Monday, August 11, 2014

Spoken Word of God

Last week, I outlined ways to know if the words you're taking in are from God or not.  I focused on the written word - the Bible and other texts that proclaim the gospel of salvation through Divine Intervention. This week I will focus on the spoken word.

There are three main sources of the spoken word of God:
  • Pastors, preachers, prophets, teachers, conference speakers - all one group
  • Spiritual family, counselors, mentors, teachers, wise advisors - all one group
  • God Himself
To be very honest, many of us only ever listen to people in category two, spiritual family.  This is a very natural place to start, but a dangerous place to end.  My sweet, faithful, strong in the Word grandmother is sometimes just too close to me or too insistent on her personal styles to be the only one I listen to.  Your mentor is a human being. No matter how much she loves God, is filled with the Holy Spirit, she is still human with her biases and places of hurt and confusion.  To only listen and take advice from your spiritual family is to shut out the revelation God is giving to the rest of the world.

God is bigger than our imagination and wondrously multifaceted. God is not limited to the perspectives of people we know.

The next problem we have, especially in the United States, is our aversion to pastors and church people.  And I promise you, despite my current attachment to the church, I have struggled with this before as well. 2 Chronicles 20:20 says, "Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." Also in Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, he says, "God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased...and God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers..." (12:18 and 28).  He goes on to list several other spiritual gifts in hierarchical order.  Apostles can be defined as "those who are sent" (based on the translation of the Greek word) to speak God's word or to do God's work. I don't have them listed above simply because apostles tend to be doers - church planters, missionaries, healers - where the speakers are more referred to as prophets.

Some in church culture refer to prophets as anyone who speaks on behalf of God, or gives a message from God. This encompasses pastors, preachers, teachers (of the Word, not necessarily academics), and conference speakers (conferences centered around God's word and growing in faith). I like this scripture reference: "When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. This is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord" (Numbers 12:8).  That's big. We see that prophets get visions and dreams that have meaning for our lives as followers of God. We also see that a person who is faithful to God might see God "face to face" and might hear things from God "clearly." Any human is fallible. Moses had his issues. But God continues revealing Himself to certain people "face to face." He continues speaking to certain people clearly and He does so even today (because He never changes - Hebrews 13:8).

The practical application is this: When someone says, "The Lord spoke to me and said..."
  1. Look for that trend in scripture.  You probably won't find the exact words, but you can find the concept. Remember to balance the Old Testament with the new. If a self-proclaimed prophet says, "God wants us to stone all adulterers," yes you will find that precedent in the Old Testament, but you will find a very different precedent set by Jesus in the New Testament. Chances are very great that person didn't hear from God. 
  2. See if what they claim God told them proves true. "You will know them by their fruit," or by what they do (Matthew 7:16). The catch is always timing.  God exists outside of time and historically gives people glimpses into the very distant future. Very rarely does God give a message with a timestamp on it.  The nice thing about this is it's easy to test out.  "Prophet" So-and-So says this will happen before the end of the year. You don't have to wait very long to see if they were true or false.  
  3. Do NOT try to decide whether they are really speaking God's word based on their mistakes or past failures.  Moses killed a guy and then disobeyed God and was left out of the Promised Land. That didn't stop God from using him to write the Torah. Paul used to murder Christians, that didn't stop God from using him to write all those letters to the churches. God is in the business of saving people and using them for His glory. Salvation is a process and God uses people while He's still saving them. Sometimes people make huge mistakes after God has spoken through them. This does not invalidate the message.

When taking in God's spoken word, we must temper our faith in God's hierarchy with wisdom of God's written word. "Study to show yourself approved" (2 Timothy 2:15). Listen with a discerning ear and react in love and submission.

I will write more on submission and hearing from God Himself* next week.

*I struggled to put Himself rather than Herself or Him/Herself. God does not have gender. That's a different argument for a different day. But know, that I believe firmly and whole-heartedly that God fully encompasses both genders. 

No comments:

Post a Comment