God has spoken in many different ways
In the Bible, we read about God speaking to people in diverse ways. He spoke in an audible voice (Exodus 6:2; 1 Samuel 3:10), through a supernatural vision or dream (Daniel 2:19; Matthew 2:13), through a blinding light or thunder (Exodus 19:19; Acts 9:3-5), and so on.
Sometimes these words from God told people directly and personally what to do (e.g. Acts 9:10-12), sometimes they revealed God’s will for the people as a whole (e.g. Exodus 19:3-5), or prophesied what would happen in the future (e.g. 2 Kings 22:16). God thus spoke to many people, at many times and in many ways.
God’s revelation is complete in Jesus
Throughout the centuries, God revealed Himself more and more. As people passed on God’s revelation in oral and written form, following generations received a growing “source of information” about Him. God spoke to them mainly through the prophets, and we have many of these prophetic messages written down in the Bible – together with many stories about God’s dealing with people.
Ultimately, God revealed Himself in the Son (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:18). Jesus Christ made known to us the will of God, and so brought to an end the need for prophets. God’s revelation has been fulfilled in Jesus, and therefore the Bible ends with the death of the last apostle (= the last eye-witness of Jesus’ ministry on earth). The Bible is complete now, God won’t add any new information to it (and we shouldn’t either, see Revelation 22:18-19).
As present-day Christians, we “hear” more from God than anybody before us, because we have the wholeness of God’s revelation in the Bible. We have “the whole picture”, so to speak, while Adam, Abraham and David just had parts of it. Jesus told his disciples:
“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17).
And we know even more than the disciples knew at that time!
God is still speaking to us through the Bible
The Bible is not just a record of what God has said in the past. “For the word of God is living and active…” (Hebrews 4:12, see also Isaiah 55:11 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Every time we read the Bible, God is speaking to us here and now. His word is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, to make us equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible shows us who God is and transforms us by renewing our minds. That way, we can discern what God’s good and perfect will is without God specifically and audibly speaking to us (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to understand more and more of the truth contained in the revealed word of God (John 16:13-14). We don’t need any more revelation.
God can still speak to us in other ways
God can still speak to people “in many ways”. There are many testimonies of people who received dreams in which God revealed Himself to them, some people experience God’s special guidance when they have to take important decisions, or perceive God’s “voice” through the advice of fellow believers, thoughts coming into their heads, or combination of certain circumstances. And the Bible itself tells us that
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).
So, nature “speaks” about its Creator too!
All other “revelation” should be checked against the Bible
Whenever we think we hear God’s voice in ways outside the Bible, we should test it by His infallible and authoritative word. That’s important for individual believers, but also for communities and churches. As 1 John 4:1 says:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.
When Christians are speaking in God’s name today, their teaching should be in line with what God has already revealed in the Bible. Through the ages, people have claimed to speak for God. But if their words do not align with scripture, especially in proclaiming Jesus as God and Savior, then we know that they are not from God (Deuteronomy 18:20; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:3-5). Any message outside the Bible is fallible. Everything in the Bible is rock-solid and trustworthy.