I have been noticing an upswing in the discussion concerning how God speaks to HIs people today. The arguments range from the idea that God still speaks to each individual believer through dreams, visions, audible voice, and other people, to those of us who are staunch cessationists. First, allow me to explain what I mean by “cessation/cessationist”.
“Cessation” is a term used to explain that the miraculous sign gifts that existed during the first century, which God used to forward His plan and message, are no longer in effect. This includes the belief that God is not presently granting new revelation of Himself to mankind, including His elect, His children. A cessationist is one who holds to the aforementioned belief. Notice that I did not say that God is not speaking today. That is the popular and simplistic way of explaining the idea. I believe whole heartedly that God is speaking loudly and clearly today, but believe that He is limiting His speaking to the completed canon of Scripture. To further explain, I do not believe that God currently speaks audibly, or through dreams, or through visions, or hunches, or even through other believers. I believe that God has spoken and that His word as recorded in the pages of Holy writ (fancy word for Scripture) is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing (penetrating) as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). If it is capable of determining whether the thoughts and intentions of the believer are pure, or good or bad, then surely it is capable of giving me direction in every aspect of life and decision making.
The Reformers left us with several excellent phrases that explain the heart and soul of the battle during the period known as the Reformation. One of those phrases is Sola Scriptura. This expression of theological truth was not a doctrine they created but one they rediscovered from their study of Scripture. I’ve been reading some of what both Luther and Calvin believed and will emphatically state that Sola Scriptura is 1.) Self-explanatory, and 2.) An expression resulting from their unequivocal belief that Scripture is the only means by which man receives communication from God since the close of the canon of Scripture. Both Luther and Calvin clearly believed in Sola Scriptura in the way that I believe in Sola Scriptura, namely, that God has spoken and the record of that revelation is in the Bible alone. It is living and powerful and has need of no further additions. As Peter stated, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Peter 1:3). I would suggest a review of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff). The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers, but Abraham told him that they had the writings of Moses and the prophets and if they wouldn’t believe those writings of Scripture they wouldn’t believe even if one rose from the dead. The centrality of Scripture is one of the points of Jesus’ story.
Too many believers today are spending their waking hours waiting for God to tell them where they should go to college, what job to take, whom to marry, and so on. The resulting impotence is staggering and sad. How can we overcome in Christ if we are frozen in place while waiting for God to deliver His will to us by special revelation. And don’t be fooled; if you are waiting for God to deliver His will to you it must be by special revelation and therefore must be on par with the content of Scripture. Scripture does not teach that some contents of special revelation are greater than others. That is not to say that one passage of Scripture can’t have more of an impact on our lives today than another, but we also must realize that even what seems to be the most insignificant passage in Scripture is of grave importance to the overall message since every word, from Genesis to Revelation, is an invaluable part of the greater story of God’s Divine Plan. Without the most insignificant points of the story the most valuable points of the story could not exist.
So, if I believe that God no longer speaks by way of additional special revelation, how do I propose that a believer go about finding and following God’s will? Well, I’m glad you asked. That is what I will address in my next post.
In closing I would like to offer my presuppositions, which will help to set the stage for part 2 of this discussion. I believe that most who read these will offer no disagreement.
- The God of the Bible exists and is knowable
- He has spoken
- The Bible is the record of His speaking
- In speaking He has revealed His will
- Since He has revealed His will He must desire that we know it
- Since He desires that we know His will His message must be comprehensible (He is God after all)
- Therefore, we can know His will
- His will is found in Scripture
I may not have all of those in proper order, but you get my meaning.
Until next time, God bless.