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Revelation or Studies?

Galatians 1:11-12 “But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

It never ceases to amaze me to hear some of the statements that those who profess to believe in grace proclaim. For example:

“I do not believe I am beyond reinvestigating the scriptures in order to learn more of the truth.”
“I welcome the scrutiny and challenges of others as I know that in answering I will either be further convinced of the truth or by God’s Grace I will be shown to be wrong and be forced to change my position.”
“...to sit down together and be willing to study these important issues in an attempt to come into unity with one another.”

These are quotes from an article that I received in my email the other day. When you first read these, you might think “What’s the big deal?” I hope to show what the big deal is by the end of this writing. I have nothing personal against the author nor do I desire to make it a personal matter. Therefore I do not see the need to name any names. These quotes above are simply examples of the same or similar things that people say on a regular basis.

I was part of a discussion forum in the past that claims to be filled with grace believers. In the forum, this one gentleman made a comment that went something like: “Through my many studies, I have come to the conclusion...” I commented with reference the comment above that we need to be careful how we word our comments. Comments like that tend to come across very arrogant and full of pride and we need to give glory where glory is due and that being to the Lord. Needless to say, my comments were not very well welcomed or received. In fact, if I am not mistaken I was rebuked several times from the members. I haven’t changed my mind and I still say that comments like that are very arrogant and reek of self-pride. Where is the emphasis placed in what they are saying? It is focused on what that person did, on their studies or in other words it is focused on the “work” that they performed. It is very similar the comments above, the emphasis is in the wrong place. When it should be emphasizing on what the Lord has revealed, instead the emphasis is on what “I” did or “I” believe. There are quite a few “I’s” in these short quotes, let alone throughout the article. With reference to the second comment above, I ask: “If the Lord has truly revealed something to you, can any amount of “study” change your mind? Can comments from some other man negate that revelation that was given you?” The answer is an astounding Absolutely not!

We live (at least those of us who live in the United States) in a time of instant gratification. If someone wants something, they just put it on plastic (credit card) and pay for it later. This mentality has even been transferred over into the spiritual realm by many “professing” believers. If one is reading scripture and they come across something that either doesn’t make sense or they don’t understand it, what do they do? They look to man for the answers. What do I mean by that? They open up a commentary and look to see what that person has said and what he believes the passage means. When in fact, the truth of the scriptures can only be taught by revelation and that person should be waiting on the Lord to reveal His truth to them. In the article that I took the quotes from above, there are quite a few quotes from men and commentaries in it. The person that wrote it made it clear in a follow-up letter that the subject that was written about, was received from reading these men and this was just a reiteration of it. Here is a direct quote: I simply regurgitated everything that I had learned from a variety of sources. What is very interesting to me is what is missing. The missing ingredient is the proclamation of the revelation of God. Yes, there are quotes galore from men giving their two cents as to what a passage means but there is nothing about what the Lord has revealed in these quotes nor in the whole of the article. Don’t get me wrong, some commentaries have their place but only as a confirmation to the truth that has already been revealed.

I am all for giving credit where credit is due. But the only credit that is due with reference to the truth of God goes to God alone!

In our verses that we are looking at in Galatians, Paul makes it abundantly clear that he did not receive the gospel that he proclaimed from man. He received it only by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The question then should be asked, “Is this an event that only has reference to Paul or does it apply to all believers throughout time?”

Matthew 11:25b “...because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”
John 14:26 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
Ephesians 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:”
Romans 1:17a “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith:”
I John 2:20 “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”
I John 2:27 “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

These verses above are only a sample, but clearly answer the question that is asked. The revelation of God is for all believers throughout time and that the truth MUST be revealed.

I can just hear it, “Oh so you are against studying then, right?” Absolutely not! But, I don’t believe that the truth of the Scripture is revealed to anyone through any studies that they do. The truth of God is revealed from faith to faith as Paul put it in his letter to the Romans. The revelation of God has nothing to do with the physical but everything to do with the spiritual! It has nothing to do with what I do, but everything to do with what God does! Can the Lord reveal His truth to someone in their studies? Of course He can! But it is not because they are studying; it is because God has chosen to reveal His truth at that time.

The next thing that would probably be thrown my way is a verse in the second letter to Timothy. In chapter 2 verse 15 Paul tells Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The first thing that needs to be noticed here is that the word “study” has nothing to do with what is commonly understood as studying. The word means to “make haste, to exert oneself.” And it is translated in other verses as: “give diligence, endeavour, be diligent, etc.” So, if we replace the word “study” it reads like this: “Endeavour to shew thyself approved unto God...” or “Be diligent to shew thyself approved unto God...” What does this mean? Does the child of grace endeavour to shew himself approved by being a workman? No, that is not what this verse is saying. If I am not mistaken, the phrase “...a workman that needeth not to be ashamed...” is a prepositional phrase and doesn’t really need to be there. If we take it out (and I say that very cautiously and respectfully because we cannot by any means remove any of God’s word!), it helps to make clearer what the verse is saying. “Study (be diligent) to shew thyself approved unto God rightly dividing the word of truth.” So, we must ask ourselves; does the act of rightly dividing the word of truth come from studying? Or is it because that person has been approved unto God is the reason they rightly divide the word of truth? To me the obvious answer is the latter one. How can one truly rightly divide the word of truth unless they are approved? Notice that the verse does not have the word “by” in it. What I mean is that it does not say: “...approved unto God by rightly dividing...” Again, it goes back to the fact that NOTHING that we DO has any effect on how God views us. This showing is unto the brethren and not unto God.

We see many-many men who are as clueless as all get-out who study God’s word and think that they are rightly dividing it. But they trust in their studies or teachings from other men and not the revelation of God from faith to faith. I have known of men who are very arrogant and boisterous about their so-called study time. I have had one gentleman go on and on about his time of study. He was very proud of it. In fact every time we would talk he would mention something about his hours of study. He then went on to tell me that when he would give a message, he felt he needed to tell his listeners how he came to what he was saying by his study. Now that is a perfect example of what is called arrogance. Unfortunately he is not alone, for there are many out there exactly the same and some worse.

Ok, but what about the Bereans? Weren’t they of more noble character because they studied the Scriptures daily? In the book of Acts, it says: “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (17:10-11)

What does this verse say? Does it say that the Bereans searched or studied the scriptures to attain truth? Or does it not clearly say that they had already received the truth and confirmed it with the searching or studying of the Scriptures? The wording of the verses in Acts is very clear to me. The Bereans were of more noble character because they were given to receive the word with all readiness. And because of the receiving they then searched the scriptures. Notice that the receiving comes first. And how could they receive the word unless they had been prepared by the Lord to receive it? Jesus’ words which are recorded in the book of John give us some illumination to this. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (10:4-5). Only the sheep receive the truth because they recognize the shepherd’s voice. The Bereans were only noble because of what Christ had done!

I can also see someone asking, “Why then are there Pastors and teachers?” If we look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (4:11-16).

It is the Lord who GAVE the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to his body. So, if it was the Lord who gave them, then there is obviously a purpose for them. But what is the purpose? They are there for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ. All three of these are saying essentially the same thing. But what do they mean? The word “perfecting” can also mean “maturing”. So, they are for the maturing of the saints. The truth has already been revealed to the children, but sometimes they are at a loss on how to explain it or verbalize it. Or sometimes the pastor can be proclaiming a certain truth and it is the first time some of the children have heard these truths verbally, but it has been revealed from faith to faith and is sweetness to their souls. They received it as the Bereans did with all readiness of mind because the Lord had already revealed that truth to them from faith to faith.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul hides nothing as to the path that the Lord took him on.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.” (1:15-20)

Is Paul bragging about his time with the Lord? Absolutely not! He is setting this forward to show what path the Lord took him on. And is a nice confirmation to the verses that we started with. That is that he was not taught by man nor received anything of man but the gospel that he now proclaims was strictly from the Lord by revelation. Isn’t it ironic that in these days that we are living in now, the first thing someone is told to do is to go out and buy a Bible dictionary, a commentary or some other man-derived so-called helps? And yet, here was a very learned man who counts all of his prior learning as dung. He did not go to man to seek their approval or set at their feet, in fact the Lord directed him away from men.

I think this is a good place to get back to the title at the top of this little writing. Is truth obtained by personal study or by revelation? I hope that I have shown that the truth of the gospel is and can only be obtained by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Go on and study all that you want, in fact we should be studying and reading God’s word on a regular basis. We should have a love for it! But know this, that it is the living Word, Jesus Christ that reveals His truth to His children from faith to faith.

I will end this with one more thought. Giving the person who wrote the article that I have referred to in this the benefit of the doubt, the writer probably was thinking that if there was a claim to “revelation” it would come across boastful and arrogant. I know that there is a stigma attached to it, and that people have abused it, but that way of thinking is completely wrong. Scripture says that the Lord is a jealous God and he deserves all honor and glory and credit. The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream, Daniel interpreted the dream for him and it came to pass. Nebuchadnezzar became as an animal in the field eating grass, his hair and nails grew extremely long so that he also looked like an animal. (Daniel 4:4-33). Why did this happen? It was because Nebuchadnezzar took the credit for what had happened around him (Daniel 4:30). But it was God’s doing and therefore He deserved ALL the credit, honor and glory.

My hope is that this little writing has been a confirmation and is sweetness and food to your soul!

Tom Adams
February 2006