"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 inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation: therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; 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; which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased."
WHAT THIS ARTICLE TEACHES
1) God is truly known from nature, or his work of creation.
All men have a true and indelible knowledge of God so as to leave all men without excuse for not loving and honoring the true God. Our created world and God’s constant upholding of that world bear eloquent testimony to the goodness, wisdom and power of our God. In creation, God has left all men evidence that He is, and that He is good. Theologians call this general revelation. It is sufficient to declare that there is a god, but insufficient to save a sinner.
2) Natural, or general, revelation is not enough to give us saving knowledge of God.
Creation does point out the true God, and it reveals something of his character but it cannot provide the stairs for us to ascend from the pit of willful sin to the heights of heavenly glory.
3) A saving knowledge of God and his will for his people is found only in the Bible.
Without the revelation of the truth of the Word of God there is no salvation. Grace is not revealed in nature. The promise of deliverance from sin through faith in a God-provided mediator is not discerned by looking closely at trees, or standing in awe of a mountain. Special revelation from God is required for man to know the way of free grace salvation.
4) God's saving self-revelation was given in order that the church would;
a) preserve the truth
The covenant people, the church, have been given the Word in order to preserve and defend it. In a sense, God has given the church the copyright for the Bible. The Bible should not be in the hands of the for profit book publishing companies. It ought to be astonishing to us that God has chosen to reveal himself at all. He was under no obligation to do so. The reason that our Confession gives is the right one. It pleased the Lord to do so. God was pleased to reveal himself for our salvation. The church is the steward of the mysteries of God.
b) propagate the truth
The Church, guardians of God’s self-revelation, must publish that truth. What do we believe? We believe every word that comes from the mouth of God. The church must multiply believers in Christ and disciple them to walk by the word by proclaiming the good news.
c) be firmly established in the truth
The church should have Bible studies and classes on the doctrine that we find in the Word, so that the church becomes established in the truth. We should think like Biblical Christians. We are wheat that has grown in a difficult field, with richer, truer soil. We have the answer key to human life! Our lives grow from the all encompassing wisdom of the Word of God. All our decisions should be found in shorthand in the Bible. It is the scaffolding upon which we build our lives.
d) be greatly comforted by the truth
Why do we study the word so much? Perhaps because our only comfort in life and death is derived from the Word of God. We are living behind enemy lines in hostile territory. The Bible is our means of communication with our home base. It is our comfort as we fight against our flesh (self denial is the calling of every Christian Mark 8:35?) the hatred of Satan, and the temptations of the world that is in rebellion against God. The word forms a bulwark to protect us in the battle with the world, the flesh and the devil. This Word is a both a mother to nurture us in the strife and a drill sergeant to teach us how to overcome.
5) The church now possesses the complete and flawless written revelation of God and his will.
Jesus has not left his people without his sure word. We are not left as orphans. He has sent his Holy Spirit to his church and the apostles have been led into all the truth. We have this unique self-revelation of God in written form. It is the way that God speaks today. His former ways of direct communication have now ceased. They were driving at the Word of god and that word is now complete.
WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS ARTICLE?
1) Psalm 19:1-3; Rom 1:19-20; Rom 2:15.
2) 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Cor 2:13-14.
3) Proverbs 22:19-21; Luke 1:3-4; Rom 15:4; Matthew 4:4,7,10; Isa 8:19-20.
4) Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:19.
5) Revelation 22:18-19; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1-4.
WHAT ERRORS DOES THIS ARTICLE CORRECT?
1) True faith and a saving knowledge of God can be known from nature alone. We don't need the Bible, we don't need the church.
2) If men have not heard the gospel, they should not be condemned, they have an excuse. Hell is only for those who have heard and rejected the gospel.
3) We don't need an infallible, inerrant Bible nor verbal plenary inspiration to live as Christians. Let conscience be your guide. No creed but Christ, no law but love.
4) Just as God revealed himself and his will in the past, in visions, dreams, voices, so God still reveals himself today.
5) The Bible is incomplete and insufficient because it doesn't address every issue.
WHAT PRACTICAL APPLICATION DOES THIS ARTICLE HAVE FOR US TODAY?
1) We know God and his will through his word alone.
Many Christians ask themselves what is God's will for me. And they look for the answer in subjective impressions, dominant feelings, or mysterious providential circumstances. If you are looking for the will of God, take a Bible in our hands and shout to the heavens, "I found it!" The Bible is the revelation of the will of God. We need not be awash and adrift in a murky sea of subjectivism and blindly grope for the elusive will of God. God has made his will known, objectively. God has published his will in written form. The principles of the word of God are the parameters within which we are free to roam. God's will for you is to know and practice God's revealed will. Use the Bible as a compass to provide your direction in life and not as casting lots or the Urim and Thummim.
2) Don't search for God or the knowledge of his will in any other way.
Horoscopes, Gypsies, fortune tellers, psychics, feeling or emotions, dreams, visions and voices, and moving religious experiences, wise sayings of loved ones and the opening your Bible and dropping your finger on a passage are all unbiblical ways of discerning the will of God.
3) God has equipped his people for every battle of life by giving us his word.
If you are lost or confused, listen to God as he speaks in his word. The Bible does speak to every issue and situation in life by the principles derived from His word.
4) Nothing needs to be added to the Bible. It is the complete revelation of God and his will. Tradition does not need to be added to the Bible.
The Roman Catholic Church believes the Bible. And tradition. The Bible is an authority to them -- and tradition. We have our protestant traditions as well. Those cherished beliefs and practices that have grown out of the soil of biblical doctrine and our particular ecclesiastical lineage. We have walked in this tradition and know from our experience and the experience of our fathers that it is good. Things such as regular catechism preaching in the Dutch Reformed churches, celebrations of the liturgical year, Christmas, prayer day, Good Friday and Pentecost. But we must recognize that they are only useful, personally cherished traditions and not biblically necessary traditions. We ought not allow a hollow traditionalism to infect our church life and practice. The only rule for faith and life is to be found in the Word of God, and not in our traditions. (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13; Colossians 2:8)
5) All men are without excuse. They have a true knowledge of God but they suppress that knowledge because it causes them discomfort and anxiety.
The truth, in their case, hurts. Their innate, natural knowledge of God convicts them of sin and of their unrighteous behavior. Therefore, though Christians ought to bear witness to others of the truth of the gospel, we need not be motivated by guilt.