In the last few years, we have witnessed the rise to prominence of the gift of prophecy and many people are now addressed as prophets. As a Bible teacher, I have felt, for some time now, that I should share a few things to help us understand this precious gift and also to get a clear description of the office of a prophet.
What Is Prophecy?
It is forth-telling and fore-telling, by the inspiration of a super natural being. A prophet can be led by God or by an evil spirit. Forth-telling has to do with telling what has happened or what is happening now. Fore-telling has to do with revealing what will come in the future. The Word of God (or the Bible) is also called prophecy, for “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation… [and]… no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, ESV).
New Testament Prophecy
In the New Testament, every Spirit-filled person can prophecy, because it is really the Holy Spirit who speaks through an individual. Actually, prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, not everyone who prophesies is a prophet. A prophet is one used more often and he or she usually has the accompanying gifts of discernment, and word of knowledge.
New Testament prophecy has a major emphasis on the following: to strengthen, to encourage and to comfort God’s people (1 Corinthians 14:3). True prophecy does not come to frighten you; it does not come to publicly shame God’s people or to condemn them. What true prophecy does is to warn God’s people with the aim of leading them to repentance.
The New Testament Prophet
A Prophet is one of the 5-Fold ministry gifts that the Lord gave to the church. Some scholars call it an office (Ephesians 4: 11-12). It is a gift to the body of Christ, and it resides in an individual. As explained above, a prophet operates more often in the gifts of prophecy than other believers and he or she often has other accompanying gifts like the discerning of spirits and the word of knowledge. Prophets are characterized by being bold and courageous.
In many different ways, prophets are a gift to the body of Christ, and for that matter, they often speak into issues that many other spiritual leaders may not be speaking into. When New Testament prophets talk about current issues in the church, the aim is to call the church to repentance or to encourage God’s people to boldly press forward towards the things of God.
A New Testament prophet does not operate like a witch. He (or she) is not someone to whom you go and consult about every small issue of life. They do not know everything about all the people all the time. A true prophet only speaks what God reveals to him.
The true New Testament prophet works and serves within the boundaries of Scripture. For that matter, it is very important for such a person to know and live by God’s Word.
A New Testament prophet should work under a church; for it is important that his or her ministry works alongside the other ministries. A true New Testament prophet does not spend every day dolling out words to individuals, nor does he insist on having crowds lining up to pay for a prophecy. If that happens, then such a prophet has downgraded themselves to a witch/ witch doctor. The Bible says that freely have we received and freely should we give.
A New Testament prophet must be a God-fearing man or woman, whose message always seeks to glorify Jesus Christ, more than anything else. In today’s society, where we love to elevate heroes, it is easy to lift such people beyond God – which is so wrong. A true prophet should always be humble, and they should never think of themselves as anything more than an ordinary person being used by an extraordinary God.
Should People Address Themselves As Prophets?
Truly, the prophetic office is more of a function than a title. Although it may not be necessarily sinful or bad to address yourself as “Prophet”, it does not always sound very good in the ears of your hearers. I would rather that one calls themselves by their name instead of their office. I also suggest that it is better for others to address you by your function rather than you going around telling everyone that you are “Prophet (so and so)”.
The Temptations of Prophets
The prophetic office just like many other offices is often very glamorous. It attracts attention and often leads many followers to elevate the prophet even beyond the Master who appointed them. Many prophets of today may not necessarily be false prophets but rather, men and women who are caught up in the temptations of power and glory, forgetting what the Bible teaches when it says that such pomp often leads to pride and eventually a tragic fall.
Prophets should always watch out for the temptations of pride, money and sex outside marriage. History is littered with hundred of such leaders who have fallen. For any prophet, the best place to be is at the feet of Jesus; and under a Bible teaching church where you are accountable. If you are a true “New Testament” prophet, you should never front money or power as a show of your success.
HOW DO YOU TELL A TRUE PROPHET?
If you want to know if someone is a true New Testament Prophet, consider the following: