The Consoling Personal Word

The consolations of God - Ninth in a series

The entire word of God is consoling. Even its rebukes are life-giving to the one who has ears. In addition, at times the Lord imparts a special word to a believer.

The special word I refer to is not a "rhema" as some Christian teachers have suggested. In the New Testament, God's word is sometimes defined as "logos" and others times as "rhema." Some examples in Scripture of each are:

  • In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God. (John 1:1)
  • Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth.(II Timothy 2:15)
  • And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God (Ephesians 6:17)
  • If ye abide in me, and my words [rhema] abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

By definition, "rhema" is God's speech or discourse and "logos" denotes doctrine or divine reason or plan.

God often speaks through the Bible to us by causing certain passages to stand out that have specific application to our lives. Some say this is God's special word or "rhema" to us. So, perhaps at times the logos becomes the rhema?

The special word to comfort or guide us that I refer to may echo a Bible passage, or may not. My dad told me that after he had learned of mom's terminal illness and was in deep distress, God spoke his name and then said, "Everything will be all right." Dad was driving, and not expecting any revelation. He was extremely practical. This private word did not mean that mom would get well, but it was such a definite counsel, expression and impression that, after hearing it, Dad gained strength and peace to cope. And he continued to love and serve God after mom's death.

Some would say, "Well, couldn't he have known that simply by reading the Word of God?" Yes, certainly, but that would not have worked the same result.

Anyone who faithfully reads the Bible will hear the voice of God and be guided to apply his wisdom to their circumstances, and anyone may also receive a special word. Yet, to make a point of seeking that personal word can be a devastating practice.

Seeking a word from God apart from his canon, the Bible, is a dangerous pursuit and ought not to be encouraged. For that reason, in this post I will also warn against certain charismatic practices that may engender counterfeits of the special, personal word.

An excellent book, War on the Saints, by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, published in 1912, and now online, free, addresses this topic.

Here is a somewhat difficult-to-read excerpt from the foreword in my print copy of the book, that addresses how saints become susceptible to Satan's counterfeits of God's special words and why the book was written:

The adventists of Thessalonica, who refused their normal obligations in the interest of a complete self-preparation for the Lord's Coming, have had their representatives in many strange sects in Europe and America, who have been carried into amazing extravagancies of creed and conduct. St. Paul's brusque judgment, 'If a man will not work, neither let him eat' (2 Th 3:10) applies to them all. The ascetics of Colossæ whose punctilious rigorism co-existed with a perilous moral laxity, have had their successors in every Christian generation. Medieval monks and modern sectaries come together here. Both illustrate, in varying ways, the same spiritual malady. Such total prostration of the individual before the mandates of the Divine Spirit seems to argue a genuine humility, but the implied assumption of plenary and direct personal inspiration discloses and fosters a spiritual arrogance none the less morally disintegrating because it is unsuspected. Experience has ever endorsed the great Apostle's verdict. Over the whole woeful pageant of self-willed pietism with its eccentric, arbitrary, even monstrous demands on its victims, the words may be written: 'which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.' (Col 2:23)

An aftermath of the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the present [20th] century was the rise of a number of extreme cults, often stressing a return to "pentecostal" practices. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who had witnessed much of the Revival as the representative of The Life of Faith, saw clearly the peril of these fanatical teachings, and in collaboration with Mr. Evan Roberts, who played so prominent a part in the Revival, wrote a book, War on the Saints. In this book these extreme and overbalanced beliefs and practices are categorically branded as the work of an invading host of evil spirits. The word "deception" might be said to be the key word of the book…”

War on the Saints made a great impression on me when I read it many years ago. I wrote down a number of its insights, and here are three that teach us, yes, honest souls CAN BE DECEIVED (the point of the book):

  1. Deception has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth.
  2. The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a Deception because it throws a person off guard, and ignores that there are conditions on the part of the believer which must be fulfilled for God's working.
  3. Heresies in the Church often have begun with a great crisis in which a man is brought to give himself up in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, thus opening himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.

Beware of any personal word from the Lord that follows from a meditative state, irrational exuberance or other upset. Nevertheless, the Lord may impart a special word. As well, he is not limited to consolation in this practice.

The consolation in fellow believers

The consolations of God - Eighth in a series

Continuing from the previous blog post, according to the Westminster Confession (WC), accepted by many denominations as a guide to Scripture, the holy catholic (universal) church is INVISIBLE. It consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. (WC 25-1) Unbelievers are not in that number, even though you may see them and sit with them in church every Sunday.

The WC then points out that the VISIBLE church is also universal, that is, not confined to one nation, but is made of all throughout the world who profess the true religion, together with their children.

Furthermore, to the VISIBLE church Christ has given the ministry, oracles (the Bible), and the ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, and does by his presence and Spirit assure their effectiveness. (WC 25-3) We must believe that Jesus Christ is with us in the churches, even though many have become "so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan" (WC 25-5). It is comforting and an article of FAITH that "there shall always be a church on earth to worship God according to his will." (See the 25th chapter of the WC for the scripture references for these teachings.)

The WC states that the catholic or universal church is "the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." This statement would provide a start for a lively discussion among many today!

Now, about the COMMUNION OF SAINTS: to Roman Catholics, this refers to all those in the church, alive, in purgatory or in heaven. It includes the intercession of saints and the practice of praying for the dead. For the Lutherans, it means "union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." (Wikipedia)

For protestants generally, the communion of saints is defined in the WC’s chapter 26-1:

All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory. And being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces; and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

The Scripture references are: I John 1:3; Eph. 3:16-19; John 1:16; Eph. 2:5-6; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6; II Tim. 2:12; Eph. 4:15-16; I Cor. 12:7; I Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 2:19; I Thess. 5:11, 14; Rom. 1:11-12, 14; I John 3:16-18; Gal. 6:10.

The word "communion" or koinōnia (Gr) means: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse, intimacy, the share which one has in anything.

Calvin and other church fathers wrote about the need for believers to mutually strengthen themselves in the fear of God and by sharing among themselves the benefits given to each by God. These concepts are hard to understand for unbelievers.

There is a participation in Christ that is expressed in communing with fellow Christians. It is an intimacy of relation that is tended by someone unseen, whose example we are careful to model as we commune. We feel His presence in one another and we are consoled.

We will take up this blog series again in the New Year, DV — Deo Volente, God Willing.

Consolation in Creeds

The consolations of God - Seventh in a series

We protestants over the centuries and today “confess” our faith by saying together the ancient creeds as part of worship. This is to nourish our hearts through recommitment of our minds to Truth.

In one of these, the Apostle's Creed, we state,

I believe
in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe (numbers added)
1. in the Holy Ghost;
2. the holy Catholic (universal) Church;
3. the Communion of Saints;
4. the Forgiveness of sins;
5. the Resurrection of the body,
6. and the Life everlasting.
Amen.

There are two I believe’s in this creed: The first comprises some important points that a Christian must accept about God and Jesus; the second begins a list of commonly held beliefs.

Two of these points in the second part, numbers 2 and 3 , seem not to fit.

Yes, we know that (1) all Christians must believe in the third Person of the Trinity, (4) if we confess and repent of sin we are promised forgiveness, (5) our bodies will be resurrected as Christ's was, and (6) we will live forever.

It does take FAITH to believe these things, for they are outside of our natural realm of experience.

But we can SEE the (2) church, can we not? At least we can see those near us and read about those in other lands. And what is the (3) communion of saints if not the simple experience of fellowship among believers? So, is there a need to STATE that we have FAITH in these?

Is there more in these phrases, holy catholic church and communion of saints than meets the eye? Yes, and as we understand what each means and believe in them, we will be consoled. More on this in the next post.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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