Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Hearing God

Short Thoughts on “Rhema” Words From God

Recently I visited a Pentecostal church and once again I heard the old teaching that “logos” is the written Word of God but “rhema” is the “revelation to the heart from God.” In other words, “logos” is the Bible and “rhema” is a personal revelation from God the Holy Spirit.

A few thoughts are in order.  First, the Greek usage of “logos” and “rhema” here is horrible.  Not one Greek scholar (barring perhaps someone from the Word-Faith camp) would try to build this case.  Every Greek lexicon and Greek word study book I own doesn’t offer this distinguish between the Greek words “logos” and “rhema.”

Secondly, while this Pentecostal teacher would not admit to this, the teaching undermines the authority of the Bible.  When “logos” is reduced to “the written Word” but “rhema” is a fresh revelation from God, how does this not undermine the authority of the Bible?  Instead of opening up the Bible and hearing directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the believer instead believes they have to pray and wait on the Spirit to give them a fresh, divine revelation from heaven.  So what happens is simple: people want to hear from God so they don’t open the Bible to hear from God since they are taught that while the “logos” is good, “rhema” is better.  This undermines the authority of the Bible and makes the revelation from God via direct communication through so-called “rhema” words more important.  I know that most Pentecostals would reject such a view but they don’t see that their teaching is not helping people hear from God (which they can by simply reading the Bible) but is undermining the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).

In reality, a good Greek study tool will easily clarify the issues related to “logos” and “rhema” and one need only go to a study site online.  It would only take a few minutes to see the error of trying to make “logos” as the “written Word” and “rhema” as “a personal word from God.”  This is misleading and false.

Finally, I repeat here again that if you want to hear from God you need only to read your Bible.  That is it.  I don’t need a personal vision, revelation from God.  I have His Word and His Word is inerrant and infallible and true.  I point again to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is breathed out by God (ESV) and makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (v.17 ESV).  Peter the Apostle pointed not to his personal experience but the Word of God in 2 Peter 1:16-21.  The Word of God is our sure foundation.

To hear from God is easy and only takes seconds.  Take your Bible.  Open it.  Read it.  You’ve now heard from God.  Congratulations.

How To Hear God

We want to hear from God.  We want to hear God speak and know it is His voice.  Can we hear God speak?  The answer is yes!  Here are simple steps to hearing God:

1.  Get a Bible.

2.  Read the Bible.

3.  If you did that, you heard from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Congratulations!

Being Careful With Our Words

People often use the phrase, “God spoke to me and said.”  Sometimes (and few times) people actually mean that they believe God did speak to them.  Yet most of the time people simply mean that they got an impression.  I heard one guy call it a “holy hunch.”  Yet this would not be the same as direct revelation from God.  Most people, I think, are well-meaning when they say that God spoke to them yet their use of God speaking to them makes it seem like they actually heard from God and not from themselves.

In reality, the Bible is where we hear from God.  Certainly God speaks to us through life, through pain, through joy, through circumstances, through creation, etc. but this flows from the biblical data and not outside of the Bible.  The Bible is where God speaks!  Scripture is clear that God speaks to us in His Word.  The Word claims to be speaking for God so that when Scripture speaks, God speaks.  Jesus Himself held that the Bible (the Old Testament at His time) was in fact the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).  Jesus upheld the absolute authority of the Bible (Matthew 5:17-20).  Jesus even said that the Bible cannot be broken (John 10:35).  When Jesus was asked theological questions, He appealed to Scripture (see Matthew 19:1-9; 22:23-33).  Even as Jesus died on the cross, He was aware of the fulfillment of Scripture (see John 19:28-30).  After His resurrection, Jesus taught His disciples about Himself and His suffering and resurrection from the Scriptures (Luke 24:26-27, 44-47).

So if we claim to follow Christ, we should have the same view of the Bible as Jesus held.  Jesus believed in the authority of the Bible, the sufficiency of the Bible, the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and He quoted the Bible when combating theological errors and even Satan himself.

Hebrews 1:1-3 is clear:

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. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Notice that the writer of Hebrews points to Jesus as God’s final word.  The last days are not now.  They have been since Jesus began to reign from heaven until the end (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  Jesus was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14, 18).  Jesus fully reveled God because He is God (John 1:1; Colossians 1:15-20).  When Jesus spoke, He was God speaking to humans as a human.  Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

Jesus promised His Apostles in John 16:12-15 that the Holy Spirit would help them to record all that He said.  Notice what Jesus says:

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Some take verse 13 and try to apply this to modern disciples but the context is clear that Jesus was speaking to His Apostles.  It would be the Apostles (or their close associates) who would write the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).  Peter would later write in 2 Peter 1:20-21 this:

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter the Apostle placed the authority of the Scriptures over even his own experiences (2 Peter 1:16-19).

This is powerful for us in our day when people use the phrase, “God spoke to me and said…”  I don’t doubt that God speaks to us and I hear Him speak always and faithfully in His Word.  2 Timothy 3:17 even says:

That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Bible makes us complete!  The Bible make us equipped for every good work!  This is why I stress that we should build into our lives and in the lives of our children the authority of the Bible (Matthew 7:24-27).  I want my boys to look at everything through the lenses of the Word of God.  When my boys are faced with naturalistic evolution (or other issues), I want them to look at it through the lenses of the Word of God.  When it comes to evangelism, I want to evangelize based on the authority of the Word of God.  When it comes to money or my marriage or my job, I want to honor God by studying and applying the Word of God.  The Word of God is my foundation so that when I am reading and studying my Bible, I am hearing from God!  I don’t need an impression to know that God is speaking to me.  I don’t need a vision.  I don’t need a dream.  I don’t need a prophet.  The Bible is sufficient, faithful, inerrant, infallible, and makes me complete, equipped for every good work.

So a better way would be not to say that God spoke to us but to quote the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  “The Bible says” is God speaking.  If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to hear God speak out loud, read the Bible out loud.  God’s Word is final. God’s Word is faithful because it comes from Him who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2).

In conclusion, I hold that our wording is the problem.  Most people I know who say, “God spoke to me and said” would say that it was an impression, a hunch.  They would not place their “hearing God” with the authority of the Bible nor on the same level as the Apostles hearing from the Spirit.  Yet this subtle “hearing from God” can undermine the authority of the Bible if we are not careful.  I recommend we modify our language.  I no longer say at all, “God spoke to me” apart from quoting the Bible.  When I want to express hearing from the Lord, I use the Bible.  The Bible is faithful to speak for God.  I hold firmly the principle of sola scriptura or “Scripture alone.”  Dr. Jack Cottrell writes about sola scriptura:

Sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is an adequate source of truth and moral knowledge, but it means more.  It means that Scripture alone is the authoritative source of such truth and knowledge.  Because of its unique nature as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, Scripture is the sole norm, the ultimate and final authority for faith and life. (Solid: The Authority of God’s Word, pp. 82-83).

May we go now and read our Bible and hear from God simply as we read.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/20/2015 at 10:30 AM

Why I Think “Hearing God” Can Be Dangerous

I know many people believe they can hear from God.  I once worked with a lady who would constantly talk to God.  She said that He spoke back to her and even helped her to count out her money at the end of the day.  She also believed that she could speak to Satan and they too would have fights and arguments especially when her register came up short and she knew that a demon had taken her money.

We laugh at that type of stuff but I would say that most people I know who follow Christ do believe that He can directly speak to them.  Almost all of them would not claim to have heard an audible voice but they believe God leads us by our inner being, in our spirits.  God speaks to them by inner promptings and through their feelings.  For instance, they pray about something and they feel God is speaking to them to do this or that.  They don’t hear His voice but they just know that they know that God is leading them in this or that direction.  Nearly all of them would claim that the Bible is the final authority and we should not go against God’s Word but I would also add that far too many of them don’t spend much time in His Word to really know whether this inner voice they are hearing is God or Satan or perhaps neither.

The issues I have with hearing God speak is that it is just so subjective.  Whether dreams or visions or voices or even other people, hearing the voice of God is muddled through all the ways that we claim He speaks to us.  I know that nearly all true disciples would never equate these visions or dreams or voices or inner promptings with the authority of Scripture but I do believe that it does undermine the authority of Scripture.  I believe that Scripture is sufficient.  I believe that the Word of God is completely full of authority and is completely inerrant.  I believe that to hear the voice of God speak we need only to open the Word of God up and we can hear His voice loud and clear.  All through the Scriptures we read that when Scripture speaks, God speaks (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-5 or Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34 and many more.  We even have OT examples of God saying and then NT Scripture saying later on such as in Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:8).  Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and as 2 Timothy 3:17 tells us, we are complete with the Word.

And this will save us much trouble if we hold that God speaks mainly through Scripture.  No doubt creation does reveal much about God (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20) but the Bible reveals God faithfully to us and we see the fuller picture of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).  The Bible reveals the Lord Jesus (John 20:31).  This is the purpose of Scripture.  The purpose of Scripture is not to reveal the will of God nor to reveal how He created the world but to reveal the Lord Jesus.  From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is all about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet the Bible is true when it speaks of history or science or even what the will of God is.

To be honest, I hear people saying they are seeing God for His will but they are not faithful to walk in what He has already revealed in His Word.  I even heard one brother say (and he believes in hearing the voice of God outside of Scripture), “Why do you think God will speak to you apart from His Word if you are not abiding in His Word?”  This is true!  We don’t spend much time in the Word seeking to know the will of God and what He has revealed about His will in the first place.  We look to this person or to that vision but we never bother opening up the Word and walking in what the Lord has already revealed. The Word is inerrant and infallible and we need to abide by this truth and we can know the will of God and walk in it.

Lastly, I believe a danger lies in seeking to hear the voice of God apart from Scripture because then we begin to doubt the infallibility of the Bible.  What happens is that the experience is often exalted above the Scriptures.  Richard Watson wrote,

The opinion, that sufficient notices of the will and purposes of God with respect to man, may be collected by rational induction from his works and government, attributes too much to the power of human reason and the circumstances under which, in that case, it must necessarily commence its exercise.

Human reason must be taken, as it is in fact, a weak and erring faculty, and as subject to have its operations suspended or disturbed by the influence of vicious principles and attachment to earthly things; neither of which can be denied, however differently they may he accounted for.

Our human reasoning is weak and sinful.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Our flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7).  Romans 3:10-18 paints a picture of human beings that is grossly sinful.  How can we begin to trust our flesh to find the will of God?  How can we begin to trust our dreams to know the will of God?  This is why we must heed Scripture.  We must read the Word.  Hide the Word.  Abide in the Word.  Memorize the Word.  Preach the Word.  Pray the Word.  Study the Word.  Apply the Word.  Meditate upon the Word.  The voice of God is not far from any of us if we merely take time to read the Word of God and hear His voice.  Our hearts are not sufficient to hear the voice of God.  Our spirits are not sufficient to hear the voice of God.  We, however, can hear the voice of God fully and faithfully in the Bible.  It is the Word of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/10/2013 at 12:21 PM

The Plea To Teach People To Study the Bible Themselves

The duty of the Bible teacher should be to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16) and to hear from God themselves through His Word (John 10:27).  The Bible is the voice of God.  When Scripture speaks, God is speaking (Hebrews 12:25).  The Bible is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Bible is the only weapon God has given us to fight with (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).  Jesus fought off the temptations of Satan with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11) as He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy in response to Satan.  None can be saved apart from the preaching of the Word of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21; cf. Romans 10:13-17).

So the Bible is of uttermost importance to the Church.  Yet why do we fail to teach the Bible?  We perhaps reference the Bible in our teaching or we perhaps use the Bible as a springboard and then we fill our talks with illustrations that lack the power of God unto salvation.  The Bible teacher should delight themselves in the Word of God to the point that the Word flows from our lips like honey (Psalm 19:10).  Our passion should be to not only communicate the Word of God so that people hear the Word and understand it (Nehemiah 8:8).  We should also desire to teach people how to hear from God for themselves when they are alone studying His Word.  We should not be so foolish as to make people dependent upon us to hear from God.  They need to hear from God themselves and thus why it is vital that the people of God learn to study and apply the Scriptures themselves.

How often have people heard a speaker but they failed to hear from God.  How often have we have speakers in the church assembly who failed to teach the Scriptures, failed to show the people of God how to hear from heaven and how to apply the Word of God to our lives.  How often have we Bible teachers failed to be what our title suggests, a faithful Bible teacher.  The heart of the Bible teacher is to instruct people in the Word and when we are done, people should have heard from God in His Word and they should be learning how to study the Bible.

How can this happen?  I believe the primary means is expository teaching.  Verse by verse teaching is vital to hearing the full counsel of God and for learning how to study the Bible.  Expository teaching is largely not found in the Church, I believe, because it requires the Bible teacher to actually study the Bible.  Anyone can open up a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and teach a topical talk on various subjects.  Anyone can buy a book and learn from the book about a subject and then find a few Bible passages to back up your points.  Expository teaching requires you to study the Bible verse by verse, theme by theme, subject by subject, precept upon precept, line upon line.  It is hard work but a delight to the disciple who loves the Bible and loves to hear from Jesus.  It requires hours of prayer, hours of diligently working through the text (sometimes many, many times), studying the original languages, and seeking to apply the text to your own life before asking the saints of God to apply it to their lives.  Expository teaching uses an essentially literal Bible translation mainly out of a love for the original texts and a desire to give people the true Word of God as opposed to a dynamic equivalent translation that only gives people the translator’s opinions about the text and not always just the text (see Ephesians 3:18-19 for example in the ESV and the NIV and notice how the NIV seeks to tell us what verse 18 is implying but does not say as the ESV correctly translates).  How often have I heard topical teachers using sometimes 5 different Bible translations in a talk all because the wording of the translation fit their point (see Rick Warren’s talks for a classic case of this).

When the Bible teacher is done teaching, the people of God should have heard from God through His Word and should learn more about the Word of God from your talk.  Is that the case?  When we are done teaching we should have helped the saints learn a little more about how to study and apply the Bible to their lives.  Expository teaching is the most effective for this because it shows the saints how the Scriptures fit together, how to study the Scriptures verse by verse, and how to apply what we read to our lives.  If we truly believe that the Bible is the God breathed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) then let us be faithful to teach the Word and apply the Word to our lives and the lives of the saints as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/18/2012 at 10:22 AM

Experience is Not Sufficient For Truth

Years ago I had a friend who attended a revival meeting.  While at this meeting, he had strange encounters with, he said, the Holy Spirit.  When I asked him to show me biblically where his experiences could be found, my friend said that he didn’t know of any but that he knew he had encountered God.  He went on to defend various (and almost any) manifestations in the name of Christ so long as the experience drew the person closer to God.  His reasoning was, “While not found in the Bible, it does not go against the Bible nor do I believe Satan will lead people to have experiences that draw them closer to the Lord.”

How often since have I heard of others who claim the same line of reasoning.  The Holy Spirit is abused as He is said to lead people through all kinds of manifestations all while leading them closer to Jesus.  One young lady I knew went on a missions trip to Africa and returned preaching “holy vomit” as she said that when the Spirit of God sanctifies you, He will lead you to throw up as an outward sign of an inward work such as in Acts 2:4 with speaking in tongues.  She asked me to participate in her holy vomit but I declined.  When I challenged her to prove her doctrines by the Scriptures, she refused saying that she didn’t need to since the experience glorifies Christ and draws the seeker closer to Jesus in the process.  How could that be wrong?

Beloved, experience is not sufficient for the truth.  Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified by the truth and He then told us how: by the Word of God which is the truth (John 17:17).  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scriptures are God-breathed.  They are the revealed truth of God.  We don’t need an experience nor a prophet nor a priest to draw us closer to Jesus.  We have His revealed Word and this is the truth of God.  Psalm 19:7-11 beautifully describes the Word of God and verse 7 says that the Law of the Lord is perfect.  This is the perfect Law that we have in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation, this is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  We need no other.

I will admit that I am a partial cessationist.  I believe that God no longer speaks as He did to the Old Testament prophets nor as He spoke to the Apostles.  With the exception of cults, most Christians would agree.  Even those who believe that God still speaks through personal prophecy or sign gifts hold that God no longer is speaking on the same level as Scripture nor will these “words” from God go against what He has already faithfully revealed in the Bible.  Most Pentecostals I know will quote 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 in regard to the question of whether sign gifts are for today but will also embrace 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and they believe that testing involves using the Bible which is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  Whatever visions, dreams, voices, prophecies, etc. a person may receive, true Christians hold that this must be tested by the Word of God and if the experience runs contrary to the Word of God, it must be abandoned as unbiblical.

I do believe we must test all things by the Bible.  How often would people save their souls if they would but cling to the Word of God and not the teachings of men.  All teachings, all things must be tested by the Word of God.  The problem is that so few spend time reading the Word of God that they don’t know what the Bible says.  They hear angels, see spirits, hear voices, feel led, etc. but they don’t test this by the Word of God but instead they buy into their experiences above Scripture.

The real danger is that experience does not carry us through.  Experience only carries us so far and then we must have another experience to keep us going.  Not so with the true disciple of Jesus who abides in His teachings in His Word (John 8:31-32).  Jesus said that His sheep will hear His voice and they will follow Him alone (John 10:27-29).  I hear His voice each time I open His Word.  The Bible is the voice of God.  The Bible faithfully speaks for God today.  Not a church.  Not a person.  Not an angel.  The Bible gives us the revelation of God that we need for salvation (1 John 5:1).  The Bible faithfully speaks the truth of God.  We need to only take the time to read the Word of God to know His truths.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/06/2012 at 6:17 PM

%d bloggers like this: