Do Christians “Speak for God”?

I got a very good question today.  Actually, it was a multi-part question, and I decided it was valuable to answer on the front page.  I’ll start with the last part of the question first.  Do Christians think we “speak for God”?

Those who aren’t Christians, or who aren’t committed Christians, will often ask this question, and it is a good one.  It is especially important because sometimes Christians will mean one thing by the expression while other people might mean something completely different.

Christians have historically believed that God has already spoken, in the Bible.  The Bible is God’s Word, the very words that God gave us and wanted us to have.  II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  The original Greek word translated “inspiration” means “breathed” by God.  There are other Bible passages on this subject as well.  In John 17:17, while praying to God the Father, Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth.”  This is what Christians have always believed.

There are people who claim to be Christians who deny that, but they are outside the historical and Biblical definition of Christianity.  It would be preferable if they came up with a better name for what they believe — it just causes confusion, otherwise.  I understand why they want to use the name “Christian”, for it brings many good things with it, and many of those things may apply to what they believe.  But it certainly causes confusion when people who don’t believe the Bible is the true Word of God call themselves “Christian”.

In any event, just so there is clarity, when I use the term “Christian” I am talking about those who believe the Bible is true, and believe it is the very words God wanted us to have.

If I tell someone what the Bible says, in a sense, I am indeed “speaking for God”, but not in the sense of claiming any right to tell God the way things should be, or any right to speak about things God didn’t say.  Nor am I setting myself up as an authority in any way.  Rather, I’m just letting people know what He has already said.  The Bible says that believers are “ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20).  But an ambassador can only rightly say what his government authorised him to say.  Otherwise, he’s no ambassador, but simply a loose cannon.

It’s sort of like David Cameron’s spokesman at No. 10 Downing Street.  He “speaks for David Cameron” in the sense that he passes along the message that the PM has already given him.  The spokesman isn’t running the country, he’s just passing along the messages that the person who is (supposedly :)) running the country wants to pass along.

In a sense, Christians are like David Cameron’s spokesman — we’re passing along the messages God wants us to pass along.

There’s a very big difference, though.  If the PM’s spokesman doesn’t pass along the message correctly, we won’t know he messed up unless someone tells us.  We can’t listen in on their private conversation to know whether the messenger is doing his job.

It’s different with Christians.  If I don’t pass along what God has said correctly, I have to answer to God (just like the PM’s spokesman has to answer to the PM), but anyone else can see it, too.  They can look at the Bible, check out what I said, and say, “Hey, that guy’s an idiot (or a liar)!  God didn’t say that at all!”

Anyone can “listen in” to what God has told me by looking in the Bible.  No one has to trust me about what God has said, and no one should.  People should “check” me.  In Acts 17, some people in a place called Berea were called “noble” because they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  In other words, they didn’t just trust the preacher who came along, they checked him to see if what he said was really in the Bible.  God said they were noble for doing so.

Christianity doesn’t exalt a man, it exalts God.  No one can speak on God’s behalf, they can only say what God has already said.  Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, writing to a church that he had personally founded, said, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (II Corinthians 1:24).  Christians stand by faith in God, and our faith is not under the dominion of any man.

Some Christians get messed up on this point.  They decide that a preacher or teacher, or someone claiming to be a prophet, is the “man of God”, and they stop “checking” him.  They give him dominion over their faith.  If “X” said it, it must be true — whoever “X” is.  God spoke to X, so we must do what X says.  They place their faith in that person, rather than standing by faith in God.  It leads to all kinds of problems in the church, and often in their personal lives as well.  No one is in God’s place.  There is no reason for us to trust any person, when we can “check” them.  If what they say isn’t “checkable”, if they can’t show me in God’s Word, why should I put them in dominion over my faith, or my life?  I’m trusting X rather than God, and I’m not standing by faith anymore.

So the answer is no, we don’t “speak for God”.  However, words are funny things.  The word “for” has multiple meanings.  Someone could say “I speak for God” meaning “I’m speaking in favour of God,” or “I’m speaking to defend God against people who criticise Him,” etc.   I’ve heard Christians say those things, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Sometimes, Christians will even say it, meaning, “I’m speaking what God has said.”  There is nothing wrong with that, either, though to prevent misunderstandings it would probably be wiser to say it differently.  If we say it with that meaning, though, we need to realise — it is incumbent on us to prove God said it.  No one should believe ME, of all people.  I’m just a guy on some blog, or to the people in our church, just a guy who stands up behind a pulpit and talks.  So what?  They’d better be able to see that I’m telling the truth when I say that God said something — it had better be in the Bible.  They shouldn’t have to trust someone like me, because I have a deep, dark secret — I make mistakes.  Don’t tell anyone, or before you know it, it will be all over the Internet.

What we cannot ever do is “speak for God” in the sense of speaking “in the place of God”.  “For” can have that meaning, too, and that is often the sense in which those who aren’t Christians ask the question.  If God is silent on a topic, we have no right to speak as if He has spoken.  Though few Christians would explicitly say they are “speaking for God” in this sense, in practice we can drift into speaking in a way that communicates our own importance as an authority, rather than a humility that says, “Please look at what God has said.  This isn’t my message, it is His.”

Jesus said, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me” to all the world (Acts 1:8).  We are responsible to “speak for God” in the sense of telling what we know of Him.  But honest witnesses don’t make their own stuff up; they tell what they have seen, heard, learned, etc.  If we are good witnesses, we will not only tell what God has said, but we will tell it in a way that reflects His character.  Otherwise, our testimony to Him is wrong.  Sadly, sometimes Christians are testifying true words about Christ, but in a way that reveals much more about themselves than it does about Christ.

So to tie this in to the original question, if someone “speaking for God,” in the sense of passing along a message and expecting other people to pay attention, they need to be ready to prove from the Bible that it is God’s message, and they had best be speaking it in the way God wants them to speak it.  Otherwise, at best they are lousy ambassadors, and at worst, they are frauds.

In this blog, as in my preaching, I’m not trying to “speak for God”.  I’m trying to, firstly, point out (to Christians in particular, but others are more than welcome) what God has said.  Second, I need to point it out in a way that others can see it themselves in His Word, so that people know it is God and not me.  Third, I want to help people think about how to apply it.

For Christians, this is so our thinking can get more in tune with God’s thinking, and our actions can get more in tune with what pleases Him.   For those who are not yet Christians, perhaps it will help them to see better what Christianity really is, and to see better who God really is.  He is a God worth knowing, serving, and following, a God of real truth and real love.  The more I can help people (Christians or not) see God as He is, the better.  If I start to “speak for Him”, I’m putting myself in the way, obscuring the view.  Instead of speaking for Him, we should point towards Him and what He has said.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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12 Responses to Do Christians “Speak for God”?

  1. Kristen Swan says:

    I get what you’re saying. I supposed my issue isn’t so much with what Christians say (although I do disagree with certain things), it’s the manner in which some people calling themselves Christians choose to say it.

    For example, the ones that get called extremists. The ones who will go out of their way to say nasty things to people — like protesting the funerals of gay people or soldiers and things, holding signs with things like “GOD HATES FAGS” written on them…that — it doesn’t seem to be spreading the “word of God”, it’s more like spreading hate. I’ve seen videos of protests where they have signs saying things like, “burn in hell whores” – that doesn’t seem like they’re trying to turn people away from sin or save them in any way.

    I have some gay friends and they are very aware of the fact that most religions are against that and that a lot of people who are religious aren’t okay with homosexuality – how could they not be aware of it when they’re not even allowed to get married in a bunch of places and in the UK, their marriage isn’t even considered “marriage” aside from the legal side of things and they’re not allowed anything religious as part of their “civil service”.

    My point is that they know that Christians (well maybe not all Christians) truly believe that they are going to burn in hell for being gay, they don’t need people to tell them that and they don’t need to be screamed at or made to feel like less of a person or have hateful signs shoved in their faces.

    I thought God was supposed to love all his creations. Maybe he judges them for their sins when they die, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he “hates” them, just the sin (sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble so much about the gay thing, it was just the easiest example).

    Anyway, it’s those Christians that I’m talking about…that isn’t speaking just what is in the Bible, that is crossing a line and thinking they have the authority to say how God feels and the way in which they choose to do it is so aggressive and cruel and makes them seem worse than the people they’re usually protesting against. That’s what I meant by thinking they have the right to speak for God, when they’re not just saying what the Bible says.

    I’m not Christian, I’m not any other religion either or Atheist, I’m Agnostic. I’m not really sure what I believe but I find it hard to put my faith in any set religion because of the way certain people choose to practice those religions — like with Christianity, some people make it seem like it’s peaceful and the Christian version of God is all about love and forgiveness while other Christians make it look like being Christian just makes you hateful and arrogant to the point where the Bible can be twisted and interpreted and used as a weapon to hurt anyone who disagrees with them.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Kristen. I understood the central focus of your question. Like I said, it will take more than one post to answer it.

      I also understood that the “speaking for God” thing was sort of a fringe part of your question — to you. To a Christian, though, it is foundational. Too often, Christians lose focus on what it is to be an “ambassador for Christ.” We need to go back to what that means, which means going back to what the Bible tells us. Since this is a Christian blog, you are going to have to put up with me taking it in the order that is most important to Christians. 🙂

      From a Christian (Biblical) perspective, we can’t really answer your question until we are very clear about our basis for opening our mouths at all. I should give you an answer from the Bible. So that’s why I started with this aspect of it. It would be silly for me to try to talk about what kind of ambassador for Christ we should be without laying out God’s terms of ambassadorship. That would be like telling an employee he/she is a good or bad employee without giving any employment guidelines or instructions. We may have a “gut feeling” that someone is doing a good or bad job, but our instinctive reaction isn’t going to help them do better.

      Now, you’ve said a lot in this comment that tells me you’ve made an assessment of certain Christians (or alleged Christians). You think they are going beyond what the Bible says. If you are correct, they’ve violated the Biblical principles I’ve given you in this post. If you are mistaken, they are doing what they are supposed to be doing — being ambassadors for Christ. This post gives the foundation for Christians to figure out whether your assessment is right. We can only judge it by what the Bible says.

      That’s what I’ll be doing in follow-up posts on this. Not today, but it is coming. There are other things I need to be posting about, but this topic of how we represent Christ is actually a lot more important for Christians than it is for Agnostics. It is important for us because we love Him, and we are to be “to the praise of His glory.” We can’t be that if we are giving a muddled reflection of Him.

      Finally in your last paragraph, you talked about different “versions” of God. The Bible version of God is that He is indeed about love and forgiveness, but just as much about truth and righteousness (real righteousness, not human self-righteousness). From a human perspective, we feel a tension between love and righteousness, because people don’t do very well when it comes to righteousness, so how can we be truthful and righteous and still be loving? For God there is no such tension — He resolved it when Jesus died on the cross for us. That is my next post on your question — God’s heart toward sinners. I might quote from this comment of yours in that post, if you don’t mind.

  2. Kristen Swan says:

    Ah, okay, I understand what you mean.

    In the post, you mentioned that if someone doesn’t believe that what is in the Bible is the word of God that they’re not really Christian (or something along those lines), I guess I’m just wondering if you would consider people proper Christians if they believed what was in the Bible was the word of God but chose to twist and interpret it in their own way.

    Like the ones who read that being gay is a sin as “God hates fags” and then chooses to spread that message – if someone is an ambassador of Christ, as you put it, should the message that they spread be hateful, about how God hates certain people for certain life choices or should it be about love and forgiveness and redemption? (And does the way a person chooses to spread the word of God matter? I know not all Christians would carry big signs and protest and scream at people, some do it more peacefully).

    Basically, do proper Christians consider people like that Christian or just — impostors, for lack of a better term?

    It’s only really those Christians I’ve made an assessment of, they seem to be the loudest and the ones that the non-Christian world takes most notice of, it’s kind of hard to judge all Christians with people like that representing Christianity because it‘s hard to tell if they’re speaking for all Christians or not (kind of like how it’s difficult for some people to view the Muslim faith in a positive light because there are extremist Muslims who are behaving badly, being terrorists and stuff like that).

    Oh, and I wouldn’t mind you quoting the comment.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Kristen, real Christians are imperfect, and sometimes act like lousy ambassadors. Fake “Christians” who are just looking for attention, or maybe even want to discredit Christianity, aren’t “ambassadors” at all. Some people might think they are doing something for God, but don’t really know Him, and aren’t “ambassadors”, either, even if somewhat sincere. I would have a hard time figuring out who is in what category, and it isn’t my job to do so.

      On the other hand, sometimes people who say things we don’t like may be saying exactly what God says. God is always loving, but He isn’t always “comfortable”. Sometimes He makes us uncomfortable because we have real problems needing sorted. Sometimes people are too stubborn to listen. Jesus had some very hard words for the religious hypocrites in His day. They knew exactly what they were doing, and how wrong it was.

      I commented very briefly on Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist “church” in the first of my two posts on Anders Breivik’s “Christianity”. I don’t really want to spend any more words on them than I have to.

  3. kathryn says:

    those who aren’t christians or committed christians ask why christians speak for god?? um hello christians don’t speak for god either!!!!!! nor are the speaking as god!! the only human who spoke for god was jesus while he was on earth!!!! the holy spirit is the only one who speaks for god an in a way is god!!! christians can claim all they want but you don’t speak for god and the sad thing is is all the damage a christian does while “speaking” for god – not only do they get it wrong they paint a very dark and bad picture of god!!!! no christian speak for god and quit trying to deceive yourselves or others by thinking you do !!!! god speaks for himself

    im so amazed at how “god” sounds exactly like the person “speaking” for him , duh thats because it is the person speaking not god!!!!

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Kathryn, thanks for the comment. Sounds like you pretty much agree with what I said. The only way in which I can “speak for God” is to tell people what Jesus said when He was on earth, and what the Holy Spirit already said in the Bible. I don’t have any right to claim I am speaking for God except when I am saying exactly what He said.

      Here was my comment. It agrees with what you said: ‘If I tell someone what the Bible says, in a sense, I am indeed ”speaking for God”, but not in the sense of claiming any right to tell God the way things should be, or any right to speak about things God didn’t say. Nor am I setting myself up as an authority in any way. Rather, I’m just letting people know what He has already said.’

      There you have it. God speaks for Himself, just like you said. All I can do is let people know what He has said, and no one has to take my word for it. They can check it out in the Bible for themselves to see if I am telling the truth about what He said.

  4. kam75 says:

    It’s when ” Christians ” close the bible and pretend to ” speak for God ” where the damage is done. Assuming what God’s will is for ones life bases on circumstances. It’s making snap judgements and not drawing a line bewtween them and a God. It’s the misleading misguiding and misdirecting they do in God’s name. Making.God look bad, insensitive and quite uncaring

    Telling me that God had better things to do and that my requests weren’t his will

    I do know God doesn’t need to consult people or run things by us to get some kind of approval geez church people

    I can’t attend church due to people
    I don’t love God due to people

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, kam. I absolutely agree that a lot of Christians say a lot of things “in God’s name” that give a wrong impression of who God is.

      This one mystifies me, though: “I don’t love God due to people.” I’ve never understood this when someone says it.

      God tells us people are sinners, all of us. He tells us that a lot of people will come in His name and say a lot of things that aren’t true. And He tells us that even those who truly are trying to follow Him are going to say and do things that are wrong sometimes.

      So when we find out that people are just like He said they would be, that is a reason not to love Him? When I see the way people are, to me, that’s just a reminder that the same evil is in me, too. And then I remember that He loves me, anyway. So seeing the way people are makes me love Him even more.

  5. Kathryn says:

    Doesnt ” mystify ” or confuse me at all . God has a lot of explaining to do in why I was born the way I was . The thing is only God can not people ! I don’t want their off based opinion or justification with the same old fallen world sin excuse either ! I was told 2 things : God doesnt make mistakes and he did it on purpose – wow so being born as an incomplete male but raised a female was not a mistake ? I can’t have kids , I’m asexusl – I will never marry then again who would I marry ? Chromosomaly I’m xy not xx – the y is silent .

    I dont love God in part due the things he did – and to allow people to justify it
    Sin? Who’s sin ? Why was born this way ? There will never purpose for this . It has done Nothing but rob from me !

    I was told god called me to be single to serve him ? Are u kidding me ! I know no one with such a call geez !

    People have said everything points to God – well that’s very troubling and quite upsetting

    I do not love God and just because it ” mystifies you ” doesn’t mean anything to me

    Christians have associated Eveything wrong in ,my life , everything sad as beimg his will

    I don’t want his will – ill put it that way

    Christians also told me god had a different plan for me – and they found this out how ? They didn’t find out as they never knew !!!!!!!! Goc had other plans ? The problem with that is they didn’t know what the plans are so didnt know if they were different !

    I dont have love for God
    I dont trust God –
    As God has been all words no experience
    And of course I was to blame
    Blame ? I’m not God – Im not responsible for what God does
    I can’t be God in my life so if God does anything – Its on him not me

    I gave up on ever experiencing anything
    But I’m fine – know no different

    I joined a support group to help me recove from bad religious experiences and it’s people

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Well, Kathryn, my Bible tells me things in this life aren’t always fair. That’s why the Bible talks about hope for the life to come. If our hope is only in this life, we’re miserable. That’s not me, that’s the Bible (I Corinthians 15:19).

      People get caught up in the problems of this life as if that is all there is. The Bible tells us there is a great life to come, lasting forever, if we’ll trust Him and turn to Him. This life is just a blip by comparison. The Bible never promised us it would be great in this life. In fact, it promised pretty much the exact opposite of that. There are no easy answers to your problems, but then, there really aren’t easy answers to anyone’s problems.

      Ultimately, it comes down to this. If you believe we are sinners, like the Bible says, and you believe we have no hope without Christ, like the Bible says, then you’ll look to the Cross. You’ll see what Christ did for us. You’ll see He didn’t have to die, that we were actually pretty unlovable, but He loved us anyway, and died for us. And if you really believe that, you’ll learn to love and trust Him, no matter the problems of this life.

      If you don’t really believe that, then nothing will make any difference to you. God is dealing with us on eternal terms, on our spiritual need to be cleansed and forgiven of sin, and if we insist on interacting with Him on the terms of this life rather than on eternal terms, we’ll never be satisfied, He’ll never “match up” to our expectations of Him.

      So you’ll have to make a decision. Am I going to take God on His terms, looking at the picture of spiritual life and eternity, and His love for me in dealing with my sin by giving His Son, or am I going to insist on taking Him on my terms, based on this life?

  6. Jerwade says:

    Man cannot comprehend the existence of his errors, when too deeply immersed in them.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I apologise for the delay in clearing this through moderation — the blog was dormant.

      What you say is very true. Fortunately, God uses His Word and His Holy Spirit to break through our blind spots — if we are willing to listen to Him. Too often people won’t even read the Bible — perhaps because they don’t WANT to comprehend the existence of their errors, or perhaps more likely because they already know they are out there but don’t really want to face up to them.

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