November 8, 2020 God Still Speaks Part 2

God Still Speaks

Part Two

Scripture reading: Proverbs 12:15; 13:10; Isaiah 11:1-3a.

 

Is God still speaking today? We began to consider this question last week. We saw four ways that God still speaks. He speaks through visions. He speaks through prophets. And, he speaks through circumstances. Although these statements are true, I encouraged you not to rely upon these ways of receiving guidance from the Lord because of their rarity, their uncertainty, or both. Yet, we ought to be aware of them. God may still choose to use them.

 

The fourth way is through dreams. Receiving a dream from the Lord was a common occurrence in the Bible. The Lord still speaks through dreams. Many great men and women of God throughout church history have been led by dreams received from the Lord. Many of us, if not most of us, have had this experience. Be conscious and receptive of this means. You can experience his message to you through a dream!

 

Today I wish to speak about two more ways by which God is still speaking. You see that our God is diverse and we cannot put Him into a box. There are more than these six ways by which God speaks, but some ways are found infrequently even in Scripture[1]. Thus, we will limit ourselves to two more. These two ways are not only more common, but they are more certain than the ways we considered last time.

 

God speaks through the counsel of those who belong to him.

 

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,

But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.[2]

 

Here, Solomon contrasts two ways of determining right courses of action. One way is the way of the fool. If a person determines what is right simply by their own understanding then that person is a fool. Why is that? It is because we want what we want. And, not everything that we want is in the Lord’s will. When we want something we all have a knack for finding reasons to get it! Isn’t that true?

 

But a wise person is one who considers the counsel of a godly person. Another person, who is seeking your welfare, is better able to assess your situation because they are not biased in favor of a personal desire.

 

Through insolence comes nothing but strife,

But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.[3]

 

This verse is similar to the one in chapter 12, but it goes one step further. The prior verse says that it is the wise person who listens to counsel. Here, Solomon tells us that wisdom comes when we receive counsel. In other words, when we actually take the course of action that we are counseled to take, then we have wisdom. It is wise to listen. It is wiser to heed.

 

When we first hear a counsel that is contrary to our desire, we will not care for it. But it is a moment of truth for us. We must ask ourselves if we truly have the Lord’s desires above our own. Or, are our wants more important to us? The wise person will put the Lord’s will above his/her own. This is wisdom because the Lord knows what is best for us better than we know what is best for us! The fool places their will first.

 

Hence, counsel contrary to our desire is often considered a rebuke. In a way, it is.

 

A true friend will be willing to cause you a little discomfort so that you will make wise decisions. But someone who only seeks your acceptance will tell you what you want to hear.

 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.[4]

 

Hearing what we do not want to hear can be like a wound. But, do you know what? It’s only a temporary feeling. Good advice becomes sweet and pleasing when we follow it and see the results.

 

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,

So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.[5]

 

This verse exhibits parallelism. That is, comparable words or phrases in the first part and second part are saying the same thing. Our hearts being glad is the same thing as sweetness.

 

The verses that we have considered tell us that it is wise to follow counsel and it is foolish to ignore it. But they don’t tell us that God is speaking through those who offer counsel.

 

Consider this passage about the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied about the Lord Jesus 700 years before he came:

 

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. [6]

 

Note that besides wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and the fear of the LORD – which all come from the Spirit that rested upon Jesus – he also had the Spirit of counsel. Wise counsel comes from the Spirit of the Living God!

 

Thus, when a person is filled with the Spirit, they will give counsel that is in accordance with the will of God. God speaks through those who are filled with the Spirit, not only Jesus, not only prophets.

 

Of course, I am not saying that the followers of Christ in this age speak infallibly as did Jesus and as did the prophets. I am only saying that God is speaking through the counsel of those who belong to him.

 

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.[7]

 

This is kind of an amazing verse. At first, we may be inclined to think that this is simply a claim of apostolic authority by Paul, similar to his claim in 2 Corinthians.[8] Of course, Paul is an apostle. Therefore, what he writes and speaks will be the words of God. But he doesn’t write, “what you heard from me.” He writes, “what you heard from us.”

 

Who is the “us?” See verse 1:1. “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy.” It was not just Paul’s words that were words of God. They were also the words of Silvanus and Timothy. Thus, any servant of God who is faithfully proclaiming God’s words, especially as found in Scripture, is in a true sense speaking words of God.

 

In the context of this chapter, these words include charges “to walk in a manner worthy of God.” (Verse 12) Doesn’t that sound like counsel? Of course, it is!

 

In 1881, near the town of Evemouth in Northern England, there had been nearly a week of stormy weather that prevented the fishermen from going out to make their living. After many days the sun shone out in a clear blue sky; it seemed as if the storm had passed away, and the boats started out for the fishing ground. Forty-one boats left the harbor that day. In 1881 weather forecasting was not as accurate as today. But, through barometric readings, they knew enough to know that another storm was coming. Before they started, the harbor-master hoisted the storm signal, and warned them of the coming tempest. He begged of them not to go; but they disregarded his warning, and away they went. They saw no sign of the coming storm. In a few hours, however, it swept down on that coast, and very few of those fishermen returned. There were five or six men in each boat, and nearly all were lost in that dreadful gale. Some 200 fishermen lost their lives because they failed to heed the counsel of the harbormaster. Children lost their fathers. Wives lost their husbands. The counsel of the brothers and sisters in the church can be like a warning flag from a harbormaster. Take their counsel. Your life may depend upon it!

 

God speaks through the counsel of his people.


Finally, most ordinarily and most certainly, God speaks through the Scriptures. These two things we may affirm with great confidence:

 

  1. God breathed out the Scriptures.
  2. They are without error and, therefore, certain.

 

Other forms of communication, although they may be from God, are not certain. Therefore, all other forms of “speaking” are subordinate to the Bible.

 

Let us see the testimony of Scripture itself about this matter. There were two main groups of Jewish leaders at the time of Christ. One was the Pharisees. They were the fundamentalists of their day. For all the bad things we can say about them, we can at least say they believed the Old Testament and took its words as the words of God. They believed in a future resurrection. Mainly because the book of Daniel makes it so clear that there will be one (Dan. 12:2-3). The Sadducees were the other group. They were the liberals of their day. They did not believe in a resurrection. These two groups would debate on this subject. The Sadducees came to Jesus trying to trick him with a funny question. Jesus answers them:

 

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” [9]

 

Notice three things about our Lord’s answer. First, he says that they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures. If we wish to be right about matters of faith we must know the Scriptures. If you want to be wrong about things then ignore the Scriptures or read them with unbelief as did the Sadducees. Second, he says in verse 31, “have you not read what was said to you by God?” Don’t you think that this phrase is somewhat unusual? Usually, after “have you not read,” we would expect, “what was written to you by God.” Why does Jesus mix these terms? Because He is saying Scripture is God speaking! Do you see that? Jesus is saying that Scripture is God speaking! Jesus held them accountable as if God had spoken directly to them! The third thing is that Jesus’ argument rested upon the tense of one Hebrew verb – the fact that it was in the present tense rather than the past tense. Clearly, he thought that Scripture was true even down to the verb tenses.

 

Jesus believed that God spoke through the Scriptures. And, he also believed that they were without error. In John chapter 10 he is again debating with opposers and again quotes the OT and adds these words: “the Scripture cannot be broken. (John 10:35)” This is another way of saying that Scripture cannot be wrong. In fact, several translations render it that way:

 

The Scriptures cannot be denied or found to be in error. (Passion Translation)

 

What the Scripture says is true forever. (Good News)

 

The Scripture is always true. (Easy-to-Read Version)

 

…the Scripture, which cannot be untrue. (Living Bible)

 

The apostles followed their Lord in proclaiming these same truths.

 

15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. [10]

 

This is the standard go-to text wherein the Scriptures testify to their own divine origin. Although we may be familiar with this passage, it is good to revisit it. Those who are familiar, bear with me for a little while. You still may see something new.

 

Paul is writing to his protégé, Timothy. He reminds him that he has known the sacred writings since he was a child. Oh! How good this is! If you have children or grandchildren teach them the Bible. Make them memorize parts of it. Even though they may not come to saving faith as children, the Holy Spirit can use the memories of what they have seen later in life. Even though I have been critical of the Catholic church in this series, there are some good things to be said. There is some truth in it. I am grateful that I was exposed to Catholicism as a boy. I am grateful because they taught the law of God and the law of God is the instrument that the Spirit uses to convict us of sin and bring us to faith. It was my knowledge that I had violated God’s laws that drove me to faith as a young man.

 

We should acquaint our children and grandchildren with the Bible, especially the laws. Do not just use the Bible as a storybook. Impress upon them the laws of God. And, don’t depend on just bringing them to church once a week. You need to do it!

 

In verse 16 we see that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” When we read or study the Bible we are not just reading a work of men. We are reading the very out-breathing of God!

 

The apostle goes on to affirm that:

 

  • Scripture is profitable for teaching. This implies that it is correct, without error.
  • It is profitable for reproof. “Reproof” is another word for rebuke, just a little milder. If you are going to rebuke someone you had better be right – you can’t have something with mistakes in it.
  • It is profitable for correction. This might mean self-correction. We need that, don’t we? But how can we correct ourselves if what we are using is not correct?
  • It is profitable for training in righteousness. How can we be trained in righteousness if what we are using for our training isn’t right?

 

So we see that, just as Jesus Himself believed that the Scriptures were God-breathed and without error, so did the apostle Paul. If we had time we would see that the apostle Peter did as well. We have a sure word!

 

Not only is the Scripture alone the final rule of faith and the ultimate guide for the church, God’s people corporately,

 

Scripture alone is our ultimate and certain guide for our personal lives.

 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” [11]

 

The first words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus when he is tempted by the devil are: “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

 

Yet, is this not the way that most people, almost all people, live? They live to eat, sleep, and experience pleasure. You might be thinking of worldly people when I make that statement. Of course, that is true of them. That is the very definition of “worldly” – living according to their bodily appetites. But, I am afraid that this is also true of a great many who name the name of Christ. They live by bread alone. Maybe they read their Bibles once a week. Maybe they attend church. But many do not live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Our Lord Himself says that we must live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And, we have already seen that he believed that the Scriptures were the speaking of God.

In the 1800’s, before the transcontinental telegraph system was built, the fastest way you could get a letter from St Louis, MO to the West Coast was through the pony express. The pony express was a thrilling part of early American history. It ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California—a distance of 1,900 miles. The trip was made in ten days. Forty men, each riding 50 miles a day, dashed along the trail on 500 of the best horses the West could provide.

 

To conserve weight, clothing was very light, saddles were extremely small and thin, and no weapons were carried. The horses themselves wore small shoes or none at all. The mail pouches were flat and very conservative in size. Letters had to be written on thin paper, and postage was $5.00 an ounce ($136.50 in today’s money!).

Yet, each rider carried a full-sized Bible! It was presented to him when he joined the pony express, and he took it with him despite all the scrupulous weight precautions. In those by-gone days, the riders knew the value of God’s word! It was precious to them!

 

In my own life, I have found that the word of God has been the most cherished possession that I have had. It has given me insight when I needed it, answers when I sought them, comfort in times of trouble, and hope in times of despair. When I read it I sense the very presence of the Lord because He speaks through the pages.

 

In the same way that the church may go astray and be brought back through the word of God; so too, it is that when we go astray in our own lives that we may be brought back by meditation upon the word of God.

 

Every other way that God speaks should be tested by the Scriptures. Be open to the Lord speaking through dreams and through the brothers and sisters. But you will find most every answer to most every difficulty that you face in the Bible.

 

The Sixty-six books of the Bible are love letters from the Lord to you. Just as a man and a woman in love long to receive letters from one another when they are apart and find that their love for one another grows as they read their love letters, so too, long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow (I Peter 2:2) in love and in salvation.

 

 

[1] Such as putting out a fleece or drawing lots.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 12:15). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 13:10). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 27:6). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 27:9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 11:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 2:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] See The Apostleship of Paul at http://nsbcwinfield.com/october_4_2020_the_apostleship_of_paul.

[9] English Standard Version (Matthew 22:29-32). Crossway Bibles.

[10] ESV (2 Tim 3:15-17). Crossway Bibles.

[11] ESV (Matthew 4:1-4). Crossway Bibles.