The Macedonian Call and the Voice of God: An Examination of Acts 16:6-10

by Dave Miller on November 5, 2013 · 101 comments

It is a trite saying, but also true – we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That is precisely what a lot of Bible-believing, Christ-loving Christians have done on the topic of the subjective voice of God. There can be little doubt that “God told me” or “God spoke to me” are some of the most abused words in the church. People claim that God has told them things that I am quite sure did not come from God. But, does the fact that God’s subjective voice – speaking to the human mind and heart directly by His Spirit – is abused mean that it is invalid? For many, the abuses of the subjective voice of God are sufficient to condemn the practice entirely. I do not believe this is fair and would like to examine a passage of Scripture today that seems to me to clearly refute that idea.

Three Positions on the Subjective Voice of God

There are three primary points along the continuum on this topic, general categories among a wide variety of views. Of course, both the categorizations and the nomenclature are overly simplistic, and other authors will use other categorizations, but I think that this is a fair summary of the viewpoints along the way. For the sake of this article, I will use the terms as described below.

Cessationists – they claim that since the 66 inspired books of the Bible were given to the church, there is no more voice of God to human hearts. Claiming the “sufficiency of Scripture” as their rallying point, they hold that God only speaks by means of the Bible today. No further word from God is either necessary or possible. We are to simply read the Scriptures and do what we believe is right in obedience to it.

For instance, a cessationist (on this topic) would say that God calls a Christian man to seek and marry a Christian woman, but would not believe that God leads a man to a particular woman. He should observe biblical principles, then do what he thinks is best. God speaks through his word, we study that word, then we do whatever we think is right and best in the light of that word.

Charismatics – they live on the basis of the subjective word of God. Again, there are great variations here, but many charismatics live as much or more on the basis of the subjective “word from the Lord” as they do on the authority of the written Word. They believe in and act on the basis of authoritative revelation made to those with prophetic gifts in addition to the Bible. Many live their lives daily on the basis of “what God said to me.”

Continuationists – take a position between these two extreme points. We (yes, I am on Team Continuationist) believe in the full authority of the Word and its sufficiency in matters of doctrine, Christian life and church practice. However, we also believe that the Spirit leads and guides Christians in life’s specifics and details by the Holy Spirit. We believe that this is taught in 1 Corinthians 12 and other texts.

Acts 16:6-10 is perhaps the best, most comprehensive text that expounds and illustrates this view. Of course, it is always a little tricky to make doctrine from narrative. But the events of this story are in line with a clear pattern revealed in Scriptures and taught in 1 Corinthians 12 and other epistolary texts. We will examine the text, look at the facts of the story, then draw conclusions based on what happened.

Paul’s Macedonian Call – Acts 16:6-10

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

The Undisputed Facts

I do not believe that anyone, cessationist, charismatic or continuationist, will dispute the facts of the story, Our divergence will be over the interpretation of those facts, perhaps. But here is what happened, step by step.

1) Paul determined to go to proclaim Christ in Asia Minor (Ephesus). Evidently, on this missionary journey (his second), his intent was to go to Asia Minor and to proclaim Christ there, after he revisited the churches in Galatia (Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Pisidian Antioch). In obedience to the Great Commission, he decided to head to a place that needed to hear the gospel – likely to the city of Ephesus. It was a good and godly thing he was doing, completely in line with the Great Commission and his personal call to be God’s emissary to the Gentiles.

2) Paul was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Evidently, the timing was not right. Paul was not convicted of sin or corrected for wrong attitudes. The Spirit simply told him that he was forbidden to go to Asia Minor to proclaim Christ (at this time).

3) Paul traveled to Mysia and determined to go north to Bithynia. He continued his journey, but turned north, away from Asia Minor (he obeyed the Spirit’s direction here) and he again made a determination. He was going to Bithynia to proclaim Christ. Bithynia was a Roman province on the southwestern corner of the Black Sea and which would later become a significant place in church history (Nicea was in Bithynia). Paul had a noble intent here, to proclaim Christ in Bithynia.

4) But again, “the Spirit of Christ did not allow him” to go to Bithynia. Once again, somehow, the Spirit of God communicated to Paul that Bithynia was not (at this time) the place for him to minister.

5) In the night, Paul had a vision calling him to Macedonia. He traveled along the southern edge of Bithynia until he came to Troas. There, he had a nocturnal vision of a man from Macedonia who invited him to come and help them in that pagan city.

6) Paul and his fellow travelers (Silas, Timothy, now Luke and perhaps others) decided together that this was the call of God to preach in Macedonia. Evidently, they discussed it and discerned that this was, indeed, of God.

7) Paul and friends headed out to Macedonia to proclaim Christ. When they were convinced of the leading of God, they immediately obeyed.

The facts of the story are pretty clear, it seems. But what can we glean from them?

Observations on the Macedonian Call 

1) Paul was actively engaged in obeying the revealed will of God when the Spirit spoke to him.

Paul was not sitting in Lystra waiting for God to give him a detailed plan for his life. God had given the Great Commission to the church and had revealed the gospel’s glory to Paul. God had called him in Acts 13:1 to be his emissary to the nations. Paul was living in accordance with the revelation God had already given him. We are not promoting some kind of quietistic, navel-gazing form of Christianity. Paul was actively obedient when the Spirit spoke to him.

2) God’s Spirit guided Paul in the details and specific directions that are not part of the revelation of Scripture.

That Paul should proclaim Christ was authoritatively revealed. But here, God’s Spirit had specific directions as to WHERE Paul should do that proclamation. Not Asia. Not Bithynia. Go to Macedonia. You could memorize the entire Old Testament and all of the NT that was extant at that moment and there would be no way Paul could know that the time was not right in Asia or Bithynia, but that Philippi was the place to go! So, God’s Spirit gave him directions.

It was revealed by Jesus in Acts 1:8 that the gospel would go to the ends of the earth. But in Acts 13:1, God told the worshiping church of Antioch exactly who was supposed to spearhead that movement. It was Barnabas and Saul that God had specifically chosen – details beyond the scope of the authoritative revelation.

3) God spoke clearly and directly, but we do not know HOW he spoke. 

We know that the call to Macedonia came in the form of a vision at night, perhaps some sort of dream. But we are not told how God’s Spirit forbade Paul from going to Asia or how he communicated that Paul was not allowed to go to Bithynia. Audible voice? Strong spiritual impression “in Paul’s heart?” A prophetic word from someone else. We simply do not know. We know that God’s Spirit spoke and that his negative direction was absolutely clear to Paul. But beyond that, we really know little.

There is a genuine danger here; that people would hear their own emotions or preferences as the voice of God, or even that people would be deceived in some way by demonic spirits. No question about it – the danger is real. But it also seems to be a pattern in Scripture that God speaks in such a way that it is clear to the hearers THAT God spoke and WHAT God said.

4) Paul and his friends conferred and concluded that this was of God. 

This was different than the authoritative revelation of Scripture. Here, Paul shared his vision with his compatriots and they somehow came to the conclusion that this was, in fact, the will of God for them. The word there carries the idea of conferring together to reach a conclusion. They discussed it, perhaps prayed over it, and reached the determination that God had indeed spoken and revealed his specific plan for their lives.

5) Having been convinced, they obeyed.

This personal leading compelled them to obey. They did not make a universal principle out of it, but it was a personal and specific guidance. Go here, not here or there. God spoke and they listened.

My Conclusion

1) God reveals his authoritative truth concerning doctrine, life and practice in his sufficient, perfect and complete Word.

2) God, by his Spirit, guides believers in the details of life, at times.

3) Believers live by Word of God, walking in obedience to it. At times, God will break in and call them to a particular task, lead them in a specific direction or guide them in a task.

I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary back in 1980, preparing for the ministry. At the time, it was not easy to graduate from Dallas and find work in a Southern Baptist church. So, to finish at Dallas might have likely meant I was going to serve elsewhere than among Southern Baptists. One Friday night (well, Saturday morning) at about 3 AM, I finished whatever I was working on and went to bed. I lay there in the bed trying to go to sleep, when suddenly I absolutely knew (can’t tell you exactly how, it was just a clear word to my mind and heart) that God wanted me to be a Southern Baptist and to transfer to Southwestern. The next Monday I drove over to Ft. Worth and made my application to SWBTS.

I was doing what God had called and gifted me to do – prepare to preach God’s Word. But the Spirit spoke to me that night and redirected my life. I was to be Southern Baptist. That was God’s personal direction for my life.

4) It is those who immerse themselves in the authoritative written Word who will hear God the most accurately. The Spirit of God works to illumine the Word to us and to guide us in all truth. He uses it to conform us to Christ. Those who are deep in the Word and living in obedience to it will be the ones who most accurately receive God’s directions on details of his will.

5) Conversely, it is spiritual suicide to “listen to the Spirit” when you are not in the Word. You will be deceived either by your own emotions which you will attribute to God, to the manipulations of others which you will mistake for the teachings of God, or even to the deception of the enemy.

A Challenge to Our Cessationist Friends

Those of you who advocate the “read the Word, study the Word, then do what you think is best” method of living, I have a question for you. Where in the Bible is that method ever employed. God gave Noah specific directions. He gave Abraham specific leading to THE Promised Land. He gave detailed instructions to Moses, to Samuel, to David and Solomon about the Temple.

I can’t find a single place where God ever said anything anywhere close to “read the Bible and do what you think is best.”

So, of course, it is your turn. I am sure that my post will be the final word on the topic; that everyone will see the wisdom of my exegesis and all those charismatics will bring their thinking in line with the Word and those cessationists will abandon their Strange Fire.

Right?

1 Dave Miller November 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Play nice, folks!

2 Bart Barber November 5, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I agree with Dave Miller. I am a pastor because God called me to be a pastor. I am at FBC Farmersville because God called me to come here and called them to invite me to serve here.

I am a blogger because God called me to save Christian theology from the writings of Dave Miller (among others).

:-)

3 Dave Miller November 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Isn’t that interesting, I became a blogger to…oh, never mind.

4 dr. james willingham November 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm

What writings? :)

5 Bart Barber November 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm

:-)

6 Marshall Peters November 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Dave, as a committed #2, in your list of the 3 C’s, I really enjoyed and appreciated this article.

7 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Have you finally been committed, Marshall? Good to hear. It’s been a log time coming!

8 Doug Hibbard November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Log time? Building clocks from trees, I take it.

9 volfan007 November 5, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I’m an open, modified cessationist, who believes that God leads people in their lives, today, in matters which the Bible does not deal with. Also, I know a ton of cessationists, who believe in praying to God, and who believe that the Holy Spirit leads us to do things…..by giving us wisdom in our minds…and by giving us the desires of God in our hearts….so that we can do God’s will in things like: who to marry; what Church to go to…to serve; to be in the ministry in the first place….the call of God, which we surrendered to; whether to buy a house, or not; etc, etc, etc.

I know a whole lot of cessationists, who believe that the Holy Spirit leads us in our daily lives, and gives us guidance in our day and time….who believe that the Lord is active in our daily lives. BUT, we still believe that the certain gifts ceased…..because, the Church was established, and the Word of God was finished; completed. So, certain gifts were no longer needed in the Church. And, this is evidenced by the fact that there aren’t anymore Believers with the gift of healing; there are no more Apostles, who can raise the dead, and do other miraculous things; and there are no more prophets.

Disclaimer: I believe that God can heal, today. I believe God can do whatever He chooses to do. I believe that God is actively involved in our world, today. I believe that the Holy Spirit can move powerfully in our lives, today.

David

10 dr. james willingham November 11, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Well, David, we are very close to an agreement here. Now if you could just get Sovereign Grace straight :).

11 Dwight McKissic November 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

Volfan,

Where have u been? I missed your fallible, errant word on the comment pages here.????

The most comical line that I’ve read in the history of the Voices comment thread was written by u: “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.” That was/is a brilliant line bro; a stroke of genius. Did u originate that statement, or did u plagiarize? Seriously, your voice has been greatly missed here.

12 volfan007 November 6, 2013 at 12:20 am

Dwight,

As always, most of the good stuff that I say is from somewhere else. I hear it, and hang onto it, and share it with everyone else….when it’s good stuff. lol.

Also, I’m glad I was missed! I’ve been really, really busy in ministry, and with family, and on Facebook!!! :)

God bless you, Brother.

David

13 Mike Leake (@mikeleake) November 6, 2013 at 12:32 am

Wasn’t that a Mark Twain quote?

14 Volfan007 November 6, 2013 at 1:07 am

Lol

15 Doug Hibbard November 6, 2013 at 7:50 am

Yes, @MarkTwain was an early user of Abe Lincoln’s printed version of Facebook.

16 Volfan007 November 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

Lol

17 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 12:17 am

“Three Positions on the Subjective Voice of God”

You left out the most important one: the position that sees this as unbiblical nonsense which cannot cease because it never was. What many people claim today as the Spirit’s leading has no place in Scripture. It has not ceased, it never existed.

18 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Well, as usual, you are long on condemnation but short on exegesis.

19 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Keep in mind which one of us refused to get Scripture involved the last time you jumped on me over this issue. :)

In this case the matter is very easy: the Macedonian call in no way resembled what modern Christians claim to experience. I can’t exegete what isn’t there, but I can be like the little boy who points out that the emperor has no clothes.

20 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

“There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place” needs to become your theme song.

21 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

That’s my favorite song!

22 Robert Vaughn November 6, 2013 at 12:44 am

I think David’s point above is important. Cessationism from my vantage point was never about whether God directly leads or guides His people. It was about whether tongues and miraculous gifts continue to the present. Now, I realize that there is a lot of current idea of only rational application of the written word with the Lord “speaking” to us in any way beyond that. But that was not the cessationism of my youth in East Texas.

I guess David and I are begging for a 4th category.

23 Volfan007 November 6, 2013 at 1:08 am

Where’s the “like” button?

24 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

When you throw Chris Roberts’ view in there, it looks like we are talking about 5 different views.

25 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Indeed, my view on the Spirit’s leading is not a cessationist view. It’s certainly not continuationist or charismatic either. God has never led his people in the way far too many claim today. The Biblical support for subjective promptings, impressions, leadings, etc, simply is not there.

26 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Regardless of how much biblical evidence we produce, you just simply say, “There is no biblical evidence.” David has produced TONS of biblical evidence, and I have added quite a bit myself. But you don’t deal with our exegesis, you just come down from the mountain and declare that there is no evidence.

It makes dialogue with you on the topic somewhat pointless.

27 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Notice my comment toward the end of the current stream. My response addresses it well enough. No one disputes that God has spoken to his people. No one disputes that the Spirit constrained Paul or that he had a vision. The question is (1) whether or not these biblical incidents are the same as what people claim to experience today, and (2) whether or not the Bible tells us to expect or rely on these things, and (3) whether or not the overall weight of Scripture is for believers to read their Bibles and pray for wisdom as they live their lives.

None of these arguments from you or others have actually connected the biblical accounts to modern claims (as far as I’ve noticed), and none of them explain why the clearly extraordinary events of some people in Scripture should be considered normative for all believers today.

So let me say again: the biblical case has simply not been made. You don’t win by throwing Bible verses into the mix. You have to actually connect those verses to the case being made. That hasn’t happened.

28 John Wylie November 6, 2013 at 12:51 am

He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

29 Jared Moore November 6, 2013 at 1:55 am

Dave, here’s a few observations and questions:

1. The statement “The Spirit forbade him” could be from Luke, not Paul. It could be a hindsight statement. It could also be a providence statement.

2. The text says nothing about “God speaking to the human heart.” I haven’t found any examples of God speaking directly to the human heart in Scripture. What other Scripture references do you see where God spoke to the human heart?

3. The Spirit speaking to Paul (an apostle) doesn’t necessarily mean that He will speak to all Christians the same way for the rest of time.

4. You ask, “Those of you who advocate the “read the Word, study the Word, then do what you think is best” method of living, I have a question for you. Where in the Bible is that method ever employed?”

Every other Christian in Scripture that wasn’t a prophet, apostle, etc. practiced what you question (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 12:1-2). Making “God speaking beyond Scripture” normative for all Christians is not in Scripture. Was Abraham called out, or did God speak to everyone? Was Moses the prophet of Israel, or did God speak to everyone? God speaking beyond Scripture is never normative, not even in Bible times.

My question for you is, “What Scriptural warrant do you have to make something that was never normative in Scripture, normal for all Christians today?”

5. Based on how you apply to all Christians the example of the Spirit forbidding Paul, would you also argue the same for the other things Paul did? Like healing through a handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12)? Would you say, “Believers live by Word of God, walking in obedience to it. At times, God will break in and cause them to heal through handkerchiefs?” If not, why not? Or, would you make visions normal for Christians, since Paul had a vision?

6. Also, you say that the Spirit speaking to Paul was not part of Scripture, but it was/is. It’s part of the New Testament. Also, you argue, “Those who are deep in the Word and living in obedience to it will be the ones who most accurately receive God’s directions on details of his will.” Both Abraham and Moses were idolaters when God first spoke to them. Saul hated Christians when Christ first spoke to him. There are others as well. I don’t think your assumption here fits with the rest of Scripture. There’s no prerequisite for hearing God’s voice in Scripture.

7. What do you say to those Cessationists who are following God’s Word in obedience, but are not hearing God’s voice for the daily details? Are we just not listening or are we not “deep in the Word” enough? Was Paul listening in the above passage?

In conclusion, I believe God can do what we wants. He’s God. I don’t have to tell Christians to “listen” for God’s voice. If He wants to speak to them beyond Scripture, He will. I don’t have to teach them to listen. He’ll get their attention. But, the Scripture is sufficient. Love God and do what you want. We’re free in Christ to submit to Scripture.

30 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 9:12 am

RE: “My question for you is, “What Scriptural warrant do you have to make something that was never normative in Scripture, normal for all Christians today?”

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:16-18 NIV)

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”” (Acts 2:38, 39 NIV)

It seems to me the implication of Peter’s words here is a new relationship of every believer with the Holy Spirit, something that was only exceptional in the OT.

31 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 9:24 am

Also: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27 NIV)

32 Jared Moore November 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

David, I think that’s a reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. There is indeed something new about the New Covenant. We’re now indwelled by God the Holy Spirit forevermore. Peter’s emphasis is on the Spirit being poured out on all people, not the miraculous spiritual gifts being poured out forevermore, as we learn later. Not every Christian had miraculous spiritual gifts even in the 1st Century. We definitely don’t today, and there were around 1600 years where miraculous spiritual gifts ceased.

Are you saying that we’re in the last days today, and that’s why there’s active miraculous spiritual gifts in the church, or are you saying we’ve been in the last days since the 1st Century, and the miraculous spiritual gifts have never ceased in the church?

33 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Jared,

Yes, I agree, the promise Peter is referring to is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I also believe, though, that, in context, an implication of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has to do with what some call the “democratization” of personal experience with the Holy Spirit: IOW, what was in the OT dispensation an experience reserved for a chosen few is not in the NT dispensation something for every believer in Jesus Christ. It seems to me, in the context of the narrative, that Peter’s statement in Acts 2:38, 39 is linked to the question of the multitude in Acts 2:12, and his initial reply in Acts 2:15-18.

With regard to the “last days,” I believe this refers to the entire Church Age. At the same time, I believe God sovereignly chooses to distribute individual gifts to individual believers “to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11), so this may be one explanation for the preponderance of certain manifestations at certain times and places, and the relative lack of them at other times and places.

Though I do not base my understanding of this on the following passage (as the evidence is, at best, sketchy), neither do I totally rule out any relation to all this with Joel’s prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit being given in context with a corresponding comment on early and latter rains (Joel 2:23). But my argument neither rises nor falls on the interpretation of this verse.

Also, I think you must deal with 1 John 2:27 as well.

34 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm

That should read “now in the NT dispensation,” not “not in the NT dispensation.”

35 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

David, when I grow up, I want to be you!

You really need to publish some books on both ecclesiology and pneumatology.

36 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm

David,

“what was in the OT dispensation an experience reserved for a chosen few is not in the NT dispensation something for every believer in Jesus Christ.”

Except what believers today claim to experience looks nothing like what believers in the OT experienced. God spoke clearly to the prophets; the prophets spoke it back to the people. Nothing remotely subjective about the experience.

You mention 1 John 2:27 and that’s certainly a tricky verse, but in it John is not talking about day-to-day living; he does not say that because we have the Spirit, the Spirit will whisper to us what we need to do in various situations. He is talking about Truth – that which is true, that which is false. It’s a tricky verse because of course we know that no Christian knows everything, all Christians need teachers, and teachers are in fact one of God’s gifts to the church.

Nothing in the context connects 1 John 2:27 to the experience claimed by many people today, but the nature of the context makes the verse one that is difficult to unpack. To take one stab at it, the context is the antichrist – any person who denies that Jesus is the Christ. John is assuring his readers of the source of their confidence – the Spirit himself has anointed them and in this anointing has given them the truth that keeps them out of the camp of the antichrist. I don’t want to mix debates here, but this has some fairly strong implications for the superintending work of the Spirit in a person’s salvation and security. But it has nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the Spirit when a believer makes decisions.

37 Bob Pederson November 6, 2013 at 1:57 am

Dave, I fear that you have completely misrepresented the cessationist position on this. In fact, what you have described as your own view perfectly describes the cessationist view of the leading of the Holy Spirit. Please learn the cessationist position before you blog on it to avoid unfair representation of those whom with you disagree. I would urge you to reference Dr Macarthur’s sermons or commentaries on Romans 12 to clarify the issue. I would also suggest Tom Pennington’s session from Strange Fire for a detailed view of the overall cessationist position, which I have seen horribly misrepresented on this blog by many who ought to know better. I hate to say it so bluntly, but I would expect better from educated men who have so much information on the subject readily available to them.

38 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 9:05 am

Bob, It would appear from the comments that have already been posted on this article that there are various “cessationist” positions.

39 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

Bob,

Part of the problem is some of the details regarding all this are downright confusing. I agreed with you on the other post that indeed I had misrepresented MacArthur’s view in The Charismatics. But now, the more I continue to look into this, I am still wondering if I misrepresented his current view. It is hard to find the time to not only listen to all the talks and read all the books, but also take notes to collate all the relevant data.

Since, from what I gather, you seem to have a pretty good grasp on what all MacArthur and all the folks at the Strange Fire conference are saying, I would sincerely appreciate it if you could help me to clear my doubts up on all of this. I would really be grateful if, for example, you could take the time to respond to my other questions on the other post. Specifically, I am also wondering if it is safe to assume that MacArthur and all the other Strange Fire participants are on the same page with regard to these details. Also, has MacArthur changed his view with regard to the cessation of prophecy and the timing of “the perfect” since writing The Charismatics? Because I am having trouble harmonizing the two. But maybe there is something I am missing. That is where I am sincerely hoping you can help me out.

40 Truth Unites... and Divdes November 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

“I agreed with you on the other post that indeed I had misrepresented MacArthur’s view in The Charismatics.”

Thanks for the admission, David Rogers.

“Dave, I fear that you have completely misrepresented the cessationist position on this.”

Bob Pederson, was this for Dave Miller or David Rogers? Or both?

41 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm

On the other hand, I have heard Mac make exactly the point I made – out of Psalm 37.

Bob has set himself up as the final authority on all things cessationist and MacArthur, but unless Mac has changed his viewpoints (which I’ve not seen him do) then I maintain I am accurately representing him.

“Study the Bible, walk in obedience, and do what is in your heart.”

42 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm

“Study the Bible, walk in obedience, and do what is in your heart.”

Great quote. MacArthur said that? I like him more all the time.

43 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

And as another note on that: “do what is in your heart” is what happens anyway, it’s just that some people try to put a divine stamp of approval over what’s in their heart.

44 Truth Unites... and Divides November 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Dave Miller: “Bob has set himself up as the final authority on all things cessationist and MacArthur, …. “

Bob Pederson, would you regard this as a non-sweeping claim?

;-)

45 Deakon November 6, 2013 at 2:48 am

yes Paul received direct revelation from The Lord and paid the price for it (2 Cor 12)…not sure he’s the best example, being an apostle and all…as a non apostle, I have never heard God speak to me “subjectively” but I sure am thankful for the Word which teaches me God’s actual will and for people who taught me to not be enslaved by worry about finding/hearing “God’s will” for every choice I’ve made…

46 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I am thankful for both the Word and the work of the Spirit within – they are not in competition. But I would never describe the ministry of the Spirit or his directions to me as being “enslaved by worry.” That is simply not accurate.

47 Deakon Cane November 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm

… I just think the potential danger of creating an environment of worry exists when people expect/wait for/hope for some special word of direction…like “an I making the right decision” or “is this God’s will”…at least for me (and apparently not everyone) that was the struggle…I’ve found great freedom in Col 3:15-17, to let the word dwell in me richly and then do “whatever”…that’s where I think the Spirit and the Word work together, as I agree they are not in competition; the Word shaping my heart and the Spirit giving me courage to do things that fit in with God’s revealed will that I be sanctified, missional, prayerful, etc…thanks for the reply and for your spirit in managing this blog

48 Mike Leake November 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

Dave,
I’m not totally certain where I fall on the cessationist/contiuationist spectrum. So, I’m not really intending here to defend one side or the other.

You asked, “Where in the Bible is that method ever employed. God gave Noah specific directions. He gave Abraham specific leading to THE Promised Land. He gave detailed instructions to Moses, to Samuel, to David and Solomon about the Temple.”

I don’t think this question is fair from a cessationist position. God spoke differently then than now. Since Christ has come and the apostle’s have laid the foundation that which we need for life and godliness has been completed. They didn’t have that. Therefore, you are correct we wouldn’t see a cessationist method employed in Scripture…because the canon was not yet complete.

49 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Okay, Mike, but I question where the biblical support for this statement comes: “God spoke differently then than now.” It sure seems so, in reality. But where does the exegetical support for that assertion come?

50 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

(Popped back in; I can’t stay away!)

“But where does the exegetical support for that assertion come?”

Great question! Here’s Hebrews 1:1-2:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

So set aside the fact that the “many ways” that God spoke to the prophets (angelic visits, divine visions, burning bushes, etc) did not include subjective feelings and promptings, and thus they do not compare to today’s experiences, even so God says there is a fundamental change between how he spoke then versus now. Then he spoke through the prophets; now he “has spoken to us by his Son”. I don’t want to abuse the aorist of “has spoken” but it nonetheless seems important to note that in this verse the author did not say “is speaking” as though some sort of direct word from God continues to go forth from Jesus to his people, but God’s revelation was spoken through Jesus which would point us to his ministry on earth. That ministry, by the way, is recorded for us in the gospels and is unfolded through the apostolic ministry of the other New Testament writers, so if we want to know what Jesus “has spoken”, we go to Scripture.

51 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Chris,

The problem with your life of reasoning here is that, after God had spoken to us “by his Son” (i.e. after Jesus had lived, died, risen, and ascended to heaven), the book of Acts records a plethora of occasions in which He continued to speak to the followers of Jesus through dreams, visions, words of prophecy, impressions, etc. Did the aorist, past-tense aspect of God speaking through His Son only kick in and become active once the canon was complete? A normal reading of Hebrews would indicate, if it were all in the past tense, this past tense was when Jesus was on the earth, not afterward.

52 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm

lol… “line of reasoning,” not “life of reasoning”

53 Doug Hibbard November 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Freudian slip?

54 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Yep, that was my thought exactly, David. The Spirit’s speaking to the early church – direct and personal – was AFTER God spoke to us by Christ (his life, death and resurrection).

55 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm

One main item you neglected here, and I touched on it in my comment above: The examples in Acts and elsewhere are almost entirely, if not entirely, centered on or related to the apostles – those whose apostolic ministry continued as an extension of the ministry of Jesus. We all (hopefully) recognize that the apostles were a special case. There are no apostles today. They were appointed by Jesus and continued to teach and preach and write those things they had received from him.

Dave,

“The Spirit’s speaking to the early church”

Where does the Spirit speak to the early church? Name a verse? The Spirit did at times constrain, block, etc certain people, namely the apostle Paul, and there are instances of direct visions, but where do we see this as a church-wide phenomenon? And where does the Spirit *speak* to them? Ever?

56 David Rogers November 7, 2013 at 12:06 am

“Others, aside from the apostles, who performed signs and wonders and exercised miraculous gifts include (1) the 70 who were commissioned in Luke 10:9,19-20; (2) at least 108 people among the 120 who were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost; (3) Stephen (Acts 6-7); (4) Phillip (Acts 8); (5) Ananias (Acts 9); (6) church members in Antioch (Acts 13:1); (7) new converts in Ephesus (Acts 19:6); (8) elders in the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:18-19; 4:9); (9) women at Caesarea (Acts 21:8-9); (10) the unnamed brethren of Galatians 3:5; (11) believers in Rome (Rom. 12:6-8); (12) believers in Corinth (1 Cor. 12-14); and (13) Christians in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:19-20). None of these folk were apostles! ”

http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/are-signs–wonders–and-miracles-the–signs–of-an-apostle?

57 David Rogers November 7, 2013 at 12:18 am

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:1, 2 ESV)

58 Chris Roberts November 7, 2013 at 12:18 am

With all due respect to Sam Storms, he wasn’t all that careful with his list. People present when these things took place can’t be said to have done them themselves; people commissioned by Jesus are part of that ministry of Jesus; people told not to quench the Spirit or despise prophecies are not said to be prophesying or receiving subjective leading or new revelation; etc, etc.

59 David Rogers November 7, 2013 at 12:21 am

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, (1 Corinthians 14:31 ESV)

60 Mike Leake November 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I’m speaking as a cessationist would. Again I’m not sure where I am on that issue. And I believe they’d defend that assertion as Chris did, with Hebrew 1:1-2 and I think also the nature of the apostolic office and such. Once that foundation is laid God “has spoken”.

61 Bill Mac November 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

I am not a cessationist, but I have strong views on the flippant way people use “God told me.” (or its variations).

With the possible exception of young Samuel, when God spoke to people, they knew it. They knew it was God and they knew what the message was, exactly. It was not some type of vague “impression” or feeling. Hearing God is not something that ever had to be learned. Sin in someone’s life was never a hindrance to God speaking to them.

God telling people what decisions to make has never been normative and is a dangerous thing to teach. We think we have to spiritualize our speech. The normal person says “I’ve had an idea”, the churchpeak version of which is “God has laid something on my heart”. The normal person says “I want to do such and such”, the churchspeak version says “I feel led to do such and such”.

Our interaction with God creates experiences and emotions. How could it not? But we have to be very, very careful about normalizing those experiences and emotions and making them the defacto standard for our interaction with God. I cannot tell you how long I felt like I was living a sub-standard Christian life because God wasn’t “speaking” to me, because I didn’t know what “feeling led” felt like (and still don’t). I can tell you that I’m not the only one who has been harmed by this type of well-meaning but careless and biblically dubious language.

We would be much better off praying for wisdom, reading our bibles, and trusting God to lead us rather than trying to feel God leading us.

62 Bill Mac November 7, 2013 at 11:16 am

What does “feeling led” feel like? As I say, I’m not a cessationist, but I fear a lot of what seems to be happening in evangelicalism is some type of mysticism. God does have a plan and a direction for our lives, but what makes us think He’ll tell us what it is? I see people in a lot of angst over trying to figure out what God’s will for their life is. I don’t see that in scripture. It is damaging.

But, here’s a question for cessationists. I keep hearing that God cannot (or will not) speak directly because the canon is closed. I don’t quite follow the logic. Are you saying that if God told me (he hasn’t) audibly to go to the corner of 5th and Main and witness to the first person I saw there, that incident would have to somehow make it into the canon? Are you saying that every single incident of God speaking directly to people in the history of our race has been captured in the canon?

63 Bill Mac November 8, 2013 at 12:29 am

Is anyone ever going to tell me what feeling led feels like? Someone must know because I sure hear it a lot.

64 Debbie Kaufman November 8, 2013 at 9:05 am

Bill: It’s certainly not mysticism. How do you know or feel to ask Christ in your life? It’s not much different than that. It’s also one door closing another opening type of leading. There are several ways God leads. It’s like those who are called to ministry. It’s a strong desire that doesn’t go against scripture. There are many ways God leads. Billy Graham had a wonderful message to the nation last night. I believe he felt led by God to do this. A strong desire. A burden.

I believe each time we feel the need to pray someone, we are being led by God to do so. He puts these people on our heart to do a work in them.

I sense a little hostility from you on this that I don’t understand, but I believe it as real. Paul was led in scripture all the time, so not seeing it in scripture baffles me a bit.

65 Bill Mac November 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

Debbie: The hostility comes from people justifying every little thing they do, think, or want to do by claiming God’s special leading and stamp of approval, and implying that it is normative. I have lots and lots of strong desires that don’t go against scripture. So do unsaved people. I don’t deny that the Spirit leads us, what I deny is that we necessarily feel it, or somehow have to jump through some type of mystical hoops to “discern” whether God is “speaking” to us or not. The latter is definitely not scriptural. The whole idea of “God is trying to tell you something” is foreign to scripture.

We have to be very careful when we suggest that our experience with God (which may or may not be real) is how everyone’s experience with God should be. By careless usage of churchspeak, we are creating a class of defeated Christians who are honest enough to admit that God doesn’t seem to be “speaking” to them or giving them “impressions.”

66 Debbie Kaufman November 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

Bill: The difference between us and lost people is the Holy Spirit in us.

If someone says they are led by the Holy Spirit, I tend to believe them. It’s not an issue with me nor does it produce any type of hostility. I am not in control of another’s life.

67 Debbie Kaufman November 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

I’m certainly not saying that is how everyone’s experience should be, but by the same token, aren’t you saying that by dismissing that someone is being led by the Holy Spirit? There are many scriptures that speak of this. If truth be known we are led by God to do many things that we think are from us. I don’t have a problem with that either. According to scripture God guides and orchestrates each and every step we make.

68 David Rogers November 10, 2013 at 10:06 am
69 John Wylie November 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

There are so many things in life where we need direction that the Bible doesn’t address directly. I personally believe that the Holy Spirit in communication with our spirit directs our lives. One particular passage comes to mind.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

70 Debbie Kaufman November 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

John: I agree. We do have the Holy Spirit in us. Just as God stopped Paul from going to Asia, I believe God works this way in us as well.

71 Adam G. in NC November 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

1. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2. but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world

Doesnt this mean that God NOW speaks to us by his Son, who we know of through Scripture?

I dont think it would be fair to hint at a “cessationist” view of “sola scriptura” as cold intellectualism. Would it not be correct to state that the Spirit speaks thru the Scriptures, to the heart, about the Son?

72 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Adam,

I deal pretty thoroughly with the answer to that question, and specifically Heb. 1:1–2 here:

http://sbcvoices.com/hearing-god-part-1/

73 Jim Pemberton November 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I appreciate your take on this, Dave, although I’m still not settled on it. All I can offer is my observations from a personal struggle:

While cessationsists tout the sufficiency of scripture, cessationist pastors also cite the overwhelming need to preach as a significant part of their call. When I say that I know preachers who claim to feel this overwhelming need to preach who shouldn’t be in a pulpit (some of them well-known), the statement falls on deaf ears. I’m sure those same preachers also found enough people to agree that they should go to seminary and pursue pastoral positions.

Few things make my heart leap like being asked to fill a pulpit or being consulted on a matter of spiritual truth. But I don’t trust the subjectivity of it. If I’m asked, I do. If I’m not asked, I don’t. If there is a general opportunity available, I may offer myself to the godly people in leadership that God has provided. I have no confidence outside those bounds precisely because of its subjective nature.

The question is whether to claim a specific calling by the Holy Spirit based on an urge that could be just as sinful as it is godly, or to only use reason and discipleship along with a desire to only please God in our service regardless of what he gives us to do – for that kind of desire certainly comes from the Holy Spirit. In other words, should one not be satisfied until one accomplishes what he believes (rightly or not) God is specifically leading him to do, or should one be satisfied with whatever God has for him to do even if he has a strong urge to go do something else? There can be an overlap between the two, but they are two different things and only one can govern our decisions. But the difference between the two is the difference between cessationism and continuationism in the matter of a calling to ministry.

This relates to the way that we understand the Macedonian calling in the absence of some of the information like the manner in which the Holy Spirit issued the instructions to Paul. It also relates to the way that we regard Paul, as an Apostle, versus pastors and missionaries today, who are not. After all, Paul’s account of this specific call is in the canon of scripture where specific callings today are not.

74 Truth Unites... and Divides November 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Pembo: “The question is whether to claim a specific calling by the Holy Spirit based on an urge that could be just as sinful as it is godly, or to only use reason and discipleship along with a desire to only please God in our service regardless of what he gives us to do – for that kind of desire certainly comes from the Holy Spirit.”

Let’s see:

(A) “Claim a specific calling by the Holy Spirit based on an urge that could be just as sinful as it is godly”

or

(B) “Only use reason and discipleship along with a desire to only please God”

I’ll choose (B), thank you very much.

75 Christiane November 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

there is an interesting reference to the Holy Spirit working in the Body of Christ through the power of ‘discernment’ in this post . . .

“6) Paul and his fellow travelers (Silas, Timothy, now Luke and perhaps others) decided together that this was the call of God to preach in Macedonia. Evidently, they discussed it and discerned that this was, indeed, of God. ”

this power of discernment within the Church (‘collegiality’) has never left us and is present still and will be with us until Christ comes again at the end of time . . . the Church when it comes together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is capable of discerning ‘in community ‘ with one another

Christ founded His Church . . . He left it with the Holy Spirit . . .
not even in sacred Scripture is this refuted or denied

76 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm

“I can’t find a single place where God ever said anything anywhere close to ‘read the Bible and do what you think is best.’”

Which is why we are called to read with understanding. When we have passages like 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and James 1:5 the pattern clearly emerges: be trained by Scripture, pray for wisdom, and live your life. Nowhere are we told to expect the Spirit’s direct intervention in daily events. Paul wasn’t expecting it, which you somewhat pointed out. The Spirit’s specific intervention was not sought, it was surprise. So when someone like Blackaby tells Christians to seek these subjective leadings, he is going well beyond what we see in Scripture. Add to it another point you make: we are not told *how* the Spirit guided Paul, which means we cannot just impose any experience we think fits the bill. We aren’t told how the Spirit did these things; the only time we are told method it’s clear, powerful, pronounced, typically in the form of visions or angelic visitation. Never do we read about promptings or leadings or subjective whisperings. Never do they struggle over, “Well did the Spirit mean X or Y…” What we claim today does not resemble what they experienced. What they experienced is not something we are ever promised. We *are* promised a Word of God which is itself sufficient for the full equipping of the believer. We *are* promised that God will give wisdom to the one who asks. Those are the things we should seek as the guides to our lives.

77 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

How does God give “wisdom”?

In the earliest centuries of the Church vast numbers of believers had less access to the Scriptures. Does anyone think that each congregation had copies of all the OT scriptures readily available as the only needed guide?

How is the promised giving of “wisdom” different from “promptings or leadings or subjective whisperings”?

How are the prophetic and teaching explanations of a church leader different from “promptings or leadings or subjective whisperings”?

78 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Wisdom is a growing capacity to reason out the truth of God, particularly when it comes to applying his truth to life. The Spirit is at work in us to grow our knowledge and understanding of Scripture – the Bible is the Spirit’s fuel for work, which is why Paul says the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. He works through the Word to give us wisdom. How he does that is not spelled out, but there is no hint here of subjective promptings; wisdom is an operation of the mind, not an operation of the ear.

As for the early church, there are a host of questions and implications about those who have had less access to Scripture/missionaries/preachers/teachers/whatever, whether in the 1st century or in Timbuktu today. But challenges of that sort do not change basic facts: the Bible says what it says and does not say what it does not say. It says God uses Scripture to equip us, and promises to give us wisdom. It says nothing about promptings, etc.

79 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

So, you’re saying this “wisdom” is not a “leading.” not a “prompting,” and not a “subjective whispering.”

Where does the Scripture say that wisdom is an “operation of the mind”? And is it possible an operation of the mind could be “promptings or leadings or subjective whisperings”?

Could you provide other synonyms for describing “wisdom” in order to clarify its differentiation from “promptings or leadings or subjective whisperings”?

80 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Also, could you differentiate a “growing capacity” from a “leading” or “prompting”?

81 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

David,

BDAG: Sofia, wisdom: “the capacity to understand and function accordingly” For James 1:5 it says: “Good judgment in the face of human and specif. Christian demands (practical) wisdom”

I grant you that a lexicon is not the Bible, but the Bible does not generally take time to define well understood terms. We know what wisdom is. Wisdom is not someone whispering in your ear. Wisdom is knowing how to live well. We “know” with our minds. Our minds are trained by Scripture. It is the Spirit who wields the Scripture and does the training as we take in Scripture and pray for wisdom and understanding. There is nothing subjective about any of this. There is no day-to-day prompting in any of this. The very concept is simply and completely missing.

82 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

“Also, could you differentiate a “growing capacity” from a “leading” or “prompting”?”

Are you seriously asking me to explain the difference between those? There is no relation between them. They are completely different concepts. What is there to differentiate?

83 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

The Spirit “wields the Scripture.” Is this wielding only at the time of the inspiration?
The Spirit “does the training.” Is this training only in terms of the cognition of the grammatical, syntactical, and discursive semantic understanding of the text?
Does the training that the Spirit does include present day applications being emphasized in specific ways to individual believers or are the individual believers initiating any focused emphasis for application in their lives?
If I read a large passage of Scripture and I sense a particular emphasis on, let’s say, dealing with patience, does the specificity of patience rather than the rest of the passage come from the Spirit in that moment or is it generated from me? If the Spirit, how would that not be a “prompting” or “leading”? If me, then how does that work apart from the Spirit?

84 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm

David,

We are not told just how the Spirit operates in this regard, we are only told that he does. We cannot infer from that, “Oh, that tingly feeling I have in my stomach must be the Spirit telling me to pay attention.” What we are told puts the focus primarily in the area of cognition.

When the Bible does not give us all the details, we are not free to fill in the blanks however we wish. We are allowed to speculate about some things, but there are light years between theological speculation and theological assertion. We are not told how the Spirit works. We are not permitted to assert that he must therefore work through these subjective impressions.

85 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Growth comes from some energized force that is either initiated in the thing or from an outside force moving the action of growth in the thing. The growing capacity is energized from somewhere. Are you saying that the growing force is not a “leading” or a “moving” of the Spirit? Are you saying that believers cannot sense the energy of the growing force and ascribe it to the Spirit?

I believe growth can be consciously sensed in some kind of capacity at times, and it can be semantically proper to sometimes describe aspects of that sensation as being “prompted” or “led.”

86 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

The Spirit’s work is not a “leading” or a “moving” in the sense meant by people today who claim a subjective leading or prompting of the Spirit. They are fundamentally different.

“Are you saying that believers cannot sense the energy of the growing force and ascribe it to the Spirit?”

I haven’t said anything about that, but I would say something like that – believers cannot sense the energy of the growing force. I don’t even know what that means. It sounds like it belongs firmly in the realm of pagan mysticism (which, btw, is where the subjective prompting thing belongs). Believers can look at their lives and see that God is at work. We can do something like what we find in 2 Peter 1:5-8 and evaluate our growth on the basis of our fruit (another intellectual exercise we find taught over and over again in Scripture) but sensing the energy of… what? No, never shows up in Scripture.

So I will say it again: the subjective experience claimed by many people today is not biblical. It is never found in Scripture. Every indication of the Bible points in different directions. When the Spirit works in the Bible, every instance that gives us details presents clear, concrete, direct intervention. We do not have a single example of subjective promptings of the sort claimed today. Attempts to wrest various passages to teach subjective promptings will not work since they simply do not make such claims.

What you are doing in your comments here is called obfuscation and it simply doesn’t make the biblical case.

87 David (NAS) Rogers November 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I beg to differ on the obfuscation charge. And please note I also asked questions, some of which you ignored. But we have reached a seeming impasse. Oh well, that happens. Blessings on your leadership of your services tonight.

88 Chris Roberts November 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Well I must be off, need to get focused on tonight’s service. Studying the Word, praying for wisdom as I teach it, etc.

I’ll mention as my final contribution to this post: sola Scriptura. We cannot proclaim it if the Bible does not teach it, and the Bible nowhere teaches the subjective prompting, leading, tingles and fuzzies described by many people today. What people claim to be divine is a dangerous form of self-deception: ascribing to God something he has not done. It doesn’t matter to me how arrogant this sounds, it matters to me whether or not Scripture supports what I say. We do not mind telling the Muslim he is wrong about God; we know he is wrong because of what the Bible says. We can apply the same case to claims made by fellow believers. Some disagreements are minor, but this one touches on pretty major territory. People are claiming direct leading and revelation from God when there is zero biblical support for their experience. It is not heresy (again: I do not now and never have believed this to be heresy), but it is a dangerous error.

Later folks.

89 Bart Barber November 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I want to say that I admire those who demand biblical support for the idea that the Holy Spirit provides specific leadership to believers today. Although I disagree with your conclusions, gentlemen, it is NEVER WRONG to challenge a belief, no matter how commonly held, and to demand that it be shown from the scriptures.

That having been said, I think Dave Miller’s case from Acts 13 is worthy of further consideration, having seen no further mention of it in the comments. I especially think so since I think one of the strongest cases for the ongoing leadership of the Holy Spirit lies in connection with the setting apart of those called to ministry.

I’d say that the specific nature of the leadership of the Holy Spirit in these matters is in the spiritual delivery of specific application of scriptural truths already revealed. We have, for example, biblical qualifications for church offices, but the application of these to individual people is not always so simple as it might seem at first glance.

I would join with others in the thread to say:

1. God is no longer in the business of revealing new truth, but is in the business of assisting us in the application of truth already revealed.

2. People ought to be profoundly cautious—much more so than we often are—in placing God’s imprimatur on our decisions.

And yet, if a knowledge of the Bible and the smarts to apply it are all that are required in order to serve God well, then the savvy and well-educated lost person is a better guide to the church than the gullible Christian. And yet I think we have to affirm some deeper spiritual element by which God is able through the foolish of the world to confound the wise…something by which those of this world are not able to grasp the spiritual things of the world. It seems to me that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual leadership thereby acquired is the solution to that riddle.

90 David Rogers November 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Amen

91 Dave Miller November 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I absolutely and unequivocally agree with your points 1 and 2.

I think God’s Spirit guides us in certain details of life, individually and directly, but the revelation of God is complete! And caution in this area is more than warranted. It is essential!

And this line is brilliant: “And yet, if a knowledge of the Bible and the smarts to apply it are all that are required in order to serve God well, then the savvy and well-educated lost person is a better guide to the church than the gullible Christian.”

92 Robert Vaughn November 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

The Spirit of God in us is requisite to us understanding the Scriptures.

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The Scriptures are inspired, perfect and complete. But the Spirit of God must be at work for them to be profitable to us.

93 David Rogers November 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Jared Moore, Chris Roberts, et al.

I am curious what you think of the following passage. Is it only referring to a special ability of the apostles, or to the Corinthian believers in general? And if to the Corinthian believers in general, is it still applicable to believers today, or was the ability to spiritually discern the things of the Spirit something that only the believers in apostolic days possessed?

1 Corinthians 2:6-16:

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

94 David (NAS) Rogers November 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Thanks for bringing up this passage. Also comment on 1 Thess. 5:19-22 would be helfpful:

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

(note: Both Nestle-Aland 27 and 28 indicate this as one sentence with the clauses separated by commas rather than semi-colons or periods.)

95 dr. james willingham November 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I thought I commented on this blog to the effect that I was somewhere between being a cessationist and a continuationist. Having been exposed to the charismatics in childhood and even after becoming an adult, I must say that I regard most of it as little short of madness. There are some cases where I make an exception, e.g., where someone communicates in a language they do not know. A friend of mine once interpreted for some Pygmies in the Philippines and discovered that they had been instructed by the Great Spirit to bring a guerilla unit some food. That unit was on the verge of starvation, and my friend did not know their language and yet she was able to say the words and understand their sign language enough in order to understand their bringing of food. I know of a few cases like that, but the gibberish I have encountered in cases to which I have been exposed merely adds to my understanding of Scripture that, for the most part, that gift has ceased. Still I try to keep an open mind, but it is hard. And I do not wish to see our churches go down a road that could be a dead-end.

96 John Wylie November 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

I know that this is experiential but I think that anyone who has been saved very long knows what the prompting of the Spirit is. Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction when you have done something wrong? Have you ever felt a deep prompting to share the Gospel with someone? Have you ever felt a deep prompting to help someone in need either financially or otherwise? Have you ever felt the calm assurance of the Spirit’s witnessing with your spirit reminding you that you are a child of God?

97 Chris Roberts November 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

And if we haven’t does that mean we aren’t saved? This kind of thing leads to another reason why I feel strongly about this kind of thinking. It’s an unbiblical position which leads to doubt. I know people who have struggled over their salvation because someone once said they should have such-and-such experience of the Spirit. When it never seems to happen, they question whether or not they are saved.

Scripture presents the fruit of a changed life as the evidence of salvation. It says nothing period about “the prompting of the Spirit”. We invented that bit.

98 Debbie Kaufman November 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Chris: Since Southern Baptists believe that faith in Christ alone is the only way to salvation, I don’t think the “does that mean we are saved” argument holds.

The prompting and leading of the Spirit is all through scripture. The apostle Paul speaks heavily of it. Our relationship with God/Christ is relational not just cognitive. It’s personal. Deeply personal. That was Christ’s message while on earth. He was personal with people. Everything Christ did and said was for a purpose. To teach. So to those who say they do not see this in scripture, I am perplexed as to why not. It’s there. But, to those who do not see it I do not think it an issue. It shouldn’t be made an issue, both sides should discuss and both should listen.

There is only one way to salvation, faith in Christ

99 cb scott November 10, 2013 at 12:56 am

Oh well, what can I say, fellows?

Oh yeah, I know. I can say:
We are ALABAMA! We Are the CRIMSON TIDE!! We are FOOTBALL!!!

A Threepeat is in the T’town air!!!

ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!

100 dr. james willingham November 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

CB: That remark was meant for the other blog, the one on football and specifically relieving of your addiction to the crimson crud. You must have gotten carried away with it and accidentally transferred the same to this critical issue.

101 Ken Hamrick November 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Rom. 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

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