“God told me so.” “It was shown to me in a dream.” “I feel lead to…” “He told me audibly, I could hear Him.” “I just feel in my spirit…” “God is trying to tell me something.”
How many times have you heard or read things like those above? How are Christians supposed to take things like that?
Are those quotes biblical? Lets look at it a little. What are people really saying when they say such things?
I’ve heard things like this all my life and from some surprising sources too. I’ll tell you right now, I have never heard the “voice of God”. Not in a vision. Not in a dream. Not audibly. Not in any way most who say it, mean it. Yes, when I read or think on His words, I hear in my head what I imagine the voice would sound like. But I never feel like it is anything other than my mind. When I look back on things in my life I sometimes think God had to be involved, but I was never aware of it at the time.
I’m going to examine some truths that virtually every conservative Christian holds to then look at the implications those truths have on this phenomenon.
First lets look at a very widely accepted standard, “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”. All emphasis below is added by me.
We affirm that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.
We deny that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God’s work of inspiration.
We affirm that God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive.
We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.
We affirm that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
We deny that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.
We affirm that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.
We deny that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Chapter I: Of the Holy Scriptures
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
Moving on with these things in mind I have an example.
“The Lord told me that the doctrine of ‘fishfilly’ is a correct doctrine.” This person would have me believe that ‘fishfilly’ is correct. Not a problem, I have now heard their opinion. But you see, this statement usually comes at the end of some discussion about ‘fishfilly’ where the presenter hasn’t made a very good case. It’s like a trump card. I am now expected to believe what they couldn’t show from the Word because they got “a word” from God. This un-provable experience is now expected to be a spiritual authority over what I understand from God’s Holy Word.
How can anyone PROVE that didn’t happen? Actually it’s pretty simple. You don’t prove it didn’t happen. You prove it is irrelevant and even if true God wouldn’t want you to use it for evidence or as authoritative. I’m not doubting the Lord can speak to anyone at anytime. However this would be personal revelation. Each individual who gets such revelation is still bound by scripture to give their evidence from scripture. Why? Because no one can exegete (properly interpret and demonstrate) that another persons experiences are true or from God. What God “says” to you He did not say to me. I am not to trust in man according to scripture. Further they themselves are to test such experiences against scripture. If they have done so they can make a case from scripture. Am I to believe that a Christian would have me take their word over (or without) scripture? Would God have me do so? Would God have you wasting my time dealing with your experience as evidence and not have you find your evidence in the Word and present that? I don’t think so.
I read a great response to the ‘God told me’ spiritual trump card the other day. I’ll apply it to the example above. “Well, the Lord told me just yesterday while I was praying that you would present this ‘fishfilly’ doctrine to me. He told me it was from the devil and I should rebuke you. Further He told me that the evidence that mine was a true ‘word from God’ and yours was not, would be that when I told you that you had a demon you would not believe me.” See, now how is anyone going to prove either of those statements right or wrong? It’s easy. Just apply the simple and true doctrines above and go to The Word. God is not wasting my time with the personal revelations of men. I can safely and rightly rebuke or ignore them. Even if the propositions are true in the claims of the personal ‘revelations’ from God, I am not to believe them until demonstrated from scripture.
God may inspire you with a personal revelation. God will never tell you to share it as evidence. He gave us his infallible and inerrant Word for evidence. Scripture Alone is our standard. That standard is given in scripture.
Now, how about “God is trying to tell me…”.
This one is pretty simple to me. Just one look at the first and third words says it all. ‘God’ and ‘try’ just don’t go together.
God knows everything, including how much effort it takes to make you hear.
God is all powerful. Powerful enough to make you hear.
God knows which words to use that would make you understand.
God knows which of your limitations He would have to overcome to make you hear and understand.
GOD DOESN’T TRY! GOD DOES…”whatever He pleases.” Psalm 115:3
If God wants to tell you something you will get it loud and clear. If he didn’t want you to quite get it he could whisper or obscure his message I suppose. But, in that case is he really ‘trying’ or wanting you to get it? Now it is possible that he could be nudging you to scripture so you will find it on your own. Then, if you find it in there, in context and interpreted correctly, you could truly say ‘God told me’ but it would be ‘in The Word’ that He told you. This is the same way He tells everyone who hears, by His Word. The “still small voice” was a voice that could be understood none the less.
Further which prophet or Apostle in the bible is ever said to have missed what God was telling him because God didn’t ‘try’ hard enough, speak loud enough, make himself clear enough. There is no record of God ‘trying.’ That some didn’t understand what they saw or were given to say is true, but the visions, dreams and words were always clear to them for repeating, telling and writing.
Finally, I have on rare occasion heard this one after someone found out that they were wrong, “but I know God was speaking to me.” This often comes after a failed prediction. Does it matter if it’s a prediction or another form of a claim? God spoke to His people through prophets and inspired Apostles. They offered predictions and other truths. If He still speaks to His people today (other than in scripture) it would be through prophets and inspired Apostles. Every word they utter by God’s inspiration would be scripture. We all know what the test of a prophet is. 100% every single time, else they are a false prophet. Apostles are never wrong when speaking for God either. To believe that God is telling you something that cannot be found in scripture is to believe that God is giving you new revelation and thus you must be a prophet or Apostle. That’s very dangerous ground to be walking on.
In conclusion: No, God does not intend to waste my time with any one’s “God told me”, unless it is an opportunity to help someone understand why it is wrong for them to share it (if indeed he told them at all.) Nothing happens on accident, so I also conclude He would want me to point that out to my brother or sister. Well, I have.