God has made Himself known in two basic ways: through general and special revelations. We can only know God in part, because He is infinite and humans are finite; He is glorious and perfect and humans are…well…not.
God reveals as much of Himself as He deems fit for humans to have a relationship with Him and to live full lives for His glory. It is through general revelation that every human everywhere knows of God and are without excuse concerning God’s existence.
This revelation comes through creation and through the human conscience. However, general revelation is not enough for salvation; it’s through special revelation (God’s word given in Scripture, the words of Jesus, and unrecorded words of prophets and apostles) that we learn the way to eternal life.
General revelation is given by God and taught throughout the Bible.
Psalm 19 states that the heavens declare the glory of God, and in Romans one, Paul holds that God continuously reveals Himself to all humans through creation since the beginning of its existence. Scripture assumes that it is self- evident that the majesty of creation did not happen by accident but was brought about and is held together by an all-powerful Creator.
Two clear examples of general revelation through human conscience both come from Paul: in Acts 17 when he speaks to the Areopagus in Athens about an altar they have to “an unknown God” and in Romans 2 when he states that there are those who do what the law requires even when they do not know the law, because the law is written on their hearts. In both cases, the human conscience drives religious nature, or the common belief in a higher being or reality. God puts general revelation into the hearts of all humans so that they would know He exists through viewing nature and through the inner compulsion they have to live by a certain moral code.
General revelation gives humans the knowledge of God and His moral law, but it does not explain the mysteries of God in any detail. We need the Bible, to read and to study it, in order to know God’s story of redemption of His people through His Son.
Special Revelation is given by God to know the way of salvation.
Jesus commands His followers to proclaim the good news of salvation, because He knows that general revelation of God is not enough for people to know and follow Him. Knowing of God is not enough to save, but it is enough to condemn. This is why it is so important, believer, to share your faith with others. And this is why it is so important, as we teach others to follow Jesus, that we base every part (big and small) of our faith on God’s Word.
There are some preachers out there who claim God has given them a word or a revelation or who sacrifice the context of Scripture to get their point and their agenda across to the congregation. This is a gross negation of the power of God’s Word to save and change lives.
Through general revelation, all people know God exists such that everyone is without excuse. Special revelation is how we know the only way to salvation and a right relationship with God. Both of these work together with the Holy Spirit to save the unbeliever and to help them work out their salvation with fear and trembling for the glory and pleasure of the Lord (Phil 2:12-13).