I ‘live’ in the Charismatic world. As a result there are a set of questions that are not necessarily unique to Charismatics but are probably more frequently asked. One such question is, ‘can I hear God’s voice?’ Over the years I’ve heard so many responses to this question and lots of them have left me disappointed and frustrated! Personally I think the answer to this question is very straightforward! If you are a Christian, the answer is YES. Let me explain:
It’s impossible to be a Christian without first having heard God’s voice
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:22-30
Ok, so here we have Jesus, using the image of a shepherd and sheep, and he is talking about hearing his voice. The first thing to say is this has nothing to do with prophecy (context really matters)! This whole section is speaking about the electing purposes of God and how, in Christ, the elect hear God’s voice and follow their Shepherd Saviour! These verses are a beautiful picture of God’s saving and redeeming work in the lives of those he has chosen. The important principle for you and me to underline is this – to be a Christian, means we have heard the saving call of God in our lives. Put in the negative, to not be a Christian means we’ve not heard the voice of God in a saving manner. This is a vital foundation stone in our understanding of what it means to hear God’s voice. Why? Because some people relegate hearing God’s voice to prophecy, which in the grand sweep of redemptive history, is a tiny subset of what it means to hear the voice of God. The most important and joyful and wondrous hearing of God’s voice is in his redemption work in our lives. As spiritually dead and alienated people – God spoke, God called, God awakened and we heard that saving call of God in our lives!
God speaks authoritatively, without error and sufficiently in the pages of Scripture
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Scripture is God speaking to us! Take a very long pause and let that really sink in. I know it may seem a little obvious, however, when we take a step back and look at the grand sweep of the last 2,000 years of church history, when this point becomes smudged or underplayed, the result is never healthy. Take for example, the Quakers’ “inner-light” theology which essentially bypasses the Bible and bases truth upon internal impressions and ‘feelings’. This has led many Quakers to a place where they see the Bible not as God’s final word, but rather helpful and the final word of authority is actually the “inner-light” of their hearts. Yet, we’re told again and again in scripture that it is the final, authoritative word for our lives! Again, this is probably not that controversial. However, listen to this story from Mark Dever and see how easy it is to get lost…
‘I think of another friend who attended an evangelical student fellowship, where for two hours the students sang and prayed earnestly and pleadingly that God would speak to them, all the while with their Bibles lying there closed on their seats.’
What’s wrong with this picture?
God has already spoken in and through his word. Theologians would speak about how every word, sentence, paragraph and book of the Bible has authority over how we think and act. They would also speak about how God’s word is without error (inerrancy). Psalm 12:6 says “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” The words in scripture are not man-originated, but find their origin in God and the Holy Spirit superintended the writers so that they would express the very thoughts of God. God’s word is also sufficient. Wayne Grudem describe the sufficiency of scripture in this way “[it] means that Scripture contain[s] all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”
So let me underline what I’ve just said, God has spoken to us through scripture. The way he has spoken in and through scripture is authoritative (i.e. demands a response from us), inerrantly (or not affirming anything that is contrary to fact) and finally sufficiently (i.e. so that you and I can live a full life of obedience to God). If I’ve done my job right over the last few minutes, the question you should be asking is “why then do we need prophecy?”. That’s a whole different article! However, let me, one more time, try to underscore the point that we have a 100% cast iron guarantee that we can hear the voice of God, because God has spoken to us authoritatively, inerrantly and sufficiently through scripture.
In light of all that I’ve written, my question is this: are you devoted to listening to the voice of God through scripture? Are you devoted to listening to the voice of God through the book Leviticus, Amos, Daniel (the crazy prophetic pictures), Lamentations, Nahum, Paul’s teaching on church life and church discipline, Jesus’ radical call to take up your cross and follow him, corporate worship in the Psalms, and the list goes on and on. Are you devoted to a life of hearing and heeding God’s voice in all of scripture?