Why do we need prophets?

Straight Talk

The Question

Why do we need prophets if we have the Holy Spirit? If an individual has the Holy Ghost, why do we need prophets?

– JC from the United States

The Answer
Part 1: Who is our teacher?
Part 2: Function of Prophets

My initial out of the box response when I read this was: evidently the Holy Spirit feels we need prophets or why did he give them as a gift to the church? That’s a valid point but I think I need to back up a little and understand where the reader might be coming from.

There is a scripture, which might suggest that we should rely only on the Holy Spirit to instruct us. 1 John 2:27 says, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

That’s a great one for Christian mavericks and lone wolves who don’t want to submit to any spiritual authority. Yet, is it really? What was the apostle John actually addressing? At that time there was a rising heresy called Gnosticism that believed in a “higher knowledge” – a secret mystical knowledge that was not being taught by the apostles OR scripture.

John called his readers to stick with the truth that had originally drawn them into the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ. THAT truth was from the Holy Spirit and they need go no farther or they would be drawn off track. By the way, Gnosticism has been with us in one form or another down to our present day so John’s words still have relevance.

We do need to trust that the Holy Spirit within us is faithful to keep us. We do need to“abide in Him.” “’If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31-32) That understanding does not, however, cancel either the Holy Spirit gift of Teacher OR Prophet. Both are alive and well and operational in God’s church.

Function of Prophets (Part 2)

Prophets fulfill a vital function for the church. They are God’s mouthpiece to proclaim his purposes. They point us to God’s heart on a matter. Prophets give us the inside information God wants his own people to have. “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

While each of us has the Holy Spirit each of us does not have the gift of prophecy. “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?” (1 Corinthians 12:29) But Paul tells us to seek prophecy as valuable: “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Let’s be sure that at the same time we honor prophets we understand what a Prophet is NOT. A prophet is not above any other believer but simply has a gift given by the Holy Spirit. That gift can be used properly or abused. Perhaps the reader has been subjected to some of the abuses that out of whack prophets are known for. Such as? Intimidation, lording it over others, manipulation by claiming their own way as if it’s God’s voice, trying to dominate, screaming and yelling with an added “thus sayeth the Lord” on the end of it.

A prophet is not here to give us individual direction on decisions or to tell us whom we will marry or preempt our walk of faith by giving us outcomes in advance of us walking through them. In fact, the predictive part of prophecy is very small and must be used with extreme caution and wisdom.

The Holy Spirit works in each one of us but none of us has a perfect revelation of all the work of God so we need each other to fill in whatever we lack. One may have a gift that a prophet does not have and that’s where another fills in for him or her. Since each person has a unique part to play in the Body of Christ let’s appreciate each other and every gift as we follow God’s highest call to “pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)