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The Revelation of God: Part 2
To know God, he must reveal himself to us
This leads us to our second point, that for us to know anything about God he must take the initiative and reveal himself to us. The good news is that God has graciously broken through and revealed himself in several ways, including nature, the Bible, and the human conscience.
For example, we learn in Exodus 3 that when God appeared to Moses he revealed his personal name YHWH (Yahweh) or LORD. By revealing his personal name, God reveals that he is a person and not an impersonal force or higher power.
In Exodus 3:15, the word LORD is often translated with all capital letters to indicate the divine name YHWH (Yahweh). With this personal name, God reveals himself as a personal, faithful, covenant-keeping God of grace who promises to deliver his people by his great power.
In the New Testament, God translates his personal name YHWH as Lord (kurios) and connects it with the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2:9-11). And there is a new personal name for God added by Jesus. It’s the name “Father.” Since the Father is made known to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), the full, abundant revelation of LORD’s name is now Trinitarian: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19).
God has revealed his personal qualities
When the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) answers the ancient question, “What is God?”, the answer contains a list of God’s personal attributes found in the Bible: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”
Theologians often use the word attributes to describe God’s personal qualities. After defining God as “a Spirit,” i.e. not having a physical body like humans, God’s being is described as infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Theologians sometimes classify these kinds of attributes of God as incommunicable attributes that only God can possess.
God’s infinity means his being is not confined by any limits. God’s eternality means he has no beginning and no end, no before or after. And God’s immutability means it is not possible for God to change.
However, the attributes of God we share more fully are called God’s communicable attributes, including his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
God’s revelation is limited but true
We must be careful in how we describe God’s attributes and how we describe the way in which we share any of God’s attributes. It can be helpful to think of God’s incommunicable attributes in a separate category from God’s communicable attributes. But we must do so with great care and wisdom or we’ll be thinking of God in an unbiblical way.
This is because there is a sense in which we, as limited, created beings, don’t have the capacity to understand or share fully any of the attributes (including the communicable attributes) of an unlimited, uncreated, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
But not being able to know God as fully as he knows himself does not mean we can’t know him at all, or that all our knowledge of God is false. Instead, we must understand that, although our knowledge of God is limited, it’s still true, trustworthy, adequate, and good knowledge.