I pray this letter finds you well and in the grace of our God. I was glad to receive your response to my last letter as well as your question with regard to the Scriptures, I have chosen to write to you briefly in response.
As Christians, we are followers of the God who has given us revelation regarding Himself; while that revelation has come in a variety of ways in times past, it is in these latter days that He gave His revelation through His sent Son. The Son by which the Spirit is promised and proceeds, the apostles are sent, and in whom the church trusts. As such, the revelation through Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as foundation stones, we have an inseparable relationship with the revelation of our God. Though we live far removed from the times of the Christ and his apostles, we must hold the Scriptures in as high esteem as our God who gave them does if we are to know, serve, and belong to Him whose salvation is found therein. The Scriptures are the special way that God has chosen to display himself to us during this present age. Being, thus, receptors of such revelation, we find ourselves in a familiar position that prophets and apostles of all walks have found themselves in before: in receipt of revelation that we did not ask for, nor seek out, but now have possession of. It is this possession of revelation that demands a response from us that is consistent with the revelation itself.
Interaction with the revelation of God is definitional to being His people. As such, I am intending to describe how the revelation of God comes to us, how that changes us, and what we are to do with it.
Who better to start with than Christ? Even as God the Son incarnate He displays for us the nature of the reception of revelation. He, though sinless and in perfection, still never spoke on his own authority but “the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak... What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me.” Does this not plainly display for us the source of revelation as being outside of ourselves? At home with the Father? Given from Him and then received by those He intends? I remind you that this is the only way revelation may come: as God intends. We do not rise to God, He gifts such revelation. This is true of all parts of Scripture. It is true even of the gospel! No mind of man has come up with such, but it has come by the revelation of God. Even Paul, whom you know to have had no intention of receiving the revelation of God on his travels towards Damascus, found himself in possession of such. He recounts that “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” There was no asking Paul if he wanted to be in possession of the revealed message, it was simply provided, and he had no alternative but to receive it. This is true also of Peter, who recounts the revelation of God at the transfiguration of Christ, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, the voice was borne to Him by the majestic glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” He goes on to connect such an experience with Scripture as the “prophetic word, to which [we] will do well to pay attention as to a light shining in a dark place.”
David, God never asked us if we wanted to hear His revelation in the Scriptures. But we, like Paul and Peter have come in contact with God’s very words. Reception of those words is not the question. We possess them. They speak to us regarding our God and His gospel. The most important question becomes one of how we will respond. Will God give us believing ears or will we hear the sound of it, like Paul’s companions, and discern no voice? Either way, we will prove it true in its claims about us.
There is but one right response upon reception of revelation from God: trust. This response, at the base of our being, unseats what we previously concluded about ourselves. No matter our zeal beforehand, no matter our certainty, no matter our obstinance or reticence toward God, when He gifts a living trust in our hearts to take Him at His word we will see with new eyes, praise with new mouths, and “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since [we] have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” But thanks be to God that this is no one time occurrence! Whenever we run into the revelation of God again it requires of us the same response. Is this not readily evident to us in the life of Peter? Having walked with Christ, seen His miracles, His resurrected body, His ascension, yet he still could not conceive of the mystery of the salvation of the gentiles. As he stayed by the sea, God taught him directly regarding what was already taking place. Imagine how much was in the heart of Peter that resisted this message. But still, upon the knock at the door he arose and went to Cornelius’ house to view the fulfillment of the revelation of God. Believing eyes and ears, my friend. Believing eyes and ears.
What is our response to the Scriptures? We possess them, to be sure. We read them and receive them, yes. But may God continue to grant us deeper faith, deeper trust as we “continue what we’ve learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom we learned it and how from childhood we have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” When God speaks and gives us His words, can we really now, in good conscience, do anything other than submit to those words?
In order to go on, you must know this one reality: the revelation of God carries with it inherent authority. This is due to the authority of the one giving it. For example, imagine two people walk up to your house, one a farmer and the other a structural engineer. The engineer proceeds to warn you regarding the stability of your roof as he has witnessed it beginning to cave in (something you had seen evidences of but didn’t know the full diagnosis). At this point the farmer chimes in and says there isn’t anything to worry about as he has never seen a roof cave in before. Dear sir, who are you going to listen to? The one whose words carry weight because of the identity of the speaker, whose very words are demonstrably true in what they say about your predicament? Or are you going to hear the ones that sound better and promise an outcome that they have no ability to provide?
This is, indeed, quite similar to how we see the Scriptures. The words of God possess the authority of God. It is as simple as that. Look at Christ’s teaching: “They were astonished at his teaching, for his words possessed authority." “I do nothing on my own authority, I speak just as the father taught me.” “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘what is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” Why should this surprise them? Did they not know that God’s words carried inherent authority? No, they knew this well as they were in possession of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is that they didn’t want to submit to the authority therein. Isn’t that remarkable? Jesus speaks to them and says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. One speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” Even as God incarnate He refused to speak on His own authority. Rather, the words of the Father are sufficient. David, what example is set for us here. To bear the authority, to speak the authority never from our own selves or position but as a relay of the authority inherent. This will take humility, dear friend, and a reliance upon God’s effectual Word as it does its work.
Does that not bring us to the necessary conclusion? Once receiving the revelation of God, submitting to its content and message, carrying it with its authority, ought not the next step be to bring it to bear that others might receive it? Should we carry the light of the gospel and put it under a basket or on a lampstand? Ought the salt stay in the shaker?
Paul learned this well. He could not contain the message given him and it propelled him along his way. He encourages a young pastor to carry on the same: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” This is not an additional step of those in leadership, this is the necessary conclusion of rightly receiving the revelation of God. I ask you to consider Balaam, that foolish prophet, having received the revelation of God was not able to do other than proclaim it. Will space fail me to mention Aaron, Jonah, or Caiaphas? Men whose desire at times was to deliver a message other than what was received only to find themselves unable? We possess the words of God, my friend, and “since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak.” What else can we do? May God strengthen us both to that end as he has done for all those to whom he gives believing ears. I pray I may continue to encourage you in the effort as you proclaim Him who reveals these things, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” May God be glorified in the receiving, submitting to, bearing the authority of, and proclaiming His word to His world.