Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Does God Still Speak to Us Today?

Christians have many different views on how God speaks to His followers today.  Let's look at four ways God has spoken to His people, and I'll share my opinions on whether each of those still happens today.  I encourage you to pipe in via the comments section - there are certainly many additional ways God speaks to us, and plenty of relevant verses for those and the ones listed here.  Stories of personal experience are also welcome. :-)

His Word (the Bible)

Obviously, all of us here agree that God speaks to His followers through the Bible - His direct revelation to mankind - so we don't need to substantiate this one.

In addition to hearing what He has to say by reading each passage quite literally, sometimes while reading Scripture, a verse or passage will jump out as applying to our own situation, even if it's a different context - that's the Holy Spirit drawing our attention to a lesson He has for us.  So, the Bible can do double-duty.

When "hearing" from God in any other capacity (prophecy, dreams, etc.), the Bible should always be the standard by which we judge the accuracy of what we hear.  All other means besides the Bible have the possibility of external/subjective faults, but the Bible stands.  If something does not line up with Scripture, no matter how much you think it's from God, reject it.  See Romans 16:17.


Some Christians believe that the Church no longer includes prophets, and that the gift of prophecy was only for the Early Church since they did not yet have an actual Bible through which to hear from God.  I respectfully disagree.

First off, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation are accepted as the last New Testament books written.  1 John 4:1 refers to false prophets, and Revelation's letter to Thyatira, which was written literally to a then-contemporary church, also references a specific false prophetess.  Note that neither of these portray listening to prophets as wrong, but rather listening to prophets without testing them to make sure they're really from God.  In other words, it is 100% reasonable to interpret it that there were, indeed, genuine prophets when these letters were written.  Add to this that, since those books were written last (and significantly later than the others, at that), that means the Christians had access to all the rest of what we call the New Testament!  So, in my mind, prophets serving only as a temporary replacement for yet-nonexistent Scripture doesn't fly.

Second, Joel 2:28-29 foretells: "It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.  Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."  In Acts 2:14-18, Peter signals that the initial fulfillment of that prophecy had just occurred.  Because of this and some references by Jesus, many Bible teachers classify the "End Times" as starting with Jesus's first coming to Earth - meaning, no matter how far away the actual end of the world is, we are living in the End Times (which the above prophecy also refers to) right now.  So, since the Old Testament prophecy guaranteeing prophets was initially fulfilled in the early church and we're still under that same criteria, I say there are still true prophets in the Church.

However, tread carefully - the Bible has much to say about the dangers of false prophets, and how careful we need to be in testing false prophets!


Does God still speak to us in dreams?  Well, since the Joel prophecy above also mentions dreams, yes. :-)

However, in both the Old and New Testaments, dreams were not common by any means.  There are plenty of recorded instances, yes, but God spoke that way to a few individuals, not everyone by any means.  It also wasn't like He spoke to those individuals that way frequently.  So even though God could still speak through dreams today, that doesn't mean it will happen often, or to all believers.

Some people, pulling from the story of (the Old Testament) Joseph where both he and Pharaoh have seemingly random dreams and it turns out it's God speaking to them, think that all dreams come from God.  I disagree.  In the other Scriptural instances where God speaks to someone in a dream, it is extremely apparent that it is a vision from God, not just some random dream for them to read into.  With that context, I believe the dreams in the Joseph story had very apparent spiritual causes to the people involved, but were more symbolic in nature than some of the cut-and-dry dreams, like those of the New Testament Joseph.

So, my personal opinion is that if God's speaking to you in a dream, you'll know it; you shouldn't take every dream you have and try to read some spiritual meaning into it.

Speaking "Verbally," in our Hearts

Some Christians, myself included, believe that since the Holy Spirit lives inside us, giving us a far greater connection to God than the people in the Old Testament, we can sometimes "hear" God's voice speaking to our hearts by praying and then just waiting in His presence for Him to speak to us.  What is "heard" can be a non-worded sense of the correct course of action, or sometimes even words such as Scriptures the Holy Spirit brings to mind.

The above is (in my opinion) totally in line with Scriptural principle, and it is further supported if you take literally John 10:27-28, "My sheep [us] hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."

However, some take this to an extreme I don't agree with - every person in a church having a "word" from God to share with the congregation each week.  It's one thing to set apart a time in a church service for people to share what God has taught them each week (that's wonderful!); it's another to cross the line into thinking every person is a prophet.  Approach such situations with wariness to be sure it hasn't crossed that line.

What about you?  What stories can you share of God speaking to you through these - or other - ways?  What views do you have, and relevant Scriptures can you think of, that relate to the topics above?  What other means can you think of through which God speaks to us?

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