Question of the Week: Does God still speak to people through dreams and visions today?
The topic of miracles in general is a controversial one among Christian circles. The reason for this controversy is not because of a lack of biblical evidence of God being able to act, but the abundance of those who abuse the concept in order to draw attention to themselves and their ministries. While using fraud in any form is not the sort of behavior any Christian should approve of, we are making an equal and opposite mistake by reacting to false doctrines with an equal and opposite doctrine. Radical swings on the pendulum rarely end up correcting errors. They only end up creating new ones. Therefore, the proper response to this question isn’t cessationism. The proper response is responding to the abuse of scripture with a sound and consistent use of scripture.
For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
Romans 3:7-8 (NKJV)
How do we define miracles? Dreams, visions, and other interventions on God’s part to the laws of nature He put in place are examples, but not the definition. In order to ask if God is still doing these things today, we need to know what we’re looking for. The definition of a miracle is simply when God introduces a new factor to what would normally have taken place in nature for the purpose of verifying the authority of His word and glorifying His name. For example, a “miraculous” healing of someone from a normally terminal illness is not a biblical example of a miracle. It certainly is a rare occurrence, but it isn’t necessarily because God was intervening in the affairs of men. On the other hand, Moses was instructed by God to perform a healing of a terminal illness in his hand in order to verify the identity and authority of the One commanding Pharaoh to let His people worship Him in the wilderness for four days. This does qualify as a miracle because it is not only an occurrence that wouldn’t have taken place without outside intervention, but directly correlated with God’s purpose for those interventions throughout history. This is also the reason why miracles are so infrequent. If they were commonplace, they wouldn’t get anyone’s attention in showing the words they were meant to verify were in fact the words of God. Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t to entertain His disciples. It was to leave a miraculous witness in history to verify His claim that He was deity and His death had ransomed those who trust in Him back to the Father. God never performs miracles without purpose, and that purpose is defined throughout history. God always backs up His words with deeds.
Furthermore the Lord said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow. And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh. “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.”
Exodus 4:6-9 (NKJV)
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Acts 17:30-31 (NKJV)
With this standard and purpose established for miracles, we now have the tools to spot a counterfeit. The counterfeit miracle is not determined by the timing of the miracle, but the purpose behind it. If it is only to entertain or appease the individual requesting it, at best it fulfills the criteria of a coincidence. The reason for this is because it does not fit the Biblical criteria of a miracle. The ongoing command for the church isn’t to despise people who claim God is speaking or acting through them, but to test these claims and hold fast to what is good. The burden of proof is on the skeptic who insists this only applied to the lives of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is permitted to act even in our day and age. This includes the miracle of dreams and visions.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (NKJV)
The response on the part of the cessationist, someone who believes the gift of miracles died with the last Apostle and the purpose of verifying His word ended with the completion of the canon of scripture, is 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. The thing that is perfect is the complete witness of scripture according to their interpretation, and once it has come the gift of tongues, prophecies, and miracles in general will cease. To their credit, it does fit the biblical criteria of miracles to come to this conclusion. If God’s word has been fully revealed, then there is no need for future generations to receive further confirmation for what’s already been verified historically. The problem is in their proof text itself. The context of 1 Corinthians never mentions the canon of scripture or the completion of God’s written word to man. The context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the proper use of miracles in the church, and the superiority of the ultimate gift of the spirit. The ability to love people like Jesus does through the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit is a miracle for today. The ability to receive salvation through the conviction and reception of the Holy Spirit is a miracle for today. With the best of intentions, this position of denying miracles altogether is a reaction to their abuse. However, if your reaction ends up conflicting with scripture then it’s simply exchanging one mistake for another.
Does God still speak through dreams and visions today? Of course. He has before and can again. Does everyone who claims God has spoken to them through a dream or vision have our full and undivided attention? No. Every claim about God’s deeds should be tested according to God’s word, and vice-versa. God is not going to speak to someone revealing they should hate someone’s ethnicity, rob a bank, or commit murder. Nor is God going to speak to you about what bank investment or breakfast cereal you should purchase. Our standards for miracles should be high, but not so high that they extend beyond the realm of possibility. Test them according to the character and credibility of His written word. This criteria will not only keep you from falling for people’s false claims made in the name of God, but also avoid reacting to one error with another.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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