Friday, August 14, 2015

Why Does God Communicate to Us through the Bible Today, More than through Miracle-working Apostles and Prophets as He Did in the First Century and Before?

That may be the longest title I've used for a post in this blog.

God's primary way of communicating to the Church is different today from what it was in the first century. Why?

In the first century, God communicated to the Church and to the world (those in the world who would listen) primarily through the spoken word of apostles, and God backed up the words of the apostles through miracles and signs.

Jesus Christ, the chief apostle (Hebrews 3:1), performed signs and miracles throughout the time of His ministry. He turned water into wine (John 2:3-11). He healed the sick and cast out demons (Matthew 4:23-25, 8:16-17, 9:35, Luke 4:40-41). And He preached the gospel (Matthew 4:17, 9:35).

He also told people things about themselves He could not have known naturally, but only by the inspiration of God. "A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.'....The woman said to Him, 'Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.' Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come here.' The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You have well said, "I have no husband," for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.' The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet'....The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). 'When He comes, He will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'....The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 'Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' " (John 4:7-28).

"Nathanael said to Him, 'How do You know me?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.' Nathanael answered and said to Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Because I said to you, "I saw you under the fig tree," do you believe? You will see greater things than these.' " (John 1:48-50).

And it was by the miracles and signs He did that those who were willing to listen could know He was a prophet and a teacher from God. It was by the miracles that Christ performed that the Father backed up Jesus's message, so the people could know He was speaking God's word.

And it worked. The Samaritan woman was persuaded that Jesus was a prophet (John 4:19). Nathanael was persuaded that Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:49).

Nicodemus and many of the Pharisees knew Jesus was a teacher from God by the miracles He did. "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.' " (John 3:1-2).

Moreover, Jesus taught people to look to His works and His miracles to know that His message was from God. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves" (John 14:11).

"And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:2-5).

Peter referred to Christ's miracles in speaking to the crowd on Pentecost, saying that God used these miracles to attest to Jesus, and by implication, to the authenticity of Christ's message as being from God. "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death" (Acts 2:22-23).

When Christ sent others out, the apostles and the seventy, to preach the gospel, He also gave them the authority and power to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2, 10:1-19). It was that power to work miracles that proved that these men were giving a message from God.

On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was first given to the apostles and the New Testament church, it was the miracle of the brethren speaking in tongues (other languages) and all the people hearing them in their own language that got the attention of the crowd. Peter then used that miracle and the attention it produced in the crowd to preach the gospel to them, and the miracle also authenticated the message (Acts 2:1-43).

Later, Peter used the occasion of a miraculous healing to preach the gospel. "Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple....Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: 'Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:1-21). "Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening....But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, 'What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:1-16).

Paul also used miracles to authenticate his message and to show that he was speaking God's word. "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds" (2 Corinthians 12:12). "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Even in the Old Testament, the prophets also often performed miracles or were able to demonstrate that God supernaturally inspired them and backed up their words. "Then Moses answered and said, 'But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, "The Lord has not appeared to you." ' So the Lord said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' He said, 'A rod.' And He said, 'Cast it on the ground.' So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Reach out your hand and take it by the tail' (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), 'that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.' Furthermore the Lord said to him, 'Now put your hand in your bosom.' And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow. And He said, 'Put your hand in your bosom again.' So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh. 'Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land" (Exodus 4:1-9). See also 1 Kings 18:21-39 and 1 Samuel 3:19-20.

But in those days, the Bible was not complete because it was being written. Also, the fulfilled prophecies that we can use to prove that God inspired the Bible had not been fulfilled yet. Those prophecies that prove the Bible have only been fulfilled in about the last two hundred years. And the Bible was only complete after most of the events in the New Testament had occurred and widely available to the masses after the printing press was invented around 1440 AD.

Today, God does NOT primarily communicate to us and to the world through miracle-working apostles and prophets, but through the Bible. That is not to say that miracles do not occur in the Church - they do. But the miracles that occur, including healings, are usually quiet miracles, not the kind that attract attention, and they are not used by God to authenticate the truth that His apostles, evangelists, and ministers preach. Instead, God leads the ministry to prove their teachings by the Bible, and God provides the Bible and the proof of the Bible to the people who listen.

I mentioned this in a post I published June 21, 2015 titled "Paradigm Shift from Herbert W. Armstrong to the Father's Call - a Case Study in Progress". Here is a link to that post:
God communicates with us primarily through the Bible today. But why?

God is still able to communicate with the Church or the world with miracles and by direct inspiration of His servants by the Holy Spirit to deliver prophetic messages as He has in the past. And He may yet do that, and will do that through the two witnesses, before the end of this age. But right now, He is not doing it, and He has not done it in modern times as far as I know, except perhaps in rare instances.

Why does God not communicate with us in the same manner as He did in Bible times?

God does not give reasons in the Bible. We therefore cannot know with certainty what God's reasons are. God has created the circumstances, or allowed the circumstances to develop, to make the Bible widely available today and to provide proof that the Bible is His word. And it is God's choice to withhold public miracles and not give direct prophetic inspiration and revelation to His servants of messages to deliver to the Church or the world apart from the Bible.

But, while God does not say what His reasons are for this, we can speculate on what some of His reasons might be for communicating with us primarily only through the Bible in these modern times rather than directly communicating by the Holy Spirit to apostles and prophets and backing up those apostles and prophets with miracles.

What are some possible reasons?

The time we live in is unique in that most people who will go through the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord are probably alive today. It is God's will to get the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel message out to hundreds of millions of people, far more than the number of people Peter, Paul, and the first century apostles reached. A miracle-working servant of God can reach only a few people in person, but millions more can be reached by making the Bible widely available all over the world, especially in the Israelite-descended nations.

But could not the miracles of God's servants be publicized in mass media, on TV and on the Internet, to give their message publicity and to prove that their message is from God? To some degree, that may occur, but in the current atheistic-dominated environment, it is unlikely. People would be skeptical. It is one thing to see a miracle before your eyes, in person, such as seeing a disabled person you have known for years be healed. It is something else to see that reported on TV.

Anyone on TV or the Internet can claim to have seen a miracle, but what credibility would that have? Even if such miracles are recorded and played on TV, people can think they are faked, even with special effects if necessary. And an atheistic, secular dominated news media is unlikely to give much publicity to things they themselves may think are faked. Atheists do not believe alleged miracles are real. They would insist there were gimmicks and tricks involved, things that can be explained as natural events.

The technology that exists today allows messages to go out to millions, but few people could witness miracles in person, which alone could carry maximum credibility, since people can excuse themselves that they thought the miracle was phony, trick camera work, false testimony, special effects, etc.

But by putting the message in the Bible, which is widespread, all that is required is for God's servants to "connect the dots" in scripture for the public, and those who hear can check for themselves, both the proof that God inspired the Bible (fulfilled prophecy) and the true gospel and Ezekiel warning in the Bible.

God can thus test people, basically to demonstrate to them what He already knows, to show that they refuse to believe and obey Him even when they have the opportunity by hearing the message along with the proof of the message. Thus they have no excuse.

And since the Church must practice what it preaches, the Church learns the truth the same way, through the Bible.

Another reason: Direct divine revelation by the Holy Spirit to God's servants would have to be backed up with miracles for those servants to have any credibility. But for God to do it that way today and give it widespread publicity, if the miracles can really be proved to a mass audience, would make secular atheism virtually impossible. If miracles are convincing, people would realize that the supernatural exists and therefore God exists. And to allow Satan to continue in his role as the deceiver of mankind, God would have to allow Satan to work signs and wonders for his false prophets teaching false religion. And false religion would become the majority, predominant influence. But without atheism to counterbalance false religion, false religion could dominate society and government so much that the Church of God's freedom to preach the gospel would be curtailed.

It is the tension and conflict between materialistic atheism in courts, education, and media and false religion embodied in traditional, mainstream church bodies and members that allows us the freedom to preach the gospel, because atheists do not let false religion become powerful enough to stop our message on religious grounds and false mainstream religion does not let atheists become so powerful they can stop our message on atheistic and materialistic grounds.

Thus, we do God's work in the gap between two major false forces: atheism and false religion.

But if God communicated with the world and the Church as He did in the first century, miracles by the Church and signs and wonders supporting false religion would be so obvious that atheism would be hindered, the balance and check against unbridled false religion removed, and false religion would take away our freedom to live and preach the truth.

Actually, that time is coming, right before the end. The two witnesses will be given power to preach the gospel and work public miracles (Revelation 11:3-12), and the false prophet will work signs and wonders to deceive the whole world (Revelation 13:11-18, 16:13-14). But that will be during the great tribulation, and the time for the Church of God to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world will be over. The two witnesses will preach the gospel, but the Philadelphian portion of the Church will be in a place of safety and the Laodicean portion will be persecuted and suffering martyrdom and will have little opportunity or power to preach the gospel (Revelation 12:13-17, Revelation 3:7-10, 14-18).

For the Church of God to preach the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel to the world, as a witness and a warning BEFORE the tribulation occurs, so people can hear the message and have their opportunity to heed the message and escape the punishment, we must have the freedom to do so. That freedom exists today in much of the world because neither atheism nor false traditional religion can be powerful enough to take away our religious freedom and stop our message. And for tension that exists between atheism and false religion to continue, atheism must have credibility with millions of people. That can't happen if there are public miracles that cannot be denied. And if they can be denied because they can be faked, then they are not proof.

God communicates with us in the Church and those in the world willing to listen through the Bible. He gives those with an open mind the proof, through fulfilled prophecy, that the Bible is His word. But He doesn't force atheists to believe in the Bible, nor does He force those in traditional religions to give up their beliefs and believe His word. He allows Satan to deceive the whole world, but with a combination of different false religions and atheistic materialism that allows a culture of freedom within which we can preach the gospel.

In has been within this "window of opportunity" in Satan's world that God prepared and called Herbert W. Armstrong, opened his mind to understand the Bible, and used him to preach the gospel to the world and raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God.

And that window of opportunity is still open for those in the Church of God whose hearts God has stirred up to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to a world that desperately needs it.

What I am calling a "window of opportunity", to use a phrase that is commonly used today, the Bible calls an "open door" (Revelation 3:8, 1 Corinthians 16:9).

We need to go all out to deliver the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the nations that will go through the great tribulation while there is time for them to repent and escape. And we need to base our beliefs on the Bible, because that is how God communicates with His Church today.

There is a time coming when the freedom we have to publicly preach the gospel will be ended. Satan will be allowed to work deceptive signs and wonders through the false prophet and possibly many false prophets. At that time, we will not be able to preach the gospel publicly anymore. We need to work now, while we can (John 9:4, Amos 8:11-12).

And when we preach, we have to prove what we teach by the Bible. We have to show people how to prove for themselves that God exists and that He has inspired the Bible. And we have to practice what we preach, which means we must believe the Bible more than any other source. Then we can show the people of the Israelite nations their sins and warn them to repent or face the punishment of the great tribulation and the day of the Lord (Isaiah 58:1). And we will do that by the Bible.

Here are some links to posts related to this subject:

"What Is the Most Important Issue in the Whole Church of God?", dated June 30, 2013, link:

"Christ as Head of the Church", dated July 3, 2014, link:

"Does the Church of God Need Prophets Today, and If Not, Why Not?", dated February 15, 2015, link:

"Paradigm Shift from Herbert W. Armstrong to the Father's Call - a Case Study in Progress ", dated June 21, 2015, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: 
Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy


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