Other Ways God Communicates

In addition to nature and the Bible, God has a variety of means, both supernatural and natural, by which He communicates with us.


GOD COMMUNICATES

One of the most obvious things discovered by reading the Bible is that God loves to reveal Himself and to communicate with people. In fact, God is the supreme communicator. When communicating with us, God uses a variety of means in addition to the Bible. However, what He says is always in keeping with the Bible. Please have a look at God Reveals Himself Through the Bible before reading this article.

WHY GOD COMMUNICATES

Before looking at God's various means of communication, it is important to note that God doesn't speak just to hear His own voice. He speaks in order to reveal Himself and to impact our lives. And God speaks to everyone because He recognizes that we all have a relationship with Him, even if the relationship is poor or we have little or no awareness of Him. When God speaks to us we should feel very special. But feeling good is not the goal of revelation. God wants us to focus on and understand the content of what He reveals. Furthermore, we are meant to respond to God's revelation. When we fail to act upon what God says, we not only offend God and miss out on many benefits, but we also risk losing the ability to "hear" God in the future. The fact is, when we ignore God's voice we distance ourselves from Him.

HOW GOD COMMUNICATES

What follows is a description of some of the ways God speaks to people as found in the Bible. I have divided God's means of revelation into two categories: "supernatural" and "natural". Although these categories are somewhat arbitrary, (since all revelation from God is supernatural by definition), some means of communication are primarily supernatural, in that they involve no natural agency or process.

Supernatural means:

  • One means of supernatural communication is an audible voice. This is rare, and when God speaks this way He is usually giving someone a difficult task to perform, or bringing about a dramatic change in the life of society, the Church or an individual. He speaks audibly because certainty and conviction are needed for what's ahead. In some cases only one person in a group hears the voice while the others mistake it for something else, like thunder. An inner audible voice is probably what many Old Testament prophets heard, for they often preface a prophecy with the words, "This is what the Lord says". They heard a voice distinct from their own thoughts, which gave them the confidence to speak out even when many opposed them.
  • Angels are described in scripture as servants or messengers of God, and guardians of His people. In the Bible we read a number of instances where God revealed Himself, or spoke, through angels. Angels don't always "say" things, but they certainly "reveal" God's care for and involvement with people.
  • Sometimes God reveals Himself through miraculous signs, such as when Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed several thousand people. This miracle not only revealed the mercy and kindness of God, as well as His awesome power, but was a sign pointing to Jesus as the "bread of life", given by God to feed the spiritual hunger of mankind. Things like the burning bush which Moses saw, or the fire which consumed Elijah's offering, etc., should probably be put into this supernatural sign category too.

Although these supernatural means are unusual and rare, from time to time God uses them to speak to ordinary people like you and me.

The other means God uses to reveal Himself I have put into the "natural" category. (By the way, I make no mention of God communicating through nature in this article because I've written about that in Clues to God in the Natural World.) These natural means are all things which sometimes take place without involving any revelation from God.

Natural Means:

  • This category includes things like dreams, visions and trances. We have dreams when we are asleep, while a vision is a dream we have when we're awake. And a trance is a visionary state we are in while awake, such that, we may be in a trance when receiving a vision. (Visions and trances are somewhat unnatural, yet they can be explained naturally as "hallucinations". Note also that encountering an angel, which I've classed as supernatural, is sometimes described as a vision in the Bible.) At any rate, with these means of revelation, the person seeing the revelation is not very aware of their surroundings, if at all. Whether asleep or awake, they are captivated by what they're seeing. What is revealed, whether in pictures or words, usually stirs or awakens deep emotions and holds immense meaning for them personally. This is the case even if what they receive is also intended for others. Perhaps God uses dreams or visions to bypass our skeptical, fearful or dogmatic minds, so that He can heal, convict or empower our hearts and wills. God spoke to Peter, about His inclusion of the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the Christian community, by putting Peter in a trance and giving him a vision. Peter's prejudice against Gentiles had to be overcome, and it is likely that a vision was more effective than reasoning in overcoming his prejudice. (See Acts 10.1-11.18)
  • Another natural means often used by God to reveal Himself or to communicate something are human messengers. This could be a pastor, preacher, leader, parent, singer, child, the man next door, or anyone! The messenger may or may not even know that he or she is speaking on behalf of God. Sometimes the human messenger is gifted by the Spirit of God with a sermon, a song, a prophecy, a shared thought, a word of wisdom or knowledge, a practical gift, a word of comfort, etc.
  • God often speaks or reveals Himself "naturally" through trials and difficulties. This happened quite regularly in Bible times, and the locust plague in the Book of Joel is one well known example of God telling His people through circumstances that they were out of line and in danger of His judgement. However, beware of assuming that God is communicating something through all trials and difficulties, because difficulties are very much simply part of life. Also, an abundance of trials could be an indication of obedience to God, rather than a consequence of being out of His will. Nevertheless, if we only regard trials as part of life, or believe they're always attacks of the devil, we may fail to grasp an important message or warning from God.
  • Another fairly common way God naturally reveals Himself to His children is through sentences, phrases or single words, which sort of "drop" into our minds, often when we're thinking about something quite different. Thoughts like these often come directly from the Bible. The same sort of thing can happen with impressions or pictures. They can "pop" into our minds as if out of the blue. Those who have been given the Spirit of God are the most likely to receive this sort of communication from God regularly. (See 1Cor.2.6-16) Afterall, God knows that when we're living for Jesus, we need encouragement, guidance, instruction and warning, almost on a daily basis.

We shouldn't be surprised that God communicates Himself supernaturally through natural ordinary means like dreams, speech, people, life events, thoughts, etc. For the Bible itself is the result of both divine (supernatural) and human (natural) authorship.

TESTING COMMUNICATIONS

The whole area of revelation from God is, of course, open to much abuse. In fact, throughout history, including today, people have claimed to have received revelation from God before embarking on a very ungodly course of action. That is why we must measure or weigh up what we hear and see, against the Bible. The primary way to test the authenticity of a message or to clarify its content is to look at it in the light of God's primary source of revelation, the Bible. If what we think God has revealed does not measure up to what He has revealed in scripture, then what we've received is not from God. The books of the Bible are the "canon", or "measuring stick", of scripture, by which we must test all other revelation, whether given by supernatural or natural means.

But what are we to do if we have no clear corresponding situation in the Bible against which to measure what we think God may have spoken? When this happens we must look for biblical principles by which to assess what we've seen or heard. If there are no applicable principles, then we must assess a revelation by the fruit or impact which results from it. Revelation from God will result in people repenting or changing, in people drawing closer to God, in Jesus Christ being honoured and obeyed, in people becoming or behaving more like Jesus, etc. (Note: Someone prospering materially or being physically healed is not a sure sign of God's activity. Satan's work can be displayed in counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in things which impress worldly people. See 2 Thess. 2.9 for example.) In spite of the abuse associated with revelations, we should welcome all communication from God and not fear or pre-judge the means. With a firm grasp of what God has revealed in the Bible we have what we need to test or assess revelations and their fruits.

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND REVELATIONS

When considering the variety of ways God reveals Himself and the need for testing revelations, it is important to understand the role of the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow Jesus, as Counselor and Guide. His role is to lead the followers of Jesus into all truth. He accomplishes this by bringing to their attention any means through which God is revealing Himself or speaking. He also does this by helping them to understand their Bibles better, so that they are able to test and benefit from other revelations. We do our "human" part by reading and studying the Bible, and by asking God for his help in understanding. Having done this, we can depend on God, the Holy Spirit, to do His part; opening our eyes and ears to God's revelations. When this happens, God truly lives in us as our constant companion, and is a daily source of comfort, wisdom, encouragement, strength, correction, etc. In addition, we become a wonderful communication of God's Presence and Word to others.

A FEW GUIDELINES

  • Don't expect God to reveal things to you through other means if you're not reading His primary revelation, the Bible. Why should God keep revealing things to you if you can't be bothered to read what He has put in plain print? Besides that, you need an understanding of the Bible to properly assess what God reveals by other means.
  • When trying to understand revelation, mistakes will be made. This is the case even when interpreting the Bible. Therefore, be humble and forgiving of yourself and others. What matters is that we keep hungering, studying and praying to know God better.
  • Don't ever tell others about receiving revelation from God in order to increase your status, authority or credibility. (When his authority or status was under threat the apostle Paul resisted telling others about his impressive revelational experiences of God. He also pointed out the arrogance and foolishness of those who were boasting of their experiences. See 2 Corinthians.) Share the content of revelations, or how God has impacted you through them. Then others can assess them by looking at their content or fruit. Having an unusual and powerful experience of God is no guarantee that you are more "spiritual" than others. And it certainly doesn't make you an authoritative spokesperson for Him. God often gives dramatic experiences of Himself to those who are the least "spiritual" and need something extraordinary to jolt them.
  • One means of revelation need not be more "spiritual" than another. A vision in a trance is not more authoritative than an impression, nor an audible voice more important than a passage of scripture. The focus should be firstly on the content of the revelation, then on interpreting and applying it properly and effectively. Of course God is more likely to get our attention by an unusual means of communication, but we should be listening to Him and obeying Him no matter how He chooses to communicate.

GOD'S SUPREME COMMUNICATION

In closing, let me happily declare and remind you that Jesus is the supreme revelation of God. "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 Or as the apostle John put it, "No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." John 1.18

Get to know Jesus Christ!

And read the Bible for yourself!

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