At Calvary Chapel we believe that we can know God only because God has made Himself known to us, revealing Himself to us through His Word as well as through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This core value has to do with the biblical doctrine of revelation. When I say this I am not referring to the book of Revelation, but more importantly of the whole idea and concept of revelation itself. Let me explain.
If God did not choose to reveal himself to us – to make Himself known – there would be no way that we could know Him. There is such an infinite gulf between God and man that the only way it can be bridged is by God crossing it and mercifully making Himself known to us. This is true even without sin in the picture. God, being an eternal, infinite being is beyond what our minds can understand or grasp. It is only because God has graciously condescended to communicate with us that we can grasp Who He is. God put it this way to Isaiah,
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NASB)
God is gracious enough to make Himself known to us. He has made Himself known through His creation. Romans 1:19-20 says this to us,
“. . . because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20, NASB)
In nature we should see the invisible attributes of God’s eternal power and divine nature. Creation declares the glory of God to us – letting us know that the One Who made all this is infinitely greater than that which He has made. The vastness of the universe, and indeed the fact that in spite of all that we’ve come to know we still have vastly more to know, should shout to us of God’s majesty, glory, might, power, and infinitude. But our problem is that man has rejected this witness. Man does not even acknowledge God in nature choosing one of two horrific errors. Either, as Romans 1 says, man makes a god for himself out of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures or, as man rejects God entirely. Rather than believe in God, man chooses to believe himself an utterly astounding accident without a cause – that exists for no purpose.
Sin has led men to reject God – not even giving Him thanks or honoring Him. So, not only do we have a God too vast to be known without His gracious revelation of Himself, but our sin and rebellion have blinded us – darkened our understanding – hardened our hearts – and closed our eyes to His glory. We reject both God and His revelation of Himself, embracing instead ourselves as the only authorities in our lives. Truly we hold that we can be a better god than God – the result of which is the devastation of His image in us – darkness, destruction, and death.
God, Who had every right to absolutely reject us for such infinitely rebellious foolishness, instead chose to reveal Himself further to those who rebel against Him. He did this through His Word – and eventually through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He moved upon men through His Holy Spirit to give us an accurate, authoritative revelation of Who He is. He did this first in the Old Testament as He chose a man, Abraham, and a nation, Israel. He promised a Savior, though, as His ultimate revelation of Himself and His great love for us. That Savior is Jesus Christ, Who was revealed in history, which is also recorded for us through God’s Word, the Scriptures. God provided salvation through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He then gave us the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, so that we could also know the way He perfectly revealed His love and purpose through His Son.
Now, the fundamental way that we know God is through how He has revealed Himself in His Word. As we read and study His Word we come to know Who He is – His heart – His ways – His thoughts – His purposes, plans, and will. We are warned in the Scripture itself about those who do not speak according to and in agreement with His Word. We are told that such men and women do not even have the light of day. Paul even writes a curse upon those who do not preach the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible. This leads us to some very important truths and principles by which we live at Calvary Chapel.
We place greatest importance on what God’s Word says when it comes to all matters of doctrine and practice in our lives and in the church. That is why Bible teaching and Bible study are vitally important to us. We go by what the text of the Scripture says – not about how we feel about it. We go by a careful study of the whole of the Bible, not just pulling verses out of their context to create some teaching of our own making. We do not hold to revelation outside the Bible. There are some who want to make their own words that they speak equal with and at times more authoritative than Scripture. This is what theologicans call “extra-biblical” revelation. It says that some current day revelation from a prophet, preacher, or teacher is of equal authority (usually greater) than what has been given to us in the Old and New Testaments. We do not believe that a current revelation by a teacher or even someone who proposes to be a prophet has any authority in itself – and certainly does not constitute new Biblical revelation. God closed the canon or books of the Bible after the book of Revelation was given by the Holy Spirit to John. Therefore anything someone says that they have from or about God MUST conform to what we already have in Scripture. If it does not – we reject the teaching and the teacher of such things.
What is our practice as a result of this second core value? The result is that we seek to know God on the basis of what He has revealed of Himself in the Scriptures. We study them diligently to grasp what they say. We seek to understand the context in which they were given, as well as comparing passage with passage, to guard against misinterpreting them or making them say what we want instead of what God intended. We do not want to add to the Scriptures or take away from them. As Paul says through the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)
We do not look to current day prophets – or anyone who has a special word that they assert is equal to the Biblical revelation. We do not look to church councils or any special group or individual to speak new Scripture – or to speak anything that is more authoritative than what we already have in the Old and New Testaments. We do not give special place to creeds or statements made outside the Bible. The primary importance – and the only authoritative word for us is the Word of God. The Word of God is how we believe God has revealed Himself to us. That is why we place primary importance on teaching it from cover to cover, book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse. We believe it is only as we know God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible that we can know God.