What is God saying to His Church today? Even this question is controversial. For the ultra conservatives, God does not speak because He has spoken through His Word. For the ultra-charismatic, God is continually speaking it's just that people can't hear Him unless they learn how to listen. Balance is not the goal here - truth is. What is God saying to His Church today? Not what do you reckon - but what is He saying?
But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.
WHAT GOD IS SAYING
The New Testament extols the gift of prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1Cor. 12:10; 14:6; 1Tim 4:14). It is listed as a gift of the Spirit which should not be despised.
Do not despise prophecies
First Thessalonians 5:20
Utra-Conservative Christians may attempt to make this verse mean "Biblical" prophecies. But Paul's comments to Timothy about the prophecies made over him with the laying on of hands rule out such a narrow interpretation of Paul's use of the term.
¶ This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare...Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
First Timothy 1:18; 4:14
Many Conservatives argue that when God speaks it is undeniable and unmistakeable. This sounds reasonable. After all, if the Sovereign God determines to speak surely He will be sovereignly be heard? Many Charismatics, however, argue that God is speaking almost continually and most people don't listen therefore God's voice is not heard. Both camps can find Scriptures to support their views. It seems that the Conservatives have a point that God is not always speaking. There are times when God is "silent". The Psalmistfelt God's silence.
¶ To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
If you have struggled to hear God, the Conservative knows why. There are times when He is silent, they tell us. But the Charismatics challenge us not to become spiritually complacent. God may not be speaking all the time, but He is probably speaking to us more than we realise. Not everyone recognises God speaking to them.
"Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
God speaks again and again though people don't recognise it, we read in Job 33:14. What is God saying today? The Conservative is right when he says God is adding nothing to His written Word. That is, God is saying nothing today that He hasn't already said in His Word. But the Conservative is forgetting the Scripture's injunction to "earnestly seek to prophesy" (1Cor. 14:1) and to "not despise prophecy" (1Thess. 5:20). Despite their claims that God only ever spoke supernaturally through such human means as prophecy until the Canon of the New Testament was completed, history and human experience does not support their claims. The record of Church History is peppered with examples of God's people who heard God and declared not just Canonised Word but also His prophetic word.
The Conservative and the Charismatic should meet for coffee. It's not middle ground we're after. Rather, we want to discard false assumptions whether they be Conservative or Charismatic and conclude coffee by coming away with the truth that they both see. I think this might look coming away from that coffee break with a greater appreciation for the unique authority of God's written Word as the highest authority for faith and conduct. But I think we would also come away with an unclogged spiritual ear where we become open to hear the "whisper" of God.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?"
What is God saying to His Church today? As I listen for the voice of God in its manifold and various manifestations I hear God saying, "Brace yourself!" "Stand firm!" My mind races when I hear the Spirit speak this. I wonder if the Spirit is calling us to remain faithful to the Gospel once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) because we are now facing cultural, commercial, and statutory pressure to abandon it? I wonder if its a call to stop a decline in love for the Lord - a call to return to a passionate "first love" commitment of absolute obedience to Christ?
We should be a people who are familiar with the voice of God by becoming familiar with the written Word of God where we hear His voice to us. But we should have ears that hear what the Spirit is saying to us. This Sunday as we gather could you offer yourself to the Spirit of God to be used as an instrument of His voice? When you pray about your contribution to our assembly this Sunday, could you please begin praying that God will give you ears to hear? If you have not been freshly filled with the Holy Spirit, can you seek God for a fresh filling so that the Spirit's audible gifts might be evident in your life? By doing this we have a better chance of answering the question, What is God saying to the church today?
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'