I believe God speaks today. I also believe that his speech today must be subordinated to his speech yesterday, or else we’re all in trouble.
I get jittery when I hear people speak “a word from the Lord” that is not the Written Word of the Lord. I do believe that God still speaks today. But how does he speak?
HE ALWAYS ECHOES HIS WRITTEN WORD INTO A LIVING SITUATION. That’s how God still speaks. In other words:
The word of the Lord spoken into your life can never exceed the WORD of the Lord studied into your life.
God simply won’t inject the Bible into you. If you don’t study it, He won’t speak it. If you don’t study the written Word, God won’t speak his current word into your life. We are people of a BOOK, not people of “an inner impression.” Scripture is the mind of Christ. It is the supreme authority for faith and life. No inner hunches, no dreams and visions, no preacher’s exhortations, no mass hysteria will ever take the place of the B-I-B-L-E.
Does this mean we can never say “The Lord told me…”? Of course we can say that: When a dear old saint with a worn out Bible says “The Lord told me…” then I will sit up and listen. Otherwise, no so much.
A child went on a journey. For the journey, the Father wrote letters. These letters overflowed with the Father’s wisdom for the journey’s every circumstance. The letters were tucked into the backpack and off the child went. Along the way the child met hardship. The child cried out for wisdom, but his Father seemingly paid no attention. The child met heartbreak, and prayed fervently for guidance, but the Father seemingly paid no attention. The child met a fork in the road, and, after beseeching the Father’s wisdom, the child trusted an inner impression and took the wrong fork. Trials. Adversities. Suffering. Loss. The child wandered like a rudderless ship at sea… Every prayer for wisdom was met with silence from the Father.
The child stumbled home one day, shedding bitter tears before the Father. “Why didn’t you hear my cries?”
“I heard every word you said,” the Father replied. “You just never bothered to read mine.”
I get jittery when novice Christians, with little exposure to Scripture, are told to trust their inner impressions as if they were a fresh word from God. Our standard is and must always be the Written Word. Until that standard is hardwired into our souls, then the “inner voice of God” is more likely to be the inner voice of our preachers who are not doing their jobs. Unless the standard is Scripture, we are subject to every emotional whim and manipulative device of Satan.
We must test all things by Scripture. Is God’s Word not sufficient for every circumstance of life? Of course it is. We already have a Word from the Lord for every situation:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NKJV).
If you don’t learn the Bible, God won’t speak into your life. Why should God impart new revelation to a child too lazy to absorb old revelation? In such a case, you can have no confidence your inner impressions are from him: they are far more likely to be from your own emotions, or your narcissistic flesh, or your ear-tickling Bible teachers, or your dysfunctional father, or “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). You cannot say with any degree of confidence your inner voice is of God. Without Scripture integrated into your soul, by what standard can you sort out the dysfunctional voices of your past from the divine wisdom of God?
Can God speak when and where and how he wills? Of course he can. I do not limit God. But God has already deposited an inerrant, unchanging, once for all truth into the hands of his people. I have a hunch he wants us all to start there. Might he impart dreams and visions on the frontiers of mission work? Yes. Without doubt. But that is exceptional; we cannot make it the norm.
We must get past a snippet view of Scripture. We must apply our minds to wisdom. We must feast upon the fulness of the whole counsel of God. Pastors and leaders especially must “labor in the Word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).
How firm a foundation,
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith,
In His excellent Word!
What more can he say,
Than to you he HATH SAID,
To you, who for refuge
To Jesus have fled?
- “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” Psalms 119:11, NKJV.
- “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16, NKJV.
- ““Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word [logos]” Acts 4:29, NKJV.
- ““So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word [logos] of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32, NKJV.
Sit down at the feet of Jesus, study his written Word in depth and fulness, apply yourself to knowledge, and then go minister. Christians–especially those in ministry–should DRIP the Bible. Back to the Bible!
There’s a mistaken teaching in the church that overemphasizes the difference between two Greek words, logos and rhema. Both are translated “word.” The teaching says that logos refers to the written word of God in its totality, whereas rhema refers to a specific word of God given to a person in a situation. There is no strong case for this from Scripture. Check out this excellent study on the topic. I would add that there is no such distinction in Hebrew.