By Joseph D. Meador
(With this issue of the Firm Foundation we inaugurate a new feature of the paper. Joseph D. Meador, Director of the Southwest School of Biblical Studies in Austin, Texas will answer questions. If you have a question you would like brother Meador to consider, please send it to him - or us. Not every question can be answered, but over time most will be presented. Joseph Meador is well qualified to give Bible answers to Bible questions. He is scholarly and has many earned letters after his name [which both he and we decline to use], but most of all he is Biblical - and that's what counts. Welcome, brother Meador, we feel confident that you will provide good, scriptural information, after the style and manner of question and answer editors of the past in our brotherhood.)
"In the churches I attended while growing up, we sang about seeking God 'beyond the secret page' and about being 'rekindled with fire from above.' But since I didn't hear anyone describe what that might be like or testify to that happening, I assumed it probably didn't happen — though I continue to suspect that God just might be up to something in our lives. How does God speak to us 'beyond the sacred page?' Does God give guidance by an inner nudge?"
This question no doubt stems from a genuine and sincere desire to better understand how God works in our lives We live in an age when questions such as these are in the minds of many people, most of whom seem genuinely interested in searching for divine Truth. Yet, because there are so many contradictory opinions and beliefs in regard to how God works and how his Spirit operates in our lives, the sincere child of God must be careful lest he stray past the knowledge which is provided in the Bible.
First, the familiar hymns alluded to in this question were written by Protestant denominationalists who had a different view of God's working through the agency of the Holy Spirit upon the lives of man than what is described in the New Testament. As one preacher among us has so aptly stated regarding the songs that we sing: "It is just as wrong to sing a lie as it is to tell a lie." That is particularly true when it comes to spreading the seeds of denominational error whether by song or sermon. In other words, doctrinal purity is determined by Scripture — not songs.
Second, because of the intense emphasis in our society upon the merit of intuitive feelings many believers are apparently content to allow emotionalism to control their faith preferences regardless of the Bible's teaching concerning the doctrinal issues involved. In essence, the philosophy of Romanticism, which is supported today by a reliance upon moral pragmatism, encourages one to accept almost any religious view as being the will of God—as long as it "feels" right. Therefore, in many instances, a person is ready to confirm his or her faith as scriptural as long as it is validated by the individual's own emotional experience. Such a non-objective (relative) standard for determining the will of God has, in recent years, replaced the Bible as the objective standard to which faithful Christians have always appealed for divine knowledge.
In our secular age man has become the standard for determining truth (see Rom. 1:18-23). The secularization of many congregations among us has now grown to such an extent that God's Word is often left out of consideration when faith and practice are being determined. Now, virtually every individual has become an unfettered authority on "the mysterious working of God in my life." Personal feelings and experiences have become "God's inner nudges." Still others feel so comfortable as to teach that God, somehow and through some unexplainable Spirit working, "enables" them to live the Christian life. However, for us to know assuredly what it is that God does and does not do for us, let us ask simply: "What does the Bible teach?"
First, God directs us today only through the authority of Jesus Christ, vested in his all-sufficient
Word, the Bible (2 Sam. 23:2; John 12:48-50; Col. 3:17).
Second, this same revealed Word of God is verbally inspired (inerrant and infallible). Therefore, the Bible is our only objective standard for determining God's expressed will (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jude 3).
Third, the Truth of God's will is knowable and understandable only through a diligent study of the Bible (John 8:31-32; Eph. 3:1-4; 1 Cor. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:15).
The knowledge of God does not enter man through some better felt than told means, nor does it mysteriously come through some enabling "inner nudge" or "direct Spirit leading." Rather, God's Spirit has made known his will for all men through the written Word. The Bible, God's instrumental Word, is living and powerful to quicken the heart of man (Psa. 119:50; Heb. 4:12). Nowhere in Holy Writ does any inspired man talk about feeling some nudge, or hug, or supposition, or fanciful and mysterious moving that would lead him in paths of righteousness. No where does the Bible speak of information and direction seeping in through the pores of the skin. Such talk is simply not found in the Bible. It is found only among uninspired persons who are not directed by divine revelation.
In addition, the Word of God illuminates (Psa. 119:130); the Word keeps one from destructive living (Psa. 17:4); the Word converts (Psa. 19:7); the Word convicts (Acts 2:37); the Word sanctifies (John 17:17), the Word makes righteous (Rom. 5:19); the Word promotes growth in grace (1 Pet. 2:2); the Word makes one free (John 8:32); the Word begets (1 Cor.4:15; James 1:18); the Word saves (James 1:21). There is not one single thing that people all too hastily attribute to the necessity of a direct operation or enabling of the Holy Spirit that God's inspired, all-sufficient Word does not provide (2 Pet. 1:3).
Finally, as we seek to establish how it is that God today motivates and guides us to greater service, may we hear carefully the teaching of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:
Published July 1996