25 November 2013

The Quest for 'More' Denigrates the Sufficiency of the Word

Dr. John MacArthur; photo courtesy of Grace to You
It is not at all hard to find examples from church history of groups and individuals who believed God was speaking directly to them apart from Scripture. But surely in two thousand years of history the quest for this kind of personal prophecy has never been as widespread and as pervasive as it is today.

Church history also reveals that since the canon of Scripture was closed, virtually every "prophet" who ever spoke a "thus saith the Lord" has been proved wrong, recanted, or gone off track doctrinally. And since the apostolic era, every movement that has depended heavily on extra biblical prophecy has ultimately digressed from the true faith, usually falling into serious corruption or heresy.

This is precisely why the sufficiency of Scripture—sola Scriptura—is such a crucial doctrine. If the written Word of God truly is able to give us all the wisdom we need for complete salvation, and if it is able to make us adequate, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:15–17)—then is there really any necessity for additional "prophecies" in the life of the believer? Does God need to say more to us than He has already said? This is a question advocates of modern prophetic revelation would do well to ponder carefully.

It seems particularly unfortunate that there would be such an affinity for subjective "revelations" in an era when the average "born-again Christian" is so ignorant of the objective revelation God has given us in the Bible. When knowledge of Scripture is at such an ebb, this is the worst possible time for believers to be seeking divine truth in dreams, visions, and subjective impressions.

The quest for additional revelation from God actually denigrates the sufficiency of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). It implies that God hasn't said enough in the Scriptures. It assumes that we need more truth from God than what we find in His written Word. But as we have repeatedly seen, the Bible itself claims absolute sufficiency to equip us for every good work. If we really embrace that truth, how can we be seeking the voice of God in subjective experiences?

In short, I reject modern revelatory prophecy because the New Testament canon is closed and Scripture is sufficient. . . . [M]y concerns have to do with reckless faith and the dearth of biblical discernment. Here I am primarily concerned with the extreme subjectivity that is introduced into doctrine and daily life when Christians open the door to private messages from God.

– John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern, (Crossway Books: 1994), 180–181.

Further Reading
God Speaks, but How?
Many Americans Claim 'God Told Me'
What God Says about His Word
Affirming Sola Scriptura

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