Praise and Prayer
CAN A MAN by searching find out God? Is humanity endowed by nature to discover the Deity? Can he perceive Him in Creation? Can he learn to know Him by logical deduction? Is God revealed to all who read the Bible? Is the saint fully equipped to comprehend Him if he searches the Scriptures? Many have tried all of these, yet have fallen far short of a knowledge of God and His highest revelation of Himself in His present operations. Therefore we should emulate Paul and pray, as he did in the first chapter of Ephesians, that God would give the saints the spirit of revelation.
Before Adam sinned and offended God, he was in close communion with his Creator. Endowed by nature with all the faculties which raised him above the rest of earthly creation, undimmed by disease or deterred by dread, he far surpassed his progeny in natural powers. His eyes could see, his ears could hear, and all his perceptions were perfect to a degree which no other mere man has ever known. He conversed on intimate terms with his Creator, Who crowned all His other gifts by giving him a complement as his companion. Did he come to know Him? Did it teach him to trust Him? Did he learn to love Him? No! A single insinuation from the serpent showed that his heart had never appreciated his great Benefactor. By nature, even under ideal conditions, man cannot make acquaintance with the Deity.
Since Adam's day, man has made an intense study of nature, on earth and in the heavens. He has pried into the structure of the tiny atom, and tried to comprehend the mighty celestial spheres. He has searched the depths of the earth and the waters of the sea for minerals. He has catalogued and systematized and investigated the flora and the fauna in the oceans, on the land, and in the air. He has amassed tremendous amounts of knowledge concerning God's handiwork, with its multitudinous marvels and awful wonders. But has he met the Creator of all this walking in His garden, as Adam did? By no means! Great scientists are often atheists. Those who see Him in His achievements have met Him elsewhere first. They have learned to know Him through His written revelation.
But cannot men use their minds to reason their way into His presence, or deduce His purpose and His plans from His methods with mankind? Alas, men's minds are feebler than the faculties of sensation. Since their knowledge of God in creation, which displays His imperceptible power and divinity, does not lead them to glorify Him or thank Him, their reasonings are vain and their heart is not intelligent. Alleging themselves to be wise, they are made stupid. Their logic is illogical, and leads them away from the Deity. Without a knowledge of Him and His ways, they lack the major premise on which all reasoning must be based.
But even if a man cannot find God in nature or by reason, surely he can find Him by the Bible! Here, indeed, is a means of acquaintance with the Deity which is ideal for the purpose! It is better even than the personal communion of Adam in the garden. No greater boon can come to any people than the Word of God. Israel's primary prerogative consisted in this, that to them were entrusted the oracles of God (Rom.3:2). Yet they did not all find Jehovah. On the contrary, when His words first came to them in the wilderness, they did not desire His presence and refused to believe His word, so their corpses marked their trail through the desert.
No people have ever prized their holy books as the Jews valued their sacred scrolls. They were copied with the greatest care and preserved with religious zeal. Many memorize much of them. Yet how few really grasped their import? This might be understood, if the lower classes, the poor and the ignorant, the stupid and the foolish, failed to become acquainted with God through His holy law and other literature, but, when our Lord came, He acclaimed God because He had hid these things from the wise and intelligent, and had revealed them to minors (Matt. 11:25). The rabbis among the Jews, past and present, are often intelligent men, made wise by their knowledge of the sacred scrolls, nevertheless, how few have come to the knowledge of God! None of our Lord's apostles came from this class. Even Peter and John were unlettered, unlearned men.
The staff which worked on the Concordant version delved into the details of the divine records as has seldom been done. The books, the words, the elements, the grammar, all were analyzed in minute detail. Surely that should enable all to enter into the innermost precincts of God's oracles! Would not that open up His revelation as no other effort of man? It was indeed, a very wise procedure, and evidence of the spirit of wisdom, but man may be blind in the brightest of sunshine. It needs a miracle, a special gift of God. No matter how exact our knowledge may be of dead facts, they need to be vivified by the spirit of God before our hearts can realize and respond, and enjoy the full revelation of God's glory as now made known through the apostle to the nations.
Even when the Living Word, God's human Expression, set the Deity before them in letters of life, so that even the illiterate could read His deeds, only a few learned to love God through His words and His works. And even after He had manifested the heart of God, in its deepest depths, by His sacrifice on Golgotha, the nation to whom God's oracles were given turned against Him and His messengers. God repeatedly dulled their ears and eyes and hearts that they should not understand Him. He did it in Isaiah's time (Isa.6:9,10). He repeated it in the midst of our Lord's ministry (Matt.13:14), and after the nation rejected the testimony of His apostles and Paul (Acts 28:27; Rom.11:25). The possession of the Bible is not enough to insure an acquaintance with God!
Even Peter, the chief of the Circumcision apostles, found Paul's epistles hard to apprehend (2 Peter 3:15), for they dealt with a sphere altogether distinct from his own. In the early days those who did not have this special spirit for which Paul prayed, twisted it to their own destruction. This is the usual practice today. Very few leave Paul's message as it is, or believe it as it was given. Almost all distort it by mixing it together with previous revelation. Its grace goes against the grain. Even those who have God's spirit in some measure prefer to be under law, with its righteousness, rather than realize crucifixion with Christ, and the need for undiluted grace. This spirit is a necessary foundation for the present revelation, for no one can possibly merit the glory which has been prepared for us, but rather the reverse. A rejection of the cross and the grace it involves locks the door to the spirit of revelation, so that it cannot enter.
Today the nations have a much greater and grander revelation of our gracious God than Israel ever had. He actually entreats His enemies to be conciliated to Him! He does not demand righteousness of the sinner, but imparts it. Instead of excluding us aliens from His presence, He breaks down all barriers, even those which kept the mass of Israelites from coming near to Him. Instead of allowing us a subordinate place of blessing through Israel on the earth in His future kingdom, He gives us a place superior to the celestial hosts! How can we fail to respond to such supernal grants of grace?
This spirit of revelation is for all the saints, not for one or for a few. It is given in order that they may realize what God has revealed to them by His spirit in the Scriptures. It is not that they may get separate revelations for themselves, or that they receive new ones for others. There have been, and are, those who claim to receive additional revelations, beyond what is given us in the Sacred Scriptures. But they disagree among themselves, and none of them even appear to have the spirit spoken of here, for they have not been enlightened with the truth contained in this epistle.
No one, not even the saint in whom the spirit of God makes its home, can grasp the fullest and final revelations in God's Word without special equipment. This is imparted freely to those who pray for it. Paul says that the truth was made known to Him by revelation (Gal.1:12). God's spirit imparted it to him directly and inspired the written record. These revelations represent the greatest accumulation of riches in the universe. They are stored in the Sacred Scriptures as in a safe. No one can get at them except those who have the combination. God does not reveal His secrets to all, but reserves His glories for those who have communion with Him, and are led to pray for this special favor. To them, He imparts the same spirit as originally revealed the truth to Paul--the spirit of revelation. They alone enjoy these treasures now, though they are the common property of all the saints.
Yet how few accept God's proffered favors! As it was in Israel, the wise and intelligent will not receive it. God, in His wisdom, destroys the wisdom of the wise and repudiates the understanding of the intelligent. He delights to save those who believe through the stupidity of the cross. Not many wise, or powerful or noble are called, so that we should find our all in Him, and boast in Him, not in ourselves (1 Cor.1:18-31). With the full Bible in their hands, the nations as a whole do not come to a knowledge of God. More than that is needed.
What is necessary in order that we may know Him? Three things, first of all. Not only must we hear, or read, the word of truth, the evangel of our salvation, but must believe it, and be sealed with the holy spirit of promise. All believers receive the holy spirit. That is the seal that guarantees to them, and the earnest that enables them to enjoy in advance a small taste of the glorious allotment which has been procured for them. They are sure to get it, and are able to anticipate some of it in spirit. But, once more, even of them, how few realize the riches of the grace and glory of their allotment, through which alone we may attain to a realization of God?
Spirit is what is needed! We have the holy spirit, which gives us life. Now we need a special dispensation of spirit to enable us to grasp the full import of God's purpose with us, for this enlightens our hearts so that we enter into a full realization of His character. No previous revelation has done this. They were all partial and preliminary, preparatory preludes to His highest unfolding, which is not confined to the earth, but includes the universe. Even the celestial hosts are apprized of God's multifarious wisdom through this secret administration (Eph.3:10).
This is the special spirit that searches out the secrets of God. As the truth for this administration is largely limited to secrets, very few of the saints have any clear conception of its character unless they have been endowed with the spirit of revelation. Even some truths, as justification, which were not secret, are seldom grasped. They are not mysteries which cannot be understood. They are secrets, known only to the initiated. They are unknown to all who lack this special spirit.
In view of the almost universal ignorance of the divine mysteries from Paul's day to this, we can appreciate the need of his prayer. There is still greater need today, for Christendom not only ignores the truth for the present, but powerfully opposes it. Many of those who know Christ as their Saviour, and have the seal of the holy spirit, are not only devoid of this spirit, but deem it their sacred duty to condemn all who enter into these precious and powerful truths, and seek to keep the saints from even considering them. This must needs be, for it will cap the climax of grace. It makes the grace more gracious. A lesser quantity or quality of grace would at least demand that it receive a grateful reception. But this is so vast that it overflows even its rejection.
Paul prays that the Father of glory may give us a spirit of revelation. At that time God had already revealed Himself through the Hebrew Scriptures. His Son had come and made Him known in living form. Perhaps many in that day considered that God had fully revealed Himself, and no more was needed to make Him known. Most of the saints today are in the same position. They see little more than the kingdom revelation of our Lord and His apostles. Nor can they do otherwise, if they are not endowed with this special spirit. The lack of this has almost eclipsed the brightest and most glorious light that shines in the heavens. The saints mistake the moonlight for the sun. They grope in the gloom as if the sun were not at its zenith. Blind guides of the blind led them into the pit.
This prayer is for the highest boon a creature could conceive--a vital knowledge of the Deity. The ancient Greeks had a saying which was considered the height of knowledge, Know thyself. If they had managed to do this, they would have groveled in the dust. But even this cannot be accomplished apart from a knowledge of God. Moreover, the word knowledge is not nearly strong enough. We may know much about many things without an intimate experience. A realization of God is not a fleeting glimpse of a distant star, but a persistent experience, an everyday intercourse with Him in view of His vital interest in us, and the expectation, the place, and the power He imparts to us.
The depth and thoroughness of this knowledge is expressed in a fine and forceful figure. As a rule, the eyes are the best and safest avenue of knowledge. Job exclaimed, By the hearing of the ear I heard thee, yet now my eye sees thee (Job 42:5). Even eyes cannot see in the dark. So the heart is made the organ of sight, and we are given a special store of light in order to perceive what God will and has done for us, and the power He employs in our behalf.
Let us repeat. All saints have God's spirit in measure. Yet few, indeed, have this special spirit, or Paul would not have prayed for them in this behalf. Let us, then, join our prayers with his, first indeed, for ourselves, and then for all saints. May all who read these lines enjoy this priceless boon!
A. E. Knoch
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