Vol.XII No.X Pg.5
December 1975

Knowing God's Will

Robert F. Turner

Epistemology, the methods and the grounds for knowing, is particularly important when our concern is with knowing Gods will. Since the very nature of God necessitates self-revelation, how to know Gods will is a study in how God imports, and how man receives information from a divine source. There are four chief answers.

Modern theologians, reasoning that God transcends (rises above) man, have their existential doctrine. We know material things via our senses, reasoning, etc., they say. But transcendental matters are known via the heart — feeling, inner response, etc. Of course this makes each man his own receiver and interpreter with no point of reference save himself. Authority is determined subjectively, so man becomes his own God. Excuse me.

The second concept is that of Roman Catholicism — the church (meaning the clergy) become the repository of truth. God spoke, but must have an infallible interpreter to be understood. However Peter, the first Pope who wrote 1 & 2 Peter, can not be understood without additional interpreters. I dont know why I should be expected to understand a later-day interpreter, if I cant understand the first in line. But we would not be fair if we failed to mention that others also filter truth through the church. Creeds, Confessions of Faith, and Baptist usage—-as well as the great middle section of the Churches of Christ — adopt the same error, when they allow such human standards to become their rule of faith and practice. Thou which teacheth another, teachest thou not thyself?

The third concept might be called Calvinistic, although it is found in all evangelical churches. Gods word can only be understood by those whose hearts are touched directly by the Holy Spirit. It is not enough that the Spirit delivered the words of the Bible (1 Cor. 2:1-3, that the word is the cutting instrument of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17; Acts 2:37; 7:54); we must have the Holy Spirit before the Holy Spirit can effectively reach our understanding. 1 Cor. 2:14 is taken out of context to make it say man can not understand the Spirits work. It really says that man must accept the revelation of truth (through inspired messengers) instead of relying upon human ability to fathom things of God apart from revelation. (See Natural Man Vol. 11, No. 7.)

If direct operation of the Spirit must precede understanding, then all must have this operation, or we must accept the concept of particular election. We believe the gospel is for all (1 Tim. 2:4), and those who accept its call in trusting obedience will receive its blessings (1 Tim. 4:l0; Mk. 16:15-16).

The fourth concept, and the one we accept, is stated rather clearly in Eph. 3:2-5. God revealed, through His Spirit, hithertofore unknown truths. He revealed these unto chosen messengers (Apostles and prophets), who then wrote them (2 Pet. 1:15, 3:l-2, 15; Lu. 1:3-4, Jn. 20:31), confident that we could understand and believe them. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). We trust not the word alone, but the Spirit-filled word, to lead us to God.