You’ve probably heard it claimed before—that argument-ending, conversation-halting Christian trump card: “God told me.”
I’ll be honest, when someone begins a sentence with those three little words, alarms start sounding between my ears. It’s not that I don’t think God speaks today—he most certainly does. And it’s not that I don’t think God is capable of revealing his will to individuals—he certainly can. And we should praise him for the fact that he’s a God who has chosen to reveal himself to his creatures.
What’s the big deal?
That being said, the “God told me” claim concerns me for two main reasons. First, these three little words can sometimes minimize and trivialize God’s main source of revelation—his Incarnate Word (Jesus) as revealed in His written Word (the Bible).
Sometimes, the declaration of a personalized word from God can suggest a lack of specificity and scope in the Sacred Text. After a while, it almost seems to become a preferable mode of communication.
But does the Bible need supplement? Back in the first century, Peter declared, “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3).
God has spoken and is speaking today through the pages of the Bible. As the Spirit of God living within us illuminates the words of Scripture for us (a book He, the Spirit, wrote!), we hear Him speak. That is where we find peace and guidance and instruction and correction (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Second, the “God told me” claim worries me because of the ease with which some use it. It nears frivolity, especially in comparison to the Bible in which nowhere do we see a revelation from the Almighty being handled nonchalantly.
In fact, read what Jeremiah said to those who were continually claiming special communique from the Lord:
“If any prophet, priest, or anyone else says, ‘I have a prophecy from the Lord,’ I will punish that person along with his entire family. … stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the Lord.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (23:34–36).
To continually declare that the Lord was giving them special messages was a serious issues for Jeremiah (and God!). In that day, people were using the claim to add authority and weight to their own ideas.
Was that you, God?
Like I said, I don’t doubt God speaks to His people today (in fact, I’m certain he does). However, we must make that claim with reverence and care. Here are a couple of ways we can make sure “God told me” is truly what God told me:
Take it to the Bible. If God told you something that is contrary to Scripture, that wasn’t God speaking. The Bible should be our measuring stick, our guardrails, our starting point. We serve a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and, thus, will never contradict Himself.
Take it to God’s people. You are a member of (or should be a member of) a local body of believers. Use those people! Ask the Christians around you for counsel and confirmation regarding what it is you feel God has told you. If, in addition to consistency with Scripture, a group of Spirit-filled believers says, “Yes!” then be affirmed. If they say, “I’m not so sure … ” then proceed with caution.