Why Modern Prophecy Is False and God’s Word Is Inerrant and Sufficient: A Response to Sam Storms

Josh Buice

The-Word-of-God-Bible

At the 2023 G3 National Conference, the Cessationist documentary was publicly released. G3 Ministries directly partnered with the producers of the film to provide a resource for the church that explains the doctrine of cessationism along with the history of the continuationist movement.

After the release of the film, Dr. Sam Storms, Pastor Emeritus of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma released a series of articles as a challenge to the producers and men who appeared in the film. In this article, I would like to respond to Sam Storms on the subject of modern day contemporary prophecy. According to Dr. Storms, anyone who does not earnestly desire the gift of prophecy is sinning.

The faulty foundation of modern day prophecy should be viewed as a danger to God’s people. While I have personally benefited from Dr. Storms’ ministry through the years, his recent statements about prophecy and defense of false teachers has given me great concern. What I say in this article is not intended as a character attack on Dr. Storms, but instead an unashamed response to his bold assertions regarding the continuation of prophecy in our day.

Prophecy Defined

The Bible contains several different types of genre. One of the most prominent genres in the Scriptures is prophecy. In the Old Testament, a number of books chronicle the message that was delivered by God through his spokesmen to God’s people. Those books are organized into two main groups known as the major and minor prophets. The designation of major and minor is based on the length of the text rather than the significance of the prophetic figure.

The prophet was raised up by God as his spokesman who would declare “Thus says the LORD.” In fact, that phrase, more accurately translated in the Legacy Standard Bible as “Thus says Yahweh” appears a grand total of 464 times in the Old Testament. 119 times in the Pentateuch, 78 times in the Historical Books, 322 times in the Major Prophets, and 45 times in the Minor Prophets

The prophet is called a man of God (1 Samuel 2:27), a servant and messenger of the Lord (Isaiah 42:19), a seer (Isaiah 30:10), a man of the Spirit (Hosea 9:7), and a watchman for the people of God according to Ezekiel 3:17. In short, God would speak directly to the prophet who would in turn speak directly to the people of God. The prophet represented God to the people.

The purpose of prophecy was to deliver God’s message to his people. This pattern began after the fall (Genesis 3) and continued through the New Testament. The gift of prophecy was never viewed in Scripture as a casual gift. In an article titled, “No. The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy is not the same as Preaching” Sam Storms defined prophecy as, “speaking forth in merely human words something the Holy Spirit has sovereignly and often spontaneously revealed to a believer.” The problem with that definition is that it makes the gift of prophecy far too casual and allows for a distinction to be made between the prophecy of the Old Testament and the prophecy of the New Testament.

As the light dawned in God’s redemptive plan and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, a great prophet was also conceived by Elizabeth and Zachariah. John the Baptist served as a powerful prophet and Forerunner who announced the coming of the Messiah (Matt 3:1-3; John 1:29). Jesus referenced John the Baptist as the greatest man born of a woman (Matt 11:11). He stood between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and pointed people to Jesus.

Jesus came as God in human flesh—the God man. To use the language from the historic Nicene Creed, Jesus is “the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.” As predicted by Moses, he is the great prophet who came and must be obeyed (Deut 18:15). Jesus is the Prophet greater than Moses (Heb 3:1-6). All of the prophets of the Old Testament were pointing to Christ who came as the great Prophet, Priest, and eternal King—the Savior of the world. Like the prophets of old, Jesus delivered the message of God to the people. Hebrews begins with these words:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.2Hebrews 1:1–2 – ESV

After Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension—God continued to communicate through chosen vessels to his people. During the era of the early Church the canon was still open. Although Jesus was the pinnacle of the prophetic age, the baton was now passed to the apostles who came in the power of the Holy Spirit during the early Church and were used to preach and teach God’s truth to God’s people as they were accompanied by miracles, signs, and wonders.

As a cessationist, I’m quite aware of the fact that no Bible verse can be supplied that states “all of the apostolic gifts will cease.” Just as the doctrine of the Trinity is supplied through progressive revelation, so is the doctrine of cessationism. As we read the Scriptures, progressive revelation makes it known that some gifts do cease because they were given for a specific time period and purpose in redemptive history. The office of the prophet has ceased and the gift of the apostle is no longer given to the church in our day, as Paul clearly stated that he was the last of the apostles (1 Cor 15:8).

From progressive revelation, the cessation of these gifts associated with the prophet and the apostles is clear by the close of the biblical canon and further validated throughout church history. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul stated that the church “is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20) and we have everything that is necessary for life and godliness until the return of King Jesus.

The Canon Is Closed

Over the course of a 1,500 year period, the Holy Spirit caused forty different men to write sixty six unique books that make up what is known as the biblical canon of Scripture. This canon of Scripture consists of a corpus of books that are divine in nature, authoritative, and completely sufficient.3In the year 367, Athanasius specifies our 27 New Testament books alone as the canon as opposed to all the other writings which some people insisted on including in the New Testament—such as … Continue reading

During the earthly ministry of Christ, he chose specific men who were identified as his apostles. These men were given specific responsibilities that were distinct from the common disciple of Jesus. An apostle (ἀπόστολος) was a messenger or official delegate who was personally chosen and sent out by Jesus Christ. In ancient days, they would reference cargo ships as apostolic ships. These apostolic boats were dispatched from one port with cargo to be delivered to a different port across a body of water where the cargo would be offloaded. 

The word apostle was employed by Jesus for those men chosen and sent out with the gospel message to be preached (Mark 3:14).  In a technical sense, an apostle was one who was clearly chosen and commissioned by Christ and a witness of his bodily resurrection. God used these men to testify of his Son and to point out that he is the Christ of God, to confront the legalistic religion of the Jewish people, and to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles.4This was specifically the focus of the ministry of the Apostle Paul. In the work of preaching and church planting, God gifted these men and some of their close associates with gifts known as miraculous gifts or better described as apostolic gifts due to their association with the apostles.

These gifts included tongues, healing, and prophecy. As it pertained to the gifts of tongues and prophecy, those gifts were revelatory in nature as they were used to deliver the message of God to the people. Any serious study of 1 Corinthians 14 will reveal that those gifts were to be used for the building up and edification of the church. In fact, four times in 1 Corinthians 14, we find the language of “building up” the church mentioned by Paul.

Once the gift of the apostle ceased, the revelatory and miraculous gifts associated with them likewise ceased.

Such revelatory gifts were necessary because the biblical canon was not yet complete, but today we are not living in an age of an open canon and we are not anticipating any new or fresh words from God. Once the gift of the apostle ceased, the revelatory and miraculous gifts associated with them likewise ceased. There was no passing of the baton as we see from the ministry of the prophets to the ministry of the apostles. Since we now have a completed canon of Scripture we should not be looking for any new books to be added or divine words to be spoken directly to men apart from the pages of Scripture.

According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, in chapter one, “Of the Holy Scriptures” and paragraph one, the following statement is set forth at the beginning of the Confession: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” Although there was a time given when men heard direct revelation from God, that age has now ceased. We are now directed to the complete and final Word of God in holy Scripture.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, in chapter one “Of the Holy Scripture” and in paragraph six says, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” Why did the framers of these historic Confessions like the 1689 (2LC) and the WCF believe that the first chapter should make a definitive statement about the authority and sufficiency of Scripture? The answer is clear. The biblical canon is now closed and we look to God’s Word as complete and sufficient.

Modern Prophecy Is a Denial of the Sufficiency of Scripture and Dangerous for the Church

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he writes these words that serve as the opening to chapter 14, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”51 Corinthians 14:1 – ESV According to the continuationist movement, modern day prophecy should be pursued today. In Sam Storms’ response to the Cessationist documentary, he writes the following:

So, I remain committed to striving in the power of the Spirit to obeying what the Spirit inspired Paul to say. My definition of sin, as I suspect yours is as well, is willful disobedience to an explicit command of Scripture. And I don’t know how Paul could have been more explicit than he is in 1 Cor. 14:1,39, etc. So, I stand by my statement, “If you are not earnestly desiring spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy,” you are sinning.

Modern charismatics function as mystics—always searching for a mystical revelation, dreams, visions, signs, nudges, inner promptings, or some extrabiblical communication and prophecy from God. This must be viewed as a clear denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. Is God’s Word enough? Is the biblical canon sufficient or should we be listening for the “still small voice” of God to be whispered to us in some other way? Pointing people away from the Bible is the practice of cults—not historic Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church has for centuries pointed people away from the Bible. Other cults do the same thing, but we must remain committed to the clear and authoritative revelation found in the pages of sacred Scripture.

Modern charismatics function as mystics—always searching for a mystical revelation, dreams, visions, signs, nudges, inner promptings, or some extrabiblical communication and prophecy from God.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes, “All Scripture is God breathed.” William Hendriksen observes, “The word God-breathed, occurring only here indicates that ‘all scripture’ owes its origin and contents to the divine breath, the Spirit of God.”6William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, vol. 4, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 302. For further study on the term … Continue reading The Scriptures provide for us everything that is necessary for life and godliness. Nothing more is needed.

However, the modern charismatic movement presses the need for tongues (which is simply not the tongues of Scripture) and prophecy which were clearly revelatory gifts for the purpose of delivering the message of God. Not only does this deny the absolute sufficiency of Scripture, it encourages people to be looking away from the Bible for God to speak to them personally and individually. Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God was used broadly throughout evangelicalism across denominational lines for many years. In his original study guide, Blackaby writes “When God speaks to you in your quiet time, immediately write down what He said.”

The “God told me” language is a cancer within the body of Christ that must be rooted out.

Today, it’s a common thing to hear people claiming to hear messages from God. The “God told me” language is a cancer within the body of Christ that must be rooted out. This language is published in books, repeated in powerful stories by conference speakers, and is embraced as normative practices in many local churches and evangelical circles. Jackie Hill Perry published the following statement on what was at the time her Twitter account (now X.com) dated March 31 2022, but has since been removed:

I really be wanting to share how the Lord deals with me prophetically but the Saints get weird about stuff like that.

This same pattern has been practiced by Beth Moore and popular author, Priscilla Shirer. In her book, Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks, Priscilla Shirer encourages her readers to take time to listen for God to speak in the normal rhythms of life:

Creating time, space, and opportunity to hear God is paramount for those of us who desire to sense His Spirit’s conviction, to receive His detailed guidance, and to discern His intimate leading.7Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012), 18.

Shirer goes on to write, “It all starts here: if we want to be able to sense His direction, we must slow down, quiet our hearts, and listen for the way His Spirit communicates.”8Ibid., 18. Rather than encouraging a proper method of Bible study and learning from what the Holy Spirit has provided in the Scriptures, Shirer points her readers to a mystical method of hearing the Spirit communicate. She goes on to write:

When reading His Word, it means approaching it with an open mind and heart that’s not already bogged down with my own opinions and ideas of what the text is saying. It means coming with time to meditate and to mull over its personal application.9Ibid., 19.

The casual manner by which people claim to have heard a message from God is quite shocking. That was never the pattern of the Old Testament prophets nor was it the practice of the New Testament apostles. Sinclair Ferguson in an article titled, “The Authority, Sufficiency, Finality of Scripture” observes:

Whenever someone prefaces a statement by “the Lord told me” or “the Spirit revealed to me” and is referring to anything other than Scripture they have in effect established a second canon for themselves, an additional stream of revelation. But, as William Bridge wisely noted, “who doth not know that the Devil will speak an hundred Truths, that he may crowd in one lye amongst them”.10Sinclair Ferguson, “The Authority, Sufficiency, Finality of Scripture” [accessed 3-19-24] For William Bridge, see William Bridge, Scripture Light the Most Sure Light, in Twenty One Several Books … Continue reading

Contemporary scholar Wayne Grudem argues for the continuation of prophecy today. He embraces what is known as fallible and non-authoritative prophecy.  In his Systematic Theology Grudem writes, “There are many indications in the New Testament that this ordinary gift of prophecy had authority less than that of the Bible, and even less than that of recognized Bible teaching in the early church” in which he goes on to cite the story of Agabus in Acts 21 as an example.11Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1051.

The problem with that distinction is that it doesn’t square with the story of Agabus nor does it take into consideration the fact that false prophets were to receive the death penalty according to Deuteronomy 13:5. In the case of Agabus, he didn’t provide a fallible prophecy. In Acts 21:11, Agabus predicts that the Jews would bind Paul with his belt and hand him over to the Gentiles. Later in the chapter, Luke reveals that Paul was seized by a mob and after his arrest, the commander ordered Paul to be bond with two chains (Acts 21:33). How is that an incorrect or false prophecy? Everything predicted by Agabus transpired. Just because Luke leaves out some of the details in his narrative doesn’t mean that Agabus provided a false prophecy or that he got it wrong. No, he actually got it right. Agabus wasn’t a false prophet, but a true prophet of God.

By promoting a false category of fallible and non-authoritative prophecy you open the front door of the local church to an array of charlatans and wolves. Christians must reject this modern practice of prophecy as unnecessary and dangerous.

By promoting a false category of fallible and non-authoritative prophecy you open the front door of the local church to an array of charlatans and wolves. Christians must reject this modern practice of prophecy as unnecessary and dangerous. In an article published on his website, Sam Storms writes:

The gift of prophecy may result in fallible prophecy just as the gift of teaching may result in fallible teaching. Therefore, if teaching (a gift prone to fallibility) can edify and build up the church, why can’t prophecy be good for edifying as well (see 1 Cor. 14:3, 12, 26), even though both gifts suffer from human imperfection and stand in need of testing?12Sam Storms, “How can NT Prophecy be “Fallible” (and of benefit to the church) if it is based on an &quo” [accessed 3-19-24]

It is true that Paul was bringing needed correction to the church at Corinth for their abuse of the spiritual gifts, but Paul was not normalizing the practice of false tongues or false revelations, nor should we make room for fallible prophecy in our day. Such an unbiblical category should never be welcomed into the church.

This belief that prophecy continues today has given rise to what has become known as the heavenly tourism genre in contemporary evangelicalism where people claim to go to heaven (or in some strange cases, to hell) and return with a fascinating story that’s published in books. In 2010, a little boy named Alex Malarkey suffered a horrific car accident and after a lengthy coma, he survived. Alex was six years of age at the time of the accident. Soon thereafter, he and his father Kevin Malarkey published a book titled, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. It was a story about Alex’s fascinating journey to heaven where he spent time with Jesus and numerous angels. The book was a big success and sold more than 1 million copies and spent months on the New York Times’ bestseller list. It was sold and distributed by Lifeway Christian Resources.

However, Alex shocked the world when he wrote a letter to Christian retailers with a sobering and honest confession:

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. Anything written by man cannot be infallible…. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.13Teen admits he lied about dying, going to heaven [accessed 3-18-24]

Needless to say, this is not only heartbreaking for Alex, but for the millions of people who purchased and read his book and were led astray. These books assault the sufficiency of Scripture and serve as a cancer within God’s Church. Do we need little boys like Alex to take a trip to heaven and return to tell us about it? Jesus made it clear from his parable in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus that even if someone was raised from the dead and sent to warn unconverted people about the horrors of hell—they still would not believe. If they will not believe the testimony given to them by Moses and the Prophets (a way of speaking of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture), they will not believe anyone who comes back from the dead.14Luke 16:31

We must be crystal clear about the fact that there is no such thing as fallible and non-authoritative prophecy. We have a category for that and it’s called “false prophecy” which is taught by a false prophet.

Any contemporary practice of divine revelation must be rejected as false. God has given us his sufficient and authoritative Word and we must give ourselves to the pursuit of God through the pages of Scripture. New revelations, visions, dreams, inner promptings, and prophetic utterances are simply unnecessary distractions that lead people away from the Bible are point God’s sheep in the direction of wolves. We must be crystal clear about the fact that there is no such thing as fallible and non-authoritative prophecy. We have a category for that and it’s called “false prophecy” which is taught by a false prophet.

Charles Spurgeon was known for bold preaching. Perhaps he could not have been any more bold than in his sermon titled “The Paraclete” on October 6, 1872 when he said the following:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, honor the Spirit of God as you would honor Jesus Christ if He were present! If Jesus Christ were dwelling in your house, you would not ignore Him; you would not go about your business as if He were not there! Do not ignore the Presence of the Holy Spirit in your soul! I beseech you, do not live as if you had not heard whether there were a Holy Spirit. To Him pay your constant adorations. Reverence the august Guest who has been pleased to make your body His sacred abode. Love Him, obey Him, worship Him!

Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons—I hope they were insane—who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not, for some years, passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me and it may save them some trouble if I tell them once and for all that I will have none of their stupid messages. When my Lord and Master has any message to me He knows where I am and He will send it to me direct, and not by mad-caps!

Never dream that events are revealed to you by Heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Spirit. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God! Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already—He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses.

In closing, I do not share that excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermon as a means of claiming that Sam Storms is insane. I do share it to point out the fact that Spurgeon and others throughout history have stood firm against the error of continuationism. However, I am concerned by the ongoing practice of using the Lord’s name in vain and attributing to the Holy Spirit utterances of the flesh and words that originated in the mind and heart of a man rather than God himself.

That is the purpose for the Cessationist documentary and our Cessationist conference that will be held in Oklahoma in October of 2024.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

References

References
1 19 times in the Pentateuch, 78 times in the Historical Books, 322 times in the Major Prophets, and 45 times in the Minor Prophets
2 Hebrews 1:1–2 – ESV
3 In the year 367, Athanasius specifies our 27 New Testament books alone as the canon as opposed to all the other writings which some people insisted on including in the New Testament—such as Apocryphal literature which is embraced by the Roman Catholic Church
4 This was specifically the focus of the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
5 1 Corinthians 14:1 – ESV
6 William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, vol. 4, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 302. For further study on the term θεόπνευστος – it does not mean “God-breathing,” “breathing the divine spirit,” but is passive: “God-breathed.” Cf. 2 Peter 1:21. See the detailed argument in B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Philadelphia, Pa., 1948, pp. 245–296.
7 Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012), 18.
8 Ibid., 18.
9 Ibid., 19.
10 Sinclair Ferguson, “The Authority, Sufficiency, Finality of Scripture” [accessed 3-19-24] For William Bridge, see William Bridge, Scripture Light the Most Sure Light, in Twenty One Several Books of Mr William Bridge collected into two volumes (London, 1656), vol. 2, p. 15.
11 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1051.
12 Sam Storms, “How can NT Prophecy be “Fallible” (and of benefit to the church) if it is based on an &quo” [accessed 3-19-24]
13 Teen admits he lied about dying, going to heaven [accessed 3-18-24]
14 Luke 16:31
Author The-Word-of-God-Bible

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.