Does the Holy Spirit tell people things in their thoughts?

Derek Thomas & 2 others
2 Min Read

THOMAS: First of all, the Holy Spirit speaks to us through His Word. He is the Author of Scripture, and He illuminates Scripture to us. The more we know Scripture, the more we think about it, the more we memorize it, and the more we repeat it to ourselves, that is the voice of the Holy Spirit. What the Bible says, God says, and what the Bible says, the Spirit says.

We can go a little further because we also recognize that the Holy Spirit guides us and directs us through the advice of others, through reasoning, and through asking ourselves, “What is the weightiness of A, B, C, and D?” The Spirit certainly works within the realm of our affections and can cause us to love one thing more than another or love someone more than another.

All of those are aspects in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us, but I don’t think the Spirit speaks to us with a voice in our heads that we can psychologically hear. To affirm that is probably to go too far.

GODFREY: I very much agree. We would want to make this distinction: we have absolute certainty that the Holy Spirit has spoken and is speaking in the Bible, whereas we don’t have the same level of certainty in the other ways in which the Spirit does move, act, and guide. In other words, we do not have the same level of certainty that loving A rather than B is the work of the Spirit rather than the work of me. So, that distinction needs to be made. Some Christians have gotten in trouble by assuming that the more subjective workings of the Spirit are as definite and certain as the objective work of the Spirit in Scripture.

PARSONS: There is so much to talk about on this subject. The way the question is asked, the answer is simply “no” because of the language “tell people things.” The way we are describing it is that the Spirit “guides,” “illumines,” or “informs.”

THOMAS: What about “nudges”?

GODFREY: I like “nudges” or “helps.”

THOMAS: “Prompts.”

PARSONS: We need to be careful that we do not limit what the Holy Spirit can do when God doesn’t give us those particular limits. In Acts, for example, we see instances that fulfill Jesus’ words: “You don’t need to worry about what to say. The Holy Spirit is going provide it to you” (Mark 13:11; Matt. 10:19–20). That was in Apostolic times, but there are amazing testimonies of what the Spirit has done throughout history and how He has illumined people through the truth of His Word, grounded in His Word, and never contrary to His Word. That’s the most important thing: the Spirit will never guide or illumine us in any way to believe or do something contrary to His specially-revealed Word.

This is a transcript of Derek Thomas’, Burk Parsons’, and W. Robert Godfrey’s answers given during our If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Escondido 2022 Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.