When I first became a Christian in 1999, I knew of a grand total of one so-called prophet. This individual turned out to be a false prophet who spoke a series of time-frame specific words, which never came to pass, over the church community I attended. I had never met anyone else who claimed to be a prophet. If we fast-forward to today, in the latter part of 2012, there are more than one or two so-called prophets in the church. With the advance of expectations on leadership, the confusion between gifts and offices, and the push for people to accept a leadership role, we witness an influx of people claiming to be prophets, prophetic people, prophetically gifted, and the like. What we do not see is extensive teaching on the prophetic, prophecy, and the whole understanding of prophecy and the walk of a prophet. As a result, people are confused. It does not help that the prophetic realm is highly complex and encompasses many areas, which are often misunderstood.
It’s very important for us, as believers, to be smart about the prophetic. Prophecy is a big part of the church, and we know the foundation of the church consists of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). We also know the spirit of prophecy is subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32). In order to function properly, the church needs a balanced, empowered approach to all things prophetic.
Most churches today know they can draw a crowd if they let people know a so-called prophet is coming to town. The reason for this is simple: people like drama and people like to receive what they deem to be a personal word, just for them. This increase in miracle-chasers calls us to greater discernment on prophetic matters. Just because someone claims to be a prophet does not make them one. Just because someone claims to have a gift does not mean they have one. Just because the majority of people forgot the last false prophet’s prophecy doesn’t mean the individual is not a false prophet. Since Jesus Himself advises us not to be deceived by false prophets (Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22), we ourselves need to step up and separate the truth from the myths about the prophetic realm.
TRUE OR FALSE: The Spirit of God is given to all believers.
Answer: TRUE. The Spirit of God is most definitely given to all believers, but this does not mean the way the Spirit manifests in everyone is exactly the same, as we will discuss more to come. Even though the Spirit of God manifests in all believers, not every believer is a prophet.
In that case, why did I address this question as part of an examination of the prophetic? There are groups that teach the Spirit of God is NOT given to all believers, and that the Spirit of God has no manifestation among believers today. Such people espouse a doctrine of cessationalism, which literally means the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. If we want to understand the prophetic, we have to understand the operations of the Spirit. The Spirit produces both gifts (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and fruit (Galatians 5:22-25) in believers. The Word specifically states that we “live by the Spirit,” which indicates activity – not inactivity – on the part of the Spirit’s work within us (Galatians 5:25). Trying to establish the move of the Spirit as relevant only for the first century, or as totally void in this day and age, nullifies the understanding of the Spirit’s power and gifts present within the Body.
TRUE OR FALSE: The word “Prophet” means “Someone who exercises spiritual gifts”.
Answer: FALSE. The word “Prophet” literally means “Someone who speaks for God.” As with the prophets of old, a prophet serves to relay a message from God to God’s people. Because the prophet is hearing from God, the prophet is able to walk in an office of discernment. It is the prophet’s job to convey God’s message and refute false messages. God gifts the prophet so they do have the ability to function in the prophetic office, but a prophet is not identified solely by their gifts – they are known for their ability to communicate God’s desired message, in His desired time.
TRUE OR FALSE: Having a prophetic gift is the same thing as being a prophet.
Answer: FALSE. Many people assume an ability to prophesy, give a word of knowledge or wisdom, or operate healing makes someone a prophet. This understanding is false. Healing, prophecy, word of knowledge, and word of wisdom are all charismatic gifts, or gifts that are given by the anointing unction of the Holy Spirit. Any Spirit-filled believer can operate one of these charismatic gifts that relate to the prophetic realm (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The five-fold ministry gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher), or didomi gifts (Ephesians 4:11), are a separate set of gifts that specifically relate to church offices for leadership and governance. Not everyone is called to be a leader, but everyone is called to help build up the church through the charisma (anointing) given by which charismatic gifts flow. This is the main difference between understanding the call to ministry and operating a gift. When you are in the office of a prophet, your entire walk, call, and being flows within that operation; when you have a gift, it comes as God wills and functions as God wills, rather than being an entire operation of your life. This also means a prophet will walk in some or all of these charismatic gifts as part of their calling – but it doesn’t mean someone who occasionally receives a prophecy or gives a word is a prophet.
TRUE OR FALSE: Being a Christian means you are automatically prophetic.
Answer: FALSE. Because all believers have an indwelling of the Spirit, some people maintain all believers have the ability to operate prophetic gifts. While I will agree that most believers do have experiences by which they directly experience God in some way, this is not the same as being able to operate a prophetic gift. What many do not realize is we have two passages of Scripture that list charismatic gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:4-8. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 lists many gifts that relate to the prophetic (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues), while Romans 12:4-8 lists some prophetic gifts, but several practical gifts that relate to ministry purpose and function (prophecy, faith, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, and mercy). Service (found in some translations as hospitality), a long-forgotten gift, is not a prophetic work. Encouragement is not a prophetic work. Service is not prophetic. Giving is not prophetic. I know we are all about showy gifts and grand, impressive moves of God today, but the Word makes it clear that all gifts are of value, purpose, and edification of the Body. Gifts aren’t about what entertains us the most; they are about God and building up the church. Being handed a cup of water or served a meal after preaching is just as valued as the preacher who proclaims the message. A word of encouragement at the right time is not prophetic. Serving and giving are not works that are prophetic – but they are all equally important. It’s important that we, as the Body of Christ, value all of God’s gifts to the church manifest in His people, so we, as a Body, may be complete. Even though one person may not be as prophetic as someone else, they are still just as valued, loved, and important as someone else.
TRUE OR FALSE: There is more than one way to be a prophet or exercise a prophetic gift.
Answer: TRUE. Not all prophets operate by the same means. Some prophets are very strong teachers of prophecy and interpreting the prophetic throughout history. Most exercise a combination of the charismatic prophetic gifts, but that doesn’t mean they exercise every one of them, or exercise them twenty-four-seven. The same is true of someone who exercises a prophetic gift and is a prophet. Remember, the goal of the Christian life is not to be enamored with gifts, but enamored with the Giver of gifts. Every prophetic gift serves a purpose for the Body – and we must be more open to greater understandings of the prophetic. Intercession, discernment, and interpretation of prophecy are all prophetic gifts, just as valuable as healing and a word of wisdom.
TRUE OR FALSE: Being able to discern the outcome of an event does not necessarily make you a prophet.
Answer: TRUE. There are numerous commentators who ramble through news headlines and popular stories in an effort to prove themselves “prophetic.” They will make “predictions” about world events, and call these “predictions” “prophecy. If one steps back and analyses these commentators, they aren’t prophesying; they are analyzing current news trends. They are often as wrong as they are right, and the conclusions they draw when right are from analyzing circumstances – not receiving spiritual inspiration. Prophecy doesn’t come from the ability to put together facts – it comes from God, and often appears without evidence to speak to its future outcome. When the Prophet Daniel received the vision we now know to represent four major world powers (Daniel 7:1-28), there was nothing to suggest the sway of governmental politics would work in his favor. If we look at prophecies made promising exile (Jeremiah 2:1-37, Ezekiel 4:1-17), the prophecies weren’t respected because people didn’t see those prophecies fitting into their plans. True prophecy isn’t discerned by analyzing news stories: it’s discerned by the Holy Spirit.
TRUE OR FALSE: There is a difference between a prophet and a psychic.
Answer: TRUE. Most of us know this, but there are still many out there who think prophets make predictions the same way psychics do, just by a different power. The truth about psychics is overwhelming: the average psychic has an eleven percent accuracy rating, and the majority of their “hits” come about by reading people or discerning circumstances. God’s prophecy is not “hit and miss,” nor does it come about through via divining means. A psychic is trying to tell people things about them, supposedly by a supernatural source other than God. This is why mediums, psychics, and diviners are so strongly forbidden according to the Word: trusting one is a sign you do not trust God, and you are following after false gods and sources (Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6). A prophet speaks God’s Word to His people – thus making the power of God present in a prophecy, increasing one’s faith (Isaiah 6:1-13, Jeremiah 1:4-10).
TRUE OR FALSE: Prophets can be partially right and partially wrong, speaking out of the flesh at times.
Answer: FALSE. If prophecy consists of God’s Word to His people, there is no “fleshly prophecy.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) True prophecy is not based in the flesh, and does not come forth from fleshly attitudes, thoughts, or reading people’s emotions. A true prophet cannot speak prophetically right at times and prophetically wrong at others. Prophets also cannot speak a partially right prophecy, where some of the details are accurate, but some are not. Prophecy is one of those one hundred percent things: it’s either all right, or it’s wrong. If part of a prophecy is wrong, that makes it a false prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:14-22).
Prophets, as people, are allowed to have opinions and thoughts – clearly distinguished from ministerial prophecy – and those opinions do not count as prophecy, because they are opinions. For example, a prophet may have a personal opinion about an elected official, the food they like, or their favorite color, none of which have anything to do with their prophetic call. A prophet may be wrong about things as a human being, and they may run into personal issues. These are matters to be considered in kind, and based on personal perspective. When it comes to prophecy, however, the prophet is either right or wrong – because prophecy does not leave room for human error.
TRUE OR FALSE: Prophecy is dependent on the person who receives the prophecy to do certain things.
Answer: FALSE. Most in today’s church confuse a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). There is a reason these gifts have been identified by three different terms, in three different ways. A word of wisdom is what we commonly call a “word.” When someone asks for a “word,” they aren’t asking for a prophecy, they are asking for a word of wisdom. A word of wisdom is a personal, direct word of guidance and direction for an individual and their life. It may or may not include a specific directive relating to someone’s future, but it typically includes an instructional directive. This makes a word of wisdom conditional on an individual person’s obedience. A word of knowledge is divine insight into a person’s situation, and typically offers perspective, encouragement, correction, or hope as pertains to that specific situation. A word of knowledge is also conditional on an individual person’s obedience. In both instances, the individual must accept the wisdom and knowledge offered. This makes the outcome of a word of knowledge or wisdom dependent on the individual’s actions thereafter. A prophecy, however, is not dependent upon a person’s obedience. A prophecy is clear and direct, and clarifies the consequences for disobedience and the promise for obedience. Either way, what happens in the result of the situation at hand remains the same with prophecy. Telling someone a prophecy is conditional upon their actions is a misnomer, and reflects a misunderstanding of prophecy.
TRUE OR FALSE: Prophecy doesn’t always make sense until it comes to pass.
Answer: TRUE. When Daniel, Ezekiel, and Hosea were shown visions, asked to literally live the sins of Israel, or illustrate the broken covenant between God and His people (Daniel 8:1-27, Ezekiel 3:18-27, Hosea 1:2-11), what they saw and did seemed odd to people. I would venture that it seemed odd to the prophets themselves, as well, because God often asked them to break rules, laws, and guidelines deeply instilled within them as codes of holiness. When they were first doing these things, it didn’t make sense. As the Word of God came forth through their prophecies, however (along the same lines as a parable), the people understood better what God was trying to convey. Sometimes prophecy doesn’t make sense at first, because we don’t have all the details. It may seem vague in some ways, and ultra-specific in others. Prophecy often contains symbolism, as well, which may open the door to numerous speculations about its interpretation. Prophecy is something understood completely only in hindsight, and it is important that we don’t immediately write off a prophecy because we don’t understand everything about it.
TRUE OR FALSE: A prophet should require money to give a prophetic word.
Answer: FALSE. It’s important we are careful about the words we receive, and even more careful about who we receive a word from in our modern times. We also need to be careful about where we sow our finances, and why we are giving that money where we choose to give it. The church abounds today with leaders who will tell you they have a “word” for you, but they won’t give it to you unless you pay them for it. This is witchcraft at its finest, not to mention ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with giving an offering to a prophetic speaker or just giving to someone because God places it on your heart. What is decisively wrong is when someone refuses to give you a message from the Lord because you won’t pay them. Such conduct is a sign God is not with that prophet. When people follow such a leader, it is a sign that God is not with those people, either – because God cannot dwell with dishonesty (Micah 3:11).
(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.