Have You Been Spoken to by God?

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When we hear someone say: “God told me….” how do we know it’s true? How do we know if God is speaking to us? Are we receiving a prophetic revelation or impression? Here are some answers and strong cautions.

God told me…

We have all probably heard a televangelist utter the above words, telling us they received a divine message from God. You may have heard this from your local pastor, someone you know, or someone you do not know. Indeed, religious cult leaders have used such proclamations to lead followers astray.

Bible verses that are often quoted to support the idea that anyone can receive a prophecy from God are these:

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,”

– Hebrews 1:1

“And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

– Joel 2:28

However, some argue that the time of prophecy has ended. They point to Bible verses such as these:

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

–Hebrews 1:1-2

The argument is that the apostles wrote down the complete Gospels in the New Testament, and divine revelation is no longer necessary.

“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

In other words, we have all the revelation we need in the pages of the Bible.

Prophecy or impression?

“But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”

– Hebrews 1:2

English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) warned against believing our mental impressions are a divine revelation from the Holy Spirit. He thought that the early miraculous gifts were only for the apostles and were no longer available to the church.

In a July 13, 1884 sermon entitled “Receiving the Holy Spirit,” Spurgeon said: “Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already—He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will.”

In another sermon, entitled “A Well Ordered Life,” Spurgeon declared: “If it is not according to this Word, the impression comes not from God — it may proceed from Satan, or from your own distempered brain!”

In yet another sermon, entitled “Inquiring of God,” Spurgeon warned that: “Impressions are unreliable guides.”

Use caution with impressions

Justin Taylor, writing for the gospel coalition, gives us some advice from J. I. Packer’s essay, “Guidance: How God Loves Us,” in God’s Plans for Us (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 89–106: “Direct communications from God take the form of impressions, and impressions can come even to the most devoted and prayerful people from such murky sources as wishful thinking, fear, obsessive neurosis, schizophrenia, hormonal imbalance, depression, side effects of medication, and satanic delusion, as well as from God. Impressions need to be suspected before they are sanctioned and tested before they are trusted.”

Lastly, Packer gives this warning about impressions:

“If anyone today receives a direct disclosure from God, it will have no canonical significance.”