This approach is people-centred and emphasises that we have the capacity to learn everything through reliance upon our own abilities. At best, this strategy marginalises God, and, at worst, it excludes Him altogether. Actually, our understanding will only lead us to the right conclusions when we recognise that God is the source of everything, so no true understanding is possible until we are enlightened by Him. We cannot come to a knowledge of the Almighty unless He first reveals something of Himself to us.
In Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB, we read: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever.” God chooses to reveal certain things to humanity, while electing to withhold other things from them. In particular, He clearly demonstrates that He is the Creator through the wonders of the universe and that He is the Saviour through the inspired words of the Scriptures. To attempt to understand things beyond our knowledge (“the secret things”) through the use of reasoning is nothing more than idle speculation.
Divine revelation begins with creation. The apostle Paul writes that important attributes of God may be observed in the things that He has created (Romans 1:19-20). In harmony with that, the nineteenth Psalm tells of the unspoken witness of creation, testifying to God’s glory (Psalm 19:1-6). This leaves people without any excuse for unbelief (Romans 1:20), but stops short of revealing the truth of salvation.
To complement the witness of creation, God has given us His Word in order that we might know everything necessary for eternal life and holy living (2 Peter 1:3). Revelation in Scripture is progressive; not everything we now understand about God was known in previous generations. An early way of revealing truth to the Lord’s servants came via self-revelation; God allowed different generations to know Him by distinct Names which revealed His character. To Abraham came the revelation that He was God Almighty (Genesis 17:1), while to Moses there was the revelation of Himself as I AM (Exodus 3:14).
Further divine revelation came to Israel via Moses when “the law” was given (Deuteronomy 29:29). Through the body of teaching, commandments and statutes, God revealed how His ancient people, the Israelites, were to live in the land of Canaan, a land given to them as an inheritance. Later on, prophets were sent to Israel, and their oracles gave a lot more light concerning the divine plan of the ages.
However, it is through Jesus, the incarnate Word who came from God, that the Lord’s people receive the fullest possible revelation of God (cp. Hebrews 1:1-2). As the Master Himself said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ is seen to be the One to whom all Scripture ultimately points (cp. Luke 24:27,44-47; Revelation 19:10). Only through Christ can we fully appreciate all that God is, all that He does and all that He will give to us in the future.
In conclusion, to return to the theme of the introductory paragraph, what can be known of God must first come down from Him in order for His creatures to gain understanding: the law was inscribed by the finger of God and came down to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 9:10); the Word made flesh came down from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 13:3; 1 John 4:14) and the Son of God can only be known through the Holy Spirit whom the Father would later send from heaven (John 14:26). It was this same Holy Spirit who inspired each of the men used to bring us the Bible (cp. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:19-21) and who makes good to our hearts the revelation of God to the church (1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 2:20,27).