Redemption

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

Last week’s post overviewed the doctrine of Revelation, or God’s unveiling of himself to the world. Today’s post will define general revelation, one of two spheres of the doctrine of revelation. Special revelation is the second sphere and will be the subject of subsequent posts.

General revelation refers to God’s self-manifestation through nature, history, and the inner being of the human person. It is general in two senses: it’s universal availability (it is accessible to all persons at all times) and the content of its message (it is less particularized and detailed than special revelation).

Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 26.

The distinction between general and special revelation is important. Because general revelation is universal and available to all, it is sufficient for mankind to know that there is a God. But because the one true God can only be known through Jesus Christ, special revelation is necessary. We will unpack this consideration in upcoming posts.

Millard Erickson suggested three areas where God has revealed himself generally to the world:

  1. Nature/Creation (Ps. 19 and Rom. 1:18-32). In nature, which is the focus of natural theology, God makes himself known as Creator. While we will not dive into the arguments for God’s existence from natural theology here, it is necessary to note that the universal tendency to worship gods or nature as gods is an affirmation of God’s revelation through nature. For the entirety of human civilization, gods and religions have been a part of human experience. The primary reason for this is that humanity has recognized that the world we live must have come from something/someone greater than ourselves. While some versions of ultimate reality coming from nature arose during the experiment of Greek philosophy, naturalism as a worldview is a recent development (18th century).(Naturalism is the worldview where ultimate reality is found in nature. The theory of evolution comes from the worldview of naturalism. Hence the phrase evolutionary naturalism). Humans have almost universally believed some deity is responsible for creating the world we live in. Creation testifies to general revelation.
  2. History (the Old Testament). An example of general revelation in history would be the unfurling of God’s character through his dealings with Israel in history. Whatever one thinks about the nation of Israel theologically or geopolitically, it is evident that there is something special about them. As a people, they have been targeted for annihilation (Nazis), persecuted, and disenfranchised throughout history. Their land has been under the control of empires and other nations for most of human history. Yet Israel remains. They remained a unique people even before they returned to their land. Why is this? It appears to me that God’s dealings with Israel reveal his special concern about the people he chose. Israel’s history testifies to general revelation.
  3. Humanity (Gen. 1:28). Being made in God’s image is a vital part of human understanding. It is true that the doctrine of the imago Dei is not universally accepted. But the philosophical definitions of humanity (as an animal or machine or mere product of nature) are inconsistent with human experience and reality. Humanity must be more than what naturalistic philosophies suggest because of our capacity for relationships, rationality, creativity, and morality. The fact that humans have free choice about how to live life reflects the freedom and personality given by a Creator. Humanity testifies to general revelation.

I recognize that connected these three areas to Scripture (special revelation). Understanding and interpreting general revelation sufficiently requires special revelation. We will unpack what this means in the following weeks.

Even so, it is important to recognize one staggering truth about general revelation that should shake us as followers of Christ:

General revelation is sufficient for condemnation, but not for salvation. 

You might read that quote and disagree. You might not like it. But whether we like it or not, it is true. Have a read from Paul’s exposition in Romans 1.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:18-25 (emphasis on verse 20 mine)

Theologically, one is condemned for failing to believe in God alone. Human sin, flowing down the generations from Adam to sinners today, is the cause of unbelief. Paul identified idolatry as a rejection of the truth taught in general revelation and sufficient for condemnation.

As Christians, the truth regarding general revelation should drive us three specific applications:

  • Pursue deeper knowledge of God.
  • Seek a greater appreciation for God’s general work in the world (nature, history, humanity).
  • Share the specific truths about God and salvation to sinners who desperately need forgiveness and eternal life.

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

The word, Messiah, comes from the Old Testament. It means “anointed one.” Transliterated into the New Testament, Messiah, is Christ.

Jesus, or in Hebrew Jeshua, is the given name for God’s Son born to Mary (Matthew 1:21). Jesus means “savior” or “Yahweh saves.” We should not think of Christ as a family lame or last name like we use names today. When we use the combination Jesus Christ, the Bible is reflecting the given name of God’s Son, Jesus, and his title, Christ or Messiah. Jesus is the anointed One come from God.

Messianic prophecies span the Old Testament.

  • The Messiah would be anointed king (Genesis 49:10; Psalm 2:7-9; Isaiah 9:6-7; 16:5).
  • The Messiah would be anointed priest (Psalm 110:4; Zechariah 6:13).
  • The Messiah would be anointed prophet (Isaiah 61:1-2; Deuteronomy 18:18).
  • The Messiah would be anointed judge (Isaiah 2:4; 11:3-4; Micah 4:3).
  • The Messiah would be anointed servant of God (Isaiah 42:1-4; 52:13-53:12)

The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for the Messiah. They longed for the anointed One of God to free them from Roman rule and lead them back to prominence. The problem with the Messianic theology of Jesus’ day was that many were looking only for a political Messiah. Even the disciples were guilty of this perspective (Matthew 16:21-23).

In my previous word of the week posts, we have reflected on the doctrines related to Christology (Christ) and soteriology (salvation). Today’s post about Jesus as Messiah culminates the primary biblical storyline.

Jesus is the theme of the Bible. It is right and accurate to describe Jesus as the centerpiece of salvation history and biblical history. The Old Testament anticipated his coming in the Messianic prophecies. The Old Testament also prefigured his coming through salvation analogies (the Tabernacle and the Temples, the priesthood, the sacrificial system, the Law, and the Kingship).

When we read about Jesus in the New Testament, he fulfilled the prophecies and anticipations of the Old Testament.

  • Jesus Christ is the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2; John 18:37; 19:3).
  • Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest (1 John 2:1; Hebrews 4:14ff).
  • Jesus Christ is the Prophet who speaks God’s Words (John 1:1; Matthew 7:28-29).
  • Jesus Christ is the Judge (John 5:30; Acts 17:31).
  • Jesus Christ is the Servant of God (John 13:1-20; Mark 10:45).
  • Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17).
  • Jesus Christ is the Temple where we meet God (Matthew 12:6; 26:61).
  • Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36; 1 Peter 2:24).

There is no theme more central to God’s purposes in the Bible than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

On this special day in Christian liturgy, Good Friday, we should necessarily reflect and meditate on Jesus Christ (Savior and Anointed One).

It is because he is Savior that we celebrate today. It is because he is God’s Lamb slain once for all that we can have forgiveness. It is because he is our Great High Priest that our sins can be atoned. It is because he fulfilled God’s Law that he can take our place. It is because he is King that the powers and authorities (our enemies) are subject to him. It is because he is Judge that our sins are judged and that he is sure to judge the sinfulness of the world. It is because he is God’s Servant who gave himself for us that we can meet God.

None of what we celebrate on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday would be possible if Jesus were not all that the Bible declares him to be. He must be God. For only God can take on himself the sins of the world. He must be man for only man can adequately serve as our substitute. He must be perfect for only a perfect sacrifice will be accepted. He must be all that God promised he would be and all that God says he is. None of what we celebrate on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday would be possible if Jesus were not all that the Bible declares him to be. He must be God. For only God can take on himself the sins of the world. He must be man for only man can adequately serve as our substitute. He must be perfect for only a perfect sacrifice will be accepted. He must be all that God promised he would be and all that God says he is.

The reason that the tragedy of the false accusations, faux trial, injustice, hate, and suffering of Jesus does not negate the goodness of God is that it accomplished God’s plan for salvation. Good Friday is good not because of the injustice, suffering, and hate Jesus experienced, but because Jesus’ experiences bring us the privilege of salvation. Through the person and work of Jesus we can know God.

Our redemption could not have happened unless Jesus Christ faced the terrible tragedies of Good Friday.

It is because of this day, Good Friday, in human and Christian history that we can celebrate salvation.

The entire plan of salvation, from the purpose of God in eternity to its outworking in human history, comes to focus in Jesus of Nazareth. Just as the work of Christ cannot be separated from his person, so what he did and who he is are right at the heart of the biblical message. Christology is the heartbeat of the Christian faith.

Robert Letham, The Work of Christ, 23.

Good Friday encourages us to meditate on Jesus Christ, his person and work. Make some time today to look up the verses above. Consider who Christ is, what he did, and what that means for our redemption.

As the Old Testament anticipated the coming of the Messiah, so Good Friday anticipated the resurrection of the Messiah. Today is a day for contemplation and confession. But it is also a day to rejoice and celebrate the redeeming work of Jesus Christ: Savior and Messiah.

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