There is a lot of buzz in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles today concerning the gift of prophecy. There is a whole movement that has sprung up called the Prophetic Movement. We have men and women running around calling themselves prophets. When I was just a few years old in the Lord, I got involved with a “movement”. I thought it was the latest and greatest thing that God was doing. It was only after a couple of years getting banged around and swallowing some pretty bad doctrine did I realize that there is only 1 movement that God is calling us to. That is to run your own race towards the high calling that is in Christ Jesus. Since that time I have seen at least 4 movements come and go. All of them brought an issue or an understanding of our faith to the conversation table, but they also brought a lot of baggage because of extremes that went along with the movement. In today’s lesson on the gift of prophecy, I am going to try to remove the baggage, maybe bring some correction, but most importantly I hope to encourage each and every one of you that you can be used in the spiritual gift of prophecy.
The gift of prophecy in the Bible.
In this lesson of the gift of prophecy I am going to center our discussion around the gift in the New Testament. It is not that there is not many examples of the gift of prophecy in the Old Testament, but that we are living in the Church age, not the age of Mosaic law and as such it has changed the way the gift of prophecy works. There is a mental picture that comes from Old Testament prophets and prophecy that depicts a wild-haired dude that is just slightly off his rocker who stands on street corners with proclamations of doom and gloom. You will not find this model of prophecy in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 14:3 it says
“But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.”
You will notice that it leaves out pronouncements of divine judgement and retribution. I believe that the reason for this is that the payment for sin and the spiritual consequences of sin were taken care of at the cross of Christ. There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) New Testament prophecy transformed from edicts of destruction and displeasure to words that strengthen, encourage, and comfort.
The gift of prophecy in the life of Jesus.
In Luke’s gospel chapter 22 we have a very famous incident of the gift of prophecy at work in the life of Jesus. It is the time where Jesus predicts the Peter’s denial of him. Notice that Jesus tells Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat. Satan wanted to take him out, but Jesus said that He prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. Now that is a word that is both comforting and encouraging. Jesus told Peter that he would deny him, but He also told him that he had been prayed for. This also shows that faith goes beyond our incidents where we fail. It is what we do in the long term, not the short term that matters.
In John’s gospel chapter 2, we see where Jesus operates the gift of prophecy in the prediction of his death and resurrection. He tells the religious leaders who were questioning His authority that if they destroyed the “temple” He would rebuild it in three days. He was talking about his own body being the temple, and they assumed He was talking about the physical temple they worshiped at. There is an important point in this incident of the gift of prophecy in the life of Jesus. You cannot take all prophecy at face value or assume you know what it is talking about. I have found it best to let a prophetic word play out and ponder it for a while before acting upon it or deciding what it means.
The gift of prophecy in the early church.
In the book of Acts chapter 21 we have two incidents of the gift of prophecy in the early church. Both had to do with Pauls return to Jerusalem. The first incident the scriptures just say that the believers prophesied by the Holy Spirit for Paul not to return to Jerusalem. In the second instance we have a clearer picture of the prophetic gift in action where A man named Agabus took Paul’s belt and tied up his own hands and feet and told Paul that he would be bound the same way by the Jewish leaders if he went to Jerusalem. Now I have always speculated as to whether or not Paul missed the boat and disregarded the prophecies or if he had decided and seen that the prophecies were given not to warn him not to go but to forewarn him what was ahead. It is obvious that Paul felt that they were to prepare him for what lay ahead of him not to dissuade him from going. I just always wonder if he interpreted the reason for those prophecies or not. Regardless, Paul was right about this. The will of God will be done regardless.
This brings up a very good point concerning the gift of prophecy. It is not the job of the prophet to interpret what the meaning of the prophecy is. That is the right and responsibility of the one receiving the prophecy. If you are giving a prophetic word, then you need to be the messenger not the interpreter. You need to make sure your own spiritual pride and ego are out of the way. It is not your job to make sure the prophecy is accepted or heeded. It is just your job to give the message, however I have found that if the word you are giving is encouraging, strengthening, and comforting then there is usually very little resistance.
The gift of prophecy today.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is a lot of buzz about the gift of prophecy today. I have watched, listened, and tried to sift through this hub bub about God restoring the gift of prophecy and I have come to my own conclusions as to what is from God and what is hype. Here are a few things that I look for when deciding if a word that is given to me is truly a prophetic word or a word designed to profit the one giving it. I ask myself these questions and not necessarily in this order.
- Does this word line up with being a word that encourages, strengthens, and comforts?
- Does the messenger walk in, and have a track record of humility?
- Does this word line of with the written word of God?
- Has this word been judged and confirmed by others?
We have seen that Paul said that prophetic words will encourage, strengthen, and comfort. The scriptures also teach that we are to be concerned with false teachers and those that would spread bad doctrine. I have found that just by looking at a person’s humility level with discern a lot about the type of words that they will give. If you take a close look at the life of Paul, you will see a progression of his own humility becoming deeper. As He got older he went from thinking of himself as least of all the Apostles, to the point He thought of himself as just a recipient of grace as the chief of all sinners. The need for recognition and title’s diminished directly in proportion to his humility and recognition of his need of grace.
Any word of prophecy needs to line up with the revealed written word of God. God does not contradict God. If a person gives you a word of prophecy that contradicts the word of God, then they are not speaking from the Spirit of God, but are speaking out of their own soulish nature. Spit these out as trash or lovingly bring correction to the one giving the word.
Finally I believe that any prophetic word has to be judged. In 1 Corinthians 14:29 it says “Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said.” In 2002 I received 3 prophetic words concerning returning to ministry. They were given to me over a 2-3 month period of time by 3 different people in three different church’s and none of these people had met me before. I took those words and then presented them to people who I hold in high regard spiritually. They all felt that it was God and that I would be returning to ministry. If you receive a prophetic word from somebody, I suggest you do the same thing. Let the word be judged. In my own church here in Pine Haven, if there is a prophetic word given, we stop and evaluate the word and decide whether it is from God or not. This has brought a balance in our church that when a prophetic word is given, then it is taken seriously, and at the same time it has made those with the gift cautious in it’s use. This has been a healthy thing in our congregation and we don’t have any self proclaimed prophets running around wounding the sheep.
I know that I will probably get some flack about my stance and teaching concerning the gift of prophecy. That is ok. I learned a long time ago to run the race before me, not to follow a movement. I hope and pray that you will hear my heart and that you too will find the place of balance and integrity when being used with the gift of prophecy.
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