The Lord’s Voice of Authority

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This series was first published in January 2019. -ed.

I frequently hear pastors say, “You need to learn to listen to the voice of God. You need to be tuned in so you can hear His still, small voice.” Author Sarah Young makes a similar claim in Jesus Calling—her bestselling devotional based on messages she claims to have received from Christ. Presumptuously writing in the Lord’s voice, she dispatches the following instructions.

Wait quietly in My presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being. Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound. I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make my humble home in your heart. It is there where you know me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers. Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still, small voice within you. [1]

I have no idea what that means. God does not mumble. He doesn’t whisper gentle niceties into the ears of His people. When the Lord speaks to His church, it is unmistakable. His voice thunders over the church through the divine authority of Holy Scripture.

That was the sound the apostle John heard on the island of Patmos. He writes, “And His voice was like the sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:15). There are no soft, sandy beaches on the Isle of Patmos, no gentle, soothing tide. During a storm, the waves crash against the rocks with a deafening roar. That violent, arresting sound was how John described the voice of the Lord. It’s an echo of Ezekiel 43:2, affirming that Christ and the Father speak with the same thundering voice of authority over the church.

John had heard this voice before. At Christ’s transfiguration, the voice of God rang out, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35). One of the defining characteristics of believers is that they recognize the authority of Christ and obey His Word: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

The reason the sheep follow the Shepherd is because they know His voice. Actual sheep recognize the voice of their own shepherd and will not respond to another. Philip Keller writes:

The relationship that develops between a shepherd and the sheep under his care is to a definite degree dependent on the use of the shepherd’s voice. Sheep quickly become accustomed to their owner’s particular voice. They are acquainted with its unique tone. They know its peculiar sounds and inflections. They can distinguish it from that of any other person. If a stranger should come among them, they would not recognize nor respond to his voice. [2]

True believers will heed the Good Shepherd’s voice and reject the overtures of false shepherds. Submitting to the authority of Christ is fundamental to the life of faith: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Used with permission from John MacArthur.

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