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Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 3, by Wayne A. Grudem

18. Doesn’t the use of prophecy today deny the sufficiency of Scripture?

No, it does not, because prophecy should never function with the absolute authority of Scripture (see above). It should never challenge the unique role the Bible plays in our lives. Rather, it functions on a level something like the kind of authority we give to advice from a friend, or to a subjective “intuition” or “gut feeling” about what to do in a situation. We do not follow these in every case (for they may be wrong), but we do not ignore them either. Often they help us make the right decision. So it is with the gift of prophecy: God can use it to make us aware of things we would otherwise overlook, but He will never use it to add new doctrinal teachings or new moral commands to what is in the Bible.

People who make this objection about prophecy challenging “the sufficiency of Scripture” should be asked to define carefully what they mean by the phrase “the sufficiency of Scripture.” This is often not done, and confusion enters into the discussion. To some people the phrase means, (1) Scripture tells us God’s will so we should allow no subjective factors in guidance on decisions today. To others it means, (2) Scripture reveals God’s words to us, so there can be no more revelation from God to us today. To still others it means, (3) the canon42  is closed so no more words are to be added to Scripture.

But in theological studies generally, “the sufficiency of Scripture” has a somewhat different sense, one that follows from the fact that the canon is closed. It means, (4) Scripture now contains all the words of God He intends His people to have in the Church age, and, therefore, it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for right doctrine, and for knowing His will for us. It means, therefore, we are not to add to the moral commands of Scripture and demand that people obey new moral principals we have made up, going beyond Scripture. And it means we are not to add to the doctrinal teachings of Scripture, demanding that people believe new teachings we have made up. What God has told us is sufficient for knowing what He wants us to believe and do.

Sometimes in discussions about spiritual gifts today, people have in mind senses (1) or (2) above, and, therefore, by their definition the gift of prophecy today is not possible. But when people who allow for prophecy today say they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, they usually mean sense (3) or (4), both of which are consistent with the continuation of prophecy today. Careful definition is needed before the discussion can proceed, or people will simply talk past one another.

Once we understand that we are talking about the sufficiency of Scripture in sense (4) above, we can then realize that the Bible does not tell us everything—a fact everyone will agree to! Why should we think it impossible that God would bring to our mind some information that is not in Scripture but that would be helpful in a situation? Prophecy today can often do this, bringing to mind facts about a situation, facts we had forgotten or of which we were not aware. For example, Scripture tells me I should pray; it does not tell me that my missionary friend in Japan is in need of prayer right now.

A real-life example may help make this clear. When I was praying with friends recently a women in the group said, “While we were praying I saw a picture in my mind of two angry faces talking, and it looked like fire was coming out of their mouths.” Then another women said, “I think one of the faces was me. I’ve been gossiping and spreading dissension by some things I’ve said to other people in this room.” There was silence, then the woman who first saw the mental picture said, “I think the other face was me. I’ve been gossiping too!” A church elder who was present then read James 3:5, “So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” After that, a beautiful time of repentance and forgiveness took place, including tears.

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Category: Pneuma Review, Spirit, Summer 2000

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009).

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