Let Me Count the Ways
“God speaks only through the Bible, and only to a limited degree.”
This is a common theological position held by many conservative, mainstream evangelicals. God’s revelation is complete and He speaks only through the theological truths of the Bible. Revelation— the disclosure of absolute biblical truth— was completed with the close of the New Testament canon. Illumination by the Holy Spirit helps believers understand and properly interpret truth. Practical application of biblical truth is less critical than proper methods of interpretation of Scripture. Personalization (personal, practical application in everyday situations) is dependent upon the believer’s grasp and application of biblical truth and purely for purposes of sanctification. “Sanctify them in Your word. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) God speaks to believers through His Word, but His voice is limited to theological truths, and the personalization of Scripture is limited to the practical application of those truths.
“God speaks through the Bible, but also through believers with spiritual gifts such as prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom.”
This is what is commonly called a “Charismatic” view. Though the Charismatic view would deny that new theological truth can be given outside the Bible (new revelation), God can speak directly to believers through gifted people. Some believers have the gift of prophecy, others of wisdom, others of knowledge, others of tongues and still others the gift of interpreting tongues. These gifted believers can speak to the everyday concerns and problems of other believers because the so-called “sign gifts” of the New Testament did not cease when the canon was closed. All gifts of the Holy Spirit are as available to believers today as they were to the believers of the Early Church. Believers hear God’s voice through gifted teachers (the teaching of the Bible) and through members of the body of Christ, the church, whom God has gifted.
“God speaks through the Bible, but also through extra-biblical sources.”
For example, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that God speaks through papal decrees and church councils as well as the Bible. The doctrine of Apostolic Succession teaches that the Pope is the direct spiritual descendant of the Apostle Peter and therefore is the only one anointed by God capable of revealing new truth. In general, the believer receives all of his instruction from the church, including the proper interpretation and application of Scripture. As far as the believer is concerned, the presence of the Holy Spirit is purely for purposes of sanctification. This approach to hearing God’s voice expresses itself in other denominations as well. Mormonism, for example, considers the extra-biblical writings of Joseph Smith to be equivalent to the Bible. Followers hear God’s voice through Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price as well as from the Bible. Another example is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Followers believe Ellen White was a true prophet of God and her writing and teaching, though by SDA doctrine not equivalent to the Bible, should be heeded as if it were. With all these conflicting views, how does a Christian hear God’s voice today? What means has God provided that enables His children to hear His voice?
Walk with the Word takes the position that every Christian can hear God’s voice directly through His Word. Hearing God’s voice does not require a church hierarchy to speak to believers. Hearing God’s voice does not require extra-biblical writings and does not require specially gifted believers. Nor has God ceased speaking directly to believers. To repeat, Walk with the Word takes the position that every believer can hear God’s voice directly through His Word. The key is in the phrase “through His Word.”