Is Revelation from God Still Available to Followers of Christ?

Modern post-Christian America can be characterized by disbelief in things beyond the realm of science. All secular-minded people have abandoned completely the notion that anything or anyone spiritual exists. God, Satan, spiritual gifts, heaven and hell, revelation, and much more are rejected because they have a spiritual origin. A more serious problem is that many Christians seriously question matters with a supernatural tone to them. Many believe in God in a very broad sense but have abandoned any belief in a supernatural God who dwells in a supernatural world and does supernatural things.

This message is not written to try to convince secular atheists of anything but is directed at followers of Christ who may have developed a system of thinking that rules out the need of real spiritual revelation from God. So many of our leaders are teaching that revelation, the way they understand it, is no longer available to followers of Christ. I will attempt two things in this message. First, I will attempt to help us see what revelation is according to the word of God and secondly I will try to help us realize how important true scriptural revelation is to the body of Christ today.

I hesitate to quote well-known leaders but for the sake of clarity here is a statement from well-known pastor, John MacArthur on this subject: “This is the issue. If the Bible is complete, then it represents a closed system of truth. If it entails a fixed and absolute standard of truth, then the teachings of Scripture may be ascertained and dogmatically asserted.” Let’s be clear. I am not suggesting that completely new revelation of new truths, not confirmed by the Bible, is given by God. Revelation is simply God enlightening our hearts concerning truths we already embrace. With that in mind let’s take a look at revelation as it is presented in the Bible.

Paul, writing to Christians, prayed for them saying, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding (heart) being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:17–19). Paul is saying that these truths, including “the greatness of His power toward us” can only be known through revelation by God to our spirit. We can know about these things but revelation brings the full “knowledge of Him” to our hearts. Paul wanted that for the Ephesian saints and we need it for believers today as well.

Notice that this “spirit of wisdom and revelation” is aimed at “the knowledge of Him.” The word used for “knowledge” in the verse is an intensified word meaning “full knowledge.” Many followers of Christ know much about Christ but Paul is saying here that there is a deeper knowing of Jesus that comes by means of His revelation to our hearts. Without it we may merely have a superficial knowledge about Him but don’t really know Him.

Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit to us when He shared with His disciples in the upper room. He told them that “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). He went on to say “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26) and “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The problem is that some teachers, because of their misunderstanding of revelation, believe these words are not for all believers but were meant only for the apostles who were to be the ones laying the foundation of the church which would later was to be recorded in the Bible. Today, so they teach, we no longer need this revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit since we have the written word of God to guide us.

Again, let me emphasize that I am not saying that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us totally new truth so that we can set the Bible aside. The Bible indeed is complete and is not to be added to but God can still enlighten “the eyes of your understanding (heart)” in knowing Christ more fully. Remember when the resurrected Christ walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus? Luke says “their eyes were restrained” so they did not know Him (Luke 24:16). Later as we are told that “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:31). These were not their physical eyes but the eyes of their heart that were opened so that, as Paul put it, they could have “full knowledge of Him.” This is revelation, the enlightening of the eyes of our hearts so that we see Christ more fully.

Too much of what we think we know is merely coming from our intellect rather than from revelation to our spirit where “full knowledge” is possible. Revelation is the imparting of truth to our spirit whereas mere knowledge can be developed by academic exercise. Knowledge can be intellectual but revelation comes to our spirit when we open to the Holy Spirit whose job it is to lead us into truth. Our search for truth must be a search to hear from God in our spirit as we allow the written word to confirm or discredit what we hear. The Bible is our external revelation of God’s word giving us a means to check inner revelation for validity. The two work hand in hand. This may be what Paul implied when he wrote “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 9:1, 2). We really don’t fully know something until it is revealed to us from God.

God gave us a spirit which enables us to communicate and fellowship with Him. The Proverb says, “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Prov. 20:27). Paul prays for the Ephesians to receive a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Some might argue that this was written before the canon of scripture was complete. I would respond that the completion of the external written word does not rescind the need for revelation to our hearts “in the [full] knowledge of Him.” We need to know Christ fully and it is real revelation that makes it possible.

Our faith is a faith of revelation — God is revealing Himself to people by enlightening the eyes of their hearts to know the wonders of His blessings. Then, the written word verifies this enlightening. Jesus told Peter and the others that the church would be built upon such revelation (Matt. 16:17, 18). It is the Rock of His revealed Christ that the church is founded on.

Our faith begins with revelation from above in the new birth: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3–6). Without the new birth, a supernatural experience, we can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.

Clearly the new birth experience is a revelation from God to the human spirit. The word translated “again” here could be translated “from above.” We are born from above through the “revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Jesus cannot be known in our hearts apart from revelation from God. Doctrinal, academic knowledge is not enough to reveal Christ to the hearts of men. Time and again Jesus said, “He that has an ear let him hear” (Mat. 113:43; Mark 7:16; Rev. 2:7, 11 et al; 13:19). Did God close up the ears of our spirits when the Bible was completed or do we still have spirits capable of hearing from God?

Paul told the Corinthians “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified… And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1–5). Today, too much of our faith rests on the human wisdom of academic preachers instead of “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Some will claim that such revelation came only to and through the prophets and apostles but Colossians 1:26 says, “… the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.” God’s revelation is to His church, the saints. Of course it began with the prophets of old and continued with His apostles but we the saints now benefit from the ability to hear and know revelation from God.

Now, I will admit that this truth has been abused by many so-called teachers. People are going around claiming to receive personal revelation for the church and others. Such people often do not function within a church setting where revelation is accepted only when it is tested by God’s word so we know what to hold fast to (1 Thess. 5:20, 21). This was the way Jesus trained His disciples and the way the Holy Spirit moved upon the church in those days following the ascension of Jesus. He wanted them to be accountable to one another and to the Holy Spirit and that required close fellowship and “speaking the truth in love” so we can grow spiritually (Eph. 4:15, 16).

There must be testing from God’s word of proposed revelatory statements given in the gatherings of the church and beyond. Paul told the Corinthians “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent” 1 Cor. 14:29, 30).” In an open fellowship where people are invited to share (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:42)) and others know they are testing what is said by God’s word and the Spirit, it is more difficult for error to enter the church. Heresies die in such an atmosphere but are birthed and thrive in the context of limited fellowship.

Ephesians 4:16 speaks to this issue: “… from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Spiritual growth is rare in a setting of top-down ministry where the saints are passive and uninvolved. The body is “knit together by what every joint supplies” and when every part is sharing the body grows and edifies itself in love. This is God’s way but not the way of leaders who function in human ability allowing the saints to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:14).

Regardless of our church situation we all need to find ways to open up fellowship to the body of Christ in the same way the early church came together. How that can be done is up to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the word of God and our ability to hear from Him. But it’s important to hear what the word says about our corporate fellowship as well as the individual walk. Shepherds of the flock need to take that up with the Good Shepherd.

One thing is absolutely true — we must be open to revelation from God, the enlightenment of our hearts so that we may know and experience the spiritual blessings God provides. Those who teach that revelation is no longer available to the church are cutting the saints off from precious, valuable fellowship with God. This also highlights the need for corporate testing in the context of open fellowship in the body of Christ.

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Lloyd Gardner

Lloyd Gardner

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I write to answer the worldwide move to diminish the influence of God. I write from outside the camp of organized religion to call people to come follow Christ.