What is “Special Revelation”?

REVELATION

We previously defined “revelation”:
• in its broad sense as communication from God (the mind and will of God), and
• in its narrow sense as “the disclosure of something previously unknown.”

GENERAL REVELATION

We also mentioned that general revelation is information about God that should be readily apparent to any person through the witness of nature and conscience.

Through general revelation, God is vaguely understood as being the creator of the universe who has planted his moral law in our hearts, but not much more than that is known about him. Those who subscribed to Deism in the 1600s and 1700s believed in general revelation, but they did not believe in special revelation of any kind.

SPECIAL REVELATION

“Special revelation” is a type of God’s communication in which he makes himself known with a clarity and fullness not available in general revelation. We said there are three different kinds of “special revelation”:
1. The revelation of Jesus Christ
2. Scripture
3. Particular revelation

1. JESUS CHRIST: THE “LIVING WORD OF GOD” AND FOUNDATION OF ALL TRUTH

Of these three types of special revelation the most important is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This refers to God himself entering into human history as the “living word of God.” We already discussed one aspect of this concerning his resurrection.

We consider Christ to be the living word of God based on John 1:1 and 14 (RSV):
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

In John 14:6, Jesus himself claimed to be the source of truth and only way to God:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”

In raising any building, it used to be that a cornerstone was laid and then the entire rest of the edifice was built in reference to that cornerstone. The cornerstone metaphor is used to refer to Jesus Christ on more than one occasion:
• “Therefore thus says the Lord God, behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.” (Isaiah 28:16)
• “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)
• “For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6 – this passage is explaining Isaiah 28:16 quoted above).

2. SCRIPTURE: WRITTEN REVELATION FROM GOD FOR BELIEVERS IN ALL AGES

Is scripture inspired by God? Scripture is God’s written word that is recorded for the benefit of all generations of believers. Scripture is “authoritative,” meaning it is reliable for teaching and guidance.

3. PARTICULAR REVELATION: COMMUNICATION FROM GOD TO INDIVIDUALS

“Particular revelation” is a communication from God in the form of prophecy, dreams, visions, etc. to guide individuals as described in 1 Corinthians 14:26, 29-30:
“What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification . . . Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent.”

CONCLUSION

So we have been given three types of “special revelation” from God:
1. Jesus Christ (the most important)
2. Scripture
3. Particular revelation

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