When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.Luke 2:15-21
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The skies here in Germany – when there is no fog or clouds – are remarkably stunning. Without light pollution the stars are brilliant. I am reminded of Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies above his handiwork. God’s name is written all over creation. His majesty is displayed in the heavens.
Paul speaks of this in Romans 1:20: [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
But there are limits to this Natural Knowledge of God. A study that delves deeply into this issue makes significant observations. (See Below)
Something far beyond natural revelation happened 2000 years ago when Jesus was born. A supernatural event opened the door to a more perfect knowledge of God. Jesus’ birth was the initial fulfillment of God’s plan as revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures. The New Testament will explain and give witness to that which God promised in the Old Testament promises. The Bible is the record of God’s revealed knowledge of himself. This is saving knowledge. It is the stuff of faith.
A professor once said that the Christian faith is not about the eternal destiny of others. It is about God’s revelation to us each and to those who profess faith in Jesus. That does not mean that my neighbor who does not know or believe in Jesus has a free pass. The only promise of salvation is to those who have faith in Jesus. And while we may be motivated by our love for our neighbor to witness to Jesus, we are each accountable to God for what has been revealed to us.
So what has God made known to you? To me? He has made known his love and grace in Jesus Christ. He has shown his faithfulness and justice in Jesus’ life and death, and his glory in Jesus’ resurrection. He has revealed the means of salvation – by grace, through faith – to all who believe.
I thank God that he has revealed this to me, and to you, dear reader. For by this knowledge we may be saved from sin, death, and eternal damnation. And in the fullness of God’s grace, not only has he shown his love in the gift of the Savior, he has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith and to move us to proclaim his excellencies to one and all.
Our knowledge of God and his grace in Jesus is for our salvation, and just as the Shepherds, to make known the saying of the angels, ”For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
The following definitions may be helpful. They come from a study done by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Natural Revelation: That general manifestation of God—whether recognized as such or not—in and through nature, as distinct from his special revelation in the incarnate Christ and inspired Scriptures.
Natural Knowledge: That knowledge of God, however dim or incomplete, to which humanity has access by means of natural revelation, and apart from special revelation.
Natural Theology: That exercise of reason by which a natural knowledge of God is acquired, or by which it is further supported, by means of natural revelation.
Natural Religion: False religion (as, e.g., Deism) in which natural revelation, natural knowledge, and natural theology are deemed sufficient for salvation, are ele- vated to a magisterial position, and are thus made the rule and norm by which even supernatural revelation, knowledge, and theology are judged.
Natural Law: Those objective and universal moral precepts—whether or not acknowledged as such, and whether or not recognized as divine in origin—which are innate or accessible to natural reason without recourse to special revelation.