The Bible doesn’t say God has stopped speaking to people. Nor does it say the only way to hear God speak is to read the Bible.
For instance, the Bible teaches us that God communicates to everyone in the world, even to those who have never heard the gospel. This is why God says they are without excuse.
How does this communication take place? Primarily, two ways.
God Speaks to People Today Through the Creation
God speaks through the magnificence of His creation:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.Romans 1:18-20
According to God, He has created the world in such magnificence, complexity, and order that all one has to do is look around and one will see unmistakable and irrefutable evidence of the eternal power and divine nature of the Creator.
According to Him, this evidence is so overwhelming the only way not to see it is to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
This is an axiom. An obvious truth.
For it takes extreme negligence, hardness of heart, and commitment to fantasy to look at the macro world of the universe, the micro world of subatomic particles, and everything in-between, and conclude that it and all its life-sustaining order literally resulted from an explosion that occurred in a vacuum of absolute nothingness.
No space. No time. No matter. No nothing. And yet…
And out comes the universe and life.
We don’t even believe a single automobile can be created this way. How much less a universe or person?
God says we know better. He says we know better because “God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:19).
This leads us to the second fundamental way God speaks to us independently of the Bible.
God Speaks to People Today Through Their Conscience
The Holy Spirit further develops the point in the next chapter that sinners have no excuse because He communicates directly with their conscience even though they have no knowledge of the Bible.
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.Romans 2:14-16
The Law spoken of above is the law of Moses, which was understood by the Christian Romans to represent the entirety of the Old Testament. The point was that no one on judgment day will be able to say, “I didn’t know.”
And if one in that desperate moment of terror does offer such a defense, Jesus the Judge will answer that the law of God had been divinely written on every heart. He will further make manifest that sinner’s very thoughts concerning every sin he ever committed.
It will be seen in that moment that God had been in constant communication with the sinner until the sinner’s heart had become so darkened it could no longer discern the difference between right and wrong.
This is the state of being a reprobate (Romans 1:21-32).
Worthless. Destroyers of life. Active enemies of God. Marked for destruction. Awaiting one final breath before the sentence of eternal damnation begins.
What of God Speaking to People Today Independently of the Bible?
As I stated before, some Christians get nervous, paranoid even, when you mention anything other than the Bible as a way God speaks to us. (This is understandable when you consider how false prophets operate.)
Their default position is that to claim to hear from God through any means other than the Bible is to make the Bible secondary in authority to the other purported means of communication.
This would be similar to the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists and Catholic church leadership and Jehovah’s Witnesses and others posturing their revelations above the Bible.
But this reactive position of the saints is an extreme overreaction based more on fear and ignorance than on fact.
For from a biblical perspective it is unnatural for a Christian not to receive direct communications from God that are independent of the Bible. Yet these communications will never contradict, add to, or take away from the Bible.
And let me state emphatically: Nor will they come in a New Age package of traditional occult activities or mystic quantum physics. Seductions which false prophets within the Charismatic community are spoon-feeding gullible saints who value the words of these deceivers above the written word of God.
I’m speaking of the myriads of ways Satan has concocted to facilitate heightened union with himself in the name of Christ.
Manipulation of energy, crystals, words, and vibrations; regular interactions with so-called angels; so-called prophetic utterances; out of body experiences, pseudo science, etc.
The list of occult activities are practically endless. In this last day of deception, the saints must be incredibly wary of any teaching or practice that appears to degrade the final authority of the Bible, or to get creative with its contents.
And, without a doubt, besides inviting demons into our lives, integrating occult activities into the church definitely degrades the authority of the Bible.
Nonetheless, legitimate caution of false communications from the devil should not scare us away from identifying non-Scripture ways (not anti-Scripture ways; non-Scripture ways) in which God speaks to His people.
Communications From God That Are Independent of the Bible
Ironically, the Bible itself is filled with examples of God communicating with people independently of the Bible. These communications occur in the Old and New Testaments through circumstances, people, angels, voices, dreams, prophets, and visions.
If one is to believe the Bible, one has to believe God still routinely speaks directly to people independently of the Bible. Actually, people will never read the Bible unless God first communicates with them in another way.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.John 6:44
What is that drawing? It’s God speaking to people. And honesty demands that we be truthful and admit that the Bible teaches this drawing occurs long before a person hears a sermon of Scriptures or reads a Bible.
Let’s momentarily put down any bias against God speaking today to people independently of the Bible and recall what the Bible says about His two universal communications with the entirety of humanity:
- It is a biblical fact that God speaks to sinners through the creation. The creation is not a Bible. It is independent of the Bible.
- It is a biblical fact that God speaks to sinners through their conscience. The conscience is not a Bible. It is independent of the Bible.
Now would it make any sense at all to say God stopped speaking to sinners through His creation? Or that He stopped speaking directly to the conscience of sinners?
By what authority would we offer such a thing? That same tired, arbitrary argument Christian unbelievers use to explain away the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of the Spirit, and miraculous ministry in the church today?
That when the last apostle died, the need for God to speak directly to the world through His creation and to their conscience died with him?
Or that now that we have the complete Bible, God the Father has ordered the Holy Spirit to stop using creation and the conscience to communicate with the world?
I think we all agree that God is still speaking through His creation and that He is still speaking to the conscience of those who have never heard the word of God.
Can we also agree that saying God speaks directly to people through the creation and the human conscience does not mean we are saying the Bible is not to be treasured and revered and obeyed as the final authority on belief, doctrine, and conduct?
Because certainly it is the final authority.
Modern Examples of God Speaking to People Independently of the Bible
As of this writing, I have been a disciple of Jesus Christ for more than forty years. During this time, I have experienced many outstanding communications from God that were independent of the Bible.
None of them tempted me to change my name to Zechariah or Paul. Nor did they cause me to want to start my own religion.
I simply took them (and presently take them) as communications from the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would be our Helper, Advocate, Teacher, and Comforter, among other things.
God Told Me My Car Was in Danger
I turned the corner and drove down the street and parked the car around the corner from the building I was going to. Immediately, the Holy Spirit said, “This is not a good place to park your car.”
This communication was not a voice the way you’d hear someone speak to you from the back seat of the car. Instead, it was a voice inside of my mind that was more like a clearly distinguishable and forceful and foreign thought that popped out of nowhere.
But it was definitely a communication that was imposed upon me.
I pondered the communication and looked around and convinced myself this was just me. Really, I knew it was God, but I didn’t feel like riding around looking for another parking spot.
I exited the car and walked around the corner and went inside the building. When I finished my business, I exited and walked down the street. I’d have to get to the corner, make a left and walk maybe a third of a block, and make another left into the secluded parking area.
I made my first left and was praying in tongues under my breath (that’s right, my Baptist friends!). The Holy Spirit said, “Someone is in your car.”
This got my attention. Then I knew I had dismissed the Holy Spirit’s first communication in error.
“What?” I said.
I quickened my pace up the second street. As I walked up the second street looking to the left, I saw something move in my car. Actually, I saw someone. A dude was rummaging through my glove compartment.
Of course, he assured me he had made a mistake and didn’t know he was searching through the wrong car. He thought my car was his friend’s car. Of course, he did. Honest mistake (smile).
Now you can do one of two things with this story. You can dismiss it as a total lie concocted by a fraud. Or you can rationalize and say it was all coincidental.
Oh, or you can accept it as a genuine communication from the Holy Spirit to a son of God who treasures the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
If you can’t accept something as beautiful as Almighty God caring about whether one of His children is victimized by a thief, tell me what is so sinister or errant or heretical about this testimony?
What about it could possibly be seen as me trying to establish a new spiritual revelation? Or me saying the Bible is no longer the final authority on belief, doctrine, and behavior?
Honestly, I think there may be some dark reasons why you’d reject something so beautiful. I encourage you to search your heart and the Scriptures you say you believe.
A Baptist Pastor Hears God Speak to His Heart
It is comical to me how a preacher–I’m just going to say it–and so often, it’s a Baptist preacher, will vehemently denounce the gifts of the Holy Spirit and supernatural ministry in the church as heresy.
He will deride claimed direct communications of the Holy Spirit as imagination, lies, or false prophecy. Some, in the spirit of the Puritans, go so far as to label it the work of demons. (Baptists aren’t the only ones who do this.)
He will use every intellectual and debate weapon in his arsenal to prove the only legitimate way to hear from God is through the Scriptures.
Then this proud cessassionist and self-proclaimed devotee of the Scriptures will do something quite strange for an enemy of direct communications from God.
He will stand in front of the same congregation of which he teaches adamantly there is no such thing as direct communications from God other than the Scriptures and say, “God spoke to my heart.”
I have to admit, I’ve got a bit of a snicker in my voice as I ask, What exactly do you mean by this, Mr. God-only-speaks-through-the-Scriptures preacher?”
Did you hear a voice? Did the voice quote a Scripture? Oh, that’s right. You don’t believe God can speak with a voice to His people. So, just what does it mean to say, “God spoke to my heart?”
Let’s examine this double-standard in the next section.
God Speaks to Our Heart
What is the difference in the Baptist saying, “God spoke to my heart,” and the Charismatic saying, “God told me…”?
I’ve got news for you. Four quarters is a dollar.
The only difference I see is that the Baptist uses this language not to sound prideful and most of all not to sound like a Charismatic. But at its core there is no difference in “God spoke to my heart,” and “God told me blah, blah, blah.” For both are saying God spoke to them independently of the Scriptures.
This is not the only time the Baptist, and other Christians who would muzzle the Holy Spirit, claim to hear directly from God.
They regularly do it by embracing the doctrine that the Holy Spirit communicates directly with our spirit that we are children of God.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…Romans 8:16
What is this if not direct communication from the Holy Spirit independently of the Bible?
They will also also say they were “called” to the ministry. By whom? Are they speaking of the Holy Spirit? How exactly did this “call” come?
For there is not one Scripture in the Bible that tells one man to serve God by becoming a plumber versus serving God by becoming a pastor. The process of making that decision is a lot more Charismatic than any good Baptist would dare admit!
And so are most Baptist decisions that result from prayer.
A good Christian Baptist is going to pray before making important decisions. What is this prayer for? Is it so God can show them a Scripture which will objectively settle the matter of whom to marry, which church to attend, which vocation to pursue, which investment to make, which sermon to preach, etc?
There is not one Scripture from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 with anyone’s name on it. And if it is, it’s purely coincidental.
So what we’re left with is a process where the non-Charismatic prays, reads the Bible, and subjectively concludes they have heard from God.
But let’s be honest.
This non-Charismatic did not get their answer directly from the Bible. They read the Bible, prayed, and afterwards interpreted some non-biblical event as evidence to decide one way or the other.
They then attribute that decision to having read the Bible. This way it sounds based in Scripture and definitely non-Charismatic.
The non-biblical event they interpret as God may be a strong sense of peace. It may be the receipt of an out of the blue phone call. It may be overhearing a conversation. It may be a flash of insight. It may be any number of communications from the Holy Spirit.
But under close scrutiny, it can be seen to be purely subjective. Just like the Charismatic and his subjective way of hearing from God. So both Baptists and Charismatics embrace communications from the Holy Spirit that are independent of the Bible.
The comical difference, however, is that Baptists do so and downplay it to the point of misdirection and dishonesty. Charismatics, on the other hand, do so with the certainty of Old Testament prophets, which I agree with my Baptist brothers and sisters, is often irksome, presumptuous, and grossly misleading.
God Speaking to His People Independently of the Bible is Common Sense
It is common sense that the Holy Spirit would speak to us independently of the Bible. There are many such examples in the Bible.
This is an intriguing concept: a biblical example of a non-Scripture communication from the Holy Spirit.
What I am speaking of are instances where the Bible records the Holy Spirit communicating with people without using or referring them to Scriptures.
If a woman is walking across the dark parking lot toward her car, and the Holy Spirit seeks to warn her of a rapist who is crouching close to her car, the warning will probably come as a strong feeling of dread.
A feeling. Now that’s quite Charismatic-like, isn’t it?
Or perhaps she’ll get a strong thought like, “Don’t go to your car!” Or “Something’s not right!” Or “You should get someone to walk you to your car.”
If we follow biblical and modern examples, the Holy Spirit will most likely not warn the lady by prompting her to read a Scripture.
Can you imagine? A woman is within a sixty-second walk of being sexually assaulted, maybe also murdered, and she gets a thought to read a particular Scripture.
How would that deliver her from the immediate threat of the man with the knife in his hand whose heart is pounding fast with excitement as he waits for his victim to enter the trap.
That’s like shouting, “Read the Bible!” to someone about to be hit by a car. Why not point and shout, “Get out of the way!”
What? You’re afraid speaking so plainly would turn them into a Mormon or Seventh Day Adventist or New Ager?
We have to understand that God has at least as much common sense as us. He is very capable of speaking to us independently of the Bible without undermining it, adding to or taking from the Scriptures, or starting a new religion.
Being sound in the faith does not mean we throw common sense out the door.
Biblical Examples of Non-Scripture Communications From God
An Angel Speaks to Philip
The persecution by Paul in Jerusalem chased a bunch of Christians out of town. Philip was one of them. He went to Samaria and preached the gospel. He was not an apostle and yet his ministry was accompanied by many signs and wonders. The entire city was coming to the Lord.
Despite this success, God wanted him to leave Samaria and go into the desert. How did God communicate this to Philip?
Did He refer him to the 39 books that then comprised the Bible, the finished written word of God, what we call the Old Testament?
I call it the finished written word of God because no one at that time knew there was going to be further divine writings–what we call a New Testament. The first of those books wouldn’t be written for about two decades.
We don’t have to guess about this communication. It’s right there in the Bible:
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.Acts 8:26-28
God Spoke to Philip Independently of the Bible
God could very easily have brought a Scripture to Philip’s mind if that were the only way He could communicate with him. Now, practically, I don’t know anywhere from Genesis to Malachi that says, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
Instead God sent an angel to give him this message. And guess what? Philip didn’t try to add the instructions to the Bible. Nor did he use them to start his own religion.
He simply treated them as a one-time set of time-sensitive instructions from a God who still speaks directly to His people.
God wasn’t through speaking to Philip, however.
The Holy Spirit Speaks to Philip
Okay, so now Philip is in the desert and sees a caravan. We have the benefit of knowing the end of this story; Philip did not. Was it a coincidence that there was a caravan in the area. If not, what was Philip to do?
Again, there were 39 books of the completed Bible available to him. Could any of them have told him what he was to do?
My answer is they could have told him how to please and serve God. But they could not tell him how he was to respond to that caravan. And why should it? It wasn’t written to give instructions about caravans in the desert.
Similarly, it wasn’t written to tell us whom to marry, or whether to marry at all. That’s what prayer and hearing directly from God is all about.
Lord, what do I do about this specific decision? Do I go right or left? Do I say yes or no? Is this incredible opportunity really a camouflaged curse? Is this horrible setback really a camouflaged blessing?
Lord, what do I do?
Then through some subjective process, we conclude one way or the other. In Philip’s case, God was about to greatly accelerate the process.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”Acts 8:29-30
The Spirit Spoke to Philip Independently of the Bible
I cut the story short above.
Philip led the man to the Lord, baptized him in water, and disappeared before the man arose from the water.
So this time it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to Philip. Notice again that the Spirit did not refer him to the Bible. He instead gave him practical instructions of what he was to immediately do in regard to the caravan.
Similarly, there was no Scripture in the Bible that stipulated what was to be done if a caravan was seen in the desert. In contrast to the written word of God, which is fixed forever, the Holy Spirit could communicate the heart of the Father to Philip.
Go up and join this chariot.
The Spirit didn’t have to go further than this. He knew that Philip would know what to do once he got to the chariot and heard a man reading Isaiah.
Non-Scripture Communications From God Should Not Be Feared
Let me preface this section with a reminder of three well-received and irrefutable non-Scripture communications from God:
- God speaks through His creation (Romans 1:18-20)
- God speaks to the conscience (Romans 2:14-16.
- God speaks to the heart (Romans 8:16).
We can not legitimately reject these communications from God as spurious or heretical. Nor can we legitimately reject other biblical non-Scripture communications from God as spurious or heretical.
The key word here is legitimately.
For many church people do illegitimately use creative ways to inconsistently interpret the Bible in a way that allows them to strip the Holy Spirit of His ability and mandate to speak to disciples of Jesus.
This is done under the guise of protecting the integrity of the Scriptures. But ridding the world of counterfeit goods by destroying the real goods is not how you handle counterfeit junk.
An Honest Look at the Problems of So-Called Communications From the Holy Spirit
Paul told the Corinthian church they came behind in no spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:17). Unfortunately, they also came behind in no sin either. This was because they valued spiritual gifts far more than spiritual growth.
Another of their faults was they were unnecessarily kooky. I say unnecessarily because obeying the Scriptures or the Holy Spirit can make one appear to be kooky to those who do not know the ways of God.
Was it kooky for Jesus to curse trees and put spit in people’s eyes to heal them of blindness? I don’t think it’s irreverent to humbly state the obvious. Yeah, that qualifies as kooky.
Yet, it was ordered by God and facilitated by the Holy Spirit. So kooky or not, it was God.
Unfortunately, however, it is common for some Charismatic ministries to exhibit every kooky and embarrassing weakness we see in the Corinthian church.
Since our study is on hearing from God, I’ll limit the discussion to the particular weakness of prophetic ministry I see as a problem in “some” Charismatic ministries and people:
- They are often biblically illiterate.
- They are extremely susceptible to false doctrines.
- They value so-called subjective revelations above the written word of God. (This irks me to no end!!!)
- They are quick to subjectively claim God told them something, and are reluctant to have their claim judged by the written word of God.
- They often see themselves as more spiritual than the Bible’s objective standards would validate.
- They are easily manipulated by people who claim to be prophets.
- They are prone to see a message from God in anything and everything.
- They often lean so heavily on revelations from the Holy Spirit that they lack common sense.
- They often believe their self-status as prophetic gives them the right to govern the church.
- They are often prideful (but then so are pastors!).
- They are often impossible to pastor because of their pride.
- They are often undependable because they lean so heavily on feelings and subjective revelations.
The Proper Way to Deal With Modern Prophetic Communications From God
Paul did not use the Corinthian church’s failure to grow in character as a pretext to shut them down. Instead, he encouraged them to eagerly reach for more spiritual gifts.
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy…So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.1 Corinthians 14:1, 12
But he was careful to spend a lot of time moderating that encouragement with correction and exhortations to grow in humility and love towards one another.
For humility and love are foundational to all supernatural ministry, and it is especially noticeable when absent from so-called prophetic ministry.
So what should we do to stop Charismatic prophetic excess? We can do what many church leaders do. We can cherry-pick the word of God to justify putting a muzzle on the Holy Spirit.
We can creatively and illegitimately explain away the parts of the Bible we don’t like if they encourage people to hear from God any other way than from the Bible.
We can do what Paul did.
We can correct what is wrong, encourage what is right, and model, teach, and train God’s people how to hear from the Holy Spirit. That is the responsibility of church leaders.
Shirking this responsibility because of its difficulty will not be something preachers will be able to easily explain to the Lord when their ministries are judged before us all on Judgment Day.
Helpful Examples of God Speaking to People Independently of the Bible
The Old Testament is filled with examples of God speaking directly to people. But if I use them, the temptation will be for some to say these examples are peculiar to the Old Testament and should not be looked at as something we can expect to experience today.
The following, therefore, is taken from the New Testament. Look at each example and ponder the usefulness of receiving instructions from God that are immediately useful for specific circumstances.
If we go way back to my early example about the Christian lady walking across a darkened parking lot. Why would we assume her heavenly Father could not warn her plainly of the criminal?
Why would we assume His response to the immediate threat would be at best to remind her to read her Bible?
No, God left us more than a book. He also sent us the precious Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus said would be our Helper. He also said our Helper would show us things to come (John 16:13).
Sure, that includes events of the end-times. But if the Holy Spirit can show us what is to come one or two thousand years in the future, He can certainly show a woman what is to come in sixty seconds if she keeps walking toward her car.
Let’s put away our fear of the Holy Spirit and embrace all He has for us!
Examples of God Speaking to the Saints in the Early Church through Non-Scripture Methods
|Acts 5:17-21||An angel appears to the apostles after they are thrown into jail for preaching the gospel. |
However, an angel frees them and tells them, “Go, stand in the temple and speak all the words of this life.”
|The angel did not refer the apostles to the Bible.|
Instead, he gave explicit instructions that are nowhere in the Bible, and that were immediately useful.
|Acts 9:1-9||A bright Light appears to Saul as he is on his way to persecute Christians. |
The Light knocks him to the ground and reveals that He is Jesus.
|The Old Testament is filled with prophecies of Jesus. |
Ironically, the Light mentioned none of them to Saul.
Instead, He directly told him that He was Jesus.
|Act 9:10-16||The Lord appears to a disciple named Ananias and reveals facts to him about Saul. |
He instructs him to go to this man and pray for him and reveal to him plans God has for him.
|Nothing in the Bible could have revealed to Ananias that which was directly revealed to him by God. |
It would not have made sense to tell Ananias to read the Bible to find out what to do about Saul.
|Acts 10:1-8||An angel appears to a Roman military officer as he is praying. He tells him that his prayers and gifts have been accepted by God. |
He also tells him to send for a man named Peter, whom he did not know and gave him explicit instructions on where to find him.
He tells him this man will give him further instructions concerning salvation.
We know from the story’s context this was the subject of the man’s prayers.
|There’s a lot in the Old Testament about Gentiles coming to God. But the passages are obscure and would have required exceptional effort searching the Hebrew Scriptures. |
It also would’ve required exceptional spiritual understanding. Spiritual understanding that even the Twelve apostles and Jerusalem church did not yet have.
God did not tell this man to use his connections at the synagogue (he had some) to get access to the Scriptures to figure out salvation. Instead, he told him to call for a man who would talk to him.
True, the man he was to call, Peter, was used decades later to write two letters that became Scripture.
But Peter was not a walking Bible. Nor was everything he said treated as Scripture. So we need to see this event as the Roman calling for a man to talk to him.
|Acts 10:9-16||A sheet with animals in it appears to Peter in a vision.|
A voice instructs Peter to kill an animal and eat it. He also tells him in so many words that Jews and Gentiles have equal access to God.
|This message was available to Peter in the Old Testament. It was also available in the teachings of Jesus.|
Yet Jesus did not have a Bible study with him. He chose instead to give him a quick vision which would help to revolutionize his thinking and free him from religious bigotry.
Often a short and direct communication for God can do what years of Bible study fail to do.
Before you call me a false prophet, is this not what happened to Saul?
Twenty-five or thirty years of intense Bible studies did not reveal the Messiah to him.
It was a brief vision of the Lord in a bright light that gave him spiritual understanding.
Like it or not, the irrefutable fact is that the Old Testament Scriptures were available to Saul, and the teachings of Christ and the apostles had filled Jerusalem.
And, yet, God chose to directly reveal Himself to Saul in a vision. This is not unlike the testimony of many ex-Muslims who have come to the Lord through dreams and visions.
|10:17-48||The Spirit spoke to Peter as he thought about the vision.|
“While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you.
“Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
|This event was not recorded by Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit until approximately A.D. 62. |
That’s about 25 or 30 years after the event. The significance of this is that its record was not considered Scripture until it was written.
The point is to Peter and all involved at the time, it was simply another direct communication from God independent of the Bible.
Notice that this communication revealed something that no amount of Bible study could have revealed.
Why should it be difficult for us to believe God can directly give us practical information?
|Acts 13:1-3||The Holy Spirit prophesied to Barnabas and Saul through an unspecified prophet.||These five prophets and teachers are praying together. One or more of them (I’m assuming the prophets) prophesied the following:|
“Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Either a disembodied Voice spoke out of nowhere, or one of the other three guys prophesied.
Didn’t the Bible already say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”?
No. The Gospels had not yet been written. But that’s irrelevant. They didn’t need the Gospels to know to do this because it was the plain teaching of Christ.
So, why did they need someone to prophesy for Barnabas and Saul to do the work of the ministry?
It is because even if the Gospels had been in existence at that time, there is nothing in the Gospels naming which people should work closely together as a team.
Nor do they tell you where to go and when. One may say, “We are to go to the whole world.”
But it is impossible for any two people to physically go to the whole world simultaneously. Some place has to be first.
Now that team of five praying guys could have done like most church leaders. They could’ve prayed and planned and chose to go someplace and preach.
There’s nothing wrong with this. You can’t sit around waiting on a special word from God to do what ought to be done.
But it sure is helpful to be in an environment where the Holy Spirit is not legislated into silence through church bias and tradition.
|Acts 16:6-7||The Holy Spirit forbids the apostles to preach the word of God in Asia and Bithynia.||Jesus commanded the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, did He not? |
Yet, here the Holy Spirit on two occasions forbids them to preach in Asia and Bithynia. Did the Holy Spirit contradict Jesus?
This was not a contradiction. It was a facilitation. The Holy Spirit was simply directing their part in obeying the great commission.
In the normal course of life, we often need the Holy Spirit to help us with the method and timing of how we obey a particular biblical theme or Scripture.
The moment we shut down the Holy Spirit’s activities in this process, we become a dead religion, depending upon ourselves in the name of reverence for the Scriptures.
|Acts 16:8-10||God leads the apostolic team by a vision. This could have been a dream. For in the Bible, dreams were often called visions.||Have you ever received a communication from God in a dream or vision? It is a remarkable thing.|
Paul and his team took off for Macedonia solely because of a dream.
Was this presumptuous? Was it a slight to the written word of God? Couldn’t God had found a way to use the Bible to direct them to Macedonia?
God is God. So, yes, He could have. Yet, the proper question is not could He have done so? It is why should we be uncomfortable if He chooses to use a non-Bible communication?
For if we are prepared to be uncomfortably honest, we could admit that some of the greatest disagreements are between those who adamantly claim different conclusions to the same Scriptures.
Is this not proof that even if God chose to communicate to someone through the Bible, that is no guarantee the person will properly understand what God is saying?
|Acts 18:5||The Holy Spirit strongly urged Paul in Corinth to preach to the Jews.|
“Paul was compelled by the Spirit…”
|This type of non-Bible communication is similar to when the Spirit “drove Jesus into the wilderness…to be tempted by the devil” (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1).|
It is a strong and urgent desire to do something that would seem wrong not to do.
To be driven or compelled by the Holy Spirit may be considered a low-level communication when compared to more spectacular communications, such as prophecies, dreams, visions, and angels.
Lower-level communications from the Holy Spirit are common.
|Acts 18:6-11||The Lord tells Paul in a vision that it is safe for him to remain in Corinth.||Was there any way Paul could have discovered this information by searching the Scriptures?|
Of course, the answer is no. Would that not preclude God from using the Bible for this communication?
What about us?
Aren’t there things we need to know that aren’t in the Bible? (Here comes the false prophet patrol!)
If we yield even a moment to honesty or common sense, we have to admit this is so.
And if we can’t admit it is so, the next time you hear a suspicious sound in your car’s engine, don’t go to the mechanic. Go to the Scriptures!
|Acts 20:17-23||The Holy Spirit testifies to Paul that he will have great trouble in Jerusalem.|
“…except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulation await me.”
|Paul disclosed to the church leaders of Ephesus that “in every city” he received a communication from the Holy Spirit.|
What method did God use to do this? Was it the Bible?
If we go by what is revealed to us in Scripture, we have to conclude it was non-Bible communications.
(Of course, it would have to be!)
We will see conclusively that it was prophetic words from regular people, as well as those recognized as prophets.
|Acts 21:1-4||Disciples prophesy to Paul not to go to Jerusalem.|
“And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.”
|Here’s one of those examples of regular saints prophesying to Paul not to go to Jerusalem.|
|Acts 21:8-9||The Holy Spirit communicates through four Christian women who prophesied.|
(Baptist male church leaders hate this!)
“Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.”
|Remember the guy who went to Samaria and had a great move of God? They guy who was told by an angel to go to the desert? These four women are his daughters.|
The point I want to bring out is if they are prophesying, they are prophesying to someone.
The gift of prophecy was not limited to apostles, prophets, churches, or regions.
This is because the Holy Spirit is not limited in these ways. He’s only limited through the church’s scorn and unbelief of His ministry.
|Acts 21:10-11||The Holy Spirit speaks to Paul through a prophet.|
The prophet provides details of the trouble that awaits him in Jerusalem.
|The prophet uses the verbiage, “Thus says the Holy Spirit…”|
Obviously, there is nothing biblically wrong with a person beginning their prophecy with the certainty and authority of “Thus says the Holy Spirit,” or something similar.
But it should be made clear by church leaders to all who would do so within their realm of responsibility that they will be held accountable for their words.
Agabus had already proven the integrity of his life and prophetic ministry for approximately ten years when he gave this prophecy to Paul (Acts 11:27-28).
I strongly encourage would-be prophetic types not to prophesy beyond their willingness to be corrected, privately or publicly, depending upon whether they gave a private or public message in the name of the Lord.
There simply is not enough accountability in Charismatic ministry. This is why false doctrine and kooky behavior is so prevalent.
|Acts 23:1-11||The Lord appears to Paul (probably in a vision) and encourages him.||Could the Lord have encouraged Paul by prompting him in a way not recognized as Charismatic?|
Sure. The Old Testament is filled with encouragement. Think about the Psalms and the Prophets.
But God chose a more spectacular method. I guess this is because Paul had received many prophecies that he was going to be greatly abused in Jerusalem.
He had been falsely accused, beaten by a mob, and was now a prisoner. Just because you’re devoted to the point of being willing to suffer doesn’t mean it’s easy.
He was an apostle, but he was human. He probably needed encouragement.
God, in His mercy and wisdom, graciously chose to use spectacular means to help His servant.
And as long as there are spectacular trials and grievous conditions for the saints, God reserves the right to communicate with them and to help them in the most spectacular ways.
He will do this with or without the approval of church leaders.
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