(This is one of the final chapters for the book "The Word: Apparatus for Salvation, Renewal and Maturity" written at the request of editor Tim Vaniman for the purpose of clarifying erroneous mysticism and biblical super-natural manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life. This chapter has not been edited.)
Throughout this book “mysticism” has been categorized and explained as a substitute for truth. Mysticism has been portrayed as a deceptive imitation. The reason for this has been that the Paul and others contrast a personal mystical experience in a negative light when compared with the Truth of the divinely originated Word of God. Paul says:
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head.” – Colossians 2:18-19
God rebukes the mystics through his prophet Ezekiel when he says:
“Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that is will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The Lord declares,’ though I have not spoken?” - Ezekiel 13:3-9
God speaks the same way in Jeremiah when he says to the mystics:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord…I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied…I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” - Jeremiah 23:16, 21, 25
According to the Collins English Dictionary (HarperCollins Publishers 2003) mysticism is described in three ways:
1. belief in or experience of a reality surpassing normal human understanding or experience, especially a reality perceived as essential to the nature of life
2. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) a system of contemplative prayer and spirituality aimed at achieving direct intuitive experience of the divine
3. obscure or confused belief or thought
Mysticism then is a spiritual experience beyond human ability that is accepted as a direct experience with God which often results in obscure or confused doctrine. Indeed, mysticism has to exist at some level, but is its appropriateness limited? Is it limited according to its historical place in time? Is it limited by the spiritual office of who experiences it? Or, by the spiritual condition or maturity of its recipient? Or, is the size of the intended audience a factor? Can a mystical message be given to one person to share with a larger group?
Surely the Bible supports the existence of a mystical experience for mankind and particularly for believers. This positive form of mystical experience is expected, and even necessary, for a healthy biblical theology and a productive Christian life:
1. To understand the Gospel message for salvation or to understand the revealed, written Word of God a man is described as having “heard” the Word of God because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
a. “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” – John 15:26
b. “ ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”
c. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:11-12
d. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22
2. A man is mystically, or supernaturally, regenerated (recreated, born again) by the Holy Spirit as is Paul wrote to Titus:
a. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” – Titus 3:5
b. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again…No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” – John 3:3, 5, 6
3. To understand the message of the Word of God the believer must be illuminated by the Spirit of God:
a. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes he will guide you into all truth…He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” – John 16:13-14
b. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26
4. To hear the “calling” of God in the heart of a believer for service (gifting) is a form of mysticism:
a. “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” – Romans 8:14
5. We have the testimony of God in our hearts and know with assurance what God has revealed to us:
a. “God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.”
– 1 John 5:9-10
– 1 John 5:9-10
b. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” – Romans 8:16
c. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out: ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son.” – Galatians 4:6
6. Jesus said concerning the believer that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” when he referred to the Holy Spirit flowing through our lives. This refers to the manifestation of super-human character, good works, spiritual gifts and fruits of righteousness. ( John 7:37-39)
a. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7
b. “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” – Hebrews 2:4
7. Upon being regenerated by the Holy Spirit (born again, Phase One) the believer is permanently and eternally indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
a. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” – John 14:16
b. “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:17
c. “God’s Spirit lives in you.” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
d. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” – Ephesians 1:13-14
8. Even the natural man of the world can be influenced by a mystical experience with the Holy Spirit called conviction:
a. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” – John 16:8
b. “By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God.” – Psalm 106:32-33
These verses are often in the context of a prerequisite of having the Word of God available in the soul or mind of the man. The Word always precedes the Spirit. Before the world or the church or the believer can experience the ministry of the Spirit of God they must have first experienced the ministry of the Word of God.
In Romans 8 Paul writes first”
“Those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” – Romans 8:5
“The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6
…before he writes:
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” – Romans 8:13-14
The context of Romans 8 is a mind “set on” or renewed to the Word of God for the Spirit of God to use. This mind “set on what the Spirit desires” (Word of God) is contrasted with:
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires.” – Romans 8:5
The problem with “being led by the Spirit,” “hearing the voice of God,” “receiving a revelation,” or what I call mysticism is that it either:
1. Results from the negligence of the Word of God
2. Leads to inattention to the Word of God
Clearly the Scriptures teach that the Spirit of God moves in our world among unbelievers to convict them of the truth of the Word of God they have heard. The Scriptures reveal that the man who places faith in the truth of the Gospel experiences a mystical relationship while hearing the Gospel. The believer is placed in a mystical relationship with the Spirit of God who lives in the believer and who unites the believer mystically to Jesus Christ. During phase two the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will work and speak in and through that believer. But, all of this is preceded by the hearing, understanding and accepting the revelation of the Word of God. In other words, if a person has not heard, understood, known, believed and applied the Word of God the mystical experience they claim to have had or mystical voice they have heard is NOT the Spirit of God. There is no doubt in my mind that it may be mystical or spiritual, but just because something is super-natural or mystical does not mean it is true, righteous, holy or from God. The Scriptures, as we have noted, clearly state many false prophets, spirits and teachings have gone into the world and the church. None of which are from God. And, this is not even taking into consideration the imaginations and diluted consciences of men void of the Word of God or ignoring the Truth of God’s biblical revelation.
In our biblically illiterate modern Western culture (like many, many other cultures worldwide) it is easier to “hear God” or to be “spiritually led” than to learn and understand the Truth. Thus, the lazy, illiterate, blind mystics lead the lazy illiterate, blind masses. The blind leading the blind.
It is more convenient to “receive” a subjective message or teach relative “insight” than to understand, present and deal with the absolute Truth and the subsequent harsh, unbending reality of the world God created and in which we live. The imagination is always easier than reality. It is easier to watch a movie than it is to film a movie. But, it is still easier to film a documentary than to have lived the events being documented.
Mystic interpretation of Scripture is a deviant form of hermeneutics. When a mystic seeks for the meaning of a passage of Scripture by “allowing the Spirit to lead them” without taking the basic principles of proper hermeneutics into account they are in error. Truly serious and accurate biblical interpretation needs more than “the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Since the books of the Bible were historical documents written with real words that had absolute meanings to the people in the cultures to which the Word of God was written, we have to take this into account. In other words proper hermeneutics of divinely inspired Scripture must be familiar with the historical setting, the exegetical meaning and translation of the words in the text and the categorical comparison of similar subject matter throughout the rest of Scripture. And, the bad news for the mystic is that this is a lot of work. It is a tremendous amount of true insight into natural history, linguistic and basic theology. The point: It is sooo much easier for the mystic if they can simply “hear God” or “let the Spirit reveal” the meaning of a passage of Scripture. And, even more so, if the passage is difficult or seems to contradict what the mystic wants to believe or teach. Allegorical or spiritualization of words, events and characters in the Bible is a very helpful way for a mystic to avoid any kind a reasonable hermeneutic responsibility. You will hear the mystic begin the presentation of their pathetic scriptural insight by saying, “The Lord as shown me…”
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man.” – 2 Peter 1:20-21
John tells his readers to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” But, realize the only way for a believer to test or evaluate a mystic or a teacher is to know some portion of the Truth by which to compare the mystic’s teaching. In a Scripturally illiterate culture the standard of the test is not the Word of God, but the student’s emotions or previous world view. In this case a mystic who is teaching people who can only judge them based on their emotions, human world view or minimum biblical knowledge (which, may in itself be corrupted in its interpretation) are destined to enter an erroneous cycle of hearing, evaluating and confirming bad doctrine which ultimately leads into a spiral of doctrinal corruption and chaos.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
Bottom line is this: Your relationship with the Holy Spirit is worthless without the Word of God. This is not due to any fault of the Spirit of God, but entirely due to the weakness and corruption of the unregenerate mind and sin nature of man. In other words, you have to understand and be living in the Truth to benefit from the Spirit’s presence.
If any revelation or insight from the Spirit of God were to occur it would be for a person’s private guidance or private confirmation. It is hard to imagine, yes, it is impossible for the Spirit of God revealing something today for public proclamation or public instruction that has not already been revealed in the written Word of God in Scripture. There are no Apostles today receiving revelation from God for public proclamation since if this were to happen the written Word of God would be in error and we would have to choose between the accepted Scripture or today’s mystic apostles.
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” – Paul in Colossians 1:25-26
“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” – Ephesians 3:4-5
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – John 96 AD, Revelation 22:18-19
“I will not impose any other burden on you; Only hold on to what you have until I come.” – Jesus, 96 AD, Revelation 2:24-25
Even in 85 AD the Apostle John could write in First John (after Paul and Peter had died and all four gospels had been written before 68 AD) that, “I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.” (“The beginning” refers to Jesus teaching ministry and the founding of the church 30-33 AD).
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22Galyn Wiemers