Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Word From The Lord?

‘Not for long’. That was the prophetic response I received upon responding to a question concerning what denomination I was with. I had gotten into a conversation with a brother who upon finding out that I was a minister began to ‘speak into my life’. For those unfamiliar with that phrase it means that someone is giving you a personal prophetic message from God. These prophetic words are meant to give you insight into God’s specific and precise plan for your particular life.

I use that as an example of how the church believes God speaks to us. It appears that more and more we’re convinced that God speaks presently, precisely and authoritatively. Now I know there’s an ongoing debate regarding if God is still speaking to His people or if He’s already spoken once for all in Scripture. What concerns me is the increasing view that God is certainly speaking, that He speaks almost all the time and that what He’s saying now to each individual believer is much more relevant than what He’s already said to the church through Scripture.

Though the battle lines concerning this important issue have already been drawn allow me to put forth a brief case for depending totally on Scripture alone to hear God’s voice, get clear direction and pursue relevant, faithful ministry. Since this will occupy at least two posts I’ll first explain my reservations with the theology behind ongoing, private, prophetic revelation.

First of all it appears that hearing God’s voice today almost wholly depends on deciphering shifting subjective inner feelings. Frankly brothers and sisters I don’t trust my feelings which are far too susceptible to deception. They are dependent upon a particular mood, what I’ve eaten, the weather, if I got a good night sleep, what kind of commute I had and if the Eagles blew a fourth quarter lead. My feelings are also far too influenced by what I really want and thus really want to hear. Did God truly tell me to do this, that or the other or did I just want to do that and waited for a particular feeling to validate it? What’s more I’m subjected to a daily barrage of media stimuli that’s hard to escape. Can I always be 100% sure without doubt that God has spoken to me through the haze of the 21st century sensory glut?

Relying on extra-revelation also puts me at the mercy of others. It can move me from trusting in Scripture and living by faith to looking to men and living by the special word. Am I really ready to base my life, my family and calling on the so-called ‘word from God’ someone thinks he had? What if he’s wrong? What if I don’t believe what he said? Would that put me in the position of rebelling against God? Should I start down that path am I bound to rely on this person’s special revelation for each and every important decision I’m called to make?

What is Scripture’s new place in an era of ongoing, specific, personal and relevant revelations? Do these revelations supersede Scripture? For example what if someone decided that God has called him into ministry apart from any type of church recognition or accountability? Is the phrase ‘God spoke to me and that’s enough’ sufficient? Can we expect to reason for the truth using Scripture or will the final answer always be ‘well God spoke to me and that’s all I know’? And if God is now speaking to people apart from Scripture is He confined to only speaking to those who’ve professed faith in Jesus Christ and if so why?

Finally, why not just rely on Scripture? Let’s face it, if Scripture was good enough for David, Jesus, Paul and Peter why isn’t it good enough for us? For now brothers and sisters let’s heed the apostle Peter, a man who indeed heard God’s voice and rely on the more sure written word of God.
By the way it’s been about four years since I was given that ‘prophetic word’ and alas I’m still a loyal (if not thrilled) TE in the PCA.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance


christian arvold said...

Good post- have you read Piper's take on this issue...

LouLove said...

Great insight Brother Lance, I am glad to read some of the other side of this debate. I look forward to the following post

Jim Pemberton said...

Good topic! I've heard more and more phrases like, so-and-so at church "prophesied that we would reach 3000 members by 2010." I consider that many reasons for such proclamations may be due to some inclination towards self-importance. All should be weighed against scripture, but the motivation of would-be prophet must be clear.

Conversely, what I have also heard of are revelations of information (one fellow I know calls it a "word of knowledge") that are IMMEDIATELY applicable. The examples I have are anecdotal, but they appear as not unlike some of the accounts written in Acts.