In my previous post in this series, we began discussing the gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and led off with exploring the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. One of the things I stated towards the end of that article was that tongues and interpretation were the functional equivalent of the gift of prophesy, which is what I’ll tackle here.
What is the Gift of Prophesy?
Unlike public tongues which requires a Holy-Spirit-inspired interpretation, prophesy is an utterance of the Holy Spirit given in the language of those present at that time, so no interpreter is necessary.
The word “prophesy” comes from the Greek word propheteia. Here’s the definition from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:
- a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events
- Used in the NT of the utterance of OT prophets of the prediction of events relating to Christ’s kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining to it, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due
- of the endowment and speech of the Christian teachers called prophets
- the gifts and utterances of these prophets, esp. of the predictions of the works of which, set apart to teach the gospel, will accomplish for the kingdom of Christ
Basically this means that someone operating in the gift of prophesy is going to be used of the Spirit to accomplish one of the following:
- Confront the wicked with their sins and their need for repentance and salvation.
- Comfort and exhort those who are hurting and needing encouragement/reassurance of God’s love and care for them.
- Inform the listeners of events that are yet-to-occur, such as God’s intention to heal them or supernaturally provide for their needs, financial or otherwise, in response to someone’s personal crisis.
- Bring hidden things into the light and foretell the future of the church, whether on a congregational or universal level.
Whatever is spoken is entirely dependent upon how the Holy Spirit moves on and through the person being used. I’ve heard prophesies and interpretation of tongues delivered in poetic verse, rather than simple prose. Either is valid.
The Gift of Prophesy in Action
I’ve heard very generalized prophetic utterances and I’ve also witnessed some people who are used in a combination of prophesy and word of knowledge when ministering to individuals which demonstrates a level of specificity psychics and conmen do their best to imitate, what we charismatics jokingly refer to as “reading someone’s mail.” In such extremely unusual cases, the Holy Spirit is describing details of a person’s circumstances — sometimes naming names! — the person being so used cannot possibly know apart from divine revelation. Please note that psychics and conmen are the imitators, not the other way around — they are operating in the satanic counterfeit of this gift.
One remarkable example was a mighty man of God named Dick Mills who just recently graduated to his heavenly reward. He was justifiably famous in charismatic circles for prophesying over folks by giving them one or more Scripture verses from his encyclopedic memory of Bible passages. Wherever he ministered, as he worked a prayer line or wandered among the seated congregation, an usher or other altar worker was always assigned to follow him around, writing down the Scripture references on a slip of paper, which was then given to the person Dr. Mills just had spoken to and prayed over.
Regardless of the level of detail or the audience to whom such utterances are addressed, all such utterances are subject to:
- Examination for conformity to the letter and spirit of the Scriptures. If it doesn’t pass this primary litmus test, the following criteria is superfluous.
- Being evaluated and judged by the other believers present in the group who operate in this gift. If a person speaks something the prophets present feel is not from God, they are authorized and commanded to speak out on the matter
- Most importantly, is it in agreement with the written Word of God, specifically the New Testament?
- Does it bear witness in your spirit? In other words, is the Holy Spirit Who living inside you as a born-again believer, saying “Amen!” to what was said? Do you have a peace about it or does it unsettle your spirit?
- Does it line up with other things God has already spoken to you from His Word as well as any prior prophetic utterances?
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29
As the risk of my belaboring the point, let me reiterate: all utterances given by the Spirit of God will never, never, EVER say anything contrary to the written Word of God (the Protestant Bible) because God doesn’t contradict Himself!
And that is the standard by which prophets judge the utterances of other prophets. While we don’t stone people who prophesy in the flesh anymore, that is precisely what God called for in the OT when someone said the words, “Thus says the Lord God…” and it didn’t come true in every aspect of what was said, so God takes this stuff seriously!
Biblical Discernment of Prophesy
I just ran into a brother the other night who was terrified of this gift and totally obsessed with the the danger of false prophets and even named some: Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and Charles Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to name two. In both these cases — as well as with so many other cults — their so-called prophesies were totally unscriptural, containing just enough of the Bible, twisted to suit their own ends, packaged in pious-sounding religious jargon to deceive the biblically ignorant.
In the first example, Joseph Smith’s prophesies demoted Jesus Christ from His true station as God-in-Sandals to that of a mere exalted archangel (aka the Arian heresy) and introduced a system of salvation by works, both of which are pure heresy. And that’s just barely scratching the surface of the incredible amount of false doctrine they preach.
The founder of the JWs, Charles Russell, started out by denying the existence of the Trinity, the immortality of men’s souls, and hellfire for the lost, to name but three heresies he preached. His successor, Joseph Rutherford, was a turn-of-the-20th-century Harold Camping, publicly specifying the date of Christ’s return in 1925 and moving the JWs even further from sound biblical doctrine.
In both these cases, as well as when dealing with the unscriptural claims made by a host of other cults, had the people they converted to their system of satanic lies bothered to study their Bibles, they would have seen immediately these organizations’ doctrines of demons were false, but, alas, scriptural illiteracy has been a pandemic for centuries, especially in the present day.
So a word to the wise: if anyone ever — no matter who it is, how large their ministry, how much fame that person enjoys, or your personal opinion of him — comes up to you and says, “Thus sayeth the Lord…” over you, it is your personal responsibility to examine those words using the following criteria in the following order, in order to determine whether they were from the Lord or not:
If that prophesy doesn’t meet these 3 criteria, it wasn’t from God, period!
So that about wraps up this episode.
Thanks for reading!