Ministers of the gospel are servants of Christ and His people. The Bible specifically reminds them that they are never to act as "lords over God's heritage." They are not to be unaccountable, doing just whatever they feel like doing and speaking as if they were the final authority by which their flocks should decide what to believe and how to live. Preachers are to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11) but they are always to do so "according to the proportion of faith" (Romans 12:6) or in accordance with the faith of the gospel set forth in Scripture. The sum of all this is that a true preacher will speak with authority, he will not simply meander among a myriad of conflicting theories. But his authority will be that of "thus saith the Lord." By that I mean that his authority will be clearly settled on what the Bible says and he will be happy to submit whatever he teaches to the scrutiny of the written word of God.
This is classic Protestantism. By contrast, Roman Catholicism elevates her church tradition to equality with Scripture. Indeed she makes it superior to Scripture for she always interprets Scripture by her tradition, never her tradition by Scripture-and with good reason, for if she did the Scripture would overthrow the whole system of vain tradition and superstition that Rome has foisted on the world as primitive Christianity. Historically the line was clearly drawn between Romanism and Protestantism. The Bible was and remains the sole rule of faith and practice for a true Christian.
With the widespread popular acceptance of the Charismatic movement, however, a new situation has arisen. We are constantly confronted with preachers who claim "a word of knowledge" or who receive a direct revelation from God and who demand to have their revelations accepted by their church members as the clearly expressed word and will of God. I know of pastors who have led their people up one blind alley after another on the authority of some claimed prophetic revelation. Anyone who dared to ask how God could reverse Himself so rapidly and so completely was dealt with as a rebel against God and a stubborn rejecter of His will.
It's dangerous to allow a man to think that he can speak infallibly and that his statements do not need to be checked and received or rejected according to what the Bible says. It's dangerous to give any man such power over the consciences of others. That power belongs to Scripture alone. Yet this is precisely the power that many Charismatic-and dare I say it, Fundamentalist-pastors claim. "I am your pastor and I say so and so-if you do not accept this you are opposing God and His will." This is a particularly evil form of popery. Pastors are not popes and popes are not pastors. Popes ravage the flock of God; they come in between believers and the Lord; they remove a believer's divinely given right of reading and understanding God's word without it being filtered through the delusions and dreams of a self-appointed spiritual authority.