My favorite way to address the question of who speaks for God is with this short illustrative story:
Imagine you are a spy working undercover for the CIA. You're in a hostile country, with the goal of sending home enemy secrets. In this setting of danger and intrigue, you find yourself approached by a man that you have never met. He claims to likewise be a CIA agent, and he informs you that he has vital information to share with you, and you are now to follow his orders. What would you do? Obviously, you would demand some kind of proof that this man really is who he claims to be, and that headquarters really has sent him. To do anything less would be to invite disaster.
Likewise, there are many who claim to have vital information from God (headquarters!) for us. Are they really who they claim to be? Do they really represent whom they claim to represent?
There is a way to know, and it can be explained by returning to our story. Only this time, imagine that before you left for your assignment, you had been informed that a new agent would soon approach you. He would be 6’5”, with one blue eye, and the other brown. He would walk with a noticeable limp, and he would identify himself as agent “Truth.” Then he would provide you with instructions as to how you were to complete your mission.
Having been given such detailed information from headquarters beforehand, you would easily be able to identify the true agent.
In a similar way, God has provided a means for us to discern whom He has sent.
An examination of the organized religions of the world yields a very interesting observation. In most every case the scenario is the same . . . first came the man and then the plan. In other words, at the onset of a new religious movement, first a leader steps forward (the man) and then he delivers a new revelation (the plan). This describes the origin of every organized religion in the world with the exception of one.
With Christianity the order of events is reversed -- first the plan and then the man! Jesus is the only one who was fully introduced to those who were waiting for him, long before he would come! Headquarters (God), through the writings of the Old Testament prophets, set forth many unique details about Jesus and his mission, centuries in advance. Writing from the 14th century to the 4th century B.C., the prophets revealed that:
- He would be conceived of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14);
- He would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2);
- He would arrive exactly 483 years after the decree was issued to allow the Jewish people to rebuild the walls of their besieged city (Daniel 9:25);
- He would heal the blind and the deaf (Isaiah 29:17-19);
- He would present himself as Messiah by humbly riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9);
- He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13);
- He would be unfairly judged and condemned to die (Isaiah 53:8-9),
- He would be abandoned by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7-9);
- He would be rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:3);
- He would be crucified (Psalm 22:11-16) as an offering for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6);
- He would raise from the dead (Isaiah 53:10-12);
- He, although a Jew, would become a light to the Gentiles, and bring salvation to the whole world (Isaiah 49:5-6).
Jesus Christ did not come unannounced to deliver a new plan, but to fulfill a detailed plan that had already been given centuries before! This is what Christ himself was referring to in Matthew 5:17 when He said, “Think not that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets; I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
No other religion can make the same claim. Whether it's Mohammed, or Joseph Smith, or Krishna, or Mary Baker Eddy, or Charles Taze Russell, or Sun Myung Moon, or Buddha, or--well, you get the point. With all of these religions first came the man and then the plan. Each of these religious leaders and their various plans came unannounced, leaving no way to verify their claims.
Not so with Jesus. By fulfilling these (and nearly 300 other Old Testament passages which spoke of him in advance), Christ demonstrated that he really was sent by God.
First the plan then the man! That's how we can know who speaks for God.