Have you ever wondered how God speaks to us according to the Bible? This is a profound question that many Christians contemplate. God may not speak to us audibly as He did with prophets and apostles in biblical times, but He still communicates in various ways today.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God speaks through His Word in the Bible, by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit who guides believers, through other believers, circumstances, and creation. He speaks to reveal Himself, His will, and His truth.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore in detail the main ways God speaks to His people based on Scripture. We’ll look at how He speaks through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, other believers, circumstances, creation, and more.
With over 50 relevant Bible verses, this in-depth article will help you understand the diverse ways God communicates and discern His voice in your life.
Through His Word in the Bible
The Centrality of Scripture
The Bible is central to understanding God’s voice and will. As 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
This verse emphasizes the divine inspiration and authority behind the entirety of Scripture. Its truth and moral guidance equip believers to know and follow God’s purposes. With the Bible as the foundation, Christians gain discernment to recognize God’s voice over other influences.
Illumination by the Spirit
While the Bible contains God’s very words and principles, illumination by the Holy Spirit enables full spiritual insight. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Humans initially lack the capacity to grasp divine truths. The Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds makes Scripture come alive. Through an ongoing faith relationship, we can receive revelatory impressions of contextual meaning and application of biblical passages.
The Spirit sheds light so God’s voice resonates at a personal level.
Scripture Interpreting Scripture
Since the Bible’s divine source establishes its inner unity, we should let Scripture interpret Scripture. Every word, verse, and book unfolds aspects of God’s overarching story of redemption. By analyzing passages in light of the wider biblical context, we allow the Bible to speak for itself.
This organizer principle prevents distorted interpretations while clarifying meaning. It guides our understanding toward conclusions reflecting the coherent revelation across its pages. With sound exegesis, Scripture fuels our capacity to identify God’s voice and trace it to the source characteristics of His nature.
By the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit Guides Believers
The Holy Spirit plays a vital role in guiding believers to hear God’s voice. As Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The Spirit enlightens God’s word to us, helping us understand and apply it.
He also brings scripture to mind, using it to speak into situations. This inner working of the Spirit is often described as an inner witness or inward testimony as we sense His leading. It’s ultimately through the Spirit that we’re able to recognize God speaking to us.
Some key ways the Holy Spirit guides us into hearing God’s voice include:
- Illuminating scripture – Helping us understand and rightly apply God’s word
- Bringing scripture to mind – Reminding us of relevant verses in situations
- Giving inward promptings – Instincts, ideas or gentle nudges to act
- Producing spiritual fruit – Love, joy, peace confirm we’re in God’s will (Galatians 5:22-23)
As Dallas Willard said, “We live in the Spirit to the degree that we are responsive to His promotions.” As we follow the Spirit’s leadership, we’ll grow increasingly sensitive to God’s voice through Him. What an awesome truth – that the very Spirit of God dwells within believers to guide us!
Conviction of Sin
A primary way the Holy Spirit helps believers hear God’s voice is by convicting us of sin. Jesus called Him the “Counselor” who would convince the world of guilt concerning sin (John 16:8). When we’re convicted of sin, that’s often the Spirit speaking to our conscience about something that displeases God.
This conviction plays a vital role in hearing God’s voice more clearly. As Andrew Murray said, “The first work of the Spirit is to humble you, to empty you, to prepare you to wait on God to create a clean heart.” Remaining in unconfessed sin clouds our spiritual perception (Isaiah 59:2).
But as we allow the Spirit to cleanse us through conviction, we become more sensitive to the Lord.
Some signs we’re experiencing Holy Spirit conviction include:
- A sense of guilt over our actions
- Feeling sorrow or regret over sin
- Awareness we’ve grieved the Lord (Ephesians 4:20)
- Nudges to make amends or change behavior
Rather than condemn us, the Spirit’s conviction is meant to restore us to righteousness that enables clarity in discerning God’s voice. As John Piper notes, “He who does not harden his heart will hear and increase in faith and obedience.”
Discernment of God’s Will
In addition to guiding believers into truth and convicting us of sin, the Holy Spirit empowers us to discern God’s voice through spiritual discernment. The Bible says such discernment enables us to distinguish between spirits and understand whether something is from God or not (1 John 4:1).
It’s key for accurately hearing His voice.
According to Gordon Smith in The Voice of Jesus, this discernment involves weighing inward impressions to determine if they’re consistent with God’s character and word. The Spirit gives us this capacity.
Smith writes, “We know that we are hearing the voice of Jesus when there is discernible alignment between the prompting and the fruit of the Spirit.”
Signs we’re perceiving God’s voice by the Spirit’s discernment include:
- Confirmations in His word and character
- Growing spiritual fruit like love, joy and peace (Galatians 5:22-23)
- A sense of purpose regarding His will and our calling
While counterfeit voices bring anxiety and turmoil, the Spirit affirms God’s voice with peace and alignment to His truth. May we stay sensitive to this Spirit of wisdom and revelation through obedient faith!
Through Other Believers
Preaching and Teaching
God often speaks to us through anointed preaching and teaching of His Word. When pastors, teachers, and evangelists rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), they act as messengers to communicate God’s truth to believers.
Their words can cut to our hearts and illuminate areas where we need to grow, change, or be encouraged (Hebrews 4:12). For example, a sermon may speak directly to a situation we are facing or answer a question we’ve been wrestling with. This is one of God’s primary ways of guiding His people.
Gifts of Prophecy and Word of Wisdom
In addition to anointed preaching, God can speak through believers who have the gifts of prophecy or word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). These supernatural gifts involve receiving spontaneous words from the Lord that edify, encourage, or comfort other believers.
For instance, someone may have a prophetic word or word of wisdom for our specific situation. However, we must test these words against Scripture to ensure they align with God’s truth (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
The Lord often provides guidance through godly counselors (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22). As we share struggles with mature believers and ask their advice, God can speak through their spiritual discernment and Biblical perspectives.
Christians who excel in wisdom, mercy, discernment, or reconciliation (Romans 12:6-8) can be particularly helpful counselors. For example, a merciful person may provide gentle accountability, while a discerning person can identity roots of issues.
We must weigh their counsel against God’s Word (Acts 17:11). As the Holy Spirit illuminates truth through their advice, we gain greater clarity from the Lord.
Opening and Closing Doors
God often uses circumstances in our lives to reveal His will. He opens and closes doors of opportunity to guide us down the path He has for us. For example, a job promotion with increased responsibilities may signal God wants you in that role.
Getting rejected from a graduate program you hoped to attend could be God redirecting you elsewhere. Pay attention to the open and closed doors in your life – they are God’s way of steering you.
Here are some biblical examples of God opening and closing doors:
- In Acts 16, Paul wanted to preach in Asia but the Holy Spirit prevented him. Then Paul had a vision calling him to Macedonia.
- In Genesis 20, God closed the wombs of Abimelech’s household and opened them up again through Abraham’s prayer.
- In Revelation 3:8, Jesus says He has placed an open door before the church in Philadelphia which no one can shut.
As you seek God’s will, be sensitive to the circumstances He orchestrates. He will direct you through the opportunities He opens up or withholds. Trust that closed doors are for your protection and benefit in the long run.
God often confirms His will by repeating a message across different channels. For example, He may speak to you through a dream and then confirm it with a verse that jumps out at you in Scripture the next day. Pay attention when God highlights the same message to you in various ways.
Here are some examples of how God may provide confirmations:
- You sense God calling you to ministry. Then three people approach you unprompted telling you that you’d make a great pastor.
- You feel led to take a new job. Your spouse independently suggests you should take it.
- You want to move across the country. On a random TV show you turn on, the main character does just what you were considering.
However, be careful not to become overly dependent on “fleeces” or signs for decision making. That can lead to unhealthy obsession. God primarily speaks through Scripture, wise counsel, prayer, and intuition. But confirmations do strengthen faith when they align with God’s Word and Spirit.
“Divine appointments” refer to God orchestrating encounters, conversations, and timely happenings to accomplish His purposes. For example, you “coincidentally” sit next to someone on a flight who needs encouragement in an area you have experience in.
Or you bump into an old friend who connects you to your future spouse. These chance meetings are God-ordained.
Here are some biblical examples of divine appointments:
- Ruth “happened” to glean in the field of Boaz, her future husband (Ruth 2:3).
- Saul, later Paul, providentially encountered Ananias who restored his sight (Acts 9:10-19).
- Philip was directed by an angel to meet the Ethiopian eunuch and explain the gospel (Acts 8:26-40).
When you are seeking God’s guidance, be on the lookout for providential encounters He arranges. Be ready to minister to those God has set in your path for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). But use discernment – not every coincidence is divinely inspired.
Revelation of God’s Glory
God reveals Himself through His creation. The beauty, complexity, and order in nature reflect the awesomeness and greatness of God (Psalm 19:1). By observing the intricacies of the human body or the vastness of the universe, we can understand God’s power and divine nature.
Creation also reveals that there is a Creator who is separate from His creation. God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them in six days and then rested on the seventh day (Genesis 1-2).
The account of creation in Genesis makes it clear that God is eternal while His physical creation has a beginning.
God has revealed truths about Himself generally to all mankind through creation. Anyone can look around and understand something of God’s existence, power, and divine nature by observing the world (Romans 1:19-20). This “general revelation” through creation gives everyone some basic knowledge of God.
However, general revelation is limited in what it reveals about God. While it makes His existence and power obvious, creation alone does not communicate the specifics of the gospel. To know God’s full plan of salvation, one must understand the special revelation contained in Scripture.
When God created mankind, He instilled a basic moral sense in every person that reflects His righteous character (Romans 2:14-15). The conscience convicts us when we do something wrong and affirms us when we do what is right.
While conscience alone cannot bring someone to saving faith or give eternal life, it does prepare the way for the gospel by reminding people of God’s existence and moral standards. The conscience is part of general revelation that makes all people responsible to respond to the special revelation of Scripture.
In conclusion, God speaks to His people in diverse ways according to Scripture. His primary means of communication is through the Bible, which is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He also speaks through other believers, circumstances, and general revelation in creation.
While God no longer speaks audibly as He did in biblical history, He still actively guides His people if we have ears to hear. By understanding the multifaceted ways God speaks, we can grow in discernment and walk in step with His will.
As we stay connected to Him through Scripture, prayer and the Spirit’s leading, we will recognize His voice speaking truth, wisdom and revelation into our lives.