Summary: Are there some ways other than the Bible through which God lets us know what He desires and what He expects from us?
RYAN: Pastor Dan, there is something I need to tell you right away.
DAN: Are you sure it can’t wait until after the worship service is over?
RYAN: No. No, this is important.
DAN: OK, what is it?
RYAN: Well, God told me that we need to change the color of the church carpet.
DAN: Oh, really?
RYAN: Yes, we need to put in canary yellow carpet.
DAN: Canary yellow?!?
RYAN: Yes, He said "canary yellow," and we need to do it this week.
DAN: Well, that is an interesting idea. Maybe we can discuss it later. I’m not sure the trustees will go for canary yellow, and actually, I’m not sure that we need a new carpet.
RYAN: But, Pastor Dan, this is not something we need to discuss. God told me this is what we need to do. I’m just giving you the message. We’d better do it.
DAN: What do you mean, God told you we need to put in canary yellow carpet this week?
RYAN: Just that. God told me. He spoke to me. I am just telling you what He said.
DAN: Did you hear an audible voice say this?
DAN: So, how do you know God told you this?
RYAN: How do I know? Well, I .. well, I just do!
DAN: But, Ryan, there is nothing in the Bible which even remotely talks about carpet color, and frankly, canary yellow just doesn’t seem like the color the Lord would recommend.
RYAN: Are you trying to tell me that God didn’t speak to me? Who are you to decide what God can or can’t say? I think when someone has a message from the Lord, you’d better listen!
DAN: Now, Ryan, let’s not get excited. You know, I think you will be real interested in the sermon today. Why don’t you just sit down and we’ll talk about the carpet later.
RYAN: Well, OK. But I sure hope Bob Rupp has a big roll of canary yellow carpet on hand.
I think most of us would agree that it is unlikely, very unlikely, that God would address us in the way that Ryan described. As Christians, however, we believe that the Lord does speak to us. Francis Schaeffer used to say that we are convinced God "is there and He is not silent." So, how does the Lord communicate to us? We believe it is primarily through the Bible, the written Word of God. We regard the words found in this Book as the very words of God. When we read and study the Bible, we believe that the Lord is speaking to us. Very few Christians disagree with that. But, are there any other ways besides the Bible that God speaks to us today? Now, we probably don’t think He will tell us to put canary yellow carpet in this room, but are there some ways other than the Bible through which God lets us know what He desires and what He expects from us? That is a very important question, and throughout history Christians have come up with a variety of answers.
Some, for example, have argued that the church, through an official teaching hierarchy, has the power to speak for God. Thus, God enables the church to set doctrinal and moral standards in addition to those found in the Bible. Others, especially liberal Protestants, claim that God speaks through our collective experience and reason. Thus, if there becomes a consensus in a church that homosexuality is not really a sin, then that would be seen as a new revelation from the Lord and would overrule what the Bible says about that topic. Another view, usually associated with Pentecostal and charismatic churches, is that God continues to reveal Himself through prophecy, interpreted tongues, words of knowledge and other spiritual gifts. Someone in a church gives a message from the Lord which contains encouragement or direction on a specific issue. In other words, they believe God communicates directly to His people through folks that possess these types of gifts. Another view, very common in Baptist circles, is that God does not speak to us in any other way than through the Bible. This Book is what tells us everything that God wishes to communicate to us.
Who is right? Well, the Bible doesn’t teach, nor do I believe, that God has appointed any specific leaders in the church to be His official, infallible spokesmen. I also think it would be very foolish to take a survey and pretend that our collective opinion equals the voice of God. It is not quite as easy to dismiss the gift of prophecy, however. The reason is because the Bible itself talks about the prophecy as a way that God speaks in the church. Today we are going to look at what 1 Corinthians 14 has to say on this topic. This chapter contains the Bible’s most extensive treatment of both the gift of tongues, which we talked about last week, and the gift of prophecy which we will explore today. As we do, my prayer is that God will help us understand how He communicates to us today, and that we would be more ready to hear and listen to His voice whenever He speaks.