In recent days there has been much discussion and debate about how God speaks to his people. The conversation continues, and as it does so, I find myself looking back to the basics, returning to some key principles related to the voice of God. Let me share those with you through four statements.
Statement one: God can speak to people in many different ways and guide them with their cooperation. The Bible is full of stories of God speaking to his people–God speaking to Adam and Eve in the Garden as he walked and talked with them, God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, God speaking to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. In each case God told people his will and when God told them what he wanted of them, they were able to consciously participate in it, or they were able to reject it. Adam and Eve defied God even though they knew what he demanded of them. Jonah heard from the Lord and ran away. Abraham heard from the Lord and obeyed. All through the Bible we see God speaking and giving guidance and instruction. In all these ways and so many more, God spoke to people and guided them with their cooperation.
Statement two: today God speaks to us by his Son. In the opening verses of Hebrews we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” That is what we have just said in our last statement. But now the author of Hebrews continues, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” In these last days (i.e. today), he has spoken to us by his Son. He has spoken and is speaking through Jesus. This is not past tense but present. And how has God spoken to us through Jesus? He has revealed himself, his own character and glory, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus God has spoken to us as never before. The man who wrote Hebrews is very careful to distinguish between these two types of revelation—the past and the present. If you have studied the letter to the Hebrews, you know that it is a long discourse that continually shows how Jesus Christ is superior to anything in the Old Testament. That means, of course, that the revelation in Jesus Christ is better than anything that came before. God used to speak in these ways, but today, even better, he now speaks through his Son. So how does God speak by Jesus?
Statement 3: God speaks to us by his Son, through his Spirit in the Bible. By the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, Jesus had long since ascended to his Father. But the author of this letter to the Hebrews writes in 3:7, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says.” Note the word “says,” not “said.” He goes back and quotes Psalm 95 and says that through these words, the Holy Spirit is speaking. The words that were already thousands of years old when this letter was written continue to speak. He comes back to this a few times in the verses that follow keeps saying that the Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture today. And then he wraps up the section in chapter 4 with the conclusion that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. It is alive. It is active. The conclusion is that the Bible speaks to us today. The Holy Spirit speaks to us today in the Bible. The Son speaks to us today through the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The Bible is not just about what God has said, but what God is saying.
So, we know that God can guide us in many ways but today the Son speaks to us through his Spirit in the Bible. So here’s the fourth statement: Apart from this, speaking by his Son, through his Spirit in the Bible, God does not promise that he will speak in any other way. In other words, we can all expect and believe that God will speak to us through the Bible. But he does not promise to speak in the ways he has spoken before, or in new ways. Of all the ways we may hope or long for him to speak, he promises only that he will guide us by his Son, through the Spirit in the Bible.
So Christian, if you want to know God’s will for you, you need to look to the Bible. God has given us his perfect will in his perfect Word. Do you want to know how to serve God? Do you want to know how to please him? Do you want to know what he wants from you? Do you want to make good and wise and God-honoring decisions? Do you want to be encouraged by God? Then look to your Bible. God can speak and has spoken however he wishes. But today the one way he absolutely promises you can always hear his voice is in his Word.
(I wrote the bulk of this material a long time ago and believe it is drawn substantially from the book Prayer and the Voice of God.)