listening-for-godPMT 2017-019 by Josh Buice (Delivered by Grace)

It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?

It Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture

If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] )—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.

Getting the Message

Getting the Message
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In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.

During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.

It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.

The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story. We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today. If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word. To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing. But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent. John MacArthur writes:

“Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. [1]

Charismatic Gift of ProphecyCharismatic GP Godawa
(by Kenneth Gentry)

A rebuttal to charismatic arguments for the gift of prophecy continuing in the church today. Demonstrates that all revelatory gifts have ceased as of the conclusion of the Apostolic era.

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It Uses God’s Name in Vain

Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God. This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ).

For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer. Either way, it’s not true. It’s intellectually dishonest. We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language. We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it. Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:

“Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door.” [2]


To read full article at DBG (Delivered by Grace): click.

Gentry note: If God is speaking to you, you really ought to write it down. Do so with style. 😉

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8 thoughts on “STOP SAYING “GOD TOLD ME”

  1. Curtis Crenshaw March 8, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Excellent post, and one I did on my blog couple years ago or about. I’m going to sign up for your blog, and if you’re of a mind, here’s my blog:

  2. Kenneth Gentry March 8, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Nice blog, Curtis!

  3. Curtis Crenshaw March 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I’m finishing up my book on dispensationalism for the last time; I never want to think about it again. This will be (if I ever really do finish) the fourth edition and seventh printing.

    Richard Woodward, one of my best friends ever (since 1966, my first convert), said on the phone yesterday that you were going to his church (Lord’s church) to hold a conference, and that you were finishing up a tome on postmill. I’m looking forward to having a copy. I have your He Shall Have Dominion. Also, I’ve read Three Views on the Millennium, The Beast, etc. Very excellent works. It has been my observation that a-mills and pre-mills do not understand us, and that is especially true of dispen pre-mills, who tend to think we’re some kind of weird Bible twisters, full of unrealistic optimism, supported by a hermemeutic that is contra the Bible’s own self-interpretation. Anyway, I guess I’m preaching to the choir.

    Here is my review of a book about how to hear from God that I did about a year ago:

    Keep up the good work.

    Curtis Crenshaw

  4. Richard March 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I would have to disagree with your broader point although I certainly would agree that in a narrow sense, God does not offer new revelation, but you seem to be demeaning the idea that God speaks to his elect. In fact to deny that, I think, is unbiblical. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice…” John 10:27. John 10 is all about listening to the voice of God. How can we listen to His voice if he doesn’t speak to us? Incumbent in the idea that the Holy Spirit is a “counselor” is that He offers counsel to us. “That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice,…”. Perhaps I misunderstood you, but you seem to be making a false dichotomy between God speaking to His children and God offering new prophetic revelation. They are not mutually exclusive. One of the greatest mysteries of Christianity for me has been that the creator of the universe deigns to speak with me. No I didn’t ask Him if I should have eggs or cereal for breakfast, but I have discussed “life” (not the cereal) with Him on most levels, and I am grateful that He listens and replies.

  5. Kenneth Gentry March 13, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for reading and responding. Be aware, I did not write this article. Though obviously I agree with its basic sentiment or I wouldn’t have posted it.

    The basic point of the article is that Christians too loosely say “God told me,” when they actually mean, “I believe this to be so.” We must distinguish between God “speaking” and God “leading” through impulses of the Spirit prompted by the revealed word of God. When God speaks, he speaks infallibly. So, if God spoke to someone today, they could write it down and it would possess the very authority of God. And it would be infallible. We must clearly distinguish between God speaking and heartburn.

    See my book “The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy.”

  6. Richard March 14, 2017 at 9:50 am

    I understood that you didn’t write the article, Dr Gentry, and I understand the “basic point,” of the article, but frankly I find the “basic point” a straw man sort of thing that falls short of the depth that I normally find here, and fails to provide the balance that would have been beneficial to readers of this site, whose broader problem, I would bet is that, while they have their theological ducks in a row, and can spout pristine reformed theology, and would NEVER believe that God speaks special revelation to them, do not put a priority on listening to the still small voice of God — at least that’s been my experience after 40 plus years among the chosen frozen.

    I don’t believe that, at least in the circles of people who would read, “Postmillennialism Today,” people are walking around saying, “God told me.” Yes, you can turn on your TV and hear anything. Does that mean it’s always a relevant problem? I don’t think so. I’ve been reading your site and your works for quite some time. The reason I routinely come here is for a deeper understanding of the Christian faith that isn’t found on TV or radio, and I think the writer missed a great opportunity and opted instead for a little “pulpit pounding,” and preaching to the choir.

    Had he followed this,

    “If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] ), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] )—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.”

    With a few lines on the Holy Spirit’s positive work, in which he speaks to us as our counselor, then the writer would have added some balance where I believe it to be needed the most in reformed circles. God does not speak to us ONLY through His word. His word is sufficient for all faith and practice and God never contradicts His word, but the Holy Spirit walks along side of us and speaks to us as our counselor, does He not? To deny that is unbiblical in my mind, although I don’t believe that is what the writer intended. When I was in bible college in the ’70s, one of my friends wrote a paper entitled,

    “Is it the Holy Spirit or Hormones?”

    In which he hilariously addressed all the ugly boys who were walking around the Bible college telling the prettiest girls that God, “told him,” that she was to be his wife, so how could she argue with God? It was a fun and enlightening discussion for college sophomores. One of the prettiest girls was famous for making a public statement to the effect that she was planning to wait for God to tell her before she committed to marriage.

    I believe the biggest deficit of reformed circles is not that we believe God speaks to us. It’s that we don’t. I don’t believe the sufficiency of scripture is challenged by believing that, “He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.”

  7. Kenneth Gentry March 14, 2017 at 9:58 am

    We may have to simply disagree on this. If an impulse deemed to be from the Spirit to engage a certain action is equated with God’s actually “speaking,” then we are in fundamental disagreement. This would not only be wrong for the Christian to believe today, but would suggest that this was how Scripture was written by the apostles.

    This is much as I argue in my book The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy. Perhaps I will get time to flesh this out in an article. The problem we are having with each other may be semantics, with your using “speaking” in a sense far diminished from what we normally call speaking.

  8. Richard March 14, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    I won’t belabor the point anymore than I already have except to say that I think the greater danger, and in fact the greater idolatry, is to reduce the Holy Spirit into a Stars Wars “force” which we “feel,” rather than a person of the godhead with whom we communicate.

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