In speaking about hermeneutics, it is wonderful to understand various means of studying Scripture, but it needs to be mentioned that our understanding does not come from the Scripture alone. What I mean to say is that I have the Holy Spirit within me. God speaks to me directly. He is able to address various areas of my life that I need to repent about. He is able to open up the text to me that I might understand more deeply the words of His Holy Writ. It is upon revelation and Scripture together, and neither one alone, that we understand the Scripture.
When I first came to Christ, I discovered that the Bible was the word of God. The question is: how do I know that the Bible is the word of God? There is one approach that would say, “It says in the Bible that the Bible is the word of God, therefore I believe it.” While I’ve heard this argument, I am unwilling to be an ignoramus. In all candor, there are words not suitable for a Christian to utter that better describe this kind of disposition. The reason that I know the Bible is the word of God is because God is a trinity. He speaks amongst Himself. That addressing of the Father to the Son, the Son to the Spirit, the Spirit to the Father, etcetera is the first necessary truth to saying that God can speak in general. Of course, we can also refer to John 1:1 that Christ Jesus is the Word.
Because God is communal, which implies relationality, He created. He desired to commune with His creation in the same way that He has communion among Himself. Therefore, here in this era, He has established that He lives inside of me. I am not left without the Spirit of God to come to my own conclusions. Instead, Paul reminds me that Christ is in me, and that is the hope of glory. Because God speaks directly to me, and has revealed Himself to me through my salvation and through the revelation of His Spirit in me, I can compare the Bible with an outside source. The same God that has given me a new heart and speaks softly to me is the same one that is expressed throughout the Scriptures.
For me to say that the Bible is the word of God is more than a statement about its author. It is a statement of a living God that speaks to me. Why, then, would I trust that my opinion is enough to conclude what the Bible says? If God speaks, then allow Him to speak. Of course, this always gets into the question of revelation. We’ve split revelation into two categories: general and special. General revelation is what we can determine on our own without God speaking to us. Special revelation, or divine revelation, is that bit of understanding that we cannot come to on our own. I simply deny that there are two categories. Revelation is revelation. If we come to any conclusion about God, it is not because we have seen it through general revelation or special revelation.
God is ever and always drawing us. He is continuously seeking our face. If we then turn toward Him, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, He rushes toward us with all passion and glorious joy. Any true revelation of God comes from God. We might be able to have a notion of what God might be like, but that in no way can possibly compare to the true revealing of God. One of His attributes that many hold to is that God is incomprehensible. Either He is incomprehensible, and therefore without Him revealing Himself we cannot come to any valid conclusions about Him, or God is indeed comprehensible and we already know all about Him.
The issue of revelation and Scripture is one that puts the finger in our chests. It points out the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and asks the question, “Who told you that you were naked?” From where do you derive your understanding? It is easy to say that we get it from the Scripture. That might be true. Yet, it is also true that we can handle the holy things of God with secular and unclean hands. The age-old question is posed against us by our very understanding. Anything that we have learned out of the flesh is not true revelation.
The reason this is important should be obvious. I’ve listened to many sermons. In today’s society, it is not difficult to get your hands upon seminary material. I read books, I listen to lectures, I watch streams of conferences, and all of it typically makes me ask if no one has ever read Jeremiah 23. The charge is made, “Therefore, I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.” It is a dangerous thing to simply repeat words that you were taught by another. We should come to this with solemnity. If God has not revealed it, why, then, do we continue to teach it? Everyone is borrowing and borrowing, but no one is saying anything new. Has God stopped speaking fresh words? Did God stop up the heavens? Where is the manna that comes down from heaven? Jesus told the Church in Pergamum that He would give them some of the hidden manna. I wonder if the reason is similar to our condition to day.
When I first entered the faith, many people told me about my authority in Christ. I was told that we have been given the authority over the devil. We can cast out demons. We can heal the sick. We can command, in Jesus’ name, that the devil flee before us. Yet, these words were cheap words. I took them up and yielded them by faith. I ended up receiving the same rebuke in Acts, “Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you?” It came time for the devil to flee, but instead I was left powerless and Satan was laughing at me. Though before I had seen people delivered and set free from my prayers over them, I was unable to be freed from my own pornography addiction.
It took a long time before God had revealed to me what was happening. It isn’t enough to speak, “This kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting,” as though it is a cliché or formula. What finally delivered me was the revelation that God brought forth. My premature handling of those Scriptures led to a downfall. It actually brought me into deeper levels of oppression. Instead of deliverance, I was taken further into depravity. When God finally revealed the truth of my authority in Christ, it came from the foundation of the Kingdom of God. I learned much about the Kingdom of God, and also about the principalities and powers. It was from that foundation that God was then able to bring to me the true authority that those Scriptures spoke of.
The difference between taking up the Scripture because we read that these things go together, or because we’ve been taught this is how it works, and God revealing the depths of the Scripture is virtue. There are those who hold to the doctrine of the resurrection. They believe that God raised Jesus on the third day. They believe that one day they will be raised when Jesus returns. They believe that, metaphorically, we have been raised with Christ. But the actual living out of those statements is completely void in their lives. Though they have the correct terminology, their lives are the exact same as everyone else’s, only a little more moral and with church activities. Yet, the people to whom God has revealed the doctrine of resurrection will actually live free from sin.
Martin Luther killed the Anabaptists because of their holiness. He reasoned that it is impossible to live free from sin, so these people that did not drink, did not curse, did not practice any kind of immorality, and were absolutely blameless in their character were demon possessed. Since humanity is depraved, we will never be free from sin. Therefore, anyone who is free from sin is only living in that manner because they are demon possessed. Do you see the flawed logic? Maybe the truth is that these people did not merely subscribe to the doctrine of resurrection, but instead most sincerely lived governed by the doctrine of resurrection.
It is a frightening thing to consider. The difference between revelation and interpretation might actually lead to the death of others. We don’t simply believe because the Bible says so. We believe because God has revealed it. That revelation comes in a multiplicity of manners. God has revealed Himself in the man Christ Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. Every doctrine and every understanding of the faith should be filtered through Him. Yet, these things have also been revealed in us. Where the Father reveals them to us through Christ, He also reveals them in us through the Holy Spirit. This, of course, gets into the questions of sanctification, the freedom of God, and other aspects of theology to be discussed later.
The nature of revelation and Scripture is that they either go hand-in-hand or not at all. We came to Christ through faith. He revealed Himself to us, and we openly accepted Him. That faith did not come because we thought we would ask the question of whether God exists, and thus came to conclusions that Christ Jesus is God. Instead, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.” What could Paul mean when he says that faith comes by hearing if not what it implicitly says? The revelation of God comes from the word of God, but that word is not merely the Bible. We’re not talking about Scripture in the sense of a book that God has given to us describing Him. Jesus is called the Word of God, become flesh, and therefore living.
Revelation and Scripture work together because God has revealed Himself through His Word. His word broke forth to us, and we heard for the first time in our lives the message of the resurrected Messiah. Any other time that we heard the same words spoken was not true hearing, because when we, who we are in our very deeps, hear that voice that every creature knows to be God, it produces faith. It awakens something within us. No one can possibly block that voice. But, it is possible to quote Scripture and yet not reach the inner man. It is possible to explain to someone the means of salvation, and it does not produce faith. The reason is not because of the lack of Scripture, but because of the lack of revelation.
When the revealing of His word breaks through, faith is enacted. This is why Paul finishes the statement, “and hearing the word of God.” This is not simply quoting Scripture. It is the revelation of Himself. That revelation comes when they see the incarnate God – Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is the Word expressed through the mouth of Elijah that raised the widow’s son from the dead. It was at that moment that she then spoke those words, “Now I know that the word of God in your mouth is truth.” It seems to imply that the same words in the mouth of someone else might not be true. If the words have not been revealed, and we’re simply speaking because “the Bible says,” then it is no wonder why faith is not produced. Revelation and Scripture go hand-in-hand or not at all.
In conclusion, then, I want to make the point that revelation is not about understanding the Scripture. Even the most pristine theology can be a lie in the mouth of those who have not yet had it revealed to them. Revelation is a multidimensional word. It speaks of God revealing Himself to you. It speaks of God revealing Himself in you. It speaks of God working Himself in you. This is the realm of revelation. If we simply acknowledge the depths of Scripture as being authoritative, and yet deny that God makes known His truth through His Spirit, then we are still wrong. Being half right is no better than being entirely wrong.
There is a new fad going around today. In reaction to the extreme of those who hear words from God that are completely contrary to His Scripture, but because the “prophet” spoke them they are authoritative, a small sect in the Body of Christ have denied that God speaks at all today. The popularity of these teachers is actually growing in number. They believe in a dead God. Of course, they would claim that He is alive, and that He does speak through His Bible, but they then in the same breath deny the revelation of God through His Spirit. How can you possibly claim that God has spoken in the past, and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but that He does not speak to us today? What demonic hex has been placed upon you if you believe that God can speak through the Bible, but that He cannot speak directly to you?
The nature of revelation is that God is free to speak to us. If we are unwilling to hear Him because we have stopped our ears, then He will speak through a rock or a donkey. When even the jackasses are able to hear the words of God and discern the spiritual realities all around us, but we have reduced self to only perceiving the natural, then it is true for us that we have followed the ways of Balaam. This is not natural for the Christian to be without the voice of God. If we must rush around searching for the voice of God, then maybe the lack is found within. Maybe the truth of our condition is stated most severely in that there is a famine for the word of God.
The famine for the word of God is the issue of a famine for the revelation of God. Where God is no longer allowed to reveal Himself to, in, and through His people, because His people have rejected Him, the statement of Jesus is found, “I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit.” The fact is that we don’t hear the word of God because we don’t produce fruit. We don’t bear fruit because He hasn’t been revealed to us. For, if God were revealed to us, then He would be revealed in us. And if God were revealed in us, then He would be revealed through us. For that lack, we don’t understand the Bible at all.
But to he who is willing to not only read the Bible, but also believe it, depths of insight will be poured out. Those depths have not been fathomed, and most have mocked at the ability of anyone to possibly come to such depths. Yet, I remind you that the same Holy Spirit that Paul received is the same one that you and I have. The same Spirit that revealed the book of Revelation to the apostle John is the same Spirit within you and I. Is there anything that He cannot reveal? It requires faith, and it requires diligence. We must cast aside our misguided notions and embrace the faith that has been given once and for all. That faith is the faith given to Adam, explained by Moses in the Law, prophesied by the prophets, and obtained by all who believe in Christ Jesus. This is revelation and Scripture working together: Christ in you, the hope of glory.