19 August 2013

God Speaks, but How?

Does God speak today? Yes.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Heb 1:1–2)
photo credit: practicalowl via photopin cc
Many may be familiar with the Justin Peter's quote, "If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud." Yes, the Lord speaks today—loudly and clearly. He does so through the closed canon and written revelation of His Word, Scripture. Sufficient for all things (2 Tim 3:15–17), God in His great goodness has provided this Word so that there would be no mistaking, misunderstanding, adding to or taking away from what He has revealed. For the Christian, Scripture must be the final, authoritative word.
Scripture is a closed system of truth, complete, sufficient, and not to be added to (Rev 22:18–19). It contains all the spiritual truth God intended to reveal.1
Yet, there are always those who seek for "more." More spirituality, more emotion, more revelation. There are those contemplatives and those mystics who teach that if one will only sit still long enough and be quiet enough, they may actually hear the voice of God. There are those who maintain that the Lord still sends prophetic dreams and visions. It is as if God still has more to say, that He didn't quite finish His sentence when the Apostle John closed the book on Revelation 22:21.

To these it may be asked, "Do you write down these personal prophecies and revelations given to you by "God" in the back of your Bible? Are you in the midst of composing the Book of Beth or John or Bill?" Such questions usually will be met with scoffing and exasperation, but are they not appropriate? After all, when God speaks, does He not speak authoritatively? Surely it is impossible for the God of the universe to speak with only partial authority! Either God speaks reliably and with supremacy, or He does not speak at all.

Those who seek after personal revelation, whose ears must be perpetually strained to hear the mumblings and whispers of "God" surely must be forgetting the words of the Apostle Peter. Peter, who himself witnessed the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, says this about the importance of God's Word:
For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
(2 Peter 1:17–21) 
It is truly amazing, is it not, that God would offer to men such a Word as revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ? How dare the creature demand anything more when He has already provided all that is necessary! Dr. John MacArthur notes,
Once a congregation sees Scripture as less than the final, complete, infallible authority for faith and practice, it has opened the doors to theological chaos. Anyone can claim to be speaking God’s revelation--and almost anything can be passed off as divinely revealed truth. And make no mistake, some of the best-known charismatic leaders have abused their people’s trust by claiming they are receiving new truth from God, when what they are really teaching are lies and fabrications.2
In spite of this great Word called the Bible, congregations across the globe continue to teach that God is offering progressive revelation, that He still is speaking to believers here and there through voices, visions and dreams. One such example of this is Pastor Rob Reimer of South Shore Community Church in Brockton, Massachusetts. In his book, Pathways to the King, Reimer states:
The gift of the Spirit is about a direct experience with God. We will hear God's voice—through dreams, visions, and prophecy—and that will authenticate the presence of God and draw people to direct experiences with Him. This is for all God's people: men, women, and children.3
In a 2011 blog post entitled, "God Speaks. Are You Listening?" Dr. Reimer offers six ways in which he claims the Lord continues to speak today:
  1. An audible voice

  2. Says Reimer, "Jesus heard the audible voice of His Father." Well, yes He did. Of course, He was, after all, Jesus. Reimer offers Paul as another example of God speaking audibly, yet the Bible-reading Christian will note that Paul's experience was most certainly unique and not something that is to be expected by all Christians for all time.

  3. A whisper

  4. "The old timers called it the still small voice of God. Often it is just God guiding our thoughts, but we learn to recognize when it is God guiding our thoughts, and when it is just us thinking." Unfortunately, Reimer does not reveal just how it is that this distinction between God's "guiding our thoughts" and "just us thinking" can even be made. Perhaps it is just trial and error? Yet, trial and error is hardly the method in which God revealed His Word to the prophets of old.

  5. Through pictures

  6. Of this means, Reimer states, "Not every picture that comes to our mind, not every dream we have is from God. Just like not every voice that is heard, nor every thought that we have is from God. We have to test it." Again one is left with trial and error. Oh, one may perhaps argue that the picture need only be tested against the truth of Scripture to discern its validity. This by necessity leads to the question, "Why isn't Scripture good enough in the first place?"

  7. Through emotions

  8. "Grief is an emotion. Sometimes the conviction of the Spirit comes to me and I feel it. . . . Many times, God speaks to us through love. Often I will begin to feel God’s love for a person, right before God gives me a prophetic word to encourage a person." Indeed, the Holy Spirit does convict of sin and the believer rests in the joy of the Lord, but man cannot trust his emotional whims. Emotions are fickle and easily manipulated. No doubt this is why Jeremiah warned that "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"

  9. Through "a word we see in our mind's eye"

  10. Reimer explains, "It is like a cartoon caption. We see a word spelled out." The absurdity of this statement makes additional commentary unnecessary.

  11. To our "knower" 

  12. Says Reimer, "Sometimes we just know something. God speaks to us Spirit to spirit, and we just know something." How can one know that it is God who has spoken "Spirit to spirit"? Well, ironically enough, Reimer's explanation of this last point leaves one not knowing.
The astute reader may notice something glaringly absent from this list. Out of Rob Reimer's "six ways God speaks," he does not include the fact that God speaks through His Word! How is it that the most obvious method by which God speaks was omitted from this list?

Though now two years old, this blog post of Reimer's sparked new interest as a reader, who calls herself Barb, recently left the following comment:
Source
To which Reimer replied:
Source
Reimer's use of passages such as Acts 2:17, John 14–16 and John 10:27 to substantiate his claims that "There is no verse that says God stops speaking" seemed worthy of a challenge. Verses must, after all, be examined in their broader context in order to properly interpret them.

As such, this writer left three nearly identical comments over a period of a couple of weeks, simply attempting to engage the text. The persistence of this writer was due to the perhaps naive assumption that a pastor of the Word of God would be eager and anxious to discuss why it is he believes and teaches a certain thing. Unfortunately, none of those comments were published on Pastor Reimer's blog. Instead, an email recently was received from Executive Pastor Sharon Anderson (see this post for additional teaching on the unbiblical notion of women elders). That email reads as follows:
To Whom it May Concern: 
This blog is the intellectual property of South Shore Community Church. We are under no obligation to publish your comments. However, the First Amendment gives you the right to express your opinions on your own blog. We would encourage you to do so. 
Respectfully, 
Sharon Anderson, Executive Pastor
This writer thanked Sharon Anderson for her reply and explained the reason for such persistence. At this point it is extremely important to note that this blog post at Do Not Be Surprised has not in any way been written out of spite or anger. Indeed, every blog owner has the right to publish or not publish comments on his or her own blog as is seen fit (even DNBS exercises this right per the posted comment policy).

Rather, the purpose of this post is to once again shed light upon the darkness that is found within the charismatic movement. How many caught up in this movement live in bondage and depression because they have not yet "heard" from God through voices, visions and dreams? How many live in despair that they have not yet exercised enough faith for God to "speak" to them? How many are robbed of joy and peace because they do not realize that God has spoken to them, fully and finally and personally, in His Holy Word?

The second purpose of this post is to ensure that all things truly are tested against Scripture. God's Word is the final and perfect authority. It points the believer to Christ, who is the Christian's hope, Savior, Lord and King. With that, below is the comment that was left at Pastor Reimer's blog and remains unpublished as of this writing:

The man or woman who seeks to have his or her personal experience trump the Word of God is one who desperately needs to seek the truth that is only found in that Word. May Christians pray that God would open the eyes of those who have been deceived by these dangerous and deceptive doctrines. May God rescue many who are wandering, lost amid the voices and visions in their head, ignorant that the way to the truth can be found in the most obvious of places: the pages of Scripture.
The truth is, there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God does not need to give private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.4
______________________
Footnotes
1. John MacArthur, "Does God Still Give Revelation?" Accessed 18 August 2013.
2. ibid.
3. Rob Reimer, Pathways to the King, (Carpenter's Son Publishing: 2013), 68.
4. John MacArthur, "Does God Still Give Revelation?" Accessed 18 August 2013.

Further Reading
What God Says About His Word
Affirming Sola Scriptura
Doctrine Matters
Beth Moore's 'Sabbath Moment' Playdate with God

11 comments:

  1. So what is the meaning of acts 2:17, if it is not applicable to our time?

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    1. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom36.ix.iii.html

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    2. Anonymous,

      If you read the comment that I left under the blog post in question (provided in a screenshot above), you'll see the explanation:

      Acts 2:17 says in the last days God will pour out his spirit on ALL flesh and then there will be dreams, etc. God would not pour out His Spirit in this manner on unbelievers, would He? God will do this to Christians, not everyone in the world, so this cannot be something that is happening now. This has to be a time when there are only believers on earth. This is God's future kingdom.

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    3. You're so right about this scripture. So many Christians take this out of context. God Bless you for posting this. So many people believe whatever their Pastors teach, and they don't search the scriptures like the Bereans did.

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    4. Interesting. So the interpretation here regarding Acts 2:17 is that an outpouring of the Spirit on Christians (presumably distinct from the presence of the Spirit within believers at the present time) will take place during a future kingdom that is, nevertheless, part of "the last days". So if "the last days" is the time between the first and second coming of Christ, then Acts 2:17 indicates a postmillennial return of Christ?

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  2. Good article Erin.

    I came across this comment on Ps 19 and have kept it in my notes and thought I'd share it here:

    Psa 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    Psalm 19:8 gives a fourth characteristic of Scripture’s utter sufficiency: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” This word “pure” could better be translated “clear” or “lucid,” & it indicates that Scripture is not mystifying, confusing, or puzzling. God’s Word reveals truth to make the dark things light, bringing eternity into bright focus.Granted, there are things in Scripture that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16), but taken as a whole, the Bible is not a bewildering book. It is clear and lucid. – John MacArthur

    And Ps 119 is probably the most thorough chapter in Scripture regarding the vital sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture.

    Some of my favorite verses which support the sole sufficiency of Scripture:

    Ps. 138:2… You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

    Act 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

    Joh 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

    Isa 55:11 so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

    Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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  3. It seems to be necessary for those who need to 'hear God's voice' (in whatever manner) to use such an occasion to bolster their believe in the god they have created. The few Old Testament examples we have always produced great humility and brokenness before God in those who were chosen to actually hear His voice. Today, such claims produce spiritual elitism and pride of one's standing before his fake god.

    For those that need such a thing I would ask, is God's provision (His written Word) for you insufficient to meet your needs? If yes, then is Christ's sacrifice also insufficient for you also? And how did you hear of His death and resurrection, through a dream, a vision, or other means of direct revelation?

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  4. Okay, I'll bite on this one.
    Act 2:17 "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

    "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh (see Acts 2:1-4), and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy (prophesy= to teach and proclaim the great truths of God, also to call people in repentance back to God), and your young men shall see visions (see Acts 9:10, Acts 10:9-19, Rev 1:10), and your old men shall dream dreams (see Acts 16: 9-10, Acts 27:23);

    This scripture was being fulfilled right at the time of Peters sermon. You always have to keep in mind the context. Peter was teaching first century Jews about the fulfillment of prophesies made earlier to the Jews, the church was not in sight at the time the Joel prophesy was made. The next step in Gods program had just begun, salvation freely available to anyone who called on the name of Jesus Christ.
    Like a lot of Biblical prophecies though, there is an immediate and future component. Reading further, verses 19 & 20 bear a striking resemblance to passages found in Revelation.

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  5. Erin did you find it interesting that you wrote in to discuss Scripture and Pastor Sharon answered with the US Constitution?

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    1. Yes, I have to admit that was a curious way to respond to someone who was trying to engage the Scriptures. But what else can you do when the Scriptures don't actually support your position?

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  6. I have attended SSCC, the leadership there are not concerned at all with biblical exegesis. The worship is ego-centered, soulish and fleshly, as are the sermons, and the pastor's blog is designed to preach to his own choir, exhorting them to stay engaged in their ever-elusive revival and closer walk with God. It is a shameful place to anyone with a spark of discernment.

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