HOW GOD REVEALS HIS WILL

Chapter 5

Men have learned to communicate with each other by means of language, signs, signals, symbols, gestures, expressions of the face, attitudes of the body, through characters, pictures, etc. They communicate even at a distance with the telephone, telegraph, heliograph, wireless telegraph, and other means. [Remember, this was written about 1910, (*smile*) ] Even the very intensity of feeling or desire is conveyed to others about them. That man is so sensitive to the will and desire of his fellow men, yet not sensitive to the will of God, and without comprehension of it is, to say the least, most unlikely. In fact, everything is favorable to God’s revealing his will to us, provided that we shall turn our attention towards finding what it may be.

The Method of Revelation

First, his will is revealed to the reason, through nature. Paul said, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:19, 20). The Psalmist tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” We observe the things that are. We see them constantly changing. We inquire of their origin. We see forces working in an orderly way, and our reason tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” We observe the things that are. We see them constantly changing. We inquire of their origin. We see forces working in an orderly way, and our reason tells us that there must be an intelligent control over all these things. We consider the immensity of space, and the mighty forces that are working, and so realize the greatness of the controlling power. The silent, solemn majesty and grandeur of the starry heavens declare to us the majesty of the God who made and regulates them. Again we see design in creation, and this clearly points out to us wisdom and intent in God. We see God’s benevolence in the gentle dew, the rain, the sunshine. Every piece of iron, every lump of clay, and every provision in nature for the good or happiness of man and the other creatures, testifies to the greatness and to the character of God. What we find within ourselves is a revelation of God’s character; hence, a revelation of his will. There is also direct personal revelation of his will to our reason. God has a way if impressing upon the human intelligence a knowledge of his will. He does this in various ways, which will be referred to further on.

Second, God reveals himself to the conscience. Paul, speaking of this, said, “When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, there have not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Rom. 2:14-15). That inner light “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” leaves its impression on the conscience of every soul. All who have arrived at reasoning age are morally conscious of good or ill desert belonging to themselves. They have a consciousness of moral quality in their actions. Their conscience approves or disapproves of their conduct. When conscience and reason operate together, they reveal much of God and his will. To be sure, the conscience may be seared so that it feels very little, or it may be perverted through wrong teaching until it is not a safe guide. But the un-perverted conscience teaches us much of God’s will, by revealing to us the natural principles of righteousness in our inner consciousness.

God works upon the conscience to arouse and quicken it. At such a time it becomes uneasy, restless, and troubled. This quickens the attention of the intellect, and directs it to a consideration of the moral questions involved in the conduct. The judgment of the intellect is then brought to bear. With attention and judgment brought to bear upon conduct, conscience quickens the more, and through this process God has the opportunity to reveal his will. Sometimes the intellect deals with problems of right and wrong, and of our relations with God, from an abstract standpoint. We arrive at a conclusion with the same methods that we arrive at other conclusions. But sometimes we know things without waiting for our minds to reach a conclusion through such a process.

Revelation has two sides. There is “the light and the eye, the voice and the ear, the characters and the understanding.” We must supply the “seeing eye”, the “hearing ear”, and the “understanding intellect”, and apply ourselves to know the Word of God, if we shall know the will of God.

Revelation Through the Spirit

Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit was given he should guide us into all truth. This applies to the direct action of the Holy Spirit, which makes things known to our intelligence. This revelation of truth is gradual, never reaching the ultimate of knowledge in this life, but still we are not left as some, “ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Christ led his apostles on step by step into the truth. We may expect to be led in the same way. As the bud gradually opens to our understanding, until finally, in the world to come, we shall “know even as we are known.” When we become spiritual through the process of regeneration, we have a spiritual understanding, a comprehension of which is greatly quickened. The Bible truly becomes a new book to us. There are many gleams of light which shine out from its pages where before, perhaps, we saw only darkness and obscurity.

The regenerated mind looks at truth from a new standpoint, a sympathetic, understanding stand point. It has a new view of truth, and an attitude toward truth that makes the revelation of truth and the understanding of truth far easier than before. Thus, it happens that ignorant and unlearned people are often wiser in spiritual matters than many of the learned. The wicked, generally speaking, know not God. They have no true apprehension of him or his will. This is largely because they have no desire to know him, unless it be as a matter of philosophy, from which is detached all sense of personal obligation to truth and to the God of truth. They feel a wholly impersonal relation to truth and to the will of God. They look upon it much as they would ancient history or chemical affinity. As long as people hold this impersonal attitude toward God and truth, they can never learn as the Christian learns, nor know as the Christian knows. Their method is wrong; therefore, their results are likely to be wrong. What they know of God is merely an abstraction. By the methods they have adopted, they can never learn of the real God or know him as he is It may also be noted that such persons have only a limited capacity to know, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. Young converts sometimes know far more concerning God than do some theological professors. They have not more theoretical knowledge, but more true and actual knowledge. The eyes of the understanding must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We must be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual. The unrighteous are not able to do this. Lack of spirituality makes the eyes dim, and the ears dull of hearing. Being religious does not insure that one has a correct knowledge of God, because formality often obscures light. This is clearly illustrated by the Jews. They had obscured the truth with their traditions. Their forms and ceremonies had come to mean more to them than the principles of righteousness. When the great light of truth burst in upon them, at the coming of Jesus Christ, their eyes were not able to see, nor their ears to hear. Instead of being enlightened, they went into greater darkness. This has been frequently paralleled in modern times. How many there are who are “wise in their own conceits,” but ignorant in reality! Scientific and technical language is often a jargon of confusion to the ignorant, but perfectly clear to others. So the Scriptures often present to the unspiritual mind only a maze of conflicting statements. The more people with such minds search the Scriptures, the greater their confusion; while the enlightened soul, illuminated by the Spirit of God guided into the truth, finds the Scriptures plain, simple, understandable, and corresponding with its needs.

There are times when the Holy Spirit especially illuminates the reason, and great floods of truth seem to flow into the soul. The Spirit searches the deep things of God, and throws them before the mind as a picture is thrown upon a screen. Many times Scripture texts which seemingly have been without meaning, or imperfectly understood, are opened up and a world of meaning is then seen in them. Often, in time of need, texts of Scripture are brought to the mind that relate to the need and flood us with light. Often the Spirit takes a text of Scripture and gives it a special application to the present need, so making it a vehicle of revelation, even where the text itself has no direct reference to the thing revealed.

Sometimes God has spoken with audible voice, as when he said to the multitude, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 17:5; 3:17; see also Isa. 6:8; Acts 9:4-7; Exod. 33:11). Sometimes he speaks words direct into the mind. They are clearly audible to the inner ear, yet inaudible to those about us. Nevertheless, there is a consciousness that it is the voice of God which speaks. At other times God suddenly flashes a great light upon our duties, or upon our privileges, pointing them out to us as we never had seen them before. We may become conscious of God’s will very definitely without any realization of mental action. This may come suddenly, as through a great spiritual illumination, or it may come gradually through a growing conviction. Many tell us that these things are only the results of the working of the subconscious mind. While God can, and no doubt often does, use the subconscious mind to work out his purpose, he is not confined to any such method, but can, and often does, work entirely apart from it, or he may direct its operations. In any case, it is the fact, not the method, which is important. That we have a real knowledge of God’s will is the vital thing. The process of our learning it is of little consequence.

The Spirit often uses us, if we are submitted to the will of God, far beyond our knowledge. My own experience in this matter is, no doubt, the experience of many of my readers. I have preached many things that I did not know, and have been astonished at the truths that flowed from my lips, under the anointing of the Spirit of God. Things that have always been mysterious to me, I have found myself explaining with the greatest clearness without being conscious of having reasoned them out. There is no telling what God will do for or through a soul that belongs to him! We need not be surprised at any of the manifold workings of God’s Spirit, but may confidently rely upon God to fulfill our every need. The Spirit of God is not dead---he is working in the same way that he did in years gone by. He is using the same methods of revelation. Those who walk close with God may hear his voice speaking in their hearts, when he sees there is need to speak. They may have their minds enlightened, and illuminated, and may know the truth that makes them free.

Other Means of Revelation

God also reveals truth through human instrumentality. There are some who think that all revelations of the will of God must come direct from God, either through his Word or through his Spirit. This is not the case, however. God used human instrumentality to give us the entire Bible. He has set some in the body to be teachers, preachers, prophets, etc., and these all must fulfill their duty. It is our duty, and our privilege, to be taught by them. We may learn the will of God through public or private teaching, in conversation, and sometimes through mere casual remarks that perhaps the person making them had no thought of giving as instruction to us, but they are used by the Spirit to reveal God.

His will is also revealed through his providences. Many times circumstances point out duty and reveal God’s will. God opens the way before us, or he hedges up the way. He provides opportunities. He, at times acts directly in natural or spiritual things, and by his providence he often throws a flood of light upon his will for the soul who is searching to know it.

He also makes himself know through the love that he sheds abroad in our hearts. Love for God in us, reveals him, for love instinctively understands. Mother-love often knows the desire of the child before that desire is put into words; so love to God often instinctively knows the will of God. The more we love God, the more likely we are to understand his will, and the easier it is for him to reveal himself to us.

Most of us, no doubt, might have a better knowledge of the will of God if our hearts were wider open to him, if we sought more earnestly to know his will, if we so yielded ourselves to him and so sought his spiritual guidance as to give opportunity for him to increase our spiritual understanding and to make us know the deep things of God. Too many of us remain children in understanding. There are many things we cannot tell children, for they cannot comprehend them. There are many things we must put into a child’s language, in order that he might understand. This language is all too inadequate to convey the full truth. So many times God can only reveal his will partially to us, because of our defective understanding. It is his will that our understanding be developed until it will be able to comprehend the heights and depths of truth, until we shall be “filled with the knowledge of God.” We know the difficulties in trying to explain some complex thing to a child. Spiritual truth is complex, because principles are interwoven, but it can be made clear to the spiritual understanding. Those who put away childish things and who grow up into Christ, those who compare spiritual things with spiritual, those who dwell in the illuminating presence of the Spirit, have opened before them the realm of truth and are bidden to explore it as they will. They are provided with a Guide to direct them on their way, and to make them understand the truth as they explore it. Thus the simple-hearted, spiritual child of God may so know God’s will that he rests in full assurance and peace of soul.