FLOWING IN THE PROPHETIC: THE USE OF PROPHECY IN THE CHURCH
Today, I want to talk about the spiritual gift of prophecy and its place in the modern day church. There are many who say that prophecy, along with other manifestations of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and other scriptures do not have a place in the modern day church. One reason for this is that many churches and their leaders do not want to repeat the mistakes or extremes that “Spirit-filled” people have made (and are making) in the operation of the gifts.
My problem with this view is that I can find no accurate scriptural evidence to support the cessation of the gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are not only Scriptural, they were operative in the life of Jesus, in the early church (and not just in the apostles), and throughout church history. I will easily admit that the operation of spiritual gifts in the corporate setting can be a “messy” endeavor. But, the abuses, counterfeits, and mistakes made in the functioning of the gifts do not invalidate the gifts themselves.
God uses the operation of spiritual gifts to mature us just like He uses forgiveness, submission, and accountability as tools for our growth. The goal in the operation of the gifts is to bless the church and to develop trust, unity, and singleness of purpose in the body of Christ.
Among other things, forgiveness is used to teach us to put the heart of God before our own agenda. Submission teaches us to trust God and His ability to lead the church through fallible humans. Accountability teaches us to move on what God has said to us and to realize we are only a piece of the body of Christ, not the whole.
The operation of spiritual gifts teaches us the same lessons. We learn to put the heart of God above our own agenda. We learn to trust God and His ability to lead the church through fallible vessels. We learn to move in our gifting and we learn that we are only a piece of the whole and not the whole itself!
So, now, what about prophecy? Today, I want to define prophecy and reveal its scriptural role in the church.
Prophecy in Hebrew – “naba”- “to flow, boil up or over; bubble or pour forth words, to gush”
Prophet in OT – “a spokesman or speaker who is a special agent to deliver a message.”
In the New Testament the words prophecy, prophesy, prophesied, and prophets are used approximately 186 times.
“To speak, say; declare or make known”
In both Old and New Testament times, the Spirit of God would inspire men and women to utter words from the Lord to edify, exhort, and comfort the people.
It was mentioned earlier that some form of the word “prophet” is used multiple times in the New Testament. God made the operation of prophecy a foundational aspect of the early church.
Ephesians 4:11: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure or the stature of the fullness of Christ..”
God included prophecy as an integral and foundational gift for the equipping of the saints, for the maturity of the body, and for the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ.
Many people have no problem with the operation of evangelism, with the operation of teaching or pastoring, but they do have a problem with the operation of the apostolic and prophetic gifts.
Why is that? Did God change something? What is it about those two operations that are restricted? Where do we find that in scripture?
Another scripture that speaks of the importance of prophecy is:
Ephesians 2:19-20: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord…”
The operation of the prophetic gift is a foundational element in the developmental and revelatory aspects of the church. To flow in its operation requires us to be flexible and studious. It requires us to be submitted and unified and to learn to walk in humility.
It requires us to discern truth from error. It tests our relationships with one another, of what quality they are – do we have the liberty and love present among us to correct and admonish? It requires us to put our own agenda aside, our own promotion and our pride for the good of the body of Christ.
And most importantly, it requires us to have total dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God to lead the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:14-16
God is alive and is still speaking to His people through the Spirit. All words from God must line up with scripture or they are to be rejected. Nevertheless, God is alive and has a word of direction for His people; His church in this hour. Are you one of His sheep? If so, have you trained yourself to hear His voice?
I hear the words of Moses in my ear: “On, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” Numbers 11:29
Thank God for the outpouring of His Spirit! God is speaking! Can you hear Him?