We have spent a few blog posts this past month discussing God's command to the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. In this we defended the goodness of God even though he used Israel as a sheriff nation. With Israel we were dealing with the past; what God did. But what about today? Imagine a Governor in Utah heard of a polygamist Mormon sect who were suspected of child abuse. Everyone would support the state's action to rescue the kids. But what if the Governor says, "God told me to utterly destroy this sect for their abominations"? We would want the Governor impeached.
The first question we must ask is this: Does God continue to give divine revelation today? I believe He does not. The authoritative utterances given to the Prophets of old & the Apostles is different (of another kind) than they way he guides believers today.
- To reject them is to reject Christ (1st John 4:6)
- All people are subject to Apostolic commands (1st Cor 14:37-38)
- God's revelation was finalized in Jesus & the Apostles (Hebrews 1:1-2; Jude 1:3; Eph 2:20). To understand this point one must take a closer look at John 14-16. It is one sustained discussion. We cannot generalize these promises for Jesus was speaking to the Apostles specifically, not us, about their special ministry. There are two promises which stick out that cannot apply to all Christians. (1) John 14:26 promises that the Holy Spirit will be given to the Apostles to give them a perfect memory of what Jesus taught. Jesus never taught you or I anything. The only reason we know anything he spoke is because of the Apostles. (2) John 16:13 promises that the Holy Spirit will guide the Apostles into all truth. If this was a promise for us today then we wouldn't need teachers and no true Christian would disagree on any Biblical doctrine. Anyone want to argue that point?!?!
Therefore, how do we test the claims of people today to know whether their mission is from the Lord? The Bible sets out the following criteria.
- We must examine how they received the revelation. In Deuteronomy 18:9-13 God warns the Israelites to stay away from occult practices (divination, witchcraft, omens, sorcerers, casting spells, mediums, spiritists, those who conjure up the dead). He does not tell them to avoid these things because they are fake but precisely because they are real. Those in the occult really do have power, supernatural power, which is not from God but from the devil. Since Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) & masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) we would not accept any command from the occult which tells us to kill in the name of God.
- Can the person accurately predict the future? Duet 18:21-22 actually tells us people will ask, "How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" That is, how do we know if this person is really from God? God's answer; can the prophets predict the future? In fact they must have 100% accuracy 100% of the time. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) therefore, if they are from God they will never get it wrong. One wrong prophecy, even if they had 1000 correct before, discredits them.
- They are consistent with previous revelations. God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) nor can He lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, whatever comes from God will not contradict what He has previously said. This is actually an added measure to criteria #2. God tells them in Deuteronomy 13:1-4 that if a prophet accurately predicts the future or does a miracle yet tells you to do something contrary to God's word it is not from the Lord. It is actually God permitting such things to see if you will obey His Word. Paul actually uses this criteria to the Galatian churches when he says that if anyone, including himself or an angel, preaches a different (heteros--"of another kind") Gospel than the one already preached then they are to be accursed (Gal 1:8).
- The Moral Character of the Prophet. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:16-20 that we will know them by their fruits. Maybe this is the reason God has allowed the scandals of so many TV Evangelists come to light!!!
- If a Prophet is challenged he is able to announce a situation which will sift God's prophet from false prophets. When Moses was challenged as being God's messenger Moses announced a challenge to Korah, Dathan & Abiram. He said if they died of old age then he wasn't God's prophet but if they were swallowed up by the ground then everyone would know he was of the Lord (Numbers 16; cf. 16:28-30). We also see Elijah using the same tact against the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). We shouldn't expect that this last criteria would be used a plethora of times. But God has used it in the past to vindicate His true prophets.
We must remember that the situation with the Israelites killing the Canaanites was a unique situation in salvational history. There are no circumstances today which are analogous to those times. We have already noted that God doesn't speak to men directly anymore (Heb 1:1-2) but instead has completed His Word revelation which He expects men to follow (Jude 1:3). Secondly, we examined 5 criteria for a man to meet if he wants to claim God is speaking through Him. The final point of consideration is that Moses was greatly legitimized by God before the commands to kill the Canaanites by his various miracles.
- Exod 14:30-31; 19:9; Deut 34:10-12—The people believed b/c of the miracles
- Exod 11:3; 12:36-38—Even the Egyptians esteemed Moses
- Deut 5:23-27—Moses’ role was further confirmed at Sinai
- Exod 20:2—The 10 commandments begin with the affirmation of the Exodus miracle to confirm both Yahweh & Moses
- Num 16:28-32, 35—Any rebellion against Moses was checked by divine miracle
- Josh 3:7; 4:14—Joshua was confirmed the same way
Therefore, anyone who pops up today claiming they are on a mission from God to destroy a group of people needs to have an extensive & solid track record of miracles. We aren't talking about healing arthritis but parting the Red Sea sort of miracles.