How do we know who God is?
The Bible reveals who God is to mankind. It contains the history of God’s interaction with humanity from his creation of the first human beings to his direct entering into the world through the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.
Two kinds of revelation
The Bible teaches that we do not have the ability to search and discover who God is. It is not as if we can turn over a rock and find God! If we are to have any knowledge of God at all, he must first reveal it to us. This revealing work on God’s part is called revelation. From the Bible we see that God has revealed himself to us in two different ways. The first method of revelation which is available to all of mankind is called general revelation, or natural knowledge. The other method of revelation is called special revelation, or revealed knowledge. Both of these forms of revelation grant humanity information about God, however, only one of these can tell us who God is, what he requires of us, what he does and has done for us, and how to have a relationship with him.
General Revelation or Natural Knowledge
Through general revelation, also called natural knowledge, God has revealed himself to mankind through what he was created. This means that through our knowledge and experiences within the world around us, we can glean information, or knowledge, about who God is. The names given to this type of revelation can be useful to help remember what type of information we can gain from this type of revelation and where we can look to attain it. Using the name natural knowledge, remember that this type of revelation is knowledge that mankind can obtain from nature. Using the other name for this classification of God’s revealing work, general revelation, reminds us to what extent we can gain information about God from nature – it’s only general information, there’s a God, and he’s all-powerful!
From looking at the design, order, consistency, laws of nature, purpose, and aesthetics of nature and life, one should be able to come to the conclusion that there is in fact a designer, a creator of the universe and the cosmos, that there is a divine, eternal being – the cause of the effect we see in motion. However, as the Bible explains, even though God’s existence is evident from what he has made, humanity regularly turns from this knowledge to worship and deify aspects of the created order or to worship idols made by the hands of men.
A passage of scripture commonly used to support general revelation is Romans 1:18-25.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – Romans 1:18-25
Special Revelation, or Revealed Knowledge
Looking at a tree, the sunset, or rise, the human anatomy, or virtually any aspect of this world, one could easily come to the conclusion that there is a God. But who is that God? What is his, or her, or its name? Does this God love us, hate us, want to have us over for dinner, to get to know us, or does this God already know, he just wants a relationship with us? Or maybe God is in all of us in such a manner that we are constructed with the divine essence itself, meaning we are God? Does this God demand anything of us – throw a virgin into a volcano for instance! None of the answers to these questions can be derived from general revelation alone. All general revelation does is condemn us, leaving us with no excuse when we stand before our maker on the Day of Judgment as Paul wrote to the Romans.
This is why we must have special revelation, also known as revealed knowledge. This type of revelation is God’s direct revelation of himself to mankind through his interaction with us in history recorded in the Bible and through the historical figure, Jesus Christ,
A commonly used verse from the Bible to support special revelation is Hebrews 1:1-2.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” – Hebrews 1:1-2