December 2012 – The Theology of Revelation and Illumination
There has in recent times been a push against theology, and scholarship in many circles of modern Christianity. The thought seems to be that theology, and scholarship is all a bit stuffy and not in keeping with “the move of the Spirit.” This has led many to conclude that there really is no need for doctrine but rather what is needed is an experience with God that brings “fresh revelation” to the individual believer. The argument is made with very spiritual terms. After all, who can argue with a word like fresh? The clear implication of the call for fresh is that what we have is stale, old, and used up. Because of this mindset we have declarations that God is “doing a new thing” and the new thing means he is giving new revelation. When the Lord speaks of doing a new thing in Isaiah chapter 43 he is not speaking of a new doctrine but a new action. This of course is in the context of the Old Testament. Those of the charismatic persuasion tend to lean on the gifts of the Spirit found in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians as a means for a new revelation. The tendency is to think that God will reveal something special that will bring something new. The emphasis of their motivation tends to be on experience rather than doctrine.
On the other side of the spectrum there are heady, high minded types that reject any move of the Spirit in experience at all and focus deeply on the tried and true doctrines of the Church. They tend to be rigid, and look for a demon under every rock. They are suspicious of anyone or anything that even slightly differs in wording from their position. These people are often negative leaning and can find everything that is wrong but rarely find anything that is right.
In both of these cases there is error. What we must understand is a term I came up with that I call “Reactionary Theology.” It is the theology on any subject that comes about based on a reaction to bad doctrine. Example: The Roman Catholic Church was corrupt and run by the rule of one man; the Pope. The reaction to that was a congregational form of Church government. Congregationalism is a reaction to one man rule. It took one error and reacted to its own error. Neither is biblical. Eldership with a set presiding leader is the biblical model. In the same way, liberal theology is the reaction to legalism, and legalism is the reaction to liberal theology. Both are in error and reactionary.
My point in all the above is this. We must hold to the bible and not to man’s desire or prejudices. We must practice hermeneutical principles in order to get it right. The Apostle Paul said:
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
This passage makes it clear that we can rightly divide the word of truth. It makes it clear proper study is necessary to do so. The problem with so many in modern Christianity, particularly those who focus on the gifts of the Spirit, is that they have often forsaken the above passage in favor of what makes them “feel the Spirit.” They are looking for “fresh revelation” from the Holy Spirit not “stuffy doctrine.” The unfortunate thing is that they do not understand an important point. There is no fresh revelation. The revelation has been given in the New Testament. In fact Christ himself is the revelation and fulfillment. There is no new spiritual teaching, no new doctrine, no hidden secrets but rather there is illumination. Illumination is the reflection of revelation. Illumination helps us to understand the revelation. When people say they want a fresh revelation they are implying that there is something wrong with the old revelation and therefore they need a new one.
The so called “Emergent Church” movement is filled with the idea of new revelation. Doctrines like open theism and theistic evolution are “new ways to look at God and creation.” Rob Bell often asks a series of questions implying that things like the virgin birth may not be that important. Brian McLaren wrote the following in his book:
“What if Jesus’ secret message reveals a secret plan?”…. What if he didn’t come to start a new religion but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?”
-The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 4
Paul Cain of “The Kansas City Prophets” said:
“God is raising up a new standard, a new banner if you will, that’s going to radically change the expression, the understanding of Christianity in our generation…God has invited us to have a role in establishing this new order of Christianity…God is offering to this generation something He has never offered to any other generation… Beware lest old order brethren rob you and steal this hope from you!
-Vineyard prophecy conference 1989
Paul Crouch, the leader of the Trinity Broadcasting Network is well known as a “Word of Faith” preacher and promotes this view on his network. He said this:
“Those who would be chosen as the elect Manifest Sons of God by the modern Apostles and Prophets must first repent of their old divisive attitude of separation from error. Christ cannot incarnate a divided church and for this reason we will need to be delivered from our narrow doctrinal point of view and join the ecumenical crowd on the Broad Way. It matters not that the blood of the martyrs was shed contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. Those who persist in being contentious about doctrine may join them when the great “revival” arrives.”
There is a “secret plan” that is just now being given by revelation to the emergent church movement? Beware of the “old order brethren” and watch of for those who hold to the doctrine that the martyrs died for? Those of us who hold to the sacred doctrines of the church might join the martyrs when the great revival arrives?
Here is the truth; there is no new revelation. There is no new word, no “new” New Testament, and certainly there are no new prophets telling us these new revelations. They are the same old false prophets who work to undermine the clear doctrines of the only revelation needed; The Word of God.
Having said all of that, it may surprise you to know that I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today however they are not for new revelation, they are for illumination. The gifts are given for the edification of the body of Christ to illuminate the revelation of clear proper principles and specific doctrine. They are also given for discernment and strengthening of the body of Christ to walk is the revelation of scripture.
Theology is vital, theology is imperative to keep the church away from gnostic teaching, and all other forms of false religious doctrine. The bible is complete and we find all we need for life in Christ himself who is the Word made flesh, died, and resurrected:
2 Peter 1:2-3 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
It is the Word of God that we use to bring the final say on matters of doctrine. It is the power of the bible that we bow to. The bible is what we use so we may know if what we sense is God’s leading or not in a given situation:
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
It is the illumination of God’s revelation found in the bible that makes us strong and able to contend against the powers of darkness:
1 John 2:14 “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
The idea that doctrine is unimportant is not in keeping with the Bible. The idea that we should not hold to specific doctrine is contrary to what the Word of God teaches.
The Apostles taught doctrine:
Acts 2:42” And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Mark them which preach false doctrine:
Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
We are not to be carried away by so called new revelation of doctrine, which infers that we can know the difference:
Ephesians 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”
Pastors must preach good doctrine:
1 Timothy 4:6 “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
These are the days we are in:
2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
People of God must respect sound doctrine and turn from the false. We do not need new revelation; we need to study the bible so that the revelation is illuminated to us. The kingdom of God is not a wide path it is a narrow road:
Matthew 7:13 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:”
People will often say that there are many interpretations of scripture but this is not so. There is only one interpretation and that is whatever the author of the scripture intended. There may be many applications of the principles, but only one interpretation. When I say this, I am speaking of the clear teachings of scripture. We may not understand every question that rises from reading the bible however concerning the main points of doctrine, there is one way to read it. If proper hermeneutics are applied to theology then the cardinal doctrines of scripture are clear. Doctrine must never be made shipwrecked by the false teachings of those who seek to entice with their special understanding. Those who spread their heretical teachings in the name of “fresh revelation” must be resisted by all spiritual means.