Affirmation 1c – Special Revelation

These notes refer to the Lord’s Day 11th September 2011. Alex Hutter leading the class. We sang 285 Come let us join our cheerful songs, and 159 How shall I sing that majesty.
God reveals himself in two ways. The General (creation and conscience) and the Special.
As an adjunct, guidance and conversion – i.e. via the Holy Spirit.
Essentially though, special revelation is through Christ and the Scriptures. Jon 1:14-18, Heb 1:1-2
What does God reveal through his Son? How does the Son reveal God?

  • That we need a mediator, that there is a basic lack in us to please God. Jesus Christ reveals God’s humility,
  • his wrath: overturning the moneychanger’s tables in the temple was a fairly violent act. See also the terrible woes pronounced on the pharisees in Matt 23. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. Yet he always had time for the repentant sinner.
  • his holiness through the Sermon on the Mount and lived consistently with it, ‘I have not come to destroy the law…, but to fulfil (Matt 5:17). In the myths and legends of the ancient world, we do find gods struggling with inward sin but we find Jesus loving God and man with all his heart.
  • His love: He would spend a day ministering to the needs of the people, witness his compassion on the 5000 who he challenged his disciples to feed, and then he’d spend the night in prayer. Contrast that with his disciples who could not watch with him one hour (Matt 26:40). Our actions only prove how shallow our love is compared with his.
  • his redemption: through his words, ‘I am the way…’ (Jn 14:6). Once, in conversation with a methodist, one of our number mentioned this verse and the gentleman had never heard of it. His partner joined the conversation and was appalled that such talk was going on. But Christ is the Lamb of God; by dying on the cross he is the justifier of all those who come in faith to Jesus (Rom 3:26).

In fact, we could ask, ‘Is anything about God better revealed by someone or something else? Not really. ’In that case, why do we need the Bible? The life of Christ is revealed through it. Contrast the sealed cannon of scripture with the New Testament apocraphal writings and the difference between them is plain. The Bible, with it’s 66 books and 40+ authors, writing from all walks of life over a period of 1500 years, is an amazing book. How could fallible men complete such a work? Inspiration. Some passages are clearly to be taken as God’s verbatim statements, ‘Thus saith the Lord’. Others are still inspired: 2 Tim 3:16-17. God was there with the author, guiding and over-ruling their weaknesses. Another prime text is 2 Peter 1:19-20: ‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’.
There are many more proofs about the authenticity of the Bible as God’s Word. Consider fulfilled prophesy: e.g. 150 years before he was born, Cyrus was foretold as being the one who would free the Jews (see Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13), or Bethlehem as the location of the Messiah’s birth. There is also a singular lack of contradiction in the Bible. Some unbelievers have tried to pick holes in the Bible and will go through it looking for contradictions but their careful efforts tell their own story. It was suggested that the latter writers could have just copied the stance of their forebears, but that does not follow since there are many standpoints at varience with the general tenor of scripture, such as today’s liberal theologians. If they had a hand in writing scriptures we would have an entirely different and deeply contradictory book in our hands. Instead, the message does not at all sound like ‘man’. And it is still a consistent message. A question was raised about the date of the canon being sealed circa 700AD but in fact it was much earlier than that. A worthy article can be found at: http://www.bible-researcher.com/voorwinde1.html
One of the greatest proofs is the inward testimony in the hearts of believers, who know it to be true. After reading a few supporting scriptures such as: 1 Cor 2:14 and Hebrews 11:1-3, Alex finished by reading the section of the Westminster Confession which bears repeating here:

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[5] those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]
Quoted from http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/
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Question 1e ‘to enjoy God forever’

We begun by singing, ‘Show me thy face, one transient gleam’.

1  Previously

1.1  What are people for?

1.2 What is it to Glorify God: appreciation, adoration, affection, submission

1.3 Why we must glorify God… That God is essentially 1. Because he gives us our being, 2. Because he made all things for his own glory, 3. He is intrinsically glorious, 4. Everything else glorifies God, 5. All our hopes hang upon him.

1.4 How may we glorify God?

1.5 Today: Enjoying God forever – Forever… a word that the world likes… its love songs often use this word, but no-one can achieve this, with most falling pitifully short. Forever may be taken to mean ‘till death us do part’, but the plain meaning must refer to glorifying and enjoying in a way that transcends death. We may get ‘hung up’ on the idea of enjoying anything, yet one of the most popular words in our vocabulary, ‘blessed’ actually means ‘happy’. Although we would shun a frivilous attitude here, blessed is our estate in Christ and blessed we ought to be.

Supporting verses

2.1 Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

2.2 Exodus 20:24 In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

2.3 Psalm 43:4 God my exceeding joy

 3  Enjoying what He is

We spent a few moments considering that it is possible to ‘enjoy’ the various attributes of God – that he is Faithful and True, Holy, Love, Providential, Creator. Yet all this is to enjoy God as it were ‘From a distant admirer’.

 4  Enjoying what He does for us

This brings us closer, to a more immediate consideration and enjoyment of God. Someone mentioned the way that God draws them to the means of grace, stiring up holy desires.  But it also includes the foundational blessings of forgiveness of sins, Redemption, Answered prayer, a pastor, comfort, etc.

Yet all these things are still not quite meaning, ‘enjoying God’. After all, we do not love our near relatives because of what they do for us.

 5  Enjoying God

5.1                 We have various levels of tollerance for people – some very small, some very large. We were made to be with God at every moment. If we are not comfortable with that, then how will we cope with the enormously expanded presence of God in glory?

5.2                 The Lord ‘spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.’ Ex 33:11 Not as the Almighty God with his servant, but as a man speaketh unto his friend, more as a Jonathan with his David, as one enjoying sweet concourse with his friend. There are dangers in this area. Just the fact that a book has been written about it by Michael Horton, called In the Face of God. Our reformed tradition, including the Puritans, Winslow, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones, offer a frutful and balanced literature to guide us in this area.

5.3                 Contrast ‘being with’ someone with using modern forms of communication, even just the telephone, for example. One colleague in work accused me of being omnipresent because of my swift response to his emails! But however ‘connected’ we may be technology actually highlights how valuable being with someone really is. ‘Being with’ the other person is infinitely superior. And no-one can represent you either. No amount of messengers can replace ‘being with’. Further, it is wonderful to be the subject of prayer, but you do have to do your own communion with God. For that we have to really be alone together, in order that nothing can interrupt communion – do you not crave that? Or do you try and multitask? Is there a significant amount of any day when God has your undivided attention?

5.4                 I remember a newly married couple (not Christians) where the husband loved a hobby that took him overseas frequently. He’d promised to devote the first year to sorting their new home out, that’s what he’d signed up for, and after that he considered himself free to go and play. I inwardly quailed for the poor doting wife of such a monster.

5.5                 Or compare with courting or being married, or having that ‘best friend’, Mr Higham alluded to this the other week, neither would settle for a description of the person, knowing about their abilities or attributes, or what they can do for you – the kernel of it is ‘being with’

5.6                 Nothing but an infinite good can fully satisfy the desires of an immortal soul (Boston)

5.6.1      God IS the cheif good

5.6.2      God is ALL good

6  Imperfect and perfect enjoyment of God (from Thomas Boston 1676 – 1732)

 6.1                 Imperfect

However our enjoyment of God is in this life, it is always less than what shall be in glory. However, according to Boston, enjoyment of God consists in two things:

6.1.1     “In union with him, or special saving interest in him, whereby God is their God by covenant. By this union Christ and believers are so joined, that they are one in spirit, one mystical body. The whole man, soul and body, is united to him,and, through the mediator, unto God. This is the foundation of all saving enjoyment of God.”

6.1.2      In communion with God, which is a participation of the benefits of that saving relation, whereof the soul makes returns to the Lord in the exercise of it’s graces, particularly of faith and love. This is had in the duties of religion, prayer, meditation, &c. in which the Lord privileges his people with manifestations of his grace, favour, and love, bestows on them the influences of the holy Spirit, gives them many tokens of his kindness, and fills them with joy and peace in believing.

6.1.3      These enjoyments are imperfect because our capacity is so hampered by sin, flesh, devil

 6.1.4      Obstacles: What obstructs union and communion with God in the Christian? We struggle to glorify AND enjoy doing both in perfect measure elludes us: e.g. Ps 33:1 Praise is comely but praise without engaging is falling far short of our chief end Indolence, eg.  Song of Solomon 5, and the corrupting the means of grace, James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Form without power  (2 Tim 3:5).

 6.2                 Perfected in Glory

Glory is, according to Boston, far more excellent in, at least, the following ways:

6.2.1      Intimate Presence with Him

6.2.2      Seeing Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2)

6.2.3      Perfect union with Him Rev 21:3

6.2.4      The entering the ‘joy of thy Lord’ (Mat 25:21) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

 7  Religion is no use unless it includes the potential for constant intimate fellowship with God

This is why Christ died, not just to pluck you out of the jaws of death and the devil, and forget about you like some cartoon superhero. We were saved, ‘at measureless cost’, to be brought back into a state of union and communion with our Maker, for time and eternity.

8  Challenge – next time you have to choose between time spent enjoying or indulging in the things of this world, consider calling on the Lord instead.

Two brothers prayed before I closed with the benediction from Jude. I had not noticed before that this included this element of ‘exceding joy’.

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.