How do we judge modern guidance?

Many people rely upon God to guide them daily. This is what the saints should expect (Prov 3:6; 16:3; 19:21). God’s guidance is not spooky, mysterious, or even disjointed; neither is God schizophrenic. God will also not violate his own constitutes as it is laid out in his word (revealed will).

(1) The Bible is the infallible measure by which we judge the content of the message given.

Harold Horton writes that any word

“that is not according to the Word, or does not fall within the Scripture definition, is at once to be pronounced as worthless or mischievous, and repudiated without fear.”

Watch out for prophets that bring new revelations. True prophets won’t predict “new truths” about end times and their words will not conflict with or go outside the bounds of Scripture. Revelation 22:18 says,

“If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.”

If what they speak is truly from the Lord, it will come to pass. Jeremiah the prophet said:

“So, a prophet who predicts peace must carry the burden of proof. Only when his predictions come true can it be known that he is really from the LORD.” (28:9).

(2) Learn to Discern.

The Believer is equipped by God to “discern” what the spokesperson is saying (1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:1–6) and should judge with a solemn discernment and a biblically-informed understanding (1 Cor 14:29). Donald Gee writes

“We believe that every true child of God who is walking in the light will have some form of ‘witness’ within regarding truth and error.”

Now we know that it is not mere ‘good sense’ but rather a witness affirming what God has laid out in his Word. It cannot be based on a subjective feeling but should be measured by the consistent revelation of God’s Word. Jeremiah beautifully shows how the believer should discern the will of God when he declares:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” [5]

People believe too easily in the words of an assumed man of God without weighing their predictions against the biblical imperatives.

(3) Look at the character of the one speaking under the inspiration of God.

Jesus clearly said to be wary of those who come as angels of light but inside they are ravenous wolves (Mat 7:15–16). An early Christian instruction book, the Didache, says:

“[N]ot everyone that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, only those who live in the way of the Lord. Thus, it is by their conduct that you can tell false prophets from true… Even if a prophet teaches the truth, if he does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. However, if a prophet that has been approved and found true, and lives out the cosmic mystery of the Church, does not teach you to do all that he does himself, you should not judge such a prophet. His judgment must be left to God, for the prophets in the past also did such things. If anyone says in the Spirit, “Give me silver”, or asks for anything else, do not listen to him.”[6]

It is not only those that have their hearts filled with avarice that can predict money out of your bank account but also those that are filled with pride. Ask yourself, what is the man of God’s attitude towards those he can get nothing from. Does he speak to give himself some identity or prestige? Are there signs of hubris, or pride? Fake men of God quickly lose their allure when we see their intentions and deceit.

(4) Look at the content of the message given.

What is being said? Is it focussed on the will of Christ or the will of man? Is it in line with the will of God and the holy constitutes he laid out in his word? God will never contradict himself. Ask yourself, “how will this prophet benefit if I receive his words?” One of my mentors, Pastor Mark Hodgetts told us a story in seminary that I am reminded of. A man got up in a church meeting and started speaking as if from the Lord. He said,

“Dark days are coming saith the Lord, so dark that even I the Lord am afraid.”

We laugh about these types of supposed revelation, but I can recall counselling session after session where people have made investments based on the words of a prophet or a feeling of a man of God. Reformed Minister Reverend J. Bonda wrote:

“Does the prophecy bring you to the subject of Jesus and the worship of Him as our Conqueror and King? False prophecies are always given at the expense of Jesus Christ and the rejection of His Lordship overall.”

Watch out for prophets that are overly concerned with your benefit and ultimately theirs. Ask yourself whether there is an unhealthy preoccupation with self and egotistic self-interests! Wayne Grudem warns us to note that

Subjective personal guidance is not a primary function of New Testament prophecy.”

(5) Remember, just because it is impressive, does not mean it is God.

We are so easily amused! Remember P.T. Barnum’s most famous words: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.[7]

Reverend J. E. van der Brink shows that some “prophecy” can come from the intuition of a man. While we do recognise that there could be an impression as a result of the Holy Spirit, some of the so-called manifestations I have observed cannot be attributed to the work of God. Just because it is impressive does not mean it is God and just because someone says “thus saith the Lord”. We need to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) searching what the Word of God says and not be lazy to hear a fallible man announce a new blessing over us. In fact, one signet of Old Testament prophecy was not to validate, affirm, or even invigorate the listener. But it was to rebuke, reveal sin, and call the individual back to the heart of God! Please also notice that in Acts 16:16–17 we see a woman prophesying accurately that Paul and Barnabas were servants of God, that the Christian God is “the Most-High God,” and their message accurately proclaimed “the way of salvation.” Luke explains that she had a “spirit of divination” and did not prophesy by the Holy Spirit. What should be concerning is that everything she said was right, yet Paul wisely recognised she was a false medium. A lot of what counts for God speaking could be demonic, and we should therefore be serious to receive guidance from God’s Word.

(6) Use common sense.

Assemblies of God minister Donald Gee writes:

“[There are] grave problems raised by the habit of giving and receiving personal “messages” of guidance through the gifts of the Spirit…. The Bible gives place for such direction from the Holy Spirit…. But it must be kept in proportion.  An examination of the Scriptures will show us that as a matter of fact the early Christians did not continually receive such voices from heaven. In most cases they made their decisions by the use of what we often call “sanctified common-sense” and lived quite normal lives. Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be made the frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for “messages” through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as of contemporaries…. The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.”

Does God still give emphatic Divine canonical revelation?

No, God already gave his emphatic will and words through our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1–2) The Holy Spirit can give promptings and guidance. God does still use the prophetic as he sees fit, but the canon is closed! The author of Hebrews also mentions that God has spoken (past tense) (Heb 1:1), and Paul affirms that prophecy will end when the perfect comes in the new heavens and new earth (future tense) (1 Cor 13:8). I agree with Chadwick Haygood:

“The expression of the gift of Prophecy will not result in an authoritative message like Old Testament prophecy. Instead, Prophecy in the New Testament, which is to be desired by all, is to be weighed and carefully examined by the more authoritative Word of God.”

Current guidance is not the same quality as Old Testament prophecy, which was given to establish the Word and will of God globally, whereas New Testament guidance can give advice and guidance to individuals. It is unanimously agreed upon that the quality and intention of Old Testament prophecy are not what we see in the New Testament. That being said, modern-day Prophets do exist, yet, they are scarce.

Does God still guide and move supernaturally?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is still guiding, teaching, correcting, and gifting (John 14:26). Wayne Grudem highlights another danger:

“Many cessationists (i.e., people who don’t believe in miraculous gifts such as prophecy today) are sceptical of any element of subjectivity in the realm of guidance. This is the opposite mistake. The people who make this objection are often the ones who need this subjective process most in their own Christian lives. This gift requires waiting on the Lord, listening to Him, hearing His prompting in our hearts. For Christians who are completely evangelical, doctrinally sound, intellectual, “objective” believers, probably what is needed most is the strong balancing influence of a more vital “subjective” relationship with the Lord in everyday life.  And these people are also the ones who have the least likelihood of being led into error, for they already place great emphasis on solid grounding in the Word of God.” [8]

We cannot judge any gift by its abuse, we rather need to look at the biblical imperatives that merit what has been said.

Must we desire Prophecy above all else?

When Paul mentioned that we should desire the gift of prophecy above all (1 Cor 14:1), I think he is speaking about his immediate context to the imminent community but also to the future Church. John MacArthur holds that this was an instruction given only to the present Church in the New Testament. I disagree as such a reading would leave us with parts of Scripture that are irrelevant to the current Church. I do believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit, but not a subsequent revelation that would be deemed canonical. I affirm that the Holy Spirit can speak and guide, as we see throughout the book of Acts. Still, when I look at some modern-day prophets, they vest themselves with the title because they can know things about people and predict the future (foretelling).


[1] Signs and Wonders today, Pg.183.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, Volume 2: The Full Harvest 1860-1892, Pg.60.

[3] C.H. Spurgeon, A Well-Ordered Life, Pg.368)


[5] Jeremiah 17:7-9.



[8] The Kingdom and the Power, Pg.84-86.

Short Biography: Ps Rudolph Boshoff has completed his BTh and his BTh Hons at SATS and is currently pursuing his Masters in Theology with a specific emphasis on Islam at the same institution. He is also actively involved with Cult and Muslim Evangelism (Ad Lucem Ministries) and he also lectures full-time at a local seminary in Randburg (RBC).