Volume XXX NUmber 5 MAY 20, 2006


The Scriptures comprise a Book that is unlike all other books ever written. In all of human history, there is no other collection of writing that compares. I once heard Dr. Lee Roberson, with his consummate skill, wonderfully describe the Bible as if it were a painting. Imagine a setting, where over forty men are sent into a darkened room to a prepared canvass, for varying lengths of times, with different pallets of paint, and a variety of types and sizes of brushes. When the last artist has completed his assigned time and the room is illuminated, the painting is revealed to be an amazing likeness of Jesus Christ and perfect in every detail. That is indeed precisely what the Bible is and is a legitimate illustrative description of the supernatural origin of the Bible. It is written, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). More than 32 men are identified by name as the Old Testament writers: Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Elihu, David, Solomon, Asaph, Sons of Korah (plural), Heman, Ethan, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi—and several Psalms have unidentified and unidentifiable writers that might add to the number. Eight men are accepted by tradition or by direct claim as the New Testament writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. There was indeed a Hand that guided these multiple hands to accomplish the portrait conceived, not in their hearts and minds, but in the heart and mind of God.

Consider the improbability of having above forty men commissioned to write a book of inerrant history and infallible prophecy over a time span of more than fifteen centuries, residing in a dozen countries on three continents, using four languages—Hebrew, Chaldean, Greek, and Aramaic—yet never contradict one another or include a single factual, historical, mathematical, geographical, or grammatical error, and maintain perfect unity and harmony in doctrine! Certainly, individual particular printings of Scripture have had typographical, orthographical, and punctuation misprints—but the Bible was written without the tiniest blemish. As a preacher of a past generation said, “God spoke with a tongue that never stammered and wrote with a pen that never blotted.”

Charles Spurgeon extolled the Bible in his hand:

“This volume is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Albeit, that Moses was employed to write his histories with his fiery pen, God guided that pen. It may be that David touched his harp and let sweet Psalms of melody drop from his fingers, but God moved his hands over the living strings of his golden harp. It may be that Solomon sang Canticles of love, or gave forth words of consummate wisdom, but God directed his lips, and made the Preacher eloquent. If I follow the thundering Nahum when his horses plough the waters or Habakkuk when he sees the tents of Cushan in affliction; if I read Malachi, when the earth is burning like an oven; if I turn to the smooth page of John, who tells of love, or the rugged, fiery chapters of Peter who speaks of the fire devouring God’s enemies; if I turn to Jude, who launches forth anathemas upon the foes of God, everywhere I find God speaking: it is God’s voice, not man’s, the words are God’s words, the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of this earth.”

“Oh, book of books! And wast thou written by my God? Then will I bow before thee. Thou book of vast authority thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee. Reason! thy place is to stand and find out what this volume means, not to tell what this book ought to say. Come thou my reason, my intellect, sit thou down, and listen, for these words are the words of God. I do not know how to enlarge on this thought. Oh! if you could ever remember that this Bible was actually and really written by God! Oh! if ye had been let into the secret chambers of heaven, if ye had beheld God grasping his pen and writing down these letters, then surely ye would respect them. But they are just as much God’s hand-writing as if you had seen God write them. This Bible is a book of authority; it is an authorized book, for God has written it. Oh, tremble, tremble, lest any of you despise it; mark its authority, for it is the Word of God.”

The scoffers and the skeptics that deride the Bible as nothing more than a collection of writings of an assortment of unknown individuals, changed, altered, and adapted over the centuries have no understanding of the character or the content of the Book that they disparage. Their inane comments often reveal that their actual acquaintance with the Scriptures is superficial or non-existent. No individual man or collection of humanity has been assigned the role of sitting in judgment on this Book. Scholars or readers who arrogantly assume that role will find that the Book will judge them. It is true that the Bible is a book; but it is infinitely more than merely a book: it is the one and the only Book from God. This is the plain, the unmistakable, and emphatic, affirmation of Scripture; it is not disputable—it is veridical.

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The LORD Jesus Christ continually sent His questioners to the Scriptures for the answers for their inquiries. For instance, consider this sampling.

Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures …

Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

Matthew 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Mark 14:49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

In one of these responses, the LORD Jesus asks a direct question that is based upon a wonderful truth, which produces two most precious applications of that truth that are identified by E. Y. Mullens in his classic work, Axioms of Religion, as the primary distinctives of those people called Baptists.

Luke 10:26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

It is not easy to miss the underlying premise of that last cited instruction, but multitudes have and do. Simply stated, the LORD Jesus affirms that Scripture does not require interpretation—Scripture needs reading. Generations of Baptists have consistently used two terms to express the authority of Scripture in relation to the individual.

1. Perspicuity [per-spi-cu-ity]—meaning “plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation in a style that is simple and elegant as well as clear.”

2. Soul-competency or soul-sufficiency—meaning “that every individual soul is competent to read the Scriptures without the need for an earthly interpreter.” As a corollary to this principle rises the understanding of personal responsibility and accountability.

Understanding the significance of this marvelous gift called the word of God, Sir Walter Scott wrote a wonderful summary concerning the Bible:

This is the greatest book on earth,

Unparalleled it stands;

Its Author GOD, its truth divine,

Inspired in every word and line,

Tho' writ by human hands.

This is the living rock of truth

Which all assaults defies.

O'er every stormy blast of time

It towers with majesty sublime;

It lives, and never dies.

This is the volume of the Cross;

Its saving truth is sure;

Its doctrine pure, its history true,

Its Gospel old, yet ever new,

Shall evermore endure.

Within this wondrous volume lies

The mystery of mysteries;

Happiest they of human race

To whom their God has given grace

To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,

To lift the latch, to find the way;

And better had they ne'er been born

Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.

To me, the most amazing aspect of the Bible being the word of God is the fact I myself have a personal copy of that very Book. Were a King or President to have a private copy to hold in his hands, were a Queen to own a copy of the word of the God of Heaven, or were the very wealthy and the most famous or the most righteous and noble to possess the word of God, it would be thought natural and proper; but I have my own Bible. I do not have to descend into the earth to discover the word of God and I do not have to ascend to Heaven to locate it. In my own hands, I myself and not a surrogate, have a Bible. I own a copy of the word of God. Yet, I am not unique in that possession—my mother had one; so did my father. My two sons and my daughter have one; so do my granddaughters—though one is far too young to read. My wife has one. Every member of the Heritage Baptist Church of Pensacola has one—even the co-pastor. Every reader of this publication has or may have a Bible. Anyone who is reading this and does not own a personal copy of Scripture may contact me and I will provide that person with a Bible so that he or she may have and hold the very words of God.

To have the privilege of owing a Bible is a remarkable right granted by the most benevolent merciful God. I remember a song of the south from my youth: “I got shoes; you got shoes. All God’s chil-ren got shoes. When I get to Heaven, gonna put on my shoes and walk all over God’s Heaven.” Thank the Merciful God of Heaven, I do not have to wait until I get to Heaven before I can have and hold the word of God. It is amazing enough to realize that every citizen of the United States, if he or she so desires, can own a personal copy of the Constitution. We are, however, speaking of a document of infinitely greater value than the Constitution. This Book of all books is the final word on every matter of faith and practice.

I wish to repeat that last sentence: This Book of all books is the final word on every matter of faith and practice. Since the days of the apostles, those known today as Baptists have lived by and died for this one principle that “the Bible is the sole and final authority for all matters of faith and practice.” I fear that we Baptists have learned to say this by anesthetized rote. Rote is defined as “the use of memory usually with little intelligence” and “mechanical or unthinking routine or repetition.” I do not intend this comment as a compliment: I desire it to be a strong challenge, even a pointed rebuke. While Baptists are continuing to use the terms of this historical distinctive, the majority of current Baptists obviously have no understanding of the practical application of the doctrine to their lives. They say it, but they do not understand it, do not apply it to their lives, and, for the most part, simply do not mean it to be more than a cliché.

Plainly stated, this truth means that there is no legitimate source for faith and practice other than the Bible. Yet, Baptists are more prone to play ‘Gideon’ than to consult the Bible. Over the nearly five decades that I have been preaching, one of the constants among believers has been the desire to have a “fleece” just like Gideon. Few passages have been more manipulated by individual Christians for personal advantage than has Judges 6:33-40.

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them. And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

Unlike Gideon, however, the fleece-seekers that I have encountered all want to know specific directions for a personal purpose. Gideon was seeking to confirm what God would do—“If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.” Gideon asked nothing in this passage about what he was to do—he was already committed to doing what God had instructed him to do. He was there and he had assembled Israel to the battle. The full context is always important to the understanding of any portion of Scripture; and in this instance, it is essential. Judges 6:1-40 reveals to us that Gideon had previously asked for a sign and did so for a very definite purpose.

1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. 3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. 6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. 7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, 8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; 9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; 10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice. 11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. 17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. 19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. 20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. 22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.

The nation of Israel was in one of its repetitive cycles of apostasy and idolatry for which the God of Israel has brought the judgment of the Midianite occupation. Under the stinging lask of the oppressor, the people have begun pleading with JEHOVAH to deliver them and the God of Israel is raising a judge to drive out the oppressor. That judge is Gideon. In verse twelve, an Unknown Stranger, the Angel of the LORD, appears to Gideon. In the verses that follow, this Stranger commissions Gideon to “smite the Midianites.” Gideon seeks confirmation that this One Who has appeared with this instruction is actually the legitimate representative of JEHOVAH and, in verse seventeen, asks for a sign. Gideon then prepares a meal for this Stranger to eat, verse nineteen, in the pattern of Abraham. I would assume that Gideon expected a conversation with a sign following as Abraham had received. However, the Angel of the LORD turns the meal into a sacrifice upon what appears to be a “makeshift” [I use the word reverently as I know of no other term to use.] altar. Only then does Gideon realize that he has been in conversation with the Angel of the LORD, verse twenty-two. Apparently until then, he must have considered this Stranger as a prophet. Now, Gideon addresses the Lord GOD [God the Father: the Old Testament uses “LORD God” for God the Son] and acknowledges that he has seen the Angel of the LORD [God the Son]. Gideon was right in seeking to validate the authority or legitimacy of anyone claiming to be a messenger from JEHOVAH; this is obvious from the response of the LORD.

23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 25 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: 26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. 27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.

Fault Gideon if you choose for undertaking this assignment by night, but credit him nonetheless with full obedience of the command. I wonder, however, if Gideon might be displaying more prudence than timidity. Could he not have considered that he and his ten companions would be outnumbered and physically prevented from accomplishing the will of God unless he did it by night? It is easy for us to criticize him from the safety of our shelter and to forget the last time we failed to witness because of the size of the audience. There is no rebuke issued by the LORD to Gideon. It is only later that he will be instructed that the LORD of Israel works with the few to defeat the many, the weak to confound the mighty, and the foolish to teach the wise.

28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. 29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. 30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. 31 And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. 32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar. 33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.

Gideon assumes the role of judge and sounds the alarm of war. He calls the warriors of the nation, such as they were, to assemble for the battle to retake the land. This is not Mr. Timidity, slinking away seeking a hiding place, but Mr. Courage standing tall, ready for combat. Gideon is verifying that the inner moving that he has felt to take this action is from the Spirit of the LORD—he is trying the spirit to see if it be of God. Gideon is not rebuked, not even for his “double-checking.” He is asking for confirmation about what God will do.

36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, 37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. 38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. 40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

In this, the second instance of seeking a sign, Gideon is asking for assurance that this is the time and the place where the LORD has chosen to work the deliverance of Israel. He has already sounded “the trumpet” assembling Israel and now he is seeking his battle plans. However, this does not end “the signs” from the LORD for Gideon. Judges chapter 7 continues the record. He is given a “sign” as to how to determine which of the volunteers he is to use to defeat the Midianites.

1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. 3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. 4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. 5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. 6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. 7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place. 8 So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.

The “signs” for Gideon are not yet over. He is instructed to reconnoiter the enemy encampment where he overhears a conversation that encourages him. It did not give him instructions; it gave him encouragement.

9 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. 10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: 11 And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. 12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. 13 And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. 14 And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. 15 And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.

Gideon’s fleece has been ballyhooed beyond its biblical context in a manner that P. T. Barnum would have envied. It is forgotten or ignored that the sequence of “the wet and then dry fleece” required two miracles. The course of nature had to be altered or overcome for that sign to be fulfilled. Everything connected with the event was contrary to the normal course of events. No one could have expected this to occur and none could explain how what happened actually transpired. There is no human explanation using any chain of circumstances and happenstance that can rationalize “the wet and then dry fleece.” The practice of “putting out the fleece” is nothing less than asking God for a miracle. This discredits the flippant, casual, even happy-go-lucky nonsense that is practiced by Baptists influenced by the persuasion of charismatic voices and their own carnal nature.

Moreover, there is not one passage of Scripture that instructs any believer to use “fleece” to validate decisions or to provide guidance for choices. Believers are directed to the Scriptures not to “fleeces.” After all, the Bible is the final source for all matters of faith and practice. Why then, do Baptists have a penchant for seeking for dreams, voices, signs, and wonders? I believe it is because Baptists have retained the terms, but have forgotten the meanings. The Bible, therefore, is not the sole and final authority for all matters of faith and practice in the hearts and minds of Baptists, no matter how much lip service is given to the doctrine.

Observation indicates that the use of “fleece” is by Baptists who most often are trying to find some way around obedience to the Bible. On multiple occasions, I have listened to a professing believer proclaiming a desire to do the will of God and have heard words similar to these: “I know the Bible says this, but I asked God for a sign and He gave me one. I just cannot forget that I got my request for a sign.” Trying with all abilities at my disposal, I have been unable to cause those individuals to see the inconsistency of their comments. The God of Heaven never would give a sign that is in conflict with the word that the God of Heaven gave. The very suggestion that He might do so is beyond foolishness—it is an attack on the integrity of God. The sign is, therefore, eo ipso, a phony, a counterfeit, and is either the product of happenstance, or, far more likely, the result of the intervention of Satan.

I fear that signs-and-wonders Baptists do not consider their unintended exposure to increased susceptibility to the wiles of the Devil. Satan is the counterfeiter; he is the deceiver. One of the many warnings issued by Scripture regarding deception is found in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and is focuses on signs-and-wonders.

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Make no mistake, when any believer follows sign-or-wonder leadership in conflict with the Scriptures that believer is following the guidance of some god other than the God of Heaven. The “god of this world” [2 Corinthians 4:4], Satan, is described as blinding “the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” and is labeled the adversary of believers that “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” [1 Peter 5:8]. The word of God warns all humanity that Satan and his minions have the ability to deceive both the lost and the saved. During the coming Tribulation, the anti-Christ and the beast that is his false prophet use their abilities to deceive the world into accepting the mark of the beast.

2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Revelation 13:12-14 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast;

Those who reject the word of God are open to accepting the delusion of Satan. Adam observed that Eve had eaten the fruit that God by His word had decreed not to be eaten. She was apparently ‘alive and well’—there were no effects until Adam ate [Genesis 3:7]—and could it be that Adam accepted what he saw over what he knew the LORD God has said? Baptists, who say that they believe the Bible is the only authority for faith and practice, need to realize that the God of Heaven will never lead them to act in any manner that conflicts with His word. Those who continue to seek signs-and-wonders over the Scriptures are attempting to have God change that settled word and are prime candidates for deception by the Deceiver, even actively inviting his deception.

The issue may easily be summarized in one question: will I follow the word of the LORD or will I seek signs-and-wonders?

Exodus 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

Deuteronomy 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

For a believer to say, “Scripture says one thing, but the LORD has told me to do something else” is for that believer to reveal himself or herself as a liar. In all of Scripture, only one man is audacious enough to claim, “the LORD said to me.” That man was also a liar. The God of Heaven never contradicts the written record of His word.

2 Kings 18:25 Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.

The mark of the true prophet of the LORD was that the prophet said, “Thus saith the LORD”—the prophet was anchored to the word of God. Nowhere in Scripture is there any example of the LORD altering His word one jot or one tittle. One prophet was slain by JEHOVAH precisely because he allowed an older prophet to convince him that the LORD had changed His mind. Read the story in 1 kings chapter thirteen. This is a serious matter.

There is a beautiful example of Biblical faith, the simple acceptance of the word of the LORD over the desire for signs-and-wonders in the fourth chapter of John, verses 46-53.

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

Not only did this man believe that the LORD Jesus could heal his son or even that he would heal his son, this nobleman believed that the LORD Jesus did heal his son even as the LORD Jesus spoke the word; the faith of this nobleman was not in what he saw [signs and wonders], but in the word of the LORD. So comfortably confident was this man with the words of the LORD Jesus that he continued his business where he was and did not begin his journey to return home until the next day. If he were depending upon signs-and-wonders , he would never have been satisfied with just the word—that was the test of his faith that the LORD Jesus presented to diagnose his faith. This process was not for the LORD Jesus to understand the man, because “He knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man” [John 2:24-25]. The testing of the nobleman’s faith was for the nobleman’s benefit, the teaching of the disciples, and for our admonition and example. How sad it is that Baptists either ignore this principle or are ignorant of it.

Jeremiah had signs-and-wonders Jews all around him. They were prone to follow the man with a dream even while rejecting the prophet who had only the word of the LORD; the result was that Jeremiah left behind on his death two Books and two friends: Baruch, the son of Neriah, and Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian. This will seem a small legacy for nearly seven decades of labor; and Jeremiah once grew so discouraged with the rejection of those professing to be followers of JEHOVAH that he determined to submit a resignation of his prophet’s calling, move to the wilderness and become an innkeeper where only someone who was lost would ever seek lodging, and forbear preaching. “Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men” [Jeremiah 9:2]. However, he was forced from retirement, “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” [Jeremiah 20:9]. During his struggles, Jeremiah was moved to pen these strong words from JEHOVAH in Jeremiah 23:25-32:

I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.

What folly, as we easily recognize, for those benighted and bewitched people to follow dreams rather than the sure word of Almighty God. What we do so easily admit is how foolish it is for any person, including you and me, to demand that the God of Heaven set aside His forever settled word and perform a miracle to provide individual and personal ‘on demand’ ‘real-time’ guidance and direction. The word of God is to be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, not signs-and-wonders. The entrance of the word of God gives us light, not the presence of signs-and-wonders. We may correct our ways by taking heed unto the word of God, not by following signs-and-wonders. The word of God 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” and not signs-and-wonders. The song of the child of God ought not to be—

Show them over to me again, signs-and-wonders galore.

Let me more of their beauty see, signs-and-wonders galore

Signs of life and duty, wonders of faith and beauty,

Beautiful signs, wonderful signs, wonders-and-signs galore.

Beautiful signs, wonderful signs, wonders-and-signs galore

The believer and the unbeliever will be held accountable not for their response to signs-and-wonders, but for their individual relationship [obedience or disobedience of what is written, acceptance of the recorded word or its replacement with signs-and-wonders] with every word in this marvelous unmatchable Book. Consider just this sequence of verses in that regard.

Christ 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Christ.

Luke 4:4 And Christ answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Christ.

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Luke 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Christ 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Christ 6:68 Then Simon Christ answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.

Christ 12:47-48 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Since it is, in the words of Psalms 119:130, “The entrance of” the words of God that “giveth light,” why is it that Baptists, who give glowing lip service to the authoritative sufficiency of Scripture, follow the carnal mind and demand “more light” from God in the form of signs-and-wonders performed to supplement—in reality to supplant—those light giving Scriptures? Those requiring “some sign” from God so that they “can know the will of God” are looking for things which may be seen and are ignoring the call to walk by faith and not by sight. When the believer seeks some sign or some wonder to direct his or her pathway, that believer is no longer walking by faith—that is not a debatable issue. Demanding to have “sight” before obedience is not the walk or work of faith. It is foolish to substitute a perceived sign that is entirely subjective as a replacement for the inerrant, infallible, verbal, plenary, inspired, and eternal word of the omniscient, omnipotent unchangeable God of Heaven. It is also base hypocrisy to feign loyal allegiance to the word of God and to sell it for the first pot of lentil pottage that offers itself. Exchanging the light of the word of God for signs-and-wonders is to follow the darkness of human subjectivity.

The great sign seeker of the Old Testament is not Gideon, it is the son of Kish, Saul the Benjaminite that became the king of Israel. Those who desire to seek signs to determine what the LORD would have them to do need to read and to heed the story of Saul and his search for signs.

1 Samuel 28 1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel … 3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. 4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. 5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. 6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. 7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. 8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. 9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? 10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. 11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. 12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. 13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. 14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. 15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. 16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? 17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: 18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. 20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night. 21 And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me. 22 Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way. 23 But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed. 24 And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof: 25 And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night.

The conclusion of the sign seeking is a warning for all who would follow that pathway.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

Saul inquired of the LORD by seeking dreams or a special word from a prophet; and, when he received no special direction, he resorted to a demon possessed woman [who strangely displays more spiritual sense that Saul did]. The LORD “slew him”—“there is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16)—in judgment because in the eyes of God, Saul had not enquired of the LORD. Saul had been given the word of the LORD, but had set it aside for a pattern of doing things in his own way. Unlike Gideon, Saul was not obedient; he was a sign-and-wonder seeker. Therefore, my reader, make a choice, chew on the chaff of your signs-and-wonders or feed on the wheat of the word of God.

Choose now.

—Dr. Jerald Manley