Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hearing the Voice of God

There are many today claiming to speak for God. Is it possible to hear the voice of God today? And how do we evaluate those who claim to speak for Him?

Some claim God does not speak except through Scripture and where there is no Biblical command we must make decisions based on wisdom. (I have sympathy with this position; I used to hold it.) But the majority of Christians, regardless of denomination, hold that God gives them specific guidance in their lives. (One reason I left my former position was it seemed to contradict the experience of most Christians at most times.) But is there a distinction that needs to be drawn here?

The Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16,17) and is true in all it claims (John 17:17). If someone claims to be producing Scriptural level revelation, they must pass the tests for it. It must agree with what is taught in Scripture (Isaiah 8:20; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Galatians 1:8, 9), including teaching the same faith (Jude 3). Someone unwilling to be checked against Scripture is a false prophet (Acts 17:11, John 5:39). Every prophecy they make must come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:21, 22). Also, everything they claim must be true (John 17:17). Further, if an individual receiving inspired revelation were present today, they would rebuke our errors (Ezekiel 14:1-11). Needless to say, in the current divided state of the church, some of us must be wrong. If there exists an individual today who meets all these tests I do not know of them.

I am not willing to regard my or other people's leading from the Lord on this level. But between the idea that God does not speak and the standard of inspired revelation, we are left with a matter of degree. If I say, "The Lord led me," do I mean one thing, and if I say, "I had a word from the Lord," do I mean another? There are Biblical examples of God speaking, but are these inspired revelation or God's leading (Acts 8:29; 16:6)? Also, there are spiritual gifts which are interpreted as hearing the voice of God, such as word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discernment of spirits, but what these mean can be questioned, as all we have is the list (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). In the end, I would conclude there is a legitimate work of God involved here. But I would advise caution. It is easy to believe you have heard from God and to be mistaken. The Spirit's leading will not contradict Scripture, but this is just the minimum qualification. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 it gives instructions for dealing with prophetic utterances. Whether they refer to inspired revelation or the Spirit's leading, I believe the principles still apply. Do not quench the Spirit; listen to what He is trying to tell you. But test all things and hold to what is good.

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