Volume 13, Number 2, July-August 2009

Does God Still Talk to People?

by Norman Edwards

The answer is essentially “Yes”. But the Bible teaches much about how, why and when He talks. Almost everyone has heard that God spoke to the prophets in the Old Testament:

Then He said, Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD….” (Num 12:6-8).

In the New Testament, the Son of God comes to earth giving great spiritual teaching not generally known before. Luke says, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16; Heb 1:1-4 similar).

Did the coming of Christ eliminate the need for prophetic dreams and visions or the speaking of God through angels and His Spirit? No! The pouring out of the Holy Spirit increased the number of people who received divine messages! Please read these many verses showing God speaking.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot” (Acts 8:29).

And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28).

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted the brethren with many words and strengthened them (Acts 15:32).

... We who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9).

… A certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:10-11).

Except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me (Acts 20:23).

... As it has now [not 400 years ago] been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets... (Eph 3:5).

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice” (Heb 3:7).

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.... And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth (Rev 11:3,10).

Now I, John... fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev 22:8-9).

What is a Prophet?

A prophet is someone who speaks for God. (Deut 18:18-19; Dan 9:6; Amos 3:7). Most Bible prophets carefully relate exactly what God told them—not putting their own interpretation on His words. Some serve God this way many times, while others may do it only once (Jdgs 6:7-10; 2Chr 15:1-7). Even with the major role Solomon had as King of Israel and writer of the Bible, God only talked to him twice (1Kngs 11:9). A person speaking for God, is prophesying, but if he does not do it regularly, he may not be called a prophet.

A prophet does not usually have authority over the people to whom he delivers the words of God. The people may or may not obey His words. Many Old Testament prophets were imprisoned or killed by the people to whom they were sent. Sometimes, even the prophets did not listen to what God was saying (2Pet 2:15-16; Jonah 1:1-3). In the New Testament, many of those who prophesied were not apostles or church leaders. But at times those who were prophets also had authority as a judge (Samuel), a king (David) or an apostle (John).

Some people quote this verse to claim that any speaking guided of God is prophesying:

But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men (1Cor 14:3).

Edification, exhortation and comfort are the effect of prophecy, not its definition. Every place in the scripture where we have the actual words of a prophecy, we can see that they are given by God (John 11:48-52; Acts 11:27-30; 13:1-3; 21:10-11; Rev 1-22). Prophesyings may be about the future, or they may be something that an individual or a church needs right now.

In Acts 21:8-9, quoted previously, we see that women—Philip’s four daughters—can be prophets. Others are Deborah (Jdgs 4:4), Miriam (Ex 15:20), Huldah (2Kgs 22:4) and Anna (Luke 2:36).

The Effect of God Talking to Someone

When God talks to people, they still have control of themselves—He does not “take control” of them: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1Cor 14:32). Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and others seemed to have little emotional difficulty. Neither did Ananias in the New Testament:

Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord” (Acts 9:10).

But for others, even Isaiah, Daniel and the Apostle John, receiving a message from God was an emotionally powerful experience:

When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” (Jdgs 13:21-22).

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (Isa 6:5).

Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him (Dan 4:19).

… As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly terrified me, and my face turned pale; but I kept the matter in my mind (Dan 7:28, NRSV).

My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. “For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me” (Dan 10:16-17).

As he [the apostle Paul] journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:3-4).

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev 22:8-9).

Prophecy, Most Listed Spiritual Gift

Of the five different lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament (Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:7-11, 28-31; Eph 4:11-15; 1Pet 4:8-11), prophecy is mentioned in all of them; other gifts are mentioned in three lists or less. The word “prophecy” is not used in 1 Peter 4:11, instead it mentions speaking the “oracles of God” or “very words of God” (NIV, NRSV, etc.). The Greek here is logion and is used for God’s words in the three other verses that use it (Acts 7:38; Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12).

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith (Rom 12:6)

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy…(1Cor 12:7-10)

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1Cor 12:28).

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11).

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1Pet 4:11).

We Are Commanded to Let Brethren Prophecy; Watch out for False Prophets

Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order (1Cor 14:39-40).

Unfortunately, there are “false prophets” who claim messages are from God when they are not (Deut 13:3; 1Jn 4:1; Rev 2:20). We must learn to examine messages for conflict with the Bible, determine if a speaker has a motive for delivering a false message, and develop spiritual discernment. We can do these things and work together in peace.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1Tim 4:1),

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge [whether or not the message is from the Eternal (Deut 13:2; 18:22)]. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1Cor 14:29-33).         &

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