The very same superstition that allows Oral Roberts to believe he got a message from a giant vision is the same kind of belief that makes a Southern Baptist reader of “Experiencing God” think God will speak directly to him. It’s the very same theology. Another surprising source of this kind of teaching is Bill Gothard.
Bill Gothard holds a slightly milder version of this view, but he still believe Christians can get extrabiblical guidance from God. God gives this guidance, Gothard teaches, through inner promptings that come from the Holy Spirit. Gothard teaches his followers, as he always does, in a system of lists and checklists how they can look for feelings of inner peace when they’re on the right track. And if the peace is missing then that’s supposedly a message from God that something’s wrong. Gothard calls these “inner checks” to determine God’s will, and according to Gothard, “a wrong decision may look right, but if we are alert to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we will not have peace in the matter. You should have inward peace. Let the peace of God rule, be the umpire in your hearts.” And Gothard admits that some of the principles he teaches came to him this way. He defends his own dogmatism on many of the questionable issues he teaches by claiming God has shown him the truth in this matter by giving him an inner peace.
Now this kind of thinking is totally at odds with the principle of Sola Scriptura. We believe as Protestants don’t we, that the written Word of God – the Bible – contains everything necessary for our salvation and our growth in grace. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…listen to the next phrase…that the man of God may be PERFECT, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Scripture alone is able to equip us thoroughly, perfectly for all good works. Everything we need in the process of our sanctification. There is no need for extrabiblical revelation. The Bible will equip you for all good works. It will give you all the explicit guidance you can possibly get from God. It contains principles to help you be wise and discerning as you pursue the course of your life, and beyond that we simply trust God in His providence to order our steps. You don’t need an explicit message from God telling you whom to marry, or where to go to school, or where to go to the mission field.
Obey the explicit commands and implicit principles of the Bible, and God promises that beyond that He will direct your steps. So you can step out in faith without any direct message telling you which way to step. I often wonder how many young people are messed up by this notion that before they decide whom they marry or where they go to school or where they go to the mission field they have to hear a voice from God calling them explicitly to that. That sort of subjectivity is NOT taught in Scripture. The Lord orders our steps through His providence, not through direct revelations. Nothing in Scripture ever suggests that God will speak to us to order our steps. When Scripture says He orders our steps it’s talking about His guidance through His hand of providence. We step out in faith, and He guides our steps.
If your life is in harmony with all the commands and principles of the Bible, you can actually do what you want to do without beating yourself up with introspection and fretting over whether God told you to do something or not. If He’s given you explicit instructions, you will find those instructions in the commandments of His word…not in your inner sensations or your dreams or your imagination. And, there is no warrant anywhere in Scripture for us to listen for God’s voice to speak to us in our head as though God spoke that way through subjective impressions or by any other means that bypasses the Word of God. The Bible is God’s word to us, and we’re to trust it, to lean on it, and NOT on our own understanding. And especially not on subjective impressions we might feel.
If you haven’t elevated Scripture in your thinking to that high level, where it’s more important to you in the decisions you make than any feelings or subjective impressions you might get, then you do not have a high enough view of Scripture.
Now, does the Spirit of God ever move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly. But, even in doing that, He works through the Word of God. Experiences like this, impressions and all, are not in any sense prophetic or authoritative except as they echo what the Word already says. They are not revelation. Those sensations, those impressions, those feelings you get are not revelation, but they are the effect of illumination. When the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts, and opens our spiritual eyes to His truth. And, we need to guard carefully against allowing our experiences and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word of God. This is a very practical application of the principle of Sola Scriptura.
Think about this…to what ever degree you seek private messages from God outside His Word, you have abandoned the principle of Sola Scriptura.
– Phil Johnson, Shepherds Conference 2002, “Super Seminar: Private Revelations”