|We should welcome
prophecies, but they should always be tested.
Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do
not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on
to the good. Avoid every kind of evil (1 Thes 5:19-22).
Living with Imperfection
There are no perfect
prophets. There are very few perfect prophecies. I would expect that
even experienced prophets get it wrong sometimes. I suspect that
most prophets would be very happy, if they got it right 90 percent
of the time. An even larger percentage of prophecies from God will
be slightly contaminated by something the prophet has added from his
own heart. This is normal even for experienced prophets, because all
prophets are human.
The solution is not to reject
all prophecy, but to test all prophecy. Even if a word comes
from a "big name" prophet, we should not assume that it is
correct. Christians often feel guilty about rejecting a word,
because it came from a well-known prophet. They should remember that
prophets with big reputations will still be wrong at times. In fact,
because there is more pressure on them to prophesy, they will make
more frequent mistakes. There is no shame in rejecting their
prophecy, if it is tested and found to be incorrect.
There are no perfect
prophets. Even the Old Testament prophets got things wrong at time.
God allows his prophets to make mistakes to keep them humble and to
prevent the church from becoming too dependent on them. We must
become more relaxed and comfortable in dealing with impure and
incorrect prophecies, so that they can be discarded without drama.
As we get better at testing prophecies, we will get better at calmly
saying, "That was not from God" or "He missed the bus
there", without feeling guilty.
We must also learn to reject
prophecies without killing the prophet. The church should accept a
mistake as a reminder that all prophets are human. The prophets
should be glad to hear about their mistakes, so they can learn from
humbly accept the truth that they see through a glass darkly,
that they know only in part. In other words, they make mistakes.
Mature prophets urge everyone to who they prophesy to judge,
test and compare with scripture everything they say. They are
not offended when people are careful (Stephen L Mansfield Ė
Pastoring the Prophetic).
The Bible gives a number of principles for
testing a prophecy.
1 Cor 14:4 - It must build up the
2 Tim 3:16 - It must agree with
John 16:13,14 - It must exalt Jesus.
Deut 18:22,22 - It must come true.
Deut 13:1-5 - It must lead to God and
obedience to him.
Rom 8:15 - It must produce liberty
2 Cor 3:6 - It must produce life.
1 John 2:27 - It must be attested to
the Holy Spirit in each believer.
All prophecies should glorify and
At this I fell at his feet to worship
him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow
servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the
testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is
the spirit of prophecy" (Rev 19:10).
Sometimes it is hard to test a prophecy. A
word may seem to be okay, but it may take time before it is
fulfilled. Some words of encouragement are consistent with
scripture and hard to prove wrong. In these situations, testing of
prophets may be more helpful.
Testing individual prophecies can often be
difficult. What every Church needs is a prophet who has a proven
track record, a person who is known for speaking the word of the
Lord. It is easier to test prophets than individual prophecies. A
prophet can be watched over time to see if his life is bearing
fruit for the Lord (Matthew 7:15-20). Every church needs a proven
prophet who can be trusted to bring a reliable word when one is
Judge the spirit of the prophecy
before you judge the truth of the word (Graham Cooke).
The restoration of the prophetic ministry
was one of the most urgent needs of the modern church. The danger
is, that in time of need, Godís people will accept second best.
We must not accept every person who claims to be a prophet, but
test them to discover those that are sent by the Lord. If the
church is to release prophets into their full ministry, it must
learn to recognise those who are truly called by God.
We need words from heaven. Too many
words come from the human heart and not from heaven. God wants
prophets who will bring words from heaven that will change
things on earth (Terry Collins).
The body of Christ needs to mature until we
can distinguish a true prophetic word from merely the word of a
prophet. Many modern Christians are afraid to reject anything spoken
by one who claims to be a prophet or prophetess (Iverna - Tompkins -
Advancing in the Prophetic).
Jesus warned that false prophets and deceivers
would come upon the earth, and that even some of the elect would be
deceived by them (Mark 13:22,23). False prophets have been present in the
world in every age, but they are particularly common in times of tumult
like our present age. We have seen a great outburst of prophetic activity,
with all kinds of individuals and cults claiming to have the truth. In
this situation the church not only needs prophets who speak Godís truth,
but must also learn to discern the true from the false. Whenever God
releases a particular gift in the world, Satan tries to release a
counterfeit of that gift. We can be sure that as God restores the
prophetic ministry, Satan will try and raise up false prophets.
There is often a prophetic word in the words
of a prophet, but not everything said is true prophecy (Iverna -
Tompkins - Advancing in the Prophetic).
The Bible gives a number of tests for
discerning true prophets from those who are false. All Christians
should become familiar with them.
Every true prophet is called by God. The
initiative in the making of a prophet always rests with him. It is
not a ministry that anyone can take up. A true prophetic ministry
always begins with a call from God (Jer 1:4-10; Is 6:1-8).
Jeremiah condemned the false prophets because they had not stood
in the presence of the Lord to hear his voice. They could not
speak his word because they had not heard him speak (Jer
23:18,22). The true prophetic ministry always begins with the call
There is the prophetic ministry of promise
born of the will of the Father and there is the prophetic ministry
born of flesh and the will of man. Though both are conceived
through a genuine desire to fulfil Godís plan and promise, the
one birthed by flesh must be maintained by flesh while the one
birthed by the Spirit will be sustained by the Spirit. Flesh
reproduces flesh and therefore speaks directly to the desires of
man. Spirit reproduces spirit and therefore speaks forth the
desire of God (John Bevere Thus Saith the Lord p.4).
The first sign that a person has been
called to be a prophet, is a continuous experience of the gift of
prophecy. Most prophets will begin by sharing a word of prophecy
in fellowship meetings. Eventually this will change from an
occasional experience into a regular occurrence. When a person
regularly brings a clear and true prophetic word to the meeting,
it may be a sign that God is calling him to be a prophet. Of
course, we must guard against those who draw attention to
themselves, by speaking at every meeting. Their lack of fruit will
make them obvious.
An important statement about testing
prophets is made in Deuteronomy 18:2.
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of
the Lord does not take place or come true that is a message the
Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.
It is presumptuous to speak in the Lordís
name if he has not spoken. If the word of a prophet is not
fulfilled, then he is a false prophet. This test must be used with
care. Sometimes a word is not fulfilled, because the people repent
or God shows mercy and postpones judgement. The test applies more
to positive prophecies.
Prophets often foretold destruction and
sometimes the destruction did not come, yet this did not disprove
their divine mission, as in the case of Jonah. For God is
gracious, and ready to turn away his wrath from those who turn
away from their sins. But the prophet who prophesied peace and
prosperity absolutely and unconditionally without adding the
necessary proviso, that they do not by wilful sin put a bar in
their own door and stop the coming of Godís favours, will be
proved a true prophet only by the accomplishment of his prediction
There is some prophecy, however, that is
unconditional. It depends solely on God himself for fulfilment.
Normally it relates to the overview of his plans and purposes for
mankind as a whole (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic
The proof that a prophet has been called
is the fact that his words are effective and fulfilled. A good
example of this was Samuel.
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up,
and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel
from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a
prophet. 1 Sam 3:19,20.
The fact that his words were fulfilled
showed that God was with him and was proof of his call.
A prophet's calling will be recognised by
the church. Samuel did not have to make claims for himself. All
Israel recognised his calling, and accepted his ministry. A true
prophet will be recognised by other Christians.
A prophet who encourages people to worship
false gods is not a true prophet. Even if he performs signs and
wonders he is not to be followed. Such a person is a false
prophet. A true prophet will always be faithful to Jesus and
zealous for his glory.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by
dreams, appears among you and announces for you a miraculous sign
or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes
place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods,"Ö.you
must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord
your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all
your heart and with all your soul (Deut 13:1-3).
Jesus is the one who inspires and fulfils
all prophecy (Rev 19:10). All prophecy should be centred on him.
Prophecy will confirm and broaden the
vision; it cannot create one if nothing is there. Vision is
created through prayer, seeking God and sharing our hearts with
people in the work. If these things are absent we need to be
restoring people to God, not creating vision for empty hearts
(Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.80).
Character is one of the best tests of a
prophet. Jesus said,
Watch out for false prophets. They come to
you in sheepís clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognise them. Matt 2:15,16.
He went on to say that a bad tree cannot
bear good fruit. If a person is not living a holy life he should
not be acknowledged as a prophet. A true prophet will be
demonstrating the fruit of the spirit.
People who continue in blatant sin whilst
exercising spiritual gifts create this ever widening gulf in their
personality which results in spiritual failure, emotional
collapse, sometimes mental breakdown, physical illness, relational
difficulties and quite often a complete moral lapse (Graham Cooke
- Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.103).
It is easier for the leaders to reject the
prophecy and the prophet, particularly if there are some
unresolved character issues in the life of the prophet. It
provides a legitimate reason to reject the word in the eyes of the
people, though not necessarily in the eyes of the Lord. Prophecy
has a way of testing our true motives (Graham Cooke - Developing
Your Prophetic Gifting p.297).
When John was writing about discerning
truth from error, he said that a true spirit will acknowledge that
Jesus has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2). This is a theological
test. A true prophet will have a correct understanding of the
truth about Jesus. People who teach strange things about the
nature of Jesus are false prophets.
One of the most important things to do in
a church that wants to nurture and administrate prophetic ministry
is to dial down the mysticism and the carnal desire to look
superspiritual. We need to keep our eyes off people and remain
focused on Jesus and His purpose for us (Mike Bickle - Growing in
the Prophetic p.57).
Prophets do not bring new truth.
Revelation is simply a revealing of what is already true and
bringing it to bear upon our heart and soul. Revelation is based
upon insight into the written Word of God, not into visions and
dreams and prophecies. These other things are simply tools for
expressing the Word, they are not the Word; no more than the water
hose is water, it simply delivers the water (Chip Brogden - The
Ministry of the Watchman).
In every fellowship there should be people
who have experienced the gift of discernment. They should be able
to discern the false prophet from true prophet. An example of this
is found in Acts 16:16-18.
Once when we were going to the place of
prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which
she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for
her owners by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and the
rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most
High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She
kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that
he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of
Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that
moment the spirit left her
A slave girl kept calling Paul and Silas
servants of the most high God. She was able to predict the future.
She was also acknowledging God, so in a sense she fulfilled both
the conditions given in Deuteronomy. However Paul became troubled,
and discerned in his spirit that she had a spirit of divination.
He cast the spirit out and she lost her fortune-telling powers. In
the coming days, God will raise up true prophets, but there will
also be many false prophets around. The church must learn to
discern the true from the false.
We must be careful about building a theology of prophetic
privilege. God has not promised to protect his prophets, but he
will protect his word. Jesus
warned that prophets would be persecuted.
He did not say they should be protected.
Prophets are often mistreated and mistrusted by the church.
That has to change. But
the solution is not for prophets to be put on a pedestal immune
from challenge. What
we want is an environment where prophets are welcomed and prophecy
is respected, but where prophetic ministries are rigorously
assessed and prophecies are vigorously tested.
The idea that there are ministries, whether pastor or prophet,
to whom we must blindly submit is wrong and dangerous.
Far too many Christians have been led off the right path,
because they have followed their pastor without questioning his
decisions. We do
not want Christians to start doing the same with prophets.
The idea that prophets are subject only prophets is wrong and
dangerous. Prophets do
have a special role in testing judging prophecy (1 Cor 15), but
that does not mean that others do not.
Anyone who is prophesied to has responsibility to test the
prophecy and assess the prophet.
The problem with prophets is that they can stir each other
up into error. This
happened in 1Kings 22. Jehoshaphat
was not a prophet, but he tested the court prophetís word and
rejected their ministry.
On the other hand, Christians should be very careful about
attacking a prophet (or any other Christian) in the wrong spirit.
These attacks are usually a way of rejecting the words the
prophet has spoken. If
the word is true, they are putting themselves in a dangerous
Godís word, whether prophetic or scriptural is risky, because it
weakens our spiritual protection.
When a person acts as a prophet to a nation, the nation has to
decide, if the person is a prophet to the nation.
It is recognition by the nation that ultimately establishes
a person as prophet to the nation.
When a prophet speaks publicly, the public have the right
and responsibility to assess whether the word is right and
relevant to them. They
should not blindly follow it.
I think that we need more rigorous debate about some of the
words that are spoken by modern prophets.
I have publically suggested that a couple of big name
prophets have actually interpreted their dreams incorrectly.
I think we need more of that kind of discussion.
I would be concerned, if Christians felt that they must
shut up, no matter what they think about a word or a prophet.
There is an awful lot of prophetic junk out there.
There are many prophets who have stepped up to the next
level, before they are ready.
We actually need more testing of prophecies and prophets
While it is important to test prophecies,
we must have the right attitude. Refusing to accept Godís word,
mocking a prophet or scoffing at a prophecy can be dangerous.
Now the king had put the officer on
whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people
trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of
God had foretold when the king came down to his house. It
happened as the man of God had said to the king: "About
this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and
two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria."
The officer had said to the man of God, "Look, even if
the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this
happen?" The man of God had replied, "You will see
it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!"
And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people
trampled him in the gateway, and he died (2 Kings 7:17-20).
But Elisha said to him, "Was not
my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to
meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept
clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or
menservants and maidservants? Naaman's leprosy will cling to
you and to your descendants forever." Then Gehazi went
from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow (2
Then Jeremiah said to all the
officials and all the people: "The Lord sent me to
prophesy against this house and this city all the things you
have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the
Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the
disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in
your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right.
Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will
bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this
city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has
sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing"
The person critiquing a prophecy or prophet must keep their
heart right. They
must not speak out of envy or jealousy.
(That is where Miriam went wrong.
They must not impugn the character of a prophet, if
they do not know them.) They
should be careful, that they are not rejecting a prophecy that
God is speaking to them. They
should remain humble. They
should speak with the courtesy that should apply to all
Christian interactions with other people.
However, if people keep their heart right, there is
nothing wrong with questioning the role of a person that other
people have put up as a prophet, or a word that a prophet has