Many have the understanding that God has already spoken everything that He has to say, and that what He has said is recorded in what we call the Bible. They believe it is now up to us to study that book and find out what He has said. But has God stopped speaking? If so, when? At the end of the Old Testament? When Christ left this earth? At the end of the book of Acts? If the generations before us needed direct communication by the Spirit of God, why do we only need a book to study? If we really think about this, we can begin to see how shallow our thinking may be. Why did the early saints and heroes of the faith need the divine communication of God, while we only need a book? Did God ever promise to send us a book?
In no way am I trying to discredit the authority of the scriptures. These truths come from the scriptures themselves. Our aim is to put the scriptures in their proper perspective. When Paul was writing to Timothy, he told him exactly what the purpose of scripture was: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16,17) The word "scriptures" means "writings." Could we then make the statement that the scriptures are the writings or the record of the word of God to others who have gone before us?
Again and again we read that "the word of God came to so-and-so saying..." Just reading what God said to someone does not make it the word of God to us. It was the word of God to that person. It was living and active, and it met the need of that moment. Men recognized it for what it was, the word of God, and preserved it for our day as the Holy Spirit directed.
Let us ask a second question: When we read "the word of God" in the scriptures, does it refer to men reading the scriptures, or to their hearing of the living word of God by the Spirit? The scriptures are important for what God gave them for. Paul said they are given for doctrine (teaching), for reproof (Jesus used them that way in speaking to the devil), for correction (they keep us on course), and for instruction (we are using them in that way now). Above all, they point us to Jesus who gives life (John 5:39). That is a full ministry. But they do not take the place of the "word of God" by which we live. They do not take the place of the Holy Spirit, and they do not give life. I believe if we would stop and think carefully, we would agree that God has not stopped speaking in our day.
Perhaps a fear that some of us have is that we will start to open ourselves up to teaching that is not of God, and put other teaching on the same level as the Bible. Our fears can be laid aside with this one thought: Will God ever contradict Himself? "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). God does not change. He is the same from eternity past to eternity future. Thus we can have full confidence that what God speaks today will not contradict what He has already spoken, and what He has spoken, recorded for us in the scriptures, can be used to judge what we say He is speaking today. This one truth should set us free. There is no new revelation, no new teaching, no new book that is needed to keep us on course. God has provided all that we need. We just need to use it for the purpose He gave it for.
In reality, there is something much greater to fear, which is that we will not be hearing what God is saying today. If our focus is on studying what God has said at other times and trying to understand it with our natural minds, we may find ourselves missing what God is speaking today. Men go to school for years, learn different languages, pore over numerous translations of the scriptures, and never once hear God speaking personally to them.
Both errors are bad, but the second one is more deceptive. Why? Because men are using the right words and believing the right things, but are void of the Spirit and the reality behind the words. They are just as far from God as the one who has laid aside the scriptures for another book. This danger is the one we most need to be concerned about. Men are living by the dead letter of the scriptures instead of by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The Pharisees were religious men whose god was the scriptures. They crucified the Word of God, the Lord of glory. They did not have ears to hear God.