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-Do Not Despise Prophecy, But…

What do you say to the “prophet” in your local church who is never on target with their prophetic utterances?

Do Not Despise Prophecy, But…

Gregory Koukl

What do you say to the “prophet” in your local church who is never on target with their prophetic utterances? divider

I’ve heard about a phenomenon happening in some churches called roaring in the Spirit. This is just an anecdotal observation– and I as much as anyone want to see the Spirit move in a meaningful way among Christians–it just seems to me that when people’s view of the Spirit moving is going with the flow, then of course you can expect it to be a little bit bizarre.There has been a prophet movement in the church that is on the wane now–prophets allegedly being raised up in the church, giving instructions for the church. I was very troubled by this when it was happening. They had schools of prophets and prophets going about to different local churches giving their prophecies and directives to the church. Frankly, it just got out of hand, and fortunately this movement was somewhat reined in by leadership and that’s as it should be.

You see, my concern in these kinds of things is a concern about revelation, of who speaks with authority anyway? Who gets to say what God is doing and what God isn’t doing? Now, I’m a Protestant Christian. I’m in the Reformation tradition. I think the Bible is our final guide and direction.

If you have the notion or understanding that there are prophets being raised up in the church nowadays, much like the prophets of old, then the prophets become the authority in the church. I personally am of the conviction that the role of prophets in the New Testament is different than the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the prophet was the authority and you judged the prophet. That’s why you had a lot of dead prophets around because when they were judged and found wanting, they were killed. We don’t kill prophets anymore because we don’t judge prophets in the New Testament, we judge the prophecy, which means that the church is above the prophet.

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Now if you have somebody who gives lots of prophecies and it’s all bogus, I think it’s time to say, Listen, I don’t think you’ve got the gift of prophecy.

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I had a conversation with someone the other day about this issue and the person asked if I believe in prophecy. My response was of course I believe in prophecy. I think there is a legitimate role of prophecy in the church. But who is it that decides when a legitimate prophecy is given? It’s not the prophet anymore. It is the church.When the church is put underneath the authority of the prophets, that’s when you get problems–prophets going from church to church, saying, Thus says the Lord, and if you don’t believe it then something is wrong with you. No, something is wrong with the prophet under those circumstances and, in my view, the church is the one who is over the prophet and not the other way around. The church makes the judgment. The prophet should offer his prophecy to the church and then let the leadership decide whether the prophecy is in fact from God.

By the way, that’s called testing the prophet. 1 Thessalonians 5 says, “Do not despise prophetic utterance, but rather examine everything carefully.” We are to examine prophecies carefully in the church. That doesn’t mean giving a nod, as is often the case. People say, I have a confirmation. What the heck is that? Anybody else have a confirmation? I have a confirmation.

The legitimacy of the prophecy should be decided amongst the church leadership. So when a prophecy is given, if we are to test prophecies, what that means is, at least minimally, that you have got to write the prophecy down and pray about it a little bit. How many churches do you know that give prophecies regularly that have a log of the prophetic words uttered in their services–or the alleged prophetic words–so that they can pray about them and test them to see if they are from God, or if it is prophetic in a futuristic sense, to wait and see if it actually comes true? I have never heard of a single church that did that. I wonder why they don’t do it.

If we are to examine everything carefully and we really believe that there is such a thing as prophecy–God speaking through prophets in the church–don’t you think we should at least write these things down? Of course we should. Once we write it down we are committed to it. It’s on paper.

I think we should also put the name of the person who gave the prophecy in parenthesis at the end of the prophecy. Put down their address and phone number, too. Most people don’t even know whether a prophecy is fulfilled because they don’t write it down; they just forget about it next week because it doesn’t matter what God says in a congregation from week to week the way most people treat prophecy. It doesn’t really matter. We just say, Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. Glory. Then everybody forgets about it. If we wrote it down we wouldn’t forget about it, and six months later we would find out that it was bogus.

Now if you have somebody who gives lots of prophecies and it’s all bogus, I think it’s time to say, Listen, I don’t think you’ve got the gift of prophecy. That’s responsible leadership in the church. That’s not despising prophetic utterance but examining everything carefully. It seems to me that that’s the way it ought to be done. When you do that then the church is above the prophets as it should be, not below the prophets and subject to the whim of our modern day prophet speaking for God. We need more protection than that, ladies and gentlemen, and we get protection by examining everything carefully as a church body.

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