The Lord Told Me??

Article: Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me” by Josh Buice (original source here)

It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?

The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture
If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.

In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.

During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.
It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry

Article by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (original source here)

The Reformers placed tremendous stress on the gifts of the Spirit to the whole body of Christ. John Calvin himself has rightly been described as “the theologian of the Holy Spirit” (B.B. Warfield). Yet Reformed Christians always have been given a “bad press” for their views on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Our conviction is that God purposefully gave some gifts (specifically the ability to work miracles, the gift of revelatory prophecy, and speaking in tongues) only for a limited period. We have solid biblical reasons for believing this:

1. A temporary manifestation of these gifts is characteristic of God’s pattern of working. Contrary to popular opinion, such gifts as these were given spasmodically in biblical history. Their occurrence is generally contained within a handful of time periods lasting around a generation each.

2. The function of these gifts, namely to convey and to confirm revelation (now ceased until Christ’s return), is underlined in the New Testament itself (Acts 2:22, 14:3; cf. 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3–4).

3. The history of the New Testament suggests that by the close of the apostolic age the role of these gifts was being superseded by the completion of the New Testament. Thus, there is no reference to their presence—or, more significantly, their future regulation—in the Pastoral Letters.

More could be said here in terms of biblical Christology, for the outpouring of the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and miracles at Pentecost was specifically intended to mark the coronation of Christ. It was, therefore, inherently intended to be a non-permanent feature of the life of the church. But in this context, it probably is more important to emphasize another, often-ignored facet of Reformed teaching. It is well-expressed in some words of the great Puritan John Owen:

Although all these gifts and operations ceased in some respect, some of them absolutely, and some of them as to the immediate manner of communication and degree of excellency; yet so far as the edification of the church was concerned in them, something that is analogous unto them was and is continued.

What does this mean? Simply this: It is the same Spirit who gives both temporary and continuing gifts to the church. We should not be surprised, therefore, to discover common threads in both. Continue reading

What Cessationism Is Not

Article by Nathan Busenitz (original source here)

Cessationism is not anti-supernatural, nor does it deny the possibility of miracles.

When it comes to understanding the cessationist position, the question is not: Can God still do miracles in the world today? Cessationists would be quick to acknowledge that God can act at any time in any way He chooses. Along these lines, John MacArthur explains:

Miracles in the Bible [primarily] occurred in three major periods of time. The time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Christ and the apostles. . . . And it is during those three brief periods of time and those alone that miracles proliferated; that miracles were the norm; that miracles were in abundance. Now God can interject Himself into the human stream supernaturally anytime He wants. We’re not limiting Him. We’re simply saying that He has chosen to limit Himself to a great degree to those three periods of time. (Source)

Cessationism then does not deny the reality that God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants (Psalm 115:3). It does not put God into a box or limit His sovereign prerogative.

But it does acknowledge that there was something unique and special about the age of miracles and miracle-workers that defined the ministries of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and His apostles. Moreover, it recognizes the seemingly obvious fact that those kinds of miracles (like parting the sea, stopping the rain, raising the dead, walking on water, or instantly healing the lame and the blind) are not occurring today.

Thus, cessationists conclude that:

The apostolic age was marvelously unique and it ended. And what happened then is not the normal thing for every Christian. The normal thing for every Christian is to study the Word of God, which is able to make us wise and perfect. [It] is to live by faith and not by sight. (Ibid.)

But can God still do extraordinary things in the world today?

Certainly He can, if He chooses to do so. In fact, every time a sinner’s eyes are opened to the gospel, and a new life in Christ is created, it is nothing short of a miracle.

In his helpful book, To Be Continued?, Samuel Waldron aptly expresses the cessationist position this way (on p. 102):

I am not denying by all this that there are miracles in the world today in the broader sense of supernatural occurrences and extraordinary providences. I am only saying that there are no miracles in the stricter sense [of] miracle-workers performing miraculous signs to attest the redemptive revelation they bring from God. Though God has never locked Himself out of His world and is still at liberty to do as He pleases, when He pleases, how He pleases, and where He pleases, He has made it clear that the progress of redemptive revelation attested by miraculous signs done by miracle-workers has been brought to conclusion in the revelation embodied in our New Testaments.

So, the question is not: Can God still do miracles?

Rather, the definitive question is this: Are the miraculous gifts of the New Testament still in operation in the church today–such that what was the norm in the days of Christ and the apostles ought to be expected today?

To that, all cessationists would answer “no.”

* * * * *

Cessationism is not founded on one’s interpretation of “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10.

For that matter, it seems there are almost as many views of “the perfect” among cessationist scholars as there are commentators who write about 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Space in this article does not permit a full investigation into each of these, but rather a cursory explanation of the major positions.

The Different Views

(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away their childish desires.

(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v. 12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the full revelation of Scripture comes. Continue reading

The Charismatic Deception

Text: Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…”

What does it (really) mean to be filled with the Spirit? In a day when charismatic error, excess and extremes permeate much of the professing Church, the cure, as always, is a proper understanding of the Bible.

Filled with the Spirit

? Dan Phillips, The World Tilting Gospel

“The Holy Spirit of God loves to make sure that everything is all about Jesus Christ. On that basis, I will say this categorically and emphatically, and only just barely resist the temptation to say it twice: Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and His gifts (real or imagined), and I will show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.

Show me a person focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ—never tiring of learning about Him, thinking about Him, boasting of Him, speaking about and for and to Him, thrilled and entranced with His perfections and beauty, finding ways to serve and exalt Him, tirelessly exploring ways to spend and be spent for Him, growing in character to be more and more like Him—and I will show you a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Grieving The One Who Sealed You

Text: Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

The Holy Spirit is not a force but a Divine Person whom we can grieve. Yet even when this happens, He never threatens His people with abandonment, having sealed us for the day of redemption. There is much concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in this vital message.

The Holy Spirit – Before and After Pentecost

In what way was the Holy Spirit working in the world before Pentecost?

the risen Lord Jesus fulfilled the promise he had made in John 15:26—namely, that he would send the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist had promised: The one who comes after me “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16). So at 9:00 on Pentecost morning, while the disciples were praying, “a sound came from heaven like a rush of mighty wind . . . and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2–4). Then Peter preached a sermon and said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams'” (Acts 2:16–17).

In other words, Peter says, we have entered the last days: the Messiah has come, he has accomplished redemption on the cross, he has risen and ascended to the right hand of God, and the interval before he returns in glory will be marked by an incomparable outpouring of the Holy Spirit on men and women, old and young, slave and free, near and far. And the people of God in this period are to be a people born of the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” We live in the latter days of the Spirit. We live in the days that Isaiah (44:3) and Ezekiel (11:19; 36:26f.; 39:29) and Joel (2:28) prophesied and longed to see. There are no more decisive turning points in redemptive history that must happen before Jesus returns to establish his kingdom. This is it. These are the days of Pentecost, the days of the fullness of the Spirit, the days of worldwide mission.

The Difference of the Aswan High Dam

Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. The country folk downstream depended on it. They drank it, they washed in it, it watered their crops and turned their mill-wheels. They sailed on it in the moonlight and wrote songs about it. It was their life. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folk down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.

Well, Pentecost is like the dedicatory opening of the Aswan High Dam. Before Pentecost the river of God’s Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life. But after Pentecost the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world. None of the benefits enjoyed in the pre-Pentecostal days were taken away. But ten billion kilowatts were added to enable the church to take the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to every tongue and tribe and nation.

Continuist v. Cessationist Debate

I believe that in the continuist vs. cessationist debate in the Christian world, if the two sides ever sat down to talk and actually defined their terms and listened to what was being said (and not said), they would find that what they held in common would vastly outweigh what might divide.

In spite of how simple it would make things to do so, not all charismatics/continuationists can be painted with the same broad brush stroke. There is a wide spectrum of belief and practice, from the wild and crazy all the way to the responsible thinking Bible exegete. That is news to many people, but it is true, nonetheless. The “barking like dogs” manifestations of “the Toronto blessing” would never be tolerated by a Dr. D.A. Carson or a Dr. Wayne Grudem. Those who cannot see the distinctions are willingly ignorant. For sure, there are the extreme, hyper charismatics and their doctrines and practices are alarming to me. Some of it is just plain silly. Some of it borders on the demonic.

On the other side there are the hyper cessationists who in practical terms might be said to believe in “Father, Son and Holy Bible” who would not even allow for ongoing discernment and the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit in our own day. But again, not all cessationists are the same.

Douglas-Wilson-2Doug Wilson wrote this today (below). I believe he nails the issue very well:

I need to say something about the Strange Fire conference, and the reactions to it, but because I am not particularly well-informed about that particular controversy, let me content myself with saying a few general things about the topic, which others may inject into the controversy as it suits them. I suspect, although I do not know, that in what I say there will be something encouraging for both sides, and perhaps something discouraging for both as well.

I am a cessationist, and I am not a continuationist. The sign gifts in the New Testament were revelatory, and if they are still operational, this means that the canon of Scripture is not closed. I don’t have a category in my head for quasi-revelatory. “Thus saith the Lord” is either true or false. If true, the words that follow that formula should be treated as though God spoke them, and I only have one way to treat the Word of God. I treat it like it is the Bible.

In short, I believe that cessationists usually understand the Bible better than do continuationists, not to mention the logic of the thing.

But there is an additional, and very weighty, concern, pushing from the other direction, and this has to do with the nature of the world. Too many cessationists are functional materialists when it comes to the operations of the world, and their supernaturalism is limited to the ink on the page.

In short, I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists.

Continuationists are vulnerable to the sins of the gullible. Completely independent of the question of spiritual gifts, I am more likely to be able to get a charismatic to believe that there are fairies in the garden than I would be able to get a cessationist to believe it. Cessationists are correspondingly susceptible to the sins of the debunker. I am much less likely to get a cessationist to believe in a remarkable response to prayer than I would be able to get a charismatic to believe it.

Ferinstance. A number of years ago a good friend of ours was dying. When she finally passed away, Nancy and I were on the road (in Philadelphia). It was the middle of the night and we both woke up. Are you awake? Yeah, are you awake? How come? Beats me. A few minutes later the phone rang, and it was the news that our friend had gone to be with the Lord. Back home, our grandson Knox had been praying regularly for her, and he was two or thereabouts. But that night while praying for her, he stopped, and said, “She died. She is in Heaven.” They found out later that she had in fact died that night. Continue reading