Consider Cornelius, the centurion. This man was not a preacher or a lay minister. In fact, being a Gentile, he wasn't even numbered among God's people. Yet, Scripture says this soldier was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:2).
Here was one busy man. Cornelius had 100 soldiers under his immediate command, yet he prayed every spare moment. And one day while in prayer, he heard the Lord speak to him. An angel appeared, calling Cornelius by name. The centurion recognized it as the voice of God and answered, "What is it, Lord?" (Acts 10:4).
The Lord spoke directly to Cornelius, telling him to find the apostle Peter. He gave him detailed instructions, including names, an address, even the words to say. Meanwhile, Peter was praying on a housetop when "there came a voice to him" (10:13). Again, the Holy Spirit gave detailed instructions: "Peter, you're about to hear some men at the door. Go with them, for I have sent them" (see Acts 10:19-20).
Peter followed the men to Cornelius' house for a truly divine appointment. What happened there shook the entire Jewish-Pentecostal church. The Lord opened the gospel to Gentiles. Yet, the hardest thing for the Jewish believers to accept was that God had spoken to a common, untrained Gentile. They could not understand how Cornelius had heard God's voice so clearly, and spoken with such power. It challenged every believer there.
Paul also received a revelation of Jesus directly from heaven. He testified that the things he was shown about Christ weren't taught by any man. Rather, while on his knees in prayer, he had heard the voice of Jesus Himself. "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). "It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (1:15-16).
Now, there were great teachers in Paul's day, leaders mighty in God's Word, such as Apollos and Gamaliel. And there were the apostles, who had walked and talked with Jesus. But Paul knew a secondhand revelation of Christ wouldn't be good enough. He had to have an ever-increasing revelation of Jesus—from the Lord Himself.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon