Yesterday, I promised that I would tackle the issue of prophecy. Is it for today? If so, how? Many of you had a lot of good questions, some of which had consistent themes. I’ll try to address as many of those questions as I can, but remember, this is just a blog post. Any remaining questions you have, I’ve started a thread on my Facebook page to discuss this very topic–feel free to comment here or there.
As Robert Staniford pointed out in the comments yesterday, Paul exhorted the church in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
Sadly, though, much of the American church has done exactly this, despising prophecy today. They’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Of course, there are instances of false prophesy. That’s why Paul encourages the church to carefully examine the words. Further, he tells us to “hold fast” to the good.
So how do we know what’s good? Firstly, we have scripture, which true prophecy should always align with, no questions asked. But Paul also gave instruction to the church of Corinth for how prophecy is to be approached in the assembly; that is, within the church. He writes:
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment…For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
There is tremendous wisdom and instruction in this passage. I believe this passage paints a very different picture of prophecy than how it is often portrayed or even demonstrated in the church today. Thankfully, I participate in a body of believers who are manifesting Jesus Christ to one another and this is one such manifestation of His body.
But, without being in a community where prophecy is correctly taught and encouraged, it is unlikely that an environment for healthy and biblical testing will exist. It comes down to discernment, which is a spiritual muscle that must be flexed (which I give props to Tony Alicea for pointing out).
I think it’s also important to make an important distinction between New Testament prophecy and Old Testament prophecy. In the Old Testament, most prophecy was for the purpose of foretelling–that is, proclaiming the future by the Spirit of God, often times in the first person (Y’know, “THY LORD GOD SAITH…” type stuff).
In the New Testament, we find that the purpose of prophecy is more often forthtelling. Forthtelling often draws individual believers back to the covenant promises and lessons of old, or reveals the personal heart of God towards that person (which has already been revealed through Jesus Christ; God just knows we need a reminder every now and then).
This forthtelling prophesying is said to be manifested by the Holy Spirit for three distinct purposes (1 Corinthians 14:3): edification, encouragement, and consolation. For some reason, this isn’t taught. And I believe this is much of the reason people find the words prophecy and prophesying so scary–they lack understanding as to its purpose. Is edification, encouragement, and consolation of the believer so frightening as to avoid it altogether?
Now, how do we know when we “hear” from God? Or, how might you hear from God? Many of you asked this question, specifically, and it’s an important one. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can wrap all that into this post, but I promise to write about this topic next week.
Last but not least, I want to leave you with the admonishment that Paul gives the Corinthians in regards to this very topic:
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Why have we forgotten this command and that this is a gift of the Holy Spirit available to all believers today? Prophesying is not the same as being a prophet. This could run a whole different post (maybe, if you ask nicely), but allow me to encourage you to earnestly desire this gift. Pray for it. Study it so that it’s not scary to you anymore. Find a community of believers who help encourage it in your life. It is just another aspect of the fullness of Jesus Christ, and that’s Who I’m after.
What questions didn’t I answer? Did this raise more questions? Do you want to chat more about it? Join the Facebook conversation, leave your comments below, and let’s do it.
Update: I’ve been informed that the Old Testament is actually maybe only 15% fortelling. In this post, I do not suggest that the OT was only fortelling, but simply that people more often associate the OT with that type of prophecy. Hope that clears up some questions.