“God told me to tell you…” “I have a word from the Lord for you.” “I am a prophet of God.” “I know what the Bible says, but God spoke to me and…”
Claims like the above are increasingly common these days. Sadly, most people who say them do not understand how dangerous they are. Claiming direct revelation from God is essentially putting yourself in a place of equal authority with the Word of God. If God speaks, it is always going to be 100% inerrant, authoritative, true, holy, and perfect. If God truly told you to tell me something, I better listen or I am in direct rebellion against God.
The problem with this idea that God is directly speaking to people, and through people, today, is the fact that the messages attributed to Him are everything but inerrant, authoritative, and true. They are almost always a jumbled mess of confusion, inconsistencies, and outright contradictions of the Word of God. Far too often, “God told me…” is in reality, “I think…and I think God would agree with me…therefore, I am going to tell you that God told me…”
In response to this, many argue that God no longer speaks outside of His Word. Period. Never. The Bible is the complete and sufficient Word of God that gives us everything we need to be saved and walk with God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, there is no need for any further revelation from God. God does not speak. Rather, God has spoken.
This is the viewpoint I was taught in Bible College and Seminary. This is still the viewpoint that I strongly lean towards. Admittedly, it is a very comforting position. It means I can ignore all the claimed messages from God. It frees me from having to use biblically informed discernment in separating truth from error in supposed messages from God. The problem for me is … I do not see solid biblical evidence on which to claim God NEVER speaks today.
Interestingly, even those who hold the “God never speaks” position seem to allow for exceptions to the rule. For example, stories of people in closed countries having dreams/visions that result in them coming to faith in Christ seem to be accepted, even rejoiced over. Accounts of people in third world countries being told to go to such and such a place at such and such a time to speak with God’s messenger, only to bump into a missionary at the exact place and time, are accepted as amazing miracles of God. The justification for the exception is usually something along the lines of, “Well, God only does stuff like that in places where they don’t have access to the Bible.”
Hmm. Where does the Bible say that God works differently based on whether a person has access to the Bible? And, the fact that the United States has tens of millions more Bibles than Yemen does not mean the average American is significantly more biblically literate than the average Yemeni. One could argue that with the massive amount of false doctrine being propagated in the United States that the United States is more in need of corrective direct revelation from God than most third world countries. I just don’t see a solid biblical or reasonable basis for the “God only does stuff like that over there” argument.
So, where does that leave us? To be honest, I am not completely sure.
I firmly believe that the Bible is the perfect and complete Word of God. It contains everything we need to know to follow God’s will for our lives. While it does not give specific instructions related to the personal situations and decisions we face, it does provide all the wisdom we need to be able to make right judgments in those situations and decisions.
With that in mind, I do not see any reason for God to “supplement” His Word with additional revelation. But, at the same time, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates God NEVER speaks today. I do not know the mind of God, and therefore I do not claim to know every reason why God might say something to someone (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:34).
What I do know is this: if God were to speak today, what He said would be in perfect agreement with His Word. God does not contradict Himself. God does not change His mind. Compare any supposed message from God with God’s Word, and if the message in any way is in contradiction or disharmony with God’s Word, reject the message. If you think God has spoken to you, but are unsure about it, ask Him for confirmation (Judges 6:36-40; 1 Samuel 3:1-10). Seek wise counsel from men and women of God whom you respect and trust (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22).
Above all, understand that God speaking is a miracle, not a normal. Even in the Bible, God speaking directly to people, whether through an audible voice or a “still small voice,” is rare. We would all benefit from spending far more time on what God has said instead of on what God might be saying.
S. Michael Houdmann