One of the things I talk about on the blog, regularly, is listening to the Holy Spirit and hearing God speak. However, I probably take it for granted that everyone reading understands how to hear God’s voice, and live their lives with His presence and guidance in mind. Unfortunately, that is likely not the case.
In my 18 years of church experience, I have found there are three general ways people view how the Holy Spirit actively speaks to His people.
The first viewpoint is to deny that He still speaks. This is a form of theology called cessationism. It argues that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the completion of the Bible. Since the Bible is held to be the “complete revelation” of God to man, cessationists do not believe that the Holy Spirit can add any more supernatural revelation beyond what the scriptures reveal. They do not believe He speaks, so they do not listen.
This is obviously not the position I take, though I have many friends who do. However, I will not make time in this writing to argue against this viewpoint. (Here is a great book that does so better than I can.) It will suffice to say that the main problem with this view is that the Bible itself is where we learn that the Holy Spirit speaks to His people, and how we are to hear and interpret His words.
The second view is that the Holy Spirit is still active and speaking to His people. In some form, this is the view of most modern Christians and ministries. Although the level at which God speaks is viewed differently – some believing that He speaks daily to all, others that He only gives special revelation at certain times – there is a value for His leading, and it is encouraged to listen and obey. This view is called “continuationism.” These people believe that He speaks, so they actively listen to Him.
The third view, and the one I want to focus on in this post, is those who affirm with their mouths that the Holy Spirit speaks to His people, but their practice does not involve listening to Him. They functionally live and do ministry the same as the cessationists, even though they have better theology. They believe that He speaks, but do not listen.
Often, this is simply a lack of understanding of how to hear Him speaking, which is what we will address here. Sometimes, however, it is not a lack of understanding. Rather, it is a lack of priority for His direct leading and guiding. This cannot be corrected with a blog post. It must be corrected in the heart.
What I want to look at, today, are the spiritual gifts involving hearing the Spirit speak. Then, in my next post, I will discuss the various ways the Bible says we can hear His voice as believers.
THE REVELATION GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There are three specific “revelatory” gifts listed in the New Testament. These are given by God for personal ministry within the church. Though all of these gifts are hearing God’s voice, and may function in some of the same ways, they seem to have different and distinct purposes for which they are used.
The first thing to be aware of is, though some gifts are clearly labeled, such as prophecy and words of knowledge, there is also a general expectation that ALL believers will hear God speaking. Jesus Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 ESV).
Jesus went on to say (John 16:12-15) that He had so much He still wanted to tell His people that it would have to wait, and would come through the Holy Spirit. It would be the Spirit’s job to speak to believers, teaching us God’s truth, and revealing everything Jesus still has to say. He would be the one to “declare” what God wants to say. God’s plan is that the Holy Spirit would be our guide in how we live our lives as believers.
Therefore, we must begin with an understanding that the Holy Spirit Himself is the first “gift” given to us, and the Bible expects Him to speak to all of us! (Here is a great book to get you started personally.) The rest of these gifts are simply different methods He uses to do that in some circumstances.
While the Bible tells us that all believers should be hearing God’s voice for their own life and personal direction, the gift of prophecy is when you are hearing the voice of God on behalf of other people. This may be a revelation or insight into their life. It may give direction in a decision-making process. It may be speaking to their destiny and calling in life.
The Bible tells us that the purpose of prophecy is to build people up, encourage them, and to console (1 Corinthians 14:3, ESV). No matter how a prophecy plays out, at a minimum, it must always lead people toward Jesus and His ways. It will agree with Scripture, and will leave them feeling encouraged.
The Apostle Paul places the prophetic at the highest place among other spiritual gifts, telling the Corinthian church to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV).
WORDS OF WISDOM
A word of wisdom is one of the nine gifts of the Spirit Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians. It is not natural wisdom, rather, it is when the Holy Spirit speaks to you with specific instructions pertaining to a specific time and place.
This gift may come into use, for instance, whenever you are ministering to someone under deep stress due to some personal situation. As they seek guidance on how to handle things, we must do more than just give advice. This gift would be when the Holy Spirit speaks through us to tell the person exactly how to handle the situation, leading to peace and a good outcome.
A word of wisdom may also be God instructing you what to do in a ministry situation with another person. For instance, you could be ministering to someone who has many needs, and the Holy Spirit leads you to pray for them or speak to them in a different way than human reason would naturally lead you to.
Personally, this is a key gift in my life when I do pulpit ministry. Before a meeting, I wait for God to show me a mental picture of exactly what I am supposed to do and speak, and how I should pray or minister to the people. It is always more effective than when I simply come to the platform with a well-crafted sermon I wrote myself.
WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE
If words of wisdom tend toward God giving instructions, words of knowledge would simply be God revealing information. It is when you simply know something you should not otherwise know.
Perhaps you are ministering to someone who has not been forthcoming with the sinful root of their issue. In love, the Holy Spirit uses this gift to reveal the underlying problem to you so you can minister to them appropriately.
Words of knowledge also play prominently in my own pulpit ministry, especially in the area of healing. Sometimes God reveals to me that He wants to heal someone with a specific sickness, and when I call that sickness out and pray for them, there is a much higher percentage of healings of that issue, than when I just pray for the sick in love.
Not only do words of knowledge help you minister effectively, but they also build faith in the person receiving ministry. Hearing the word lets them know with certainty that God sees them in their situation and cares what is happening in their life.
Other instances of words of knowledge might be when God leads you to a certain place or reveals a certain person to you that you need to minister to.
Remember, God will never reveal knowledge to us about something that He does not intend on working on. This is one of the ways we can “see what the Father is doing” and then follow His lead (see John 5:19).
Any time we receive a word of knowledge or word of wisdom, it should embolden us to speak, being confident that God wants to use us in those situations.
From all of these things, it is clear that the Bible expects us to be hearing God’s voice and to live by the Spirit’s leading. So the question is, do you? Have you taken time to seek God’s direct input in your daily life? Do you invite Him to use your mouth as His own in the lives of others? Have you desired spiritual gifts, especially prophecy?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Don’t forget to come back soon, as our next post will discuss exactly how God’s revelation comes into our lives.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on anthonyingram.com.
Featured Image by Jay Heike