For more in the Basic Training series, click here.
God said to me…/I heard God say…
Listen for God’s voice…
God spoke to me in a dream…
God gave me a vision of…
We hear things like this non-stop these days in pop-evangelicalism. And it’s not just in the whack job Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation movements, or in Charismatic churches, either. These words are coming out of the mouths of regular, every day Baptists and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. It’s largely due to the infiltration of Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine into our churches via a) “Bible studies” from false teachers like Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst and others and b) individual church members who feed on a steady diet of “Christian” television such as TBN, CBN, Daystar, and GodTV. Christians are getting the false idea that they need to hear, or should be hearing, God speak to them instead of trusting in the sufficiency of God’s word.
The theological term for “God spoke to me/showed me in a dream/etc.” is extra-biblical revelation– words or revelations, supposedly directly from God, that happen outside the pages of the Bible. I’d like to share with you six reasons God’s word is sufficient, and extra-biblcal revelation is both unbiblical and unnecessary.
1. Extra-biblical revelation is not the method God has established for communicating with us.
Maybe you and I would prefer it if God would just talk to us and tell us, one on one, in no uncertain terms, what He wants us to do. But that’s not the way that God prefers to communicate with New Testament Christians this side of a closed canon. God chooses to communicate with us through His written word. He says:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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. Hebrews 1:1-2
Let’s bear in mind, it is God Himself who breathed out these words. These verses are God speaking to us, and He says Scripture is enough to make us complete and mature, and to equip us for everything He has for us to do.
When we insist on “hearing God speak” outside of Scripture, we’re essentially saying, “God, I reject Your way and demand you do things my way instead.” Remember, God set up this whole Christianity thing, and He gets to make the rules, not us.
2. What makes you so sure it’s God who’s speaking to you?
Just because you have a feeling, an urge, or an intense experience doesn’t mean that was God speaking to you. Maybe it was Satan. Maybe it was your own wicked heart. Maybe it was a temptation to sin. Maybe it was just an old memory resurfacing. How can you know, objectively (not based on your feelings, the intensity of the experience, etc.), beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was actually God speaking to you? And if you can’t know for sure it was God, why would you put your trust in whatever “He said” to you?
As Christians, we can irrefutably know God is speaking to us when we read His word because we know He is the author of Scripture.
3. Extra-biblical revelation is redundant and unnecessary.
Even those (most of them, anyway) who believe God still talks to people will tell you that God will never say something to you that contradicts His written Word. So why not just bypass the whole “God spoke to me” thing and go straight to the Bible? Or as Puritan John Owen put it:
As God Himself has told us in His written Word, the Bible is sufficient instruction for every situation in our lives. We don’t need God to speak to us verbally. He has already spoken. Why aren’t we satisfied with that?
4. Insisting on extra-biblical revelation demonstrates a lack of trust in God and His ways.
James 1:5 says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
And where do we get wisdom to handle the situations and decisions of life? Not from a voice from Heaven saying “do this” or “do that,” but from Scripture:
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Psalm 119:169
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Psalm 19:7
and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15
We don’t need God to tell us what decision to make, we want Him to, because that’s easier than doing the hard work of digging into Scripture, studying the biblical principles that apply to our situation, making the best and most godly decision we can, and trusting God for the outcome. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
When we honor and trust God by looking to His written word for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, He has promised to give us wisdom to make godly decisions and make our paths straight.
5. What about being led by the Holy Spirit?
For some reason people often draw a distinction between being “led” by the Holy Spirit and studying the Scriptures He breathed out, as though they’re two different things. Studying, believing, and obeying the words the Holy Spirit inspired is being led by the Spirit.
6. Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity.
Why do some people “hear” from God and others don’t? The reason implied by the Christian leaders (or even your fellow church members) – who make sure you know they’ve personally heard from God – is that people God speaks to are, spiritually, a cut above. Special. More faithful. More favored by God than you are. It’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. It keeps you buying their books, attending their conferences, following them on social media, hoping against hope that one day you’ll become one of the spiritual elite.
But how does the idea that others are “hearing God speak” affect a Christian who isn’t hearing from God? She starts thinking maybe God isn’t pleased with her. Maybe she’s sinning against God in some way. Maybe she’s not being faithful enough, praying enough, giving enough. Maybe God doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s not even saved. It turns her into a second class citizen of God’s Kingdom and causes her to covet something she doesn’t have and God never promised her.
None of this is biblical. There are no first tier and second tier Christians. A lot of the people God actually spoke to in Scripture were hardly paragons of spiritual awesomeness: Balaam, Saul, and Moses, just to name a few. And God measures “spiritual awesomeness” not in strutting your closeness to Him before others, but in humility, servanthood, and crucifying self.
Ladies, God’s written Word is sufficient for our every need. We can trust that the words of Scripture are directly from the lips of God Himself. No one can say that with any certainty about extra-biblical revelation. Trust God to direct your paths and give you biblical wisdom to make godly decisions as you grow in the knowledge and understanding of His word.
That’s Enough! The Sufficiency of Scripture at A Word Fitly Spoken
Isn’t the Gospel enough? (The Sufficiency of Scripture) at A Word Fitly Spoken
How Does the Holy Spirit Lead Us? at A Word Fitly Spoken
Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life
Where is it written that God doesn’t speak audibly any more? at Naomi’s Table
Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt
How God Speaks To Us Today by Tim Challies
32 thoughts on “Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient”
So in clicking on the closed canon link I read that God inspired the decisions of what books would be in the New Testament. I am not being argumentative, I’m just so very confused on this issue. I’ve been listening/reading some of the women listed for quite some time and that has become ingrained in my thinking and I’m trying to get past it. Back to my question….how is the “inspired” decision given to New Testament decision makers different from God speaking into people’s hearts? In order to inspire them, how did he communicate? Am I making sense?
Hi Shawna- Great questions. Here are some resources I think will help:
LikeLiked by 1 person
Another “thank you!” I just love God’s Truth splashed all over your pieces!
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
Thanks, Michelle. Thanks for condensing all of this.
Hey Michelle, at this point in time it says there are 7 comments (on this particular article), but I only see 5, nor do I see my comment (so it is possible that it is there, and that you responded, but I can’t see them)…..so I am wondering if my comment was posted, and if you responded. If yes, I cannot see them. If not, why not? Thank you : )
Hi MB- I’m showing 9 comments on this article. WordPress counts pingbacks and re-blogs as “comments” so that may account for the discrepancy.
I recently adjusted my comment moderation policy. Here it is in case you missed it when it was posted. Also, please refer to the updated comment parameters in the Welcome tab at the top of this page.
Ok, thank you. Yet this still leaves me with a question or two. I made a comment right after this article came out. I do not see a response. So, did you not receive my comment? Or did you receive my comment but are choosing not to post it, and/or comment? If so, can I ask why? Also, it seems you might be pointing me to the comment parameters…as if I failed to meet them. If so, I guess I am not sure how or where I fell short, and I would love to know how I did. This is not an attempt to be snarky, and if you see any snarkiness in any of my comments then I would more than welcome you pointing out how specifically I am doing so. thank you
No snarkiness detected :0) I received the comment but chose not to post it based on its length and the time it would have taken me to respond to it.
Ok, could you at least explain how the sufficiency of Scripture (as you correctly wrote about in a very good article) conflicts with, or harmonizes with, the studying of, dependency on, and teaching/applying the ideology of Freud, Adler, etc?
I will be glad to consider that as a topic for a future article, but as I’ve stated in the comment parameters of the Welcome tab, “I will not be responding to (and often, not publishing) blog comments which require more than five minutes of my time to answer. While I love hearing from readers, it is simply taking too much time away from my family to engage in long, in depth, or teaching conversations in the comments section of my articles.”
That sounds good. Also, for that potential article, or for a less-than-5-minute response now: have you discussed this real or potential conflict (theology/psychology and sufficiency + man’s wisdom) with your fellow lady discerners (Amy, Marsha …)? And what has been gleaned from that?
No, that’s not really a topic that comes up.
Did I miss something? Where is the psychology harmonizing or conflicting with Scripture mentioned? Or is it just a topic recommendation?
It isn’t mentioned in the article. It’s an interest of MB’s.
Yes, and I would sincerely hope it would be a supreme interest for all of us, as with any ideology that is accepted in the church and taught and believed by Believers. There is no other ideology that more embraced in the church than psychology, so if anything deserves more scrutiny and discernment it would be this (Acts 17:11).
MB- It sounds like this is an issue you care deeply about. Have you ever thought about starting your own blog and writing about it? It’s very easy, and that way you could make sure this topic gets the attention you feel it deserves. Just a thought :0)
MB there is an organization called Christian Nouthetic Counseling that may interest you to research. They have a website. While I do not agree with 100% of their viewpoint on things, they may address the subjects you are interested in discussing.
Thanks Robin, and Michelle; I am very familiar with “NANC” (now “ACBC”), and similar groups (e.g. IABC). My bigger interest and concern, though, is more about God’s Word, the sufficiency of Scripture, discernment, the deception going on in and outside of the Church, etc. The sufficiency of Scripture is one of the most crucial beliefs for Believers, and has always been a major “point of contention,” and even dividing line between “Biblical Counselors” and “Christian Counselors” (Believers who attempt to “integrate” psychology/man’s wisdom with Scripture … yet very few who do this also openly state they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture). That is why this is so bewildering and concerning to me, particulary when a person who excels in discernment, and also writes an excellent article on the sufficiency of Scripture, but then fails to address, or see, the MAJOR conflict and problem of the sufficiency of Scripture AND using, relying on, teaching, etc the ideas of ardent anti-Christians, and applying these notions to the hearts of Believers and non-believers. There must be a rationale there, but I just don’t get what it is, or could be. I’ve known many wonderful Christians who practice psychology and also admit that, “Yeah, I guess it is not sufficient.” I just don’t get the underpinnings of how a person believes both: that the Bible is totally sufficient, AND we need psychology as well. But perhaps the most puzzling part is that this is coming from someone who, rightly, highly values discernment, and does a wonderful job at it as well.
Again, MB, if you don’t think I’m addressing this issue sufficiently, correctly, or with enough urgency, you are welcome to start your own blog and write about it to your heart’s content. Respectfully, I’d like to ask you to remember that this is my blog, and I write about the things I feel are most important at the moment. You could do the same with your own blog.
Now, I think this conversation has fulfilled its purpose. Let’s move on.
I’m sorry Michelle, I’m not trying to “hijack” your blog, I am just very concerned and puzzled. I believe we both share a hunger for truth, God’s Word, and discernment, …that is why this puzzles me so much. Thanks for your time
It is a fairly straightforward inquiry, the use of psychological theories in the context of the Bible being sufficient makes sense because __________?
It’s not as simple as that, IMHO. What psychological theories are you referring to? It cannot be painted with a broad brush putting all the content of the field together like that since it, like all other academic subjects, is a very detailed subject. God gifted people in various fields and, for that, I am thankful. We cannot overlook common Grace that has given us many medical advances as well as advances in many subjects. The original comments by MB were vague as to what specifically she is referring to. However, with all due respect to Michelle, I think she wants to move on from this topic at this time. I would probably participate in a discussion if the topic is ever brought up by Michelle. Maybe if there is a specific book or study that the original comment is referring to, that would be more along the lines for Michelle to review the author’s viewpoint.
It would be helpful to me if you can site the specific false teachings of the women you have named. I appreciate your insights!
Hi Carolyn- Click the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page for more info. Also, when you see words in red in my articles (such as the names of the false teachers you’ve asked about), that indicates a hyperlink. Click on the red word(s) with your mouse, and a new screen with additional information will pop up :0)
I just wanted to say that I love point six because I have often felt like I wasn’t as spiritual as some of the other ladies in a parachurch organization that I participate in because some of the women talk so frequently using the “God told me. . . ” language. It’s taken me a long time to realize that what I wasn’t the one who was Biblically inaccurate.
THANK YOU! For #6…Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity. I found my way to this site due to this exact issue! A friend shared a link on FB to some guy who regularly has dreams and “hears” from God…I thought, “Why him and not ME?!” My heart was breaking and I was SO sad!! Yet deep down, I knew something was off; it didn’t sit right. You, my friend, are a balm to a bruised heart, using the Word as a healing salve. Reminding me to let go of the emotional kick in the gut the devil aims at me and keep my eyes on HIM. ❤
Gaylin, I’m so glad to hear about the work God is doing in your heart through His Word, and it is an honor to have served my King, and you, in this small way. Blessings to you!