually reflecting the stamp of the law, which each man by nature bears.
All men of sound judgment will therefore hold, that a sense of Deity is indelibly engraven on the human heart. And that this belief is naturally engendered in all, and thoroughly fixed as it were in our very bones, is strikingly attested by the contumacy of the wicked, who, though they struggle furiously, are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God . . . for the worm of conscience, keener than burning steel, is gnawing them within.
John Calvin (1509-1564)
God Reveals Himself to Us Through Our Religious Self
As much as man is a moral creature, he is just as much a religious creature. Man was created to have fellowship with, to worship, and to adore his Creator.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism (1640s)
Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
The Fall, however, changed the object of man’s worship:
. . . although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and fourfooted animals and creeping things.
Instead of accepting revelation they became philosophers. And what is a philosopher? A philosopher is a man who claims that he starts by being skeptical about everything, that he is an agnostic. “I am going to have the date,” he says, “and then I am going to work it out.” And that is exactly what such men have done; they become foolish and wicked in their reasonings, in their thoughts, in their own conjectures and speculations and surmisings. And what is the cause of it all? Paul uses the word “vain” and it means not only foolish, but it means wicked as well . . . The cause of the whole trouble was wickedness and it is still wickedness.
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
To be continued . . .