Should Christians Seek Revelation from God Apart from the Bible?
- Sophia Bricker Contributing Writer
- 2021 21 Jun
“God spoke to me today.” “I believe God is telling you something through this event.” “God told me this was my calling.” These are words that some Christians are accustomed to hearing and saying. Whether from a message from the Spirit, a specific sign, or a dream, several Christians believe that God is giving them special messages in their everyday life apart from Scripture.
Listening for the voice of God and seeking out events of spiritual significance, there is a movement among believers, which asserts that Christians can receive further revelation from God in modern times, just like the prophets of old.
Although such people may be legitimately searching for God’s will or wanting to hear from Him, there is danger in seeking special messages from God. Christians do not have to seek out further revelation from God because His Word is complete and sufficient.
This does not mean that the Lord is silent, but rather He speaks to people today through His Word, the Bible. Any other “revelation,” which does not match the teachings of the Bible is not from God.
Seeking Special Revelation
There are many religious groups, which claim that they have received and continue to receive extra-biblical revelation from the Lord. For instance, Pentecostal and Charismatic groups assert that spiritually mature Christians can receive special messages from God in different ways.
Some claim to have visions, dreams, auditory experiences or find significance in specific events. Such teachings from Pentecostal and Charismatic circles have not been isolated, but rather have influenced other denominations in Protestantism as well.
For instance, a Christian may be vigilant for things that happen throughout the day and say that God spoke to them through a specific event, sign, or even a set of numbers.
As is stated from an article from Destiny Image, “God often speaks through signs and symbols, through numbers and names, and through natural means that reveal larger spiritual principles and applications, thus drawing us into greater intimacy with Him” (“God Speaks Through Coincidences,” Destiny Image).
When doing this practice daily, Christians become aware of potential messages from God, as part of further revelation.
One of the better-known proponents for continuing revelation is the cult group of the Church of the Latter-day Saints. Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, are a non-Christian group who has added to Scripture with the Book of Mormon.
They also claim that their “prophets” can continue to receive further revelation from God, which is an ongoing process. Although this cult group is not biblical, Mormonism is a prime example of people who seek out special revelation from God.
While receiving special messages from the Lord may sound more spiritual, the teaching fails to consider that the biblical canon is closed. The 66 books, which comprise the Old and New Testaments are the completed Word of God.
At the end of Revelation, the last completed book of the New Testament, Jesus strictly warns about adding to the Bible: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll” (Revelation 22:18, NIV).
Another point to consider in the discussion of receiving further revelation from God is that the completed Bible is divinely inspired. 2 Timothy 3:16 uses the word theopneustos, which can be translated as “God-breathed” (NIV), “inspired by God” (NASB), or “breathed out by God” (ESV).
Thus, all Scripture is inspired by the Lord, who has divinely “breathed” into the words written by men. Those who claim to receive special messages from God would have to claim their messages are divinely inspired like the other words of Scripture and that they have been carried along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
Although individuals may make such claims, even taking the name of “prophet,” there is no biblical evidence that people today receive divinely inspired messages apart from Scripture.
A final point of consideration for this topic is also the matter of Scripture’s sufficiency. Those who may hold to continual revelation would still acknowledge the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. However, the question boils down to: Is the Bible enough?
The Protestant position, spanning back to the Reformation, has been that of Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone. At the time of the Reformation, the Catholic church denied the position of Sola Scriptura. They agreed that the Bible was inerrant and inspired, but that it was not sufficient.
For Catholics, tradition must be considered as equal authority to Scripture. Today, those who are trying to find further revelation from God apart from the Bible are basically saying something similar that the Catholic church did, that Scripture is not enough or not sufficient for the Christian life and faith.
A few passages about Scripture’s sufficiency helps to demonstrate how adding to the Bible’s special and finished revelation is not biblical. The Bible provides believers with all they need to serve God and to live for Him (2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Peter 1:3).
When the Bereans encountered Paul’s teaching, they did not just accept his words as a new revelation, but rather tested all he said against established Scripture, which at that time would have been the entire Old Testament (Acts 17:11).
Paul also warned the Corinthians believers to not go beyond what is written in Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6). As can be seen, even the apostles, who were used by God to write down Scripture, had to submit to the authority of established revelation in the Bible.
Finally, Christians should always test everything they hear against Scripture (1 John 1:4). If a believer heard a voice from a cloud or their pastor preaching a “new” way to be saved, they would know that such a message is not from God (Galatians 1:8).
The point is not to limit what God can do, but rather to acknowledge that Scripture is enough for Christian life and faith. There is no need for mystical encounters to hear from God because He already speaks in His Word.
Looking for Extra-Biblical Revelation
Looking for extra-biblical revelation is dangerous for multiple reasons. First, claiming that a person can receive direct revelation from God does away with the need for Scripture.
If a person alleges that they receive continuous special messages from God, either in dreams, signs or from within their spirit, then they may conclude there is no reason to read the Bible.
However, in Scripture, people are described as delighting in God’s Word in the Bible (Psalm 1:2; 119:103). Scripture should be a major part of every Christian’s life.
Furthermore, seeking out special revelation from God that is divorced from the Bible can lead to faulty beliefs and doctrine. An extreme example of this is found in the book series called Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch.
In these books, Walsch records alleged conversations he had with God, which results in his unbiblical beliefs and doctrine. For instance, Walsch claims that God told him that reincarnation is true (Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God: Books 2 & 3).
However, reincarnation is not true since the Bible is clear that people die once and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Another danger is found when a person seeks out special messages from God about their future. Attempting to manifest personal experiences with God can cause a person to develop an unhealthy obsession with mystical encounters.
By doing this, people can expose themselves to demonic deception. Basing one’s future on dreams, symbols, or numbers is more akin to divination, which is denounced in Scripture (Leviticus 19:31; Isaiah 8:19; Jeremiah 29:8-9).
The Lord will guide His children for their future, but they should not attempt to find His guidance in visions or symbols. Like a lamp or light, God’s guidance will come gradually through His Word as believers step out in faith (Psalm 119:105).
God’s Word Is Enough
Christians should not seek out further revelation from God, because special revelation is complete and finished in the Bible. There is no need to look out for visions, signs, numbers, or events to receive guidance from God. He speaks through His Word, which is completely inspired and true.
Instead of spending time searching for mystical encounters, believers should instead invest time in reading the Bible to know Him more, to know His will, to gain guidance, and to be changed through the working of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible will enrichen a person’s relationship with God more than any extra-biblical “spiritual” message or experience.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.