Ask Steve: General Revelation vs. Special Revelation

 

Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God

by Joshua Harris

Category: Christian Living

2011, Multnomah Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I have often heard of the term “general revelation.” Can you explain to me what general revelation is, and what is the Bible’s authority in contrast to general revelation? 

Answer: General revelation is the disclosure of God in nature and the constitution of man whereby all people gain an introductory knowledge of God. It is the universal means by which God reveals His existence to the entire world so that no person can claim ignorance about God’s existence and His moral requirements, whether in this life or when they face God on Judgment Day (Rev 20:11-15). God reveals Himself in general revelation in two ways: 1). Through creation (Rom 1:18:25; Acts 14:15-17; Ps 19:1-6) and, 2). Through the human conscience (Rom 2:14-16), where everybody on earth has a basic understanding of absolute right and wrong. These two facts testify to an ultimate Creator and Lawgiver that is the one true God.

According to Romans 1:18-25, general revelation is authoritative in the sense that it will hold sinners accountable for rejecting God. God created the world in six days and continues to sustain it to this day, revealing His power and divine nature through what has been created. Some of these attributes include His goodness, wisdom, and eternality (Acts 17:23-28; Ps 19). For this reason, all men have no excuse of rejecting God. Even if people have never heard of the gospel, Christ, or the Bible, they are still under the accountability of general revelation, for if they reject such truths, they reject any means for the gospel to come to them. General revelation is also authoritative in that God’s moral law is binding on all people and informs them that they must obey His statues, otherwise there will be consequences. The sinner’s conscience tells the sinner what is right and wrong, just and unjust (Rom 2:14-16). The fact that people can respond to the voice of their conscience in obedience (ex. to not murder, cheat, disrespect others) shows that they are indirectly submitting to a God who calls for obedience, and has ultimate authority.

However, general revelation does not have the same authority as God’s special revelation – the Bible. General revelation cannot save a sinner or help him fully understand the will and character of God. General revelation does not supernaturally or directly inform sinners about such things as the lake of fire, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and what they must do to be saved (believe in Jesus by repentant faith). That information comes from Scripture alone, which is a theological concept called special revelation.

Salvation is only possible when one responds to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). This demonstrates the fact that the Word of God (found in the Bible) is more authoritative and more necessary than the works of God found in general revelation, because without the Bible, no one can ever be saved or come to live the life that God purposes for humans to live (sanctification). This is why evangelism and missions (the propagating of special revelation to the ends of the earth) is crucial for the spiritual well-being of every sinner on earth.