How do you tell who’s telling the truth, since it depends of Divine revelation? Can’t anyone claim Divine revelation then? That’s the intelligent question, and the question that God addresses as He speaks through Scripture. Consider the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and many others who claim Divine revelation. They don’t agree. They can’t all be right. Then, consider the various denominations with all of their various theologies all claiming to follow the plain revelation of God through the Bible. What’s going on?
The answer is quite simple once you realize the power of the Almighty God. When He reveals, He manages the process. We can reject what He’s saying, but He’s in charge. Jesus said that whoever asks for the Holy Spirit will receive the Holy Spirit, and He said many other things about this. It has to do with sincerity of the will. Speaking through the Apostle, James, God is telling us that a double-minded person will receive nothing. Jesus tied discernment to a sincere will to do the will of God. If you really want reality, God will see to it that you get it. Your fleshly nature, will, of course, begin to die incrementally in the process.
You may be wondering how to determine your revelation is actually revelation or a deception. This is especially an issue when two people claim revelation. Micaiah, the prophet, ran into this problem when called to prophesy to King Ahab. (1 Kings 22) Many other prophets came and gave King Ahab a good report. Micaiah told King Ahab that he would die in battle the next day. The other prophets ridiculed Micaiah, but Micaiah just said that if King Ahab were to return from battle, then God hadn’t spoken through him. Of course, Ahab was killed even though he took every precaution to stay as far away from the action as possible. Jeremiah had a similar problem, and God told Jeremiah that the false prophets were speaking a vision out of their own minds. Paul also dealt with false apostles. God warns us about false teachers, and He lets us know that they will come. So, how do you know who is telling the truth when there are so many today who claim to be the source of truth?
Part of the problem is the emphasis is on knowing things rather than knowing Christ. This kind of knowledge puffs up with pride. Knowing about Him or about things is different from knowing Him. If we all know Him, He will lead us in the same ways “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13) As of right now, “those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” (1 Co. 8:2) Yet, we can discern, though not completely yet, who is speaking by the Holy Spirit and who is speaking by a different spirit. “No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12:3) The real issue is, “How can you tell the difference between what comes from the human or demonic and what comes from the Holy Spirit.
How Can I Know God’s Will And Be Led By The Spirit Of God?
Yet, incorrect doctrine can cause devastating problems. Consider two people who are teaching about sexual perversions, heterosexual, homosexual, or others. One encourages people to engage in these perversions and says that the only sin is to point out that perversion is sin. The other points out what God is saying, through Scripture, about perverting sex. How you determine between these two people who have very different versions of what they claim to be truth. Let’s say that both are even claiming revelation believed to be given to them by God on this subject. How do you choose who’s correct or is it impossible to determine?
It’s usually pretty easy to determine, but not if you don’t want to do God’s will. For instance, sin, particularly sexual sin, ruins the consciences. It sears the conscience as with a hot iron. The spiritual ears become calloused and a person in this condition can’t discern reality from make-believe. A person like this can’t discern God’s Voice from what is being made-up by the human mind or by a demon.
To answer this question, we’ll have to go into the weakness of the human mind, the Münchausen trilemma, and the power of Divine revelation.
God speaks through Scripture and every means mentioned in Scripture. Everyone who follows Christ is led and taught by Christ moment by moment. Those who truly want to do His will and who allow Christ to work through them are gradually transformed so that their senses are more keen to discern between what God is saying and what’s coming from other sources. Disobedience destroys this discernment.
Generally, one of the first things that the Holy Spirit teaches is that God speaks through Scripture and that the Scripture is without error. The Holy Spirit directly instructs Christ-followers to search the Scriptures regarding claimed Divine revelation.
Divine revelation takes different forms. Consider the example of people who do or don’t believe in the three persons in one God. That’s a matter of God defining Himself. There’s also Divine revelation regarding leading. Leading is quite different in that God doesn’t specify who a Christ-follower is supposed to marry or which job a Christ-follower is supposed to take through Scripture. The Holy Spirit may bring a Scripture to mind for personal leading, but He may also just speak through other means. In the case of something like the doctrine known as trinity, God speaks through Scripture. In the case of defining morals, God speaks through Scripture. God has a lot to say about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as He is speaking through Scripture. God has a lot to say about sexual morality. However, human worldviews can act as a veil to keep Christ-followers from ever hearing God’s Voice.
I’ve never heard anyone claim extra-biblical revelation as the basis for either belief or disbelief in godhead doctrines. As you look at the form of the arguments presented, there is no difference in form between interpretation of the Bible, Creation, or experience. God speaks through the Bible, Creation, and experience. It seems that people who are convinced of doctrines of all kinds that go beyond Scripture are convinced that God is telling them, through the Bible (or through Creation, or thought experience), whatever their interpretation is. In the case of the Bible, you can look at Scripture and see that the text doesn’t contain the doctrines being claimed. The conclusion requires assumptions and fabrications. In the case of scientific speculation, you can look at the observation and see that the observation doesn’t contain the conclusion. The conclusions require assumptions and stories. You can try to point this out, but, if the doctrine has been internalized, and if it has become part of the person’s worldview, that person can no longer hear God’s Voice regarding the issue. Only the Holy Spirit can correct the person. The problem is that the person is probably resistant to the Holy Spirit. For you and me, why don’t we just pray that God give us a soft heart toward the Holy Spirit to receive His correction? God will answer a sincere prayer like that. We can lay our doctrine at the foot of the cross, and God will return to us what is real.
I would like to address unreal expectations. The human ego wants to know everything. It likes to be told that it’s right. For this reason, human beings tend to rush to judgment and jump to conclusions. They think that coming to know all truth is like flipping a switch. Some say that they now have all truth. Really! Such an attitude makes it difficult for the Holy Spirit to lead such a person who knows all things already. The human mind is deceptive and desperately wicked to the point that we can’t know our own minds. This is a process that God is managing in His time. There’s no quick fix. For the Secularist, there is no hope unless he or she abandons dogmatic Secularism. For us, we have hope, and we make daily progress provided that we’re faithful.
There’s no conflict in what God is saying. There’s conflict when someone adds even a single assumption. Assumptions and stories add to God’s Utterances or diminish God’s Utterances. God doesn’t take that lightly. It’s a form of lying. Lies are abominations to God.
Assumptions are often hidden–even from the person making the assumptions. They are often presupposed. Usually, assumptions are consistent with worldviews and are confirmed by worldviews. Worldviews are merely conceptual inner fake realities that seem more real than real reality.
I’ve heard people rationalize from Scripture, adding in assumptions and presuppositions. That’s where division enters. However, I’ve not yet heard anyone claim extra-biblical revelation for this. There may be some false prophets out there who claim extra-biblical revelation of some sort, but I haven’t seen such a thing. Since the Holy Spirit is teaching and guiding us to search the Scripture, the Holy Spirit is able to expose the false prophet using Scripture. However, there is also the peace of God that comes when something is right. God imparts His peace when we’re in His will. That’s more than just a feeling, although there is usually a feeling of peace. It involves all the spiritual senses and it’s a certainty that something is right and good. God works with multiple witnesses. He will often show the same thing confirmed through His Creation. He sometimes sends an angel messenger. I’ve never had that, but others have. And, He uses every other means mentioned in Scripture. There are many of them.
Some people think that Divine revelation means omniscience. What we are able to receive as Divine revelation is always partial and progressive. It goes from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit. That’s part of why knowing Christ is more important than knowing anything else. God is omniscient, but He only tells us what we need to know. The rest belongs to Him. There’s much about the Godhead that we don’t know. God hasn’t revealed it. There’s a unity and relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that goes beyond our understanding. Those things that God reveals are ours. Those that He hasn’t revealed belong to Him. People get into trouble when they try to rationalize beyond what God is saying.
Concepts are not reality, but they can give the illusion of reality. Theologies are conceptual in nature. They aren’t real. They are models of something real. Anyone who models reality must remember that the models are not the reality. They’re only abstractions. Sometimes, theologies are taught as if they were reality. That’s a mistake. Jesus is the Reality. Jesus is the Truth. All teaching should point to Him rather than to human intellect.
I know what God has revealed to me through Scripture about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The word, “trinity,” represents a concept, but it may well be that the term means different things to different people. I know what God has revealed to me through Scripture, conscience, Creation, and experience about sexual morality. The revelation is known. The theology that goes beyond that is mere concept. There are places in my own mind where theology becomes confused with revelation. You probably have the same problem. That’s why we need to hold our theology loosely and we need to hold tightly to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is here to lead us into all truth.