“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12)
“We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)
I started out a few posts ago talking about guidance, then realized I couldn’t avoid discussing related issues, such as words that are misleading or misunderstood (The words we can trip over) and concepts that sound spiritual but aren’t (The deeper life—and how you can avoid it).
But I need to back up another step, to the mechanism that imparts understanding. It applies to studying Scripture, ruminating over verses you’ve heard, the various forms of Spirit-inspired direct communication (prophecies, visions, dreams) and of course preaching and teaching.
The mechanism is revelation. The revelation in Gal 1:12 above is Greek apokalypsis. “God has revealed them by his Spirit” is Greek apokalypto. The basic meaning of the word is disclosure, and of course it’s acquired the sense of spiritual enlightenment.
Paul has a lot to say about the apokalypsis he received early in Galatians because the church there had apparently turned to “another [or “different”] gospel” (1:7). So we have Paul’s apokalypsis colliding with another “gospel” source.
For that reason, he warned them that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (1:8) Sounds like another Apocalypse, the name for the Revelation to John in some translations.
I don’t think you get the full import of the word, however, without the word picture that is its root: an uncovering or laying bare.
If you have the blanket and comforter pulled up over you so that only the top of your head and one side of your face is visible, then pulling it back uncovers you. We can then see what’s always been there but out of sight.
When Paul, who was a well-trained Pharisee, talks about the gospel that was revealed to him, it is against the backdrop of the scripture (now our Old Testament) that was rich with messianic prophecies, allusions and types (i.e., figures that foreshadow the person and ministry of Christ).
He would have studied those references and probably knew them backward and forward. And yet when the church began he was one of its most zealous persecutors. Why?
For the same reason that, as quoted above, “none of the rulers of this age understood it” [i.e., God’s wisdom revealed in Christ] and therefore “crucified the Lord of glory.” It was hidden from them. It had to be laid bare, uncovered.
Revelation functions the same way your cellar light does. When you descend into your dark cellar to reset the circuit breaker that tripped because you were blow drying your hair on the same outlet that was heating your breakfast in the microwave, your only available light probably comes from small rectangular windows just above ground level.
You know where things are (sort of), but you’re a little tentative because navigating in the dark from memory is, literally, hit or miss. But when you find the light switch it all becomes clear. The contents of the cellar don’t change, just your ability to see them because they have been “uncovered” by the light (i.e., the darkness being a “cover” like a blanket).
Just think for a moment what a great mind Paul possessed. The evidence is in the letters he wrote and the things he did, said and preached recorded in Acts. And yet he was determined to suppress the new faith and—his words, not mine—“tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13).
This makes me think of what Isaiah prophesied:
“Hear, you deaf;
look, you blind, and see!
Who is blind but my servant,
and deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one in covenant with me,
blind like the servant of the Lord?
You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.” (Isa 42:18-20)
At one time, Paul the wellspring of half the New Testament, was blind to the gospel message—until it was uncovered, laid bare, revealed to him. It seems incredible, but he was. You can read it in his own words.
I’ve written in previous posts about my struggle with needing approval from others. In biblical terms this was fear of man/loving human praise more than praise from God (see Pr 29:25 and Jn 12:42-43). It made me timid, socially awkward and much too willing to appease and accommodate others who, I perceived, were unfriendly, critical or hostile to me. My radar for detecting these perceived attitudes was very sensitive.
I thought I was just temperamentally bound to behave this way and always would be, and I could no more change it than change the color of my eyes or the shape of my ears. I was wrong.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg of truth that, at that point, lay covered from view. It took revelation to uncover what I needed. I’ll elaborate on that in the next post.