FROM A READER
From time to time I receive an email from someone who has visited my website. I always welcome messages and the opportunity to study with anyone concerning any Bible subject. Although the writer of the above message gave his name (which is highly appreciated and also unusual), I have just given his initials and withheld his name. From this moment on I will refer to him as E.P.
I sent this reply to E.P.'s message:
Thank you for the nice message. I am glad that you visited the web page and hope you will continue to visit and study the articles. There may be some articles that you will not agree with, but I plead with you to keep an open mind as you study and see if the Bible teaches those things that you read. Your desire for the pure word of God unmixed with the teaching of men is a desire that I pray everyone had. You can't go wrong by just taking what God says in His word.
If there is any particular Bible subject that you would like to study together via email, please let me know. I would particularly be interested in knowing what you mean by "a visitation by the Holy Spirit" and how you know it was from the Holy Spirit. I have never had the Holy Spirit visit me or tell me anything except through the written word of God (the Bible), which of course was inspired by the Holy Spirit. In regard to the difference between "in the name of Jesus" and "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ", I wonder if you could list some passages from the Bible for me to study that would help me understand the difference?
I pray that we will be able to study these things together. Thank you once again.
I have not yet received a reply from E.P., however, what he expressed in his message about "a visitation by the Holy Spirit" got my attention and is something that some people claim and something that needs to be studied. I thought it might be good to see what the Bible teaches about this subject and hopefully if E.P. visits the web page again he will read this article and send further comments concerning it if he desires to do so.
MANY CLAIM TO BE LED DIRECTLY BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. If you watch television very much, you will see many preachers who claim that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to them. Some of those preachers claim that while they are on television that the Holy Spirit directly reveals to them certain things. For example, I have heard them claim that the Holy Spirit is revealing to them that a certain person has a certain illness and that he is being healed at that very moment. Others will claim that the Lord speaks directly to them and tells them in real time what they should preach. Evidently, there are thousands of people who accept the word of these preachers and fully believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. One of the most popular themes of preachers who appear on television today is "planting seed." They teach that if you send their "ministry" money you are "planting seed" and you will be blessed financially. I have heard many of those preachers claim that the Holy Spirit revealed a certain plan for the financial success of some of those who would send money to them.
My first question would be what I asked E.P. - how do you know that the visitation is from the Holy Spirit? How do we know that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to those preachers we see on television and who ask us to send money to them? We all must recognize that people can be and have been deceived into thinking that God spoke to them. In fact, some religions that have become very powerful were started by men/women who claimed to be in direct contact with the Holy Spirit. Yet, they teach doctrines that are contradictory to what the Holy Spirit revealed in the Bible. We must ask the question: "How do we know that the people who make the claim of a direct leading of the Holy Spirit are actually being led by the Holy Spirit?" What evidence do we have other than their claim?
When the apostles went about preaching God's word, God gave them something that confirmed that what they taught was from Him. He gave them signs and wonders. In Mark 16:15-16 we have Mark's record of Jesus giving the apostles the Great Commission. After He had delivered that commission to them, the Bible says in Mark 16:20, "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen." Notice that the Bible says that the Lord confirmed the word that the Apostles taught with accompanying signs. I know a lot of people claim the ability to work signs and miracles, but so far I have not been convinced by their "healing sessions." If those people can do the signs that Jesus and the apostles did, why aren't they going to places where people are starving and multiplying loaves and fish so those people won't starve? Why aren't they cleaning out all the hospitals and nursing homes of those who are ill and crippled? Why aren't they raising the dead? I know some make the claim that they are doing such things, but where is the proof? Why don't they show previous medical records of the people they claim to have healed that proves that those people really had the sickness they claim they had? Why don't they let independent doctors come in and see if those people really were healed? It seems to me if they would do that (if their claim to heal like Jesus and the apostles is true) that it would make a lot of believers out of those who do not now believe. Again, just because someone claims to be able to heal people doesn't make it so and just because someone claims the Holy Spirit speaks directly to them does not make it so. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Where is their proof?
The apostles and early evangelists had something to prove that what they were teaching came from God. Where is the modern preachers proof? I know that some of them claim to perform miracles, speak in tongues etc... Even E.P. claimed, "I began to shout so many hallelujah, began to speak in tongues and the flowing of tears". The problem with modern day speaking in tongues is that it is usually just gibberish. In New Testament times speaking in tongues was the ability of a Christian to speak in another human language that he had never studied before and that he had never been able to speak before and that he could not have spoken without the help of the Holy Spirit (Read Acts 2 carefully). One wonders why those who claim that they have spiritual gifts and who go to a foreign country has to have a translator. If they can speak in tongues as they claim, then they would be able to speak in the language of those people themselves like the apostles did and not require a translator. Maybe that's why they claim that speaking in tongues is a so-called heavenly language and not human language. I challenge you to read every instance where it speaks of tongue speaking in the New Testament and see if tongues were not human languages.
The miracles that Jesus performed were unquestioned. People questioned that they came from God but no one questioned the fact that Jesus performed miracles. Even the miracles the apostles did could not be questioned as to whether they occurred. When Peter and John healed the blind man their enemies said, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16). Unlike the so-called miracles performed today, Jesus and the apostles miracles could not be denied even by their enemies.
So we are still where we started. When people make the claim of being visited by the Holy Spirit or the Holy Spirit speaking directly to them or giving them something to say directly, their claim that it is so is all we have as proof, and that is not proof.
I want to suggest something that you may not have thought of that proves that God does not speak to people directly today.
CLAIMING DIRECT LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DENIES THE ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF THE WORD OF GOD. Notice what Paul was inspired to write by the Holy Spirit: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Notice that the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul exalts the Scripture. The Scripture is the inspired writing of God. The only inspired writing we have from God is the Bible - the Old and New Testaments. God has not revealed any further revelation since the Bible was completed in the first century. It has once for all been delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Notice also that the Holy Spirit tells us that the Scripture "is profitable for doctrine (teaching), for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness...." When a preacher claims that the Holy Spirit told him what to teach directly (apart from the Bible), he is claiming that the Scriptures are not profitable for doctrine (teaching). He is claiming that teaching in addition to the Bible is needed. Yet Paul said the Scripture provides all we need for teaching. When a preacher claims the Holy Spirit directly reveals to him something that is used to instruct God's people, he is claiming that the Scripture is not sufficient to provide that instruction in righteousness. Notice that the Holy Spirit teaches that the Scripture is what makes the man of God complete and what thoroughly equips him for every good work. If a preacher makes the claim that the Holy Spirit directly tells him something apart from the Scripture, he is claiming that the Scripture does not make the man of God complete and cannot thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work. To claim that the Holy Spirit reveals something in addition to or different from the Bible is to say that the Bible does not do the things that the Holy Spirit said that it does in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
E.P. said, "...I had a visitation by the Holy Spirit when I began to shout so many hallelujah, began to speak in tongues and the flowing of tears and I heard "you are not to end your prayers by saying "In the name of Jesus" there is no biblical basis for this, but, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ". On Sunday I shared this experience with my local church and told them I would look up the theological foundations for this..."
E.P. is right in looking for the "biblical basis" for something if that is what he meant by looking up the theological foundations for this, but if it was the Holy Spirit who revealed to E.P. that "you are not to end your prayers by saying 'in the name of Jesus' .... but 'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,'" then why look for a biblical basis for this? Why not just take the Holy Spirit at His word? Or, is E.P. afraid that it might not have been the Holy Spirit who directly revealed this to him, so he has to confirm it from what the Bible teaches? Would the church he "pastors" not take his word for it? Do they require a "thus saith the Lord" from the Bible? I hope that is the case. That is what we all must require for any claims a man makes in religion. Do his claims agree with what the Bible teaches? Do they come from the Bible? That is what we must require.
Does the Bible teach that we must end our prayers either by saying "in the name of Jesus," or "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?" Do you know of any passage in the Bible that requires either one? The first example of a prayer uttered after Jesus died on the cross and after the church was established is in Acts1:24-25. There is no record that the disciples ended their prayer with either of these expressions. The same is true of the second prayer recorded in Acts 4:24-30. It might be instructive to read all of the prayers that are recorded beginning on Pentecost day through the end of the book of Revelation and see what words were used (if any) at the end of those prayers.
I suppose it has become the custom to end our prayers in Jesus' name because of what Paul taught about prayer. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul wrote this: "Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." The question is this - is Paul telling us that he always ended his prayers with the phrase, "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," or is he telling us he prayed by the authority of Christ? When we pray to the Father we do so by the authority of Jesus Christ who has all authority (Matthew 28:18). Does that mean we have to verbally express this every time we pray and use the exact words that Paul wrote here? There is nothing wrong with expressing during our prayer that we are praying in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to require those exact words as opposed to "in the name of Jesus" may be binding where God has not bound. In my opinion, there is no difference in ending our prayers with "in Jesus' name" and "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus is who He is. He is our Lord. He is Jesus. When one ends his prayer by either phrase he is saying the same thing - his prayer has been offered by the authority of Jesus the Son of God.
It is my prayer that those who are convinced that the Holy Spirit, God the Father, or Jesus the Son speaks directly to them will examine what the Bible teaches. Is the voice that you hear in your mind God's voice or your own? Many people have come up with ideas about what they want to do in religion. Unfortunately, many of those people claim those ideas were revealed to them by God when in reality they thought of those things themselves. You hear this all of the time on television. A preacher comes up with an idea to build a hospital, or a church building, or some kind of compound or even a theme park, and they claim that God told them to do it. If you believe that God speaks to you apart from His written word (the Bible), then again I would ask, how do you know it is God? And why would you expect other people to accept your claim without the kind of proof that God provided the apostles when they spoke for God? When one claims to receive direct revelation from God, he denies that the Bible is all-sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The fact is this: Anyone who speaks something different than the Bible, adds to the Bible, or takes from the Bible sins (Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:6-9). In fact Paul taught in Galatians 1:6-9 that even if an angel from heaven teaches another gospel we must reject it. It has often been said and needs to be repeated often about creed books, church manuals, confessions of faith and it can be said of any claim of direct revelation from God:
IF IT HAS MORE THAN THE BIBLE IT HAS TOO MUCH. IF IT HAS LESS THAN THE BIBLE IT HAS TOO LITTLE. IF IT HAS THE SAME AS THE BIBLE WE DON'T NEED IT BECAUSE WE HAVE THE BIBLE.
Let us respect the fact that God speaks to people today through His written word, the Bible. Let us determine that we will teach the Bible and the Bible only. If we do that, then we can all agree and work together for the salvation of all people.