Let us approach this from a different angle. Today’s charismatic has divorced the work of the Holy Spirit from the Word of God. They teach, essentially, that the Holy Spirit “talks” to them outside of and divorced from Scripture. Do not buy this “white lie.”
The Spirit And The Word
R. B. Kuiper’s words are not only biblical and wise, they are also pungent. R. B. would have been a perfect radio guest with this provocative section of writing:
It is of the essence of mysticism to separate the operation of the Holy Spirit from God’s objective Word, to hold that the Spirit often reveals God’s will without reference to the Bible, and thus by plain implication to deny that the Bible is God’s once-for-all, finished revelation of his will.
No student of Scripture will care to deny that before the Bible was completed God frequently revealed his will through such methods as visions, dreams, and the casting of lots. But to assert that God continues to do this after the completion of Holy Writ is to deny its sufficiency. That obviously is an extremely serious matter. And so we are not surprised to find the Westminster divines militating against it in the warning that nothing at any time is to be added to Scripture, not even “by new revelations of the Spirit.”
And yet, how very prevalent is the notion that the will of God may be learned through special guidance of the Spirit, apart from the Word!
To claim special revelations of God’s will by the Holy Spirit apart from Scripture sounds pious, but it is in reality wicked presumption, which lays him who makes the claim wide open to deception by Satan.
Why are so many people prone to believing in extra-biblical revelation? Though not exhaustive, I present four common reasons Christians fall prey to ongoing revelation. First, many folks are influenced by false teaching. Second, they are simply ignorant of what the Bible actually says about its sufficiency. They essentially mistake illumination for revelation. Third, they want something more than the Bible, and thereby demonstrate a certain level of discontentment with God for closing the canon. Fourth, people struggle with laziness. Let me expand on what I mean by laziness.
Learning new languages takes time, sweat, toil and effort. Think about all that time it would take to learn Greek and Hebrew grammar, lexical studies, syntax, and historical considerations. Too many Christians are tempted to say, “Nah, don’t need it because God speaks directly to me.” They take the easy way out. But what does divine revelation say regarding the study of the Bible?
Paul told his protégé, Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). He wants Timothy and every pastor and elder after him (and by implication, every Christian) properly to interpret and teach the Bible, but it takes work. Corners may not be cut. Paul tells his young apprentice, using a Greek aorist imperative, that he must not spare any effort in his study of the Bible. Proper Bible study is difficult yet rewarding. The word he uses means “do one’s best, spare no effort, work hard.”2 The ESV’s translation perfectly describes the requirement as “do your best.” The leading English-Language lexicon of the Greek New Testament defines it by saying, “to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious.”3 If this word meaning was not emphatic enough, the original language follows the word “do your best” with an infinitive to show the intensity of the command.4 Paul wants church leaders to faithfully exert themselves in the loftiest of endeavors. Paul would have you work hard as well. We begin to see why people could be tempted to listen for a word from the Lord.
Furthermore, Timothy must present himself approved to God. The use of the second, singular, reflexive, pronoun leaves Timothy no option but to personally give an account of himself to God.5 He must be the man to execute this imperative. “Shame on you” is not anyone’s favorite thing to hear. Shame from others is one thing, but here Paul states that disobedience (e.g., lazy Bible study) would beget shame from God Himself. As one commentator noted, the word for “ashamed” is in the passive voice, so “it does not merely mean ‘unashamed,’ but ‘not forced to be ashamed,’ namely by the fatal disapproval of God.”6 Human approval, gain, popularity, and money fade in the light of being shamed before and by God Himself. We also sense the weight of this command when we understand that the term “worker” points not to the skill needed to perform the task, but to the laboriousness involved in its execution. The effort is described as an “exhausting toil.”7
How much work does it entail to “hear sweet whispers from God?” Why are there no commands in the Bible designed to help the readers decipher personal words from the Lord? There are no commands because they are not needed since the canon of Scripture is now closed. God is no longer speaking outside of His revealed Word. If the charismatics were right, one would think that Timothy might be told, “Do your best to rightly divide the impressions, words from God, or still small voices.” After all, if God is speaking, you had better interpret Him rightly.8
What does this work imply? Timothy must accurately handle the word of God by interpreting it properly. It literally means “cutting straight.”9 The question is, what does “cutting straight” mean? This word is somewhat controversial, but “recent reference works and commentaries tend to agree that the cutting imagery is less important than the idea of correctness.”10 Bauer et al., elaborate: “It…plainly means ‘cut a path in a straight direction’ or ‘cut a road across country (that is forested or otherwise difficult to pass through) in a straight direction,’ so that the traveler may go directly to his destination.”11 The Word needs to be rightly divided. Impressions are simply impressions, not revelation from God. So, treat them for what they are—simply impressions, not divine revelation.
This positive command from the Apostle also warns against handling the Word wrongly. William Hendricksen wrote that the man who is obedient to Paul is “the man who handles the word of the truth properly [and] does not change, pervert, mutilate, or distort it, neither does he use it with a wrong purpose in mind.”12 Accuracy and truthfulness are the goal of the teacher. He is to be in stark opposition to Elymas the magician, of whom Scripture says,
But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:8–10)
The preacher must blaze a trail so others might follow it. You are on that path now. Just like the pastor or teacher, you must understand the Bible correctly and that means you must first properly understand and interpret the Bible. Unlike understanding impressions, Bible study takes lots of work. Do not opt for the lazy route. Some say, “We must study the Scriptures to see if our impressions match up with the Word.” Why? If the impressions agree with the Bible, you do not need the impressions because you have the Bible.
Paul stresses the importance of the clear and true teaching charge when he describes Scripture as “the word of truth.” Knight explains it by saying, “The sense of the phrase here is probably best conveyed in the rendering ‘message of the truth.’ To handle the word correctly is to handle it in accord with its intention and to communicate properly its meaning.”13 Who needs all this work when the Lord whispers to us privately and personally?
Missionary Jonathan Goforth (a great name for a missionary) epitomizes a person who is committed to study the revealed Word of God. He stated, “My deepest regret, on reaching threescore years and ten, is that I have not devoted more time to the study of the Bible. Still in less than nineteen years I have gone through the New Testament in Chinese fifty-five times.”14 King David similarly wrote, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
Cessationists and charismatics both struggle with laziness, but avoid it at all costs in the realm of Bible study.
©Mike Abendroth. All Rights Reserved.
1. 1 R.B. Kuiper, “Pitfalls in Finding God’s Will for Your Life,” accessed from
2. Barclay M. Newman, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (United Bible Societies), s.v., “σπουδάζω.”
3. BDAG, s.v., “σπουδάζω.”
4. George Knight weighs in saying, “This imperative intensifies the command expressed by the infinitive clause that it governs, “σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ,” Pastoral Epistles, 411.
5. Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 411.
6. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937, 1946), 798.
7. D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Timothy (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1958), 67–68.
8. What is missing in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim, 2 Tim and Titus)? Conspicuous by its absence is any direction for understanding new revelation. Paul knew the canon was closing and, therefore, did not need to give his protégé pointers on discerning true from false revelation.
9. Thayer’s Lexicon, s.v. “ὀρθοτομέω.”
10. alter L. Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, The NIV Application Commentary, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 258.
11. BDAG, s.v., “ὀρθοτομέω”
12. Hendricksen, I-II Timothy and Titus, 263.
13. Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 412.
14. Accessed from http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/msrevival.html
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