Scripture: General Revelation
What is revelation? The word “revelation” means to unveil, uncover, or to manifest. God reveals or manifests himself to his creation. In other words, God makes himself known. God does this in two ways. The first is generally (general revelation), which will be discussed here, and specific (special revelation).
General revelation usually refers to creation. Along with creation, the image of God in man and the human conscience are proofs of general revelation. These reveal that there is indeed a God.
Creation manifests certain aspects of God and some of his attributes. This revelation is only general; it is not specific, nor is it salvific (it does not save or offer forgiveness to sinners). Universal in scope, general revelation means that God has revealed himself in a general way to all people, in all places, at all times. Since it is universal, general revelation excludes precision and details. It has limitations.
What does God reveal about himself generally through creation? God reveals his goodness. This is seen in that he causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45). Of course, this is God providing for his creation. Creation reveals the care and provision of God. He gives rain, fruitful harvests, food, and all things that cause happiness (Acts 14:15-17).
The heavens and earth reveal the glory of God to man (Ps. 19). These are a theater where God puts his glory on display. We see his power and divine nature (Rom. 1:19-20). Creation demonstrates the wisdom, power, and sovereignty, among other attributes already mentioned.
Acts 17:22-31 teaches the truth of general revelation. Paul's audience knew about God. Notice, they knew about God. They did not know him. There is a world of difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone personally. They served an unknown deity. Granted, they served many gods, but they did not want to offend a god they were unaware of. The very fact that they were worshiping something points to the fact that God has made himself known in a general way. Mankind is inherently religious (Rom. 2:14-15). All civilizations worship or revere something.
Paul used the fact that they served an unknown deity to make the one true God known. He proclaimed that God is the Creator and is sovereign (vs. 24). God is also self-sufficient (vs. 25), the source of life and all that is good (vs. 25), intelligent and determines all things (vs. 26), immanent (vs. 27), and the source of human existence (vs. 27). Paul used what was known through general revelation to launch into the truth of the actual God.
The image of God in man teaches us about God (Gen. 1:26-27). God is sovereign and gave mankind dominion over his creation. He is intelligent and reasonable and imbued man with the ability to learn and reason. God is a relational being and created humanity with emotions, the desire to fellowship, and the ability to communicate. God is also good and just and created man with a sense of right, wrong, and justice.
When God made man, he blessed them with a conscience. God has revealed himself in a moral sense. Humanity knows the difference between right and wrong. Our conscience tells us when we or someone else does something wrong. There is a sense of justice within each one of us.
Remember, general revelation only manifests God in a non-specific manner. It tells that there is a God and reveals certain characteristics of him. However, mankind is fallen and therefore suppresses the revealed truth about God (Rom. 1:18). We are born sinful, corrupt, and separated from God. The true God is hated, avoided, or denied, while false gods are erected and worshiped in his place. As a result, humanity is turned over to their sinful and carnal desires (Rom. 1:24-28). General revelation only condemns and proves man to be unworthy and guilty before a holy God (Rom. 1:20). Man is without excuse. God is known, yet this knowledge is smothered, redirected, and ignored.
There are several implications from what has been written. First, truth is present in God's creation and can be seen in human experience and culture. Truth exists and can be known. Second, the moral law is implanted in the conscience, or written on the heart, and accounts for the distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong. Hence, we have laws and government which provides any number of benefits. Third, since humanity has a basic knowledge of God, Christians can witness and share the truth of God being assured that the notion of God is known and therefore not meaningless. Fourth, general revelation provides the basis for and is foundational to God's saving revelation through Christ and the written word (special revelation will be handled in my next blog).
God has made himself known. That is astonishing. God, who needs nothing, created and manifested himself to his creation. One only has to look around to see the majesty, beauty, and glory of God. Everything testifies that there is a God. The entire universe declares this message. God is real.