God: How does He “speak” to people today?
In all the years I’ve been a believer, I’ve heard many people talk about how God spoke to them regarding one thing or another. But does this happen in our time? Has anyone actually heard Him speak to them? What are we to think if people tell us God spoke to them? In Old Testament times God certainly did speak to some people. The Bible record is clear on that. But does it happen today? That’s a question people sometimes ask.
When God spoke to people in Old Testament times it is technically called a Theophany or a Christophany. We have God speaking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:8]. We also have passages like Genesis 18:1-21. In some of these cases, it was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, God the Son taking on human form to speak with someone. There were other times when angels appeared and spoke with people. There’s even the case of the burning bush God used to speak to Moses [Exodus 3:2-6].
The apostle John once wrote an interesting warning about things that only seem to be divine appearances and/or revelations.
I John 4:1
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. [Emphasis added]
Obviously, the claims people make about divine visitations need to be analyzed from a Biblical perspective. Also, we need to bear in mind that anyone can make claims. Whether they are true or not is another matter. Also, the claims people make need to be analyzed from a Dispensational perspective. This is because God has done a variety of things in revealing Himself to people living in different times. But He has not always operated the same way.
From about 1600 B.C. until around 68 A.D., God’s Word was recorded by human writers as the Holy Spirit led them.
II Peter 1:20-21
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis added]
There were also angelic visitations such as this one.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. [Emphasis added]
One called the angel of the Lord sometimes provided special revelation.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis added]
There were times when people with certain gifts of the Spirit provided special revelation of the Lord.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. [Emphasis added]
I Corinthians 12:1-11 is a lengthy passage about all this. But these and others are not ways God speaks with us in our time. Notice what is said in this next passage about these special supernatural gifts given to provide God’s guidance.
I Corinthians 13:8-13
8 Charity never faileth [KATARGEO = to reduce to inactivity or to cease]: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues [miraculously speaking in a foreign language], they shall cease [PAUO = come to an end]; whether there be knowledge [special revelation of knowledge], it shall vanish away [KATARGEO = to reduce to inactivity or to cease].
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect [TELEIOS = having reached its end—being in the neuter gender here it is a reference to an object, that is, the completion of the revelation of God’s Word—the Bible] is come, then that which is in part [these special gifts of the Spirit] shall be done away.
11 When I was a child [speaking of the infancy stage of this present age of grace], I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man [speaking of when God’s revelation was complete], I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly [speaking of the earlier years of the revelation being given to Paul]; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then [when God’s revelation to him was complete] shall I know even as also I am known.
So, when the text of the Bible was completed, these special gifts vanished. Then we have these words of Paul that relate to our situation now.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity. [Emphasis added]
Because we now have God’s complete revelation to us in the Bible, we no longer need revelation by angels, visions, or an audible divine voice. Everything God wants to say to us is already recorded in the 66 books of the Bible. Therefore, if you want God to speak to you, start reading and studying your Bible and you’ll get all the guidance you’ll ever need.
II Timothy 3:15-17
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect [TELEIOS = used here to speak of spiritual maturity], thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]
God has provided and preserved the Bible to serve as our guide in all matters of life. Other books can be helpful, but they can also be misleading. It is the Bible itself that is to be your final authority.
Therefore, again, people can make claims about supernatural encounters with God and/or angels for special revelation. But we are warned about being fooled by such things. Furthermore, every generation has its false teachers.
II Corinthians 11:13-15
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. [Emphasis added]
Again, every generation has these people. Your protection from their false teaching is the Bible.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. [Emphasis added]
Paul was always warning people about the false teachers that exist in every generation to draw people away from the truth.
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. [Emphasis added]
Believers who are still not mature become vulnerable prey to false teachers. One’s only protection rests in being faithful as an ongoing student [disciple] of God’s Word. Resolve to do that and you have nothing to worry about. God knows your heart thoroughly and He will always be faithful to guide those who seek His truth and His guidance through the Bible.