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Many of us have heard the statement: "It's a revelation" as the justification for some otherwise untenable belief in the message. To the message follower, it's the trump card that settles the issue and silences the critic.
However, to those outside the message it's an abstraction that impedes dialogue.
Is this defense a Biblical one?
If anyone in the history of mankind could ever have laid claim to "revelation" as a valid defense, it would have been Peter. Jesus verified that God himself had given Peter direct knowledge of Christ's identity:
- He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 
Yet it was Peter who instructed us as follows in 1 Peter 3:
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...
The Greek word for "defense" that Peter uses in this passage is ἀπολογία (apologia).
The critical issue is this - does "it's a revelation" count as such a defense?
Take a look at the following Greek lexicon for the word Peter chose for 'defense':
- 627 ἀπολογία [apologia /ap·ol·og·ee·ah/] n f. From the same as 626; GK 665; Eight occurrences; AV translates as “defence” three times, “answer” three times, “answer for (one’s) self” once, and “clearing of (one’s) self” once. 1 verbal defence, speech in defence. 2 a reasoned statement or argument.
- ἀπολογία, ας, ἡ (s. ἀπολογέομαι; Pre-Socr., Thu. et al.; pap, e.g. BGU 531, 21 [I A.D.]; PLips 58, 18; Wsd 6:10; TestSol; Jos. C. Ap. 2, 147; Ar., Just.) freq. as legal term.
- 1. a speech of defense, defense, reply ἀκούσατέ μου τῆς πρὸς ὑμᾶς νυνὶ ἀπολογίας hear the defense which I now make to you Ac 22:1 (ἀ. πρός τινα as X., Mem. 4, 8, 5). ἡ ἐμὴ ἀ. τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσιν my reply to those who sit in judgment over me 1 Cor 9:3. Written defense, apology Qua (1).
- 2. the act of making a defense, defense
- a. in court (Jos., Bell. 1, 621) ἐν τ. πρώτῃ μου ἀ. at my first defense 2 Ti 4:16 (s. πρῶτος 1aαא). τόπον ἀπολογίας λαμβάνειν περί τινος receive an opportunity to defend himself concerning someth. Ac 25:16.
- b. gener. of eagerness to defend oneself 2 Cor 7:11. Of defending the gospel Phil 1:7, 16. ἕτοιμοι πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντί ready to make a defense to anyone 1 Pt 3:15.
An "apology" in classical times had nothing to do with saying, "I'm sorry," but rather was a reasoned argument (defense) that presented evidence (supplied compelling proof) as one would in a court.
Here are some examples of where the same Greek word ἀπολογία is used elsewhere in the New Testament:
- And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
- I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.
- Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
Shouldn't revelation make things clearer?
Imagine you are looking at a sculpture that is covered and another person looking on claims that the sculptor has already given him a look at the uncovered sculpture.
People are speculating as to what it could be...
One says, "that long part looks like it could be an elephant's trunk"
Another says, "it's a giraffe"
A person who has actually already seen the "revealed" sculpture cannot convey perfectly what he has seen, but their explanation of what the onlookers are seeing should make more sense than their own speculation.
For instance, he might say, "actually that's not an elephant's trunk or a giraffe. It's actually a general on a rearing horse and what you see there is his extended arm and sword."
The very definition of reveal means its recipient should be able to bring increased clarity, not increased mystery.
If the person claiming to have already seen the sculpture said something like, "I can't explain what those shapes are. It's a revelation." That would be non-sensical.
Yet, that is basically what we get told about twisted message scriptural interpretation, Willliam Branham's false visions and prophesies, vindication snafus, and the like.
It's just nonsensical.
Imagine standing in front of a judge to give a defense for your actions where you are on trial criminally. Would it be acceptable to say: "Sorry, your honor, you can't understand my actions. It's a revelation." and think the judge will understand?
I think not.
Neither is it acceptable, from a scripture standpoint, for a message follower to evade any real answer to a question posed to them about their faith.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 16:15–17.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 3:15.
- James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 117.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 21:40–22:1.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 25:16.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Ti 4:14–17.