As an apologist, it is easy to become far too dependent on general revelation. The heavens do indeed declare the glory of God, and the spectacular design of the universe seems to point towards a creator. These types of external testimony are important, and I think that they are incredibly important to use as we answer objections that people have to the Christian faith.
However, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2, there is also another barrier. There is also a personal level that we experience as we develop a relationship with God.
1Co 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Admittedly, there are some things about being a Christian that are hard to explain. Think about how hard it is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is difficult to understand someone else’s perspective. Similarly, it is hard for someone who does not have a relationship with God to understand what it is like to have a relationship with God. If they don’t know Him, how would they know what it is like?
Even if it is hard to explain what it is like to have a relationship with God, the evidence should come out in our behavior. I have heard it said that the most powerful apologetic is a transformed life. When major changes take place, people recognize it. They don’t understand what could have had such a dynamic impact, but they will notice it. God can do that, and He has done that in thousands of lives throughout history.
In Job 28, Job himself is wondering about the idea of wisdom. He basically wants to know what it even is and how to get it. The chapter begins by saying that we know how to find silver or gold, but we really have no idea how to find wisdom in our natural world. Beyond that, he continues and says that even if you can find it, you can’t put a price on it. It is not as if you can exchange it for money.
Ultimately, here is the conclusion that he comes to.
Job 28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
Now we at least have a definition. The fear of the Lord is wisdom. Now, there certainly is some kind of real fear involved in this because God is so much greater than we are, and that is overwhelming and terrifying. However, I think that another aspect of this is that there is a respect and reverence as well.
I think that when we follow God and respect His authority, we will make wise decisions.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
We get wisdom from the understanding that the Scripture is provided by God and deserves the utmost of respect from all of us. The Word of God helps to illuminate the world around us, and it helps us understand why the world is the way it is.
I think that the second half of the verse above is the application that if we understand what the Bible is saying, we will depart from evil. We are actually doing what we are told to do and are following the instruction of God. The wisdom that we have gained is now informing our decisions which causes us to depart from evil.
If we want to have wisdom, we need to fear God. We need to recognize His greatness and give Him all the reverence that He ultimately deserves. By viewing the world in this perspective, we will have the greater picture. We can’t find wisdom anywhere else.
I think that we probably have all said something like Job did in chapter 23. All he really wanted to do was talk to God because that would give him some insight into what was actually happening.
Job 23:3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
Job 23:4 I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
Job 23:5 I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Notice that his final request is to have understanding about what God would tell him. He would certainly present his case as to why you shouldn’t need to go through all of this, but in the end, the result that he really wanted was to know what God was doing.
I think that we all have this. We all have this desire to want to know more about what God is doing. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, we want God’s will to be done, but we would rather be in on the conversation. We want to know what God is going to do, and, on some level, we want to approve of that plan.
It doesn’t work that way though. We often times need to go through this world on faith. We need to trust that God is who He says He is and that He will also keep His promises. In hindsight, we can look back and understand a little bit more of what we went through since hindsight is always 20-20, but even at that point, we might not totally understand what happened.
There is a reason for that though.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
While we certainly can have a relationship with God and can endeavor to learn more about Him, we are always going to be limited. It is kind of like how you never entirely know another person. Even when you think you know someone, they might do something that you would never expect. We might not understand it, but that is the way of the other person.
Now, take that up a notch. We have roughly the same size mind as any other person. Nevertheless, we cannot always comprehend each other’s thoughts. How much more difficult is it to understand an infinite mind when we cannot even comprehend infinity?
I appreciate Job, and I totally understand what he was saying. I’m sure that all of us have thought the same thing. However, there is a reason why we have a hard time comprehending God’s plan. Even if Job got his request and was told why things happen, that request for understanding would be a little bit more difficult to handle.
Job’s other friend Bildad decided that it was time for him to start talking in Job 8. Unfortunately for Job, the message was not very much different than what he heard before.
Job 8:2 How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
Job 8:3 Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
Job 8:4 If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
Job 8:5 If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
Job 8:6 If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Again, we see a radical misunderstanding of the situation, but there is quite a bit of truth in this passage. God is just, and He does not pervert justice. When people sin, sometimes they do face consequences. If you do seek God for mercy, He will listen and forgive (although He never promises the financial restoration that we hear Bildad discussing at this point).
This is an interesting problem that I think we can all run into particularly when our Christian lifestyle is challenged. People might bring true statements to the table. A popular one is Matthew 7:1.
Mat 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Critics argue that Christians can never make any type of correction because we are not allowed to judge. This statement itself is true, but the understanding of the statement is wrong without context. As the chapter goes on, it becomes clear that if we do judge, we need to make sure that we have our own life in order. We need to deal with the major problem in our own eye first before we can help other people understand that they need the same kind of change. This is a classic proof text.
This is basically the same kind of problem that we saw in Job. There were true statements spoken. Bildad understood quite a bit about the character of God, but he did not understand the situation. He did not understand the greater context (Job did not understand it either), but he was quick to offer an opinion that apparently Job’s children must have done something wrong.
Unintentionally, this kind of fits in really well with Matthew. We need to understand the context and not make blanket judgments. Not only does that kind of behavior violate what Jesus said in Matthew, but it also causes a lot of collateral damage with the person you are misunderstanding. Job did not appreciate being misjudged.