3 Reason’s Not To Expect New Revelations From God

There are some exciting reports coming to us from out of the Muslim world about thousands of people coming to faith in Christ because of visions, words of wisdom, prophesies or dreams. Can this be true and if it is what do we make of it? What about scripture? Doesn’t God reveal himself through scripture and doesn’t Paul tell Timothy that scripture is all we need? “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 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. 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 3:14-16

I think it’s important to understand that God can do anything he wants, at any time, and in any way he chooses. He can speak directly to any person that he chooses to and in fact many have bona fide experiences in which God communicated something to them that the circumstances actually bore out. This includes many in the Muslim world where it seems clear that Jesus is drawing his elect to himself in some spectacular ways. At the same time, I believe that it’s of no small importance to recognize that it’s also been consistently reported that the individuals are instructed to seek out a bible, someone who can explain the scripture to them, or both.

From the word of God it seems straightforward that scripture is complete and all we need as it points us to faith in Christ. But I have a deep concern, and that is the view that teaches that individuals can get a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge, by which they mean they have a special revelation that either adds to the word of God, is equal to the word of God or may even trump the word of God. In other words, ‘new’ revelations that are meant to enhance our spiritual experiences saying that prophecies, words of wisdom or words of knowledge carry the same weight as Scripture, sometimes even going so far as to use the recent events in the Muslim world as proof.

Here’s the thing though that is vital to know when studying scripture…

…God can do anything he wants, but we can’t teach anything we want.

What we teach ought to be what the Bible itself teaches us to expect. And the Bible does not teach that we can each expect to receive ‘new’ revelations from God. It’s just not in there and any teaching or belief contrary to that knowledge should be avoided for three main reasons.

1) We’ve been warned about false teachings

“For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” – Matthew 24:24

Here we have a clear warning that many false prophets will come and try to add to God’s revelation. That being the case the church should carefully guard against that danger. So since there is such a strong warning against false prophets, we should both not expect ‘new’ revelations as well as resist any alleged ‘new’ revelations.

Charles Spurgeon said it well:
“I have heard many fanatical persons say the Holy Spirit revealed this and that to them. Now that is very generally revealed nonsense. The Holy Ghost does not reveal anything fresh now. He brings old things to our remembrance. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have told you.” – John 14:26
The canon of revelation is closed; there is no more to be added. God does not give a fresh revelation, but he rivets the old one. When it has been forgotten, and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, he fetches it out and cleans the picture, but does not paint a new one. There are no new doctrines, but the old ones are often revived. It is not, I say, by any new revelation that the Spirit comforts. He does so by telling us old things over again; he brings a fresh lamp to manifest the treasures hidden in Scripture; he unlocks the strong chests in which the truth had long lain, and he points to secret chambers filled with untold riches; but he coins no more, for enough is done.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. I (1855), p. 38)

2) We’re in the silent period

In the OT we see that the ending of scripture for that time were with the writings of Malachi who prophesied that the next major event in the covenantal history of God’s people would be the coming of John the Baptist preparing the way for the messiah – Jesus.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 3:1

We see that prophesy being fulfilled in Luke and Mark. However, in between that time there was what is commonly referred to as the ‘silent period’. Don’t get me wrong, history was still happening at a very quick pace. During this time the Greeks were out conquering the land, there was a revolt in Israel that established a Jewish dynasty for 100 years, and then of course the Romans decided to show up on the world stage to do their dance and pony show.

So clearly, the silent period wasn’t describing a period where nothing was happening, and where everyone was whispering quietly, tip-toeing around, and being as quiet as they could be in the hopes they wouldn’t wake up another evil empire. Obviously, a lot was going on. It was referring to the fact that God didn’t speak through the prophets as he had earlier. The reason was that the OT scripture had been completed.

There was also a completion of the NT canon as well. In the book of Revelation, it says that no other scripture is to be added after this, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

The fact is that we’re like the people in Malachi’s day in that we are now in our own silent period,

this one being between the closing of the NT revelation and the next major event in the life of God’s people, the second coming of Jesus. There is no other information required; and we are in the time reflecting the time of looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises made.

3) Jesus is the final word

The writer of Hebrews says this about the subject. “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

The tense and the context of these verses are saying that just as the prophets were the final word in the OT, Jesus is the final word in the NT.

The canon of Scripture is closed. And considering what we are told at the end of Revelation we discover that we should not, nor need to, add anything to the words of Jesus.

We already have all we need for faith and holy living.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak any more. He still speaks through prophecies, dreams, visions, angels, and in a number of ways that the bible still speaks about, as we have been hearing about in the Muslim world, just not as in an apostolic, inspired, canon revelation way.

Of course, we can’t despise prophecy as we are cautioned about in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Do not despise prophecies.” but then on the other hand we are to test everything as Paul continues into verse 21, “but test everything; hold fast what is good.”  – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. John shows his agreement with Paul as he says, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

Scripture gives us the standard for testing, otherwise it’s open season to agree on anything and everything. “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” – Ephesians 4:11-14

It’s through the scriptures that we may be equipped and taught and it’s through the word of God that we have a standard that can be used to hold things up to careful scrutiny and testing. As such we have no need to receive more words than has already been given, thus no need for any ‘new’ revelation.

Is Marriage Just An Old Fashioned Idea that Has Run It’s Course?

Our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. We live in a world that says we should get what we want any way we can get it. In fact, marriage today is often mocked as an archaic institution that has lost its relevance.

It is important to realize that marriage is not a man-made concept, rather its a God made institution, and as such is relevant today for all people. God created Adam in his own image, giving him everything he needed to be content. And yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” – Genesis 2:18. So God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The first marriage occurred when God created a woman to complement the needs of the man so that, when joined in covenant, they become one flesh. The idea of “one flesh” implies an unbreakable seal meant to last a lifetime.

The truth is that this covenant relationship brings with it certain privileges that are unique to the marital relationship itself. Even coming from out of the secular academia it doesn’t take long to discover what they are discovering about marriage. Research suggests that the conventional wisdom that married people live longer and are healthier than singles may be true. In fact studies have shown that married people, especially us guys, are less likely to die early and are less likely to die from a heart attack. Yes, us guys are pretty wimpy without our wives.

Other studies have even shown that there’s much less risk-taking and substance abuse when couples marry – even less than if they just move in together. [1] It’s because marriage brings two people into an intimate relationship who add moral, spiritual, social and emotional support and companionship together into what could otherwise be a lonely and unhappy life. Being unhappy and alone could lead to depression and a neglecting of one’s health. Of course this doesn’t mean single or divorced people automatically are depressed or neglect their health, and in fact can be very happy and balanced in their lives. But it is interesting what these studies are beginning to show and so shouldn’t be dismissed readily.

The benefits[2] continue in a marriage. Marriage can bring faithfulness, companionship, communication, spiritual unity, and a freedom of sexual intimacy, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. God designed sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage.

As Christians I think its important to revisit the privileges and benefits of marriage. I began this blog by saying that our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. The sad truth is that the loss of understanding isn’t only happening in the secular culture, it is beginning to be lost in the Christian culture too.

For example, 20-30 years ago it would have been uncommon to hear of unmarried Christian couples living together before marriage or even travelling alone together on vacations. But today it isn’t only common but is at a place where those who speak against it are viewed as old fashioned prudes. But are there any biblical reasons why we need to rethink these ‘freedoms’?

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Should Christians Live Together Before Marriage

I have had a conversation or two over the years regarding the question of (Christian) couples living together (or not) before marriage. I’m not speaking here about living together as room mates – rather I’m talking about living together as a ‘couple’.

The argument has been made that marriage as we know it today is simply an outdated public declaration of a commitment already made before God to love the other member in the relationship so why the need to ‘publicise’ it through a ceremony? A challenge often made is to show where in the bible it says that living outside of marriage is actually living in sin. To be clear, the Bible makes no statement to definitively answer that challenge. Perhaps the reason is that the arrangement of unmarried people living as husband and wife was relatively rare within the Israelite culture of the first century.

Even still, while the Bible seems silent on this issue, we can still glean the principle that any sexuality outside the marriage of one man & one woman is quite clearly sin by looking at the totality of God’s word. Several passages from God’s word declare God’s prohibition of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7).

Since the only form of lawful sexuality is the marriage of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5), then it goes without saying that anything outside of marriage, whether it is premarital sex, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or anything else, is unlawful, in other words, sin. And living together even as a ‘committed couple’ before marriage definitely falls into the category of fornication – sexual sin.

Hebrews gives us  the honourable state of marriage: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4

This verse draws a clear distinction between that which is pure and honourable – marriage – and that which is sexually immoral, which would be anything outside of marriage. Since living together outside of marriage falls into this category, it is definitely sin.

Should Christians Travel Together Before Marriage

In the New Testament we read a very telling passage, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” – Romans 13:23. So what is Paul saying here? If you think this is speaking only about a doughnut, then you’re not reading it in its context. The principle here is that if there is any doubt whatsoever whether an activity is right – in our case travelling together as a married couple though unmarried, or even as a couple who may be attracted to each other thus putting themselves in a position of temptation – it should be avoided.

My dad used to say ‘if in doubt – don’t’. Unfortunately it seems that more and more Christians aren’t considering the doubts or for that matter haven’t even thought about the fact that there should be some doubts. Instead they are finding it easier to buy into the non-Christian philosophy of individual freedom trumping moral obligations and so haven’t considered the ‘don’ts’ and instead just go ahead and do the ‘do’s’. However, just suppose for a moment that there might be a doubt or two… if that is true even a little, should that not morally obligate us to at least consider what those doubts are?

For Christians, an unmarried couple who engage in ‘pre-marital’ vacations is a scenario that must be weighed carefully. If it includes travel to a location where they will be alone as couple, then some heart searching questions must be honestly asked: What message is being sent to others? What temptations are being presented? What said or unsaid messages are being passed between the couple themselves? What expectations may be understood or misunderstood between the couple? Are there certain privileges being shared in any way that should be reserved for marriage, even if they are none sexual in nature?

Am I just being an old fashioned prude? I don’t think so because of what Ephesians tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” – Ephesians 5:3 (NIV).

Ultimately, anything that even “hints” of sexual immorality is inappropriate for someone who claims to be one of God’s holy people. The question then becomes what may be that ‘hint’ in your life or mine? If there is even a hint then we should heed the instruction of Paul, “And flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22

The goal of a christian marriage is to help the other grow more and more into the image of Christ – the greatest benefit of all. The question needs to be asked then, whether you’re pre-married or have been married for 75 years… Are my actions and decisions getting in the way or are they aiding in making that happen in their life?

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[1] Christopher Fagundes, PhD, psychologist and researcher at The Ohio State University (http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/relationships-marriage-and-health)

[2] (for more complete information regarding the benefits of marriage check out my friend Dr. Dave Currie’s web site @ http://www.doingfamilyright.com/)

Transgenderism – Identity Crisis Or Identity Lie?

Who would have suspected, even as short as 15-20 years ago, that the clear separation of the sexes would be questioned. Today, however it is not only questioned but the idea of transgenderism (or transsexualism) is being championed by many as a new normal.

If you haven’t seen on the news or heard about Bruce Jenner, now identifying as Caitlyn Jenner, then you must have been living on the moon.  Interestingly enough, the now Caitlyn (formally Bruce) was reported to be having second thoughts about  the transition from male to female according to author Ian Halperin. He says that the former Olympic decathlete may de-transition in the next few years and come out as Bruce once again. Apparently Caitlyn is still attracted to women and his transition has created problems for the former Olympian to meet the right woman to settle down with.

To be fair, I don’t know if Halperin’s claim is accurate or not, however the facts are that if someone is confused of their gender before hand, who’s to say they wouldn’t be confused after they transition? In many cases the identity crisis they are experiencing doesn’t come as a result of wrong gender, rather it comes as a result of not knowing who they are as an individual in their very being.

BTW… to be clear, I’m not addressing the world of a hermaphrodite, that is a whole other issue, rather I’m speaking to the issue of one clear gender self identifying that they are now, or wish to become, another gender.

I admit that the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism or describes anyone as having transgender feelings, however the Word does say plenty about sexuality. First off, we’re told that God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

That may be what a disciple of Jesus believes but that doesn’t stop the argument coming today from the mainstream media that those who disagree with and/or speak out against transgenderism are nothing short of hate criminals at the very worst, or uneducated bigots in the very least. After all, how can you not feel for someone who is ‘trapped’ in a gender that does not match their ‘true’ gender?

So am I bigot or a criminal because of my convictions? Personally, I feel for Caitlyn and for the thousands of others who are struggling with their gender identity. The question I think begs to be asked is just how do we respond to those struggling in this area? For that matter how do we respond to those who are in our families or places of work or friendship circles who may feel they are no longer struggling and seem to be quite happy following their transition?

If gender matters to God then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. And then to listen carefully with those whom God may place in your life who are transitioning or have transitioned as you build an authentic relationship with these very real people. It’s only then that we are in a good position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18.

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

We must lovingly point people to Jesus Christ because it is only through Christ where we discover that our identity is not in our gender, our colour, our jobs, or our societal roles, but rather it is found in being chosen by God for an amazing purpose.

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“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

When we become a disciple of Jesus Christ we are now forever owned by him and no longer a part of the world, or for that matter ourselves. We’re set apart and now exist for God to make us into his holy people, to share his holy character – which is now our identity. These new identities mean that we now have an active role in the presence of this amazing, holy God. Our life is now about priestly service and so never out of the God’s presence as his royal priesthood, no longer in the neutral zone of life but always in the temple courts. This means then that if we act in an unholy way we are acting out of character and working against our true identities. We are either finding our identities in Christ or we are out of character if we’re not.

We were created to discover our identity through a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ but when we try to find it elsewhere, whether that be in other things, other people, or in what I do or who I am, well then, it never measures up. That’s because all these other measurements are temporary. I may get a face lift but eventually age catches up with me, I may change my gender but I am still the same person deep inside. We simply can’t find eternal satisfaction through the temporary.

Yet people still keep trying, believing the lie from Satan that we don’t need God. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against the church, and he uses his tactic of deceit effectively to separate people from their heavenly Father and the truth. He tries to convince people that God is not the answer and that our identities are found in any other place rather than in Christ. He is passing on the same identity lie he began in Eden. The lie that we find our identities apart from God. And he continues to do so because his success depends on people believing his lies because quite frankly, the more the world hears these lies the more they believe it and Satan knows this. Adolph Hitler, a man who learned how to lie effectively, once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

But the damage caused by listening to Satan’s lies and by trying to discover our identities without Jesus can be seen in the pain and suffering evident in people’s lives. Just look no farther than the billboards on our streets or the ads on TV. Women driven to fulfill the western world’s ideal of beauty – the dream woman, sometimes to the point of eating disorders that destroy not just the body but also the soul. Women and men, caught up in a never ending cycle of disappointment and heartache day after day because they just don’t measure up to the world’s idea of beauty or satisfaction or identity. It is only when a man & woman, put their hope in God, will they become a deeply settled & strong person who knows who they are.

Out of all the things in this life I don’t know, here’s what I do know. We’re all “trapped” in bodies that we need deliverance from. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:24. That’s why Jesus came: to deliver not just Caitlyn Jenner but also people like you and me from the hold of sin and failing disordered bodies, in order that we may be given glorious, powerful, confusion-free resurrection bodies.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.