||Perhaps one of the most basic statements of how God has revealed
Himself to man is found in Hebrews 1:1-2: "In many and various ways God spoke of old
to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son."
This passage evinces several important things about God's
communication to man. First, God's message comes in many various forms. Second, that
message is also mediated by human beings. This means that the divine Word comes to us in a
human vehicle. Even Jesus Christ, the divine Son, was Himself in the flesh when He gave
many of His teachings; furthermore, those teachings were not written down by Him but by
His human followers.
Some further points are important to understand in setting the
stage for proper biblical understanding. Third, no human vehicle is fully adequate to
convey the fullness of God's message. Human language is inadequate to express what can be
discerned in its complete spiritual sense only by means of the Holy Spirit. There is also
the problem of transmission of the text; this is done by human beings and subject to human
error. The problem of understanding ancient languages which have changed structure and
meaning through the ages or have even ceased to be used as a living form of communication
adds a further difficulty.
Fourth, the message of the Bible must speak to all people in every
age. Yet society changes, culture modifies, and each Christian finds himself living in a
particular situation which does not exactly fit that of the original writers of the Bible.
Christians do not live in the Old Testament theocracy of ancient Israel with autonomous
control of a particular territory. Nor do they live in the New Testament world of
Greco-Roman culture. Rather, Christians have lived in radically different environments
down through the centuries, from Cologne in the Middle Ages to London in the 17th century
to Los Angeles in the nuclear age. Therefore, there is always a certain
"communication or generation gap" between the written word and the later reader.
Fifth. God has deliberately hidden much of His important truth
from mankind so that the full progression, and eventually resolution, of human history
would proceed according to God's timetable. As a result it is not man's fault that he
doesn't understand the Bible. Even the prophets of old didn't always grasp the meaning of
their own biblical statements (e.g. Dan. 12:8); and they surely didn't comprehend the
fullness of the mystery of the purpose of human life (Matt. 13:17; Eph.3:4-5). Jesus
Himself spoke in parables so that the common people would not understand what He
was saying (Matt. 13:10-11); He was teaching His disciples not the masses (v. 10-1 7),
since God's plan did not yet call for the vast majority of people to be called and