Guidance is a very controversial subject — no question about that. In fact, if I was "smart," I probably wouldn't preach on it because it's almost guaranteed that there will be a point or two that someone will take issue with. But that's fine. That's OK. I have always told you to be Bereans, and to only accept what clearly comes from the Scripture. You can eat the corn of my sermon and throw away the corn cob. Now I'm convinced it's all corn, but even if you're not convinced of that, hopefully there is enough good information here that you will grow.
Controversial or not, this is an area that many of you have had questions on, and I think I would be derelict in my duty if I did not give my best shot at teaching on this subject. We've been praying and fasting for the Lord's guidance: but what does that mean? What does it look like? How do we know what the Lord wants us as individuals to do, and what He wants us as a congregation to do? There are many different answers to that question. And I have to confess that I have changed over time. Before I was reformed, I took a very subjective view of guidance, and I took it to an extreme where it put me into bondage because I saw the subjective as adding to the Scripture norms — and that's dangerous. When I became Reformed and understood the total sufficiency of Scripture for ethics, it was an incredibly liberating experience. If you have never been in subjectivist bondage, you cannot appreciate how liberating that was. But what typically happens when people make wholesale changes is that they often tend to swing like a pendulum to the opposite extreme. And that's what happened to me. I went too far in the other direction and rejected anything subjective (or at least, so I thought — so I told myself). I think it's actually impossible to totally avoid the subjective. But I tried. It felt safe, but it wasn't 100% Biblical. At that time I basically took the position of Meadors' book on the back table called Decision Making God's Way. And it's a great book. In fact, I recommend that you read it. It's got one of the best discussions of how worldview affects your decision making that I've ever read. I agree with about 80-90% of the book. But I think he does go too far. It articulates very well the sufficiency of Scripture, and let me emphasize as strongly as I can that I continue to believe that the Bible is the only foundation for faith and life, the only infallible rule and it is the judge and the test of all truth claims. Period. I endorse that 100%.
But can we really say that there is no true knowledge outside the Bible that can be tested? What's the point of having a test and a standard if there is nothing to test? Not even Gordon Clark went that far. I think we can say that apart from the Bible we have no valid way of proving that we know. But as Gordon Clark pointed out a number of times, John 1 teaches that Jesus enlightens every person born into the world. And contrary to what Meador says, that is one of several verses that speak of enlightenment or illumination. That's probably the main area that I would have disagreement with him on. Illumination is a Biblical word. Those of you who have read the book may remember that in chapter 9 and following he rejects the traditional reformed view of illumination and says that the word doesn't occur in the Bible. Well, he's wrong. And I'll be showing you several places where the Bible literally has the word enlightened or illumined, and you will see it in contexts that go way beyond what he allows for.
But anyway, back to what we were talking about: Romans 1 is clear that people in countries who have never once read the Bible still know enough about God and His will that they are left without excuse. That's a kind of guidance in our conscience. It's not normative -- only the Bible is normative. But Romans 1 calls it knowledge and truth. And Clark points out that they could not have gained that knowledge by induction. Induction is where you do scientific examination of data and come to a general conclusion. You can stare at the rocks and trees and sunsets for all you are worth, and if you didn't have a revelation inside already, you'd never get a valid induction from those things. In fact, he points out that the knowledge is not an induction at all, but something already within us. Clark rightly says that there is no such thing as a valid induction.
Secondly, deduction (in other words, reasoning from a series of statements to a conclusion) is not an explanation because the people Paul is talking about don't have a Bible. They don't have inspired axioms that they can make deductions from. And so the knowledge these pagans have must have come by revelation — Reformed people call it General Revelation because it is given to all people generally. Romans 1 describes that revelation. God has put the law on their hearts so that Psalm 58 can say that newborn babies are able to self-consciously and deliberately sin. They can even lie by the way they cry, fuss or coo. It says, they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies. Now obviously not with the sophistication that adults do, but the Bible says that they start sinning from the womb. Humans cannot escape from the law. Even when they reject the Bible, the law is there inside of them to condemn them. Romans 1 says that they try to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (verse 18), but if they didn't have the truth already, they wouldn't be able to suppress it. So there is truth outside of Scripture — it's written on the heart. And verse 20 says that these things are clearly seen by those without a Bible, being understood, so that they are without excuse. The reason I bring this up is that some of you have been reading John Robbins and Gary Crampton, and even though they agree with Clark on this issue, they fall into the error of saying that there is no truth but Scripture. And that contradicts Romans 1-2.
So I think it would be helpful right at the outset here, to give some definitions and parameters that I have bought into personally, and I hope you buy into. But I think it is useful if you know my definition of terms so that there is not miscommunication. The first doctrine that I believe, but won't have time to prove this morning, is that Isaiah 8, Daniel 9 and other Scriptures prophesied that prophecy in the technical sense of the word (of inspired revelation) would cease in 70 AD when vision and prophet would be sealed up. I think everybody here believes that, so I won't try to prove it. If there happens to be somebody here that believes in ongoing prophecy, I would be happy to discuss it with you. But I just want you to know what my presuppositions are so that when I discuss guidance, there won't be any misunderstandings. What am I asking for when I say, let's pray for God's guidance? Am I asking for an infallible word from the Lord? Absolutely not. There is only one infallible word, and that is the Scripture. The canon is closed and there is no more authoritative revelation to be had. And Meadors buys into that as well.
A second presupposition that I hold to is that there is a huge distinction between revelation and inspiration. Revelation is a broad concept that includes inspiration, but it also includes general revelation. And I think it is a most important distinction to keep in mind. Every Reformed systematic theology I have consulted has emphasized this fact, and its important to protect the integrity of the Scriptures. When charismatics justify their mistakes by saying that Biblical prophets made mistakes as well, they are destroying the whole foundation of Biblical inspiration. The Bible makes no mistakes. True prophets never made mistakes. Biblical prophets were inspired and infallible. But not all revelation is infallibly received or infallibly communicated. Romans 1 indicates that all humans have the knowledge of God, but is it infallible? No. Because of sin, they misinterpret it all the time. Pagans have very bad theology. You would definitely not want to say (based on Romans 1) that every pagan's view of God is inerrant. Romans 1 also indicates that all humans have the law written on the heart. But do they know it infallibly? No. They rationalize the truth, and suppress it. So that revelation has a totally different character from the Bible here. All men have revelation, but only a handful of people (known in the Scriptures as prophets) were given an extra anointing of inspiration which enabled them to receive the revelation infallibly and to communicate it infallibly. That's standard Reformed doctrine. Shedd's systematics goes into great detail on the distinction between revelation and inspiration. So that's my second presupposition.
A third belief that I hold to, is that even though inspiration and thus prophecy have ceased, God continues to reveal Himself and give guidance to every man, woman and child who has ever lived. Whether you see it or not, you are going to get at least some guidance. Reformed theologians have typically grouped these kinds of revelation under illumination, wisdom and faith. Not only has God revealed the moral law and basic theology about God's attributes and existence, but also other facets of the image of God in man like communication and logic. We speak of this as an intuitive understanding of right and wrong, an intuitive ability to pick up language, etc. It wasn't gained by induction or deduction. It was already there when we were born. And a rejection of this intuitive (i.e., subjective) revelation is what gets many people into trouble.
We're still on introduction, OK. I want you to get your Berean hats on now and before we look at guidance, see if what we are saying here is true. I'm going to put an overhead [Appendix] up here that gives several kinds of ongoing revelation.
And these Greek words at the top are going to be gobbledygook to some of you, but they are the Greek words that speak of revelation.
The first word (αποκαλυπτω, apokaluptο) is a verb that means to reveal. The second word is the noun form of the same word. It is αποκαλυψις (apokalupsis) which you will recognize as one of the names for the last book of the Bible — the Apocalypse. The third word (ανακαλυπτω, anakalupto) is another verb form of the same word, revelation. Then comes φανεροω (phanerow) which means to show or reveal. Then there are two words that mean to illuminate or enlighten: φωτιζω (fotizo), φωτισμος (fotismos). It's the idea of the lights going on in your head. There is another word for inspiration and one for prophecy as well, but I want to restrict myself to the terms that speak of any kind of revelation.
The reason I am giving you these words is so that you don't wonder if I am pulling a fast one on you. Do people get revelation apart from the Scripture? Yes, every one of those words is used to show this. Once you see this you will be in a better position to eat the corn and throw away the corn cob in the various books on guidance.
First of all, we have already quoted John 1:9. Jesus is the Light which enlightens every man coming into the world. Not only do we live and move and have our being in Jesus, but our very ability to think comes from. That probably refers to other aspects of the image as well - like law, the knowledge of God, the ability to communicate, etc. But it especially has logic and rationality in mind.
The second point we have already looked at: the knowledge of God. But I want you to notice that two Greek verbs translated as revelation are used to describe this knowledge that men have even when they have no Bible. Verse 20 says that God's existence and His attributes are clearly seen and known by such men, and verses 18-19 explain why. The wrath of God is revealed (it's the verb αποκαλυπτω, apokalupto). God has shown it to them. And interestingly (at least to Travis and me it is interesting), Psalm 19 is not shy to describe this as speech and language. Gordon Clark points out that this proves that the knowledge is not gained by some inductive process of looking at creation. If it is language and speech, it is propositional truth. It is propositional truth God has imprinted right into the spirit of a person from conception on. Why am I belaboring this? Because if you reject the idea of subjective revelation of truth (however feeble and limited the revelation might be) you are going to have a mistaken and imbalanced view of guidance, and could go to either extreme. We are going to be looking at understanding guidance next week, but this sermon is laying groundwork.
The third thing people can have without a Bible is a knowledge of God's law. God's revelation not only shows God's righteousness, but also God's wrath against their sinfulness. Notice how comprehensive this knowledge is: Verses 18-19 say, "the wrath of God is revealed [there's a form of the verb apokalupto — αποκαλυπτεται, apokaluptetai] ...against all [not just some, but against all] ungodliness [the entire moral law is on their hearts] and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness [they already have the truth of that law. Verse 19 says] ...God has shown it [εφανερωσεν, ephanerosin — revealed it] to them" (Rom. 1:18). John 16:8 says about the Holy Spirit, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, of sin because they do not believe in me, ...etc. So this isn't just believers who are guided by the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin, but unbelievers as well.
Later we will see that Reformed systematics like W.G.T. Shedd's were right in seeing wisdom as a form of revelation for believers. But I've included two subcategories here because the same language is also used for wisdom gained by people who don't get it from the Bible. It's not normative, but it is wisdom. Isaiah 28:26-29 speaks of God giving a farmer skill and wisdom. Speaking of the knowledge of soils and the way various plants interact with the soil, it says that God teaches this. For He instructs him... God teaches him... This also comes from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance So it ties in with the subject of guidance. Now that farmer maybe doesn't think it's guidance, but God calls it guidance. Is the Bible an instruction manual on farming technique — on which soils work best with which seed, and how much water, sunshine etc., that they should have? No. It gives axioms of farming to God's glory, and as Meador says, a worldview. But the Spirit gives wisdom and guidance in specifics. Shedd and Hodge appeal to many other Scriptures in Proverbs, Daniel 1, Exodus 35 and elsewhere to indicate that all wisdom is a gift from God that men either abuse or use to His glory. And it is given by a form of revelation. Our air conditioning guy prays for wisdom whenever he is stumped by a problem, and God gives it, just like James says that he will.
And then finally, there are ways that God stirs up the hearts of people to motivate them to be involved in certain projects. I haven't included here the numerous verses which speak of Christ and apostles being moved and stirred up because that was probably flowing from a Biblical worldview. But these are not necessarily even dealing with believers who know the word. Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes." Ezra 7:27 says of pagan king Artaxerxes, Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem" God moved him to write a letter and support their work. In my handout I do put a caution in here. Movings, promptings, desires, etc. are not normative — ever. In other words, you might believe God has moved you to do something, and the Bible says that we can ignore it. Only the Bible cannot be ignored. They are not normative even if they come from the Lord. The moment somebody gives you a command or a "must do" from the Lord that is not in the Bible, he is contradicting 1 Timothy 3:16-17 which says that the Scriptures are sufficient to make the man of God complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. You can't add any good works to the Bible. And so I say that your urgings, your promptings, etc. are not normative, even if they come from the Lord.
That may seem like a radical statement, but let me illustrate. Turn with me to 2 Samuel 24:1. Here is a passage where God moves the heart of David to test whether David will follow Scripture or simply follow his impulses. 2 Samuel 24:1. Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah." In verse 3 God has Joab warn David that this violates Biblical law (so God is giving him a way of escape), but David stubbornly does it anyway. He overrides Joab. He feels moved. And this leads to disaster in Israel. How many thousands die as a result. Later David repents. And I give this illustration because it is as vivid an example as I could find that your burdens, heart movements, promptings, urgings, hunches, etc. must always be subject to the Word of God. David couldn't use the excuse that he felt moved. (Look up 1 Chronicles 21:1 some time and you will see why. The instrument God used to move David was Satan. Demons can move people as well.) But I had a pastor tell me that God had moved him to divorce his wife and marry another woman. I said, "That can't be. The Bible clearly condemns this." He told me that it may not be God's perfect will, but it was God's permissive will. I told him that I could guarantee that he should not do it no matter who moved him to do so because his divorce was unbiblical and his talking the other lady into getting a divorce was unbiblical. It's no wonder to me that people like Meador throw out the subjective when abuses like this occur all the time. He rightly blasts people who ignore the Bible with the excuse that the Spirit hasn't convicted them yet. Well, get on the stick and get convicted! Start listening to the Spirit, Right?! All you should need is a Word from the Bible, and that ought to be enough guidance when it comes to the norms of Scripture. That is the only thing that is normative. But at the same time, we go too far if we think that desires and burdens are always useless, or that they cannot come from the Lord, and that they cannot dovetail perfectly with Scripture or even tune us into Scripture. I gave you an example of a moving that was negative, but keep in mind that most of the other examples of such subjective urgings in the Bible are given in a positive light. And I want us to understand what is going on so that we know what to make of them. I don't want us to ignore them as Meadors has us do.
I need to hurry through this if I am going to get to the subject of guidance. The next set of illustrations of subjective revelation are revelations that are based on and point to the Scriptures. You can see here that the words for revelation are connected to conviction of sin and repentance. You can read the Bible till you are blue in the face to a person whose heart is not plowed by the Spirit and it will be as hard and impenitent as ever. A revelation must be given internally to convict them of the external revelation. And interestingly a person can be convicted by the Holy Spirit and still prove to be unregenerate. The fact that a person gets revelation is no proof that they are regenerate. Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of apostates who "were once enlightened..." and he says that "if they fall away" it is impossible to renew them to repentance. But in any case, enlightenment -- illumination was needed to bring them to that conviction.
Last week we saw that faith is a gift of God -- not just saving faith, but the faith that we live by throughout our lives. You can see that the Greek word for revelation is used to explain why some people believed Christ's message and others did not in John 12:38. Some believe because the arm of the Lord was revealed to them. Ephesians 1 says that it takes the working of God's mighty power to make us believe. Likewise, John 6:45 says, It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Notice what happens before a person can believe. He must be taught of God. He must have heard and learned from the Father.... If coming is faith, then the hearing and learning precedes faith. This is revelation. Last week we saw that the assurance of faith is a gift of God that we cannot generate on our own. Anything we generate is presumption. But this assurance of faith happens throughout life. Romans 12:3 says that every Christian has a different measure of faith that God grants. But that can grow. In fact, one of the reasons I am teaching on this is that Scripture says that the community of faith can grow and by it ministry can expand. Paul told the Corinthians that he had hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be enlarged by you in our sphere (2 Cor. 10:15). This faith is a mysterious thing. In fact, we are just finishing up the book Sergeant York, and the Lord gave this guy a faith that he would make it through the war alive that gave him incredible boldness. He had read the Scriptures of God's protection and provision many times, but the question could always come, "How will God protect and provide." Allowing us to go to heaven would be a wonderful answer to that prayer. But the Spirit quickened those Scriptures to his heart in a way that made him absolutely confident that he would make it through. Is that infallible? No. But it sure made a difference in his life. There were 20 machine gun nests that were spitting lead all around him killing off his fellow soldiers. He just kept knocking off the machine gunnists one after another telling them that if they quit shooting he wouldn't have to shoot them. He ended up capturing over 100 German soldiers single handedly. There were five soldiers with him. And they hid out because they couldn't move without getting leaks. It would have been foolish for them to do anything but hide given the circumstances. Faith makes a huge difference as we saw in last week's sermon. It takes the principles of Scripture and the Spirit applies them to the specifics of our life. Read John Murray on this. He has some marvelous treatment on this side of guidance and how practical it is. None of this has the infallible character that Scripture does, but it is still important.
The next category is the opening of our eyes at salvation. It is clearly called a revelation. Do you see why it makes me nervous when people say that revelation no longer occurs. I know what they mean. They mean that inspired revelation no longer occurs. And I agree. But they should say that. We need to use the term revelation the way the Bible does. If you say that revelation has ceased when you are opposing the excesses of the Charismatics, you will embarrass yourself and you won't be effective. Don't do the pendulum swing and go too far in the other direction and deny the internal working of the Holy Spirit in the subjective ways he is talking about here. 2 Corinthians 3 says that unbelievers have a veil and lack a revelation in their minds. Hebrews 10:32 says, recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated... The Greek is φωτισθεντες (fotisthentes). So a word for revelation and a word for illumination are used to describe the opening of our eyes at salvation.
In the next section we have Peter answering Jesus that he believes Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. He is professing a doctrine. And Christ's response is, flesh and blood has not revealed [απεκαλυψεν, apekalupsen] this [doctrine] to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17). Peter didn't know that he had a revelation. He had to be told. And Paul's prayer for all believers is that we would grow not only in love and other things, but in doctrinal knowledge so that the church wouldn't be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:13ff). But how does all that come? He says eventually the church will be mature and united in the faith. But how will it happen? By apokalupsis and photismos — by revelation and illumination. that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation [αποκαλυψεως, apokalupseos] in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened[πεφωτισμενους, pefotismenous]; that you may know..." (Eph. 1:17-18). Every Reformed systematics I have on my shelf applies these words to the present, ongoing illumination. Just as Peter needed it, we need it for doctrinal integrity, and we need to cry out with David: Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your word (Ps. 119:18). Don't be a rationalist in your approach to Scripture. We need God's guidance to understand the Scripture itself. But my point is, that Paul himself calls the illumination a form of revelation. We've got to be biblical in our use of words.
The next category was the disciple's newly given authority to discern and cast out demons. They were engaging in spiritual warfare. And as they gained experience, they excitedly come and tell Jesus. And Jesus prays to the Father saying, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes" (Luke 10:21). I forgot to put the Greek word in the overhead, but it is the verb apokalupto.
The next category is the understanding that we need for sanctification. You can know the law and want to keep the law, but still not know how. You need to pray for illumination. Paul talks about how the unbelieving Jews of his day had a veil on their minds. That veil was a lack of revelation or a lack of unveiling. Then verse 18 says, "But we all, with unveiled face [ανακεκαλυμμενω, anakekalummeno], beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). So we need it even for discernment in sanctification. How do I apply this Scripture to the specifics of life?
I give a couple of verses indicating the need for revelation related to wisdom for decision making. I hope by now that you can see that all of these forms of revelation are quite different from inspiration. In fact, in many cases, we aren't even aware that God is doing this subjective guidance until we think about it afterwards. It's sort of like regeneration. We don't even realize it's happening many times till afterwards when we sit down and look back. Philippians 3:15 speaks of an attitude of mind that Paul wanted them to have, and he says, "Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal [αποκαλυψει, apokalupsei] even this to you." There's that word for revelation again.
There are many other words we could have looked at that show God's working within us subjectively. And many of them are critical to the success of missions in the Old Testament. At a critical junction in Ezra 1:5 it says, Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all [here's the phrase] whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. They had Scripture prophecy that Israel would be reinhabited 70 years later, but they may not have been tempted to return after two generations any more than I would want to move back to Germany, which was my father's homeland till he was 16. Babylon was their home now, and apart from God moving their spirits with strong desires they may not have left their comfort zones. The burden given to Nehemiah almost made him sick it was so strong. We'll get to how to analyze those things next week, Lord willing. But I needed to demonstrate that the subjective side of guidance is indeed Biblical. Next week we will see how important it is.
OK. Let's look at the three dimensions of guidance. The rest of this sermon we should be able to fly through fairly quickly. Let me start with a chart here [Chart B]. There is Biblical guidance up here, which speaks of the Spirit's authority over our lives. The subjective has no authority. Only the Bible has authority. So that's this side over here. Then there is the subjective guidance which speaks of the Spirit's real presence in our lives. And then there is the providential guidance which speaks of the Spirit's power in ordering all of the things around us for our good. So there is authority, presence and power. Here is how the great Reformed theologian, Charles Hodge spells out those three sides of guidance. He says,
Christians admit that the children of God are led by the Spirit of God; that their convictions as to truth and duty, their inward character and outward conduct, are moulded by his influence. They are children unable to guide themselves, who are led by an ever-present Father of infinite wisdom and love. This guidance is partly providential, ordering their external circumstances [that's this part of the triangle here]; partly through the Word, which is a lamp to their feet [that's this part of the triangle up here]; and partly by the inward influence of the Spirit on the mind [and that's this subjective corner].1
I think that is a great summary of the three sides of guidance. I will show a chart in a moment that will illustrate how God's Word judges, tests and explains all three. But those are the three modes of guidance that God uses.
And you can find people who are only willing to camp out in one of these points to the exclusion of the others. Many times Reformed people (or at least late twentieth century Reformed people) have a terrible time getting beyond Biblical guidance. Because we take biblical guidance so seriously, we have studied out this dimension probably more thoroughly than anyone else. So we tend to have a strength up here. This deals with the rational dimension of propositional truth. And I don't think you can get a better book on that side than Gary Meadors' book, Decision Making God's Way. I think Garry Friesen's Book, Decision Making and the Will of God, might be a close second. But both books are marred by camping out on one or two of these corners.
But let me comment on how it is almost impossible to avoid the subjective side. Romans 8:16 says, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. It doesn't say the Spirit's Bible bears witness. It says the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. Why is His separate witness necessary? Well, your name isn't written in the Bible, is it? He's not bearing witness independently of the Scripture, but to get from John 3:16 to an assurance of salvation takes more than a syllogism. Now the syllogism is helpful. Let me explain how rationalists often approach this. They give it by way of two premises and a conclusion. Premise 1 says, "If I believe in Christ's atonement I will be saved." (And they have a Scripture that backs that up.) Premise 2 is "I have believed." Conclusion? I am saved. What's the "ify" part of that syllogism that keeps it from giving absolute assurance? I know that syllogism by itself never gave me assurance. For years I was constantly plagued with doubts of my salvation. Premise 1 is absolutely reliable because it comes straight out of Scripture. I didn't ever doubt that premise. If you have faith in Christ's atonement, you will be saved. You can bank on that one, because it comes from the absolute Word of God. But premise 2 is my premise, not the Bible's. Premise two says, "Phil Kayser has believed." Is that true? It is probably true. But we have all seen pastors who have apostatized, haven't we? Only God knows the heart. And the Bible makes clear that not all faith is saving faith. There is dead faith, counterfeit faith. No human ever fully knows his own heart, and since we know that there can be false faith, it takes the Holy Spirit's testimony within to give that assurance. Can you see that?
The book of 1 John does not give us assurance by giving us a syllogism. It gives all three corners of this triangle here. But it is the Spirit's presence that especially gives us the assurance. Back to Romans 8, Paul said: For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father. (Rom. 8:15). It's the Spirit who enables us to have that subjective confidence to cry out Abba Father — that sense of intimacy with Him.
1 John 4:13 says, By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. Not because He has told us in the Word (that's true as well — that's premise 1), but we know that we are saved because He has given us of His Spirit. So the moment we become Christians, this subjective side of guidance kicks in. And I will outline several forms of this guidance next week.
But before I move on, I want you to notice the direction of these arrows. The bottom one is an arrow simply because it shows that there is linear time. It represents our life moving along, and Scripture indicates that eventually time will tell whether our guidance was true or not. But notice that the Bible always judges, tests and interprets the subjective guidance and providential guidance, not vice versa. We have only one absolute, certain and infallible guidance, and that is the Bible. And that's why we don't have the arrows moving up to the Bible. The Bible judges all of life.
So keep in mind that these are not three competing forms of guidance. They all dovetail together and require each other. For example, 1 Corinthians 10:13 guarantees that God's providence will never be in conflict with His moral will. He will always provide a way of escape that we may be able to bear it. But the Bible also says that He would place His laws within our heart and lead us by His Spirit to keep His Word (1 John). He works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. The three forms of guidance fit together, and if they don't, we have misunderstood God's will. I was so wishing we could get into the practical — but we can't. It will have to wait till next time.
Let me give one more chart [Chart C], and then (Lord willing) we will finish up next week. Some people think of counselors as another form of guidance. I don't look at counselors as a fourth form of guidance. Rather, since we all make mistakes, I see counselors as helping to fill in the gaps in our understanding in these three areas. After all, counselors are just a group of people who have the same Biblical guidance, subjective guidance and providential guidance. And this next overhead shows why you need input from other people. You are not infallible in your understanding of the Bible, of your own subjective experiences, or of providence. People frequently misinterpret all three. But as we get input from others, they can show us our blind spots, can give us angles on the problem that we hadn't noticed before, and can confirm our interpretations of God's guidance. And as Meadors points out so well, sometimes by our talking with people, we realize all on our own what we should be doing because it helps us to see our rationalization. If even prophets had to be tested, surely all guidance should be tested. And so far I have come up with 28 points by which guidance can be tested. We'll look at those next week. But Christians need to have more humility in the area of guidance. Many times they will base everything on feelings. That's a sign of immaturity as Meadors rightly points out.
Sorry to leave you dangling, but that's as much as you're going to get today. We've set the foundation today, and foundations are a little ugly. Lord willing, next week we will be building the building and get into some of the interesting day to day issues that plague Christians. Amen. Let's pray.
Appendix: Now that Inspired Revelation Has Ceased, What Kind of Revelation Continues? A Preliminary Listing
Greek synonyms for revelation (whether inspired or uninspired): αποκαλυπτω (apokaluptο), αποκαλυψις (apokalupsis), ανακαλυπτω (anakalupto), φανεροω (phanerow), φωτιζω (photizo), φωτισμος (photismos). Metaphorical uses of other terms such as being "taught", "heard," and "learned" of God can refer to something as basic as faith (John 6:45).
Subjective revelation without Scripture
- Rationality [and probably other aspects of the image of God in man]:
- "[the Son of God] was the true Light which enlightens [φωτιζω, photizo] every man coming into the world" (John 1:9)
- Knowledge of God's existence and His attributes (Rom. 1; Ps. 19)
- "the wrath of God is revealed [αποκαλυπτεται, apokaluptetai]..." (Rom. 1:18)
- "what might be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it [εφανερωσεν, ephanerosen — revealed it] to them" (Rom. 1:19)
- "...they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (Rom. 1:28)
- "reveals His handiwork... speech, knowledge.. speech.. language... voice" (Ps. 19)
- Knowledge about God's law (Rom. 1)
- "The wrath of God is revealed [αποκαλυπτεται, apokaluptetai]... against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness... God has shown it [εφανερωσεν, ephanerosen — revealed it] to them" (Rom. 1:18-19)
- "Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law... the law written on their hearts" (Rom. 2:14-15)
- "knowing the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 1:32)
- "[the Holy Spirit] will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8)
(See next section for the term "revelation" connected with wisdom and movings. Here, parallel language is used that show it to be a revelation. See Shedd's systematics):
- The wisdom of a farmer to do his work (Isa. 28:23-29):
- "for He instructs him... God teaches him... This also comes from he LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance." (Isa. 26:26, 29)
- Reformed writers like Shedd attribute all wisdom to a form of God's revelation based on Daniel 1:17 and Exodus 35:35
- Though the term revelation is not used of this next category, there are many other subjective experiences attributed to the Lord that deal with motivations. Keep in mind that none of these subjective movings of the heart are normative (see for example 2 Sam. 24:1 with 1 Chron. 21:1). Nevertheless, the Scripture says a lot about God's control of drives, urges, desires, etc. in even pagans.
- "Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 7:27)
- "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes." (Prov. 21:1)
- "The LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation." (2 Chron. 36:22)
Subjective revelation with Scripture
- Conviction of sin and repentance (whether of elect or non-elect):
- "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen [φανεροω, phanerow], that they have been done in God." (John 3:21)
- "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened [φωτισθεντας, photisthentas]... if they fall away, to renew them to repentance." (Heb. 6:4-6)
- "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed [απεκαλυφθη, apekaluphthei]?" (John 12:38)
- Explaining why some believe and others don't, Jesus said, "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." (John 6:45)
- The opening of our eyes at salvation is called a revelation [αποκαλυπτεται, apokaluptetai] (John 12:38-40)
- The veil covers the minds of the unregenerate (2 Cor. 3:14-16), but the regenerate have their minds unveiled (2 Cor. 3:16-18) and grow (see next point) into the image of God with this unveiling or revelation (2 Cor. 3:18).
- "But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted [ανακαλυπτοθμενον, anakaluptomenon] in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ." (2 Cor. 3:14)
- "But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated [φωτισθεντες, photisthentes], you endured a great struggle with sufferings" (Heb. 10:32)
- Doctrinal insight
- "Flesh and blood has not revealed [απεκαλυψεν, apekalupsin] this [doctrine] to you, but My Father who is in heaven." (Matt 16:17)
- "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation [αποκαλυψεως, apokalupseos] in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened [πεφωτισμενους, pefotismenous]; that you may know...[etc.]" (Eph. 1:17-18)
- Spiritual warfare
- "You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes." (Luke 10:21) (Peter had to be told that this insight into Christ's Messiahship was by revelation.)
- Wisdom needed for sanctification
- "But we all, with unveiled face [ανακεκαλυμμενω, anakekalummeno], beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18)
- "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened [πεφωτισμενους, pefotismenous]; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, [etc.]" (Eph. 1:18)
- Wisdom needed for Biblical decision making
- "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." (Ps. 32:8)
- "Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal [αποκαλυψει, apokalupsei] even this to you." (Phil. 3:15)
- The call to the ministry is often very remarkable. If it was nothing more than an ability and a desire, then how could people know if they were running when they were not called?
Other related actions of God
- To motivate a person with strong urges or burdens
- "Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:5)
- "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying," (2 Chron. 36:22)
- "So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God," (Haggai 1:14)
- "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12)
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975), 67-69. ↩