God Guides by His Word by R. A. Torrey
We read in Ps. 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” and in the 130th verse of this same Psalm we read, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” God’s own written word is the chief instrument that God uses in our guidance. God led the children of Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
The written Word, the Bible, is our pillar of cloud and fire. As it leads we follow. One of the main purposes of the Bible, the Word of God, is practical guidance in the affairs of everyday life. All other leadings must be tested by the Word. Whatever promptings may come to us from any other source, whether it be by human counsel, or by the prompting of some invisible spirit, or in whatever way it may come, we must test the promptings, or the guidance or the counsel by the sure Word of God, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).
Whatever spirit or impulse may move us, whatever dream or vision may come to us, or whatever apparently providential opening we may have, all must be tested by the Word of God. If the impulse or leading, or prompting, or vision, or providential opening is not according to the book, it is not of God. “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my Word, let him speak my Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:28).
If Christians would only study the Word they would not be misled as they so often are by seducing spirits, or by impulses of any kind, that are not of God but of Satan or of their own deceitful hearts. How often people have said to me that the Spirit was leading them to do this or that, when the thing that they were being led to do was in direct contradiction to God’s Word.
For example, a man once called upon me to consult me about marrying a woman who he said was a beautiful Christian, and that they had deep sympathy in the work of God, and the Spirit of God was leading them to marry one another. “But,” I said to the man, “you already have one wife.” “Yes,” he replied, “but you know we have not gotten on well together.” “Yes,” I said, “I know that, and furthermore, I have had a conversation with her and believe it is your fault more than hers. But, however that may be, if you should put her away and marry this other woman, Jesus Christ says that you would be an adulterer.” “Oh, but,” he replied, “the Spirit of God is leading us to one another.”
Now whatever spirit may have been leading that man, it certainly was not the Spirit of God, for the Spirit of God cannot lead anyone to do that which is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. I replied to this man: “You are a liar and a blasphemer. How dare you attribute to the Spirit of God action that is directly contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ?” Many, many times Christian people have promptings from various sources which they attribute to the Holy Spirit, but which are in plain and flat contradiction to the clear and definite teachings of God’s Word. The truth is, many so neglect the Word that they are all in a maze regarding the impulses and leadings that come to them, as to whence they are; whereas, if they studied the Word they would at once detect the real character of these leadings.
But the Word itself must be used in a right way if we are to find the leading of God from it. We have no right to seek guidance from the Word of God by using it in any fantastic way, as some do. For example, there is no warrant whatever in the Word of God for trying to find out God’s will by opening the Bible at random and putting our finger on some text without regard to its real meaning as made clear by the context. There is no warrant whatever in the Bible for any such use of it. The Bible is not a talisman, or a fortune-telling book, it is not in any sense a magic book; it is a revelation from an infinitely wise God, made in a reasonable way, to reasonable beings, and we obtain God’s guidance from the Bible by taking the verse of Scripture in which the guidance is found, in the connexion in which it is found in the Bible, and interpreting it, led by the Holy Spirit, in its context as found in the Bible.
R. A. Torrey, The Voice of God in the Present Hour (New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1917), 153–158.