Who is "Qualified" to Hear from God or Angels?
PART 4 in the series on The Supernatural in the Church
by Terry L. Craig
©2008 & 2015
Oh yes. The Lord looks for yielded, faithful servants who will speak and live out His message here on earth . . . but there are times when there is a need for people to hear a message, but no faithful servant to deliver it.
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30-31
Christians must settle in their minds the fact that God is God. He can speak through or use anyone as a means of accomplishing His will (including delivering His message to us).
Servants such as the apostles Paul and John who lived out their testimony to Jesus would be examples of faithful messengers. But the problem with messengers is always that we either tend give them the attention and adoration we owe to the Lord OR we dismiss them altogether when they are people we wouldn't choose. Either way, we can end up missing the message of the Lord.
Even when the Lord finds a faithful, willing participant, we must remember that NO one earns his or her salvation. Faithfulness and "works" (using the Lord's gifts and talents for His kingdom) will be honored and rewarded in Heaven but they don’t save a person.
Meanwhile, the work of God in many faithful servants today often remains unnoticed because they continually point to God (as the center of focus) instead of seeking personal attention.
I approach this topic with some apprehension, since I know that people can take snippets of the following list and run with the idea that I think God winks at sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! But we (the church) MUST address the seeming contradiction between the message of the Lord and some famous teachers who seem to have such wobbly lives. Is God double-minded? No. Some of these people simply aren’t called of the Lord yet are good salesmen for their own causes and kingdoms. Some are called, but have fallen down.
Don't confuse the message with the messenger
One of the biggest problems encountered in discerning whether or not a manifestation is from the Lord is that we place a huge amount of stock in judging the person who claims to be God's agent with a message. While there is a place for looking at the person who is being used, this shouldn't be the only means of determining the presence of God in a message.
False prophets may use the name of Jesus in some way -- but the question is: Whom are they wanting you to glorify, to love, to trust, to follow?
If God asked you and I to be the selection committee for "Special Manifestations and Messages of the Lord" jobs, there would be distinct rules and requirements for all applicants as well as a proviso regarding strict compliance with behavior standards. But, you know what? Not only can God use a shining example of a man or woman, He can and will sovereignly use a pagan or a Pharisee when it suits Him. God can even use a jackass!
The Bible says it is a good thing to have those in the Body we see as wise counselors, those who are mature in the Lord and know His word, but we must be careful about assigning too much importance to a mere vessel. Jesus Christ is the only person who 100% embodied the will and message of God. Everyone else falls short. The argument that God can't speak through a broken (or even a corrupt) vessel is simply not scriptural. Thinking that God will only use perfect (or perfected) vessels is just as false. When we over-emphasize the vessel (as opposed to testing the message and seeing the actual source of the message) we may wander into some pretty shaky territory.
Christians (and other people) are IGNORING Scripture when they judge/decide whom God can or cannot use with the world's criteria. According to the Bible, the following are all FALSE ideas:
If someone can prophesy or perform miracles, this is a stamp of God's ultimate approval, of His blessing, and it's a sign of that person’s holiness or purity.
When a righteous person falls into sin, it automatically discredits everything they've done in the past.
If someone falls into sin, they won't be used by the Lord in the future.
To be used in bringing forth a mighty work, a person must be perfect first.
If a person is used mightily by the Lord, they can pass this "gift" onto their children.
God will only work through those who are "in authority."
God will only work through those who are formally trained.
God can't use that odd person, that tattooed man, or that makeup slathered woman.
Only those who belong to God can work miracles or prophesy.
This is just a summary list. The larger description of these categories and the places in Scripture where they are found are the subject of the next article in the series.
I read an article where the writer astutely observed that people walking with the Lord aren't even tempted to believe a crazy man with 50 wives who lives out in the desert and claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus. The REAL temptation for Christians comes (and will grow as the time of the end draws nearer) when they see great signs and wonders performed by those who CLAIM to know God. These false prophets will sometimes even use the name Jesus in some way—but the essential questions are: To what or to whom does their message point? Whom are they wanting you to glorify, to love, to trust, to follow?
Paul the apostle was definitely anointed by the Lord, his work was accepted by the other apostles, and signs and wonders often accompanied his preaching. But the people of Berea didn't just look at the man, they didn't just accept "signs" as credentials, they didn't just take somebody's word that Paul was from God--they tested the message he brought to them! They weren't criticized for daring to test the message of a recognized apostle, they were commended.
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. [Acts 17:11 NIV, italics mine]
Testing the message is often a more effective tool than what we think we know about a messenger. We may or may not have the ability to "know" the person claiming authority who has the power to work signs and wonders--but we CAN test the message he or she brings. If their message exalts an experience, angels, or people instead of Jesus Christ, it is a false message. If he or she preaches a message contrary to the gospel (if it adds some sort of work or law to the simple grace of Jesus Christ) it is a false message. We don't earn salvation before we're saved and we can't pay for it or add to it once we are.
He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. [John 17:18, NASB]
In the Galatian church there were people who were being led astray by people who claimed to have messages from angels. Paul the apostle addressed the problem this way:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted,let them be under God’s curse! [Galatians 1:6-9, NIV]
He goes on in Galatians 5 to describe the "fruit" that comes from the spirit of the world versus the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (It's worth reading!)
In the book of Revelation, the writer speaks about an encounter with an angel:
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus. [Revelation 19:10, NIV, bold added by me.]
One of our biggest keys to discernment, then and now, is to consider the message we are hearing. In the New Testament, at the church at Corinth, people were reportedly arguing over whom they should follow (some said it was a teacher named Apollos, some said Paul). But Paul wrote the following to them:
"After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." [1 Cor. 3:5-9 NLT]
The key to eternal life isn't a manifestation, an organization, a denomination, a physical location, an angelic visitation, an "apostle" or even a fellow believer. Any crusade or experience with one of those things as the hub of it will eventually lead people astray. Anything that exalts something other than Jesus will eventually fail. What comes from the Holy Spirit will point to Jesus and bear good fruit.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all men . . ." [1 Timothy 2:5-6a, NIV]
Copyright 2008 & 2012 Terry L. Craig
This was PART 4 in the series on Prophecies, Visions, Dreams, Angels, and Miracles
Previously in the series:
Square One, Part 1 in the series
Other articles that you might find of interest are:
Feel free to print a personal copy of this article out or post a link to it. All we ask is that you keep the entire article (including the copyright notices) intact, that you don't sell it or use it for commercial purposes, or as part of a commercial work.
You may contact the publisher regarding this article by clicking on the Contact link.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
Terry L. Craig is a follower of Christ, a Bible nerd, and a comparative thinker who likes to engage people and get them thinking about why they believe what they believe. She's an author, an indie publisher, and occasional speaker.
More about her fiction books.
More about her apologetics and studies.