I once heard a conservative preacher asking if we have been obedient to the “still small voice of God.” What is this “still small voice of God”? Does God still speak to us in this way? And if so, how do we know it is the voice of God, and not our own imagination, or worst the voice of Satan?
The phrase “still small voice,” is probably taken from 1 Kings 19:12. In the context of the verse, Elijah had run away to Mount Horeb after receiving a death threat from Jezebel for slaying the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. So discouraged was Elijah that he was on the run forty days and forty nights, covering 350 km until he reached Horeb. There, on the mount the LORD began to instruct him concerning His ways in a very dramatic manner. First He sent a great wind, so great that the mountains were rent and the rocks shattered, then there was an earthquake, and then there was a fire. But the LORD was not in all these three manifestations of power. Then there was “a still small voice” (1 Kgs 19:12). Most likely this whisper simply said, “Elijah, Elijah…” or something like that, for when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave, and there the LORD spoke to him. Perhaps what the Lord was teaching Elijah is best summarised in the words of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit” (Zec 4:6). But in any case, the passage clearly does not teach that God speaks with us in a still small voice.
Yes, there are professing Christians today who claim that God is still speaking to them in some special ways. But I have no doubt at all that these claims are either fraudulent or mistaken. The Scriptures indicate clearly that the written Word of God, which comprises the Old and New Testaments, is inspired and perfectly sufficient (2 Tim 3:16–17), and therefore the days when God speaks through extraordinary revelation are passed. We should be earnestly contending “for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), and not adding unto the Word or diminishing ought from it (see Deuteronomy 4:2).
Does this mean that God has stopped speaking? Of course not! He is speaking to us through His Word and when His Word is faithfully preached, in a sense Christ is speaking to us through His heralds. What about the Spirit of God, does He not speak to us in our thoughts? Well, if you mean extraordinary revelation or prophecy, then, no. But if you are referring to the Spirit convicting our conscience, or moving our hearts and impressing us with some specific duties and callings, then, yes. Every regenerate child of God would no doubt have experienced this work of the Spirit in his heart to a greater or lesser degree. But all these are through the written Word of God heard or recalled. In other words, these are not prophetic revelations but the Spirit’s work of illumination as He opens our ears and eyes, and applies the Word to our hearts. This is why every Christian who wishes to live a life that is pleasing to Christ must saturate his heart with the Word of God (Ps 119:11); and then he should be obedient to the voice of his conscience (see “The Conscience in Christian Living,”in PCC Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 12, dated 17 September 2000).
There are many self-proclaimed prophets in our days, but I have yet to read or hear about one whom I could have the slightest doubt that he is not a false prophet. I mean even if I put aside my conviction that the extra-revelational prophetic gifts have ceased, I have not heard of any prophet today, whom I have no doubt is a false prophet. We must remember the definition of a false prophet in the Scripture. The Lord Himself says: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak,… even that prophet shall die” (Deut 18:20). And how do we know if this prophet is speaking presumptuously or speaking according to God’s revelation? The test is simple:
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously… (Deut 18:22).
Note carefully that the test is not whether most of the prophet’s predictions come true, but whether all his predictions come true, for all it takes is for the prophet to “speak a word” presumptuously, before he is liable for the death penalty (v. 20).
I wonder how many of these self-proclaimed prophets of our days would have been stoned to death if they had lived during Moses’ days.
Take for example, the famous, or should I say notorious, Benny Hinn whom many, if not most Charismatics, take to be their hero. In December 1989, he made a series of celebrated prophetic utterances at the Orlando Christian Centre, which he claimed God had revealed to him personally. He asserted that Fidel Castro would die sometime in the 1990s; the homosexual community in America would be destroyed by fire before 1995; and a major earthquake would cause havoc on the east coast before the year 2000. Did any of these come true? Not one of them! And these are just a sampling of his many false prophecies.
If the Bible is the Word of God, then Benny Hinn is a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, whom Christians should unquestionably shun. Yet, amazingly great multitudes of professing Christians, even in Singapore, still hold him and others of similar charlatan boldness in high regard, and adore them as anointed servants of the Lord. What shall we say?
The Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). May the Lord grant us that we may hear His voice according to the faithful preaching of His Word, and the illumination of His Word in our hearts. May we not be deceived by falsehood because of wrong theology concerning God’s revelation. God’s Word in the Scripture is His final, sufficient, inerrant and solely authoritative revelation.