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So uh... what about visions?

Vision Blog

          In this week's lesson, Cody talked extensively about visions in the context of Cornelius' vision and message from God in Acts 10.  Often times as a teacher of God's word, you are confronted with the challenge of navigating difficult texts and topics from scripture that require you to address things that will undoubtedly offend some of your hearers.  This is especially true with doctrinal topics that challenge or refute the beliefs or practices of others who teach under the banner of Christianity.  Pointing out erroneous and/or dangerous teaching will inevitably cause people to label you as judgmental and/or arrogant, regardless of the purity of your motives.

          We may not like to admit it, but the reality is, whenever there is disagreement over a doctrinal issue within the church, someone is right, and therefore someone has to be wrong.  As a teacher, one must be true to their understanding of scripture...for better or for worse.  In other words, I can't (or at least shouldn't) teach or preach anything that is contrary to what I believe the Bible itself is teaching.  I would think it is safe to say that most of us want our teachers to, at minimum, be true to their convictions.

          One such topic that has resurfaced several times during our study of Acts 10 revolves around how God has chosen to reveal himself to his people and what that revelation means for us.  Whenever we talk about revelation from God, we, by consequence, call into question the doctrines of scripture, particularly the necessity and sufficiency of scripture.  Does the Bible really contain everything that we need to know for faith and life, or is God still communicating messages for his people through modern day prophets?

          In fairness, some people who claim to receive messages from God don't proclaim themselves to be prophets.  Yet, the very definition of a prophet is someone who conveys messages from God to his people.  So, there really is no way around using the term.  We have to be consistent in defining our terms in the same way they are used in scripture.

          At the Journey, we unashamedly herald the preeminence of scripture.  We join the reformed tradition in affirming sola scriptura - the position that scripture, as the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, is our highest authority in all matters.  We seek to always stand primarily with the Bible, but also with the historic confession of orthodox Christianity from its very beginnings; first with the teaching of Jesus himself, and then the Apostles.  For this reason, we, as Cody mentioned in his message, proceed with the utmost caution when someone claims to have heard from God.

          The doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture doesn't preclude God, particularly in and through the work of the Holy Spirit, from working in the lives of his people.  However, it is foundational to our understanding of and belief in the closed nature of scripture.  This means that we don't believe that God communicates directly with his people in the same supernatural way that inspired men to write the Bible.  To be clear, does the Holy Spirit communicate personally with believers by stirring our affections for him and for others, by calling us to action, by convicting us of sin, etc.?  Absolutely!  And the primary way he does all of these things is through the power of his word.

          The doctrines of the sufficiency and necessity of scripture don't in any way seek to limit what God can do (as that would be an exercise in futility).  They simply attempt to understand and affirm the normative way that God has acted throughout redemptive history.  God's revelation to mankind culminated with the the incarnation of Christ, who is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) and completed with the close of the Apostolic Age.  In other words, in Christ, as the fulfillment of all of the promises of scripture, God has given us all that we need to know for faith that leads to salvation, and to live according to his design for our lives.

          When we affirm claims of visions and messages from God, we are, at minimum, questioning if Jesus is really enough (sufficiency) and/or if he, as the incarnate Word, is necessary.  Many who affirm modern day prophecy wouldn't profess to believe that, but it is implicit in what they do believe.  If God still needs to provide instruction to his people outside of scripture, then Jesus can't be the fulfillment of God's redemptive work in history...there still needs to be more.  This is why we are so often speaking out against and challenging these practices and claims within Christianity.  It isn't because we believe we, as a church, are better than others, that we have perfect doctrine and theology, or that we do everything right, but rather because we are deeply concerned with the glory of the name of Jesus above all else; and because we strive for adherence to the true claims of scripture.

          If you really want to hear from God, engage with scripture.  Devote yourself to finding him there.  Study HIStory and explore the depths of his word.  God is at work every day speaking audibly into the world when we are obedient to proclaim the Gospel message in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities!

In Grace,
Chris Morris

If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

Part 23 - Visions From God

Questions discussed in this sermon:

1.  What is a vision?
2.  Do people still have visions today?
3.  What can we learn about visions from Cornelius' experience in Acts 10?

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