Evangelicals commonly claim that the Lord speaks to them directly, apart from the Bible. For many years, I made such claims. I honestly believed my own stories, and loved feeling spiritual every time I repeated a narrative of a conversation I’d supposedly had with Him.
These episodes of “hearing His voice” only happened four or five times, causing some of my friends (and me) to question my spirituality. I guess that sense of doubt motivated me to recount the stories as often as I did. Each retelling validated my reputation among my Charismatic friends, assuring all of us that I had reached a “respectable” level of Christian experience.
We believed that God normally spoke directly to believers, substantiating our conviction with a single portion of Scripture:
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” ~~John 10:5-6 (ESV)
Of course, being Charismatic (and therefore prone to making Scripture a great deal more complicated than necessary), we spent hours debating over how to distinguish the Lord’s voice from our own thoughts or the voices of Satan and demons. But didn’t our proof-text just say that His sheep would know His voice? Um…”Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” The main point was, we insisted, that Jesus talks to us.
We completely missed the teaching that Jesus wanted to convey. In John 10:1-18, Jesus wanted His disciples to see that His elect (both Jew and Gentile) would recognize Him as Messiah, and consequently reject false messiahs. We would know that Scripture is His Word.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says that, even though God spoke to His people in a variety of ways during the Old Testament period, He spoke with finality by raising Jesus from the dead. The Lord then gave His Word to some of His apostles, who faithfully recorded it in the pages of the New Testament. As we study the Bible, then, God indeed speaks to us about Who He is and how we should honor Him. What more do we really need?