Are revelation and communication the same?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by John of Japan, Oct 14, 2006.

  1. John of Japan

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    In the thread on the Lord's will going on elsewhere, it was opined that the term revelation simply means God communicating with man. In other words, all communication from God to us is revelation.

    I disagree. I believe that for a communication from God to be revelation it must contain truth that is valid for all. Thus, simply being called by God to go to Africa as a missionary is not a revelation, but simply God's communication to one believer, not truth for all. Again, the peace of God in one's heart that assures him he is in the right place to serve God is not revelation, but simply God's gift of peace to one person.

    I believe my position is the traditional and Biblical one. Note this quote from Easton's Bible Dictionary (c. 1897): "Revelation--an uncovering, a bringing to light of that which had been previously wholly hidden or only obscurely seen. God has been pleased in various ways and at different times (Heb 1:1) to make a supernatural revelation of himself and his purposes and plans, which, under the guidance of his Spirit, has been committed to writing. The Scriptures are not merely the 'record' of revelation; they are the revelation itself in a written form, in order to the accurate presevation and propagation of the truth."

    So, what say ye? Is every communication from God considered revelation, or only those with truth for all people?
     
  2. Helen

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    It's a revelation if, for the person to whom it was communicated, it was something previously hidden. Everyone else in the entire world may already know this thing, but if that person did not, then when it is revealed to him, it is a revelation.

    In addition, if God reveals to me, for instance, that Barry is the man I was to marry, then that revelation is most certainly NOT for the whole world, but was personal to me! And, by the way, we will have been most wonderfully and happily married for six years this coming Saturday!
     
  3. Jim1999

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    John, I think you and Helen are both correct. There is a technical or theological understanding to "revelation" and there is the common English usage of the word, "reveal or revelation".

    God can reveal to me the call to ministry, and it is both a revelation to me, but not a revelation of God, as are the scriptures.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. John of Japan

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    Congratulations on six years! You always speak of your husband in such glowing terms, I imagine that you have a wonderful marriage. And I don't doubt that the Lord led you two together. :godisgood:
     
  5. John of Japan

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    I see your point and that of Helen, Jim.

    I'd rather concentrate on the theological meaning here. The Greek word for revelation, apokolupsis, occurs 18 times in the NT. I don't find any place where anyone can be certain that it refers to how God individually leads us. It seems to either refer to a physical revealing, or a revealing of universal truth.

    Here are the passages:

    Lu 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. {lighten: Gr. revelation}
    Ro 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
    Ro 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. {manifestation: Gr. revelation}
    Ro 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
    1Co 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: {coming: Gr. revelation}
    1Co 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
    1Co 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
    2Co 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
    2Co 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
    Ga 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
    Ga 2:2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
    Eph 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
    Eph 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
    2Th 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
    1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: {appearing: Gr. revelation}
    1Pe 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
    1Pe 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
    Re 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.
     
  6. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    There are different types of revelation. There is special or direct revelation, which is the Bible. There is general or universal revelation, which all people have. There is a need to distinguish between illumination and revelation. When you read the Bible, the Scripture is revealed knowledge of God, that you otherwise would not have known. The Spirit has to illuminate even the Bible in order for you to understand it's truth.
     
  7. John of Japan

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    All very true, BPT.

    So may I take it that you agree with me that God leading a missionary to Africa should not be considered a form of revelation?
     
  8. Pastor Larry

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    I don't have time to get in deep here, so please forgive me.

    Typically, I would answer yes. Depending on how technical you get with it, some limit revelation to inscripturation, and rightly so for this age, due to the closing of the canon and the end of special revelation. God revealed to Moses that he should go to Egypt (Exod 3). It is hard to argue that it is not "revelation," and it is harder to argue that "it is universal truth for all."

    General revelation is also communication about God.

    Your final question about "leading," is ... well, somewhat misleading. I have no issue with saying that "God leads people" to do certain things. My issue is with the form that the "leading" takes.
     
  9. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    I think your truth for all test is a good one. General revelation is truth available to all. Special revelation is not known by all but is applicable to all. However, in terms of God directly communicating with an individual, I do not think there is anything wrong with saying that God revealed something to me about me. What is concerning is when people claim that God revealed something to them about someone else. This gets into the realm of the office of the prophet. I am an open but cautious cessationist, if that is category. Therefore the whole notion of the apostolic or prophetic office has ceased. The notion of prophecy in the NT is more a matter of speaking the truth or relaying biblical truth or sharing a testimony or an admonishing. We can know that something will happen because the Scriptures tell us as much. So, I guess what I am opening up for your consideration, is the possibility that this discussion is more a matter of whether someone is a cessationist or one who still thinks that all the gifts and offices are still in place. I can see someone being an orthodox charismatic who would feel very comfortable with the notion of modern revelation due to the prophet office. However, in my experience someone can be sincere and be sincerely wrong. I would say that God revealing something about yourself is conviction through the Holy Spirit, and that anyone who claims to have secret knowledge about someone else has either one of two things: been sorely mistaken or the daunting task of telling someone something that they probably do not want to hear, and probably no one would believe if you did.
     
  10. swaimj

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    Revelation and Wisdom

    I think that I track with what you are saying, John of Japan. Revelation is objective and unchanging. While personal leading or guidance is based upon God's objective revelation, God's revelation is not specific enough to point out to me specific decisions in life. Making correct decisions is a question of wisdom.

    For instance, if I need a car, there are two models I could follow for deciding what to buy.

    Model one is a "revelation" model in which I pray for a car and then go look at cars until I get this urge or feeling that I take to be from the Lord. Then I buy the car based upon my gut feeling.

    Model two is a wisdom model in which I have no direct word from God as to what car I should purchase. I acknowledge biblical principles in my decision making (for instance, am I lusting after a car and making it an idol; or am I being a good steward of my resources in the amount of debt I am taking on), but the choice of a car involves asking God for wisdom and insight to make a wise decison, then shopping, comparing, researching, testing, and asking people who know more about cars than I do for advice. Then I buy a car based upon facts that I have gathered.

    I think that model one is a very poor model for decision making. We can be deluded by our own feelings and urges into a very unwise move. In fact, thinking that we can make major decisions based upon a private revelation from God is really a form of spiritual pride.

    The second model is one in which we humble ourselves before that Lord first, saying "I freely admit that I do not know what is best for myself." Then we seek wisdom from godly people around us who are not only spiritual people, but who are experienced and wise in earthly matters. Admitting that we do not know everything and humbly asking for help is a godly exercise that is fitting for major and minor decisions of life. And it is an exercise in wisdom.
     
  11. John of Japan

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    On the contrary, I argue that God's call to Moses is both revelation and universal truth. There is a tremendous depth in that call that no other servant of Christ has ever had in his call except for possibly Paul.

    Think of the shekinah glory in that burning bush, God's founding of the nation of Israel through Moses, the statement of God to Moses, "What is that in thine hand?" and many other facts of the call of Moses that give us truth. His call was unique, as I would say Paul's was too.

    I will further say that all other vocational and locational calls in the Bible contain universal thruth that the call to preach of Joe Blow in Podunk, Iowa, cannot contain. (Joe Blow's call is God's communication specifically to him, and is not verbal in the usual model.) The calls in the Bible are inscripturated for our edification and to be examples to us (1 Cor. 10:11, etc.). Now if they are to be examples to us, it then follows that we too can have the same type of call as the Biblical servants of God, because what good is an example if it is not to be followed?
    Exactly. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." We can learn specific things about God through nature. It is, as you say, "communication about God" and therefore truth for all and therefore revelation.
    Point taken. The phrase "God led me" is often abused and used as an excuse for bad decisions. Let me change that term "leading" to "locational call." There are times in the Bible where God calls (not just "leads") someone to minister in a specific location (see Acts 16:10). I believe He still does this, and not by revelation, simply by communication.
     
  12. John of Japan

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    I hope those participating on this thread so far would agree that revelation has ceased, and that the Charismatics are wrong when they claim advanced revelation. I know I would anyway. :thumbs:

    This thread was actually started as a branch of "Discerning God's Will" in "General Baptist Discussions." I objected to Decision Making and the Will of God, by Friesen, where he opposes the usual concept of the call to ministry, stating that there are only three instances of God's vocational calling in the NT, and "in each case the means of communication was some form of supernatural revelation" (p. 313, emphasis in the original). I believe Friesen missed the boat in his concept a vocational call as some form of revelation, as well as missing the times Jesus called his 12 disciples and over-interpreting the Acts 13 missionary call.
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Swaimj, I agree that your "model one" is wrong. Simple impressions or emotions are not enough to lead us in the will of God. Also, I too would buy a car based on your "model two" wisdom view.

    What I am talking about is "model three," where God calls Joe Blow of Podunk, Iowa, to preach. If we agree that revelation has ceased, then whether or not Joe Blow's call is valid depends on whether or not it should be considered revelation. I say it is not revelation--it is simply God communicating His will to Joe Blow, and not even in verbal form in my model.

    If God has called Joe to preach, Joe will be positive of it, 100% without doubt. There will be no emotion, only certainty. No one in the Bible ever doubted God's call, and I don't believe that God dispenses uncertainty to His servants. Joe must then decide whether or not to obey the call, but he will not be doubtful of it.
     
  14. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    I always like to preface any statement that I make in reference to discerning the Lord's will with "To the best of my ability as far as I am able to discern, I believe that it is the Lord's will..." I would not go so far as to say that there are never any doubts however. I think that some of the most important decisions I have made were often void of certitude. At the end of the day, I would claim Romans 8:28. If you believe that every decision you make regarding a calling is crystal clear that could be a form of existentialism. The last church I served before this one was not that way at all. From the start of the process to the time I left the church, I never felt like I wanted to be there. I prayed up and until I answered the call for another option. In the end it was obvious to me that God wanted me to go, but I was not at all certain about it. We do not serve out of preference but out of obedience. I am not saying that God is confusing but sometimes this world is confusing and we live in a fallen world that suffers from great confusion. When going through the process of looking for a church or for a pastor I recommend that churches and pastors try to minimize the depth of the process until they are connected with someone who is willing to prayerfully consider just the one position. It would not be wise to bring in two pastors to preach in view of a call, nor would it be wise to preach at two different churches in view of a call. Yet it has been done before. Discerning the Lord's will is a mystery that only he can uncover, but it helps to minimize the human factor for sure. If someone is uncertain about a discision to go into missions it can help to take steps towards that interest until you have a check in your spirit or a peace. I know if God makes it crystal clear then you need to go, but even if you are not sure, that is not a sign that God is not in it. It could be your flesh trying to keep you from making that move. I basically agree with you but I do not always think it is so clear per se as you make it sound.
     
  15. John of Japan

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    Hmm. Okay, maybe I overstated it somewhat. You have a point in the light of James 4:13-15--"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."

    Let me clarify by stating that if Joe Blow believes 100% that he is called of God, then he should act on that, but he has no guarantee that he will even live to be a full time preacher. He may die, or the imminent coming of Christ may occur. However, as he acts on God's call he will have many encouragements that he is headed right: a certainty in the heart, God's blessing when he preaches and confirmation and encouragement from godly people.

    So, Joe should start preaching when he can, go to Bible college or seminary to prepare, and pray for God's guidance step by step.
     
  16. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    I will buy that... I appreciate your good humor.:laugh:
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    So people are universally called to go to Egypt and lead Israel out? I don’t think you mean that. So how is God’s call to Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt in any sense universal?

    I believe that there is truth in the call that teaches us all, but the revelation to Moses to go to Egypt was not universal.

    I completely disagree. An example for our learning does not mean that we can have the same type of things. Otherwise, we would still be believing in direct revelation (which if you are not a cessationist you can believe, and inherit the numerous problems that come with it). I believe you are a cessationist, and thus, would have to say we do not have the type of calls that people in the Bible had.

    I think most would say we cannot learn “specific truths” through general revelation, since it is not prepositional. Specific truth must be carried in propositions.

    I disagree because I don’t see the great disjunction between revelation and communication. When God communicates, he is revealing something about himself and his will. When revelation takes place, he is communicating something about himself and his will. I believe all of that takes place in Scripture. I do believe God arranges the circumstances of our lives to guide us, but that is an entirely different matter.

    To the point that spawned this discussion, when someone says they have “peace,” they generally are talking about something extra-biblical that comes directly from God to communicate his will to them. And that is what I have a problem with.
     
  18. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    You are welcome to critique anyone's views, so long as we can inturn do the same.

    I did not take issue with anything you had said until I go to the above.

    Do you recognize a distinction in revelation and illumination?

    True but not all communication is Special Revelation. Everything that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy is not Scripture. There are other letters to the church in Corinthian that were not considered canonical. So I think it is helpful to distinguish between Special Revelation and illumination, in order to preserve this important difference in terms of authority. God's illuminations are authoritative to those whom he communicates. God's revelations are authoritative for all mankind.

    This is called illumination, and it does not have to be extra-biblical. Why do you presuppose that guidance from the Holy Spirit is extra-biblical? I would think it would be a key aspect of every Christians daily experience. 1 John says you have need of no one to teach you because you have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the means by which God communicates with his children. So why do you have a problem with someone wanting a peace from God in order to make a decision?
     
  19. John of Japan

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    You miss the main point by concentrating on the details. Of course people are not universally called to go to Egypt. The passage is universal because (1) It portrays an extremely important event in the birth of Israel, and (2) though we are not all called to Egypt, many are called elsewhere. When you read about Joseph praying in the Bible, you don't say, "I have to pray what he did," you say, "I should pray." So when I read of Moses' call I should be saying, "God calls people to do certain things in certain places."
    I have said that Moses and Paul had unique calls that I do not believe will be repeated. However, I believe calls such as Elisha's or Matthew's or Isaiah's or Ezekiel's can be repeated, though not with audible words from God. Were they miraculous? Some were. You don't have to stop believing in miracles to be a cessationist. I still believe in miracles, though I believe special revelation has ceased.
    You can't prove with Scripture that communication = revelation. I gave you the whole list of verses using the Greek term for revelation. Can you point to a single verse that simply means communication from God, not of universal truth?
    Okay, let me ask you, do you believe in the call of God to the ministry?
     
  20. Marcia

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    I've been reading the posts here and am not sure what to think, but Pastor Larry, what do you think of this:

    The revelation to Moses was not universal in the sense it was given to everyone, but it was universal in the sense that this revelation to Moses is revealed for everyone through being recorded in the OT. So it becomes a revelation for all who read the Torah.

    What do you think?
     

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