God, on occasion in Bible times, communicated with some people by supernaturally telling them what to do, and He has not said He will never do so again. Some, at least, of the glowing stories that are told about guidance of this kind can hardly be doubted. Some see reason to deny that God ever did or will communicate this way now that the canon of Scripture is complete, but that view seems, to us, to go beyond what is written and to fly in the face of credible testimony. It is not for us to place restrictions on God that He has not placed on Himself!
Certainly, no messages from God of this kind could be regarded as canonical in the sense of carrying authority for universal faith and life in the way that Scripture does. This, however, is not to deny that “private revelations,” as the Puritans used to call them, ever take place nowadays. On that question, we keep an open mind. Though we know that self-deception here is very easy, we would not short-circuit claims to have received words from God. We would, instead, test them, as objectively and open-mindedly as we can, in light of the teaching of Scripture itself.
Scripture teaches that principle of testing in such passages as Deuteronomy 18.22, where God’s people are told to listen to supposed prophets with discernment: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” Similarly, Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica, in 1 Thessalonians 5.20-21: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything. Hold fast what is good.” – J. I. Packer (born on July 22, 1926)
(Personally, I still prefer John Owen’s advice. See post for July 13th, below.)