When you first come across the theology of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things—it’s like you see the world through new eyes. Every page of Scripture, as you turn it, it’s as if the truth of the bigness of God leaps off the pages. Soon enough, you find yourself digging deeper and deeper into God’s Word, talking with friends, listening intently to the preaching, reading books, and enjoying God in a way that you haven’t in years past.
It’s one thing to think about the sovereignty of God in salvation and the absolute sovereignty of God in creation from an academic perspective or from a Bible study perspective—but what happens when the doctor walks into the room and diagnoses you with cancer? What happens when you receive the unexpected phone call informing you that your loved one has just passed away? Suddenly, it’s time to employ that theology into action in your life. It’s there in the pain of tragedy that you realize the value of such a big God theology in ways that mere academics cannot compare.
The Labor of Application
Applying the Bible is not the job of the pastor only. The labor of application is something that every believer must engage in on a regular basis. When the congregation is listening to the sermon, there must be active participation taking place by everyone in the room as each individual seeks to take the truth and apply it to their own life.
Imagine the pastor preaching through a passage and is driving home the sovereignty of God—and he describes the omnipotence of God by looking at snapshots of Scriptures throughout the Bible. One young man is seated near the front who attends a local college. It’s his first semester as a college student and he has many fears and insecurities he’s working through. He feels unbelievably small as he walks onto the large and expansive campus, smells the books as he walks into the library, and sits in the large lecture hall to hear one of his professors teach a couple of hundred students.
On the other side of the church, a seventy-nine year old man is contemplating the recent diagnosis of cancer and his treatment options. Both individuals are at different stages of life, yet both of these men are facing challenges. It’s the same Word of God being presented to both, yet they labor and engage in the sermon to apply the grand truth to their own personal situation in order to find refuge in their big God.
While the pastor may provide a couple of general application statements, it’s the responsibility of the individuals in the congregation to hear the Word, work to understand the text, and then connect the dots from the ancient context to their present situation in order to apply the truth to their own personal life. Far too often people sit back and ask the pastor to spoon feed them while missing the point of a sermon altogether. There must be engagement and involvement and personal labor in the proper hearing of a sermon.
The Comfort of God’s Sovereignty
David declared in Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” All through the Bible, we find bold statements about our big God.
It was Martin Luther, who in the midst of a dangerous season of persecution was kidnapped by his friends after his famous stand at Worms and was taken to the Wartburg Castle. While in hiding, in the safety of the structure, he translated the Bible into the German language. He worked at the relentless speed of 1,500 words per day.
During 1527, a dark time swept over Luther’s life—both spiritually and physically. He was physically sick due to the pressures of ministry and the battle of the Reformation. He battled spells of dizziness and fainted often. He felt as if he was going to die. But then, God brought him through it.
Soon the Black Plague swept through Germany killing many people. It was so bad – many people would flee for their own safety. Luther stayed and turned his home into a place of refuge—a makeshift hospital. During this crisis, his son almost died.
It was with this backdrop that Luther penned the words to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” which is one of the most famous hymns in the history of the church. As he faced the plague, looked at the black death surrounding him, and contemplated the frailty of his own life (and the lives of his family)—he thought about the walls of the castle and how he once found refuge. Then he considered the words of Psalm 46 and applied the grand truths of God’s sovereignty to his dark situation.
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
No matter what you face today as you journey through this world with devils filled who threaten to undo you—you can walk with confidence that your God is big. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). No matter what trial you face or what challenge is presented before you, remember to lean on the theology of the Bible and find comfort and peace that passes all understanding in the God who is big, strong, and serves as our Rock and our Refuge! If God is for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?
Psalm 46:1–3; 6-7 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah…The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
According to statistics, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. That equates to 18.1% of the total population. When we consider the vast number of people who are plagued with fear, it’s amazing to consider that there are many different types of causes or sources to the anxiety. There is a phobia based anxiety and then a more general anxiety disorder as well. At the end of the day, millions of people in America are afraid of many different things, but we would be shocked to know how small the percentage of people is in America who actually fear God.
Why You Should Fear the Wrath of God
There are many people today who are living life in complete rejection of God’s presence and complete denial of his authority. Some claim to be agnostic while others embrace atheism. Still others live such lives as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Catholics while rejecting the authority of God. Religion is not what shields people from God’s wrath. Countless numbers of people have gone to hell while being very much committed to religion.
Years ago, a wicked Pharaoh ruled Egypt and placed the Jews under brutal slave practices. God raised up a prophet named Moses to lead the people out of the land of Egypt. However, when Moses went before the wicked king to announce the plan and demands of God, the arrogant king responded by saying, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). It would not be long before the God of all creation made himself known to the arrogant and confused ruler. It would be a lesson he would never forget. We must not forget that Pharaoh was very much a religious man—but he refused to bow to the one true and living God.
In this life, we have many things that can cause us to fear. Such examples may include the fear of spiders, snakes, or violent storms. Still others fear disease and death itself. While there are things in this life that instill fear into the hearts of people, we must be reminded that we must fear God. Storms and snakes may damage your physical body, but it’s God who can damn your soul in hell for eternity. Listen to the words of Jesus:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
If you have never turned to God by faith in Jesus Christ and repented of your rebellion and the violation of God’s law—you have a reason to fear God. Consider the fact that the very Creator of the entire universe—the sovereign ruler of the entire world has given us specific demands, yet as a rebel of his law you will be judged by him. Holy justice will be executed on your soul and there will be no plea bargain. In short, you should fear God. Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Consider the terms used in Scripture to describe the place of damnation:
Beyond specific references to hell, the Bible likewise uses other references in a more indirect manner to describe the judgment of God upon sinners. Such references include:
Why Christians Should Fear God Too
As a child of God, we have the wonderful joy of knowing that all of our sins have been atoned for in the death of Jesus on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24; John 3:16). As a result, we are no longer the enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). We are now adopted into the family of God and enjoy the privileges of sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:15-17). However, even so, we too must fear God!
When we as God’s children fear God, it’s a different type of fear than an unbeliever who must fear the wrath of God. As the children of God, we learn that we fear God by reverencing his sovereign power, his benevolent love, his transcendent holiness, and his providential rule of the entire universe. Consider what God’s Word teaches about such fear:
- Psalm 103:17 – But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children
- Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
- Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
- Proverbs 8:13 – The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
- Proverbs 10:27 – The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
- Proverbs 14:26 – In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
- Proverbs 14:27 – The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good reminder of how we as God’s children should approach God with humble hearts and a proper fear that is genuine respect of who God is and what he has accomplished in the salvation of our soul. A proper fear of God leads to a proper worship of God. A proper fear and worship of God leads to a proper lifestyle that brings glory to God. Without a proper fear of God—we will be led down the path of pride and self-serving that doesn’t bring God glory.
Do you have a proper fear of God?
On Good Friday each year, Christians remember the most glorious sacrifice and the most horrific murder that ever occurred in human history. Why do we refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” and the Friday before Easter “Good Friday”? Should they be reversed? It’s the day set aside on the calendar to remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of his people and the heinous murder of God’s Son. Why would we celebrate that day as a good day? Many people flow through Good Friday as if it’s a normal day and they give little to no recognization for the significance of what happened on the day Jesus died. Others celebrate it from a heart of worship. Still others mock the day—calling it cosmic child abuse. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes the following:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. 
Is God guilty of abusing his Son on the cross? According to Isaiah 53, “It pleased the LORD (YHWH) to crush him (Jesus)” (Is. 53:10). Some have stated that the Father was “well pleased” with his Son at the baptism (Matt. 3:17), and then he was vengeful with his Son on the cross. How should we reconcile such statements? Why was Good Friday a good day? How can the death of Jesus be considered a good thing? Is it cosmic child abuse worthy of laughter or substitutionary sacrifice worthy of worship?
Good Friday Was Good Because God Is Good
The entire scene of the cross is filled with brutality, blood, insult, shame, and death. That does not exactly sound like a good day, but it was. When we look at Good Friday and all of the events that transpired on that day through the lens of human self-preservation and humane concepts—it’s a horrible day. When we view the events of Good Friday through the lens of God’s justice—things are put into perspective. Just the statement, “God is good” is often thrown around so casually that people fail to get the point. By the goodness of God, we don’t mean God gives us good things like a cosmic grandfather figure. God is good and because God is good—he must punish sinners for their guilt. This is demanded by the justice of God.
Far too often, God is misrepresented by the Christian community as a cosmic bellhop or a loving grandfather in the sky who showers all people with salvation regardless of their sin. Still others misrepresent God as a vengeful and hate-filled cosmic being who is always looking to zap people with judgment. God is neither of those caricatures. When we see God issuing love and grace to guilty sinners—it’s based on God’s ability to love which is not disconnected from his necessity to judge. Grace is offered on the basis of his satisfaction. The only way God can offer grace is by the fulfillment of his justice. However, if God judges sinners—he is good. If God saves sinners and spares them from wrath—God is good.
God would not be good if he merely bypassed the demands of justice and allowed guilty sinners to sneak in the backdoor of heaven. Such underhanded deals are common in this world of sin, but the moment that God offered such a corrupt deal to a guilty sinner is the moment that he would cease to be good. The holy justice of God is pure and righteous and it requires that all sinners will be justly judged for their sins. Therefore, as God is punishing his Son on the cross, we must remember that he was not punishing him for his sin. Instead, Jesus became a substitute and was being punished for the sins of God’s people (every person who would be the recipient of grace through Jesus Christ—every one of God’s elect past, present, and future).
According to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus took on himself the sins of his people (Matt. 1:21) in order that they would receive the righteousness of God. There was a great exchange that took place. The sins of his people were placed upon him and he suffered immensely for them while his righteousness was imputed to the account of the sinners—freely received by faith. According to Stephen Nichols, ‘The word imputation comes directly from the Latin. It is an accounting term; it means “to apply to one’s account.’ Expenses are debited and income is credited. The old King James word is ‘reckon.'”  The apostle Paul provides the plain truth of this doctrine in his letter to the church at Corinth as he states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Good Friday Was Good Because God Was Satisfied
All through the Genesis account of creation, we see the phrase repeated, “it was good.” God was satisfied with his creation—but when sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12)—it was not good. God was angry with his creation. The demands of God’s holy law demonstrated the need for God to be satisfied. On the eve of the final plague, God promised to judge every home and take the life of their firstborn if the blood of the lamb was not on the doorposts. The death angel would visit each home—including the home of Pharaoh. God demanded that each year on the Day of Atonement that the blood of the lamb would be offered and the blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat. All of this blood was necessary and it likewise was a foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God who would one day come and take away the sins of his people throughout the world (John 1:29).
When Isaiah prophesied of the birth of the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), he was not merely thinking of peace between animals so that the lion would lie down with the lamb. He was looking beyond to a greater peace—one that would reconcile sinful man with holy God. As Charles Wesley would write so eloquently in his hymn, “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” From birth, all of us are under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). We have all sinned against God and we are all born into sin as we’re connected to Adam (Ps. 51:5). As a result of our sin, we’re considered the enemies of God. It’s by the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute that we are no longer the enemies of God—but now we’re reconciled to him. Paul articulated this truth in his letter to the church at Rome as he wrote, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).
When Jesus died on the cross, Charles Spurgeon said, “It became midnight at midday.” It was a dark day as God died in human flesh. The death of the second Person of the Trinity was a horrible act of rebellion and human depravity. It resembled the act of Satan seeking to dethrone God from the beginning. It had all of the marks of evil and twisted human depravity—yet at the same time what man intended for evil—God intended for good. It was on that very day when the heads of the homes in Jerusalem were slaughtering their lamb for Passover that Jesus was dying on the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of his people (1 John 2:1-2). The reason that Good Friday was good is because God was satisfied with the death of his Son in the place of guilty sinners.
Nothing that you do can impress or please God. The very best that you can offer God is human effort stained by sin. You need something greater. The only way that sinners can be reconciled to God and find peace with God is through the substitutionary death of Jesus and the righteousness of God that is received by faith. Will you come to God today by faith trusting that the death of Jesus on the cross was a good thing? Mark Dever explains:
God’s answer for your guilt is not to explain it away by circumstances that have victimized you, but to call you to own your sins fully and to entrust them all to Jesus Christ by faith. Jesus Christ is our substitute. He has taken our penalty. 
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Bantam Press, 2006), 51
- Stephen Nichols, “The Doctrine of Imputation: The Ligonier Statement on Christology” [accessed 3-28-18]
- Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, It Is Well, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 57.
When you hear the word “holy” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of purity and perfection. When it comes to the holiness of God, we need to think of distinctness and separation. While the word holiness encompasses the idea of perfection and purity—it likewise points to the distinct nature of God. When we think of God, we must think of the fact that God is outside of his creation, distinct from his creation, and transcends higher than everything in the universe. God is God and there is no being or created thing that can remotely compare to him. God is radiant in purity, majestic in perfection, and sovereign in power.
When King Uzziah died and all of Israel was looking to an empty throne for leadership, God pulled back the veil of eternity and allowed Isaiah to see the enthroned King of kings and Lord of lords. It was as if God were communicating to Isaiah that the King is not dead—he is enthroned—high and lifted up on his majestic and sovereign throne. In the first few verses of Isaiah 6, we see two distinct names for God—”אָדוֹן” (the sovereign name of God) and “יהוה” (the sacred name of God). What Isaiah sees is breathtaking.
Isaiah sees into the throne room of glory and his eyes are captivated by the seraphim that are flying around the throne crying out with these words, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3). As these echoes are hurled back and forth between the angelic beings, Isaiah takes note of what he sees. He sees the Lord of glory on his throne and the train of his robe filing the temple which I believe to be a reference to the throne room of heaven itself and a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus. They question remains, why did the angels cry out with the repetition of “holy, holy, holy” as they circled the throne of the King?
For the Purpose of Worship
The main purpose for the repetition of the word holy by the angelic beings must be centered on the goal of worship. Apparently, this was a routine day for the angels, but an extraordinary day for Isaiah. It appears that the angels are doing exactly what they were created to do—worship God. When John came into the presence of the angelic being and he fell down to worship the angel, but the angel rebuked him and directed him to worship God (Rev. 19:10). God desires for his creatures to worship him—both angels and humans. R.C. Sproul rightly explained the emphasis on God’s holiness by saying:
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory. 
God is worthy of worship. There is no shame in the amount of worship that’s given to God by the angels. They can’t worship God enough—even they must shield their face with two of their wings as they worship before the very throne of God. John Calvin writes, “The repetition of Holy, holy, holy points to unwearied perseverance, as if the prophet said that the angels never cease from singing the praises of God since God’s holiness supplies inexhaustible reasons for them.” 
For the Purpose of the Isaiah (and the readers of Isaiah’s Prophecy)
God sovereignly planned for Isaiah to see this glimpse of glory. It would serve two very distinct purposes. First of all, it would be used to solidify his call to be a prophet for God. When the earthly king was gone, Isaiah was able to see that the true King of kings is very much alive and reigning from heaven’s throne. This event left an indelible mark upon his soul. As he was seeing the transcendent King of glory worshipped by angels—he was overwhelmed with his depravity. He understood that he needed forgiveness. God forgave his sin and then Isaiah was ready to be sent by God, as he repeated—”Here I am, send me.”
The secondary purpose for the recording of this scene of heaven was for the readers of Isaiah’s prophecy—which would include us in our present day. Not only is God sovereign over providing the vision for Isaiah personally, but he’s sovereign to use this scene in a portion of the canon of Scripture that would forever be preserved through the ages. Although Isaiah 6 is not a personal vision for us—it’s recorded for us to see and understand the transcendent holiness of God and how he deserves to be worshipped.
In Hebrew, rather than underlining or using exclamation points—they would repeat something in order to give attention and add significance. Here we see the angels doing that very thing as they cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” As we read it today, we are reminded that God is the most holy being that is or every will be—and he alone deserves our worship. The most important truth that could occupy real estate in the mind of a human being is the holiness of God. From the holiness of God flows the love of God, the justice of God, and the mercy of God—along with all of the other attributes. God is God and he alone is worthy of our worship.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
—Reginald Heber (1826)
- R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000), 26.
- John Calvin, Isaiah, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 61.
This week, as we traveled down the highway, our family spotted a beautiful rainbow to the east as the sun was setting in the west. The contrast of colors filling the sky was stunningly beautiful. As we pointed to the rainbow in the sky, we asked our youngest daughter if she understood the meaning behind this beautiful spectacle that reappears in the sky on certain occasions. She responded by saying that there was probably gold at the end—so after a quick chuckle we talked about the real meaning of the colorful bow in the sky.
The Origin of the Rainbow
The rainbow finds its origin in a covenant that was made to Noah after the great flood. The Bible records that event in Genesis 9, and the whole backdrop can be seen leading up to the Noahic covenant. God was angry with the depraved population that filled planet earth. He commissioned Noah to build the ark in accordance with his plan of judgment and salvation. Only Noah and his family (eight people in total) were saved from the fury of God’s vengeance.
After flooding the entire world with a global flood, God made a promise that he would never again destroy the world with water. In order to communicate this promise, God not only spoke it to Noah, but he also hung a majestic bow in the sky. Genesis 9:12-17 records the scene of God’s promise to Noah and future generations:
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
The rainbow, like all of God’s creation, reflects the beauty and majesty of God. The radiant colors and glorious appearance of a rainbow in the sky points to the existence of God and reflects his glory. When we see a rainbow, we should consider how much more glorious and beautiful God is and one day the whole world will see his glory shine in an unveiled manner.
The Hijacking of the Rainbow
A few years ago I was riding in a vehicle through a remote village high in the Andes mountains. As we passed clusters of homes along the road, I noticed that many of the windows of the homes were decorated with a rainbow banner. Immediately my mind went to the homosexual agenda. I asked my friend who lives in Ecuador to explain, and he informed me that the rainbow banner represents a specific political party.
Why did my mind immediately go to the LGBTQ agenda rather than God’s covenant with Noah? Years ago, a man named Gilbert Baker was one of the original architects who designed a plan to use the rainbow as a symbol of the gay pride movement. Baker died at 65 in March of 2017 and is being honored this month at many LGBTQ events. According to Baker, “The flag is an action – it’s more than just the cloth and the stripes. When a person puts the Rainbow Flag on his car or his house, they’re not just flying a flag. They’re taking action.”  The idea took off with a great deal of enthusiasm and soon large numbers of homosexuals were marching the streets of major cities in America waving, wearing, and identifying themselves under majestic and colorful rainbow banners and flags. Today, that image is placed on bumper stickers and even appeared on the White House following the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015. Baker would later recount:
The moment I knew that the flag was beyond my own personal experience – that it wasn’t just something I was making but was something that was happening – was the 1993 March on Washington. From my home in San Francisco I watched the March on C-SPAN and saw hundreds of thousands of people carrying and waving Rainbow Flags on a scale I’d never imagined. 
The Paradox of the LGBTQ Symbol
Interestingly enough, as the LGBTQ groups use the rainbow to identify their movement and to celebrate their freedom, God remains angry with sinners—including those engaged in the sin of homosexuality. The rainbow was not created by God as a sign of God’s cessation of anger. It was a sign to remember that God is holding back his anger and will not issue a global flood again.
The rainbow does not communicate that God is pleased with homosexuals. It communicates that God remains angry with sin and sinners, but he has chosen to not destroy the earth with a global flood again. That does not mean that God will not unleash his divine wrath. It should be noted that when Christ returns, he will come clothed in wrath to judge all rebels of God. On that day, people will run into the hills and hide in caves and no place will be safe—not even beneath a rainbow flag.
The very symbol used to promote freedom among the LGBTQ population is one that communicates the fact that God’s wrath is coming upon the world of sinners. When Christ returns, he will certainly reclaim the rainbow for what it was originally intended for in the first place. Even around the throne of God, there is pictured a majestic rainbow—used to communicate the glory of God (Rev. 4:3). One day, the rainbow will no longer be misused by sinners to boast in their sin. The rainbow will be reserved for the glory of God alone when Christ returns and makes all things new.
Until Christ returns, we must communicate the truth and the glory of the rainbow to our daughters and sons as we ride down the highway. We likewise have a duty to communicate this same truth to others who have misused, abused, and hijacked a glorious symbol used by God to communicate a promise. Veiled in God’s promise to not flood the earth with water is another promise that God remains angry with sinners. God’s glory will shine again throughout the whole earth, but before then Christ will return in judgment (Rom. 2:8; Matt. 13:41-43; Matt. 24:51; Is. 66). Therefore, we must point people to find their refuge in Jesus Christ, the only means of satisfying the divine wrath and holy justice of God. Until Christ returns—we must point all people to Jesus Christ for salvation. God loves to save sinners through his Son (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
- A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RAINBOW FLAG [accessed 6-26-17]
It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.
Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?
The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture
If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.
In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.
During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.
It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.
The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story. We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today. If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word. To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing. But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent. John MacArthur writes:
Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. 
The “God Told Me” Language Uses God’s Name in Vain
Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God. This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11).
For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer. Either way, it’s not true. It’s intellectually dishonest. We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language. We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it. Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:
Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door. 
It is through the Word of God that we hear God proclaim to us the reality of sin (Rom. 3). From the Scriptures, we hear God declare good news that makes us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15). God speaks from His Word to correct us and warn us of error (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we continue to hear God speak through His Word, we grow into spiritual maturity and experience the ongoing renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). God speaks today, but we must not cling to extrabiblical revelations. Such words are empty and impotent sayings that are more closely associated with mysticism than Christianity.
Important questions to ask when someone uses the “God told me” language:
- If the “God told me” language is used in the context of a sermon preached by one of your pastors (or a guest preacher), rather than attacking him online, setup a private meeting to discuss the matter in person. Show respect and ask for specifics to be sure you are not misunderstanding.
- Is this direct communication from God necessary if we already have the completed canon of Scripture (all 66 books)?
- Is the person using the “God told me” language in order to manipulate you in some way?
- Is the person seeking to validate their poor life decision by attaching God’s name to it?
- Is the “God told me” language being employed in the context of asking for money?
- Is the person using the name of God to aspire to an office in the local church?
- Is the “God told me” language in direct contradiction to any doctrine or truth revealed in Scripture?
An appeal to those who preach and teach the Bible:
- Remember Paul’s words to Timothy—Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We should preach the Word and not our stories.
- According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, one day we will give an account of every secret thing and every careless word that proceeds from our mouths (Matt. 12:36).
- It is our duty to maximize God and minimize ourselves in the pulpit. If people leave church services remembering your riveting story about God talking to you instead of remembering God’s Word, you’ve done the people a great disservice.
- Your “God told me” language makes others who obviously don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice (everyone in the congregation) feel sub-par in their Christian life. It also serves as a means of puffing up your spiritual level to an elite status above the normal Christian. This shouldn’t be the goal in preaching.
- If God didn’t actually speak to you in audible voice, please stop using the phrase, “God told me” when you’re telling stories in your sermons.
- Brother pastor, if you have someone speak in your pulpit who uses that type of language, it’s your responsibility to correct it with your people. Their spiritual maturity and development depends upon you being faithful in this area.
Don’t immediately classify a friend as a lunatic or a heretic if they use the “God told me” language in their communication. However, when you hear people talking in this manner, it should serve as a big red flag. Exercise wisdom and gentleness when confronting this error among friends or church members, but in the case of calling out false teachers, mark them so that others will not be led astray.
- John MacArthur, Strange Fire, (Nashville, Nelson Books, 2013), 218.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872 [Sermon].