I only planned to write one post about the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I wanted to show how any book like Jesus Calling is an attack, even if unintended, on the sufficiency of Scripture.
This led to a second post regarding direct revelation. When God speaks, His words are authoritative and must be heeded and obeyed. Therefore, if someone claims to receive “direct revelation,” the words they receive are on the same level as Scripture.
And now for a third post; not so much about the book Jesus Calling, but how Scripture should always trump any form of impressions, whether promptings, leadings, or inner-voices.
Scripture Proclaims It’s Own Sufficiency
Psalms 138:2 (ESV) I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
The apostle Paul gives us what I believe to be the most succinct and concise definition of the sufficiency of Scripture. After exhorting Timothy to continue in what he had learned and firmly believed he says this:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
W. Robert Godfrey, one of the contributing authors of the book Sola Scriptura, comments on this passage:
“The force and clarity of the apostle’s teaching here are striking. In spite of the rich oral teaching Timothy has received, he is to preach the Scriptures because those Scriptures clearly give him all that he needs for wisdom and preparation to instruct the people of God in faith and all good works. Scripture makes him wise for salvation and equips him with everything he needs to do every good work required of the preacher of God. The sufficiency and clarity of the Word are repeatedly taught here. John Chrysostom paraphrased the meaning of Paul’s words to Timothy this way: “You have Scripture for a master instead of me; from there you can learn whatever you would know”,” (Sola Scriptura, p.4).
The passage is clear. The “man of God” needs nothing but Scripture for “teaching,” “reproof,” “correction, and for training in righteousness.” Scripture alone makes us “complete,” and equips us “for every good work.”
Did Jesus Affirm the Sufficiency of Scripture?
When being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus turned to the Scriptures rather than appealing to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or even His own divinity. Again, W. Robert Godfrey says:
“At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus faced the focused temptation of the Devil in the wilderness. He faced the temptation as the Son of God, but also as the second Adam and the true Israel. How did He face that temptation? He did not appeal to the oral tradition of Israel; He did not appeal to the authority of the rabbis or Sanhedrin; He did not even appeal to His own divinity or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our Savior, in the face of temptation, turned again and again to the Scriptures. “It is written,” He said. That was all He needed to say,” (Sola Scriptura, p.5).
Think about it for a moment. The Son of God Himself, the Creator of all things, including Satan, did not appeal to His own divinity to combat temptation. What did he turn to over and over again? He turned to the Word of God. Just this instance alone should prove Jesus affirmed the sufficiency of Scripture, but there’s more.
One of the requests Jesus makes to the Father in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17 is this:
John 17:17 (ESV) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Jesus makes it clear how sanctification (a lifelong process of growing in holiness) occurs; through the Word of Truth:
(ESV Study Bible Notes) This truth comprises the entire Bible, for Jesus says, your word is truth. The Greek word is surprisingly not an adjective (meaning “your word is true”) but a noun (alētheia, “truth”). This implies that God’s Word does not simply conform to some other external standard of “truth,” but that it is truth itself; that is, it embodies truth and it therefore is the standard of truth against which everything else must be tested and compared.
Jesus had a high view of the Scriptures. A few years ago, as I was reading through the Gospels, I decided to highlight every time Jesus referred back to the Old Testament Scriptures. Here are a just a few:
Matthew 4:7 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV) “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.
Matthew 4:10 (ESV) Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Deuteronomy 6:13 (ESV) It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.
Matthew 4:4 (ESV) But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Deuteronomy 8:3 (ESV) And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Matthew 11:10 (ESV) This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Malachi 3:1 (ESV) ”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Matthew 26:31 (ESV) Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Zechariah 13:7 (ESV) “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.
Mark 7:9-10 (ESV) And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother’; and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ Exodus 20:12 (ESV) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 21:17 (ESV) “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.
Luke 20:17 (ESV) But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Psalms 118:22 (ESV) The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Luke 20:42 (ESV) For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, Psalms 110:1 (ESV) The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
John 15:25 (ESV) But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: They hated me without a cause.’ Psalms 35:19 (ESV) Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause.
John 13:18 (ESV) I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ Psalms 41:9 (ESV) Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
And these are just a few. As I look back through the Gospels I’m amazed at just how often Jesus referred to or quoted Old Testament passages. So yes; Jesus did affirm the sufficiency of Scripture.
Scripture Trumps Experience
Matthew 17:2 (ESV) And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
Notice what Peter says about the “prophetic word,” (Scripture) in verse 19:
2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV) 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter makes it clear that the “prophetic word,” Scripture, is “more fully confirmed” than his own experience.
(MacArthur Study Bible Notes (ESV)) This translation could indicate that the eyewitness account of Christ’s majesty at the transfiguration confirmed the Scriptures. However, the Greek word order is crucial in that it does not say that. It says, “And we have more sure the prophetic word.” That original arrangement of the sentence supports the interpretation that Peter is ranking Scripture over experience. The prophetic word (Scripture) is more complete, more permanent, and more authoritative than the experience of anyone. More specifically, the word of God is a more reliable.
Should we ever rely on the inner “voice of God?”
God can do anything He wants to do. He can speak any way He wants to speak. If He desires to speak to someone in an audible voice, He can. He’s God.
The question isn’t “can God speak to me in an inner voice or impression?” The question is, what is the primary way He has chosen to speak to His people? I believe the book of Hebrews will answer these questions clearly:
Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but 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.
Notice how the author of Hebrews says God spoke to His people. It was “by the prophets.” God did not speak to every individual Israelite. He used His prophets to speak to them. In the same way, God did not speak to every individual Christian in the NT. He used the apostles and prophets.
The author of Hebrews makes it clear; God no longer speaks the way He used to speak in the OT (“but in these last days”). God has spoken to us in a new way. “In these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”
Notice also how God has spoken today; “he has spoken to us by His Son.” “Has spoken” is past tense. Christ is the final Word. No “new revelation” is needed. The canon of Scripture is complete.
A Word of Caution to “Still Small Voice” Seekers
The Bible says that “every word of God proves true”:
Proverbs 30:5 (ESV) Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
If God is speaking to you on a regular basis through a “still small voice,” “every word” He says to you must “prove true.” If it doesn’t, it was not from God.
Not only that, but you better be 100% sure that what you’re hearing is from God, otherwise you’ll be liable to judgement:
Proverbs 30:6 (ESV) Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV) You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Revelation 22:18 (ESV) I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
To rely on an inner voice or impression opens us up to deception. The only way we can be 100% sure that what we are hearing is from God is by opening His Word and reading it. The words on the pages of Scripture are the very words of God.