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Question and Answer

Revelation: Is It Completed?

Question:

Does the OPC believe that the Bible is the completed revelation of God to man, or does it hold that there are still extra-biblical revelations today (tongues, visions, dreams, etc.), as emphasized in the charismatic circles?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. It is certainly a crucial one today. And I am thankful that I can answer you clearly. I do not do so with my own words but with the words of the Westminster Assembly, a Reformation-based gathering of Theologians, Pastors, and Elders that met some 350 years ago in London to draw up a Confession of Faith (and two Catechisms). The Orthodox Presbyterian Church still holds to these documents (with only a few amendments).

Here is what it said about your question. I quote two sections from the first Chapter of this Reformation-based Confession. I also put in bold type the specific declaration that is relevant to your question.

Chapter 1: OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE

1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

I am the author of a commentary on this great Confession of Faith. In this commentary I make the following comment:

It will be noted that the Confession sharply contradicts the view popularized today by the neo-Pentecostal movement. In essence this view would have us believe that we can have the same charismatic gifts that we read about in the age of the Apostles - such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing - today. This is a very serious error. In essence it is a result of a failure to grasp the Biblical teaching concerning the history of salvation. The Bible itself makes it clear that there are many things in the history of redemption that cannot, and will not, be repeated. There will never again be a universal flood, or a crossing of the Red Sea, or a virgin birth. Never again will there be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as took place on the day of Pentecost. The sending of the Holy Spirit is just as much an unrepeatable event as the birth of Christ was.

It is for this reason that the miracles - the signs and wonders - that we read of in the Bible were not constantly occurring, but rather centered upon the major events in the process of revelation. Note, for instance, how few the miracles are in the Bible until we come to the time of Moses (the author of the first part of the Bible). Note also how the signs and wonders that we read of in the book of Acts are always associated with the presence of the Apostles. For these, and similar facts, there is a reason. The reason is that these signs and wonders were given by God to attest and confirm the fact that these men were his spokesmen. And since this process came to completion in the finished work of Christ, and the testimony of these men is now deposited in the Scriptures, the Bible alone is God's present revelation. Of this we shall see more in the sections that follow.

I then go on to say this:

Christ said that he was "the truth" (John 14:6), and we believe he embodied the whole truth (Col. 2:9). Is this not the point of comparison in the opening statement of the Epistle to the Hebrews? "God at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" but now he "hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" who is the "express image of his person." Is this not a contrast between that which was provisional and that which is final; between that which was incomplete (and therefore constantly being added to) and that which is complete (and therefore incapable of being added to)? But the truth which Christ contained within himself, he in turn, according to his own testimony, disclosed to others. "All things that I heard from my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:15). If Christ, at the time of his incarnation, could say 'I have made known all,' then how can anyone maintain the possibility that there might be more needed before Christ returns?

Christ, then, made a disclosure of all truth to the apostles. We see then that Paul could rightly claim that he had declared 'the whole counsel of God' (Acts 20:27). 'I kept back nothing that was profitable,' says Paul (v. 20). Every apostle could make the same claim. How, then, could there remain anything yet to be disclosed which would be of any profit? And even if they (the apostles) had failed to disclose to us (by means of a written record) what Christ disclosed to them, would it not be impossible for anyone but an apostle to supply the deficiency? But Paul's testimony in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 plainly indicates that there is no such deficiency, since they are able to furnish the believer unto perfection. And if the Holy Scriptures are not sufficient and finished what would a comparison between Hebrews 10:10 (or 10:12, 7:27, etc.) and Jude verse 3 lead to? Can Christ's 'once for all' sacrifice be added to? If it cannot, then how can 'the faith once for all delivered to the saints' be added to? And how could Paul in Ephesians 6:10 encourage us to 'put on the whole armor of God" in order to "be able to stand against the wiles of the devil'? One part of this panoply is 'the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.' But if God's Word is not yet complete, how could that armor be whole? Would it not then be defective? And if it were defective, how could we be able to stand?

It is on the basis of such Biblical teaching, found in many parts of the Bible, that the Reformers and authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith reached their conclusion. And we remain convinced that they were right in what they confessed.

It is my hope that this may contribute in some small way to your own understanding of this truth.


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"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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