Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"And God Said To Me…"

As a general rule, we live in a world that is made up mostly of people who either a) believe that God exists, but will not submit to his commands as stated in the Bible; b) does not believe that God exists; or c) believes that God exists and have accepted God’s Word as truth. Group ‘c’ comprises the smallest percentage of these three groups and is made up mostly of believers in Jesus Christ. The task that believers have in life is to present their belief to the other two groups in the hope of persuading them to change. Many do so to varying degrees of success, but oftentimes their methods and more importantly their motivation is a hindrance to true evangelism.

One character trait used by some believers that appear to be an instant sign of non-credibility with unbelievers is the utterance of the phrase “…and God said to me” or “God told me to say…” The continuation of any statements after the use of these phrases is usually met with extreme pessimism or ridicule by a non-believing world based on the assumption that God does not talk to people. So where does this motivation come from? Either the believer truly believes that God actually said something to them, or they think God said something to them, or they are attempting to falsely project some kind of special supernatural ability.

A study of the Bible showed that there are roughly 250 instances of the phrase “the Lord said to…” some person. Interestingly however, only 2 times does that phrase occur in the New Testament; and both times it was related to the Apostle Paul – once to Ananias to go tell Paul about God’s task for him: But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9: 15-16 NIV); and once to Paul himself when He was being told about his primary task for God: "Then the Lord said to me, `Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' " (Acts 22:21). Additionally, the phrase “God said to…” appears 30 times throughout the Bible but none originally during the New Testament.

So what are we to make of this relative silence in the Bible of direct divine communication between God and man after Christ ascended back to heaven during the age of the New Testament? And how does this contrast to the regular suggestion of this type of communication during our lifetimes? The law of averages alone suggests that not all modern Christians who represent that they received direct communication from God is being disingenuous. Similarly, the law of averages as well as carnal human nature also suggests that many probably heard no such thing. I believe the answer lies in the working of the Holy Spirit of God – the oft forgotten or ignored aspect of God’s relationship with man.

To contrast with the overwhelming Old Testament occurrences of biblical references to God’s direct communication with men, the bible records virtually no Old Testament account of the Holy Spirit being the initiator of human communication. In fact there are only 3 direct references to the Holy Spirit before the life of Christ. There are however, 90 references to various works of the Holy Spirit throughout the New Testament. There are 5 direct references to people speaking based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives: When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! (Luke 1:41 NIV); His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:67-68 NIV); All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:4 NIV); Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people…" (Acts 4:8 NIV); After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31 NIV); Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right… (Acts 13:9-10 NIV).

It is not surprising that the communication between the Holy Spirit and man was mostly conveyed throughout the Book of Acts, as this was the historical account of when God started the “Church Age” which is still in effect up through today. I submit that all genuine accounts of people being given special revelation from God through the present time, is by way of The Holy Spirit. But that is rarely how such communication is presented by those affected. As stated at the top, it is common for people to state “God told me…”; very rarely do you hear people say (particularly among a crowd of non-believers) that “the Holy Spirit said to me or revealed to me…” Unfortunately, the ugly history of major sections of the church and their unwillingness to acknowledge the Holy Spirit has helped to build a stigma against such talk among believers. Believers many times don’t want to appear “crazy” to non-believers by talking about some “Holy Spirit”. And the devil would not have it any other way.

The scriptures says in the Book of Hebrews: But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says:” Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:6-8 NIV). Until the Holy Spirit becomes a more visible and audible part of the church culture and lexicon, this problem of getting an unbelieving world to take us seriously when well meaning Christians convey some special divine communication will never happen…and the influence of the Church will continue to be muted.


Sis. Lisa said...

This is excellent! Leaders that have conveniently left out teachings on the HOLY SPIRIT within the church will give an account before GOD. Just as all those who say, "thus sayeth the Lord" if He has not really spoken, will also give an account. God does speak to His people. He speaks through His written (logos) word which then becomes a (rhema) life word to us. He also speaks through the Holy Spirit, through prayer, circumstances and people. I also believe and have experienced twice in my life an "audible voice". I believe GOD is too big for us to try to define Him or how He chooses to do things. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts the Bible is clear on that. He can speak through a donkey or anything other means in which He decides. Therefore, I do not discount that GOD speaks and uses many forms in which to do so. However, I do believe that there is a "fascination" with some in the American church to say, "God told me..." or "thus sayeth the Lord" even when it may have been the Holy Spirit laying something upon their hearts. I believe that at the root of this fascination is pride. The desire to appear to have a level of importance in GOD that others seemingly don't have. Humility is what is needed in the American church today. Rather than boasting of what God has said, let's live what He has already said in His word. If we obey His word then we'll lead more people to Christ, bear more fruits, love more unconditionally and we will show others that we are truly disciples of Christ. Thank you.

Joshua Ritchie said...

I know of many people that throw around the phrase "God told me to..." God told me to tell you...God told me to do this. It's especially strange with what they are told is contrary to scripture.

Anonymous said...

I admire most of the post in this Blog. But I must disagree with the writer and the previous comments made.
If you belive in the Trinity, and I do; God The Father, God The Son and The Holy Spirit are One. So to say that God did not speak but The holy Spirit spoke to me does not make much sence. God did speak to varoius persons in the Old Testament and again a couple times in the New Testament (as you corectly stated)...but once The Bible was completed no more signs/vision/ utterances were forthcoming. God made this clear in Rev.22:18 Therefore the only place that God is speaking is "The written WORD OF THE BIBLE.

answer-man said...
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