As Christians, we should always desire to use the same measures when examining teachings from inside our own denominations as we do from others outside. Today, I want to review part of a recent article from a magazine published by the denomination of which I am a member. The article, unfortunately, promoted extra-Biblical revelation and undermined the sufficiency of Scripture.
The beginning of the article was encouraging to me when it stated “God has always wanted us to know him. He reveals himself through his Word.” If the article had stopped there, everything would have been fine. Unfortunately, that same article later undermined the sufficiency of God’s Holy Word by claiming that God speaks new revelation to us outside of his Word through “a still small voice.” Here is an excerpt from the article in which we see the non-Biblical teaching:
God has also changed how I understand prayer, teaching me that I need to be a better listener. He tells us to pray, for everything, and to not be anxious, and like any father, he loves when we run to him for help. Sometimes I empty my heart and mind of my concerns, but then I run off before he can speak. I am learning to intentionally listen, for there are times his Spirit answers in a still small voice. There are times when he prompts me to act, or to speak, or to be silent, in order to see his answer. I just have to stop and pay attention. (Time Together, Faith & Fellowship, July 2013).
The idea of God speaking to us through “a still small voice” has become a common misconception in recent years and is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. The false teaching of the “still small voice” comes to us from a misapplication of a passage from 1 Kings 19:11-13:
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13, King James Version).
This passage is a description of the life of the prophet Elijah. It is not prescriptive of how God will talk with us today. A couple of verses prior to this, an angel brought food to Elijah that sustained him for a 40-day journey. Yet, no one claims this passage about angels bring us super-food is prescriptive for how God will work in our lives today. Likewise, we cannot use this passage of the still small voice as a prescription for how God will work today. Furthermore, the voice Elijah heard was quiet, but it was still audible. It was not a voice that Elijah was hearing inside himself.
So, the idea that God will speak to us through a still small voice is not Biblical and has not been a part of Christian beliefs through the centuries. Only in very recent times has this idea crept into our churches. It has, unfortunately, become all too common and popular recently as evidenced by best-selling heretical books like “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. We cannot trust our feelings, our inner voices, or our heart because:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).
We must always remember that God continues to speak to us through his Word and only through his Word. It is by study of his Word that we know God and know how we are protected from our own sinful thoughts and the feelings of our hearts:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Bible does not teach us that God will speak to us through our prayers if we “intentionally listen.” The Bible does not teach that I need to “empty my heart and mind of my concerns” to hear God speak. Rather, the Bible teaches us that Scripture is sufficient to prepare us for every good work and therefore we do not need any additional revelation from God:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We Christians need to be vigilant in defending both the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture within this fallen world. We cannot be promoting the false doctrine of extra-Biblical revelation. And, we must judge the error within our own walls with the same measures we use to judge errors on the outside.