How God speaks today

Introduction

The rise of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement in the last century has seen an increased expectation of God regularly speaking outside of scripture, whether through inner impressions or prophecies.[1] This increase in itself testifies that such expectation is different to that which has prevailed throughout most of church history.[2] It has perhaps been no surprise then that many have reacted against these new views both on historical and theological grounds. Some deny any expectation that God might lead the everyday believer by these means, asserting that his guidance is limited to the Bible alone. Others accept that he may do on occasion, but that our understanding and expectation of such things needs more careful thought.[3]

The conviction of this booklet is the latter “open but cautious” view. Dealing with such a contentious topic will inevitable cause those holding other views to feel defensive, as cherished assumptions are challenged. For now however, all we must agree on is to look to Jesus and the book he sanctioned to be our teacher. My hope and prayer is that as we do, we will be prepared to truly “listen to God,” and so ensure that our minds, experiences and actions conform to what the Bible actually says.

How God always speaks today

Jesus – God’s word
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers 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 he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Hebrews 1:1-3
These are incredible verses. God has spoken; and he has done so clearly: First to Israel, via his prophets, who we are told received their revelations from angels (Heb 2:2). Second and supremely to us, via his Son, not only in his teaching recorded in the gospels, but in that of the apostles he specially commissioned as his spokesmen (Heb 2:3-4). Jesus is God. His words are God’s words; his actions God’s actions. What we hear and see of him, we hear and see of God. And the fact that God has spoken through him cannot be taken lightly. For just as the Son’s word sustains the universe, so it is carries supreme authority and will always be fulfilled.

The bible – God’s word written

By his infinite wisdom and mercy God has chosen to speak in a book - something that can be accurately handed down across the centuries, studied, checked, and discussed, to protect against error, distortion and misunderstanding.

The Bible is God’s Word

Jesus not only taught that the entire Old Testament (OT) was God’s word (Jn 5:37-40), but that every letter of it was inspired and so binding (Mat 5:17-20, Mk 7:6-8). The implication is that every part of the OT therefore carries divine authority, and so should be obeyed so far as it is properly understood (2 Tim 3:16-17). Jesus makes this particularly clear in teaching God’s will for marriage: He happily equates the narrator writing in Genesis 2 with “the Creator” speaking (Mat 19:4-5, Gen 2:24).

As for the New Testament (NT), Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach his twelve apostles “all things,” remind them of “everything” he had taught them, guide them into “all the truth,” and teach them “what is yet to come” (Jn 14:26, 16:13). The Church therefore only included books in the NT which were widely accepted to be by the apostles, or consistent with their teaching and written during their lifetimes.[4] These too were held to be “scripture,” i.e. God’s inspired and so authoritative word, just like the OT (2 Pet 3:16 cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). One of the last century’s leading writers on this subject comments:
…the apostles extended the traditional claim to divine inspiration. Jesus their Lord had not only validated the conception of a unique and authoritative corpus of sacred writings, but spoke of a further ministry of teaching by the Spirit (John 14:26, 16:13). The apostles assert confidently that they thus speak by the Spirit (1 Pet 1:12). They ascribe both the form and matter of their teaching to him (1 Cor 2:13). They not only assume a divine authority (1 Thess 4:2, 15; 2 Thess 3:5, 12), but they make acceptance of their written commands a test of spiritual obedience (1 Cor 14:37). They even refer to each other’s writings with the same regard as for the OT (cf. the identification in 1 Tim 5:18 of a passage from Luke’s Gospel, “The worker deserves his wages” [Luke 10:7] as scripture, and the juxtaposition of the Pauline Epistles in 2 Pet 3:16 with “the other Scriptures”).[5]
To say we trust Jesus as God’s Son is to say that we trust his teaching. We must therefore hold his view of the Bible not our own. So the Christian is bound to see the whole Bible as entirely trustworthy. Obviously the process of copying and translating the texts may have led to the odd error in what we have today; yet scholars agree that we are left only with very minor uncertainties which many Bibles include as footnotes anyway. We therefore say that the bible is inerrant “as originally given.”

The Bible is God speaking today

Yet the bible is not just God’s word back then. It is God’s word today. When the writer of Hebrews quotes some OT passages he writes “the Holy Spirit says” - present tense (Heb 3:7-11). Westcott comments:
…the record is the voice of God; and as a necessary consequence the record itself is living…It has a vital connexion with our circumstances and must be considered in connexion with them.[6]
The words of the bible are God’s words still speaking. So when we read an account of Israel’s history, it is as accurate as if God himself were audibly relating it to us. Likewise, an applicable command such as “love one-another” is as much a command from Jesus as if he too were in the room audibly saying it to us.

Now some would say that the Bible is God’s word only when the Spirit brings it home to our hearts. But Jesus’ own view is even stronger than that: The authority of our parents’ words does not depend on whether they strike home. We are required to obey them whatever. In a similar way God speaks to us in the words of the Bible whether we are prepared to hear and act on them or not (Jn 5:37-40). We would do well then to ensure not only that we listen to God by reading our Bible’s and seeking out good Bible teaching, but that we pay careful attention to what we read and hear.

It really is quite wrong then to say that the Bible is how God spoke to people in he past, but that the way we have a living relationship with him now is by the Holy Spirit speaking via other means. The Bible is the key way the Spirit speaks – present tense - to us today.

Preaching – God’s word spoken

How then should we view Bible teaching? Well if the very words of the Bible are God’s words, then when we or others explain, interpret and apply the Bible correctly at home, from the pulpit, in evangelism or in conversation, it is as if Christ himself were actually explaining, interpreting, and applying these things to us (1 Pet 4:11a, 1 Thess 2:13). So in correctly teaching the implications of Psalm 95 to the Hebrews, the writer can legitimately say “the Holy Spirit says” (Heb 3:7-4:13). Commenting on the role of pastors in Ephesians 4:10-13, Calvin the great reformer writes:
For, on the one hand, [God] by an admirable test proves our obedience when we listen to his ministers just as we would to himself… Those who think that the authority of the doctrine is impaired by the insignificance of the men who are called to teach betray their ingratitude; for among the many noble endowments with which God has adorned the human race, one of the most remarkable is, that he deigns to consecrate the mouths and tongues of men to his service, making his own voice to be heard in them.[7]
Just pause to take this in. It is strange indeed when people leave church meetings feeling they haven’t heard God speak to them. As far as the teacher is true to scripture, every study time and every sermon slot is to be seen as nothing less than time spent actually listening to God. No wonder the most solemn charge in the NT is for teachers to teach (2 Tim 4:1-5); no wonder those teachers are warned that they will be “judged more strictly” for what they say (Jam 3:1); and no wonder we are so strongly urged to obey what we hear (Jam 1:22-23).

Having said this, we would be wise to refrain from equating the preacher’s every word with God’s word. Humans are far too fallible to ascribe such authority to them: Everything said should be checked against what the Bible actually says. Nevertheless, we must accept that it is God’s words that Bible teachers are explaining, interpreting and applying, and that when they get this right their teaching is indeed God’s word.[8]

The Spirit – God’s word within

Here we come to an area much neglected in terms of our topic.

Regeneration

One of the key blessings of the new covenant is God’s re-orientation of our inner selves. This is a work of spiritual re-creation known as “regeneration.” God promised his people that he would put his “laws within them” and “write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Elsewhere this is described in terms of being given new hearts by the Spirit which are eager to obey (Ezek 11:19-20). The consequence of this is a relationship with God where Christians instinctively “know the Lord.” This phrase implies both knowing God’s commands with the mind and wanting to obey them with the will (Jer 31:34).[9]

Now we need to be clear that this is not the same as experiencing an inner impression on a matter upon which scripture does not speak. It is God’s moral law that is written on the heart. What is in mind here is an inner awareness of its principles combined with a desire to live in the light them. The classic text on this is Galatians 5:16-26. There scripture tells us the qualities of Christian living. Yet in speaking of us being “led” by the Spirit, Paul seems to anticipate our following the inner desires for these things which the Spirit gives us, rather than the desires of our sinful nature. Being “led by the Spirit” here does not therefore refer to inner impressions per se, but to those that move us to obey scriptural truth. On being “led” by the Spirit, John Stott writes:
As our ‘leader’ the Holy Spirit takes the initiative, He asserts His desires against those of the flesh (verse 17) and forms within us holy and heavenly desires. He puts this gentle pressure upon us, and we must yield to His direction and control.[10]
Now this is a wondrous work at any stage of the Christian life, but especially at its beginning. We may not know much of the Bible then, but from conversion a knowledge of God’s moral will already resides within us. We certainly need the Bible to grasp its subtleties more ably, but it is with us nevertheless.

Illumination

A second work of the Spirit is known as “illumination.” Paul prays that the Ephesians would have “the eyes of [their] hearts enlightened” in order that they would know all they have in the gospel (Eph 1:17-22). He later urges them to be “filled with the Spirit” (5:18-21), equating this in a parallel passage with letting the “word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16-17). Illumination is less about God speaking to us than about his opening our ears to hear what he says in scripture. It is the means by which he not only gives us understanding of the gospel he reveals there, but as a reading of these two passages shows, a deep conviction about the gospel which cannot but overflow in teaching and encouraging one-another, and praising, thanking, and obeying God.[11]

This certainly occurs when we find ourselves suddenly grasped or convicted by something from the Bible. However it is true to say that it occurs when we take things on board in less noticeable ways too, for we are simply unable to understand the things of God but by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:9-16).

We should note here that this doesn’t give us license to misinterpret the Bible because our particular interpretation strikes home to us. The Spirit has inspired a book with a fixed meaning, and helps us take that meaning and its implications on board. If something is truly from the Spirit it will therefore be consistent with what the text objectively says and means.

How God constantly speaks

So it is true to say that the Christian doesn’t only carry the Bible in their hands, but at least to some extent they carry it in their hearts. Indeed, we should be encouraged to absorb ourselves in scripture. For the more we do, the more the Spirit may renew our minds so that we instinctively think Biblically (Rom 12:1-12), and the more of God’s truth he may bring to mind in leading us.

The implication of this for our inner life is important to grasp. When we are suddenly convicted of a certain sin, made aware of God’s priorities in prayer, moved to praise him with loving thankfulness, or given insight into how to respond to a situation with godliness, this is not God speaking to us apart from the scriptures; it is his speaking to us through them, by his word within us. Likewise, when we are reminded about God by nature or by the words of a secular song, we instinctively recognise when these things do actually speak of God only because our inner knowledge of scripture resonates with and approves them.

The Spirit-filled Christian is not therefore lacking in hearing the voice of God. His entire day is filled with such communion. Regularly he will experience the Spirit reminding him of scriptural truth, sometimes even bringing specific verses to mind and moving him to act accordingly. We might even say that with almost every act the Christian must either be led by the Spirit or by the sinful nature. Thus he experiences the voice of God constantly speaking to him as the Spirit leads him through the law and gospel written on and dwelling in his heart.

Having said this, it should be noted that the Bible never actually uses phrase like “God said to me” to refer to these inner convictions. This may be because of how easy it is to mistake our own imaginings, or even sinful desires, as being from God. Nevertheless, when such promptings do actually reflect the teachings of the Bible, it would seem legitimate to deduce that because listening to them is in fact listening to the Bible, it genuinely is therefore “listening to God.”

Conclusion

In her book on our subject Joyce Huggett states that if God were never to speak outside of the scriptures, this would “condemn a Creator-God to silence.”[12] We have seen that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sadly, Huggett seems not to have grasped the means by which the Lord presently speaks through the Bible: God has granted light to our darkness, not only has he spoken personally in his Son, but he still speaks in his book, provides teachers for his people to aid in that, and gives us his Spirit to write Bible truth on our minds and hearts so that it is ever present with us. These are the means by which God promises to speak to every Christian; the means by which he always speaks; the means by which every Christian can be sure they are truly listening to God.

So often people stereotype a Bible-centred approach to Christian spirituality as dry intellectualism, and so cause others to look to spurious means for engagement with God. Yet a read of the great Psalm 119 should be enough to convince anyone that Bible-centred spirituality is the only true spirituality. Why? Because the Bible is living and active: It alone is the means by which God constantly teaches, challenges and urges us to know and live for him (Hebrews 5:12).

Yet having said this, it is true to say that the Bible also records various extra-ordinary means by which God can also engage human beings, on occasion, if he so chooses. To these we now turn.

How God occasionally speaks today

Extraordinary means

First, there are direct means whereby God speaks verbally, whether through an audible voice (1 Sam 3:3ff), an angelic visitation (Gen 16:7ff), or a vision or dream perhaps accompanied by one of these things (Daniel). Second there are more indirect and sometimes bizarre means: We see him prepared to use Gideon’s laying down of a fleece to confirm his will (Jud 6:36ff), write on the wall for Belshazaar (Dan 5:5ff), and even cause a donkey to speak in order to make a point to Balaam (Num 22:28). Less remarkably we read of him re-directing people by his arrangement of circumstances, and of granting inner impressions such as “putting” an idea on Nehemiah’s “heart” (Neh 2:12), enabling Jesus to “know” something “in his spirit” (Mk 2:8), enabling Paul to “see” someone’s faith to be healed (Acts 14:9), and “compelling” Paul to act in a certain way (Acts 20:22).

Discernment not dismissal

It is true that these extraordinary experiences occurred to important individuals and at key times in redemptive history. But I struggle to see how those who suggest this means God would never engage the everyday Christian in this way can do so with such confidence. Surely the fact that God once did means that he might still do so.[13] Some may respond that these experiences were only necessary then because the Bible was not completed. Yet the Bible still doesn’t give the kind of specific guidance these extraordinary means provided: It claims sufficiency in matters of salvation and righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17), but not in purely circumstantial matters.

We are certainly required to be discerning about claims to these things, and it is this in my view that is most lacking in God’s church. Yet in being discerning we would be wise not to write off or mock what the sufficient scripture doesn’t, and that might therefore be from the Holy Spirit.

God may but this doesn’t mean he will

There are however two cautions that need to be made: First, although it seems reasonable to expect these things to occur at times to some, contrary to what is often assumed, the Bible never actually teaches that we should expect God to engage all Christians in these ways.[14] Indeed, we are very inconsistent in how we apply them: We tend to say that being compelled by the Spirit is normative, but not being spoken to by donkeys. Yet both are mentioned only once, and neither in a prescriptive manner. We must accept that there is a difference between recognising God may guide us in these ways, and assuming that he will.[15] Referring to Hebrews 1:1-3, two writers put it this way:
‘In many and varied ways, God can guide us with our conscious co-operation.’ If he should so choose, God could still send us dreams, write on the wall, or appear to us in a burning bush. But in terms of what we should expect or look for, and in terms of what God has promised to do, Scripture (in the hands of his Spirit) is the only method.

Nor should we expect anything different, given all that we have seen about how God has spoken in these last days through his Son…What are we saying about that voice when we claim that the Christian life can only be lived with the help of new and fresh revelations delivered by voices speaking inside our heads, or through inner promptings and impressions. Are we not saying that God’s great Word for these last days is inadequate?[16]
This is of course not to debunk every contemporary claim to these things. But it is to say that we need not think we are insufficiently able to listen to God without them. Rather, Paul writes that scripture is able to “thoroughly equip” us “for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). We must get on with our lives both awed and satisfied that God speaks in and through the Bible, whilst being aware that God may intervene in an extraordinary manner if he ever deems it necessary. This is certainly Paul’s example. In Acts 16:6-10 he acts on the basis of what we might assume to be prayerful planning, changing his plans only if and when any extraordinary guidance comes. It's a facinating case study. Do look it up.

God influences but this doesn’t mean he speaks

The second caution is to note that as far as I can see scripture does not actually equate the indirect means described above with God speaking,[17] probably because they are indirect, non-verbal, and so notoriously uncertain.[18] Indeed, to describe our reflections on our circumstances, or our convictions, ideas and insights, with phrases such as “I heard God say,” is pastorally unhelpful: It leads other Christians to feel second-rate in not having the direct hotline to God that our language suggests we have. And even if we recognise that we may be mistaken, it gives at least a potential divine authority to these things which suggests disobedience and so sin to any who would not act accordingly. Finally, where we are mistaken, it can cause us to misrepresent God, leading us or others to doubt his faithfulness when acting upon our convictions fails to deliver the expected results.

So if people sense God engaging them by these more indirect means, it seems better to think of them as not so much “listening to God” as “discerning his possible influence.” With this in mind, let’s now consider some of the direct and indirect extraordinary means the Bible seems to mention.

Words of wisdom and knowledge?

The Charismatic Movement generally sees the “word” of “wisdom” as “the God-given ability to speak an appropriate word,” and the “word of knowledge” as “an insight implanted by God about a particular person or situation for a specific purpose.”[19] An OT counterpart is said to be Elijah hearing God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), and the expectation is that any wisdom and knowledge received is often to be passed on as from the Lord. However these too gifts are mentioned only in 1 Corinthians 12:8, and “wisdom” and “knowledge” in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians actually refer to the “wisdom” of the cross and to the “knowledge” of God and his moral will (1 Corinthians 1:17-3:23, 8:1, 10-11, 13:2, 8, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 4:6, 10:5).[20]

The insight of these gifts is not therefore into the lives of others, but into the truth of God. Moreover, the word translated “word” also means “message.” What Paul probably has in mind then, is either the Spirit-given ability to teach or preach the gospel and its implications, or the more spontaneous sharing of the gospel and its implications with respect to a matter at hand. As for Elijah? Do look the passage up. The “still small voice” communicated nothing to him. He needed to actually hear God’s voice, and with such clarity that he could hold a conversation (1 Kings 19:13-18). Significantly, even the theologian Wayne Grudem, who has been heavily involved in the Charismatic Movement writes:
“it would seem preferable to understand these [two gifts] in a ‘nonmiraculous way’” not as “what many people today call “word of wisdom” and “word of knowledge” in charismatic circles”.[21]
So we just don’t find a justification in the words of wisdom and knowledge for the insights people today claim to have received from God. Yet impressions are still shared as “words” from God with no acknowledgement that the Bible gives no basis here for doing so.

Prophecy and related concepts?

But what of prophecy? It is similarly said by some to include “speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind.”[22] Are what many call words of wisdom or knowledge then, as Grudem thinks, actually prophecies, and therefore valid means by which the Lord speaks today?

The nature of prophecy

Now in a general sense, the term “prophecy” can refer to any declaration of truth about God, such as preaching the gospel or praising him for it (Luke 11:50-51, 1 Chronicles 26:1-7). Our concern here however is with the “gift” of prophecy, that is, the communication of specific messages from God for people or situations. And as far as I can see, in every instance where we are actually told how such prophecies are received in scripture, we are told that it is through some powerful and direct visionary or audible experience—whether an angelic visitation, the appearance of Christ himself, or a vision, dream or voice that comes with the same clarity to our senses as something actually seen or heard.[23] True prophets are therefore distinguished from false in that they truly “see” or “hear” God’s “word” (Jeremiah 23:15). Moreover, “visions and dreams” become the catch-all term for prophecy, and so are presumed to be the means by which “the word of the LORD” comes to prophets (Proverbs 29:18, Lamentations 2:9, Ezekial 7:26, 12:22ff, Daniel 9:24, Micah 3:6, Zechariah 13:4). Indeed, challenging the Charismatic view, God specifically rebukes those who equate mere visions, dreams or voices in their imaginations with the voice of God (Jeremiah 23:16-40, Ezekial 13:1-23).

Though post-apostolic church writings do not carry the weight of scripture, they do give us some insight into the life of the early church. And here we see are conclusions confirmed. Around AD190, Iranaeus, Bishop of Lyons, writes about prophecy in a section that says much about the continuance of miraculous gifts at least at that time:
Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles…[24]
Iranaeus’ speaks of prophecies being received by “visions” and the suggestion is that they are only then communicated by “prophetic expressions.”

So genuine prophecy should come with clear conviction by the sort of "visions and dreams" described above.[25] Moreover, it should not be contrary to or add to God’s certain word – the Bible, and it should not be passed on directly to an individual. Instead, it should be communicated via a pastor or in a church environment where both the message and lifestyle of the prophet can be carefully weighed to discern whether the “spirit” by which they speak is indeed of God (1 John 4:1-3, 1 Corinthians 14:29-33, Matthew 7:15-23).

Though prophecy is therefore a means by which God may speak today, that means does not include the communication of mere impressions as from God.

Our expectation of prophecy.

Having accepted this however, we should not assume that the prevalence of prophecy as displayed in the Corinthian church must be displayed to the same extent today. The NT had not yet been compiled then, so prophecy in particular was necessary as a means of God communicating the gospel and its implications for the situations the churches faced (Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5).

Charismatics and non-charismatics agree that this use of prophecy was foundational, and that now we have the NT we should reject any who claim to have received new doctrinal and ethical truth from God.[26] Yet having accepted this, we should accept its implications for 1 Corinthians 12-14: Because of this foundational use to prophecy then, prophets are said to be second only to apostles, and prophecy a gift that all should seek (1 Corinthians 12:28, 14:1). However, now that this primary use has ceased, we might expect the status and prevalence of prophecy to have significantly decreased accordingly – just as church history suggests it has.[27] Paul’s letters to Timothy seem to confirm this. They look beyond the apostolic age and stress the teaching of the gospel and its implications, not prophecy, as the leading gift in the church and the one to be eagerly desired (2 Timothy 4:1-5, 1 Timothy 3:1-2).

Visions and voices.

A prophet is a spokesman for God. To have a powerful visionary or audible experience of God is therefore only prophetic when received in order to be passed on. We might agree at this point then, that on occasion a believer might see a vision or hear God’s voice simply for their own benefit, perhaps to guide their Christian service (1 Sam 3:3ff, Acts 16:10).[28] This too is a means by which God might speak today. However we must note that the prevalence of such things in scripture suggests that this is a rarity, and so any such experiences should also be talked through with a pastor before acting upon it.

Pictures.

An area that is less certain is the sharing pictures in the imagination with others as if from God. As noted above, there are passages that seem to specifically warn against such things (Jeremiah 23:16-40, Ezekial 13:1-23). Moreover, I can see no example of this practice anywhere commended in scripture, nor find a single author who can give a biblical basis for it. Of course, if the picture comes in some form of trance as if actually seen, then it would be better classed as a vision and considered under the relevant sections above. Key questions to ask anyone who claims to have a picture for you are therefore: “Was it a picture in your imagination or one presented to your sight as if actually seen?” and “What makes you think this is from God rather than simply from your imagination?”

Tongues.

Tongues seems to comprise praise or prayer to God in an unknown language, and comes by being invasively moved to speak by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:13-19).[29] Like prophecy, it is a gift not primarily for people’s personal prayer life, but for the edification of the local congregation where someone would be enabled to interpret what was said for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). Having said this, tongues does seem to be distinct from prophecy: It is much lower down Paul’s hierarchy of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28) and seems to be directed to God, rather than to the church. It should probably not therefore be seen as a means by which God speaks to the congregation per se, but as a means by which he leads their praise and prayer.

Impressions?

So the biblical teaching above suggests that messages communicated on the basis of impressions, whether as words, pictures or prophecies from God, are at best, even when experienced in prayer, no more than the well meaning thoughts, ideas and imaginings of the Christians experiencing them. Indeed, we should remember that our normal ideas, insights and convictions, and those stemming from sin and even Satan, are all experienced as impressions too. Bearing this in mind, it is not too difficult to see why God chooses not to “speak” by such corruptible means (Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:17-19).

The place for impressions.

Having said all this, we have already noted that the Bible does mention impressions that are God-given (Nehemiah 2:12, Mark 2:8, Acts 14:9, Acts 20:22). However, here too, we must not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). On the basis of these examples, some argue “God speaks to us through impressions all the time.”[30] Yet these examples simply allow the possibility that on occasion God might give a believer a supernatural insight that is useful for ministry or direct them by a supernatural compelling. And we must note again that in scripture such things are extremely rare, never portrayed as normative experience for everyday believers, and never actually equated with God speaking or as a means of receiving a message from him for others.[31] Indeed, the first two examples might be little more than godly intuition, whilst the last two come with such extraordinary conviction that there is no doubt they are from God.

These texts just don’t bear the weight of those who would look to uncertain impressions as a regular means of guidance. There is therefore an important distinction we should draw between seeking such things and recognising that they might possibly come. The former makes us prone to seeing all sorts of things as from God that may well not be, whereas the latter makes it likely we will only respond when things do come in an extraordinary fashion. Indeed, to look for impressions as a regular means of guidance inevitably leads to a reliance on our fallible human nature rather than God’s infallible word. The consequences of this are serious, and three are outlined below.

Relying on impressions can detract from the Bible.

Imagine you are praying with someone and you feel a deep desire to encourage them that God loves them. How do you know that the person is not living an incredibly sinful life and would read this as God’s acceptance of that? How do you know that what you feel is to be communicated rather than being given simply to fuel your prayers? How do you know that it doesn’t stem from your own imagination or even from a well meaning desire not to see someone discouraged? And how do you know it doesn’t actually stem from a subtle sinful desire in you to be regarded as caring and spiritual, or even from a more sinister influence?

Imagine now that you share your impression with the individual concerned. What impact might that have on them? Experience suggests that it can only too easily build a need to be given a direct word from God whenever feeling discouraged, diminishing the person’s reliance on scripture as God’s present and utterly reliable word. Surely it would be better to simply remind them that: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Where our impressions are uncertain, this word is certain. It can be reflected upon again and again. And it is one that re-affirms our reliance on scripture rather than potentially undermining it.

We must remember that faith is to trust in what is unseen (John 20:29, Hebrews 11:1). Indeed, the very faith that is commended in scripture is that which doesn’t have experiential extras on which to rely, but that simply trusts God’s word (John 20:30-31, Hebrews 11:8-12).

Relying on impressions can distort the Bible.

The classic example here is the person considering whether to change jobs, who then comes across Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you…plans to give you a hope and a future.” This verse is deeply impressed upon them with respect to their current situation, and so they conclude God is urging them to make the change. The problem is that this verse does not intend to say anything about our careers. It is about God’s promise of deliverance of Israel from judgement, and its counterpart for us is his promise of deliverance in the gospel. The reason it has struck home so powerfully is likely to be simply because the possible job change is preying on the Christian’s mind.

Here then we must remember that the Spirit has inspired the Bible as a book with a specific meaning. Verses cannot be taken out of context just because they seem so relevant. We must understand their true intent and apply that only to equivalent situations today. Letting our experience govern our application in the way critiqued above effectively changes the Bible’s true meaning, distorting the word of God and enabling us to justify anything through it. Indeed, it is to make promises God just doesn’t make, and so is to even add new revelation.[32] We should note the implications of this: If the new job the person above assumed God was leading them to through the Bible didn’t work out, they would end up doubting God and doubting his book, when all along it was their impression and therefore their interpretation that was in error.

Relying on impressions can tame the Bible.

Consider now a middle-class couple who are praying about upgrading their house. They see one they like in a lovely village. That Sunday they go and spot a thriving church there. The couple feel strongly that this is circumstantial confirmation that the house might be for them. As they pray throughout the week, they then sense a great peace about it and are struck in a sermon the following Sunday by the words from Joshua 1:9: “your God will be with you wherever you go.” They conclude that this is all God’s guidance and so make the move.

In all, our couple have assumed God to be speaking to them through the initial idea to buy, through their circumstances, and through impressions of peace and of the significance of a particular Bible text. The problem is that with all this they still cannot know that this is God’s will? It could well be that they are just fitting all these things to their current situation in an almost astrological fashion as in our previous example? More importantly, by this whole process they have actually neglected some of the key things the Bible does say. It urges us to be prepared to sell our excess possessions and seek first God’s kingdom (Luke 12:31-34). It portrays the early believers as selling property in order to give to God’s work (Acts 4:34-35). What of this guidance? Looking to the extra-biblical means above to hear God’s voice is just too comfortable, and keeps us from truly knowing God’s will by a thorough consideration of scripture. There God doesn’t command us to sell our houses, but he certainly tells us that downgrading in order to give is a more godly course of action than upgrading for the sake of personal preference.

The guidance God actually promises.

Now we must remember again at this point, that we do accept a place for impressions in a powerful insight or compelling God might occasionally give. Nevertheless, we must also remember that God never promises to guide us by these means. Indeed, the assumption that God even wants us to look for guidance outside of the Bible over the house-buying type of decision needs to be challenged. Consider for a moment Psalm 32:8-9:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
These verses certainly promise guidance. But surely the sort of guidance they suggest is that of general principles rather than moment by moment leading. God doesn’t want us to be like animals who need intervention in any and every act. He wants us to be adults, who, knowing their Father’s moral will, and knowing the gospel priorities that please him, can make wise and principled decisions on that basis, praying that he would intervene if absolutely necessary.

Beyond this we need only note that scripture allows us freedom to use our sanctified common sense on matters that it does not speak on. For example, looking to God for an impression about who to visit or who to share the gospel with, can only too easily keep us from visiting or sharing the gospel with those we know need these things, simply because we don’t feel the Lord nudging us to do so. Yet the examples of Jesus and the apostles generally display them using their common sense at such times, and only on occasion receiving a more forceful impression to act when they might otherwise not (compare Acts 8:29ff with 13:14f, 16:13f, 17:1-3, 17).

A witness from the past.

The great eighteenth century theologian Jonathan Edwards (not the triple-jumper!), commented on the dangers of impressions when observing their prevalence in the revival God brought about through his preaching. He wrote:
By such a notion the devil has a great door opened for him; and if once this opinion should come to be fully yielded to, and established in the church of God, Satan would have opportunity thereby to set up himself as the guide and oracle of God's people, and to have his word regarded as their infallible rule, and so to lead them where he would, and to introduce what he pleased, and soon to bring the Bible into neglect and contempt…[33]
When one considers how common the examples above are today, the prophetic nature of Edwards’ words is clear.

Conclusion

God may occasionally speak through visionary or audible experiences that come with the same clarity as things actually seen or heard. He does not however “speak” by less direct means. The fact that things spoken to us on the basis of mere pictures or impressions strike home as if from God should not therefore be seen as validating them. Certainly these things could be ideas or convictions he implants in our minds. But we can never truly know this, and we are just not encouraged to look for such things, equate them with the voice of God or pass them on as such to others. Indeed, we should recognise that it is only too easy to fit what is mentioned in an expectant atmosphere to one’s own circumstances in an almost astrological manner.

Let me finish this section by being clear however that I am not claiming that God has not, nor could not have used a focus on impressions to guide you in the past. It is just that we should not see this as justifying such a focus to us. God used astrology itself to guide the Magi to Jesus. Yet the Bible condemns such things elsewhere. In the same way, he may have blessed our good motives by mercifully using all manner of means to move us to fulfil his purposes. But once we are aware of a more Biblical view of these things, we are still responsible for discarding our past practices and adopting better ones.

What this all means for…

Prayer

There are two ways in which people speak of “listening to God” in prayer. The first is in “hearing” what to pray for; the second, in “hearing” something by way of answer. And it is here again that we find a certain discontinuity between the expectations of many Christians and what the Bible actually teaches.

Hearing God leading prayer

First, in terms of hearing what to pray for, many expect to have some otherwise unknown need impressed upon them – the safety of a missionary couple who they might later find was under threat at just that time, or courage for a friend who they might likewise find was having to defend their faith at that very moment. Now as we have already seen, we cannot discount the Lord granting impressions in this way. But we must also note that such compelling is an extraordinary experience for Christians: It is never promised us, nor focused on in the Bible as an aspect of prayer. And so we would be wise to heed it only when it comes with extraordinary conviction, else we find ourselves following every thought or feeling and neglecting the Bible’s true emphasis.

This emphasis is on our hearing what to pray for through God’s ordinary means of speaking - the Bible, whether externally read or internally reflected upon. In his superb treatise on the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer, the Puritan theologian John Owen writes:
It is true that whatever we ought to pray for, is declared in the Scripture, and summarily comprised in the Lord’s Prayer: but it is one thing to have this in the book, another to have it in our heart; without which it cannot be to us the due matter of prayer. Without the assistance of the Spirit we neither know our own wants – nor the supplies of them that are expressed in the promises of God – nor the proper end for which we should seek those supplies.[34]
This is what distinguishes between rote and heartfelt prayer: The Lord not only tells us what his will is for any matter in the Bible, but by his Spirit gives us a concern for those things that we might pray with faith and out of love for him and others.

Ephesians 6:17-18 literally reads: take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, though all prayer and petition, praying at all times in the Spirit.” Here Paul seems to make a direct link between Spirit-led prayer and the word of God. A cursory look at the rest of Ephesians elaborates on the link: In chapter 1 Paul is so convicted of the truths of the gospel that he spouts forth one long fourteen verse sentence of scripturally based praise (1v3-14). Reflecting then on the faith and love of his readers he speaks of how he has been praying home the priorities of the gospel for them (1v14-23). In chapter 3 he writes of his concern for unity in the church before then showing his concern by praying this Bible truth home in asking God to fill his hearers with the love of Christ (3v14-21). In chapter 5 he then assumes that a mark of being Spirit-filled is to praise and thank God, equating this in a parallel passage with having the word of Christ “dwell richly within” (5v18-20 cf. Col 3:16).

The evidence is compelling. What we should ordinarily be looking for in prayer, is for the Spirit to bring to mind the concerns of the Bible for the matter at hand and give us a deep concern for those concerns so that we might pray in heartfelt faith and love. God only answers prayers that are aligned with his will, and he has revealed his will in the Bible. When praying for a suffering Christian then, what is more important than looking for some uncertain impression to tell us something we don’t know about the situation, is that we pray for what God has clearly revealed he wants us to pray for: that the individual would be able to submit themselves to God’s will in their sufferings and know some sense of joy in realising that God intends it to shape their character and because it reminds them of the eternal hope they have (Job 42:1-6, Rom 5:3-4, Heb 12:7-11).

It is only this type of leading in prayer that can be properly described as hearing God speak, for it is only this type that we can be sure is of his word. We would do well then to learn and meditate on scripture that we might know God’s will in prayer, and by his Spirit be convicted of it so that our prayers might be sincere. In a day when prayer meetings are poorly attended and prayers so often superficial and dry, a return to this biblical concept of prayer is surely needed.

Hearing God answering prayer

The second manner in which people speak of “hearing” God in prayer, is in hearing answers. Again, it is the emphasis that is so often skewed. In her book on prayer entitled “listening to God,” Joyce Huggett mentions a couple who would listen in prayer for “God’s still, small voice,” and “whenever they sense God was speaking to them, they would write down the instructions or challenges or directions they received.”[35]

Now we do not need to repeat what has already been established on “impressions,” “words,” and “God’s still small voice.” Suffice is to say there is little evidence that impressions should be seen as normative, nor, unless they reflect scripture, as God actually speaking. Rather, in knowing the sinfulness of our own hearts we should be cautious of them and only give them heed if they come with extraordinary conviction.

Yet having said this, James does write: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (Jam 1:5).” What is he speaking of? Well, as with Paul in Corinthians and Ephesians, it is by looking at the concept elsewhere in James’ letter that we find our answer. Verses 13-18 of chapter 3 clearly equate this wisdom with knowledge about how to live in godliness.

Again, where Christians so often prioritise prayer for guidance on merely circumstantial matters such as which job to take, or where to move to, God prioritises the revelation of his saving and moral will in scripture. As we seek direction from the Lord in prayer we are looking to the work of the Spirit in regeneration and illumination, we are expecting him to convict us of the godliest course of action, and perhaps bring relevant scriptures to mind to this end. Of course, here too he may give us other useful ideas as we pray that are worth writing down, but it is only those consistent with his word that we can be certain are from him.

What is prayer?

It is interesting in this discussion to actually clarify what prayer is. Some see it as predominantly about “listening to God.” Those influenced by Christian mysticism may even see little place for petition at all, regarding prayer as a time to simply sit in silent awareness of the presence of God, and seeing whatever is sensed in that silence as from him.

By contrast, as far as I can see, a search of every reference to prayer in the Bible reveals none that actually speak of prayer in the context of listening to God. Instead, prayer is always about speech to God, whether in praise, thanksgiving, confessions, petition, intercession or supplication. Prayer itself then is not a conversation; it is one side of a conversation: We speak to God in prayer, and we listen to him though the Bible - written, preached, and by the Spirit, illuminated, and engraved upon hearts. Prayer should certainly therefore occur in a contemplative atmosphere as we reflect on all we know of God’s truth. Yet prayer itself is not contemplation; it is our response to it. Moreover, we need not feel we must empty our minds before we can pray, nor feel pressure to pray only when at peace and in silence. As the palmists show, prayer is far more gritty: We must certainly ensure our focus in on the Lord. Yet we unload the concerns of our minds in prayer not before it. And we do this with heartfelt conviction, whether this entails loud cries of pain or silent awe and adoration.

“Prayer ministry”

A final comment must be made on the common practice of what is known as “prayer ministry.” In it Christians engage in more formal prayer for the problems of others. The commonly accepted model is to listen to the need of the individual seeking prayer, listen to God in silence for any particular emphasis to pray for or any particular message to pass on, pray, and then mention anything you feel God wants to say.

What wisdom can our study bring to this sphere of ministry?

1. That our silent reflection should focus on what we know of how scripture relates to the issue at hand, asking the Lord to bring any relevant truths to mind.

2. If we ever leave the individual with some kind of message, it should comprise only a scripture truth to take home and reflect on, as only this is certainly from God.

3. Where we have an extraordinary conviction of something to pray for there would seem to be little danger in praying for it, provided it is not contrary to scripture, for even if it is not from God, it is not claiming to be from him, nor seeking to give direction.

4. In terms of having an extraordinary conviction about some kind of specific message: If this comes by a visionary or audible experience then it could be a prophecy and we should speak to a pastor for proper weighing before saying anything. If we simply have an impression about something, then we should hold back, for we have found nowhere in scripture that suggests impressions to be a means by which God might communicate via one believer to another. Instead we’ve seen that in every occasion where impressions are affirmed they seem to be for the guidance of the receiver themselves. If what we are sensing is of the Lord, it is probably therefore intended only to guide our prayers or to help us choose the right scriptural truth to pass on to the person. God is well able to make things plain prophetically if he does have some kind of message.

The emotive context in which people share prayer needs can leave them very vulnerable. We must ensure here perhaps more than anywhere that our practices are governed by scripture and not experience. To pass anything on that wasn’t intended to be said or that wasn’t even of God, can not only mislead, but may also prove distressing or damaging in terms of the person’s personal circumstances, which we are unlikely to fully know. Far better to just focus on praying scripturally for the things the personal feels they want to share.

Guidance

What might our study finally bring to our thinking on guidance? We should note first that God constantly guides us inwardly as his Spirit moves us to act in righteousness (regeneration) and brings his word within to mind (illumination). Our focus here however is on how we are to be active in seeking guidance on specific issues.

Pray

First, we should pray for wisdom (Jam 1:4), asking God to bring to mind any pertinent scriptural truth, and to give us true understanding as we search our Bibles and consider the issues.

Study

Second, we should then consider the commands of the Bible. These govern not only our actions themselves – as in not committing adultery, but the motives of our actions – as in loving God and our neighbour (Mk 12:28-34), and even their goals – seeking first God’s kingdom (Mat 6:33). Indeed, even if an action is not morally wrong in itself, it is if done for the wrong motive or goal. It may be acceptable to marry any committed unmarried Christian of the opposite sex, but it is not right to insensitively approach someone who is already dating someone else, nor marry someone who will not benefit your faith and service.

We should also consider the counsel of the Bible. This comprises its non-binding advice on guidance beyond the simple “obey God’s commands.” In particular, we are encouraged to plan ahead if done with submission to God’s will (Prov 20:18, Jam 5:13f), to tap the wisdom of others (Prov 19:20), and to learn from past experience (Prov 26:11). We might also here include deductions from what scripture teaches, such as choosing a marriage partner with complimentary gifts because by these means more can be achieved in service of God (1 Cor 12).

Pray

Third, we should give sufficient time before acting to pray again that if we are about to make a decision that will not best promote God’s kingdom, then he would intervene by giving us greater insight into scripture, providing some opportune counsel from others, providentially closing down our options, or even if he so chooses, by revealing an alternative to us by more extraordinary means (Acts 16:6-10). Though the terminology of looking for “coincidences” is unhelpful because it encourages us to see significance in virtually every circumstance, it is surely right to at least take note of these things when they come as “timely responses to prayer.” Having said this, we should not wait indefinitely for them, as they may not come. Moreover, we should not expect a conviction or peace about the matter, as such things are never promised us and so extremely uncertain.

Act

Finally, we must act, trusting God’s sovereignty over the matter. Though it raises questions we have no space to deal with here, we are explicitly told that God “works out all things according to the purpose of his will (Eph 1:11).” We are responsible for godly and wise decision making, and so for working through the points above. Nevertheless, scripture is adamant that God somehow governs all things behind the scenes. This means that even our bad decisions are somehow part of his plan and purpose. So when we make an irresponsible decision, we need not fear having somehow hindered God. And when we make a responsible one as outlined above, we need not keep wondering whether an alternative would be better. In this latter case, we can instead trust God to have ensured we made the “right” decision, even if it entails hardship.

Enjoy your freedom

So we can be far freer in decision making than we sometimes realise. Like a circle of protection, as long as we keep within God’s commands we can be sure we are not sinning against him. And as long as we have prayerfully considered both the commands and the counsel of scripture, we can be confident that we have done all God asks of us. If we feel we may be getting things wrong, we can also be reassured that God can intervene to direct us more obviously if he so chooses, and that even if we make bad decisions, or good ones that lead to hardship, they are also still somehow part of God’s purpose and will be used for our good (Rom 8:28).

In summary

There is no hidden agenda to this booklet. It is intended to re-establish our confidence in God speaking today, by his Spirit through his word, written, preached, illuminated, and engraved upon our hearts. These are the normal means by which he speaks moment by moment, these are the things he emphasises, and these, not his extraordinary means, should therefore be our focus too.

Nevertheless, God may occasionally speak by extraordinary means, whether by vision or dream, angelic messenger, audible voice, or prophecy in which a message for us has been revealed to someone else in one of these ways. Such experiences are extremely rare. Not every Christian has them, and those who do only seem to on the odd occasion.

God may also engage our attention more indirectly in any number of other ways. The less remarkable include his governing of our circumstances, compelling us to act, giving us insight into specific situations, or simply instilling ideas within our minds. These experiences are not so much God speaking as our discerning his possible influence. And as they can be so easily confused with our own imaginations and are open to great abuse, we should only heed them when coming with extraordinary conviction, voice them with caution and uncertainty, and never interpret them as messages from God to others.

[1] Penteclostalism dates to the early twentieth century, and the Charismatic Movement to the 1960’s. Hollenweger, Walter J. “Preface” in Stremas of renewal: The origins and Early Developmemt of the Charismatic Movement in Great Britain, by Peter Hocken, (Carlisle, Paternoster, 1997), p.vii

[2] The Charismatic author, Jack Deere, can only record sporadic testimonies to such things: Deere, Jack. Surprised by the voice of God: How God speaks to us today, (Michigan, Zondervan, 1996), p.64-78, 89-93.

[3] For a balanced discussion between the various views, see: Are miraculous gifts for today? Four views, ed. Wayne Grudem, (Leicester, IVP, 1996)

[4] McDonald, L M. “Canon” in Dictionary of Latter New Testament and its Developments, ed. Ralph P Martin, Peter H Davids (Leicester, IVP, 1997), CD-Rom

[5] Henry, C F H. “Bible, Inspiration of” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell, (Carlisle, Paternoster, 2001), p.161

[6] Quoted favourably in Longenecker, Richard N. Biblical exegesis in the apostolic period, (Carlisle, Paternoster, 1995), p.168

[7] Calvin, John. Institutes of Christian Religion, ed. John T McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1960), 4:1:5

[8] See Adam, Peter. Speaking God’s words: A practical theology of preaching, (Leicester, IVP, 1996), p.112-120

[9] Thompson, J A. Jeremiah: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (grand Rapids, Eerdmans,1980), p.581

[10] Stott, John R W. Only one way: The message of Galatians: The Bible speaks today, (Leicester, IVP, 1968), p.152

[11] Leifield, Walter L. Ephesians: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, (Leicester, IVP, p.136-137

[12] Huggett, Joyce. Listening to God, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986), p.90

[13] For a list of examples, see: Pytches, David. Does God speak today? (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989). Though such stories are often exaggerated as they are passed on, it is difficult to discount so many instances.

[14] Perhaps the two most popular books which make this mistake are Listening to God, by Joyce Huggett, and Surprised by the voice of God: How God speaks to us today, by Jack Deere.

[15] Jensen, Phillip D & Payne, Tony. Guidance and the voice of God, (London, Matthias Media, 1997), p.67-68

[16] Ibid, p.78

[17] Huggett and Deere fail to do justice to this too.

[18] The Bible doesn’t even teach that God speaks to us through the creation. It teaches that the creation speaks to us about God. An important distinction made in Psalm 19, which contrasts this with God actually speaking through scripture.

[19] Definitions given in Huggett, Joyce. Listening to God, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986), p.128-130

[20] Thistelton, Anthony C. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The first epistle to the Corinthians, (Carlisle, Paternoster, 2000), p.941-944

[21] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic theology, (Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.182

[22] The definition argued in Grudem, Wayne. The gift of prophecy in the New Testament and today, (Leiecester, IVP, 1988), p.89 For detailed engagement with his view, see my paper: www.hobbs99.freeserve.co.uk/Speaks.htm

[23] Numbers 12:1-8, 1 Kings 13:18, 2 Kings 1:15, Hebrews 1:1 cf. 2:2, Luke 1:67-79 cf. v5-20, Acts 2:17, 10:9-16, Gal 1:12 cf. Acts 26:12-18, Revelation 1:1-2 cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1, 7, 1 Corinthians 13:12 cf. Numbers 12:6-8.

[24] Iranaeus, Against Heresies, in The early church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Vols. 1-9, (Freeware, e-sword, 7.5.1), 2.32.4

[25] Some scholars do suggest that prophecies may have come by God simply compelling the prophet to speak, rather than by some prior vision, dream or voice. However, the weight of evidence (above) suggests that if this was ever the case, it was not normative. Moreover, most of these scholars would still say that this was a form of direct revelation in continuity with OT prophecy which was therefore to be seen as absolutely accurate and authoritative - a far cry from the Charismatic understanding of prophecy today.

[26] For charismatic agreement, see: Watson, David. Discipleship, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1988), p.149

[27] Again, the charismatic writer Jack Deere can quote only sporadic references: Deere, Jack. Surprised by the voice of God, (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1996), p.64-78

[28] For some examples of personal and prophetic visions, see: Pytches, David. Does God speak today? (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989)

[29] Whether or not tongues was a human or heavenly language is much debated. It was certainly the former at Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Yet Paul’s allusion to the “tongues of men and of angels” (1 Cor 13:1) also suggests the latter, as does the fact that interpretation came by spiritual gift rather than simply the presence of someone from the country of origin (1 Cor 12:10).

[30] Deere, Jack. Surprised by the voice of God, (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1996), p.154

[31] Jack Deere misses all of these points in his discussion: Ibid, p.151-155

[32] For an insightful discussion of this, see: Edwards, Jonathan. Works: Volume 1, (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), p.404

[33] Edwards, Jonathan. Works: Volume 1, (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), p.404

[34] Owen, John. The Holy Spirit: His gifts and power, (Fearn, Christian Focus, 2004), p.355

[35] Huggett, Joyce. Listening to God, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986), p.21