Lately I’ve become aware of man who considers himself a prophet, and who puts out YouTube videos on a regular basis. It’s uncanny how he can be right on the money in one case, and miss by a mile somewhere else. Of course, he doesn’t see that he sometimes misses. Things are black and white in his eyes. In my eyes however, a recent prophecy was a big miss.
He cancelled all his speaking engagements for a certain locality, saying that God told him to, and that God had removed His hand from that area. They would not be part of any coming move of God. Wow! Pretty demoralizing for the praying saints from there that have been seeking the Lord expectantly for revival. Does the prophet expect them to shake off the dust from their feet and move?
Is this man a false prophet? Is he not a prophet at all? OR, can we look at his case and get a better understanding of how the prophetic works? While it’s common for prophetic people to see things as black or white, the rest of the Body of Christ does not have to succumb to the same mindset. Perhaps gray is a perfectly valid prophetic color too.
We Know In Part
Listen to Paul, who had a proven prophetic ministry, along with lots of other Holy Spirit gifts. He tells the Corinthians in the great love chapter, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part… (1 Corinthians 13:9). It’s easy to overlook that verse because of all the lofty thoughts that go before it. Yet there it is. How does Paul come to say that? Because prophesying in part was his own experience. There’s an example just a couple of chapters back in the same book.
The Corinthian church (converted Gentiles living in the pagan city of Corinth) had a lot of practical questions for Paul about marriage. What about divorce? What about abstinence within marriage? What about believers wed to unbelievers? What about remarriage? We are talking about Chapter 7, which has been scrutinized with a fine toothcomb down through the centuries. It seems each generation seeks answers to similar questions.
Paul gives instruction, and he also gives a lesson in how the prophetic works. In verse 10 and 11 he says, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away.” Then he follows in the next verse with something he doesn’t claim is directly from God: “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away.” In the last verse of Chapter 7 Paul muddies the water a little more: “But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”
Should you be confused about which admonition in these verses to take seriously? No. “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Rather, realize that God designed different levels of prophetic utterance within His inspiration, whether written in scripture or pronounced today. God partners with prophets, but He may not give them the fullness on every matter. Paul was a valid prophet, and yet he prophesied only “in part.” A seasoned mature prophet would do well to remember that when operating in prophetic ministry. A seasoned mature Christian would also do well to remember that when receiving prophetic ministry, thus avoiding disappointment or wrong conclusions.
Throw prophecy out the window?
Some branches of Christianity throw the prophetic gift completely out the window. Perhaps they do that because of abuses or an obnoxious style. That’s not a good idea in my opinion. Paul tells us to highly esteem the gift of prophecy. After speaking about the supremacy of love he says, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
The balanced prophetic ministry recognizes that God plays a part and the prophet plays a part. A wise prophet is humble enough to see that the line between the two is not always fixed. Rather, it moves depending on God’s choice and purposes in the matter. The prophet may only be given a small part one time and the lion’s share the next. Only getting a little bit of God’s counsel does not mean a prophet is false, and the prophet must not add anything to whatever part he or she is given.
Now let’s circle back to the prophet I spoke of in the beginning. Did God really say that He would not bring revival to the region in question and the prophet should cancel speaking? According to my friend, many saints are confused, angry with the prophet, or heartsick to be overlooked by God. Rather, let God’s people exercise wisdom when considering any prophetic word, whether corporate or personal prophesy.
Wise Guidelines for Prophecy
- Always test prophecy against God’s Word AND God’s character. This requires study and a good working knowledge of scripture, along with a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the only prophet who gets it right 100% of the time.
- Because prophets see “in part” they may have misses. This does not necessarily mean they are false prophets. It may mean they were only given part of something or they unintentionally added something of their own to it. OR, it may mean they misinterpreted what they got which is quite a common problem.
- Don’t put your trust in individual prophecies over putting your trust in God. This wonderful Holy Spirit gift is useful for the Body of Christ but, just like all the other gifts, fallible men and women administer it. It should not be elevated to the point of worshipping the gift instead of Jesus.
- Don’t be misled by delivery styles. We all accept better what is delivered to us in our own preferred style, but that could cause our own “misses” in what God is saying. Try to get past “how” the prophecy is presented to the heart and meat of the matter. Listen well, ponder and pray. Invite the Holy Spirit to confirm what is valid and dismiss what is not.
God is still speaking today, and one way He communicates with us is through the prophetic gift. I’m so glad for it. It has been a rich enhancement to my Christian walk all these years. Whatever God has to say through His prophets to me, I must embrace it with wisdom. That’s MY part.
Want to know more about the gift of prophecy? Read Holy Spirit Gifts – God’s Building Blocks for the Church