And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32–33)
According to John the Baptizer, God the Father spoke directly to him. Given John’s vital role in fulfilling prophecy about the Messiah, this is not surprising. What about today? What should we do if people claim God spoke directly to them?
The Apostle John gives us guidance in considering this question in 1 John 4:1–3:
“ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
Note that we are to take any such claim very seriously. If someone truly has heard from a spiritual being, there are only two options. Either God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit spoke to this person. Or a “spirit of the antichrist” spoke.
For discernment, John immediately focuses us on what is said about Jesus. If Jesus is not confessed as he is revealed in Scripture, then we do not trust what is said. Historically orthodox churches have expanded this to all of Scripture. If what is said does not align with God’s Word, then what is said cannot be from God.
Even if what is said proclaims Jesus as Savior and is aligned with Scripture, I still recommend caution. We cannot know for certain the source of such a voice. We already have God’s sure and certain Word revealed in Scripture. While God has not chosen to reveal everything about faith and life in the Bible, God has revealed what is essential for His relationship with us.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS).