Disclaimer and admission: the following was inspired by the faith of two brothers, Bob and Ian, both of whom love the Lord and the brethren: and as they have heard, so have I heard; for the word of the Lord has been given to all the saints.
Consider the words of our Chief Prophet:
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these,” (Mark 12:29-31).
Above, God speaks to one people, urging us to remember our unity and singleness of purpose in Him—that we are “one body”—and that He speaks to us with one Voice1. We see this in the words that He spoke through His holy prophets: “Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people,” (Jeremiah 28:7). Therefore, revelation is by nature, corporate, never exclusive: for all things that can be known—that are the Father’s will for us to know—are freely revealed to all (John 16:13). And so we see that the mind of the Spirit is clear and His wisdom is simple–for we receive the truth as “little children”–and His truths are spoken clearly to us in a way that cannot be easily misunderstood2. Not only is His will revealed “to all saints,” but His mysteries are hidden “from all saints.” We can neither deny what is revealed nor speak authoritatively concerning what is hidden for to do either is to deny the word of our Lord Who cannot be denied: “… let God be true, but every man (who opposes His word) a liar,” (Romans 3:4). We know that God will keep His promise concerning the Jewish people, but precisely how He will bring this to pass remains a mystery: therefore, we must look circumspectly upon those who speak authoritatively concerning matters that have not been given them to know–for these wallow in conceit (self-knowledge which falls far short of the true wisdom of God)3.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd,” (John 10:16).
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins,” (Romans 11:25-27).
It is the character of God to do all of the following:
1) speak to one people (one body)
2) destroy all who refuse to hear Him
3) judge all men by Jesus Christ4
We see all three of these aspects of God’s character in the witness Paul gives to the Jewish people concerning the Father’s promise to them:
“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities,” (Acts 3:22-26).
The Lord’s children know His voice because they are familiar with His Person (Whom is speaking)5. They will not hear another6. Consequently, the premier external test and evidence that we have heard clearly from the Lord is the confirmation of the saints, for He speaks the same word in the ears of all His people.
Certainly, the love that we are to have for one another reflects this unity and affirms that we have heard the same Word (1 John 3:16-18).
And so we discover that ‘hearing the word of the Lord’ is a product of relationship, not gifting or function: and that, as we gather in the love of His Spirit, the Person of Christ is revealed.
Where men deny other saints the freedom to function as God has ordained within the assembly, each contributing as they are so led by God (which is always in agreement with scripture’s commands), the Person of Christ is both mischaracterized (falsely represented) and not fully revealed in that moment, a fact which quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit Who has come to testify of Him7.
Worse, the assembled saints are not strengthened as God desires (as “one body”): for spiritual “increase” is a product of all saints working together in the love, admonition, nurture, and unity of the Lord7.
No man who attempts to restrain the working and leadership of the Holy Spirit can legitimately consider himself either an example in Christ or an elder of the faith: for this is the doctrine of idolatry. Some saints do so ignorantly, some knowingly. Let us not be counted in either camp.
1) “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another,” (Romans 12:5).
2) “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein,” (Luke 18:17).
3) “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law,” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
4) “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth … for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. (John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42, 17:31; Romans 10:4)
5) “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice … I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine,” (John 10:4, 14).
6)“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers,” (John 10:5).
7) “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love … put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness … and grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” (Ephesians 4:16, 24, 30).