Tim Johnson, editor
October 12, 2008
To Whom Has God Spoken?
The Muslims claim that an angel spoke to Mohammed. The Mormons claim that an angel spoke to Joseph Smith. Both groups claim that these men are prophets of God. Evangelical and Pentecostal preachers will often claim that God speaks to them directly or lays His will on their hearts. Seventh Day Adventists believe that God revealed His will concerning keeping the Sabbath and other matters to Ellen G. White. We could cite many more examples, but you get the point. There are all sorts of people in the religious world who claim that God has spoken to them directly, and that therefore we are supposed to listen to what they have to say.
Did God really speak to all these people? Surely not, "For God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). If God has spoken to all of these people, He has spoken many confusing and contradictory things. Who can believe it?
But if God hasn't spoken to all of these people, has He spoken to any of them? Isn't one person's claim that God has spoken to him as good as the next person's claim? On what basis could a Mormon assert that God spoke to Joseph Smith but could not have spoken to Mohammed? If there is no real difference between their claims, how can we reasonably believe one and not the other? And furthermore, if we decide that we cannot believe their claims, how can we accept the claims of Jesus and the apostles?
Well, first of all, the claims of Jesus and the apostles that God was speaking through them were confirmed by God Himself. Every miracle they performed put God's stamp of approval on what they were saying. In Acts 2:22, Peter said, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know." Hebrews 2:2-4 asks, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3-4).
Notice in these passages that God is said to have "attested" and born "witness" to the message of Jesus and the apostles by the miracles that He did through them. These miracles were known and undeniable even by the enemies of Christ (Acts 2:22; 4:16). What undeniable, universally accepted miracle has been done by anyone claiming to have received modern day revelations from God?
Second, the words that Jesus and the apostles spoke preclude any later revelations. If we accept that Jesus and the apostles spoke for God, we must also then accept that God would not speak something else through someone else later on. The apostle Paul wrote, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8). Jude 3 commands us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." God has delivered (revealed) the faith once and for all. What need could there be for future revelations, especially when those who claim to have them contradict one another and do not work the miracles that would exhibit God's approval of their words?
When God gave us the Bible, His intent was that we would be captivated as the greatest story that has ever been told is unfolded before us. In fact, there is a single word that appears at monumental moments. It's the word "behold." This word is meant to work like a stop sign. It basically means, "Stop. Look at this and marvel!!" Consider a few impressive moments when we see it.
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call his name 'Immanuel'" (Matthew 1:23). Childbirth itself is a marvel. Just ask any mom and dad. However, this was the marvel of all marvels. A virgin gives birth to the Son of God. Jesus, the Word, became flesh and lived among us. He left a world of splendor and praise to be cramped for nine months in the confines of a womb. He would soon emerge into a world that would despise Him and would not leave Him alone until He was in a tomb. Here was a baby born to die. Yet, in that birth and in that death, our salvation is made possible. Behold!
"Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). I would have had a hard time living in Old Testament times. Offering those lambs would have been difficult for me. I'd be like the man Nathan told King David about in Second Samuel 12. I'd probably take my lamb and let it grow up with me and my children, letting my cup down for it to drink and allowing it to sleep next to me. I can't fathom sinning and then having to go and get that lamb, place my hands on it and kill it. But this is no ordinary lamb. This is Jesus, the Lamb provided by God to take away all our sins. Behold!
"He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay&ldots;Behold I have told you" (Matthew 28:6-7). With expert precision, the Roman soldiers executed Jesus like any other man. He was dead when He was taken from Calvary's hill. They made sure of it. All of that changed on the first day of the week. With an earthquake, angels rolled away that stone and Jesus came forth from the grave gaining victory over Hades and death. The marvel of His resurrection transformed eleven scared men into the boldest men that have ever lived. They beheld a risen Lord and went to their graves never recanting their story. Behold!
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God" (I John 3:1). Isn't it a marvel that, if we are Christians, the God of the Universe calls me and you His sons and daughters? What love! Behold!
"Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him" (Revelation 1:6). One day while the world slumbers in spiritual laziness, the archangel's voice will sound, the trumpet will blast, all our heads will turn heavenward and, behold, there He will be with the angels of heaven on the clouds. Now isn't that going to be a sight? Do you ever gaze into the clouds and imagine it? Will you be ready?
See what I mean? The next time you run across the word, stop and behold!
-- Jeff May
Via The Exhorter, Oakland church of Christ