(HT: Jason Stephens)
(HT: Jason Stephens)
“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 3”
by John MacArthur
From the time of the apostles until the present, the true church has always believed that the Bible is complete. God has given his revelation, and now Scripture is finished. God has spoken. What He gave is complete, efficacious, sufficient, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative. Attempts to add to the Bible, and claims of further revelation from God have always been characteristic of heretics and cultists, not the true people of God.
Although charismatics deny that they are trying to add to Scripture, their views on prophetic utterance, gifts of prophecy, and revelation really do just that. As they add–however unwittingly–to God’s final revelation, they undermine the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. New revelation, dreams, and visions are considered as binding on the believers conscience as the book of Romans or the gospel of John.
Some charismatics would say that people misunderstand what they mean by prophetic utterance and new revelation. They would say that no effort is being made to change Scripture or even equal it. What is happening, they assume, is the clarifying of Scripture as it is applied or directed to a contemporary setting, such as the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 11:28.
The line between clarifying Scripture and adding to it is indeed a thin one. But Scripture is not clarified by listening to someone who thinks he has the gift of prophecy. Scripture is clarified as it is carefully and diligently studied. There are no shortcuts to interpreting God’s word accurately (cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).
Christians must not play fast and loose with the issues of inspiration and revelation. An accurate understanding of those doctrines is essential for distinguishing between the voice of God and the human voice. Men who professed to speak for God but spoke their own opinions were to be executed under the Old Testament law (Deut. 13:1-5). New Testament believers are also urged to test the spirits and judge all supposed prophecies, shunning false prophets and heretics (1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 14:29).
The Holy Spirit is working mightily in the church today, but not in the way most charismatics think. The Holy Spirit’s role is to empower us as we preach, teach, write, talk, witness, think, serve, and live. He does lead us into God’s truth and direct us into God’s will for our lives. But He does it through God’s Word, never apart from it. To refer to the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering ministry as inspiration or revelation is a mistake. To use phrases such as “God spoke to me,” or “This wasn’t my idea; the Lord gave it to me,” or “These aren’t my words, but a message I received from the Lord” confuses the issue of the Spirit’s direction in believers’ lives today.
Inviting that kind of confusion plays into the hands of the error that denies the uniqueness and absolute authority of Scripture. The terms and concepts of Ephesians 5:18-19 and 2 Peter 1:21 are not to be mixed. Being filled with the Spirit and speaking to one another in psalms and hymns is not the same as being moved by the Holy Spirit to write inspired Scripture.
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
I speak most plainly here—no additional Revelation is to be expected because the Book of God is ended—the Revelation of God is finished and he that adds to the sacred Book is cursed! If you, therefore, say that God has made a new Revelation to you, you run a dreadful risk of the curses which are written in this book! God, by His Spirit, brings old Truths of God home to the heart, gives new light to our eyes and causes the Word to exercise new power over us—but He reveals no new facts and He utters no words in any man’s ears concerning his condition and state. We must be content with the old Revelation and with the life and power and force with which the Holy Spirit brings it to the heart.
Neither must any of us seek to have any additional Revelation, for that would imply that the Scriptures are incomplete. What? Has God spoken all this volume that you may believe on His Son and is not that enough for you? Must He go out of His way to make some private communication to you? Is all that which He has already spoken to be treated as a lie unless He, at your dictation, condescends to say something for you, personally? Are you too good or too great to be saved like other sinners? That is what it practically comes to! “Oh,” you say, “but if I felt such-and-such, I would believe.” Suppose you did? Then your confidence would be in your feelings and not in God—and what would that be but presumption seeing that there cannot be anything in your feelings which can make God true! God is true, feel whatever you may! Believe Him, then, for it is to that faith in His Son that He gives salvation and not to faith in your feelings! (excerpted from: THE TRUE POSITION OF THE WITNESS WITHIN, NO. 1428, DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, AUGUST 11, 1878, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON)
The Absolute Supremacy and Authority of Scripture — J.C. Ryle
Believing the Plain Truth of Scripture vs. Man’s Theories — Charles Spurgeon
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Centrality of God’s Word in A Healthy Church — J.C. Ryle
The preaching of the pure Word of God is the first mark of a healthy Church. It is sound doctrine taught and preached, and not ritual, which in every age the Holy Spirit has used for awakening sleeping human consciences, building up the cause of Christ, and saving souls. The dens and caves and upper rooms in which the primitive Christians used to meet were doubtless very rough and unadorned. They had no carved wood or stone, no stained glass, no costly vestments, no organs, and no surpliced choirs. But these primitive worshipers were the men who ‘turned the world upside down,’ and I doubt not that their places of worship were far more honorable in God’s sight. It was well and truly said that in those ancient days ‘the Church had wooden communion vessels–but golden ministers,’ and it was this which gave the primitive Church its power. And when religion began to decay, it was said that the conditions were reversed; the ministers became wooden–and the communion plate golden…
…I long to have everywhere golden ministers, golden worship, golden preaching, golden praying, and golden praise. I want everything in the service of God to be done as perfectly as possible, and no part of it to be scamped, slurred over, done carelessly, and left out in the cold. I charge you affectionately, my reverend brethren, to make this your aim. Let the best, brightest, and heartiest services be always accompanied by the best and ablest sermons that your minds can produce and your tongues deliver. Let your sermons be addresses in which Christ’s blood, mediation, and intercession; Christ’s love, power, and willingness to save; the real work of the Holy Spirit, repentance, faith, and holiness; are never lacking—sermons full of life, and fire, and power; sermons which set hearers thinking, and make them go home to pray. Then, and then only will the Church have its just influence, and God will open the windows of heaven and give us a blessing.
The very best and most elaborate services are only means to an end, and that end should be the salvation of souls. All is not done when people have heard beautiful music and singing, and seen the most ornamental ceremonial. Are their hearts and consciences better? Is sin more hateful? Is Christ more precious? Is holiness more desired? Are they becoming more ready for death, judgment, and eternity every week that they live? These are the grand ends which every clergyman should set before him in every service which he conducts. He should strive to conduct it with an abiding recollection of the eye of God, the sound of the last trumpet, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment–and not with the petty thought, ‘Is my service bright, hearty, and well done?’ That these may be more and more the aims of every clergyman in the present day, is my earnest prayer. (excerpted from: Signs of the Times, October 21, 1884)
God Speaks Through His Word — B.B. Warfield
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon
“The Final Authority, Period.” – John MacArthur
Wherever Christ is known through whatever means, there is Christianity, and men may hear and believe and be saved. But God has caused his grace to abound to us in that he not only published redemption through Christ to the world, but gave this preachment authoritative expression through the apostles, and fixed it with infallible trustworthiness in His inspired word. Thus in every age God speaks directly to every Christian heart, and gives us abounding safety to our feet and divine security to our souls. And thus, instead of a mere record of a revelation given in the past, we have the ever-living word of God; instead of a mere tradition however guarded, we have what we have all learned to call in a unique sense “the Scriptures.” ¹
¹ Fred Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pg. 159
“Monkeying with the Meaning”
by John MacArthur
But to whatever degree secular society still holds those virtues in esteem, it does so entirely without any philosophical foundation. Having already rejected the God revealed in Scripture and embraced instead pure naturalistic materialism, the modern mind has no grounds whatsoever for holding to any ethical standard; no reason whatsoever for esteeming “virtue” over “vice”; and no justification whatsoever for regarding human life as more valuable than any other form of life. Modern society has already abandoned its moral foundation.
As humanity enters the twenty-first century, an even more frightening prospect looms. Now even the church seems to be losing the will to defend what Scripture teaches about human origins. Many in the church are too intimidated or too embarrassed to affirm the literal truth of the biblical account of creation. They are confused by a chorus of authoritative-sounding voices who insist that it is possible–and even pragmatically necessary–to reconcile Scripture with the latest theories of the naturalists.
Of course, theological liberals have long espoused theistic evolution. They have never been reluctant to deny the literal truth of Scripture on any issue. But the new trend is different, comprising evangelicals who contend that it is possible to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with the theories of modern naturalism without doing violence to any essential doctrine of Christianity. They affirm evangelical statements of faith. They teach in evangelical institutions. They insist they believe the Bible is inerrant and authoritative. But they are willing to reinterpret Genesis to accommodate evolutionary theory. They express shock and surprise that anyone would question their approach to Scripture. And they sometimes employ the same sort of ridicule and intimidation religious liberals and atheistic skeptics have always leveled against believers: “You don’t seriously think the universe is less than a billion years old, do you?”
The result is that over the past couple of decades, large numbers of evangelicals have shown a surprising willingness to take a completely non-evangelical approach to interpreting the early chapters of Genesis. More and more are embracing the view known as “old-earth creationism,” which blends some of the principles of biblical creationism with naturalistic and evolutionary theories, seeking to reconcile two opposing world-views. And in order to accomplish this, old-earth creationists end up explaining away rather than honestly exegeting the biblical creation account.
A handful of scientists who profess Christianity are among those who have led the way in this revisionism–most of them lacking any skill whatsoever in biblical interpretation. But they are setting forth a major reinterpretation of Genesis 1-3 designed specifically to accommodate the current trends of naturalist theory. In their view, the six days of creation in Genesis 1 are long ages, the chronological order of creation is flexible, and most of the details about creation given in Scripture can be written off as poetic or symbolic figures of speech.
Many who should know better–pastors and Christian leaders who defend the faith against false teachings all the time–have been tempted to give up the battle for the opening chapters of Genesis.
An evangelical pastor recently approached me after I preached. He was confused and intimidated by several books he had read–all written by ostensibly evangelical authors–yet all arguing that the earth is billions of years old. These authors treat most of the evolutionists’ theories as indisputable scientific fact. And in some cases they wield scientific or academic credentials that intimidate readers into thinking their views are the result of superior expertise, rather than naturalistic presuppositions they have brought to the biblical text. This pastor asked if I believed it possible that the first three chapters of Genesis might really be just a series of literary devices–a poetic saga giving the “spiritual” meaning of what actually occurred through billions of years of evolution.
I answered unapologetically: No, I do not. I am convinced that Genesis 1-3 ought to be taken at face value–as the divinely revealed history of creation. Nothing about the Genesis text itself suggests that the biblical creation account is merely symbolic, poetic, allegorical, or mythical. The main thrust of the passage simply cannot be reconciled with the notion that “creation” occurred via natural evolutionary processes over long periods of time. And I don’t believe a faithful handling of the biblical text, by any acceptable principles of hermeneutics, can possibly reconcile those chapters with the theory of evolution or any of the other allegedly scientific theories about the origin of the universe.
Furthermore, much like the philosophical and moral chaos that results from naturalism, all sorts of theological mischief ensues when we reject or compromise the literal truth of the biblical account of creation and the fall of Adam.
“Genesis 1 and Biblical Authority”
by John MacArthur
It is therefore a serious mistake to imagine that modern scientists can speak more authoritatively than Scripture on the subject of origins. Scripture is God’s own eyewitness account of what happened in the beginning. When it deals with the origin of the universe, all science can offer is conjecture. Science has proven nothing that negates the Genesis record. In fact, the Genesis record answers the mysteries of science.
A clear pattern for interpreting Genesis is given to us in the New Testament. If the language of early Genesis were meant to be interpreted figuratively, we could expect to see Genesis interpreted in the New Testament in a figurative sense. After all, the New Testament is itself inspired Scripture, so it is the Creator’s own commentary on the Genesis record.
What do we find in the New Testament? In every New Testament reference to Genesis, the events recorded by Moses are treated as historical events. And in particular, the first three chapters of Genesis are consistently treated as a literal record of historical events. The New Testament affirms, for example, the creation of Adam in the image of God (James 3:9).
Paul wrote to Timothy, “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14). In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, he writes, “Man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”
Paul’s presentation of the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends on a historical Adam and a literal interpretation of the account in Genesis about how he fell. Furthermore, everything Paul has to say about the doctrine of justification by faith depends on that. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Clearly Paul regarded both the creation and fall of Adam as history, not allegory. Jesus Himself referred to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event (Mark 10:6). To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine.
Moreover, if Scripture itself treats the creation and fall of Adam as historical events, there is no warrant for treating the rest of the creation account as allegory or literary device. Nowhere in all of Scripture are any of these events handled as merely symbolic.
In fact, when the New Testament refers to creation, (e.g., Mark 13:19; John 1:3; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 10; Revelation 4:11; 10:6; 14:7) it always refers to a past, completed event–an immediate work of God, not a still-occurring process of evolution. The promised New Creation, a running theme in both Old and New Testaments, is portrayed as an immediate fiat creation, too–not an eons-long process (Isaiah 65:17). In fact, the model for the New Creation is the original creation (cf. Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:1, 5).
Hebrews 11:3 even makes belief in creation by divine fiat the very essence of faith itself: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Creation ex nihilo is the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible.
An extract from a sermon on: ‘Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth’ Ephesians 6.14
People will have authority; and they are right in so thinking. They need authority because they are bewildered; and if they do not find it in the right way they will take it in the wrong way. They can be persuaded even though they do not know the source of the authority; in their utter bewilderment they are ready to be persuaded by any authoritative statement. So that it comes to this, that we are back exactly where Christians were 400 years ago. The world talks about its advance in knowledge, its science, and so on, but actually we are going round in cycles, and we are back exactly where Christians were 400 years ago. We are having to fight once more the whole battle of the Protestant Reformation. It is either this Book, or else it is ultimately the authority of the Church of Rome and her ‘tradition’! That was the great issue at the Protestant Reformation. It was because of what they found in the Bible that those men stood up against, and queried and questioned and finally condemned the Church of Rome. It was that alone that enabled Luther to stand, just one man, defying all those twelve centuries of tradition. ‘I can do no other’ he says, because of what he had found in the Bible. He could see that Rome was wrong. It did not matter that he was alone, and that all the big battalions were against him. He had the authority of the Word of God, and he judged the Church and her tradition and all else by this external authority.
We are back again in that exact position, and I am concerned about the matter, not only from the standpoint of the Church in general, but also from the standpoint of our own individual experiences. How can we fight the devil? How can we know how we are to live? How can we answer the things we hear, the things we read, and all the subtle suggestions of the devil? Where can I find this truth that I must gird on, as I put on all this armour of God? Where can I find it if I cannot find it in the Bible? Either my foundation is one of sand that gives way beneath my feet, and I do not know where I am, or else I stand on what W. E. Gladstone called ‘The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture’.
For more resources, and to learn more about Martyn Lloyd-Jones, be sure to visit The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust Web Site
• Believing the Plain Truth of Scripture vs. Man’s Theories — Charles Spurgeon
• A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon
• “Which Bible Translation Is Best?” by John MacArthur
• Charles Spurgeon: On The Full Inspiration And Inerrancy of Scripture
• Expositional Studies in Scripture with John MacArthur (Audio Format)
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5
Plain truth is in this wonderful century of small account; men crave to be mystified by their own cogitations. Many glory in being too intellectual to receive anything as absolute certainty: they are not at all inclined to submit to the authority of a positive revelation. God’s word is not accepted by them as final, but they judge it and believe what they like of it.
This is madness. I speak to those who believe in the Scriptures, and I say if, indeed, there be a revelation, it becomes us to be silent before it, and accept it without dispute. The Lord knows what he is better than we can ever know, and if he has been pleased to speak in his Word plainly and solemnly, it is ours to believe what he says, because he says it.
It may be all very well to prove that such and such a revelation of God is consistent with reason, consistent with analogy, consistent with a thousand things; but the spirit which needs such argument is a spirit of rebellion against God. If there be a revelation, every part of it is of authority, and must be believed. Human thought is not the arbiter of truth, but the infallible Word is the end of all strife.
It is not ours to say what the truth must be, or what we think it should be, or what we would like it to be, but reverently to sit down with open ear and willing heart to receive what God has spoken.
If an astronomer were to forbear to examine the stars, and teach an astronomy invented in his own brain, he would be an idiot: and those who treat theology in like fashion are not much better.
“Surely,” saith one, “we ought to modify our beliefs by public opinion, and the current of thought.”
I say “no” a thousand times. The incorruptible word of God liveth and abideth forever, and is incapable of modification. To modify is to adulterate and nullify it, and render it of none effect, so that it becomes another gospel, and, indeed, no gospel.
The thought of tampering with revealed truth is vicious, and ought not to be tolerated by any Christian for a second. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a thing which is to be moulded according to the fashion of the period: it is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
Whether the Greek philosophy rules or is exploded, whether some more modern theory blazes up or smoulders down, is small concern of ours, for we are set to preach the one unvarying gospel of Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
No man was ever led to a saving faith by our meeting him halfway and consenting to his unbelief. No real faith was ever wrought in man by his own thoughts and imaginations; he must receive the gospel as a revelation from God, or he cannot receive it at all.
Faith is a supernatural work wherever it is found, and if we think that we can beget faith in ourselves or others by the use of the fleshly weapons of philosophy we shall certainly be foiled. The Scriptures pressed home by the Holy Ghost are God’s power unto salvation, and not men’s cogitation’s and imaginations.
There is the revealed gospel, reject it at your peril; there is Jehovah’s revelation of himself to men, receive it or be lost; this is the ground to go upon if we would speak as the oracles of God. God grant that proud thinkers may come upon this ground and become believers. (excerpted from: Forts Demolished and Prisoners Taken, Sermon #1473, delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, May 11, 1879)