By Elizabeth Prata
This month, the gentle and humble Jennifer Ross of Confidently Called Homemakers contacted me to interview about the rampant theological crisis in women’s ministry- expecting audible revelation from Jesus. We had a great discussion about it, weaving our way through the thorny issues of direct revelation. We talked about why so many women think God or Jesus is talking to them, and what to do about it. She posted the interview here on her site. She gave me permission to post my notes after her podcast had been published and propagated. So in this series of discernment lessons, over the next few days I am going to address this issue here on my blog and my own podcast.
It is a true problem. “Bible” teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jennie Allen of IF:Gathering, and others claim that God talks to them, whispers to them, delivers prophecy to them, and directs them to launch ministries, even down to giving them the tagline. Many other women who claim Christianity but aren’t teachers per se, but have a large platform and influence, claim the same- God speaks to them, giving advice on career and daily matters. One example is Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and Magnolia Enterprises.
These ladies’ claims are so prevalent and frequent that a shorthand has developed when discussing a particular revelation, “God told me”. In one recent amusing scenario, I read of a couple whose upcoming nuptials were to be at a swanky waterfront Florida mansion. They had sent out invitations to their guests with directions to the mansion and everything. They said God told them that’s where their reception would take place. However, they did not own the mansion, they hadn’t rented it from the proper owner, and they nor their guests had permission to be there. When the owner of the for-sale mansion appeared at the door the couple was in for a shock, because he called the police to get this crowd off his property.
On a less amusing note, I’d written yesterday about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and how they rely in direct revelation. LDS founder Joseph Smith had accepted revelation from a voice Smith thought was God, directing him to take multiple wives. Since then, the early 1830s, countless generations of deceived men in the Mormon religion have ruined many lives. The cult even teaches that where written scripture varies from a direct revelation to their ‘prophet’, obey the direct revelation.
So you can see what trouble we get into by claiming God tells us audibly and outside of the Bible to go here or there, or do this or that.
1. What is the “God told me” religion?
It is a conviction that God is still personally speaking to people today, that He delivers new revelation, that He guides in personal, individual life matters such as where to go to college, what job to take, or who to marry. It is the general notion that He speaks to His people directly today, outside of scripture.
But He doesn’t. The 1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1 number 1 says no, and offers the following scriptures-
2. Does God talk to us audibly?
No. Hebrews 1 refutes the idea that God is still speaking in various ways as He did in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Then, He spoke through a burning bush and other inanimate objects, a donkey, angels, Prophets, visions, voices, and circumstances such as earthquakes or brimstone or rain, etc.
It should be noted that God did not speak directly to any old person. He mainly spoke to His prophets, who were universally acknowledged as God’s designated spokesperson. (Matthew 3:3). There were a few outliers to whom God spoke or sent a designee to speak, such as Cain, Hagar, King Belshazzar, Joseph, Zacharias, Anna, Mary, and so on. He spoke through inanimate objects, like a burning bush, pillar of fire or cloud, the hand writing on the wall; He appeared as a man (pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus, called theophany); and He spoke through a messenger angel.
He usually spoke during times of great change, as with Moses and the deliverance of the Hebrew people, the period of Elijah and the Prophets, and when Jesus came in his incarnation. There were hundreds and hundreds of years where God didn’t speak in any way to anyone directly or indirectly. It was not a common thing then and it is not a common thing now.
His word is final and completely contained in the Bible of 66 books of the accepted canon. Jesus is the ultimate message. If we insist that we hear from heaven now, it renders Jesus less than the pinnacle of God’s revelation. If he speaks now, it renders the scriptures as we know them open and insufficient and Jesus’ message. It renders them flawed and needing additional stopgaps, patches, and additions.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).
It should be noted that not everything that ever happened is contained in scripture. We can’t suppose that over the 50 years of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry that he only spoke to Isaiah 22 or 23 times. That’s simply how many sermons or propehcies Isaiah was directed to write into scripture. John said that if all the things that Jesus did during His incarnation were written down, there would not be enough books in all the world to record them. By this we know that what is written is specifically designed by God to be all-sufficient for us. What He has said, He has said for His reasons. Don’t seek more of that which God has withheld.
Jesus is the ultimate, the pinnacle, of God’s revelation. We no longer need additional revelation because Jesus completed it. Indeed,
All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)
If we were to claim God spoke to us, giving advice on our career, for example, we’d have to say, ‘Which part of scripture was INsufficient?’ ‘Which part of scripture was NOT beneficial?’
The final book of the Bible warns not to add to it or take away from it.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19).
As preacher Justin Peters famously said,
“If you want to hear from God, read your Bible. If you want to hear Him audibly, read it out loud.”