Like me, you probably grew up being taught to listen for God’s voice as guidance to you in your life. You may have heard stories given by pastors where they talk about a situation in their life and they said “but then the Lord said to me”. Maybe you’ve had friends in life that profess to have heard from God to do certain things. But does scripture show us that God audibly speaks to us in this way? Let’s find out.
Did God speak audibly to people?
I think a good first and probably easy question to ask and answer would be, are there instances where God has communicated to people audibly at all? Without even pulling up a verse, I’m sure we can all recall many instances that people heard God speaking to them throughout the Old Testament. The first instance was of course Adam and Eve. God instructed them on what to do on the land that He created for them, what food they could eat, and many other things you can find in the beginning of Genesis. We continue through the Old Testament there are many other people such as Abraham, Moses, Job, and on and on throughout the Old Testament that God audibly spoke to. Not only did He audibly speak to these people, but the people He spoke with were actually able to converse back with Him and have an actual conversation. I personally find that quite astonishing.
So we can factually say yes, God has audibly spoken to people before as recorded throughout Scripture. Still though, we don’t have the answer to whether God audibly speaks to Christians. Now in the Old Testament we can find many instances of God audibly speaking to people, but it’s interesting when we choose to observe the New Testament. Of the instances which I can recall the spiritual speaking audibly to humans in the New Testament, there was an angel that spoke to both Mary and Joseph, God spoke audibly after Jesus was baptized proclaiming Him to be His son that He was well pleased with, and Jesus spoke to Paul twice, first when he was blinded, and second when he was in a trance.
There was also the revelation that John got from an angel which gave us the Book of Revelation, and I suppose you could also include the Resurrected Christ speaking to the disciples as well as an example of the spiritual speaking with humans. Anyone can add to this list if there’s something I’ve missed. Looking at these instances, only one instance is recorded where God (the father) audibly spoke on the earth to people around in the New Testament, and that was when Jesus was baptized. So factually speaking, we have no recorded account in Scripture of God communicating audibly to a Christian.
Whoa whoa whoa, what about prophesy?
Don’t worry, I’m going to get to that. But in this section of the post, we’re actually going to talk about prayer for a moment. You were probably raised with the belief to listen for God’s voice in prayer. But interesting to consider if there is such an occurrence or teaching of God speaking to people in prayer. We’ve seen there appears to be no recorded account in explicit detail of God audibly speaking to Christians, but what about a teaching? In all of the teachings of the Apostles and Jesus, to my humble knowledge there’s no instance they ever teach to listen for God’s voice in prayer. It seems more often the emphasis is on recalling their teachings and listening to the letters of the Apostles. Even when Jesus prayed to God before He was taken away to eventually be crucified, it was just Him expressing his desires to God, but God not talking back to Him.
How can I receive guidance?
Now with challenging that common teaching, you might be asking me, “Well how do I receive guidance from God if I don’t hear Him in prayer or if there’s not much evidence of Him audibly speaking to Christians?” Let’s reflect on how Scripture is described in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” So here we have it factually stated, that the text we have is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. It perhaps sounds a lot like everything we’d ever need to know from God. Now you might ask me, “why do I conclude that it sounds like that?” Well, if you look at the types of things that God ever did audibly speak to people, that seemed to be why He generally spoke. He wanted His people to know righteousness, to reprove them when they were doing wrong, and being instructed of the things that they needed to know to do to show love and honor for Him. They didn’t necessarily have all of this text available to know truthful things that we’re blessed to know now through the Scripture.
I think we can all possibly agree that we can absolutely never go wrong by following what God says in His Word, in comparison to a history of people past the Apostolic Era who have proclaimed to have heard some new revelation from God that have been wrong frequently. This brings me to one other extra point before I begin to close. Anytime someone in the Bible ever said they had received a message from God to people, they almost always proved it with a miracle (Moses turning a stick into a snake, Jesus healing people, Apostles performing miracles etc.) If this is the standard these men of God held themselves to, it would seem it should be the expected standard that all professed audible hearers of God should hold themselves to as well, by displaying their miraculous abilities and thus proving their words they claim to have heard from God as truth. It doesn’t seem these things are ever evidenced by merely a strong feeling of one believing they’ve had or are having such an occurrence based on subjective perception.
Okay, now we’re ready to talk about prophesy as it relates to audible communication from God. To my humble knowledge of scripture, this would be the only exception to the overall evidence that God generally does not speak audibly to Christians within scripture. Now we don’t see a verse that illustrates an example of when a prophesy was occurring stating “God spoke to this person and the person gave this prophetic revelation saying,”. Though having said that, the secrets of the heart of an unbeliever could not come from any other place other than God, so one could perhaps presume God is audibly speaking to the prophets in the moment of the prophesy. But interestingly, it tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:29 that judgment be passed on the prophecy, suggesting caution in anyone accepting someone’s statement as words from God.
Does your stance limit God?
I certainly wouldn’t intend to do such a thing. God is God, and He can choose to do things in any way He wants to. But on the flip side of the coin, is it possible one can equally be guilty of magnifying God to their own perceptions over the specific perceptions given to us in the Word. Is it important that in seeking to be true followers of Christ we continually do our best to humble ourselves into desiring to experience God on His terms alone? It’s something to all think about.
Ultimately, I don’t mind if one believes God audibly speaks to them if what they think they heard doesn’t go against anything in scripture. Myself personally, if God does audibly speak to Christians, I would conclude it to be a very rare occurrence on the basis of what scripture shows us. But it’s fascinating to ponder this spiritual experience that’s so often been a wonder of many generations of believers.
Peace to all those who are in Christ.