“I have so much more to tell you, but you can not bear it now” – John 16:12
There are Christians who believe that the Bible is the final revelation from God; that not only is the Canon of Scripture closed, but also that God says nothing else outside of Scripture. All that God has said, and all He ever will say, is encased in the pages of the Bible, they claim. Many also say that the supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the Apostles died (this is known as the ‘cessationist’ position).
But the Bible gives us tantalising glimpses that there is so much more to the Christian life than what is simply recorded in its pages.
For example, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). “I have so much more to tell you, but you can not bear it now” (John 16:12) “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25)
Here’s the thing, though. If the Bible is in fact God’s final revelation, then the logical conclusion is that it means that once you have read it, God has nothing else to say to you. Period.
Sure, you can read the Bible again, and try to pick up things you missed the first/second/last time around, but in essence, once you have absorbed all that the Bible tells you, then that’s your lot, as we say in Yorkshire. Of course, they will probably say that you can glean more than one meaning from each passage – which is true, as it happens – but still the Bible is all there is.
Writing this down and reading it, makes it all so clear to me that these ideas are plainly bunk of the highest order! How can you confine the infinite, amazing, dynamic Creator God to the mere 1200 or so pages of a single book? And, if the Spirit of Him Who raised Christ from the dead lives in you, how can He possibly not only give the life of the Kingdom to your mortal bodies (Romans 8:11), but also make that life flow out from inside you too, in the form of supernatural gifting? In John 7:38, Jesus said, ” ‘Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive”. This is simple to understand. If God’s Spirit lives in you, how can anything but supernatural things happen?
But for me the most tantalising thing is that Jesus has not yet finished teaching us all the things He wants us to know. Let’s reiterate John 16:12 – “I have so much more to tell you, but you can not bear it now”. That was spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper; His disciples were aware that something big was going down – and indeed it was: the single most pivotal event of history since the Creation was about to unfold before their eyes – and they couldn’t take it in. Also in Jesus’s words there, there is a flavour of ‘you won’t be able to understand it right now’. Two of the translations I read in my research for this piece puts it that ‘it would be too much for you’, or ‘you would be unable to grasp it’. And Jesus is also setting the scene for future interactions with His people, after His death and resurrection. The Scriptural record shows that Jesus continued to teach His disciples even after His resurrection, indeed most of the records of His post-resurrection appearances involve some sort of learning opportunity for His disciples.
So the bottom line is that Jesus hasn’t yet finished teaching us all that He wants us to know. God hasn’t finished speaking to us. Expect God to speak, and to work, in your life. If you have come to Him in faith, you can expect this – because He responds.
Remember, the Word became Flesh (human) and lived among us (John 1:14). To put a seasonal slant on it, even, this is the central message of the Christmas story. That the pre-existing, eternal Word of God – Jesus – became a human and lived for a while among us, and now lives in us by His Spirit. The Word became Flesh, not the Word became a Book!! Jesus is the Word of God – and He has so much more that He wishes to tell us, if only we will let Him! The Bible is great, but there really is no substitute for hearing His Voice direct!
Interestingly, in the morning service a couple of Sundays ago, our Vicar asked the congregation for a show of hands asking us what God’s Voice sounded like to us. Who hears Him as a ‘feeling’ inside, or sees His Voice as a picture in their head? Who has heard His voice as an audible, external Voice, or as a visible ‘vision’ in clear sight outside their head, with their eyes? Interestingly, most people put their hands up (therefore they hear God in some way); some even have even heard His Voice audibly. In my case, I have indeed heard His Voice like that, but only twice in my entire life. But I will never forget what He sounded like! Like a loud, rushing roar, like trumpets, like a waterfall, like a football crowd, is the only way I can describe it. But that does not really describe it adequately. But the point is that He does indeed still speak to us – all believers who are willing to listen – regularly.
And Father God says, too, “This is My Beloved Son; listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7) So, how can we refuse?!
“I have so much more to tell you, but you can not bear it now”
Wow! I can’t wait!
[Edit: Just realised I have already posted similar ideas on this subject in this blog post]
6 thoughts on “‘I have so much more to tell you…’”
Thank you for your encouraging blog Anthony. I feel like we had a conversation like this not too long ago? and yes God is speaking even ‘raising his voice’ to some of us because we aren’t listening!
I would encourage you though (if I have read your post correctly) to view the Bible as a way or part of God speaking, that is as important as personally hearing His quiet whispers and the other ways you mention, not just in what has been printed on the pages and the stories told in this book, but God actually speaking through or between those printed words. His Spirit does release fresh revelation of who He is, who we are, and how much we are loved by Him through the words printed on the pages of the Holy Bible. There is a danger that we can read and even memorise the words as your post suggests, and not capture the profound truths waiting to be revealed in the Bible if we see the Bible as a finite communication from the past. The Bible guides us to know Him fully, and as I have been pondering on how God speaks I just had a thought – that we follow his voice to come to a beautiful place where words aren’t necessary. I didn’t plan to be so long in commenting ?
No problem, you should see some of my epic essays on the Patheos forums…. and what lovely insight too. I love, love, love the bit where you said, “…that we follow his voice to come to a beautiful place where words aren’t necessary”. That’s the thing: the Bible leads you to Jesus and you learn to recognise His Voice as He speaks through the Bible – and in so doing you do memorise verses which as a great thing – and that’s great. But the Bible is not God, as I know you know, but some don’t. Some people realise that God speaks through the Bible, and the sound of that Voice they make synonymous with the Bible rather than God. It’s yet another Graven Image – check out http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/2015/10/08/graven-image/ – I liken it to an iPod. With an iPod, what comes through is the music but the iPod is not the artist that did the music. Similarly, the Bible is (one of the) means by which God speaks, but it is not God and some people make the mistake of deifying the Bible for that reason. An extreme way of looking at it is that we could even say that the Bible is *not* the Word of God; rather the Word of God (Jesus) speaks through the Bible to us. Hence my saying that the Word became flesh, not the Word became a book, or whatever I said. And now you might see why I refer to my blog as my ‘heresy blog’, because I explore the boundaries and preconceptions that we have taken for granted for decades, and find some of them to be man-made constructs instead of Scriptural principles. But hopefully people find life and encouragement through it!
Yes I receive you loud and clear! Some of us have so many bibles and versions of the Bible, yet we are not intimate with what is written in it, or the revelation of God’s love for man contained in it.
Reading your reply reminds me of a time when I was a young Christian, in my teens and I don’t know to this day if I ate too much cheese before bed, or evil was in my room as I slept…
I remember trying to wake up (was I awake?) and it was like some awful triple ‘B ‘ horror film. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and some monster type of thingy was actually stealing my breath… I could see my bible next to my bed, and I just kept thinking “I have got to get it open and then I will be ok!” But I couldn’t seem to move to open it! I struggled and struggled against the paralysed feeling. I am still unsure if I was asleep, but it felt so real.
Finally I was able to move. I was huffing and puffing, gasping for breath, feeling extremely thankful but kind of afraid that my bible had been closed. So then I started going to sleep and leaving my bible open so no more episodes like that would happen. I really didn’t grasp that I needed God’s word in my heart to protect me, and I thought some kind of brilliant light would shine out of the open bible and annihilate the enemy! As a child I was taught the bible was holy and sacred plus the old wives takes that sprung from the older folk about the bible, which as you rightly say can lead people to make the book of books a god.
THE IPOD ILLUSTRATION IS JUST BRILLIANT TONY! I GOTTA PINCH IT. THE WORD OF GOD, THE BIBLE, DOES SPEAK TO ME, OFTEN. IT OPENS WINDOWS, AND LETS IN FRESH AIR, AND CAUSES ME TO LOOK OUT BEYOND WHERE I AM , AND FOLLOW WHERE HE WILL LEAD ME, HE SPEAKS IN MANY AND DIVERSE WAYS. SOMETIMES HE JUST KEEPS SILENT, BECAUSE HE KNOWS IF HE SPEAKS TO THE ISSUE AM FACING, I WILL LIKELY RUN THE OTHER WAY .I HAVE THE MAN-MADE ‘STUFF’I DEAL WITH, AND SO OFTEN HAD TO REALISE, SOME OF THE JUNK WE HAVE CARRIED FOR YEARS, HAS WORN US DOWN. NOT THE TIME TO TELL WHAT HE DID DO IN ME/FORME/AND THROUGH ME HERE. BUT I CAN SAY I AM ENJOYING MY GRANDCHILDREN, AND HAVE BACK WHAT THE ENEMY STOLE FROM ME , INCLUDING MY FAMILY. SO GLAD THE LAST WORD ON RELATIONSHIP IS NOT , STONE THE SINNER! AMEN.
Other readers please note – Harry is sight-impaired so he is not shouting; he uses capital letters to help him see what he’s written. Just so you know!
Brilliant testimony Harry, thanks! Please do pinch the iPod illustration 🙂