Is That Voice in Your Head from God?

There is so much confusion today regarding how to hear from God. Many people embrace the idea of direct revelation: God guiding them through subjective impressions, words (audible or internal), dreams and visions. I don’t.

In fact, I think those views are not supported by the Bible and the personal revelation idea has become a huge problem and a dangerous one. This is why I’ve written so often on the subject of discerning God’s will and why I am so critical of those who claim to have gotten direct revelation from God. (Blackaby, Beth Moore, Sarah Young and many others)

Phil Johnson of Grace To You gave a fantastic lecture on the subject that I’d like to share with you. Fighting for the Faith aired it a couple of weeks ago and it is not to be missed. In it, Johnson highlights the problems with hearing from God by a means that cannot be verified, how direct revelation flies in the face of Sola Scriptura and some of the disasters that have occurred as a consequence of this way of thinking.

It really is a must listen to session. Here are just a few excerpts:

  • “The idea that God speaks routinely to his people today has found more widespread acceptance today in the evangelical movement than at any time in the history of evangelicalism. And this notion that God speaks directly to people is found in some surprising places. It’s not only charismatics who believe God speaks fresh words of prophecy to them. Southern Baptists devoured Experiencing God about a decade ago.”
  • “The messages always seem very pliable. Don’t they? The meaning of the message changes with the circumstances. there’s no legitimate hermeneutical approach for interpreting messages that you think came directly to you from God.”
  • “You don’t need an explicit message from God telling you whom to marry, or where to go to school or where to go on the mission field. But if you obey the explicit commands and the implicit principles of the Bible God promises he will order your steps beyond that.”
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8 Responses to Is That Voice in Your Head from God?

  1. We’ve talked about it before, and I’ve agreed that private revelation can be taken too far. I come out of the Charismatic tradition, after all, where there are fringe elements that frighten me with talk of “becoming a seer for God” or “living under an open heaven”, etc., ideas that reek of New Age. It’s certainly un-Christian to accept private revelation without restraint, and especially to teach it publicly without verification or approval.

    But the more I’ve studied and prayed about it, I think the view you take is extreme and unsupported by Scripture as well. The idea that “God guiding them through subjective impressions, words, dreams and visions” is “not supported by the Bible” — is, well, not supported by the Bible. Certainly, in instances all throughout the Bible, in both the Old and Testaments, God guides His people by revelation through the Holy Spirit, in words as in the inspiration of Scripture itself, and with every prophet who ever spoke, including the many not recorded in Scripture. The prophet Joel declares, in a favorite verse of Charismatics, that in the last days “[God] will pour out [His] Spirit on all flesh, [such that] your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28) — a verse which the Apostle Peter applied to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Scripture records numerous cases of God speaking to and warning the righteous and even unbelievers through dreams (e.g. Matthew 1:20, 2:12) or visions (e.g. Acts 9:10, 10:, 11:5, etc.). The New Testament records numerous episodes even in the New Testament of prophets and prophesying — ordinary men and women, not Apostles or authors of Scripture (e.g. Acts 21:9, 11:27) — and Paul declares even that that prophecy is a most desirable gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1) and an office to which God calls Christians (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11). He implores us [not to] “quench the Spirit, [not to] despise prophesying, but [to] test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

    All of that being the case — how can you say that it is “unsupported by Scripture” that God guides His people through the revelation of the Holy Spirit? Such is plainly attested to throughout Scripture, and is much more supported than the notion of “sola scriptura” (which in my view is not supported at all, but I don’t want that to sidetrack this concern). Even to accept a view that Scripture alone is to be the authority of the Church — nowhere is it indicated in Scripture that such guidance from the Holy Spirit would cease. Jesus Himself taught that the Holy Spirit would be an Advocate who would “teach all things” (John 14:26) and “guide [believers] into all truth” (John 16:13). Do you believe that something has invalidated these words of Scripture?

    The notion is completely absent from Scripture that the revelation of the Holy Spirit would cease: the very idea of the Holy Spirit dwelling with us is not that He would be a silent and detached observer, but that He would be an intimate companion, guide, and counselor [paraclete] (John 14:26), God Himself with us (John 14:23). Do not even you believe that the Holy Spirit guides us in reading and understanding Scripture? Is that not God guiding us through “impressions” and “words”?

    I can see the necessity of your position, as in making Scripture alone your authority and rejecting the teaching authority of any ecclesial body, the “testing” of such revelations becomes the prerogative of each individual, resulting in complete chaos — as I know John McArthur and others have argued. But of course, the same is the case with the private interpretation of Scripture to begin with.

    • Julia says:

      Hi Joseph. Yes, I agree that through the bible there are examples of direct revelation, but they not prescriptive texts. I believe once God finishing delivering the scripture to us through the apostles that ceased. I do agree that we have the holy spirit and that he guides us into all truth, convicts us of sin, illuminates the meaning of scripture, etc. My problem is with direct our personal revelation for our lives. Such as God giving a pastor a vision for his church, or telling me who to marry. God says in 1 Peter and 2nd Timothy that the scriptures are sufficient to know God and doctrine and to live our lives in Christ. I hope that clears up my view.

      • Julia says:

        Also, I really appreciate that you engage critically and seriously online. I respect and appreciate that. So many online commenters stoop to name calling or accusing me of not being a Christian because I’m a cessationist.

      • Thanks, I believe I do understand your position — but I think it’s inconsistent. Per “sola scriptura,” where in Scripture do you find that “once God [finished] delivering the scripture to us through the apostles [the revelation of the Holy Spirit] ceased”? And how is it that the Holy Spirit guides us into truth, convicts us of sin, or illuminates the meaning of Scripture, if not by feelings (e.g. of conviction of sin, of direction to a certain course of action) or thoughts or impressions (that a certain path is right or a certain understanding of Scripture is the correct one — often, as I’ve experienced and I know many others have, such thoughts coming to me seemingly from outside myself, that is, something I normally would not have thought of)? What is it that anyone is actually praying for when we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Even if, as I suppose you might say, we are supposed to be led to that guidance through Scripture — do we not believe that the Holy Spirit guides us to find the appropriate passages of Scripture, and shows us the correct interpretation via thoughts or impressions? You are making arguments about the nature of private revelation being unscriptural, when in fact it seems the distinction you are making is of degree. How is feeling that a certain interpretation of Scripture is the correct one, and ascribing that guidance to the Holy Spirit, any different from feeling that interpretation applies specifically to one’s personal circumstances as a mode of guidance, or feeling that one is called to be a pastor or priest or missionary?

        (And actually, no, the verses in 2 Timothy 3 say nothing about Scripture being sufficient, only that it is profitable; I’ve never heard anybody refer to 1 Peter for that before. But again, I think that’s beside the issue.)

      • Julia says:

        Oops. I meant second Peter one where Peter affirms that scripture is even better and is more certain than experience (even the transfiguration).

  2. This is an expanded version of your subject by Gary Gilley.

    The same case is stated in his, Gary Gilley’s, book “Out Of Formation”.


  3. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  4. Pingback: Weekender | Guarding the Deposit

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