It's theology Tuesday, and I'm in part 5 of a series of questions on Bibliology for my open-book NANC Counseling exams. These have not been reviewed yet and are my first take on the subjects. Comments are appreciated and welcome!
Question: Many Christians today speak of continuing revelation. Relate this concept to inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture. Relate this concept to the issue of miracles, prophecy, and tongues.
Continuing revelation is the idea that God will continue to speak to us today, revealing new information. It must be made clear, however, that the Word of God is sufficient for us to know about God and follow Him, growing to look more like Him. John 16:12-15 says that the Spirit will guide us into all truth while glorifying Jesus. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh (I John 1), then the Spirit will use this Word to give us the mentioned truth - and all of it. II John 9 says that we are to obey the teachings of Christ, which are found in the Word.
The Word of God is unique compared to other revelation because it was inspired by God - meaning the very words and ideas written were given through the Spirit by God Himself. I Timothy 3:16 tells us that all of the scriptures that we have in the Bible were breathed out by God and are useful for us today. God used the Holy Spirit to bring to mind all that Jesus had said while on earth, (John 14:26) and Paul wrote in Acts that it is the word of God that will build us up (Acts 20:32).
That being said, other revelations are spoken about in the Bible, and God uses promptings, dreams, and visions to accomplish this. In the New Testament, the word “prophet” was used not to indicate one who spoke the very words of God, but “one who speaks on the basis of some external influence.” Often in that time period a prophet was considered a spokesman, a word which “simply expresses the formal function of declaring something which is not his own.” They were not speaking the very words of God. For example, when the disciples at Tyre, through the Spirit, encouraged Paul to not go to Jerusalem, he did not listen to their advice. Grudem writes, “He never would have done this if this prophecy contained God’s very words and had authority equal to that of Scripture.” (Systematic Theology, p 1052)
The words of someone prophesying now, then, are merely human words and are not equal to God’s. Prophecy is not predicting the future but “telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.” (Grudem p 1049) Therefore, the prophecy that we are encouraged to “earnestly desire” (I Cor 14:1) is not speaking words that are equal to scripture. To the contrary, it must always be subject to scrutiny by the scriptures. We are told to test the spirits because many false prophets are in our world. (I John 4:1-6, I Thess 5:19-21)
The gift of speaking in tongues requires a definition. It means speaking a language that the speaker does not understand -- either a known language or a spiritual language. In contrast to prophecy, which is a word from God to men, speaking in tongues is a word from men to God, consisting of praise and thanksgiving (I Corinthians 14:2, 28). It is supposed to be in alignment with God’s word at all times.
Tongues are only to be spoken publicly when there is an interpreter, but we are encouraged to seek after this gift in private, though not all will have this gift (I Cor 14:5, 28). When used publicly, it is essential that what is said be in-line with the gospel that has already been preached by the word of God. (Gal 1:6-10) True believers, when speaking in the spirit, will not curse the name of Christ (I Cor 12:3).
Miracles, while mentioned in the New Testament as being a part of the church (I Cor 12:28), are to serve as a sign of God’s power, bringing the glory to Him alone, and not the person involved in the act. Physical acts of healing only come from Jehovah Rophe, the God who heals, and all glory goes to Him. Though these events are exciting, they are not required for saving faith, which is being certain of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
God gave us His word because He wants us to trust in Him and not our own hearts. If we could receive something from God that trumped His Word, we would be in great danger of being deceived. We are encouraged to follow His commands and are warned against following after our own hearts (Numbers 15:38-40). Proverbs 14:12 says that following our own wisdom and what seems right in our minds actually leads to death.
At the end of the Bible, Revelation 22:18-19 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Though this is referring to the book of Revelation, God planned His Word perfectly and He purposely put the contents in order. It is not a coincidence that these verses are found at the conclusion of the entire Word of God.
If we have a feeling about something, it is just that - a feeling - that cannot be trusted, and must be measured against God’s holy and perfect Word, which has been given to us for the building up and sanctification of the saints (Acts 20:32).
Smith, Bill “What's the Harm in Continuing Revelation?” accessed October 5, 2010
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p 1049-1083
Sanders, Phil “The Word is All-Sufficient” 5/5/08, accessed October 5, 2010