The Voice of God?

In my online reading I came across a recent post about hearing the voice of God and how does that work. This is something I have had a lot of interest in for many years. I remember several years ago a group of younger men who came into the coffee shop where I was studying.  They sat next to me and it rapidly became evident they were discussing spiritual things.  They all had opinions on the subject (head-coverings for women) but there was no consensus and frankly, not one of their thoughts were connected to the biblical text.  They noticed my commentaries and ended up sitting at my table and we talked. My questions centered on how will they arrive at a proper understanding of the meaning of the text?  The answer became an almost comical as they would respond that God would tell them.  I would ask how they would know it was God speaking and they said, “You know, you just know.”  I asked what happens when others say that God told them a different meaning.  They said God would tell them who was right.  How do you know it is God speaking?  “You know, you just know.”  How do you know?  “You just know.”  This was less than satisfying and when I tried to explain the text (which I had just preached on) it did not fit their perceptions and they rejected it.  Apparently God though God had not told them what the meaning of the text was yet, God had told them that my exegesis of it was wrong.

All of this to make this point.  How do you hear the voice of God if you believe He is speaking today?  And more importantly how do you know it is actually God?  Here are some answers I have found and none of them are remotely satisfying for me:

  • One commenter on the above blog said there is a sense of warmth as the words of God come to her unbidden.  Later in her comment it is now a bright light and warmth that she interpreted as the smile of God (I trust the van she was driving was not in motion at the time).
  • Another gave the standard feeling of peace.
  • You know it because it is consistent with His Word (which makes me wonder why the person doesn’t just follow the written word).
  • I found this statement at one blog, “i’d just pray and ask God a question, and i found that as i was still and silent i’d sense an answer.”
  • She also suggests that you asked trusted believers to confirm it is God who is speaking.
  • She also suggested using Christian dream interpretation websites as a help.  Since I never knew those existed I thought I would visit a few.  On this site the presence of acid in a dream means certain things, but on this dream interpretation site it means something else. So this was not real helpful.
  • In the Vision and Commitment document of one local church we are able to hear the voice of God through the presence of the Spirit. But it didn’t explicitly say how this is done.
  • This guy has 4 keys to hearing the voice of God. His voice is like a flow of spontaneous thoughts. Be still so you can sense God’s thoughts. Fix your eyes on Jesus seeing in the Spirit God’s dreams and visions. And lastly journaling.
  • This guy’s sermon says that his people are going to hear the voice of the Lord in new ways.  And to prove it he says that it is a word of knowledge but doesn’t say how we know it is now true simply because he says so.

I am sure that there are many who might be able to give additional thoughts on this subject.  But for me, what stands out is the broadness of suggestions and lack of clarity that they bring to me.  I know the bible and I know that there is not one place where we are told we know it is God’s voice that we are hearing.  And I noticed as I read these articles that none of them could give anything that clearly, cleanly tells you when God has spoken.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on April 17, 2012, in Bible Observations, Church, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Hey Pastor Matt, would you mind elaborating on what conclusion(s) you would like us to gain from your blog entry?

    You express disatisfaction with some of the typical explanations people give for testing the voice of God, and your 2nd to last line indicates that there isn’t any Biblical method for testing whether something is the voice of God. So is your belief that there isn’t any way to test whether something is the voice of God, but that God does still speak? Or do you believe that God no longer speaks to people in the way he did during biblical times?

    I guess I’d appreciate more clarification on what your beliefs actually are in regards to hearing the voice of God rather than just a deconstruction of other peoples’ beliefs on the topic.

    (I posted this both here and facebook as I wasn’t sure where I was more likely to receive a reply.)

    • Josh, good questions that I will not be able to answer fully at this point. It is the point of a future blog post. However, I can give a few simple points that may help. First, I would argue that the burden of proof is upon the person who is claiming to have heard the voice of God. They have made the larger claim and before I will accept it I must be sure. And frankly, I find the reasons given as weak at best. Second, I believe in the gift of prophecy but I do not believe that it is understood by the church well. This results in a plethora of purported prophecies that are suspect at best.

      I might add that I was not deconstructing anyone’s beliefs per se, but I was observing how people claim to know it is His voice. I honestly cannot come up with a way that I can know for certain that God is speaking to me.

      How about you? Do you believe you hear the voice of God? And if so, what is the criteria by which you judge something to be merely your own thoughts, the thoughts of someone who influences you, or as God’s?

  2. I would humbly submit that by simple observation, we need look no further than people like Muhammed (Islam), Joseph Smith (Mormons) Helen B White [nee Cardon] (Seventh Day Adventists – originator) .. I’ll stop there.., (don’t want to waste unnecessary time – and before long we’d have a list of names longer than the point I’m making).. but they all heard the voice of ‘god’ and they were all confident that what they heard was genuine – I’m sure you will agree?

    We have God’s voice (His Word) and we do well to read it – often. Listening to your ‘inner voice’ is what the Trancendental Meditationists are encouraged to do – as are the many New-Age styled religions, The Hindu religion Yoga, etc, etc.. and sadly, Some so-called ‘Christian movements. They do not encourage “filling your mind with God-breathed Scripture” – on the contrary, they espouse ’emptying’ your mind and listening to yourself. The point I’m making is that you end up making yourself your own highest authority.
    ‘God’ becomes subject to what you decide. When Satan entered Judas – did he(Judas) think it was Satan – or did he think It must be something/ someone else.., maybe God..?

    • Andrew, thanks for stopping by! You point is something that is part of my core issue in this post. There are many who claim to hear the voice of God and often when you hear them explain how they know it mirrors what I noted in the post.

  3. Hi Pastor Matt, hope you don’t mind me dropping in. Aren’t we all in the same boat? I mean, we all hope we hear God’s voice, yet none of us can be completely sure in this life. At least, that’s where I’m at. “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight” ~ I accept by faith that this is what’s happened in my life (I’m almost 60) Most Pastors that know the compendium of my story KNOW that I’m totally out of God’s plan, and don’t hear from Him in the least. Yet, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit prevent me from things, protect me from myself, and chastise me for going against what I knew to be His will. In the end Pastor Matt (if today is that end) I have lived the most wonderful, fullfilled walk of joy and peace that any child of God should be allowed to have. I could spend hours listing the sorrows and pains of my life (we all have them) but through it all I have joy and peace— anyone that knows me, sees my joy and peace and yet the “pastor types” are confounded because they KNOW I must not even be saved (not for any one issue, but the compendium of my walk) According to them I have not heard from God in the least. for all I know they arecorrect, but I continue to trust that I hear from Him, that He loves me— and continue to pray, daily that God correct me if I’m wrong. Does my life line up with scripture? depends on who you talk to…., to me it does. Some times I feel like I’m the only creation of God, and everyone else is just an avatar in my universe— everything that happens is just for me. In that God is so much bigger than we can imagine, it might as well be that I’m His only creation– that is how He deals with me. The inexplicable happenstance of my life is never happance– it always has meaning as a communication from God— He will stop me if I’ve interpreted wrong, if I continue in that sin I loose my peace and joy. Peace and joy is my measure of hearing from God— and, I have lost it on occasion. Kinda like Jesus saying “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — type of thing. What was Jesus feeling to ask where His Father had gone? At times, for me…, experiencing God’s direction is like embracing smoke, but if my flesh has made it all up I’ve experienced things much more tangible.

    • Mory, thanks for taking the time to reply to this post.

      I see many points that you make that I would agree with, perhaps with a bit of a change in wording (but who doesn’t do that?). I too believe that the Spirit prevented me from going or doing or saying things that were deadly. The mystery of the Spirit working in and through us is just that, a mystery. How do I separate where my spiritual growth in wisdom (a work that the Spirit does in me) and a sovereign intervention of the Spirit and a living presence of a knowledge of the Spirit’s written Word? I believe it is a subtle blend of all.

      The post was not about how the Spirit moves His people in various ways. At the core of the post is a simple question of how do we know when Got is actually speaking to us (verbally, dreams, visions, and such)? All of this was from the primary link to McKnight’s blog. That led me to look around and see if I could get consensus on how one knows, and so far no consensus.

  4. In my experience as a counselor I’ve seen the voice of God (variations of God told me) to justify just about anything. One of the pastor’s I worked with long ago supported the practice by saying “if God is telling you to do something, you’d better do it.” His comment had nothing to do with a clear imperative but with the fuzzy notion of “God told me.” There isn’t any accountability with this way of thinking. At worst it’s often manipulation and a type of hyper spirituality; at best a justification to do what one wants. Claiming the Macedonian call is risky business imho.

    • Bruce, as a Southern Baptist Pastor I have had to deal with that very thing through Dr. Blackaby’s teachings on experiencing God. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say that we just need to be where God is at and then give incredibly subjective, American-consumeristic criteria for where God is at. And, as you know, I have had people tell me God has told them to do so many incredibly wrong things. What has saddened me the most are those who are clearly in defiance to the Word, yet they now elevate what they claim is the Voice over the written Word.

  5. Quickly, I just wanted to say that I do not believe that the burden of proof is on the one claiming to have heard the voice of God. The Bible never once states that God will stop speaking so I believe that puts the burden of proof on the one claiming that God no longer speaks.

    • John, think for a moment what you just wrote. I have not said God does not speak still, that issue is not on the table. My question is and remains, how do you know when it is God speaking? And so far everything I have read and heard is not helpful. The burden of proof must be on the one who claims he has heard God’s voice or you are forced to accept almost anything as God telling you something. Think just for a minute, I claim to hear God tell me that Obama is the right man to be president, it is His desire that I vote for him. Meanwhile Lori (whoever she is) says the exact opposite and says that Ron Paul is God’s desire because God told her. Who is right? Who has heard from God? To use your argument we can’t even discuss it because it is not the burden of the one speaking on behalf of God to prove anything. Surely you don’t really believe this?

      • Okay, I see what you’re saying. In that case it comes down to discernment. There are thousands of examples where people claim that God has spoken things to them which are obviously not true but that doesn’t discredit the reality that God does speak and one can, in faith, be sure of it. Just as the fact that there are thousands of crazy, false gods doesn’t discredit the fact that there is one true, living God that can be known. Surely the writers of the Bible had to discern the difference between what God was saying and their own thoughts when writing Scripture. There is not a formula or a scientific process for proving whether something is the voice of God. Just as there isn’t a scientific process for believing in God in the first place or “proving it” to skeptics. Faith must come in to play. The Holy Spirit must come in to play. Without faith and without baptism in the Holy Spirit one can never conclude that God has spoken. One knows the voice of God through faith and because God himself lives inside of him and has put the Holy Spirit inside of and on him to be able to discern. In science, faith is the “least credible” basis for an argument that can be used. It can always be easily discredited and have holes poked in it from a scientific standpoint. We must hold what we believe God has spoken up to the Bible and weigh it, whether it be to us personally or through prophecy. As 1 Corinthians 14 says, “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.”

      • John:

        Thanks for the reply, it is a bit more helpful. As I continue to think about my original intent of the post I thought it might help me to try to distill your comments to their essential points. Would you look this over and make sure I have been fair?

        1. You need discernment.
        2. You can be sure of it ‘in faith’ that God has spoken.
        3. Surely the biblical writers could know when it was their thoughts or Gods, but there is not a process described on how they knew.
        4. The Holy Spirit must come into play.
        5. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit you will never be able to conclude that God has spoken.
        6. You know God’s voice because He is in you, the Spirit is in you and on you so you can discern.

      • Yeah, that’s basically what I said. But I’m still hesitant to say its “six steps” or anything like that. It’s not a formula.

      • Not trying to knock it down to steps, Just trying to focus on what you said is all.

  6. I agree. If there were, however, more substance surrounding a claim (e.g. an audible voice), there may be less of a burden on the one who is allegedly hearing God’s voice. But, when the only validations are extremely vague, subjective, and questionable, such as “I just know,” “I have peace over this,” etc, the burden can be no where else except on the one claiming to have heard God’s voice.

    If this is not true, it seems that there is no other person who could reasonably bear the burden. If a friend is making the claim, I certainly cannot be put in a place of validating whether that friend is actually hearing God’s voice. I would have even less to go off if I were hearing a claim from a complete stranger. So the result is that no on bears any burden, I presume? Unless I’m mistaken somewhere, this is an extremely dangerous result.

    Just for argument’s sake, if what you say is true (John), then as a hear-er of the claim (me), and one who doesn’t know whether you actually heard from God, can you give me something to go off on how I’m supposed to handle this “burden of proof”? To be honest, I’d be happy to bear the burden, but I feel that I still don’t know how I’m supposed to determine whether someone else actually did hear from God personally.

    • I meant that the one saying that God doesn’t at all has the burden of proof. Not specific instances.

      • I guess the only thing to say is that is not what anyone is claiming, the conversation is and has been about the criteria people can or should use when doing “their best” as Josh put it.

  7. First, Pastor Matt, sorry for ignoring your previous response. It was not my intention to just drop a question and bolt. I got very busy with work and never managed to get back on for a proper response. And unfortunately probably will not give a proper response now, but Pat’s recent post triggered a thought that I wanted to write down while I had it.

    Here’s the question I have. From Jesus forward, what standard was there EVER for verifying that someone actually was hearing from God? Paul’s claim of “hearing the voice of God” on the road to Damascus was pretty far out there, especially in light of the fact that none of his companions heard the same thing that he did. Later he “fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to [him],” a conversation in which **supposedly** the Lord told him to go present the gospel to the Gentiles.

    What standard did the disciples have to judge whether Paul had actually heard the voice of God or literally SEEN Jesus? Why should they trust this radical claim that the Gospel was now going to be magically opened up to the Gentiles? Didn’t they have just as much reason to question Paul as any of us do to question anyone’s claim of “hearing from God” today?

    Or how about Philip’s random encounter with an Angel (Acts 8:26) or Paul and his companions being “kept by the Holy Spirit” from preaching in Asia or the “Spirit of Jesus” redirecting them (Acts 16) or what about Peter’s vision about eating unclean things (Acts 10) that just so happened to come at a time when he was very hungry and could easily have just been swayed by his hungry flesh. What kind of test should we have for these instances to see if they were really God, or just Philip choosing a random road, Paul preferring Troas to Asia, and Peter just wanting to eat a dang pork chop already?

    The problem I have with conversations like this is that there is always an insinuation by the skeptics that ANYone claiming to “hear the voice of God” is actually simply hearing their own thoughts or ideas or feelings. Very rarely is anyone willing to come out and actually say what their arguments constantly hint at and what I think deep down they actually believe, that God doesn’t actually speak anymore and anyone claiming such is simply acting on emotion. They won’t come out and say this because as John pointed out, where’s the scripture to back it up? But likewise, where is the scripture to back up ANY standard for whether someone is hearing the voice of God, whether today, or back in the days of Paul, Philip, & Peter? Just as Pastor Matt can’t find a Biblical standard for verifying someone’s claims that God spoke to them today, I don’t see any method employed by Biblical Christians for verifying the claims made in the New Testament.

    So I understand Pastor Matt’s (and others’) question “How do we determine whether someone is REALLY hearing the Voice of God.” But I think there are different responses to that difficult question.

    Response #1 is to say- Well, God just doesn’t speak anymore. As previously stated, I don’t see how this response can possibly be backed up by scripture (I’m more than willing to explain why at a later date, but I’m already running late for dinner, so better not go into it more now.)

    Response #2 is to say- Well, I don’t believe there is a biblical basis for saying that God has stopped speaking, but it’s just too darned hard to figure out if something really is God speaking or not, so I’m just going to pretend and live my life as if God doesn’t speak anymore. (AND some people take it a step further and anytime someone claims to have “heard the Voice of God” they challenge this because if they can’t interpret whether something really is God, then how can anyone else?) This is I think the stance that many people outside of Charismatic circles take (towards a whole bevy of difficult issues ranging the Voice of God to tongues to Prophecy to healing to etc.). And I think it is a pretty poor stance to take. The truth is either a) God still speaks and we have a responsiblity to figure out if something is actually God or just emotion or rational thought or maybe indegestion, or b) God doesn’t speak anymore, in which case you better have a solid Biblical argument to back up that belief. Because we know for a fact (assuming we believe the accounts of Philip, Paul, Peter, and many others) that God DID speak, so if you believe He stopped, why do you believe that?

    Response #3 is what I already stated above (and happens to be my stance) that I can’t find any Biblical basis to believe that God no longer does speak, but also can’t find any Biblical standard for discerning whether something is God speaking or not. So my response is to do my best by a) trying to be close to God (by reading the Word and spending time in prayer), b) being filled with the Holy Spirit daily and relying on Him to help me to discern the Voice of God compared to the other things that can sometimes seem like the Voice of God, and c) use the Bible, logic, and common sense to help discern whether something might actually be coming from God, or simply my mind’s musings, emotion’s feelings, or stomach’s rumblings. I definitely don’t think the right answer is simply to throw up my hands and say “Well, I don’t see any Biblical standard for interpreting whether something is God or not, and it’s just to hard to be sure using any standard I can think of, so I’m just going to live as if God doesn’t speak anymore, even though He probably does.”

    • For a guy who was rushed you sure did manage a lot of words brother! Below is my summary of your points, would you agree I captured the essence?
      Summation of Josh’s reply:

      1. There was no standard ever given by Jesus and beyond on how to know if one was hearing God.
      2. There is always an insinuation by skeptics that the person claiming to hear God is only hearing his own thoughts.
      3. These people probably don’t believe that God speaks today but don’t come out and say it because they don’t have scripture to back it up.
      4. I don’t see any method employed by ‘Biblical Christians’ for verifying the claims made in the NT.
      5. Possible responses to Matt’s question on how do we know: a) God doesn’t speak anymore, but that can’t possibly be back up by Scripture. b) I think God does speak, but it is too hard to know for sure so I will pretend he doesn’t. But if God does speak we must take the responsibility to know it, or if he doesn’t speak, have a solid argument from the bible. c) Believe that God does speak, but acknowledge that the bible does not tell us how to know so we do the best we can. This is best done by staying filled with the Spirit daily so that He can help us discern, use the bible and logic and such.

  8. Yeah, I’d say that’s a fair summary of what I posted.

  9. I have left this comment string quiet for a while in hopes that Josh and John might revisit it and consider the weight of their words. I appreciate their willingness to enter into this post in the first place and want that made clear up front.

    However, when I summarized their comments I did it on purpose to show the glaring inadequacies that they offered in way of answers to how to discern when God actually speaks.

    My answer is laughingly simple. I know God speaks when I open my bible. It is here that I need to explain that I am not speaking about God “leading” me, “sensing” God moving my heart in a certain direction, and such. I am not even talking about a person claiming a prophecy. I am talking about God actually speaking. And I refuse to state that God said something if it is not directly from the Bible.

    But back to how two men instruct me on how to know God’s voice. They both acknowledge in separate ways that there is no method to employ, which should have stopped the discussion right there, but it didn’t. One actually argues that we may not know for sure but we should just do the best we can. Somehow, ‘in faith’ we can know, but no explanation biblically on how that works out. Since we have the Spirit in us we can discern somehow, but apparently not everyone because both agree that you need to be either filled or baptized with the Spirit.

    There it is in a nutshell, you-sorta-can-but-maybe-not-but-have-to-try-and-make-sure-you-are-baptized/filled-with-the-Spirit explanation. I am not trying to be offensive here, it is exactly what I read and I find myself shaking my head because I am no closer to knowing anything than when I began.

    Here are the key points I take issue with. First, there is an intermixing of the idea of baptism of the Spirit and filling of the Spirit when the Bible doesn’t make that connection, not to mention two different types of ‘filling’ in the NT that is not even addressed. Second, in the larger context of their arguments the idea that people in the bible heard God’s voice so we should too begs for proof. In the OT there was a simple test that resulted in the person’s death if they were wrong. Third, there is the clear belief in a second, higher blessing than salvation in their comments. One can be saved, but if they are not filled, as defined by their Charismatic theology, then any possibility of knowing it is God speaking is lost. The effectively limits God’s voice to the world of Charismatics and Pentecostals.

    In the end, I find myself no closer than when I started on how to know the voice of God when He speaks today. This is a huge problem in my eyes as I continue to deal pastorally with people who tell me that God said something to them. Or as I see the rise of incredibly troubling teachers out there like Bill Johnson of Redding, CA who says that God has told him that cancer does not need to exist in the city of Redding, we just need to agree with God enough to make it happen. The Todd Bentley’s simply refuse to die and they are brought back to life by the belief that God speaks through them and heresy continues to go forth. But even life decisions on where to live and what job is right is somehow now guided by men or women who tell another that God has told them such and such.

    It is not a joke, but it is a serious problem. How can so many people claim to hear the voice of God but not be able to have some level of consistency on how that is discerned.

    • Ok, just saw you post and read over it and have a couple very quick responses.

      #1- You are extremely cavalier with the FACT that New Testament Christians “heard” and were lead by the voice of God in many different circumstances, and as far as the Bible tells us, there was no standard for the Christians of the day to test those experiences either. And, you are the one suggesting cessation, so the burden of proof is on you, not me. The Bible *never* gives any suggestion that God would cease speaking to His people in the ways he does in the NT, you make that assumption, and you make it without the support of scripture. If this is incorrect, please tell me where the I can find in the Word that God no longer speaks as he did to NT Christians. Your placing the burden of proof on people that believe God speaks (of God speaking in general, not of specific instances), as He did to NT Christians, is illogical.

      #2- On your statement- “Third, there is the clear belief in a second, higher blessing than salvation in their comments. One can be saved, but if they are not filled, as defined by their Charismatic theology, then any possibility of knowing it is God speaking is lost. The effectively limits God’s voice to the world of Charismatics and Pentecostals.”

      From what I know from speaking with members of your congregation, you place a very heavy emphasis on exegesis and hermeneutics and logical/reason based study of the Word of God. (Before I get any further, let me make clear that I think these are very good and important tools in the life/walk of a Christian and the more we use them the better.) My question is, what about people that just aren’t as smart as you are, or don’t have the tools of study that you do, or lack the understanding and abilities of logic and reason? By your standard, wouldn’t God’s voice be limited to these people? Aren’t they at a disadvantage to a higher/better knowledge and understanding of God because they can’t read the Bible and understand it as well as you can? By your standard, wouldn’t the Aborigines and Africans that only have portions of the Word of God because it isn’t fully interpreted into their language, be unable to access as full an understanding and knowledge of God as you can with all your logical and reason based studies?

      Yes, I will say without any hesitation that I believe the Christian trying to walk with God without the help of the Holy Spirit (“The Helper” -John 14:26), is at a distinct disadvantage in knowing and understanding God and His purposes.

      • (1) Josh, you continue a misunderstanding by trying to redirect the burden back to us. We are not taking a “cessationist” view on the subject, though that’s an irregular use of the word in this context. By asking for some standard, some criterion, or anything really, to support one’s claim that they heard the actual, unequivocal, voice of God when they say they do, is it really fair to pin ?

        (2) It’s unclear to me what point you’re making with the “you guys emphasize logic” argument. First of all- are you stating that there is some other way that the Aborigines or Africans would understand scriptural truth apart from study of the word of God? Is this a deficiency that us non-charismatics are somehow responsible for? If not, do you agree that a sound, rational understanding of the word of God is a clear goal for these people? Thirdly, are you claiming that if people aren’t as smart to understand scriptures, or less equipped, they need something else to fill the “scriptural gap” they have? If so, can you explain what you mean?

        (3) You take a clear and seemingly intentional stance when you say “Yes, I will say without any hesitation that I believe the Christian trying to walk with God without the help of the Holy Spirit (“The Helper” -John 14:26), is at a distinct disadvantage in knowing and understanding God and His purposes.” Can you give me some examples of purposes of God (you said this in the plural form), as you referenced above, that one would be at a disadvantage in understanding without “the help of the Holy Spirit”? I’m not asking for anything mind-blowing, just something to help clarify what you mean.


      • Sorry, I forgot to complete my sentence in point (1). It should read “is it really fair to pin *us as cessationists, if we are just asking to understand how this happens a little better?*

      • Josh, you seem to want to fight but I have not asked for that fight. So if you do, fight by yourself because there is no one else in the ring with you. How I can be cavalier is beyond me (assuming you are using it in the lexical sense) since I keep asking for criteria to know the voice of God is in fact God and all I get back is push back.

        You are obviously right that there were those who heard God’s voice in the NT and that there was no indication on how they knew. So what? To extrapolate that therefore we ought not try to have SOME basis for knowing God is speaking and not some over emotional old guy who has an agenda of his own is way beyond the text. So your argument achieves nothing. Additionally, I am not placing the burden on anyone to prove they know it is God speaking, I am asking why should anyone sitting in a church and hear that God has just told someone that a great revival is ready to sweep Kenosha should simply accept that without asking how does he/she know that God actually said that?

        What is most pressing for me in your comments is that is obvious you have not done even a basic study of the nature of the baptism in the Spirit in relation to the two different terms of ‘filled’ with the Spirit in the NT. But you base the entire argument on how to know the voice of God as by being baptized. I state that you show little understanding not merely on your first two comments but on this one as well where now you appear to equate walking with God without the help of the Spirit as putting a person at a disadvantage. Walking by the Spirit is not the baptism in the Spirit, nor is it being filled with the Spirit regardless of which filling is in view. You are a bright man who needs to pull his fangs in a bit and just sit down and start to prayerfully study more on something before you level statements like you have.

        You middle comments about aborigines and such brings nothing to the table regarding the original post, which I still have not heard anything helpful so I will let it pass. Josh, you seem to think I have some deep or dark agenda when in reality I have asked the original question in earnest. Since God apparently speaks to you simply ask Him what I am up to and perhaps he will speak to you. I know it was not God who told you that I am a cessationist, because I am not and have been public about that.

  10. One last thing (for now). You encourage John and I to “consider the weight of their words,” and I would in all humbleness encourage you to do the same. Specifically in light of the fact that your words carry much more weight with many more of God’s children than do mine or John’s (neither in any type of leadership role in the Church).

    You are seemingly suggesting that verses like 1 Corinthians 14:1 “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” and 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”, as well as numerous other scriptures which speak to prophecy, tongues, and other spiritual gifts, simply do not apply for the church today. What Biblical bases do you have to suggest this?

    • Josh, I am aware of my words and their weight. And it was with that knowledge that I honestly asked a question in my post. You keep putting words in my mouth that I have not uttered and I reject them as easily as you insert them. As I said in my other comment, you assert I am a cessationist and yet I am not. Here you tell me how I understand 1co 14:1 and 1th 5 but you never bother to ask what my position is. Nor do either of these speak to the voice of God, but of prophecies, which are something different. Stop assuming brother. Quit answering as you think I am ‘really’ thinking and answer what is actually said and your way will be much less tense.

      To prevent you from any more such mishaps with assumptions here is the link to the first of a series I did on Spiritual Gifts. I recommend you hear the whole series but if you don’t wish to, at least listen to the ones connected to your claims that I am a cessasionist and such.

  11. This entire conversation is worthless and pointless. Until both “sides” come to the table with genuine humility there is no benefit to this discussion. Sarcastic, mocking comments will not get anyone anywhere.

    • Thank you Amy for your point. Question though, is sarcasm the same as mocking? I would not see it that way, but if you see something mocking (i.e. treating in a contemptuous manner) in my words please feel free to point it out.

      The “table” was set by me and there was genuine desire (not aware of any pride driving it) to know what I asked. That post came from a completely unrelated post which I read earlier.

      I did think that my attempt to summarize the two gentlemen’s points was done in a spirit of fairness as I did not want to treat them unfairly. I would hope that this was something that expresses humility.

      Regardless, thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  12. Pastor Matt, I did not feel that I took any more a confrontational role in my response than you did in yours. You claim that you are not looking for a fight (nor am I, rather a discussion), but you challenge my response just as I challenge yours indicating that you were in fact looking for discussion. I’m not sure why you attempt to paint my response in a negative light simply because I take an opposing view to yours.

    I will listen to some of your teaching on the subject and hold off on further response until I’m better versed in your stances on the subject. But my suggestion of cessation is not merely taken from the wind, but is informed by your statement “…the idea that people in the bible heard God’s voice so we should too begs for proof.” I’m not sure how else to interpret this statement except that you don’t believe God still speaks. It would only beg for proof if you are starting with the assumption that God does not still speak, right? If you were starting with the assumption that God still speaks, then it would be perfectly fair to ask the question that you initially asked “How do we know when God speaks”, but it seems illogical for someone who believes God does speak to make the statement that we need to poove that God still speaks. If you believe it, then why would I need to proove it to you?

    Anyway, that is the last I will say on the matter for now.

  13. Pastor Matt,

    I am intrigued by your comments regarding Paul’s pneumatic language. I wonder if we could discuss the following question: “Is it possible to separate any epistolary pneumatology from the demonstrable experience of the Spirit, foreshadowed in the gospels and evidenced in the book of Acts?” I think your perspective on the differing terminology for living by the Spirit (walking in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit) SEEMS to ignore the “common experience” of the early church, which was the activity of the Holy Spirit as something demonstrable beginning with their Spirit Baptism. This activity was not only outwardly demonstrable (1 Cor. 12 gifts) but also inwardly experiential producing a faith-filled heart condition (subjective experiences of love, joy, and peace: Rom. 5:5, Gal. 5:22). As much as any other historical consideration we give to the Epistles, we also need to include to the best of our understanding, a historical consideration of the early church’s experience of the Holy Spirit and how these experiences would have shaped their understanding of the oversimplified pneumatic language employed by the authors. It may be that a discussion on this would require a different article. I just thought I would introduce the possibility for such a discussion.

  14. Hi Justin,

    Before a discussion begins on this, can you please define some of your terms and phrases so we all can objectively engage one another. First, what do YOU mean by “Epistolary Pneumatology.” Secondly, what do YOU mean by Demonstrable experience of the Spirit?” Thirdly, it would be helpful if you could pick some passages where these are “foreshadowed in the Gospels and evidenced in the book of Acts.” This way we will not be inserting random texts when they seemingly and conveniently agree with our position.

    Fourthly, why do you think Pastor Matt’s “perspectives on the differing terminology for living by the Spirit (walking in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit) SEEM to ignore the “common experience” of the early church?” When you answer this question, could you please preamble with YOUR understanding of “walking by the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, and baptized in the Spirit, from a Biblical perspective? Illustrations from the Gospel’s and Acts may be helpful, but I am more concerned with your Epistolary understanding of the H.S.’s role. This reason for this is the following:

    It seems evident you have formed opinions of Pastor Matt’s Pneumatology, yet he has not given any, unless you have listened to his sermons. Not to mention, I do not think Pastor Matt would doubt the presence of an “outwardly demonstrable” or “inwardly experiential” function of the H.S. that would produce a “faith-filled heart condition.” In fact, the “faith-filled heart condition” is itself a demonstrable overflow of the Spirit’s presence. It is for this example why I ask you to give your position(s). I don’t want to assume meaning into your understanding. I would much rather know your understanding. This will help to propel clarity.

    Lastly, forgive me if I am not properly understanding your intent, but with regard to the question and notion which you have put forth in needing a “historical consideration of the early church’s experience of the Holy Spirit and how these experiences would have shaped their understanding of the oversimplified pneumatic language employed by the authors,” can you please explain why this is necessary? Also, I’m not certain what you mean by “oversimplified pneumatic language.” Could you please explain what YOU mean by this in clear language?


    • Justin, What Matt Miller said.

      In all seriousness Justin, Matt’s points would be mine with a few additional. I would really appreciate hearing what your response would be. I think I would then devote an entire post or two on simply the issues you raise.

      However, for myself, your questions still fail to answer the point of the post itself. How does one know it was God’s voice? Not prophecy, not a leading, not a sense; rather, God told me [fill in the blank].

      I am not expecting anything specific, though that would be awesome, because I already know what the Scripture would say to that question. And it would say, “nope, got nothing.”

      All of this is leading toward additional posts since I see so many who make life decisions on nothing but vagueness. Worse, I see men and women who submit themselves to the supposed authority of others who claim they have heard God’s voice and order their lives accordingly.

  15. Alright, I said I wouldn’t comment further until after I had listened to some of you teaching on the subject (which I haven’t had a chance to do yet), but your last post reminded me of something I wanted to raise previously.

    A couple times now you’ve stated “Not prophecy, not a leading, not a sense” but rather “God told me [fill in the blank].” My issue with this is that the situation you are describing is so extrememly rare that I can not remember a single instance of it in my entire life of being a part of charasmatic Christian Churches (that’s not to say it never happens, because I’m sure it does on rare occassion). I’ve heard plenty of people say “I feel like God is leading me…” or “I sense that God is telling me…” or “I believe God is directing me,” and I’ve heard prophecy and tongues. But very rarely, if ever, do I hear people say “God told me [fill in the blank]”. (Aside from prophecy, and even then it is “God says” not “God told me.”

    So if I am to understand you correctly by the disclaimers you’ve made, you don’t have any problem with someone saying “I feel like God is leading me to…” or “I sense God is telling me…” or other similar statements?

    Is this a correct understanding of your position?

    If so, then I would say you have much less of an issue with charismatic Christianity than I initially thought because those types of statements are virtually always what I hear people say rather than “God told me….” And I would say that your argument basically boils down to a straw man since what people actually say is “leading”, “sense”, “fee”, etc., which, **if I understand correctly**, you don’t have an issue with.

    (All that to say, I still don’t find anything extra-biblical about the belief that God actually does speak to people, and I don’t find any reason to think that we need any more of a “litmus test” for claims of “hearing from God” than the New Testament Church had, and that being 1) the written Word of God, 2) the Holy Spirit, and 3) reason/logic (though since we often only see very small portions of God’s plan I would argue reason/logic can sometimes even be a hindrance to a situation like this.)

    • Josh, I believe (Pastor Matt please correct me if I’m wrong) the question is rather that if one hears a prophecy, or feels a “leading” or a “sense,” how can one say with certainty “God told me [fill in the blank]”?

      This is the question because saying “God led me to do this, or, “I sense God telling me to” is really the same thing as saying “God told me [fill in the blank].” These are the same, so much so that people make large life decisions of these senses and “leadings.”

      To use the straw man argument here is a bit premature since no real criteria has been offered for analysis, much less refutation, beyond variations of “you just know it.” Or, possibly “you need the Holy Spirit to discern” -which of course presents the, in my opinion, strange position that one needs needs additional Holy Spirit discernment in order to know with when they are hearing from the Holy Spirit. The inevitable question is then always “yeah, okay, well how do you know THAT is the Holy Spirit” ad infinitum.

      I’ll leave the theological discussion for you seminarians, it is way beyond me. Just want to say though, that if anyone is reading this and turned off by the use of CAPITALs on these posts, just know there is no option for bold, italic, underline, or anything. The only way to convey emphasis is by use of Facebook-political-guru style capital letters.

  16. Pat, in 2 separate comments Pastor Matt has clearly stated a different stance than what you suggest.

    “It is here that I need to explain that I am not speaking about God “leading” me, “sensing” God moving my heart in a certain direction, and such. I am not even talking about a person claiming a prophecy. I am talking about God actually speaking.” -Pastor Matt in a June 1st comment

    “How does one know it was God’s voice? Not prophecy, not a leading, not a sense; rather, God told me [fill in the blank].” -Pastor Matt in a une 9th comment

    The reason I am raising the “straw man” claim is that I very very rarely if ever hear people say “God told me [fill in the blank].” When making these types of claims I almost always here people say the kinds of things Pastor Matt seems to not take issue with (“leading,” “sensing,” “feeling,” etc.). So which is it, is there a problem with “sensing,” “leading,” “being moved in a certain direction,” etc., or is the issue only with “God told me [fill in the blank]”? If it is the latter, then I would suggest that this entire argument is a straw man given the fact that it is a rarity to hear someone use that language.

    PS: I would echo your comments about CAPS. I’m hesitant to use them here because I don’t want people to think I’m YELLING something, but like you say, with no ability to use *bold* to emphasize something, it’s tough to communicate points without using some CAPS.

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