Yes, I know that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man these days. Yes, I know that some maintain that the Bible can be read and understood by anyone. (I suppose, excepting those who speak a language to which the Bible has not been translated. Or people who have not been trained to read. Or people who are mentally challenged and can’t read. Or small children.)
But surely no reasonable person can maintain that God reveals everything about Himself in scripture, or that everything in scripture is crystal clear, or that every conclusion a person can draw from scripture can be relied upon with absolute certainty.
(Oh, wait. Maybe I’d better go back and review the comments from my last post.)
So let me put it this way: I don’t know anyone who can answer all of God’s questions to Job. I don’t know anyone who knows the exact time and date of Jesus’ return. I don’t know anyone who knows for absolute certainty what heaven is like or the biological characteristics of the resurrected body or the complete and literal story of angels, Satan, hell or judgment.
I have to conclude that there are a lot of things that scripture hints at, but does not fully describe; a lot of things it mentions, but does not go into detail about.
And if we believe that God’s Holy Spirit inspired scripture and perhaps even had a hand in the selection of materials in its canon … then we probably believe that God reveals in it, yet also conceals.
If so … why would He do this?
Let me offer a few possible reasons:
- The nature of faith. Faith is not fact (Hebrews 11:1). In His wisdom, God has decided that people who have not seen yet have believed are blessed (John 20:29). Those who believe are recipients of a promise (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).
- Our need to recognize God’s superiority. It makes us humble and brings penitence (Job 42:1-6; Isaiah 55:7-8) to realize that we cannot understand everything that God understands.
- Our need recognize our own inferiority compared to God. The fact is, there are things God does and knows that we simply can’t understand (Ecclesiastes 11:5; 1 Kings 8:39; Matthew 9:4; John 5:42).
- Our tendency to become conceited when much is revealed to us (2 Corinthians 12:17). Especially when we need to be humble (Romans 12:3) as Christ humbled Himself (Philippians 2).
- It is good for us to wonder about what is not revealed and meditate on it (Psalm 119:27 – see the entire chapter; Psalm 145:5; 2 Corinthians 3:18). There is blessing in doing so (Psalm 1).
- God wants us to ask for His help in understanding. There was no bound, collected Bible in the first century – nor for several centuries to come. There was never an indication in scripture that scripture alone was or ever would be the only way in which He reveals Himself. He promises to give us His Holy Spirit when we ask (Luke 11:13) and obey (Acts 5:32), and among the Spirit’s gifts are to aid in understanding (John 14:26), expression (1 Corinthians 12:13), and integrity of memory (2 Timothy 1:13-14). Jesus deliberately concealed some of His teaching in parables and intentionally waited for His disciples to ask their meaning (Luke 8). Was He withholding information? Only from those who didn’t ask.
- God wants us to ask for the community of others in understanding. An Ethiopian reading prophetic scripture was asked by Philip if he understood. His answer: “How can I, unless someone explains to me?” (Acts 8:30-31ff). Sharing understanding of scripture was to be part of gathered worship (1 Corinthians 14:29-31). We should instruct one another (Romans 15:14).
- God wants us to be discerning. That doesn’t mean that all knowledge and wisdom is handed to us, literally, word-for-word; but that — in addition to asking for help from His Spirit and from community of others who want to learn — we work for it and the labor adds value to what we discern. As a result of yearning and discerning (as opposed to shrugging and mocking), knowledge comes more easily (Proverbs 14:6). It speaks of our respect for Him (Proverbs 1:7).
- God wants us to understand that knowledge isn’t everything. In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul said it this way: ” … We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” In chapter 13, he will explain how absolutely vital love is: “… where there is knowledge, it will pass away. … these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
This last possible reason — to me — is perhaps the most deeply resonant one.
I’ve blogged before (Sunday Morning in a Garden) about the principle John communicates in saying on that blessed resurrection day:
Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
They saw and believed … even though they didn’t understand the scripture.
That is still possible for us: to believe even though we don’t fully understand every detail about God from scripture, or even about scripture itself. It is not by our level of understanding that we are judged; or by the accuracy of our interpretation that we are saved.
It is by grace through faith (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8).
9 thoughts on “Possible Reasons Why God Conceals”
“if we believe that God’s Holy Spirit inspired scripture and perhaps even had a hand in the selection of materials in its canon …”
As long as you believe in the words of men , which define the bible (and by the way are not in scripture) you will have trouble in determining truth, as long as you accept the writings of people who were not given the Comforter, by God at the request of Jesus Christ, as valid as that of those who were, you will have trouble understanding the bible.
Jhn 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.
As long as you accept the flawed acerssion, that all christians recieved the powers of God as the Apostles did, you will never understand the words of God spoken by Jesus Christ.
When we have Luke and Paul admit in the very writings, that people call inspired, that they are their opinion, and their understanding, of what others have said and we ignore what they say in order to comply with what the Catholic church fathers say, we will never understand the word of God spoken by Jesus.
Now that is fact.
If it is fact, laymond, you should be able to point me to where it says so in exactly those terms in scripture. Otherwise it is not fact; it is your interpretation of scripture and you have yours just as I have mine.
One of us could be right. Both of us could be wrong. And in some points of what we believe about what you’ve asserted, we could both be right even though it may appear to us that our beliefs contradict each other. God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our ways and thoughts, brother.
Keith the facts I refer to is- there is no place in scripture that says- all scripture (including the new testament) is inspired by God — the fact is there is no place in the bible which sayes it is infallable– the fact is there is no place that says that biblical canon in guranteed true by God–
the fact is that there is no place in the bible that states all who recieve baptism also recieves “the holy ghost”– the facts are as long as we don’t understand this about this book left us by the early Christians, we can’t possiably understand what Jesus left for us as a guide.
The only way I can proove God didn’t do these things is by theit absents in scripture. And the only way you can proove he did would be by there presents in scripture. I can proove their absents, unless you can proove their presents. it is that simple.
Sorry, I’m a little late coming to the party…and I agree w/all the reasons youve given here, Keith…but my opinion is that the main reason God doesn’t reveal everything is simply to keep us searching and seeking after Him in order to draw nearer still to Him.
I’ll admit that on the surface, I don’t really like the idea all that much. I’m a somewhat curious person who tends to ask a lot of questions just for curiosity’s sake. I want to know and I want to know why. I want answers to my questions!
But deep down, I also must admit that I don’t want a God that fits in a box, a God that I can figure out. If so, would He really be worthy of the praise we give Him??? I don’t think so.
So I have to trust: that He loves me; that He’s revealed as much of Himself to me as I can handle; that though He isn’t safe, He’s good.
Keith, many thanks for providing the outline for our life group discussion tonight.
Brent, you’re welcome. This is vaguely amusing to me. I wrote this post with a vague interest in the subject; something I didn’t find particularly interesting and didn’t figure it would generate much interest among others. But a couple of things had occurred to me on the subject and I thought I’d share them. Three days later, the teach of my Bible class at church went through all nine points, quoting me. Now your note!
Somehow embarrassing … but a counterbalance to all those posts on subjects that fascinate me, and no one visits or mentions!
Since then, one more possibility has come to mind, so here’s my number 10: It isn’t time. Sometimes it’s time to seal up what the thunders say (Revelation 10:4); sometimes it’s time to eat the scroll (Revelation 10:8-10) because there shall be no delay, or because the time is near (Revelation 22:10).
Not really disagreeing with the first line of your post, but a bit of a counterpoint:
Jesus is God’s revelation of Himself to man.
Just something I picked up from an old missionary.
Well, Jesus is the Word, and the Bible is the written word, Ralph, so ….
I guess this is the part where I say, “That’s a very fine distinction” and you say, “Thanks; I liked it,” and I say, “So did I!”
As I said, I’m not disagreeing. I liked your very fine distinction as well.
I just recently re-read a book by E. Stanley Jones, where he writes passionately about Christ as God’s revelation of himself. Of course, he is responding to the scripture which calls Jesus “God With Us,” and where Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father.”
I intend to post some reviews on my blog, of books by Jones.