Westminster Confession of Faith: A Study Guide

by Michael Bremmer

Michael Bremmer

[Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress and is not reflective of its final content or form. I make it available in hopes it may still prove useful for some.]

Chapter I | Section i

Of the Holy Scripture

Section 1. 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 unexcusable; yet are they 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.

Larger Catechism:
Q #2: How doth it appear that there is a God?
A: The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

What sets apart Christianity from all other religions is that it was not a scheme put together by man through speculative philosophy, or by any other such means, but is a revealed faith. Christianity is a faith reveled by God the creator.

Note what RC says about all truth, or all knowledge, that it has its source in God and can only be known as God graciously reveals this knowledge. So a scientist may criticize a "revealed" religion saying "I learn through the discipline of the sciences" but we would simple remind the scientist that he could learn nothing through his microscope or telescope, had not God revealed such knowledge.

While General Revelation and Natural Revelation are synonymous with one another, General Revelation and Natural Theology are not. In General or Natural Revelation God actively reveals Himself through what He has made. We do not have to wonder about looking for it. It is clearly seen. Natural Theology, however, deals with the scope of this knowledge and has been an endless source of controversy for centuries, with views saying we cannot know anything at all about God to views saying we can learn all we need to know about God, so much so special revelation is unnecessary. It is here that a careful study of Romans 1:18 ff is indispensable to these controversies. Understand how the words "to know" is used in Scripture.

The following is taught in this section:

1. God's revelation. Revelation means "to uncover," "make known." An illustration often use is that of a piece of art work that is covered and hidden from view. When the cover is removed the art work is "reveled". Reformed theologians have generally distinguished God's revelation into General Revelation and Special Revelation and this distinction is reflected in section one.

The word revelation means disclosing or making known something previously unknown. In theology, revelation is God making Himself known to humanity. It is call General because this revelation is given to all people. In General revelation, God reveals Himself to all people inwardly, (Rom. 2:14-15) and outwardly through creation, and by His providence. According to the WCF, general revelation cannot save, yet leaves all without excuse and condemned.

Scripture:
  • Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-15
  • Psalm 19:1-3
  • Acts 14:8-18
  • Heb. 1:1
  • Rom. 1:32
  • Rom. 2:14-15

2. Special Revelation.
Special revelation is God revealing Himself directly to a person or persons. In the past God used many different ways (at various times, and in diverse manners) in revealing Himself individualistically. Examples: God speaking with Moses in the burning bush, God speaking in dreams, visions, through the Prophets, and even personal visitations (called theophanies, see Gen. 18). The greatest, however, of all God's special revelation is the incarnation of Jesus Christ: “If you had known Me,” said Christ, “you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (Jn. 14.7). In contrast to General revelation, special revelation is not given to all.

3. The End of Special Revelation.
For the protection and comfort of God's people God committed His revelation to writing bringing an end to further revelation which, “makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will to His people being now ceased.”

Scripture:
  • Heb. 1:1-3
  • Jude 3
  • 2 Tm. 3:16
  • 1 Cor. 13:8

Discussion Questions:
  1. What is meant by "light of nature?" Rom. 1:32; 2:14-15
  2. Was revelation necessary before the fall? Gen. 2:16
  3. Why is general revelation unable to “give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary to salvation”? Was this revelation defective in some way? See Chapter 6, The Fall of Man.
  4. In light of Section 1, how should we view “theistic proofs”?

Memorization:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom he made the world" Heb. 1:1-2 NASV.

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