"1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."
"3 How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." Hebrews 1:1+2; 2:3+4 ESV
Today I will begin a 5-part series entitled "The Five ‘Solas’ of the Reformation". I begin this series with grateful acknowledgement to Dr. RC Sproul and the boys on the radio program "The Whitehorse Inn" through whom the Lord lead me to the reformed understanding of the truth and to my first exposure to these doctrines that I now share with you.
The first "Sola" that defines the protestant reformation is "sola scriptura", or by the scriptures alone. This term suggests that the only way we can truly know God is if we approach him in the Bible through faith and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is critical for us to understand because there is a very popular heresy at work in the church today that I’ll call “the modern prophetic movement” that proposes that we can hear God’s voice in the same way that the prophets did. This is very dangerous for at least two reasons. First, there’s no way to determine how what I’m “hearing” is from God. Second, it contradicts the above passage. Let’s see how these are clear and present dangers to the church today.
The first danger of the modern prophetic movement is that no independent verification exists to determine if what I believe is the word of the Lord is in fact the word of the Lord and not my own silly imagination. Certainly proponents of the modern prophetic heresy will quote the apostle John who wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1)”. John goes on to explain that the test we use is the Word of God Himself, Jesus Christ. In addressing the rising tide of the Gnostic heresy of his day, the apostle shows that any false prophesy will begin with a denial of Christ as being the Eternal Word of God manifested in the flesh. Thus, any “prophetic” utterance or revelation must originate with Jesus, the Living Word. This is precisely what the writer of the book of Hebrews is referring to in our theme verse. He makes a distinction between how God spoke to the patriarchs in the past in verse 1 and how he speaks to us now in verse 2, namely through his Son. This distinction implies that God has spoken everything to us that he desires us to know. Jesus was born 2000 years ago and was witnessed by the men whom he chose to propagate the gospel message about him. Since none of us were around 2000 years ago none of us can receive any revelation from God subsequent to the Bible.
The modern prophetic heresy is dangerous because these so-called prophets are placing themselves on par with the inspired men through whom the Bible was given. The danger becomes especially apparent and extremely practical when we consider the following passage. “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).” This passage indicates that the true prophet had to have been 100% accurate or he was to be put to death. Those in the modern prophetic movement may not explicitly prophesy rebellion against the Lord by suggesting Christians should worship other gods, but when they say “thus says the Lord” when the Lord has not spoken (see Ezekiel 13:6-8) they are making the foolish opinions of men equal with the very oracles of God. This is nothing short of blasphemy.
Having understood all this, it should be concluded that any passage concerning miraculous gifts or gifts of prophesy must be considered particular to the first century church and must have ceased now that the Word of God has been completed and the apostles have all died. That’s not to say that miracles don’t happen, indeed they do. However, these miraculous interventions should be seen as distinct from the gifts of miracles given to the infant Christian church before the completion of the Biblical canon. The apostles were specifically chosen and gifted based on their being chosen by Christ to be his eye witnesses of his resurrection, something that no one since can claim. The apostle Paul was the one and only exception to this apostolic rule, and even he submitted his apostleship to the eye witnesses (see Galatians 1:11-2:10), again something none of us can do.
Certainly some will protest by saying that Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)”. This refers to Christ’s eternal and immutable nature and not to the dispensing of the prophetic gift or the office of the prophet. If God did not change in his work, activity or dispensations he would not have initiated a new covenant. Thus, just as the old covenant dispensations ended with Jesus’ death on the cross the new covenant miraculous gifting ended with the completion of the New Testament scriptures.
The Bible is not one rule of faith and practice it is the only rule of faith and practice. Only the Bible can show us who Jesus is and lead us to salvation in his name. Only the Bible can direct our steps and bind our consciences. Let us repent of our Biblical illiteracy and return to the scriptures alone. Next, "Sola Gratia".
Read more articles by C. Caples or search for articles on the same topic or others.