The point of part one was to emphasize realistic expectations. Some people think they should be able to hear from God “just like it happened all the time in the Bible”…but it actually was not happening all the time in the Bible. Instead we tend to observe clusters of miraculous things surrounding pivotal events. The New Testament era was one such time.
This period of transition witnessed the Incarnation of God the Son, the birth of the church, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. This was a unique time in redemptive history that moved us into the church age. Let us look at Hebrews chapter one that plunges us right into the change that was taking place…
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV)
Notice the contrast made between God’s revelation through prophets, and God’s revelation in his Son. Although the prophets were divinely inspired, their ministry was partial and incomplete. The former time of the prophets was now overshadowed by God’s final and superior revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. I love how William MacDonald words it in his commentary in regards to this passage:
In following the pathway of our Lord from creation to Calvary and then to glory, it seems we have quite lost sight of the prophets. Illustrious though they were, they have receded into the shadows. They bore witness to the coming Messiah. Now that he has come, they gladly retire from view.
The book of Hebrews is sometimes referred to as the book of “better” or “superior” things. Christ is emphasized to be superior to…the prophets, angels, Moses, the priesthood. With such a superior and complete revelation given to us in Jesus Christ, why would we want to go backwards to an inferior time and seek the word of prophets or angels?
In the New Testament era, the Holy Scripture was in process of being completed. Now that Jesus had come, the testimony of his life and work was being put into writing (thoughts on the “canon” of Scripture would need to be another post entirely). But the point is that…we now have the completed Scriptures to guide us. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Look carefully at those verses. Through the Bible, we are “thoroughly equipped”…not partially equipped, not inadequately equipped…but thoroughly equipped. We do not need further instruction than what God has given us in his Word. Notice that it also says we are thoroughly equipped for every good work. If there is a work for which you are not equipped, then it is not a good work! Another verse on the power and purpose of Scripture is Hebrews 4:12 which states:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Bible is a powerful “weapon”… it is able to pierce us spiritually, and reveal the truth about ourselves… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. We are so prone to self-deception, and the Word can cut through our pretensions!
The Bible is…useful, teaches us, rebukes us, trains us, thoroughly equips us, searches us, and reveals the true attitudes of our heart. What more could we ask for? Why would we need or want more? I like how Wayne Grudem in his Bible Doctrine book explains the sufficiency of Scripture:
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.
Do we really believe the Scriptures are sufficient? If we truly do, why would we be looking for more?
Why would we be hoping to get a message from an angel?
Or for God to whisper audibly in our ear?
Or for a word from a prophet?
Or for God to reveal something to us in a dream?
Now it is true that the Scriptures are not going to tell us exactly what to do…You can’t open to a verse that tells you who to marry, what university to attend, or whether to buy a new house. But the Scriptures are filled with narratives, principles and instructions that relate to just about every type of situation in life.
Sadly many of us (myself included) neglect the Scriptures…which is probably the reason we are often looking for more. We are not as immersed in the Bible as we should be, and therefore we don’t feel thoroughly equipped. We make poor decisions because we are not in the Word enough for it to be able to pierce us. Ruth Tucker in her book “God Talk: caution for those who hear God’s voice” states this:
If we know God’s Word and if we know Christ, it is not necessary to receive special messages to know the will of God or do the will of God. When a person’s faith is mature, making decisions and responding to situations come naturally…When our motives and patterns of conduct are attuned to the teaching of Scripture, we act unconsciously in our relationship toward God, others, and ourselves. Such actions fulfill the will of God. We need no visions or voices.
With all this emphasis on the Bible, we don’t want to become guilty of what Jack Deere calls “Bible deism.” Although I disagree with the premise of his book, he does have some valuable critique. We can get so focused on the Bible that we can miss the point. Part three to come… in which we’ll consider the role of Holy Spirit, among other things.
Part 3 here.
**Update, March 9, 2012 – For anyone interested, there is a post over on Parchment and Pen blog entitled “Overcoming a low view of Scripture” – it shares similar concerns regarding the Scriptures vs. hearing God’s voice.