There are a plethora of fallacies concerning the principle of confirmation. Of all the topics that have been incorrectly taught, often from the pulpit, submission and confirmation are preeminent among them. God instituted these principles as a safeguard for His people. Unfortunately, what usually happens, in practice, is that the leaders of an organization pervert the principles of confirmation and submission, turning them into doctrinal ammunition, which they use to establish and defend a religious hierarchy – a hierarchy that in turn considers the sheep of God’s flock as their personal property, over whose minds and hearts they rule with an iron hand. Within these organizations, the sheep are not free to look to the Lord for direction and guidance in their lives. Instead, they must always look to the leaders of their organization for direction and counsel. Those who teach the principle of confirmation in this way are confusing confirmation with permission, and it is this fallacious perspective that instills in congregations a false sense of subordination to the leaders of an organization. Confirmation is intended to be a safeguard for men and women at all levels in a walk with God. What has been misunderstood is that the source of true confirmation must remain divinely supernatural in origin. Whenever confirmation becomes disjoint from the supernatural, it only serves to establish secular and denominational patterns of authority.
Jesus Christ, making reference to the principle of confirmation said concerning church discipline that, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed” (Matthew 18:17). It is this principle of two or three that is the basis of all spiritual confirmation. What becomes apparent is that when God speaks, He always does so at the mouth of two or three, and this theme runs throughout the scriptures. When God spoke to Pharaoh He gave him two similar but distinct dreams that none could interpret but Joseph (Genesis 41). Gideon in Judges 6 entreats the Lord twice to deal differently (and miraculously) with the dew and a fleece before he fully trusted that the Lord had really spoken concerning deliverance from the Midianites. In Acts chapter 10, when the Apostle Peter received a revelation concerning the grace that was to be poured out upon the Gentiles, he was given the same vision three times.
God, it seems, has never had a problem with repeating Himself. It is this wonderful commitment to repetition that is the foundation for a personal conviction that a word of direction is, in reality, a Word from God. In fact, without confirmation, a person is dismissed from any responsibility to follow any so-called “word,” because God will always find a way to confirm what He speaks. What must be understood is that true confirmation does not necessarily arise from the leadership or authority structure of any church organization. Often, confirmation arises from entirely independent sources. This idea is probably the most difficult theme for any person indoctrinated in the precepts of the Christian church to accept, because it challenges the relevance of organized religion. What it implies is that God is not limited to the artificial confines of any human concept of divine order. He can and does use anyone, inside or outside of an established church order to confirm His word. If God can open the mouth of a donkey to rebuke the madness of the prophet Balaam, why is it that people remain so stalwart in their defense of the doctrinal limitations of their religious organizations?
Although there were others Gideon could have deferred to in his pursuit of confirmation, he wisely chose to put the Lord on the spot, insisting that the confirmation of His word be given in an unmistakable way. In fact, what Gideon chose to require placed the responsibility entirely upon God to confirm that word by a miracle. Gideon asked God to confirm His word first by wetting a fleece and not the ground with the morning dew one day, and then wetting the ground but not the fleece with the dew the following day (Judges 6:36-40). Jehovah warned Pharaoh three times in a dream of the famine that was about to overtake the entire world. Yet the real confirmation that God had indeed spoken was that Joseph, by revelation, was able to relate to Pharaoh the interpretation of the dream, which no other person was able to do (Genesis 41). Peter’s revelation of the grace God was pouring out to the Gentiles came entirely by revelation, and Peter did not even bother to check the accuracy of his revelation with the other apostles before announcing with surety God’s intention. What is distinct in each of these examples is that there is always a supernatural element to confirmation. Unfortunately, this is where many religious organizations go awry. Whenever people are required by doctrine to seek confirmation among the leaders of their organization the supernatural aspect of confirmation is immediately subordinated to the requirements of church order. People imprisoned by this artificial requirement must then ask permission rather than seek confirmation. Soon, no one bothers seeking the Lord for a word that needs to be confirmed, and instead they begin simply to await new instructions from their leaders, who by doctrine are the only individuals qualified to determine what God is saying anyway. This sorry state of affairs is endemic of all organized Christian religion. These doctrinal constructs that limit the avenue of confirmation to a group of church leaders merely serve to protract the infancy of the congregation, and to keep the current leadership in power. God, of course, is not limited by any church structure, and will eventually bypass it, leaving those organizations and their foolish doctrinal restraints behind.
The Pharisees and other religious contemporaries of Christ were in constant conflict with Him because He failed to walk in submission to their traditions. From their standpoint, Christ should have consulted with them before He raised the dead or healed the sick on the Sabbath. Yet Christ never allowed the artificial constraints of accepted religious practice to limit the spontaneity of faith. This is perhaps the greatest problem with the way confirmation and submission has been imposed on people – the incorrect application of those principles always limits what a person may do on his own. When confirmation and submission are taught in a wrong way, congregations become enslaved to the narrow-minded viewpoints of a few leaders. Any congregation trapped in that unfortunate prison will fail to develop beyond the artificial boundaries of their leadership.
This is where so many organizations have missed the mark in their pursuit of the will of God. Divine order has no value to the individual believer unless it is functioning correctly. Once any religious church order departs from the will of God, that order itself becomes an impediment to everything God wants. It is ridiculous to believe that any valid confirmation to anything God speaks will be forthcoming through individuals whose only merit is that they are submissive to an organizational hierarchy. Submission alone is meaningless if it is not offered in a right way. There are many, many good men and women trapped in submission to organized Christianity who have no authority because they are in submission to leaders who have no authority. All authority comes from Christ alone; it does not descend through a religious organization, regardless of who originally established it.
The fallacy of Roman Catholicism is that the divine authority of the vicar is resident in the Pope, because the divine authority of the Apostle Peter was passed down from antiquity to the modern church. This is known as the Doctrine of Petrine Succession. All doctrines of succession make similar claims. Almost every organized Christian religion boasts of leaders who were appointed or endorsed by their predecessors – and who rule their organizations from that standpoint. Yet, no doctrine of succession can ever establish divine authority all it can ever do is maintain organizational continuity. After the first apostles died, the Christian church continued on, yet there was a dramatic decline in its spiritual quality. The Christian church as it exists today is a far cry from what is described in the Book of Acts. Every Christian movement follows a similar allegory – a monumental start, followed by a precipitous decline. This is a great lesson to every Christian believer. Christ does not dwell in the organization. To find Christ, the believer must look elsewhere.
Is that statement offensive? If so, it is important that to consider what the scriptures teach about the subject rather than relying on men and women with a vested interest in maintaining their religious positions to describe how divine order should work. If God has given a word, then the hearer is responsible for its performance even if a thousand apostles and prophets deny that it is a word from God. A person must be certain that he or she knows what the will of God is personally, or that person may be in for real difficulty. One young man described in the scriptures learned that lesson the hard way, and he paid for it with his life! In 1st Kings 14, Jehovah instructed a young man to go to Bethel and prophesy against the idolatrous alter that Jeroboam had built. That young man was specifically instructed not to eat any food, or drink any water, and to return home on a different route than the one he used to get to Bethel in the first place. His downfall was that he allowed another prophet to talk him out of the original word.
This story illustrates is how seriously God takes the word that He delivers. If anyone is allowed to contravene a word from the Lord, even if that person is a recognized prophet or apostle, there is still jeopardy. This is why recognition of proper confirmation becomes all the more important. Once God confirms His word, by whatever means, God holds the hearer responsible.
Perhaps the most dangerous and endemic fallacy of all is that messages delivered from the pulpit, or other official channels, are implicitly confirmed words from God. They are not. In fact, it is the subscription to this fallacy by the congregation that has resulted in the destruction of entire churches. One problem with the pulpit and other official channels is that in times of crisis both are used as forums for political gain, instead of conduits for the will of God. Some years ago there was a church that became entrenched in issues that caused a rift to develop in its leadership. Instead of seeking the Lord for confirmation, there was a great move to exclude the dissenting parties, and the pulpit became a political forum that was used to disseminate the sanctioned viewpoint. Many of those who engineered that exclusion became the de-facto leaders of that church, but God did not honor it, and the church eventually ceased to exist. They stumbled over the confirmation stumbling block, mistaking popular agreement, for Godly confirmation.
Even if a multitude of apostles, prophets and other ministries agree together that a certain policy is God’s word, does not necessarily mean that God said anything about it. Should a lone prophet stand and dispute what the others are saying, it is in the best interests of all involved to take heed and listen. 1st Kings 22 relates a story concerning a multitude of prophets assembled by King Ahab to speak to him the voice of the Lord concerning an upcoming battle. All of these prophets, to a man, spoke favorable words to King Ahab, encouraging him to pursue the battle. They assured him that the Lord would be with him, and that he would be victorious. King Jehoshaphat, with whom Ahab was allied, was not convinced. He pressed Ahab to present just one more prophet. Ahab reluctantly agreed, summoning Macaiah, who Ahab hated, saying, “He always speaks evil concerning me.” Macaiah disagreed with all of the other so-called prophets, prophesying that a lying spirit from the Lord was speaking through them to entice Ahab to destruction. Ahab failed to heed Macaiah’s warning and was killed. A multitude of agreement is not confirmation.
These statements on the surface may seem to contradict so much of what has been taught concerning the principles of authority and confirmation within the framework of divine order. Without a doubt shepherds, elders and other ministries should be capable of bearing witness to the voice of the Lord. However, Godly principles only work when they are correctly applied. Merely building a framework that appears on the surface to be “divine-order” is meaningless, unless it functions correctly on the inside. Many men who claim to have authority are in reality only organizational appointees without any real divine backing. If God does not back the ministry, then the ministry is useless, and the organizational credentials are nothing but a sham. There are so many claiming the ministry of apostle or prophet, yet there is so little understanding of the chasm between what they manifest in their lives and the scriptural definition of those ministries. This deficiency must be corrected or the Christian fellowship will continue its decline.
The single most important element in confirmation is revelation. To seek confirmation from individuals without revelation is foolishness. While some have correctly asserted that authority is more important than revelation, they overlook the fact that authority without revelation is useless. In fact, I question that any godly authority is granted without revelation. Certainly the Apostle Paul understood that since he writes in Galatians that he submitted the gospel to the other apostles because of a revelation.
Realize that Paul went to the other apostles because it was a revelation to him that he should do so. Many have construed this passage to mean that Paul was setting some sort of an apostolic precedent that all must follow. That is simply not the case. Paul did not submit to these men because he had to, or because they were men of reputation, he did not care about their religious positions. In fact, Paul had already been preaching his gospel for fourteen years before he submitted it to anyone. He was already convinced that he had heard the Lord’s voice long before he brought before the other apostles. He submitted what he already knew to be a word from the Lord, a word he had actively pursued for many years – he was not asking permission to begin. While many religious leaders shackle their people in the chains of confirmation doctrines, God is speaking something else about it. Confirmation was never meant to be some sort of a doctrinal restriction that a person must satisfy before embarking on some endeavor of faith. Confirmation encompasses much more than the small circle of a religious organization’s leadership. If God can speak through Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22:28-30), why is it that so many so-called leaders reserve for themselves that ability?
No one but Daniel the prophet was able to relate to the king both the content of the dream and its interpretation. God was speaking to the king, and Daniel confirmed it. The king’s requirement nearly cost every wise man in Babylon his life. Nevertheless, Nebuchadnezzar was wise enough to understand that the veracity of the interpretation could only be established if someone could relate it entirely by revelation. This is why revelation is so important. Without revelation there is no reliable confirmation.
How then is the voice of the Lord established? The first and most important step is that an individual must have a personal conviction that God has spoken. Too many people submit themselves to their leaders long before this occurs, and the result is perpetual spiritual infancy. A personal relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is the single most important factor in the life of every Christian. That personal relationship cannot be developed by an unhealthy reliance on the spiritual faculties of other people. There should be constant personal prayer, not only about personal revelations, but concerning every word that is disseminated from the pulpit or other channels. No “so-called” word from the Lord should be taken implicitly. Every word is subject to confirmation, and the most important confirmation is a personal witness first. Secondly, seek the Lord sincerely to confirm the word. Gideon put the Lord on the spot, as did Nebuchadnezzar. Beware of the multitude of voices that stand like cheerleaders offering overwhelming approval. God may be speaking, but sometimes it is Macaiah, the only contrary voice, who is correctly relating God’s intention. Confirmation does not necessarily arise through human channels either. Perhaps a dream or vision is repeated many times. Look for these things.
Finally, should the Lord make it real that a revelation is to be submitted to the leaders and shepherds; do not be satisfied with a tacit response from unqualified individuals. Look for men and women with faith, divine authority and revelation. For matters of great importance, consider the stance that Nebuchadnezzar took with his wise men, and expect an answer to come by revelation. Such a requirement is neither unscriptural, nor is it out of order. Try laying it before the shepherds in the following way, “I believe that God has spoken a word to me. Please pray about it, and tell me what he said.” Requiring such a response removes the answer completely from the realm of human wisdom, and places it entirely in God’s hands. That is the greatest confirmation of all.
There are so many people to whom God has spoken who are sitting on the sidelines, discouraged and confused, because the leaders to whom they look will not support or acknowledge that God has given them a word. These are the people for whom this message is intended. God is determined to liberate you from the bondages of false religious obligations. Take to heart what has been written in these pages and begin to do the very thing the Lord has told you to do. Without a doubt, there will be those who will react, just as the Pharisees did, but no one will ever accomplish God’s will without opposition. You do not need permission from other men to begin. If God has given you a Word, and confirmed it, then get out there and do it!