The following statement is from a post I read on twitter: He (God) does not speak to us in our dreams. He has given us his word to know him and that’s the only way to hear him speak. He doesn’t speak outside his word.
The same person also said the following in another tweet: Only in the scriptures do we have evidence that God spoke to people. He doesn’t speak outside his written word now.
While I commend this person’s effort to express loyalty to the written Word of God, the concept that God speaks in no other way than through the Bible is actually contrary to what the Bible itself reveals, both in practice and in revelation of God’s character.
God is not an impersonal God who is uninvolved in our daily lives, and there are times we need God’s specific direction for our lives which can’t be found simply by reading a scripture in the Bible. For example, the New Testament tells us about the wisdom that Joseph needed from God when he was contemplating ending his engagement with Mary. God spoke to Joseph through an angel in a dream.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. ~Matthew 1:18-20
God’s directive wasn’t something Joseph could have read from any scriptural text. Instead, it was specific direction regarding Joseph and Mary’s life. Joseph needed insight and God revealed to him what he ought to do.
Later, God spoke to Joseph in another dream after the birth of Jesus because Herod wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:12-13). God instructed Joseph concerning what he should do to protect the life of the child, Jesus. Joseph did not, and could not open the Old Testament scriptures for such direction.
There are times when we all need wisdom specific to our daily lives. The New Testament tells us, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. ~ James 1:5
We see many accounts in the New Testament where God’s wisdom and counsel were given through personal directives. This is one of the truths that the Bible reveals about the character of God: For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. ~ Proverbs 2:6
Consider when Philip was sent by God to share the gospel with the eunuch who served under Candance the queen of the Ethiopians.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. ~Acts 8:26-25
Notice, first that an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, then the Spirit of God spoke to Philip. God did not speak to Philip to draw near to the chariot through a Bible passage. A personal directive was needed. There was no biblical text that Philip could have read that would have informed him that a man on a chariot was coming down the road reading the book of Isaiah. Philip needed God to show him this directly and throughout the entirety of scripture we learn that God does indeed speak direction to his people (and sometimes even to pagans) to give wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, and directives.
God spoke to Philip by his Holy Spirit and Philip obeyed. God knew the eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah and God knew his heart was ready to hear the gospel. Consequently, God spoke directly to Philip and led him to the eunuch to preach Jesus to him from the scriptures.
In Acts 9 we read about Ananias who was not an apostle or a prophet or even an evangelist as Philip was. The Bible says he was a disciple of Jesus, and Jesus spoke directly to him regarding Paul.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. ~ Acts 9:10-18
There is no text in the scriptures that Ananias could have read that would have revealed to him that Saul of Tarsus had encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. In fact, Saul (who became the apostle Paul), was very educated and well versed in the Old Testament scriptures and with all his scriptural knowledge he had never encountered Jesus until his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.
Throughout his ministry, Paul repeatedly appealed to his salvation experience and his encounter with Jesus. Paul certainly didn’t think that God had stopped speaking directly to people, nor did he ever teach that someday God would no longer speak to future generations directly. Such ideas are simply unscriptural and contrary to the character of God as revealed in the scriptures.
The idea that God no longer speaks directly (giving counsel, wisdom, direction, etc.,) just isn’t true. God speaking directly to his people does not undermine the authority of scripture. Paul tells us that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and if profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
The scriptures never declare that scripture is the only way God speaks or communicates with us, because in scripture God spoke directly to people many times such as when He spoke to Peter in Acts 10.
God spoke to Peter in a vision to prepare him to preach the gospel to the gentiles. After Peter came out of the vision, God spoke to him again: While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. ~ Acts 10:19
Peter did not read the sacred scriptures to find out that 3 men were seeking for him. The Spirit of the Lord told Peter that three men were seeking him, and the Spirit of the Lord instructed him to Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. ~ v.20
The Spirit of the Lord not only spoke to Peter, but He also had sent three men whom Peter was to follow. These men had been sent from Cornelius, whom God had spoken to by an angel who appeared to him. Cornelius did not know who Peter was until he was instructed by the angel of God to send for Peter. Cornelius could not have opened the Old Testament texts and found any verse telling him that he needed to hear the gospel from Peter. He needed God’s direct intervention.
In Acts 22 Paul recounts how Jesus told him to leave Jerusalem quickly because the people there would not receive his testimony concerning Jesus. This was not something Paul got from the pages of the Old Testament. He got this directive from Jesus personally.
In Acts 16:6, Paul and Silas were forbidden by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in Asia, but instead were led to Macedonia. How did Paul know that God was sending him and Silas to Macedonia? Did he get that directive from reading the Old Testament? No. He got it through God speaking to him through a vision.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. ~ Acts 16:9-10
The notion that God only speaks through the pages of the Bible is not a well thought out position because God will speak to the hearts of people in many ways. If God did not speak outside of the pages of the Bible, then what good would any of our testimonies be when we tell others how good God has been to us?
God speaking directly does not undermine the importance of the scriptures, but serves a different role altogether. God is a very personal God who wants to be involved in our lives and sometimes we need his specific input with regards to things pertaining to our lives and that specific input can’t necessarily be found in the Bible. Paul and Silas were headed to Asia, but God wanted them in Macedonia. They couldn’t have known this from reading the scriptures because it had to do with God’s specific direction for their ministry. God directed them personally.
When we consider all that scripture reveals about God’s speaking to individuals we find that it is actually false doctrine to teach that God no longer speaks outside the pages of the Bible. All scripture is profitable for doctrine and all scripture supports that God speaks in many ways to people (directly, in the heart, visions, dreams, through others, etc.).