The Role and Purpose of Prophecy
I. The Role and Purpose of Prophecy: Releasing the Testimony of Jesus in the Church and the World
“For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10; also 1 John 1:1-4) Testimony = evidence/witness given
“He who prophecies speaks unto men edification (building up), exhortation (encouragement), and comfort (consolation) …[but] one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.” (1 Cor. 14:4-5)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together with every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:16-17)
A. It is clear from the above scriptures that the purpose of prophecy is to release the testimony of Jesus within the church, building us up, encouraging, comforting, and strengthening us by the Word of who He is, how He thinks and acts, and what He says so that we may “grow up in every way” into being the Body of Christ. As John said, we are to “walk as He walked”. 1Jn2:6
B. Prophecy is not only “fore-telling”, but “forth-telling” of the reality of the living Christ – not only past, but what He is saying presently and on into the future. History really is “His-story” and prophecy carries us along the greatest story of all time – the testimony, or in other words, the life and works of Jesus Christ. Prophecy really does builds us up in Him, because He is love!
II. A Clear Distinction: The Prophets and the Gift of Prophecy (Eph. 4:11-12)
A. The Bible is clear that God gave prophets (and others) UNTIL we grow into all aspects of complete maturity in Christ. Like the other offices mentioned, the Prophets job is not merely to “prophesy” but to train and equip others how to “prophesy”. Just as an evangelist doesn’t merely preach the gospel, as we are all called to preach the gospel – but rather equips others to be released to do evangelism, so it is with pastor, teacher, and apostle. Each have a specific role, but each also releases others as well.
B. Paul encourages all believers everywhere to prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5). Why is this? Because He wants all believers to know the heart of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the words of Jesus. And furthermore, as Christ is formed in us, we are the light of the world for all the nations to see. This is why prophecy is a sign “for believers” and not for unbelievers, because we are the ones built up by prophecy. This is not to say that prophecy can not be given to unbelievers leading to salvation, but it is not its’ primary purpose.
C. We are in desperate need in the Body of Christ for good teaching on the true prophetic. Satan has put much effort into creating a “counterfeit prophetic” so that believers don’t go anywhere near the subject. We throw the baby out with the bathwater! The very thing we need the most, the abiding testimony of Jesus within, we often reject and despise because of so called “abuses”. If we had true teaching on this subject, we would understand prophecy’s vital role, and walk in the power offered to us in Christ.
III. “Do Not Despise Prophecy, Test All Things, Hold on to What is Good” – 1 Thess. 5:20-21; 1 Cor. 14:29
A. Many people are scared of prophecy because they do not understand the New Testament role of prophecy and how it differs from the Old Testament. Old Testament Prophecy was used to establish the doctrine of the scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21). New Testament Prophecy, although never disagreeing with scripture, is NOT used to establish doctrine, but to point back to Jesus, about which true doctrine always points. (John 5:38-40)
B. Paul would never have wanted “all believers” to prophecy if he expected them to be 100% accurate all the time so to establish new doctrine. On the contrary, he encouraged believers to follow the rule set in 1 Thess. 5:20-21 – that they should RECEIVE prophecy (do not despise it), but TEST it (how? by the scriptures) and then HOLD ON to what of that prophecy is good. Using this model actually grows our discernment by the testing, instead of limiting the abilities God has given us both to give and get!
C. That is not to say that there are no false prophets or false words out there! Of course there are! And the Lord will judge every idle word spoken, but He would not have encouraged every believer to prophecy if he was worried that the false would outnumber the true. True prophecy is needed, not only for itself, but to help believers clearly distinguish between what is real and what is counterfeit. As it is, many are under false prophecy or false words spoken over them for LACK of the true prophetic!!
IV. A Few Practical Guidelines to Prophecy
A. God often gives “words” through a dream, mental image, scripture, etc – but doesn’t always ask you to share it. Ask the Holy Spirit if you are to share what He has given you, and also HOW and WHEN. When you do, do it in meekness and without pomp or “Thus saith the Lord!” grandeur. Ask the person to “test all things, hold on to what is good” in their own spirit as they choose whether or not to receive this Word as from the Lord or reject it. We don’t want them to reject the Lord’s word, but we all learn!
B. Begin to develop a practice of asking God practical questions. “What would you say to this person?” “What does this dream mean?” “Lord, how are you feeling?” “Lord, where are You in this meeting?” “How are you working in this person’s life?” Practice listening to the Holy Spirit, and trust Him absolutely. Fill your Spirit with life so that life matures in and out of you!