John Owen’s Thoughts on Supernatural Revelation

The inspiration of Scripture
In view is the Word of God, which for Owen has a threefold meaning: “hypostatikos, endiathetos, and prophorikos.”  The hypostatic (“personal”) Word has reference to the person of Christ.  The latter two Greek terms speak of the “internal” or “inherent” (endiathetos) Word and the “spoken” (prophorikos) Word.  The Bible, God’s supernatural revelation, is expressed in words and committed to writing.  Faith arises from the authority and truth of God in the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of God’s Word because the Spirit is truth.  The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit infallibly assures believers that Scripture is God’s Word.

The truth of the Bible
Owen states that an internal, efficacious work of the Holy Spirit must illuminate the minds of believers so that they not only recognize the divine authority of Scripture, but also embrace the truths contained therein.  The internal witness of the Spirit persuades believers that the Scriptures really are the very words of God.  Thus Scripture, for Owen, is self-evidencing and has an innate efficacy because of its Author.  Light and power constitute the self-evidencing nature of Scripture as the Word of God.  Light, like God and Scripture, does not require proof of authenticity.

Christ the source of knowledge
Owen speaks of Christ as the “sacred repository” of all truth.  Owen provides the ontological basis, in the glory of Christ’s person as the God-man, for revelation to be communicated from God to humanity; He is the Mediator not only in salvation, but also in all communication between God and fallen humanity.  No one but the God-man has the ability to declare perfectly the revelation of God.  So the “great end” of Christ’s coming was to reveal God (Matt. 13:35; John 1:18).

Covenantal context for the knowledge of God
God revealed Himself to Adam in the context of a covenant (the covenant of works). If this was true for Adam in the garden, how much more for the elect in the covenant of grace?  Owen would argue that all true theology is based on a covenant, which means that supernatural theology is best understood covenantally.  In the covenant of grace, God reveals His love and grace toward His people.  But those truths are all proposed to God’s people in the various post-lapsarian covenants in and by Christ.  Owen would demonstrate in his own writings, revelation was progressive along covenantal lines, but in the new covenant God speaks definitively and most gloriously in the person of Jesus Christ.


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