Why Some Christians Deny That God Still Speaks, Part 3
Finally, let me address a third objection someone might offer. In contrast to the previous two we’ve examined, this one at least purports to be biblically based.
What about the doctrine of the sufficiency of the scriptures? Often 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is quoted and the conclusion confidently affirmed that the Bible is all we need in order to receive salvation and live the Christian life. And if scripture is “all-sufficient,” we don’t need God to do any other leading or revealing than what He does through the words of the Bible.
I believe in the sufficiency of scripture, but this doctrine must be carefully interpreted.1 It cannot mean that the Bible is the only source of God-given help that saints need in order to be saved and follow Jesus faithfully. Why? Because the Bible itself informs us that we need other things: the blood of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, prayer, the Lord’s supper, the church, elders, teachers, etc.
The Bible tells us about all these sources of help, but it is clearly distinct from them. It hardly needs to be said that the Bible is not prayer. I need the Bible and I need prayer. The Bible is not the church. I need the Bible and I need the church. And so on. Nowhere does the Bible teach that all we need is the Bible.
What then does the sufficiency of scripture mean? Dad likes to put it this way: The Bible is the only “ultimate divine source material.”2 As the only inspired, authoritative literature we’ve been given, it stands in a class by itself. It’s the only divine revelation intended for all Christians everywhere. It contains all the information and instruction that God wants all Christians to have throughout the church age.
But that doesn’t mean God won’t have a specific word for you, given your unique circumstances and special needs. Surely everyone can see that such a personalized communication from the Lord could be extremely helpful.
The Bible tells me to “be strong in the Lord” and to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). But to receive an individual warning from Heaven just hours before I was to face a major temptation from the enemy was an invaluable gift. Not only did it help prepare me for the battle; it was a powerful proof of God’s direct involvement in my life—a tangible expression of His love for me.
The scriptures tell me to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). But if God wants me to perform a specific act of love (like donate a kidney) to a specific individual, how is He going to get me to do that without communicating to me in some extra-biblical way?
The Bible gives us general guidelines for living, but sometimes I need specific guidance for a major decision. I might be facing a move and have two options before me. Let’s say our all-knowing God foresees that, in terms of kingdom impact, the first location would be far better. He also knows that the second location would not only make for a less fruitful ministry, but would prove detrimental to the spiritual health of my family. And it may well be that neither of these outcomes is foreseeable from a human perspective, so simply taking a “wisdom” approach isn’t going to guarantee the best decision. Wouldn’t we want to get God’s input before launching out? And wouldn’t a concerned Father want us to have it?
The primary way God speaks to us is the Bible (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:14-17), and we should saturate our minds with it (Psalm 1:1-2; 119:11; Acts 17:11). But the Bible is not an end in itself. It is meant to point us to a Person (John 5:39-40). The goal of scripture is a close, dynamic relationship with the God of the Bible. And as we’ll soon see, that means we should expect personal, two-way communication with Him.
1 Here I am following my dad’s argumentation used to counter those who accused him of surrendering the all-sufficiency of scripture by claiming personal, direct help from the Holy Spirit for believers today. See Mac Deaver, The Holy Spirit: Center of Controversy—Basis of Unity (Biblical Notes Publications: Denton TX, 2007), pp. 111-117.
2 Mac Deaver and Jerry Moffitt, The Deaver-Moffitt Debate: The Work of the Holy Spirit Within the Christian (Therefore Stand Publications: Marietta OH, 2002), p. 35.