IS THE WORD OF GOD COMPLETE
What is the status of the Word of God? Is it complete or not? Is it really the faith once delivered, or is it still being revealed to us?
The most serious error of the charismatic movement is that its ideas about prophecy and miracles strike at the very foundation of the Scripture as a completed revelation. It is the most anti-evangelical teaching imaginable, and that is why it is so acceptable to many liberals and Roman Catholics. Yet most charismatics are blissfully unaware of the unbiblical ‘theology’ of their ideas.
According to the charismatic view, prophecy is still going on. According to Scripture, the coming of the Saviour would bring the great act of reconciliation and redemption, and also the completion of all revelation:Â—
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9.24).
These words teach that the Lord’s coming would signal the end of God’s longsuffering over Jerusalem and the Old Testament order, would take Him to His atoning death on Calvary’s cross, and would lead to the final, conclusive portion of Scripture being delivered, so that revelation was sealed up. He gave His Word to His apostles, and the Scripture was thus complete.
How the Word was given
Here are the passages in John’s Gospel in which the Lord Jesus emphasised that the disciples would be led by the Holy Spirit to deliver ALL the Truth, so as to give a COMPLETE. perfect, and finished revelation.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14.26).
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15.26-27).
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself;
but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16.12-15).
In the Epistle of Jude (v3)we read,Â—”It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Scripture is complete, and we are given a trust to keep it that way. As we are taught in the closing verses of Revelation, there will be no further revelation. The vision and the prophecy is now sealed up.
Charismatic teachers protest that their prophecies, though ‘direct messages from God’, do not undermine Scripture because all such messages must be tested by the Scripture. Charismatic author J. Rodman Williams holds that God is stilt speaking through tongues and prophecies:Â—
“In prophecy God speaks. It is as simple, and profound, and startling as that! What happens in the fellowship is that the word may suddenly be spoken by anyone present, and so variously, a ‘Thus says the Lord’ breaks forth.
Most of us, of course, were familier with prophetic utterances as recorded in the Bible, and willing to accept it as the Word of God. Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s ‘Thus says the Lord’ we were accustomed to, but to hear a Tom or a Mary today… speak the same way!
Many of us had convinced ourselves that prophecy ended with the New Testament . . . until suddenly through the dynamic thrust of the Holy Spirit, prophecy comes alive again.”
(The Era of the Spirit, J. Rodman Williams. Logos International).
But the simple fact is that countless prophecies and visions are ‘received’ by charismatic believers which cannot be tested by Scripture because they are about (for example) current affairs in the believer’s church or circle. (Someone will be given a message that someone else is insincere, or that so-and-so will recover from his illness, and so forth.)
Even where the ‘messages’ are simple re-statements of biblical truth, they definitely undermine the Scriptures, for God has said that the Scriptures are the sole standard of Truth, that they are completely sufficient for all our needs. In other words. God has said that there will be no more Truth, nor will there be other direct messages or voices when we need guidance, comfort or encouragement. We will not be provided with extra revelations of any kind, for we are to use the doctrines, promises and comforts of the Scripture for everything.
Thus, it is not good enough for charismatic teachers to say that their ‘extra’ messages do not actually contradict the Bible. They certainly undermine it in another way Â— they provide an alternative fountain of light and help.
Sole source of guidance
The Lord has spoken to us clearly through Paul, in Romans 15.4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were
written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.”
In reality the charismatic view does not really grasp that the Scriptures are (a) complete, (b) totally sufficient for all our needs, and (c) deep and profound enough for every possible problem and situation.
Whether they have done it consciously or not, charismatic teachers have joined the company of heretics in their ‘downgrading’ of the Word of God. The Roman Catholic church has added to the Bible by trusting her own church traditions and leaders as authoritative.
Liberal theologians have placed their reason and the science-of-the-day on a par with Scripture. Heretical ‘pietistic’ movements have put their own ‘inner light’ on the same level as Scripture Â— and that is exactly what countless charismatic leaders do to an ever-increasing extent.
The Scriptures are complete, and, as the old Confession of Faith puts it, ‘Nothing at any time is to be added whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or tradition of men’. Neither must men try to add to it by prophecies, tongues, interpretations, visions or experiences.
This article is one of a number of short articles recently published by the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6SD in a booklet entitled The Charismatic Phenomenon, and is printed by kind permission. This is a very useful summary of the main points of charismatic error and is suitable to give to young people who have come into contact with this movement. Copies are available at the following prices, post free:Â— Single copy 45p. 10 copies Â£2.60. 25 copies Â£5.60.100 copies Â£18.00.