My friend and I are going through the Book of Acts right now and we just discussed Acts 16:6-15 yesterday morning. In Acts 16:9-10, Paul receives a vision from God. Here’s the passage from the ESV.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
I think it’s of the utmost importance that we handle the Bible accurately. We need to not miss what’s there, but we also need to be sure we aren’t adding anything in that’s not there. You can read all of my notes from our study of Acts 16:6-15 by clicking here, but I wanted to share one quick note about these two verses. Let me know what you think. (This is quoted from the blog post on my other blog.)
A note on visions, dreams, and messages sent from God
Every place in Scripture where God communicates directly with someone, like he did here with Paul, there was no mistaking that God was communicating, and there was never any doubt as to the message God was communicating. Many today will try to figure out clues and hints and “nudges of the Spirit” in order to discover what God is secretly trying to tell them. There is no biblical support for this method of determining the will of God. If God tells someone something directly, its source and message are unmistakably clear. We have no record in the bible of God being ambiguous. God doesn’t drop hints and demand that we be “tuned into his Spirit” before we can accurately know his will for us. God’s will is plainly laid out in the writings of Scripture and it’s in Scripture that we will find it. If he wants to speak to us directly, he’ll do that (though I believe that is exceedingly rare) and he’ll not require any kind of mental or spiritual gymnastics to figure out what he’s saying.
I believe that determining God’s will is pretty simple—at least the parts of his will that he wants us to know. It also makes sense that God would want to be very clear on something as important as his will. Why would God want to cloak it in secret clues and ambiguity? I think there are basically only two steps that require satisfaction when determining God’s will in any specific circumstance.
Fist off, we have plenty in the Bible concerning his will for us.
- We are to avoid getting drunk.
- We are to be honest in our business dealings.
- We are to look to the interests of others.
- We are to seek unity and peace whenever possible.
- We are to avoid sexual immorality.
- We are to only marry another Christian, and it must be a member of the opposite sex.
- We are to study God’s Word every day.
- We are to gear our very lives toward the spread of the Gospel.
These (and many others besides) are very clearly laid out in the Bible. If you want to know how to deal with a difficult boss or co-worker, the Bible speaks directly to that. Figuring out God’s will for that is as simple as reading what he’s already said on the topic.
Second—and this is only if the first step doesn’t cover our specific circumstance or decision—we are to seek the wisest course of action. Something may not be sinful, but it may not be wise. As much as possible, make the wise decision.
If these two steps are satisfied, you are free to do anything you want to do. If it doesn’t violate the moral will of God, and it’s within the realm of wise choices, go ahead and do it. You are free in that regard.
You may ask, “But doesn’t God’s will play any part in the specifics of my decision making?” Yes it does, but beyond the two steps stated above, God’s providence is not something you need to figure out before making a decision. If God wants to close a door, he will. You don’t have to figure that out first.
This is a very quick treatment of the topic. I haven’t done much proofreading or polishing, and I haven’t mentioned the different passages of Scripture that some people claim speaks to this area (Gideon’s fleece, God’s still small voice, etc.), but I wanted to get this out there. If it comes up again, and if time permits, I may develop this further. Until then, if you have any thoughts, questions, or objections, I’d love to hear them.