Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Does God Speak Personally to Us?

By S. Michael Durham

(Twelfth installment on faith)

While God primarily speaks via the written word of Scripture, He also can speak directly to our spirit via the Holy Spirit. We must not rule out this blessed grace. Many of my theological allies believe that we must rule out this option, but biblical support for this position is lacking. There is a direct work of the Spirit upon the spirit of a Christian and it is this work that is the source of our faith.

In Romans 10:17 the Apostle Paul says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Those who believe that God does not speak subjectively want to interpret this to mean that faith comes by listening to the Bible. Those who share my opposing view like to point out that the word “word” is not translated from the more objective Greek word, logos, but from a more subjective term, rhema. In other words, logos is used to speak of the corporate body of Scriptures, while rhema is a personal word from someone, including the Lord. But I think that is the weakest argument to support this position since sometimes the word rhema is used in the New Testament to speak of the written word of God and logos is used for a personal statement.

The best way to understand Romans 10:17 is the very context. If, with an open mind, you examine the entire context you will note that Paul is not talking about the corpus of God’s word called the Scriptures but a direct work of the Spirit upon the human spirit that makes truth real and personal.

The Apostle Paul is showing the gospel is for anyone who will believe both Jews and Gentiles. But before someone can believe he must hear the gospel, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Someone must take the gospel to those who have not heard. But Paul interrupts this explanation of missions and evangelism and says the Jews have heard but they did not believe, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’” (Romans 10:16). He quotes Isaiah to show that for centuries the truth of the Messiah had been proclaimed to Israel, but they refused to believe. They had heard the truth. Jesus had come and by far the majority of Israel rejected Him. After verse 17 Paul continues to show that although the Jews had heard they still did not believe, “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Romans 10:18).

So if “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” why did most who heard not believe? Another way to ask this question is why did a comparative few believe? Both heard the same “word”? Or did they?

It is Paul’s point to show that by hearing the Gospel you will be saved, but not all hearing is equal. Something besides just hearing with human ears is needed to believe unto salvation. Paul is proving God sovereignly saves whom He has chosen to do so. And He does so subjectively and personally.

In addition to hearing the word proclaimed a supernatural work must also occur. God must make the word heard have a spiritual reality to it. The Lord not only must grant life to the spirit, but He also must communicate personally to the quickened spirit. Jesus said that there is a communication that goes on between the Father and those who come to Him for rest. “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). The objective truth must be made subjective.

For the life of faith to occur the brooding Spirit of God must hover over our hearts and whisper His small, still voice and bring life to the written words of Scripture. Otherwise one may understand the written word and even accept it as truth, but their approach to God will be academic, intellectual at best. Their dead spirit will lie in the tomb bound with the grave clothes of spiritual death.

One of the worst problems facing Christendom today is that many of our members have merely accepted facts. Oh yes, the facts are from the Bible, but they are cold, hard facts. They may be a part of their value system; they may very well be the foundation of their worldview, but facts by themselves bring no life. And it’s life that we need.

I love what A. W. Tozer said of the problem of our theological mindset today. It is contributive to a lack of faith.
I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God's continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.
If we are to have faith, we must hear the voice of God. It is His very voice that echoes in the chambers of the heart the truth of the gospel, the truth of Scripture and quickens our faith. It is His voice alone that engenders faith. Speak Lord; Thy servant listens.

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