J. D. Greear on Whether God Speaks Audibly Today

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In this video, J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, weighs in on whether God still speaks audibly, drawing on the tension of both the finality of apostolic testimony as well as the ambiguity of how the book of Acts talks about the Holy Spirit’s role in the church.

I’ve never been comfortable putting God in a lot of boxes that he doesn’t put himself in. And I don’t know of anywhere in the Bible that says, “No he will absolutely never speak audibly again to men on the earth.” That said, I guess the answer has to be “no.”

The Bible does indicate that the way that his Spirit speaks is obviously through the Scriptures “in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son” (Heb. 1:2), and that includes the writing of the Bible. So we shouldn’t expect that we’re going to hear from God that the way apostles and prophets did.

On the other hand, one of the things that’s really odd is in Acts relates to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows up 59 different times in the book of Acts. In 36 of the 59, he’s speaking. Now what’s a little frustrating for me is that it never tells us exactly how he speaks. For example, in Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit said to the church, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work of ministry.” Well I want to know how he said that. Did everyone have the strange feeling in their heart? Did he write it on the wall? Or did he speak audibly? It doesn’t say, and I think that ambiguity is intentional.

Ultimately, God does not want us to have the assurance that he is saying things that aren’t written in the Bible. More havoc has been wreaked in the world and the church following the words, “God just told me . . . ” than probably any other phrase in history. So I think there’s some ambiguity about it, but it’s clear that God still speaks.

I’m not really one to put God in a box and say that this is what he can and can’t do. What I will say is that the Bible is God’s Word. It is the only thing that we really anchor ourselves on because of what the Bible says about itself. It’s the written Word that makes us complete for salvation, thoroughly equipping us for every good work and all we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

We don’t need additional voices, and certainly nothing that would distract us from or take our attention off God’s Word.