What Do The Trends Say About God's Voice
In the Christian world there is much confusion about how God speaks to His people. There are voices saying that God speaks much the same way He did in the Old Testament, through direct revelation and dreams. This has been the view of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements for over one hundred years. In more recent decades, similar thoughts are gaining popularity in non-Charismatic churches. Contemporary “Christian” leaders are claiming that God speaks directly to them in various ways and that we should listen for the voice of God in our own lives. Books have been written about this and countless curriculums are being produced propagating this teaching. What is our perspective of this trend in light of the Bible?
Examples of God Speaking in the Bible
When it comes to the Bible, we see God speaking to people at different times and in different ways. These divine communications, however, were quite rare. Over a span of four thousand years you can read of cases here and there.
- At the time of the Fall, God spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:9-13).
- A thousand years later, God spoke directly to Noah and told him of His plan to destroy the living creatures on the earth (Genesis 6:12-13).
- Roughly five hundred years later, God spoke to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1; 26:24; 28:13).
- Several hundred years later, God spoke directly to Moses, as a man speaks to his friend face to face (Exodus 33:11).
- At the same time frame, He also spoke to Joshua telling him that he would be the new leader of Israel (Joshua 3:7).
- After the Old Testament Prophets spoke for God, there was a four hundred year period when God did not speak at all until the birth of John the Baptist (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:10-13).
- When Jesus Christ was on earth, God spoke directly to us through Him as His one and only Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
- After Jesus ascended to heaven, God the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and Prophets (John 16:13), including Paul by direct revelation (Galatians 1:12).
In each case, God spoke directly to people, but it was not normative. In many cases there were hundreds of years in-between these communications.
Why it Changed After the Bible Was Written
Once the foundation of truth was established by Jesus Christ and the doctrines were laid down by the Apostles and Prophets, there would be no more direct revelation (Ephesians 2:20). Once the Word of God was canonized, direct speech from God stopped (Jude 3). God now speaks truth to us through the Word of God. The Bible is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). Now that the Bible is completed, God nowhere promises to speak in the same ways He has spoken before, or in any new ways. The Bible is sufficient for all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). This is common sense. During the centuries when the Bible was still being written, it was understandable that God would at times speak directly to His people, but even then it was rare. But once His Words were immortalized into writing, He would no longer need to speak in that way. That is not to say that God cannot speak directly to His people in this age; God can do whatever He wants (Psalm 115:3). We do know that during the Great Tribulation, God will again speak through His prophets (Revelation 11:3).
God now speaks truth to us through the Word of God.
The Bible is completed.
Yet today if someone claims to hear directly from God, massive amounts of discernment must come into play. This was the directive to the people in the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:29-32). The problem in our day and age is no discernment is employed when someone claims to hear from or speak for God. It is commonplace to hear “Christian” authors and speakers share stories of how God has spoken to them. There are popular speakers who cannot go a few minutes without referring to some kind of direct interaction with God. One such speaker said in one of her messages:
“When I get a key word, when the Lord gives me concept, that is a word, I mean He dropped this word into my heart a couple of weeks ago, and began to associate it in prayer and I mean when I get a word like that He drops in my spirit, I wait to see what city it’ll be connected with…then I look up the word into a concordance to see all the times it’s used in scripture.”
Is that proper biblical hermeneutics? Are we to wait for God to drop something directly to our hearts and then look up all the times that word is used in Scripture in order to get a message to teach to others? But this is commonplace in the popular Christian world. This is claimed to be “deep” teaching. Yet no one questions if God has really spoken to that speaker? No one examines what the speaker said in light of Scripture? Does it line up with the Bible? It is a sad testimony on professing Christians who accept sermons, teachings, books, curriculums and articles without ever questioning the startling claims made in those materials. Many people have bought into the lie that the Bible is an old outdated book and that we really need a fresh and current word from God. That lust for direct revelation from God has caused a supply and demand situation where there are a plethora of willing “teachers” ready to cash in. Many “church people” do not have discernment! They are not diligent to evaluate and compare everything that is taught to them with Scripture (Acts 17:11). Rather, they are looking for voices from God and turning away from the Scriptures which have once for all been delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
The Dire Situation
All of this has contributed to a dire situation in the church, and it centers around the belief that Scripture is not sufficient truth from God. Another popular Pastor said,
“I believe the most important reason God is still talking today is that He wants us to know Him. If God has stopped talking, then I doubt we will ever discover what He is really like.”
How could someone say this unless they did not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture? Does not the Bible tell us what God is like? (John 4:24) Does not Jesus explain the Father to us? (John 1:18) The Bible is a book on telling us what God is really like!
Summary of Our Perspective
God’s people need to look to the Word of God to know what God says.
Our perspective on God speaking today is to employ extreme caution. We do not believe the Bible teaches that hearing voices from God is normative for the Church Age, as it never has been normative. We believe the Apostolic Era was unique, never to be replicated. There are no more Apostles and Prophets in the New Testament definition. While we believe that God can choose to speak to whomever He wants, whenever He wants, we do not believe God’s people should be looking for this. Instead, God’s people need to look to the Word of God to know what God says. If someone claims God spoke to them in a dream, or through an audible voice, or through some impression or sign, genuine believers must immediately question those claims and use discernment. They should never put any confidence in those claims, especially if they say something in addition or contrary to Sacred Scripture.