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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: Why Do We Need a Written Revelation from God?

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Question 15

Why Do We Need a Written Revelation from God?

There are a number of ways in which God could have chosen to reveal Himself to humanity. These include the following: God could have personally revealed Himself to everyone; He could have had His Word passed on by oral communication or He could have had His Word committed to writing. The following observations need to be made about this subject:

  • A Personal Revelation to Each Individual Is Not Practical

    God could have chosen to personally reveal Himself to each individual, yet He did not. There would have been insurmountable problems if He had chosen this way. They include the following:

    1. Not Everyone Would Be Willing to Receive God’s Message

      First, not everyone would be willing to receive what God wanted to say. Some people would have to be forced to receive God’s personal revelation to them. They simply would not want to hear it.

      The Bible says that God does not force anyone to receive His message. Jesus compared His desire to talk to people to knocking at a door. He said:

      Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

      To hear His voice, people must open the door; He will not break down the door.

    2. The Same Message Would Have to Be Continuously Repeated

      If God personally revealed Himself to everyone, then He would have had to have repeated the same message over and over again to each of us. This would seemingly be a waste of time and effort. Why go to all that trouble when there is a much simpler way?

    3. Personal Revelation Would Only Cause More Confusion

      Finally, this method would only lead to confusion. People would not agree with each other as to what God had revealed to them. This being the case, then the question would be, “Who would decide which person had the correct revelation from God?” Obviously, some other method of God revealing Himself to humanity is necessary.

    4. Oral Communication Is Not a Satisfactory Solution

      There is also the possibility that God’s Word could have been passed along simply by oral communication. The people to whom God spoke would verbally pass on His Word to others. However, oral communication has the following problems:

      • A Non-Written Message Could Be Changed

        First, if we were given only an oral communication from God, then we would have a message that could be changed and misinterpreted when repeatedly told. Memory and tradition are untrustworthy guides. The more the story was repeated orally, the more the story could be changed. This would not give us much confidence in the message.

      • There Would Be No Agreement as to Which Version Should Be Trusted

        Moreover, if the message began to differ considerably, how would anyone know which version to trust? A revelation from God based upon oral communication would be beset with many problems. It would soon be more confusion than help.

      • Sinful Humanity, on Their Own, Is Not Capable of Doing This

        Finally, sinful humanity, left to themselves, is incapable of correctly passing along an infallible oral communication. Our sinful and limited natures would keep us from accurately and truthfully passing on God’s Word by transmitting it orally. Something else is needed.

A Written Revelation Is Absolutely Necessary for a Number of Reasons

There are a number of reasons why a written revelation from God to humanity is absolutely necessary. They are as follows:

  1. The Importance of the Subject Demands It

    First, the importance of the subject necessitates a revelation from God being put into writing. Because the eternal destiny of every human being hangs upon a proper response to God’s revelation, it becomes absolutely essential that it be written down. Because it has been committed to writing, it has been made public for all to see. This makes it more accessible.

  2. The Written Message Can Be Accurately Preserved for Future Generations

    Once the words and deeds have been committed to writing, the message can be preserved. This allows succeeding generations to have the benefit of seeing what the original writers said. Thus, the written Word of God makes His truth available to many more people. By putting the messages in a book, such as the Bible, the truth can be preserved for future generations. God continues to speak; though the people who originally gave the messages as well as those who first received the messages have died. Therefore, the truths of Scripture would be an infallible standard for all people of all ages.

    We note that God commanded the prophet Isaiah to write down His words to preserve them for future generations. The Lord said:

    Now go, write it down on a tablet in their presence, inscribe it on a scroll, so that it might be saved for a future time as an enduring witness. (Isaiah 30:8 NET)

    The words could forever be preserved. The writer’s die; but their writings live on.

  3. A Written Message Can Solve Doctrinal Issues

    A written revelation also solves doctrinal controversies. If there is a question concerning Christian belief, the written Bible can be studied as an authoritative source to solve the problem. Therefore, all questions have a final source of authority in which to resolve them.

    In Jesus’ day when a religious question came up, the people immediately went to the Old Testament Scripture to find their answer. For example, when King Herod heard that the Christ had been born, he went to the religious leaders to find out where. They found the answer to this question in the Scriptures. The Bible says:

    When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said, “for it is written this way by the prophet.” (Matthew 2:3-5 NET)

    When the Scriptures were cited, this solved the question once and for all. Humanity has an authoritative basis to go to find ultimate answers.

  4. A Written Message Can Be Examined Repeatedly

    Once God’s Word had been put into written form, it can be examined time and time again. It is available for discussion, as well as for careful study.

    It can be publicly and privately examined by believers and unbelievers alike. It provides the basis for discussion of its contents. Therefore, it is a message that is available to all; not to just a select few.

  5. A Written Message Can Be Translated Accurately into Other Languages

    Once a revelation is committed to writing, there is a greater possibility of transmitting it to those who speak and write a different language. The message can be spread and copied with the assurance that the original thoughts will stay intact. Therefore, the message becomes accessible to more people.

  6. This Is the Way That We Humans Communicate

    When human beings want to preserve a communication, they put it in writing. Since God decided to communicate to human beings in words that we would understand, it makes sense that He would use the same method that we do to preserve our own communications—He put it in writing.

    In fact, we read in the Scripture that the patriarch Job challenged God to put His words to Job into writing. We read the following:

    Why doesn’t God All-Powerful listen and answer? If God has something against me, let him speak up or put it in writing! (Job 31:35 CEV)

    God has answered Job’s request. We have God’s written revelation to us.

  7. Apart from a Written Record, There Is No Other Practical Way to Communicate God’s Truth

    As one thinks about the situation, there is really no other practical way in which God could have revealed Himself except in written form. How else could He have imparted His infallible standard that would be available to every human being in every age?

  8. We Have a Responsibility to Study God’s Revelation

    Therefore, when all the information is considered, we find that a written revelation from God is absolutely essential. Because we have a written communication from the Lord, we have a responsibility to study it, and think about it. The psalmist wrote:

    Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 NIV)

    Joshua was told by the Lord to meditate on the Word of God. The Lord said to him:

    This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. (Joshua 1:8 NRSV)

    We should do the same.

Summary - Question 15
Why Do We Need a Written Revelation from God?

It is clear that the New Testament, by their direct statements, testify to its own divine origin and unique authority. The New Testament claims to be God’s revealed Word to humanity. It claims the following things: it is a record God is speaking, it is infallible, it was written to benefit future generations, it is eternal and unchanging, it is powerful, true, a guide for daily living, authoritative and the Word of God. Thus, it is the assertion of Scripture itself that it is more than a mere human book—it is the very Word of God. These claims must be taken seriously.

However, not every word in the Bible was spoken from God. Scripture records the speech of hundreds of different people. Some of them spoke for God and some of them said things that were contrary to the truth of God. The context must determine whether something in Scripture is a Word from God, or the mere words of humans.

How Do We Know the Bible Is the Word of God? ← Prior Section
Is It Logical to Think That God Would Communicate to Humanity? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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