I just watched this short video by J. D. Greear, the head of the Southern Baptists on whether God speaks audibly today. His basic answer was a reluctant “no!”. God still speaks to us in the Bible, Greear says, but we should be very wary of thinking he speaks audibly anymore.
It’s funny, because he’d describe himself as a “charismatic with a seatbelt” and I’d describe myself as a “cessationist”, yet, I would answer that same question with an emphatic “yes!”. “Yes! God does speak audibly to us today!”.
When? Where? How? Every time you hear a faithful, called and sent Christian preacher, who preaches the Scriptures to you! I really think the Bible teaches us to view the faithful preaching of Christian ministers as the word of God! That voice you hear in sermons on Sundays isn’t just my voice. It’s the voice of Christ to you. If you want some Bible verses to base that off I’d say: Matthew 23:8 & 10; John 10:3-5; Eph 2:17. If you can’t see their relevance, do ask me to unpack them more for you some time. This doesn’t mean preachers can’t get it wrong and are six feet above contradiction. But it means you should develop a reverent attitude to the Word preached as the way Christ has designed to speak to you today. Sundays aren’t just Simon teaching us some stuff from the Bible. They are Christ speaking audibly to us.
In case you think I’ve gone all heretical, let me quote John Calvin as back up:
“It is a singular privilege that he [God] deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them”. (Christian Institutes, Book IV, chapter 1, part 5).
Now, I think the different answers that J. D. Greear and I give to the question: “Does God speak audibly today?” are actually quite significant. It shows how the historic Reformed “cessationist” position, when properly understood, actually makes us much more conscious of God’s speech to us today than a “charismatic” position. Ironically, it’s a charismatic emphasis on extra and new revelation from God that actually makes churches less conscious of God speaking to us today in the regular preaching of the Word.
But I’m not trying to score cheap points. Rather, isn’t this good news?! God is speaking to us audibly today when the church gathers around the reading and preaching of his Word. The preacher’s voice may not sound very exciting, but remember that resounding in that human voice is another voice, the voice which spoke the heavens and earth into being! Now, you’d have to be pretty stupid to actually close your ears to God when he was talking directly to you, wouldn’t you? Yet, is that what we’re doing, when we ignore the preaching of his Word? Why not stop and ask yourself these questions:
- how might this change my desire to be present at preaching?
- how might this affect my desire to keep listening during preaching?
- how might this affect my reaction to things I don’t agree with in preaching?
Does God speak audibly today? The Reformed churches want to say “Yes, yes, yes!”