Volume 9, Issue 2: Doctrine 101
"God Told Me..."
Throughout my Christian life I have often heard other Christians use the phrase, "God told me. . . ," or something similar. My wife once told me that a few years before we met, a young Christian man had informed her that God had told him she was the girl he was to marry. Needless to say, she wasn't. In the same way, a young man told me that God had told him that my car (which was for sale) was intended for him. He hastened to in-form me that he didn't have the money to pay the asking price, but God had nonetheless informed him that the car would be his. It was somewhat amusing to me, and possibly a little perplexing to him, when I called a few weeks later to say that my car had been sold to someone else who, in the providence of God, did have the money.
On another occasion, I was in a theological debate with a long-time Christian missionary friend. As we exchanged verses and views in our letters, my missionary friend finally confided that he held to his beliefs as he did because, as he said, "It was as if God had told me." To further strengthen his argument, he added that such a thing (as an apparent message from God) had only happened to him about twenty times in his entire Christian life. At the time, I found such an argument hard to refute, although I still thought his understanding of the particular issue was at odds with the Bible.
There are many other instances. Most of us have experienced them. People stand up in church and announce, "I have a message from God!" Others quit their jobs and live a life of asceticism because as they were stuck in traffic, they heard the radio announcer advertising some product and they construed this as a word from God personally for them. Just what are we to make from all of this? Is there an inspired source of revelation apart from the Holy Bible? Is divine revelation still ongoing as some assert? Are those who hear such messages more holy than the rest of us? What about those who get a "sure message from the Lord" that doesn't come to pass? Was the omniscient God mistaken?
In the Old Testament, the word of the Lord came via the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:11) who spoke through prophets (Heb. 1:1). False prophets, those who spoke on their own initiative without the Lord's command to them, were to be put to death (Deut. 18:20; Jer. 14:15, Zech. 13:3). This was a harsh and final punishment intended to dissuade those who would puff themselves up by speaking vain things in the name of the Lord to get people to follow them. It also helped to preserve the true word of God since the false prophecies were not maintained as divine revelation apart from their record in the Scriptures by God's true prophets.
In the New Testament, God spoke to His people by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb. 1:2), and subsequently through apostles and prophets (Eph. 4:11,12). The Apostle Peter recognized as Scripture the writings of the Apostle Paul (2 Pet. 3:15,16). Paul acknowledged the writings of Luke as Scripture (1 Tim. 6:18; c.f. Lk. 10:7), and so on. However, not everyone who claimed apostleship was an apostle. Paul acknowledged that there were false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13), and John warned his readers against the many false prophets who had already started to crop up (1 Jn. 4:1). Finally, the Holy Spirit attests to us the authenticity of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:11,12).
The Bible is a completed book; it is a bound book, not a loose-leaf notebook. We are not still receiving additional pages to insert into new chapters as they are printed. The Bible is God's recorded, specific revelation to man. Nature is a revelation from God to man (Rom. 1:20), and it is ongoing, but it is insufficient as a basis to know God's specific will. For example, who could ascertain monogamy or man's fallen state or our need for faith in Christ from nature? And because of the sovereign nature of God, He providentially maintains His word throughout history (Matt. 5:18).
God entrusted His word to the Jews, not just those who believed, but the Jews as a race, a people (Rom. 3:1,2). The Jews were God's chosen people (Deut. 7:6). But this special status was to change since they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Jn. 19:15, Matt. 21:33-45). The transition was complete in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple along with the rest of Jerusalem. This was the final sign that Jesus was reigning from heaven and that the Jews as a nation were no longer God's chosen people (Matt. 24:2-30; Mk. 12:1-9; Lk. 20:9-16; Rom. 2:28,29). As such, there was no longer an established system for enscripturating God's revealed word. Both Daniel and Paul prophesied that revelation was going to cease (Dan. 9:24; 1 Cor. 13:8). In fact, Daniel indicated that God's revelation would end with the destruction of the temple that existed during the time of Christ (Dan. 9:26).
But why would God not provide a word of revelation to His people, the Church, in the 2000 years after Christ's incarnation? Simply because He has already revealed what is sufficient for life and godliness (Deut. 29:29; 2 Pet. 1:3). God has severely warned His people several times not to add to His word (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18, 19). To add to what God has already spoken is to deny the Bible's self-attesting sufficiency (thus calling God a liar) and to exalt vain, human imagination to the level of the divine, contrary to the Scriptures (Isa. 55:8, 9).
"God told me" may be acceptable if it's followed by chapter and verse from the Bible. Surely to go beyond this is human arrogance of the worst kind and must be labeled for what it really is--heresy. As God's people we must humbly limit ourselves to that word from God that He has revealed to all of His people since the days of the Apostles, the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible and nothing else. "God told me"? No He didn't!