Holy Spirit leadership is infallible. Human following is not.
The writers of the Scriptures were protected by the Holy Spirit so that, the revelations recorded by them were canonized and preserved for later generations. The canon was closed making a complete and inerrant Bible. The 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New are a complete revelation and are an infallible rule of faith and practice. There has never been a group of writers like those who penned the Christian Scriptures. They were kept from error both in what they received and in what they transmitted so that what we have today are the very words of God.
Having said that, does it follow that God would never directly speak to, personally guide or miraculously reveal Himself to anyone again after the Canon is closed? Is personal, direct guidance only for Prophets and Apostles, inspired Bible writers? I think not. Personal, direct guidance since the days of the Apostles is real. It just is not infallibly received or infallibly followed. It is not and cannot be infallibly received and followed, precisely because the Canon is closed. The Bible is a sufficient revelation for faith and practice but since the days of the Apostles, it has been copiously misapplied and misunderstood. No person since the New Testament has been protected and guided in exactly the same way as the Scripture writers were. That is the very thing that makes our Bible so precious and valuable.
Reading and interpreting the Scripture is a different issue from that of being inspired to write Scripture. I do not believe that God gives infallibility of interpretation in this age. But just because that is true, does not make the infallibility of Scripture untrue. One truth does not rule out the other truth. You can have infallible Scripture without having infallible interpretation.
In exactly the same way personal and direct leadership is given, by the Holy Spirit, to individuals in this age, in specific situations. This leadership of the Holy Spirit is infallible simply because He cannot make a mistake. The understanding and following of the Holy Spirit is not infallible because those who receive the leading are not perfectly kept from misunderstanding what the Holy Spirit is saying, and it is never promised that they will be. Only Scripture writers have that privilege.
An illustration of what I am saying is found in Romans 7. (Remember, I am not saying that this is an interpretation of Romans 7, but I am saying that an issue found in Romans 7 is illustrative of what I am talking about here.) In Romans 7 Paul says that the Law is spiritual, that the Law is holy and just and good . There is nothing wrong with the Law. It commands perfect obedience, reveals what must be obeyed, and stands as an eternal witness to sinful humanity’s inability to keep it. The fault is not in the Law but in those who receive it.
So it is with the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this age. I believe that God specifically leads individuals by speaking to them and giving personal leadership for personal situations. I do deny that I, or any other man since the Apostles, can infallibly receive that leadership.
How do I know if what I believe to be direct and personal leadership from the Holy Spirit is His leadership?
Paul gives us an answer: ”Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thess 5: 20-21).”
I understand that this command is concerning prophesying by those in the church who claimed to be prophets but the principle is the same. Test everything you hear. Hold on to that which proves to be true.
John the Apostle gives essentially the same instructions:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (KJV 1 John 4:1-6).”
John is saying that we must test everything that comes to us by its Christology. Recognize that God is in the believer and that He is greater than Satan and Satan’s teachers. We must test what we hear by the message. If they speak according to the principles of the world the world will hear them. If something is spoken from God it will agree with John’s message (and the other Apostles).
Isaiah had a direct way of giving this truth.”To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20).”
We end up at almost that same place as the strict cessationist but not quite. The Bible is our infallible guide in all matters. Where it does not speak specifically, principles are given that, if applied, will confirm or expose the teaching or leading we are dealing with.
The difference between the strict cessationist and the non-cessationist finally comes down to 2 things. Does knowing God mean that the individual has a relationship with the God of the Scriptures, or does it mean he is limited to only knowing the Scriptures of God? It doesn’t have to be a choice. Only those who deny that God speaks to His children today make it so.