Guidance Tested

“They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scripture daily to see if these things were so.”  Acts 17:11

God on occasion in Bible times communicated with some people by supernaturally telling them what to do, and He has not said He will never do so again.  Some at least of the glowing stories that are told about guidance of this kind can hardly be doubted.  Some see reason to deny that God ever did, or will communicate this way now that the canon of Scripture is complete, but that view seems to us to go beyond what is written and to fly in the face of credible testimony.  It is not for us to place restrictions on God that He has not placed on Himself !

Certainly, no messages from God of this kind could be regarded as canonical in the sense of carrying authority for universal faith and life in the way Scripture does.  This, however, is not to deny that “private revelations” as the Puritans used to call them, ever take place nowadays.  On that question we keep an open mind.  Though we know that self-deception here is very easy, we would not short-circuit claims to have received words from God; we would instead test them, as objectively and open-mindedly as we can, in light of the teaching Scripture itself.

Scripture teaches the principle of testing in such passages as Deuteronomy 18:22 where God’s people are told to listen to supposed prophets with discernment: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord,  if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.  You need not be afraid of him.”  Similarly Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

  • Dr JI Packer, “The JI Packer Classic Collections”

Very glad to note that another theologian, Dr JI Packer, shared about testing such “private revelations” instead of denying them altogether.   For morally neutral events like calamities such as famine and economic crisis, there is no reason to deny that God can warn His people who walk intimately with Him.  The law of probability can be used to test and ascertain if the prophecy is from God by verifying whether the prophecy comes true against very slim odds.

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