How Has God Spoken To His People Throughout the OT and NT?

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

We know that God is a God who speaks to his people.


We know that God is fully capable of speaking to his people at any time in any way he so chooses.

Ps.115:3 God does whatever he pleases.

We also know that God never changes. That means that God’s nature as a God who reveals himself to people never changes.

Mal. 3:6 The Lord does not change.

But did God always speak to his people the same way in every age? Did God speak to Israel, the same way he spoke to Adam and Eve? Did God speak to the NT church the same way he spoke to Israel? In other words, does God demonstrate in the pages of his word that he speaks differently at different times? Did the fall of man affect how God spoke to people?

The Scriptures indicate that in God’s plan of revealing himself to mankind there were changes.

The first and most dramatic change in God’s plan took place after the fall.

Gen.3:23 Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of Eden. What did that mean in regard to God speaking to them?

Gen.2 indicates that God spoke to Adam about his needs both personal ("I will make a helper suitable for you") and in regard to civilization ("Be fruitful and multiply").

Gen.3:8-9 indicates that everyday God met Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.

God obviously spoke with them and fellowshiped with them. There was most likely direct communication with Adam and Eve.

When God banished Adam and Eve from the garden, they forfeited this direct communication and fellowship with God on a regular basis.

After the fall, what we see throughout the Scriptures is God communicating with specific individuals at specific times for specific purposes that always involve his redemptive plan and never personal issues of life.

Heb.1:1 shows God’s plan for communicating with man after the fall.

God spoke to our forefathers (OT believers) through the prophets and has spoken to us (NT believers) in his Son

God spoke to the people of Israel through intermediaries, the prophets. When he spoke to the prophets, it always had to do with his redemptive plan, not personal issues in their lives.

God spoke to the NT believers through the ultimate intermediary, his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus sent his apostles out to be intermediaries for him (Eph.2:20) to NT. believers.

The pattern in both the OT and NT is God speaking to his people through intermediaries and those intermediaries receiving revelation only regarding matters involving God’s redemptive plan.

Even when God spoke to these intermediaries, we see infrequent communication rather than frequent regular communication.

He spoke to Noah 5 times over 950 yrs, Abraham 8 times over 175 yrs, Isaac 2 times and 1 time to Rebekah over 180 yrs, Jacob 7 times and 1 time to Laban over Jacob's lifetime. These are just some examples.

We also see that God does not address personal issues, only issues that involve his redemptive plan.

In the OT, God did not speak to his intermediaries regarding personal matters.

In Gen.20 God rebukes Abimelech for trying to take Sarah as his wife when Abraham indicated to him that Sarah was his sister. There was deceit on Abraham’s part and yet God does not rebuke him for that. At least it is not recorded. The whole incident is used by God in his redemptive plan to help protect Abraham and to help him financially while he was on his journey.

God does not rebuke Rebekah or Jacob or Isaac for their personal sins of lying or showing favoritism, but rather uses it for his redemptive plan.

God does not speak to Rahab about her prostitution (personal sin), but only deals with her role in his redemptive plan (saving the Israeli spies). In Heb.11:31 and Jas. 2:25 Rahab is praised for her role in God’s redemptive plan and is even called Rahab the harlot. Yet no mention that harlotry is wrong. It is not that God is condoning Rahab’s harlotry, but rather that God speaks directly regarding his redemptive plan, not personal sin issues. Personal sin issues are dealt with through his Word. Most likely Rahab realized that she had been wrong about prostitution when she began to live among the people of Israel (Josh.6:25) and understood God’s ten commandments.

In Gen. Joseph’s brothers are never rebuked directly by God for selling Joseph into slavery. In Gen.45:4-12, Joseph emphasizes how God used their evil in his redemptive plan.

What about the apostles?

The pattern in Acts is God speaking to Peter and Paul at key times, but not regularly on a daily or weekly basis.

In Acts 2, Peter received the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues and spoke divine revelation. In Acts 10-11 Peter received revelation regarding Cornelius and the sharing the gospel with the Gentiles. In Acts 12 he is rescued from prison by an angel.

Jesus speaks to Paul on the Damascus Road in Acts 9. In Acts 22:17-19 Paul says that he received a revelation to flee the city of Jerusalem (probably the event later in Acts 9). In Acts 13:1-2, the Holy Spirit speaks about the mission of Paul and Barnabus. In Acts 16:9 Paul received a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia. In Acts 18:9 Paul received a revelation from the Lord to stay in the city and minister. In Acts 23:11 in Jerusalem Paul was encouraged by the Lord that he would testify in Rome. In Acts 27:23-24 Paul was visited by an angel.

In Gal.1:15-17 Paul seems to imply that he received more revelation from God for a period of time (Gal.1:15-17) after his conversion (cf. Acts 26:16 "and what I will show you"). Then fourteen years later he received a revelation to go up to Jerusalem (Gal.2:1-2).

Two major things we notice, the revelation from God was infrequent and it was purposeful, always concerning Peter and Paul’s ministry, not personal matters.

Most of the time, Peter and Paul were ministering for the Lord without receiving direct revelation from the Lord.

Even at important times of decision the Lord did not always speak to them. In Acts 1:21-26, Peter used the casting of lots to determine the Lord’s will. In Acts 6:1-7, there is no record of revelation regarding the selection of men for the widow’s ministry. In Acts 15, there is no record of revelation in the first doctrinal crisis of the early church regarding what is necessary to be saved.

In the Scriptures what do we see God doing?

We see that man forfeited at the fall, direct communication with God on a personal basis. He then only received direct revelation through intermediaries. God communicated infrequently and only as He deemed necessary to fulfill His redemptive plan.

When we get to heaven we will have direct communication with God again. That is part of the blessing of redemption.

2 Cor.5:8 "absent from the body present with the Lord."

1 Cor.13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known."

Praise the Lord!

Then how does God communicate to His people today?

Through His Word, the Scriptures.

2 Tim.3:16

Rom. 15: 4

1 Cor.10:11

We are to live by faith in God’s word.