BIBLE: The only written revelation from God  



The Bible is the complete and sufficient word of God to His people.

 I. Concerning the gift of prophecy and personal revelation:

A. The presence of the gift of prophecy in the church did not indicate that God would be giving revelation to everybody. The gift of prophecy was a revelation communication gift for function in the early church. It functioned in association with the apostle gift to provide God's new revelation for the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5).

1 Corinthians 14 is the primary passage to instruct the church about the function of this gift (and some of the other temporary gifts) during the time it was operable. The reason for this is that the Corinthian church was guilty of serious abuses and misuses concerning these gifts. Paul's words at 1Cor. 14:5 are not saying that everyone CAN have the gift, for that is impossible in light of
1Cor. 12:29 ("not all have"). He is simply expressing a desire that everyone would be a teacher of others and promote the edification of the church. That is what the prophet really was. His job was not so much to give "prophetic" information but new and amplified "revelation" information that was new for the church and unknown in previous generations and thus, functioned as a teacher. (The teacher, didaskalos, at 1 Cor. 12:28 and teaching, didachā, at 14:6, refers to explaining that which has been revealed.)

B. When he says, "I wish you all spoke in languages" it was a reflection of the true purpose for the gift, which was an evangelistic outreach to the nation of Israel only (1Cor. 14:21-22, "this people.") Paul had a great desire for the salvation of his Jewish kinsmen. However, this also is an impossibility in view of the fact that "not all have the gift of languages do they?"
It is accordingly imperative to realize this verse expresses an "idealistic" desire on the part of Paul but not a "realistic" desire (the same kind of comparison can be made at Rom.10:1 with Rom. 11:25. It is impossible for that desire to be fulfilled). This does not make his writing suspect in any way, for he is simply expressing his emotions while making an important point. "In the church" the most important thing is edification through teaching (prophecy, 1Cor. 14:18-19). Outside the church, the most important thing is evangelism (languages). So, in view of the inescapable restrictions placed on possession of the gifts at 1Cor. 12:29-30, the desire of the church, collectively ("you" plural at 1Cor. 12:31 and 14:1) is for the FUNCTION of the greater gifts in the church NOT the personal possession of any gift. Any personal "seeking" after a gift is offset by 1Cor. 12:11 where it states that the possession of a gift is determined by the distribution of the Spirit "as He WILLS." These gifts had a specific function in the early church, a function that was totally fulfilled within that first century and discontinued afterwards.

II. Concerning the continuance of such "revelation" gifts:

A. First there is no longer any need for them since the church has been given all His truth that He has intended. That is, the bible is complete and sufficient as provided by the divinely chosen teachers in the first century. And the Old Testament is complete in the Masoretic text. Specifically in the area of "things to come," Rev. 22:18 seems to address this quite clearly. Of course, it can be rationalized a number of ways - so each one must be fully convinced in his own mind, to what extent he wants to take the verse.

B. Concerning additional "doctrinal" revelation from God, Paul seems to address this by making ONLY what has been written and recognized as divinely inspired to be authoritative for the church. (1) The Old Testament Scriptures: Luke 24:44; 2Tim. 3:15-16; Heb. 4:12.
(2) The apostolic teachings: 2Tim. 3:14; Titus 1:9; Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3:1-11; 2Ths. 2:15, So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word {of mouth} or by letter from us.

C. That is why what the Pope or any other church official, minister, theologian, etc. says has no jurisdiction over the church. The Scripture, therefore, being totally sufficient, any additional revelation, whether it be organizational or personal, is quite unnecessary. Any such claim to divine revelation always leaves in doubt the sufficiency of the scripture and tends to elevate a person or organization to a level of divine authority over others that leaves them questioning their own confidence in the Bible.

D. The only true test to any claim of divine revelation is "what has been written." Only what totally agrees with that written revelation of God is reliable and even then it is simply superfluous. Anything that disagrees with what has been written is obviously false. Anything that "adds" to what has been written is unnecessary and unreliable. To claim the stamp of "revelation from God" as the seal of truth concerning one's viewpoint is self-deceptive and misleading to God's people (2 Tim. 3:13).

E. The major disparity with Roman Catholicism and True Christianity has historically been sola scriptura (scripture only), balanced perhaps equally with sola fide (faith only), vs. the "continuing" revelation passed on through the popes. Today, the same disparity now exists between True Christianity and the charismatics, etc. The issue is sola scriptura vs. "personal" dreams, visions and messages from God. In fact, the move toward ecumenicism is even now rallying around a common denominator between Catholics and Protestants, which just so happens to be the charismatic phenomena. At any rate the only thing that will move the believer to a stabilized foundation for growth, service and the experience of true peace, joy and confidence, is the TOTAL reliability and sufficiency of the 66 books of the bible as they exist in the original languages.

III. Systematic Theology, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 
Vol. V, page 170.
"The cessation of signs and wonders after the first generation of the church has given occasion to counterfeit manifestations. This cessation is not due to lack of faith or faithfulness. The greatest of all saints, though like Abraham and Daniel, have not done mighty works in this age. The usual belief that all supernatural manifestations arise with God gives Satan the opportunity to confirm in the minds of many his misrepresentation of doctrine. Without exception, those manifestations of supernatural power which are acclaimed as Divine today, appear in support of false or incomplete doctrine. As an example of this, such manifestations as have published are found among people who receive not enough of the truth respecting saving grace to believe that once saved is always saved, and such limitation of doctrine devitalizes the gospel that it becomes another gospel. Yet these misunderstandings are sealed in the minds of many by what is supposed to be manifestations from God, though serving really as a sanction to the perversion of doctrine."

IV. Some discussion on the subject:

RW:  The bible teaches that I cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God apart from the indwelling presence of the Spirit. 1Cor. 2.10f It does not teach that the Spirit is going to "tell" me, "This is truth." Verse 12 - Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, SO THAT we might know the things freely given to us by God.

opp: It says that the "natural man" cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.  Earlier verses unequivocally states that we, if we are born again, ARE able to receive the things of God -- through the Holy Ghost.  The Holy Ghost is capable of teaching, and this is one of his roles on earth. And furthermore, by my phrase "witness of the Holy Ghost," I did not mean that you will be "told" "This is truth."  I do not advocate listening to voices, but rather listening to the inner witness, not audible voices.  In fact Romans 8:14 states that as many as are LED by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  This leading is by the inner witness, not audible voices.

RW: Yes, we have the inner witness of the Spirit. But that inner witness will always operate in line with the revealed word as provided for us in the 66 books of the bible. And it WON'T be NEW or different information; not even AMPLIFICATION.
We have the bible and must compare the bible with itself to confirm various doctrinal positions. And then let someone agree or disagree with the written word. (kind of like what the Bereans did to confirm the Messianic prophecies about Jesus). BUT we will get no where when every one claims the witness of the Spirit to confirm his particular position - when in actuality the Spirit did not confirm anything at all.

opp: Agree with all of the above except your contention that the Holy Ghost does not confirm anything.

RW:  A person "feels" he is right and mistakes that to be the confirming from the Spirit, when all it really is, is a strong emotional response to what has been studied.  There is nothing wrong with emotional responses at all, but an emotional response does not constitute the Spirit's "amen."

opp: The witness of the Holy Ghost is not a "feeling." It begins in the spirit, not in the natural realm.  You are a spiritual being, living in a body, possessing a soul.  References are there pointing to promises of the leading of the Holy Ghost to truth.

RW: BUT here is the question. When you have dozens of people "claiming" the witness of the Spirit, to whom do you listen?  To the one who agrees with the way you see it?   And if you are convinced to change your position on a verse, a passage, a subject, etc., it is because of comparing scripture with scripture  and becoming persuaded in your own mind how to view that scripture.  It is NOT because the Spirit has now all of a sudden "changed" His witness to you on some subject.  The Spirit indeed ministers within us to guide and direct, BUT that guidance is always THROUGH the instrumentality of the revealed word.   Without the standard of the word as a guideline, everyone can  and DOES claim the witness of the Spirit to support all kinds of doctrinal misunderstandings, theories and ideas.  And that is why I referred to 1 John 4.1ff. It is because there it gives us the "standard" in one particular area of doctrine; the  incarnation of Jesus Christ.  The standard is, acknowledging that Jesus Christ has come in the  flesh.  This is a deity issue, and no matter what someone (a spirit)  claims with regard to the true nature of the Christ, if it is not in  line with "the Word (God) became flesh and dwelt among us (humanity),"   then it is not of God. So as we study the bible, it is the content of that written revelation itself which confirms various doctrinal positions. We do have some "cut and dry" standards to always apply to all the teachings that float around. And one of the key passages for that is 1 John 4.

opp: The Word of God is still the standard by which we stand, but the Holy Ghost is who reveals revelations.  I have already stated that the Holy Ghost will NEVER witness to a "truth" contrary to scripture.  The scriptures remain the standard no matter who the witness is, however, sometimes the understanding of the scriptures come by revelation of God (through the Spirit) where we were wrong before.

RW: Whoops! And who witnessed to the person when he was wrong before?  When he was absolutely convinced that "this is right" or "this is how the Spirit has led me," what confirmation was received? And then, when there is a change in viewpoint or believe, WHAT is it that has now led in that different direction?   It is most certainly that the person simply compared scripture with scripture and determined that the previous position had failed to consider this or that verse. And the standard for determining which is right is found in the scripture.

opp: True, but revelation will come from the Holy Ghost. That is how the Bible was written. The H.G. remains a verifiable witness to the truth.

RW: And who might I ask, gets to claim that witness for "their" truth? And yes, THAT is how the bible was written. But we are not talking about the origin of the written word of God.

V. NEW REVELATION, by John MacArthur  
Question: "How would you reply to a believer in the Charismatic movement who agrees that revelation cannot be added to Scripture, but would still argue that God still gives words of knowledge in the church for direction, as long as it falls in line with Scripture?"          
Answer: I think in answering a Charismatic there are a number of ways.  My book on the Charismatics goes into that in some detail, but revelation is revelation.  If a person says, "I am getting direct words of wisdom, knowledge, [or] revelation from God," then that equates with Scripture, in the sense that it is the pure, unadulterated true revelation of God.  So it confuses the issue.  We have, according to what Jude said, "A faith once for all delivered to the saints."  We have according to what John writes in Revelation, a revelation which does not permit addition, "If anything is added, it shall be added to the person the plagues that are written in the book." The idea that God is giving revelation and that it is somehow not equal to Scripture, or not on a par with Scripture poses some difficulties.  If it absolutely true and divine and from God, then it is divine revelation.  God reserved divine revelation for special times, which were encompassed in the written word, and since that time revelation has ceased.  Let me give you an illustration of that.  At the end of the Old Testament era there was a 400 year period in which there was no revelation, and then God spoke again--in the New Testament. So having a time period in which there is no revelation is not new--when God completed the Old Testament He stopped speaking, and then He spoke again in His Son, Hebrews 1 says.  I believe when He completed the New Testament, He ceased to give revelation, and we have the "Once for all delivered to the saints faith."  Furthermore, I would say to a Charismatic the same thing that they say to me all the time whenever I've talked to them, "How do you know it's from God?"  Inevitably, they will say, "Well, we think it's from God," because they can't know.  Why?  Because it was very, very clear in the New Testament era who the prophets of God were; who the Apostles of Christ were, and the Word came through recognized authorities.  Today, anybody and his brother might get a revelation from God, and on what basis are we to assume it's from God?  Is it attendant with signs and wonders?  Can they heal the sick?  Can they raise the dead?  Can they cast out demons at a word; authoritatively like Jesus and the Apostles did?  Those were the signs of an Apostle.  See, anyone who had the ability to give revelation had to be accredited, and the accreditation was, according to 2 Corinthians 12, the signs of an Apostle.  It was known to all who these people were or the fact that they were Apostles or they were those who were associated with the Apostles.  So I think it is very, very important to understand that,
1.  Revelation ceased.          
2.  Even when it was being given--not everybody got it.  And it never was something that God just passed out indiscriminately to all kinds of people.           

So I think that those would be the approaches that I would take.  I remember reading a book that was published by one of the Pentecostal presses in our country, in which it said this pastor was pleading for people to stop standing up in churches and saying, "I have a Word from the Lord." And he said, "We know that it is from the Lord or it isn't, but we don't know how to know which!" It is very confusing.  This pastor gave an illustration of a church that was in the process of calling someone to be their pastor, and some lady stood up and said, "I have a Word from the Lord, 'This is the man.'" Immediately it threw the church into chaos, because they didn't know whether it was from the Lord or not.  That's very typical, very typical.  I know very well a man who took me into his office, a very well-known Charismatic pastor, and said, "God had given him a vision."  And he showed me on a board the vision that God had given him for an area of the city, which the Lord had set aside for him.  Within five years that vision was gone; that board had disappeared in the trash barrel somewhere and he had a new one.  This would be a man that everyone would assume if any body was going to be able to know if he got a revelation--he might.  But again, it is very whimsical.  It is very frightening also to say you, "Have a Word from the Lord." In the Old Testament if you said you, "Had a Word from the Lord," and it was tested and found to be not from the Lord you were killed.  And that's how important the issue is.  Because you can't have people running around loose saying, "God told them this, and God told them that."  And so before anyone would ever say anything like that, they would want to take very careful stock of the issues at hand. Furthermore, are we to assume that somehow the Spirit of God can't do His work, unless He gives revelation to some people; unless He gives revelation indiscriminately to all kinds of people?  I think not.  Furthermore, it seems to me of grave concern that those people who are getting revelation, tend to be in a movement which is the most biblically illiterate to be real honest with you.  They don't know theology; they don't know doctrine; they don't know how to interpret the Scripture very well.  And because of that lack of content they fall into a mystical category, because they are not able to carefully exposit the Word of God.  Without that content orientation they fall into the category of looking for an experience.  I'll give you an illustration of it.  I was watching the television program "Today" from "Church on the Way."  There was a guy singing a song, and the song went like this, "When there are no answers there is Jesus," and he went on to say, "When there are no answers there is Jesus." I thought to myself, "What in the world does that mean?" Does that mean that you can either go with a cognitive approach and find answers to questions, or you can junk just that and grab Jesus?  You see that is a very mystical approach to truth.  "Where there are no answers--there is Jesus?" Wait a minute, that's abandoning the search - for an experience.  The song should say, "When you're looking for the answer - Jesus has it." The Bible has the answer, but it is a very experiential kind of milieu in which many of those dear people exist.  I think they substitute those revelations very often for understanding.  So I think there are a lot of ways to approach that, and I don't say that with unkindness.  I say it because I believe that it is true and it is correct. __________________________________________

VI. Another dialog:
rgw: Everybody and his brother (and his sister, too) claim they are being led by the Spirit, or that the Spirit is "telling" them this or that - and not everyone is right.
God knew exactly what He was doing when He preserved His word in written human languages. Words have meaning.

opp: But men's words are not self-revelatory, and human languages are not perfect.

rgw: Perfect is not the issue. Sufficient is the issue. I suggest that God thought the Hebrew and Greek languages were sufficient to communicate accurately, efficiently and sufficiently what He intends for us to know of Him. There is no MAGIC in the words. The value is in the spiritual truths "behind" the words; represented by the words. One can possess the words and not understand the truths behind them. BUT there is no other source for those truths other than the means of communication God has chosen to express them – human language. One should not "worship" the words, but one should recognize that they carry a "revelation" unknown apart from those words. We should depend on the guidance of the Spirit, for He helps us as we compare scripture with scripture to arrive at the full picture of God's plan. But the Spirit does not operate independent from God's written word. Nor will He TELL us that such and such an interpretation is correct - neither audibly nor through some kind of inner feeling or emotional exhilaration. Therefore accurate translation is important.

opp: Still, there is only one true map, with one true north, and one true path indicated.  If an additional path or "north" has been drawn in, or if a different map is offered, it is the work of an enemy.

rgw: I accept this. When we are bound by the parameters of natural human communication, there is much less room for disagreement.

opp: When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the waves of Galilee, only Peter undertook to step from the boat in emulation of the Master, and he soon fell beneath the waves.  However, although Peter had been safely bound by the parameters of the boat, Jesus did not rebuke Peter for attempting to transcend those safe parameters.

rgw: The parameters of the boat are not to be equated with the parameters of God's written word.1Cor. 4:6, Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other." 1Ths. 2:13, And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted {it} not {as} the word of men, but {for} what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 2Ths. 2:15, So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word {of mouth} or by letter from us. Concerning additional "doctrinal" revelation from God, Paul seems to address this by making ONLY what has been communicated by the apostles authoritative for the church. That is why what the Pope says has no jurisdiction over the church; or a Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Mary Eddy, Charles Russell, Jim Jones, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or any "Tom, Dick or Harry" believer.

opp: And yet, as John pointed out with powerful discernment, God can even use wicked men to prophesy spiritual truths.   John 11:49-52.   Now, the fact that a wicked man may speak truth according to the Will of God will not excuse him, for his wickedness will still condemn him at the last day.

rgw: This is not relevant in that it was not NEW revelation that was communicated. It was simply a reflection of what had been taught in the Old Testament concerning the sacrifice of Messiah. Any time someone "claims" revelation from God - If it is in conformity with what has been written - then it is superfluous. If it is "different" than what has been written - it has no value, and in fact is deceptive.

rgw: A better translation at 2 Tim. 3:16, is, "All Scripture is God-breathed . . ." (theopneustos).

opp: And man-recorded and translated.

rgw: And man makes mistakes. But God Himself has preserved in the original languages through the various manuscripts, an accurate and sufficient copy of His inspired word. ALL believers are indwelt by the Spirit, but NO believers since John the apostle was "inspired" as in being given the very words of God from the Holy Spirit.

opp: And yet by that same Spirit, they plead with God with "groanings that cannot be uttered."  Romans 8:26.  Will God not answer these groanings?  How?  With words?  With other groanings?  Does the Spirit initiate conversation with the living God for a vain purpose?  If God answers, is He restricted to answering via bits of pre-recorded scripture, like the liquid filled "fortune balls" of the 60s that gave answers via a floating four-sided die?

rgw: IF He answers, it will be "in conformity with" that pre-recorded scripture. That is, the answer will not be in violation of it or contrary to it. If someone claims that God told them, Jesus is coming back on May 31, (which has happened) then that person is NOT hearing from God. For to make such a claim violates the very words of Jesus, "no one knows the DAY or hour." But given your scenario, it is correct. God has chosen to LIMIT His word for us today in the written canon. There is no "revelation" from God beyond that.

opp: "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Revelation 19:10. When I gained my testimony of Jesus Christ, it wasn't an intellectual conviction based on an exegesis of critical koine Greek verb-forms in comparison with their translations in the KJV versus the RSV.  It was because the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to me in a living, immediate, and profound way that at once convicted me of my sins and gave me indescribable hope and joy that I could be forgiven and live with him forever.

rgw: All "in conformity" with what has been written. I do not have to QUOTE John 3:16 to teach someone that God loves them and they need to believe in Jesus. But my gospel message MUST express the truths of John 3:16 or else I give a false gospel.

opp: That was surely revelation from God, and it was surely " new" to me when it came.  I thank God in my every prayer for that revelation and for how it is renewed in my life every day!

rgw: Perhaps you mistake "revelation" for "conviction." God uses the truths of the gospel to CONVICT the soul of the unbeliever so that He can make the decision he needs to make  - trust in Christ as savior. That gospel message can be communicated "literally" from the Bible or it can be communicated in one's own dialect and nomenclature - but the "content" of the message must be in conformity with the written word. And it is the Holy Spirit who "convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment" in order to draw the person to faith in Christ.

opp: Christians who have made the Bible the foundation of their worship have fallen into the same subtly disguised snare that caught the Pharisees whose focus on the Torah would not permit them to accept the revealed, living Jesus Christ who walked among them.

rgw: The Pharisees "distorted" what had been written. That was their problem. It was not because they gave undue preference to the writings. For those who listened objectively to the teachings of Jesus saw the message of God (Nicodemus - John 3). Jesus did not de-emphasize what had been written. He made them look at the WHOLE message of what had been written and to reject what "man" had added.

opp: Because he didn't "fit" within their focus, they excised him just as they would a troublesome emendation to the text.

rgw: Because their "focus" was wrong - not what had been written. They saw ONLY the letter of the law; not the love and mercy which was also taught in the law.

opp: But just as Jesus could not be kept within a tomb, the Holy Spirit cannot be contained within a book.  When God puts the question to us, ought we not choose life? 2 Corinthians 3:6.

rgw: But that is just the point. The Spirit will NOT operate in our lives independent from the written word. Our conviction of truth MUST come from comparing Scripture with Scripture and NOT on an inner feeling that is claiming to be the leading of the Spirit. As I pointed out before, it is the examination of the text of the written word of God that must establish doctrine and policy. It simply CANNOT be, one person's claim over another's that, "the Spirit has revealed this to me." Now, concerning one's personal life decisions, He may indeed guide us by softly nudging us to help make decisions in our life. But that is PERSONAL and cannot be broadcast as "I am being led by the Spirit." This may very well put us in conflict with someone else who makes the same claim. We can only live our life, following the "feelings" we have for various choices while always maintaining obedience to the written word of God. If a person wants to believe that he is indeed being led by the Spirit, let him keep it to himself and follow the truths of God's word.

At 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is not minimizing the written word (not even the law, for the law is holy, just and good), but he is placing the law in its right perspective. We must "internalize" the law - not keep it outside. When we internalize it, the love and mercy of the law changes our character. If we fail to do that - we will become "religious" rather than "Christian" and "spiritual." If for salvation, one looks only to the letter of the law, then that person is seeking righteousness by works and will only go deeper into debt (Rom. 4:4). If after being saved, one looks only to the letter of the law rather than the issues of love and mercy, then he relegates himself to a life of slavery and frustration as he shuts himself off from God's wonderful blessings for finding peace and joy in life. That is why Paul emphasizes - love PLUS knowledge at 1 Cor. 8:1. Knowledge all by itself - puffs up. But love PLUS knowledge - edifies.



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