Wednesday, May 12, 2010

God Knows Your Stuff - The Gift of Prophecy

As a body of believers God has given each one of gifts in which to serve each other. We are not all meant to do the same job in the Kingdom. In fact, without others, we may not be able to do anything of real value. Christianity is a team sport with lots of sacrifice thrown in.

For many the church seems as if it is run like a business. And the folks that attend the church are worker bees. They make sure that practical needs of the church are taken care of. Someone has to do the cleaning, the bookkeeping, the pastoring, the counseling and all the rest of the church business.

And beyond all the mechanics of church (which yours truly finds exceeding boring and lifeless), there are supernatural ministries as well. We call these these spiritual gifts. No other religion has spiritual gifts, because no other religion has a living God. I mean in ABC religion, folks don't speak in tongues and heal the sick because there is no power to interpret them or effect healing.

The truth is that Satan probably has more opportunity for supernatural manifestations than God does in many churches.

And for those of you who'd prefer not to have spiritual gifts in church, how else do you make the distinction between Christianity and any other religion? But I digress.

The supernatural gifts and callings present a difficult challenge to Bible believing churches. They don't always fit in a nice neat little box; nor in a program with a workbook.

First, we need to decide if prophecy even exists in the New Testament church (NTC). There are just too many references to it for it to be a no.

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.

1 Corinthians 12:10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy.

Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.

The next question is obvious, what is the nature of prophecy in the NTC? We are not going to have any new doctrinal revelations, which would be heresy. We are not going to have some change that God has not somehow foreshadowed in the scriptures. IE: a new spiritual gift of wealth for instance.

There are enough verses in the Bible to support prophecy. Here are a couple of verses that illustrate the use of prophecy – of course there are many more.

Acts 21:11 Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'"

Acts 27:33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. "For the last fourteen days," he said, "you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven't eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head."

Who can or does prophesy? You all can. (1 Corinthians 14:31) - the key is desiring too. Of course one needs to be born again and full of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing special about those that prophesy. They simply make use of a gift that is available to all born again believers. I find it sad that a lot of believers don't use what is available to them.

Acts 21:8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Luke 2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna…. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

The basic essence of the word prophecy means to reset a path. I use the word direction because the church does not need new mandates or doctrines. Those have been set in place by the apostles and prophets. What the church (and individuals) need now is direction. The prophetic voice is one of many ways that sheep should hear His voice so that they can do what the Father is doing.

The question is often raised, what can a prophet tell us that the Bible has not already told us? In terms of cannon law and doctrine, nothing. In terms of direction, everything! The prophetic voice whether via a NT prophet (Eph 4:11) or just a plain old you-and-me type Christian can be essential in reveling God’s direction and planning.

So, what about the OT prophets? Their job was to set a foundation for the law to transform into the new covenant with the sacrifice of Jesus as the central historical event dividing the two. These prophets were held to a strict level of accuracy. According to Paul, not only in his writings, but his own experience, the NT prophetic person is judged by grace – and the believer judges the “word” by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 13:12 Now (this life) we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity (heaven).

Paul errs in his word of prophecy to those on the ship. Look at the difference between the two statements made by Paul:

Acts 27:10 "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also." (Loss of life? I don't think so, Paul. Keep reading!)

Acts 27:22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

We all know that the ship was wrecked and that there was no loss of life.

Here is my point, do you have grace for someone that gives you a Bible verse or “godly counsel” that really doesn't apply, one in which you get no confirmation from the Holy Spirit? I hope you do.

Another question that is often raised is place of the Holy Spirit; which is to give witness to Jesus, and connect us with God’s heart and thoughts. This is accomplished by the many roles He plays in the life of a believer: Comforter, Teacher, and Peace giver. What He does not do is replace the need to be part of a body with many gifts. Furthermore; there are at least a dozen ways in which God speaks to us, prophecy is just one of them. The main role of the Holy Spirit is to confirm (teach) us. We need to be taught how to receive prophecy. In fact we need to learn to receive teaching and godly counsel as well! Maybe later in the week...

The nature of NT prophecy is to build up or edify the church – encourage. That does not mean that the message of prophecy is always positive. When Samuel came to David, it was not good news. David’s response was to repent (Psalm 51). This is edifying because the constant message of the gospel is to repent, and be made right with God. That said, prophecy is not the tool of the sin police either. The prophet and those using the gifts must do ALL things in love 1 Cor13. Did you ever wonder why the most important scripture on love comes amidst the spiritual gift discourse in 1 Cor 12, 13 and 14? It wasn’t given at a wedding! It is because the gifts require maturity. And because of the power, it also requires that we first love those that we minister too.

Prophetic utterances can be encouragements, corrections, confirmations, and create new destinies (calls those things which do not exist as though they did). They are destinies that require a response, and some may be conditional. IE: If you do this ___________ God will do that.

I was once at a church and God said through a prophetic voice, if you offer these specific classes you will succeed. They didn’t, and the church lost their building within the year.

And finally, the issue of false prophets – yikes! For God’s sake church, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. First, who in your church has a proven gift of discernment?  Are they getting red flags? We need to be discerning.

A false prophet will not always tell us lies. He, like Satan, can turn us from the truth by perverting scripture. It may even sound like real Bible! But in the end, a false prophet leads us away from the Savior causes division.


Sue Shuford said...

Thanks for speaking so sensibly about prophecy, especially the difference between OT (foundational) and NT (directional) prophecy. We all need to hear from God more--He's always speaking, after all--and prophecy is a significant way to hear. It's also so important in ministry to hurting people!

Tony C said...

Love the way you layed this one out. It was easy to follow and digest.

Maybe you should teach a Sunday School class? I'd join your class via Skype each Sunday...

photogr said...


As you know some denominations and scholars ( Peters and Wagner come to mind) state the gifts ( specificially)of healing, prophesy and super natural powers died off when the apostles passed on. However, as you stated about Philips daughters and also Annias that healed Pauls vision. Then there is Barnibus.

To my best recollection, neither of these people had the laying of hands from the apostles. Their powers derived from divine intervention or the Holy Spirit for a purpose.

That would lead me to speculate that we do have the ability to still prophesize, heal, or possess the Spiritual Gifts. However, I do not feel just any one can have these gifts even by asking. I would think through God's grace, He does seem to be selective of the ones that can possess these gifts. Ones that I have read about in modern times were Paul Cain and the Vineyard founder as well as a couple more. The main requirement is ones with unwavering faith and a close relationship with the Lord may well be in possession of some gifts.

I would relish the thought of having gifts but I don't believe I am worthy of such a responsibility just yet. Then again, I think it depends on what denomination you are affiliated with and which one openly accepts the theory of gifts being available in modern times.

Perhaps I am looking in the wrong churches for validation

David said...

Good thought on the subject - there will always be naysayers. They have been around forever and will continue to be so. We are to focus on Jesus and what he wants to do with and through us. If we earnestly desire the gifts, God will use us.

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