Grow Up

But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
~ Isaiah 28:13

Winds can blow strong.

I recently read an article from a preacher about interpreting dreams. The article was peppered with some Bible verses, but, of course, there were no contextual explanations or expositional applications of those verses. The writer didn’t go to great lengths to prove from the Bible that God would speak to us in dreams today. He mostly referred to a few examples from Bible times, like Daniel and Joseph. The logic he apparently wants us to follow is that something happened in the past, so it will continue to happen.

Being quite light on scriptural support, the article couldn’t be thought to be making a biblical defense of its premise. I suppose we are supposed to accept the idea that God gave Joseph dreams, so he can give us dreams today too. We might even be tempted to treat the article as stream-of-consciousness opinion, but the fact the writer imposes on us readers an enumerated list of rules for judging dreams shows he’s perfectly serious. Add in the explicit affirmation of dreams as a means of God speaking to us today and I must do the only courteous and respectful thing a reader can do with such prosaic exhortations and believe that the writer wrote what he meant and meant what he wrote.

Early on the writer felt it necessary to urge caution upon us when considering our dreams. After all, he acknowledges that dreams can come to us from sources other than God. He refers us readers to 1 John 4:1 about testing the spirits. This means we cannot accept whatever dreams may come, but must test them to see if they’re from God. One means of testing such dreams is found in the writer’s foremost rule. He says that dreams must always be tested against the Bible. If a dream or the meaning thereof contradicts the Bible, then it cannot be from God.

Another rule the writer gives has positive and negative instructions to it. It seems we can’t be confident that we ourselves can always figure out the message of our own dreams. This puts us in a dilemma of where we should seek help. We have to be careful not to go to those outside the church in the world, because the dream is not for them. We must go to a trusted and spiritually minded counselor and guide to help us with our dreams. This lends us more confidence and adds another who can rejoice with us in the Divine communication.

The article goes on after this fashion, though it couldn’t be considered a long article by any measure. The underlying worldview and rationale of this article is typical Charismatic reasoning. We can’t put God in a box or limit God. We have record of God doing this in the past and he can still do this today. These are not Apostolic gifts, but rather lesser gifts. God speaking today is not equal to revelation, so it’s not authoritative or binding on others. This is just a sample of the standard arguments for such continuation, especially from the Reformed Charismatics whose open but cautious stance seems to be more open all the time.

Is there anything God can’t do?

Most of these arguments are deflections from the real issues. To say that God can do anything doesn’t mean that he does, or will do, anything. To say that God has done something in the past doesn’t mean he will do it again. This diverts the discussion as though it is about God’s ability, but the issue is not hypothetical theories about what God is capable of doing. The don’t-put-God-in-a-box argument completely ignores God’s self-revelation of what he will do and why. God doesn’t do just anything. He only and always does what he is pleased to do (Psalm 115:3), meaning that everything he does is according to his own unchanging will and purpose (Ephesians 1:11). So, God is not reacting to anything, but always acting according to his own purpose and in his own time (Acts 1:7).

God has spoken in the past through dreams and other means (Hebrews 1:1), but now in this age he has spoken finally through his Son (Hebrews 1:2). This finality means God is not speaking in those various ways in this age. The writer of Hebrews clearly indicates two different epochs of time and the coming of God’s Son to earth marked a change or turning point in history. When we read the biblical account of signs and wonders, we realize these were primarily concentrated at important points of unfolding redemptive history, like at the exodus from Egypt, and they were given to authenticate and confirm what God was doing in that crucial time.

The birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ formed a major turning point in redemptive history where the Old Covenant was fulfilled and the New Covenant was inaugurated and the revelation of God was completed. We should expect exactly what we see in the first century with signs and wonders authenticating and confirming the work and word of God, particularly through the Apostles. Twenty-first century American Christians probably don’t appreciate how massive this shift was, and the letter to the Hebrews was written to Jews who had professed faith in Jesus Christ but were tempted to return to the Old Covenant law and temple worship. The keyword of Hebrews is better, and what believers have in Jesus Christ is better.

The New Testament not only gives us an account of the first century signs and wonders, but also explains why God gave them at that time in redemptive history. The writer of Hebrews referred to the prior revelation being attested by angels (Hebrews 2:1-2), and how the completion of that revelation was attested by signs and wonders (Hebrews 2:3-4). So this giving of the gospel was accompanied by signs and wonders. Paul also referred to these signs as being foretold in the Old Testament as prophetic judgment speech for Israel (1 Corinthians 14:21-22) during the time of witness to that generation of Israel to whom Christ came.

When I say that God is not speaking to us in dreams or visions today, I am not saying that God doesn’t have the ability to do so, nor that we are limiting God from doing so because we lack faith. I am saying God is not doing so because that is not according to his purpose revealed in his word. God is not speaking to us in dreams and visions and giving signs today because that generation of Israel is passed and their descendants remain in judgment until this age, or the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled (Romans 11:25). Furthermore, God is not giving us such signs today because he is not giving us another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). There is not going to be some new move of God or new move of the Spirit in this age like the revivalists have lusted after since the nineteenth century. To expect such is to ignore God’s revealed purpose in his word.

Don’t be children

So if you think God is speaking to you, or will speak to you, in dreams and visions today, you are deceived. There is no purpose for such in this age. If you are reading and listening to this preacher or supporting this ministry, you need to stop because you are being led astray by false teaching. This preacher and others preaching this message are not faithful ministers of God’s word and not servants of the flock of God, who they would have remain as little children in understanding.

Seeking such signs is not a mark of strong faith, but rather of unbelief (Luke 11:29; John 6:30-31; 1 Corinthians 1:22). It is not a mark of mature Christianity but childishness. Paul said that such signs were childish, things passing away and to be put away (1 Corinthians 13:10-11). God’s purpose is not for us to be children but mature in his word (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13-16). At the very best, listening to such teaching is keeping you locked in childish foolishness, chasing after experiences when the written word of God is far better than any experiences we might seek (2 Peter 1:16-21).

If you want to read the article I am referring to, you can find it here.