Category Archives: revelation

Two Levels of Revelation

by Scott

Continuationists believe God is still speaking today, not only through His overall leading and direction via Scripture and other such means, but even through actual direct and revelatory words. These revelations can come in various manners – prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, visions, dreams, etc. – but God is still communicating and speaking directly today. He never desired anything less.

But what gets easily leveled against continuationists, from a more cessationist camp, is the idea that such revelation would no longer be needed knowing we now have the completed revelation of God in Jesus Christ, which is, of course, summarised in the full canon of Scripture that now includes the New Testament. This revelation in Christ is the final word and no other such revelation is needed. And we now have the testimony of a full biblical canon to confirm this.

Well, to be honest, I believe partial agreement should exist here for those on both the continuationist and cessationist side. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Voice of the Father

by Scott

There truly is nothing like hearing the voice of the Father. He still speaks, you know. His actual voice.

From the beginning in Genesis 1, God set the precedent for His desire to communicate:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

And it continues right through the whole of Scripture, capped off with our Lord Jesus saying in the final verses of Revelation – Yes, I am coming soon. (Hmmm. Soon. Ok, this article is not about eschatology….)

Really and truly, the pattern is set that our God is a communicative God via speaking, via His great acts, through providential guiding, through His people, through the written word of Scripture, and so on.

And we know the great voice of God ultimately came through The Word, Jesus.

The Word sets the example – only doing that which the Father is doing (John 5:19) and only speaking that which the Father is speaking (John 8:28).

He is not so bothered with setting up excellent programmes and super-duper campaigns and blow-your-mind slogans. He hears the voice of the Father, he sees the acts of the Father, and that is what compels him into action.

And it is this voice, the voice of the Father that I desire, for we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Father. I suppose starvation from the words of the Father would make us worse off than starvation from bread. The psalmist said, ‘Your love is better than life’ (Ps 63:3), and I gather the same is true of the Father’s voice.

It is powerful, gentle, strengthening, true, tender, gracious, kind, loving, caring, faithful, and so much more. It cuts through confusion and fear and bitterness and exhaustion and a whole host of other things that hold us down.

I’m stirred.

I love this poetic expression of the voice of the Lord found in Psalm 29:

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Pretty powerful stuff – breaking strong cedars, making a nation leap like a calf, shaking deserts, twisting oaks (or some versions translate that last one as ‘makes the deer give birth’).

The voice of the Father is no patty-cake, patty-cake game. It is powerful, even in its whisper.

And so I’ve recently been re-drawn in to that reality that we cannot simply live on bread – as individuals, as churches. We must live on the words, every word, that proceeds from the mouth of God.

He meant it that way long ago. He means it that way today. He will mean also mean it for the age to come.

The Day I Stopped Speaking to My Wife

by Scott

I remember the early days of our relationship. In the 9 months between meeting and marrying, my wife and I were only in the same city a mere 40 days or so. We were divided most of the time by an ocean, but thankfully had great support in both the US and UK. Therefore, in those many days apart (even when we were both in the UK), we spent much time emailing and texting by phone. I’m talking about emailing and texting a whole lot! It was all-consuming as we looked to stay in touch day after day after day.

As our relationship heightened, we began calling each other, though we also maintained the little love notes via text as well. Our mobile phones were the major place of communication. I remember one month my UK mobile phone bill was around 85 GBP, which was some 50 GBP more than the normal monthly bill. I was shocked, but it was truly worth it in my eyes.

We also moved into the realm of love-letter writing. So, yes, I am a bit of a sensitive romantic. After moving back to the US, being even further apart from my beloved, this became an integral part of staying in contact, expressing our heart’s desire for one another. And, of course, both of us saved each and every one of those emotion-stirring, affectionate letters. They were not just words. They were an expression and revealing of the love we had for one another. And being so far apart, you can imagine their role in articulating our deep affections.

It was extremely difficult following our engagement in the US. After staying for a full 7 weeks, my beloved had to return to the UK to prepare for our wedding and finalising details before moving to the US. It was a painful 9 weeks apart. But, again, I am thankful for the frequent phone calls and almost weekly letters.

But, of course, once we were married, we were able to be together forever. We were no longer divided by the space of an ocean, thousands of miles apart. We were now joined together as husband and wife.

And, for all these years, even through difficulties and struggles and misunderstandings and arguments, we remained true to one another. From multiple moves across oceans, to the bearing of our children, to learning how to lead a church forward in a completely different culture than we were used to, we stayed faithful to the love we held one for the other. Through all this time, we came to know one another’s likes and dislikes, dreams and passions, and even what we shared in common (like sushi!).

In the years of our growing relationship, we would even pull out old emails and love letters, to read over them, and be inspired by the love that began years ago. Of course, this is common to many a couples. But from your own perspective you’re not thinking about all those others. Their love compares in no way to your own. This is part of your journey of the expression of the covenant love you have for one another.

And how about the conversations, the deep exchanges over cups of coffee, over romantic dinners, over date-nights out, over holiday time away. Sharing of those desires and dreams I pointed to earlier. Even learning how to work through arguments and disagreements and deep wounds. The poured-out prayers to our Father for all sorts of things also knit our hearts together.

Yet, there was the day – the day I decided it was best that I stopped speaking to my wife.

Now wait a minute, don’t get mad at me just yet. It’s actually all ok.

You see, the day I made such a decision, I sat down with my wife and presented her with a gift. A rather amazing gift, I might add. It was a collage of all the love letters, emails and texts I had sent to her over our years of love, all bound into a beautiful anthology. I was even able to remember the details of quite a few of our conversations. And so I also included those within the volume.

As I handed her this hand-crafted book, I explained that it contained all my love in word form. Therefore, because she now had this extensive record, I no longer needed to express my love through the vehicle of words. We had reached a place where such expressions were no longer needed. And if she ever found herself questioning my love, questioning what I thought about her, well, she could head to the text. There she would find the unveiling of my true love, all in the words we had shared for years past.

Ok, I’m sure you have easily caught on that I speak in parable here.

This never happened. Well, most of it did. But not the part about deciding to no longer speak to my wife. And I would never, ever desire to do such. Such would actually become counter-productive to the covenant relationship in which we have been joined together.

Now, I could actually put together such a record of the emails, love letters and conversations we have held in years past. That would be quite a gift! It could even be revisited over and over again as an inspiring reminder of our love for one another. But it would never actually replace the reality of sharing real conversation. If I ever suggested such, well, my wife might not be too pleased. And that is quite an understatement.

Yet, I believe this can and does happen with God’s people. For many, it is somehow easy to accept that God no longer speaks because we now have the bound anthology of the canon of Scripture. Or, if He does speak, it is only within the context of the words of previous centuries.

But I believe such betrays the very nature of our God, a nature that is relational at its core, with communication being the very essence of God’s relational nature.

Please don’t misread this statement here, but we are not ultimately people of the book. We are ultimately relational beings, sons and daughters of our Father. We are ultimately people of the Spirit, the Spirit who has been sent to continue to communicate and speak on behalf of the Father and Son.

Again, please don’t misunderstand anything here. I am not so much addressing the God-breathed and authoritative nature of Scripture. I am not here to say that there is no great investment within the communicative-speaking nature of our God as shown in the revelation of the Bible. Matter of fact, just as my wife actually does find an expression of the unveiling of my love in keeping emails, letters and conversations within a safe-keep box (and I’ve kept quite a few things from her), we find even more in God’s revelatory expression of Himself in Scripture.

But my wife would never bestow upon all of that written communication as the sole source of our relationship. It is para-revelatory, if you will. It goes hand in hand with the actual relationship we share on a daily basis. Actually, it might even become subsequent to the real love we share through being together and sharing deep, intimate conversation together.

So, you see the parable breaks down somewhat, as I am not relegating God’s revelation in Scripture as a side-project. But each parable has a major point, and that chief point I am looking to bring across is that our revelation and understanding of our Father must be seen in cultivating a real relationship together. And that real relationship consists of both actual speaking and listening one to the other.

It’s not even about investing our understanding His voice mainly in the biblical words given in the past. It is, but to solely invest such into the Bible is, again, to betray a God who has been speaking and revealing and unveiling Himself from the beginning (which includes well before our beginning). And I suppose He desires to continue such into the rest of future-eternity.

Imagine those who recording what is now in the Bible. They could not fathom a God who stopped revealing Himself. Imagine ourselves in the age to come. As we hear the voice of the Father, we would fill with confusion as to why we would thought the pause button had been hit at some point in our history.

Again, for something so core, so essential, to the nature of our God, one cannot fathom the ceasing of such.

I will never, ever stop speaking and unveiling my heart to my beloved, my wife. And I believe the same stands true for the One who has always spoke, is speaking, and will remain speaking for the age to come.

He Has Spoken Through His Son

by Marv

The coming of the Son of God in the flesh is the turning point in redemptive history, that is in the outworking of God’s plan for rescuing His fallen world.  It marks a decisive divide between all that came before and all that God does from that crucial point onward.

Jesus indicated His own place in redemptive history in the parable of the tenants.  In this parable, God is likened to the owner of a vineyard who sends a series of bondservants to collect his due,  only to have them rebuffed, abused, even killed by the uncooperative tenants.  The next step is an escalation in the status of the messenger: “Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Matt. 21:37).  The voice of the son, we understand, bears a superiority not just in degree, but in kind.

The magnificent opening of the epistle to the Hebrews encapsulates this same truth, and then goes on for thirteen chapters to develop this theme of Christ as superior to everything in previous phases of God’s plan, to urge against retrograde motion on the part of his readers.  He begins:

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. (Heb. 1:1-2)

Continuationism is the understanding that according to the Scriptures, and Jesus Himself, during this era between Pentecost and the Parousia, God has established in the Church a vital and dynamic interconnection with Christ and the Father through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, through which Christ continues to glorify the Father, build His Church, and advance His kingdom.

To express this understanding in the imagery of the parable of the tenants, after the son is killed, when the vineyard owner comes to “let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons,” (v. 4) the son is in fact restored to life.   He then continues actively to run the operations of the vineyard for his father, though off site.  As he is delegated the management by his father, he in turn delegates the on-site operation to the new tenants.  In this arrangement he remains in two-way communication with the tenants and supplies the resources necessary to the success of the operation.

Some others would modify this scenario by removing the idea of “two-way communication.”  The son, in this case, commits to written form everything he wishes to say or will ever wish to say to the tenants.  Thus he leaves them an operation manual, and determines that while he expects communication from the tenants to him, he will not communicate directly back to them, since the manual already contains everything he wishes them to know.

The former of these conceptions, according to proponents of the latter, is inaccurate in that it is incompatible with Hebrews 1:2, cited above.  The idea of ongoing two-way communication with God—that is that God to man communication (still) occurs by means other than the Bible—is denied, these assert, by the statement that now God “has spoken to us by his Son” (v. 2).  God’s speaking through prophets, inferior delegates, the “servants” of the parable, is relegated to “long ago.”

The use of Heb. 1:1-2 in support of Cessationism does have a noble pedigree.  It appears with the Westminster Confession of Faith as “proof text” number six, underlying what is generally taken to be a clause expressing cessation of ongoing revelation: “those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.” (WCF I.1)

However, there are two distinct propositions involved, taken to be stated or implied by Heb. 1:1-2:

1.  God, having delegated His Son to speak for Him, no longer employs the lower-level messengers He previously had sent.

2.  God having delegated His Son to speak for Him, the Son no longer is speaking.

Proposition 1 is non-objectionable, since it represents the author’s explicit point, and he goes on to elaborate on this point in the rest of the epistle.

It is far less clear, however, that the author intends Proposition 2 as part of his meaning, as a Cessationist application would suggest.  Also, if the author of Hebrews is saying that the Son has said all He has to say, when exactly are we to understand that the Son in fact ceased speaking?

What can we determine from the text?  First, the verb translated “has spoken,” elalēsen, “is aorist, in the past from the point of view of the writer.  The specific time frame is further specified: “in these last days.”

The author then contrasts two types of events, the ministry of the prophets in the more distant past, and the ministry of Christ in the recent past.  Can we legitimately infer from the author’s statement affirming Christ spoke in the past, a denial that He is therefore not speaking in the present and will not speak in the future?  Not on the basis of any valid understanding of either Greek grammar or logic.

At any rate, when exactly does the author mean to tell us that God’s revelation ceases?

If in fact we go by the tense of elalēsen, the past, we are left with the paradox, or rather the antinomy of an inspired writer, stating in his present that revelation had previously ceased in the past.  The very verse containing this word, not to mention the thirteen chapters yet to come contradicts the notion that God’s special revelation had already ceased at that point.

The author would have to mean some other time than that strictly indicated by the tense of the verb, if indeed he intends us to understand that communication through the Son comes to a point of completion and then ceases.  When would that be, exactly?

The ascension, the ending point of Christ’s bodily presence on earth?  Hardly, the entirety of the New Testament was written after this.

Besides, the author himself states in 2:4 that after Christ’s ascension God continued to testify through human messengers other than Christ: “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

Is it then the completion of the Canon?  It may or may not be factual to state that with the close of the Canon, the Son no longer speaks to us, and the Father no longer speaks through any other means.  But how is such an understanding to be drawn from the words of Hebrews 1:1-2, which was written, perhaps decades before the last NT book was written?

What do the author’s statements about the Son tell us about the work of the Holy Spirit?  Jesus’ own teaching predicts a future in which the Spirit’s work will include acts of speaking:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8)“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)

We find here, in fact, that the speaking ministry of the Spirit is a continuation of God speaking through the Son.  The Father delegates to the Son and the Son to the Spirit.

He delegates, not only to the Spirit, but to His Church. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

So if the speaking of the Spirit is a continuation of the speaking of the Son, how long do we expect the Son to continue to speak through the Spirit?  Do we take Jesus’ words in John 16 then to be referring to the New Testament and nothing else?

If so, He said this to all eleven, but only commissioned three to write scripture:  Matthew, John, and Peter.  Did he exclude eight of those present and include others not present such as Paul, Luke, and James?

At any rate, the Son did in fact speak through the Holy Spirit in ways other than the writing of the New Testament:

“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.” (Acts 16:6-7)

This is still, however, during the period of the open Canon. Of course, the Spirit continues to speak during this time.  Where are we ever told God will ever speak through the Spirit once the Scriptures, God’s sufficient written Word has been completed?

In Mark’s account of the Olivet discourse, Jesus gives instructions regarding what His disciples may expect in the days prior to His return, when the gospel is being proclaimed to all nations:

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.  And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13: 9-11)

Hebrews 1:1-2 in fact says nothing about the Son ceasing to speak.  The New Testament knows nothing of a time when once the Son has become incarnate, He ceases actively to glorify the Father to the world, to be God’s ongoing self-revelation.  What we can see are three distinct phases of His revelation activity (presented out of order).

The first.  His first advent, when He reveals the Father in His sinless life, He proclaims the gospel of the Kingdom, and dies sacrificially and rises again.

The third.  His glorious second appearing, when faith becomes sight we will know as we are known.

The second.  In between these times His Body, the Church, continues what in the first phase Jesus “began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)

Yes, “in these last days, [God] has spoken to us by his Son.”  Just so, in these days too, God speaks through His Son, who speaks through the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the Church, the Body of Christ.

Real Life Example of Hearing God

by Scott

I think it is continually important to give actual, real life, down to earth examples of what it is like to hear the voice of God and even to prophecy. Most people need this to help bring these things ‘out of the clouds’ and into real life on planet earth. I’ve posted a few examples in the past of such instances in my own life and in the lives of others (here, here and here). And I wanted to post another example.

This comes from Richard Foster’s book entitled Freedom of Simplicity. I have recently been posting a few quotes and short excerpts from the book, food for thought, if you will. But here is an example of Foster sharing a time when he heard the voice of Lord direct him in a particular situation.

Allow me to share with you a very small experience, but one that may help you to see what I mean. This occurred at an especially busy time in my year. I was preparing for a weekend trip that involved speaking at three different churches. The financial arrangement was for each church to take up a little offering on my behalf when I had finished speaking. As I was meditating on what God desired of me for that weekend, I had the strong impression that I was not to take any money at all from these churches. For some time I struggled over this directive, for we were counting on the money to meet several obligations. The struggle further revealed an inward greed that I thought had been exorcised long ago. Finally, I felt clear that this was what I had to do if I was to be obedient. I shared this with my wife, for I felt we had to be in unity on the matter. She released the money much more easily than I, noting that perhaps there would be some people in the meetings who needed to know that ministers of Christ were not always after their pocketbooks.

I told the pastors of the first two churches that any offering should be given to the poor or disposed of in whatever way they saw fit. Although surprised at my unorthodox request, they were congenial to the idea. But I arrived at the third church just as the service began, and so had no opportunity to explain my concern. I was relieved, however, when they did not take up an offering for me, and assumed that the matter was settled.

It was late when I finally arrived at the home where I was to stay the night. As I walked in the door my host handed me a check of an amount that was, for me, considerable. It was from the church. I protested, but they mistook my concern for modesty and insisted with such vigor that I let the matter drop.

I wish I could express to you the experience I went through that night. There was the check lying on the nightstand, mine to take. I did not want to cause offense or seem ungrateful, after all, the money had been given for me. Maybe this last church should be considered an experience separate from the others. But what about the earlier directive – it had seemed quite clear. Back and forth I went. Finally, I had about decided that I really should take the money rather than cause any trouble, but I determined to review my decision once more in the morning when I was rested. I invited God to teach me while I slept if he desired.

When I opened my eyes the next morning it was unmistakably clear to me that I could not – must not – take the money. A period of meditation only intensified the conviction. With considerable trepidation I explained to my hosts as best I could why I was not able to accept the gracious gift. The moment I finished there rushed into me an unspeakable joy. Though outwardly I tried to remain calm, I was being filled with an overwhelming sense of the glory of God. Once alone in the car I shouted and sang and blessed God. I did not have to be controlled by money! I could live in obedience! It was wonderful, jubilant ecstasy, and although the profuse exuberance lasted for perhaps twenty minutes, the sense of deep warm joy flowed over me all day long. (I was pleased to learn later that the church decided to give the money for refugee work in Cambodia.)

I don’t want to give too much commentary to the story above, as I think it speaks volumes itself. But suffice it to say, I believe this is a beautiful account of hearing God and responding in obedience. And, even more, here is a great example of Foster weighing what he believed was a directive from God, and weighing it with his covenant partner, his wife. This is always a very healthy perspective as we learn to discern the voice of God. I’ve shared about this before, our spouse being one of five major gifts we have been given to help us discern the voice of the Lord.

I hope this is another example that helps make hearing God’s voice more and more real.