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How Does the Holy Spirit Communicate the Words of God to Us?

  • Kile Baker Contributor
  • 2022 1 Mar
How Does the Holy Spirit Communicate the Words of God to Us?

Have you ever heard someone say: “God spoke to me”? It can be a bit daunting hearing this. You may back away slowly, thinking they’re some kind of weirdo, or you may lean in hoping to hear what God really did say. Or you may just not know what to do, and wonder if that person really did hear from God.

Most of us are probably in the latter category. We’re not quite sure exactly what to do if we think God may be trying to communicate to us in some way. And not only that, Christians really aren’t clear what they mean when they say that God “spoke to them” in some way.

Do they mean the audible words of God? Or was it a small voice in their mind? Are we adding up circumstances that seem odd or are stacking up, leading us to believe God is behind them? Are they words from scripture we’ve read a bunch of times, but for some reason they’re now standing out in a way they haven’t before?

What we mean when we say or hear others suggest that God has communicated to them, is vitally important, but it’s also imperative that we know what to do with whatever God is trying to communicate, if indeed it is Him.

Admittedly, this phrase has become a bit of a hot topic both inside and outside of the church as a way of talking about divine communication from God. It’s understandable though: If we do hear the audible or internal voice of God, or we think we get some other form of communication from Him, this would be an incredible, life-changing moment. It would mean that God clearly sees us, knows us, and has taken the time to tell us something important.

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God Does Communicate

Scripture has all sorts of examples of God communicating with His people: He spoke to Adam and Eve audibly in their presence in the Garden of Eden. He spoke to Moses through a burning bush and in the tent of meeting on multiple recorded occasions. He spoke to Israel through the prophets who carried along the words of God. And of course, through Scripture, as He inspired the Old Testament writers.

In the New Testament, we have the words, deeds, and historical events of Jesus as captured by the Gospel writers. We’ve read that God the Father spoke from Heaven at Jesus’ baptism, confirming He was His Son. Jesus declares to His disciples that after His departure that His Spirit will “…speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13) In Acts we see the Holy Spirit speak a few times to the apostles at key moments, guiding them along to fulfill God's purposes.

God has absolutely communicated in a variety of ways to His people throughout history.

So, the question is: How does God communicate to us today, and what should we do if He does?

For our purposes in this article, I’m going to center on the communication of the Spirit of God because Jesus announced the Spirit would be with us, communicate on His behalf, and lead us in the Spirit. Additionally, the majority of Acts and beyond center on the works of the Spirit in the disciples and in the world.

So here are three quick realizations when it comes to the importance of the Spirit when understanding how God communicates. Afterward, we’ll look at a few questions on how to determine, and what to do if we think is indeed communicating with us.

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Connecting Communication to Christ

1. Through the Spirit, we are connected to ultimate Truth as found in Christ (John 16:12-15).

Whatever the communication may be, it has to be connected to Christ in some way. Jesus taught that the Spirit of God would continue His work, communicate Jesus’ teachings, and convict people to return and follow Jesus.

Truth is one of the most profound forms of communication. Truth brings clarity, comfort, helps us understand what’s real and what’s not, draws us closer to God, and brings freedom. However God communicates to us, He always communicates Truth. It may not be what we want to hear, but it’s always what we need to hear.

2. Through the Spirit, we can understand God, the world, and who we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10b-16).

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that Christians have the “mind of Christ” which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. We do not think like, seek the wisdom of, or go after the things and ways of this world. And the only reason this is possible is because we have God’s Spirit. This form of God’s communication could be discernment, wisdom, the aptitude to not participate in worldly things, or God’s communication to us to look and act differently — and all of these inevitably will help remind us of who we are in Christ through the Spirit.

3. Through the Spirit, scripture was written, is understood, and equips us to continue to follow Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

You can only understand so much of the Bible without the Spirit of God. A person without God’s Spirit can read and get some benefit from scripture, but only a person with the Spirit can accept it, understand it, put it in to practice, and glorify God through reading it. The Spirit in your life is that impactful!

With these in mind, let’s look at how God communicates.

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4 Ways God Communicates

1. Through Scripture.

We already covered this one above but, it’s worth noting that this one is the most important. For most of the world, it’s the most accessible and direct form of communication from God we can access at any time and anywhere. Scripture is the primary way God has communicated to us and still does. The Spirit inspired the writers to capture the works, words, will, warnings, and wonders of God in history. If you’re a Christian, every time you open scripture and read it with the willingness to live your life by the ways of Christ, God is communicating to you.

2. Through prayer.

Prayer is one of the places that we can absolutely “hear” from God. This doesn’t mean God will speak audibly to us or even say words in some other way, but we are encouraged to spend intentional time in God’s presence through prayer. Jesus often went alone to be with God, and many of the OT heroes heard from and benefitted from getting to be alone with God. In your prayer time, God could bring a scripture to mind, put someone’s name on your heart to pray for, give you profound peace, or direct you in prayer through “wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26) While prayer is certainly a time to “talk to God,” it can and is absolutely a time to hear from Him in some way as well.

3. Through visions, and audible or internal words and ideas.

Admittedly, this form of communication is rare, especially in the New Testament, and especially in the book of Acts, but it does happen: Jesus appears to Saul, and Ananias in a vision to set Paul on His missionary path (Acts 9). The Spirit speaks to the church in Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13:1-3)And the Spirit directed Philip to minister to an Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26-29), just to name a few.

Today, people may be communicated to in this way in order to confirm something from God, go in a new direction they wouldn’t choose themselves, introduce us to God for the first time, keep us from something we shouldn’t do, or confirm an action we were thinking about taking. A modern-day example of visions are Muslims in the Middle East claiming to see someone resembling Jesus speaking to them in a dream or vision. It’s a dramatic way of communication for sure, but for some places without scripture, a church, or a way to learn about God, God may use this form of communication.

4. Through other people.

We already highlighted a few of these above, but God confirmed the calling of Paul through Ananias; and Barnabas convinces the church in Jerusalem to accept Paul despite His former past of persecution and death Paul even opposes Peter to his face about his wrongful treatment of the Gentiles.

God can and does use other people to help us if we have lost our way, to confront us of sin, to bring us back to Christ, to help us understand scripture, or simply to be a guide when we are inexperienced or new in our relationship with Christ. The Spirit working in other people can work on us as it works through them.

Ok, so those are just a few of the ways God may communicate to us. What do we do if we think He might be communicating to us? To help with that, here are a few key questions and what to do.

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Basic Questions to Ask if We Think God Is Communicating with Us

Is it from God? Just because it’s some form of communication, doesn’t mean it’s good or even Godly communication. Even if you’re pretty sure you’re hearing, feeling, or getting something from God, it may not be from God! It could be your thoughts, desires, the words of someone else, your emotions, or even demonic influence. What to do: Pray and ask God to help you discern who it’s from. Talk with other Christians, a pastor, or your small group. Collective wisdom and prayer are incredibly helpful. Don’t assume it’s from God immediately!

Does this glorify God, or is it just good for me? If you think God is trying to communicate something to you that isn't completely clear in scripture, think about how it would bring Him glory. God wants you to honor and glorify Him in everything you do. If you think you’re getting some form of communication, ask how or if it honors Him. What to do: Try to determine if there is an action to take, a thought to wonder about, a command to obey, a sin to stop, or a choice to make — whatever it may be, it should honor God, but it may not be immediately or even eventually good for you.

Does it concur with or contradict scripture? Plain and simple, any communication that we think may be from God cannot contradict scripture, period. God does not and will not go against what He has already said in scripture. If it contradicts scripture in any way, run the other direction! What to do: Spend lots of time reading scripture so you know the truths that God has communicated. Understand His character, mission, ways, will, and how he works in the world. When you know what’s true, good and from God in scripture, you can determine if something is not from God.

Am I more interested in the written word of God, or the whispers of God? This last one is more of a personal gut-check as we evaluate why we want to hear from God in the first place. Sometimes we can be so interested in a whisper from God because we don’t know, don’t like, or don’t agree with what God has already said in His word. Again, scripture is the primary place God speaks to us. If He never said anything outside of scripture, it would still be enough. What to do: Spend regular, daily time in the word. Pray before you read, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and reflect on how much God has already said in Scripture.

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Kile Baker is a former Atheist who didn’t plan on becoming a Christian, let alone a Pastor, who now writes to try and make Christianity simple. Kile recently wrote a study guide to help people “look forward to and long for Heaven.” You can get one on Amazon here. He also writes at www.paperbacktheologian.com. Kile is the grateful husband to the incredibly talented Rachel, Dad to the energetic London and feisty Emma and Co-Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Northern Nevada. He single handedly keeps local coffee shops in business.

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