Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1960
NUMBER 14, PAGE 3-5b

"How Shall We Know The Word Which Jehovah Hath Not Spoken?" Deut. 18:21


Robert H. Farish, Lufkin, Texas

God has always communicated his will to man by words — "God, having of old times spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son — ," (Heb. 1:1, 2). But Satan also hath spoken to man in an effort to get man to submit to his will, rather than to the will of God. Satan is the author of lies, while God is the author of truth. This is brought out in the teaching of our Lord which is recorded in the eighth chapter of John. He affirms that truth is from God — "But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I heard from God." (John 8:40.) In this same context he taught that the devil is the author of lies — " Ye are of your father the devil is the author of lies — " Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because, there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof." (John 8:44.) God said to Adam and Eve, "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden — ye shall not eat of it neither touch it, lest ye die." (Gen. 3:3.) Satan said "ye shall not surely die." (Gen. 3:4.) Here the contrast between the will of God and the will of the devil is brought out. The wills of the two are in conflict at every point; at no point do they coincide. This situation requires every responsible person to follow one of two courses. Any attempt to "go limping between two sides "will serve only to please the devil. Every one either "willeth to do his (God's) will" (John 7:17); or he is of his "father the devil, and the lusts of (his) father it is his will to do." (John 8:44.) In order for one to choose his course he must be able to distinguish between what is the will of God, and what is the will of the devil.

If God communicated directly with man — if He in his august presence appeared and expressed his wishes to each person, there would be no point in the question, "How shall we know the word which Jehovah hath not spoken." (Deut. 18:21.) Such is not the case. Israel requested God to "Let me not hear again the voice of Jehovah, my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not." (Deut. 18:17.) God said "they have well said that which they have spoken." (Deut 18:17.) The arrangement which God made for man to know the will of God, and yet not have to stand in God's immediate presence to hear the word of God, was to raise up prophets to speak his Will to man. The prophet was God's mouthpiece to man. It was imperative that men hearken unto the words which the prophet uttered in the name (by the authority) of God. But with the institution of prophets there came the possibility of false prophets, men who would speak "word (s) which Jehovah bath not spoken." Hence the question, "How shall we know the word which Jehovah hath not spoken?"

The problem of distinguishing truth from error is constantly with men. The proper solution of this problem requires a standard by which men can test doctrine to determine its character — i.e. whether it is the truth of God or a lie of the devil. The standard must be infallible — i.e. incapable of ruling out anything that God bath spoken and it must be practical, it must be within the reach and use of every responsible being.

God's omniscience anticipated the problem and his mercy and wisdom provided the solution for the problem. In the case of Israel God gave the rule for testing the authority by which the prophet spoke. God said, "When a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously. Thou shalt not be afraid of him." (Deut. 18: 22.)

Some of the lessons to be learned from this are: (1). The test of a prophet which was given to Israel was that if the thing spoken by the prophet did not come to pass, then the word had not been spoken by Jehovah. The character of God eliminates the possibility of the word of God failing. The attribute of steadfastness of God's word is affirmed by Isaiah. He wrote — "so shall my word to be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isa. 55:11.)

In this connection, what about the contention of some to the effect that the Jews of Christ day rejected him from being king and that this rejection caused him to defer the establishing of his kingdom until his second coming? If this contention were true, Christ is proved to be a false prophet — to have "spoken presumptuously" — for Christ promised the kingdom within the life time of some who were living then. (Mark 9:1.)

(2). God recognizes the possibility of unauthorized persons claiming to speak in the name of God. With many people it is inconceivable that one can perform an action with the bold claim that he is doing it in the name God and such be false. There are many false prophets in the world men who claim divine authority for what they teach. The Christian is charged, "believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1.)

The last passage introduced above teaches that the same necessity to "know the word which Jehovah hath not spoken" continues in the gospel age. The word of the false prophets must be tried and exposed as "the word which Jehovah hath not spoken". Every person has an obligation to himself and to God to exercise care as to what he believes. Conscientious effort is required to determine what is not worthy of belief. This is a personal responsibility from which no one is exempt. It cannot properly be left to some ecclesiastical court. Neither the elders, nor the preachers in the Lord's church, can rightfully pass down decisions as to what the people cannot believe.

Jesus Christ is the great prophet which God raised up for this age. The apostle Peter declared: "Moses indeed said: a prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be, that every soul that shall not hearken to that prophet, shall be utterly destroyed from among the people." (Acts 3:22, 23.) That the words of Jesus the great prophet are the words of God, is affirmed in many places in the New Testament "And the things which heard from him, these speak I unto the world" (Jahn 8:36); "But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth which I heard from God — " (John 8:40); "and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." (John 14:24.) These and other passages record the claim of Jesus that he spoke the word of God. God himself spoke from heaven acknowledging Jesus as his beloved Son and required that men "hear ye him." (Matt. 17:5.) The writer of the Hebrew letter says that God "hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son." (Heb. 1:2.)

God provided credentials for Jesus and for those whom he selected for apostles. The miracles were the signs which signified that their words were the words which God had spoken: "how we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his will." (Heb. 2:3, 4.) The design of these signs was clearly understood by those of good and honest hearts. The case of Nicodemus demonstrates this. He came to Jesus and said "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him." (John 3:2.) Peter declared that Jesus was "a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know — " (Acts 2:22.) But the climatic declaration of God's approval of Jesus and his endorsement of his words is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead — "Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 1:4.)

To some these signs were awe inspiring. They "confounded" "amazed" and caused certain ones to "marvel" as is learned from Acts the second chapter. When Philip preached in Samaria, "the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things spoken by Phillip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did." (Acts 8: 8.) But not all people were properly affected by the signs. They failed to accept them as proof that the inspired men spoke with divine authority. Some said of the signs which Jesus performed, "This man doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub the prince of demons," (Matt. 12:24.) When He was on the cross it is said that, "They that passed by railed on him wagging their heads and saying, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself if thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, he saved others; himself he cannot save. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross, and we will believe on him. He trusted on God; let him deliver him now, if he desireth him: for he said I am the Son of God." (Matt. 27:39-43.) But the centurion, who was in charge of the crucifixion and those with him said, "truly this was the Son of God." (Matt. 27:54.) Thus with some the signs had their proper effect; with others they failed to convince them that Jesus spoke the will of God.

The same is true of the word which Jesus spoke and which is the divine standard by which doctrines are to be tested. There are those who accept it "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God." (1 Thess. 2:13.) Such people are content to accept everything which is authorized by the word and to reject as "the word which Jehovah hath not spoken" everything not authorized by the New Testament. Basically, the same factors which prevented people accepting Jesus as the Son of God also are present and contribute to peoples' failure today to measure teaching and practice by the word of Jesus. These factors are subjective, and the personal responsibility of each individual. Each person is responsible for the attitudes desires, etc., of his heart. He can cultivate those conditions of heart which make it possible for him to 'walk by faith", or he can allow his mind to drift into whatever channel offers the least resistance and is the most appealing to the flesh. Jesus said of his teaching, "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself (John 7:17.) Jesus taught that vanity (the inordinate emphasis on human approval) made it impossible for men to truly believe on him. He said, "How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not-" (John 5:44.) Those who rely upon worldly wisdom for their guidance, who unduly emphasize human attainments, powers, etc. are prevented by this attitude from recognizing and rejecting the "word which Jehovah hath not spoken". This is taught by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. "For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called," (1 Cor. 1:26.) Those who depend upon human wisdom to determine what is acceptable and what is to he rejected will fail to know what things God hath not authorized.

Truly "the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12), but this does not mean that the word will irresistibly force its way over bias, pride, indifference and all the things which contribute to people's practicing unauthorized things in service to God. But God has provided sufficient evidence to convince those of good and honest hearts that New Testament is the word which God hath spoken. This is the full expression of God's will, hence, any word in addition to the New Testament is "the word which Jehovah hath not spoken". These considerations point up the necessity for everyone knowing the teaching of the New Testament. Too many people, because of ignorance of the Bible, are unable to apply the test and determine whether a doctrine is the word of God, or is the word which God bath not spoken. Any time the church rolls become cluttered up with names of people who are not familiar with the Scriptures, apostasy is bound to occur.