How do you know when God is speaking to you besides by the Bible? This is a common and a good question to address. Many people claim to get specific new revelations from God. Some even claim to be prophets and write prophetic texts. Some churches claim direct inspiration from the Spirit of God to alter traditions and much more. Are they right? Are they mostly right?

Claiming direct revelation from God to deliver to others is different from claiming private personal revelation from God for one’s life. How can the individual Christian know the difference from having an idea and God giving them revelation?

Here are some biblical observations relevant to this subject:

  1. God speaks to His people today by His Son — Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2; cf. 2:3–4).
  2. God did not speak and give direct revelation to everyone throughout the Bible, but He spoke to the prophets who spoke to the people (Hebrews 1:1; 2:2). 
  3. God gave revelation by His holy apostles and prophets guided by the Spirit as written in Scripture (Ephesians 3:3–5; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
  4. Jesus promised to reveal all truth through His Spirit to His apostles (John 14:26; 16:12–13).
  5. James promised that those who pray would receive wisdom from God (James 1:5–6).

How do Christians get that wisdom from God? Christians get wisdom from God’s Word and from experiences in life understood in the light of God’s Word. Believers certainly get such wisdom from the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:16–18). However, what is the illumination of the Spirit? The apostle Paul spoke about the illumination of the Spirit, and he taught that the Spirit gave revelation through the apostles and prophets for Christians to read and know this mystery of revelation (Ephesians 3:3–5; cf. 2:19–22). Revelation from apostolic Scripture is certainly illumination from the Spirit. This writer maybe wrong and is not aware of any independent personal revelation from the Spirit apart from prophets and God’s written Word. The writer would be arrogant to assert that he receives an additional revelation to “all truth” revealed by the Spirit to the apostles. If everyone had this revelation of all truth, then no one would need the Bible. Furthermore, Jesus heavily relied upon the Scriptures as the revelation of God when He taught others. Christians must do the same. The apostle Paul taught that the Scriptures are all-sufficient for every teaching and good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The Christian must first rely on Jesus, His apostles and prophets, and the Jewish Scriptures that Jesus relied for revelation.

Whatever ideas and thoughts we have from God must agree with God’s written Word. Otherwise, people may invent what they want thinking that their ideas come from God. They would be adding to “all truth” that Jesus promised to reveal to His apostles. Their personal ideas that they perceive as revelation will limit their perception of the Bible as being all-sufficient and providing all truth. Many read Scripture and add background scenarios that can change how they view the Bible.

What is behind people wanting to hear directly from God? Many want to do as God wants and they want specific instructions for their life. However, most people in the Bible did not get direct instructions for every life event and situation. Considering everyone in the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11, they acted by faith not knowing what and when God would act. God wants His people to trust and obey Him through all times even when they do not know what is happening and what they should do (Romans 8:28). Sadly, some people appear to want a sense of significance beyond what God has already given them. This is pride over humility. The faithful avoid this and so they believe and trust in their Creator.

God made you in His likeness able to think intelligently and communicate. God wants you to trust Him and listen to His words revealed in Scripture for the illumination of the Holy Spirit.