“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2
I once heard my pastor Adrian Rogers say, “If it’s true it isn’t new.” Had the apostle Paul heard him he would have given a loud and hearty, “Amen!” I say this because I believe this is the essence of Paul’s point in this statement to the church at Corinth. I understand Paul to teach that there shouldn’t be anything purely original in a revelation. When he writes about “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience,” I believe he’s talking about commending truth to the “consciousness” of man. Paul’s point is that divine truth, like any other truth, must first speak to man’s experience. It must appeal to something that the hearer already knows to be true. In other words it is “a faithful saying worthy of all acceptation.”
To be sure, this is not the normal way of thinking. Most people believe divine revelation must be something that is completely and totally new. They believe that if God wants to speak or reveal something to man that He will say something that man has never heard before. This is certainly the way most people view “getting a fresh word from God.” They hear a sermon and God speaks to them and they something like, “That was a fresh word from God. I had never seen that before.” What do they mean? Do they mean that it was a completely new and novel thought? I don’t think so. I believe what they mean to say is that they recognized something that wasn’t expected. It was a fresh thought that was suddenly discovered once the Holy Spirit pulled the veil aside. It didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere. It had been there all along, covered by the veil. Finding it, in the most literal of sense, was truly a discovery. It was the removal of something that had covered and concealed it from view. When it was seen, it was immediately recognized as something that had belonged to them all along, something that they never should have been without. It’s not something strange, but oddly familiar. The freshness of the revelation comes from the fact that while it wasn’t consciously known, it had been there all along.
Paul says that this is true with regards to the revelation of God’s truth. Yes, it is divine in its nature, but it presents itself to the consciousness of man and appeals to his personal experience. In fact, this is the simplest meaning of the word “revelation.” It speaks of pulling aside the veil to see something that had always been there. It’s not talking about creating something absolutely new, but rather of uncovering something old. It has been wrapped up, covered, concealed, lying just withing reach all throughout our lives without our knowing that it was there.
What God’s revelation – His light – reveals to me is actually myself. He has hung a mirror in my room that all during the night I thought was simply a dark, blank spot on the wall. However, when the sun began to rise and I saw by His light the reflection of my heart in His mirror it was then that I really realized that I was a man.
Don’t ever forget that God has distinct voices for different souls – He speaks to the conscience of every man. And even though His light “lights every man that comes into the world” it doesn’t have the same beam for every soul. God shines into separate rooms, each one furnished differently from the next, of man’s heart. Do I have the right to require that my brother’s room be furnished the same way as mine? Elijah’s table was spread in the desert and what he needed was a human voice so God sent him a friend. Peter’s food came to him in dreams – let down on a sheet from heaven. What he needed was to be woken by reality, so God sent him into a stormy sea. John expected to immediately be seated at Jesus’ right hand. What he needed was to learn how to patiently wait, so God sent him on a long journey that ended on the rocky outcroppings of Patmos. Paul had the burden of too much light and was prone to be unappreciative of a brother’s difficulty. What he needed was the experience of human weakness, so God sent him a thorn in the flesh. Matthew had too many thorns. Everywhere he went he faced hardship, contempt, hatred and scorn. He didn’t need God to give another thorn, but a flower. So, he received a revelation of the Lord’s presence in a feast.
I’m, for one, am thankful to God that not only does He knock on every heart’s door, but that He always varies His knocking. He called quietly to Martha. He met Mary in a social setting. He cried with a loud voice to Lazarus. Today He supplies my life, not where it is the strongest, but where it is the weakest. He knows me better than I know myself and He loves me enough that He reaches into my conscience through my consciousness of need.