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CHAPTER 5

Prophets and Prophecy 

When looking at the subject of the prophetic it is very important to cover a number of topics which include: The Giver of prophecy and the four realms of prophecy. Clear distinction should be made between those who prophesy and those called into the office of prophet. Another distinction should also be made between the prophecy of Scriptures, the Spirit of prophecy, the gift of prophecy and the office of a prophet.  

The Giver Of Prophecy

 The Giver of the gift of prophecy is the Holy Spirit. He gives this gift as He wills and to whomever He choses. In 1 Cor. 12:11, referring to the various gifts listed in the preceding verses the Scriptures states- "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."

 The purpose of  the gift is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 12:7, "But  the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." It is important to note that the gifts listed in

1 Cor. 12:8-10, is meant for the benefit of the whole body of Christ of which we are  members individually (vs 27). This clearly refers to the Body of Christ in the whole world and DEFINITELY NOT just our local church or denomination. 

The church has suffered incalculable harm and has been crippled for centuries by an evil sectarian spirit which has kept the different denominations from receiving ministry through gifts of the Holy Spirit by denial of access to each other. The worst offence has been committed against the very Giver of the gifts. The Holy Spirit has not only been denied access to control of the activity of the Body of Christ but has had His gifts and anointing vilified and variously called demonic, excessive emotionalism, confusion,  obsession with the supernatural, or manipulation.

 It is high time the whole body of Christ repented and returned control to the Holy Spirit so that He can again, as in the New Testament church, direct their affairs and so bring about full restoration of all things. 

The Gift Of The Prophetic

 The gift of the prophetic is demonstrated in four ways referred to as the Four Realms Of Prophecy. These include:

1. Prophecy Of Scripture

  In 2 Peter 1:20-21 it reads, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." 

"All Biblical revelation prophesied through the Old and New Testament prophets is the prophecy of Scripture. This speaks of the declaratory and revelatory elements of the Word of God as the highest revelation of God to man.       

 All prophetic utterance must be judged by the prophesy of Scripture. It contains no errors, mistakes, or imperfection. The written words which were recorded by the prophets and apostles were supernaturally given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." (Frank Damazio)

2.  The Spirit Of Prophecy

 "This realm of prophetic unction is mentioned in Revelation 19:10, "...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy". The Spirit of prophesy is the Holy Spirit's mantle of prophetic anointing which is given at various times to a believer (or body of believers) which causes him to prophesy the Word of the Lord ("the testimony of Jesus") and without which occasion of special endowment he could not prophesy.

Those who do not have the gift of prophesy and who are not prophets cannot prophesy except when there is a Spirit of prophecy upon them. The infrequency of their prophetic flow is rather indicative that they function not by the gift nor in the office but only under the Spirit of prophecy.

When the Holy Spirit moves in a service, a prophetic mantle may at times be upon the congregation, and anyone could prophesy if they exercised faith. This does not happen every service nor is it necessarily expected to happen on every  occasion of the assembly of God's people.

In Numbers 11:24-30 the seventy elders of Israel all prophesy  under the Spirit of prophetic anointing. In I Samuel 10:10 Saul met a company of prophets,  and the Spirit of prophecy likewise came upon Saul and he also prophesied. In I Samuel 19:20-24  Saul sent three different groups of messengers, who could not otherwise prophesy, to a company of prophets. The result was that they all prophesied when they came under the Spirit of prophecy." ( David Blomgren).

3.  The Gift Of Prophecy 

In discussing the subject of Spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul states in I Cor. 12:10, "..to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy,.." (Also see I Cor. 14:1, 3, 4, 6). This clearly reveals that not all believers have the gift of prophesy. In I Cor. 14:1, all believers are nevertheless encouraged to prophesy because of its ability to edify The Church. It should be noted here that preachers and pastors are not the only ones who have this gift as these Scriptures clearly bears out. Moreover, just because one is a preacher, a pastor or a leader in The Church does NOT necessarily mean they are anointed with the gift or are prophets, for that matter.

The gift of prophecy is NOT the same as the ministry of preaching.

There is a tendency on the part of those who reject the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as operative today to define "prophecy" as preaching.  This is evidenced in some modern versions of the New Testament which have translated prophecy as preaching. There is however clear distinction in the original Scriptures. "Certain churches have equated the gift of prophecy with the ministry of preaching because they no longer believed in or functioned in the realm of prophecy but still wanted to claim that their preachers had the same "authority" as prophetic utterances and prophets. 

First, in the New Testament the prophetic gift and the ministry of preaching are used for different purposes. Second, the Greek words for prophecy and for preaching have different meanings:

 Preaching

The Greek word for preaching is enaggelizo (or euangelizo, "to preach the Gospel" and kerusso, "to preach or proclaim"), which means "to announce good news, to declare a particular message of good tidings." This Greek word is used in I Corinthians 9:16, "For though I preach the gospel,  I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"

Prophesying

The Greek word for prophesying is propeteia, propheteuo, which means "to predict something, to foretell events, or to speak under divine inspiration."

Prophesy

The Septuagint translators understood the Hebrew word nabbi (which was the Hebrew word used for prophesy) to mean "speaking for another, on behalf of another." In Greek this word is  prophetes, a noun derived from the preposition pro, and the verb phemi, which is " to speak for another." This Greek word, according to Thayer's New English Lexicon, means "to utter forth, declare a thing which can only be known by divine revelation, to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or in praise of divine counsels." (Frank Damazio)

4.  The Office Of A Prophet

 "Ephesians 4:11 declares that the office of a prophet is an ascension gift ministry set in the New Testament church by the Lord. It is a ministry given to The Church as a whole. Moses expressed the wish that all the Lord's people would prophesy (Numbers 11:29). Paul in I Corinthians 14:24, 31 states that all may prophesy. Yet Paul clearly separates this from the office a prophet and by contextual implication the gift of prophecy by the phrasing of his question in I Corinthians 12:29, " all are not prophets, are they..", requiring a negative answer in the Greek form. Having an anointing on occasions to prophesy is not necessarily indicative of the resident gift of prophecy or the office of a prophet.

 The office of a prophet not only ministers in edification, exhortation and comfort,  but also operates in the realm of guidance, rebuke, judgment, correction, and revelation. The one who has the gift of prophecy but is not a prophet does not function in any of these latter realms." (David Blomgren). Frank Damazio goes on to emphasise that "Those with the gift of prophecy should not be encouraged to move prophetically outside of their realm of edification, exhortation and comfort."

It is of utmost importance that these differences of anointing be clearly taught, understood and emphasised because there are a lot of well meaning but ill informed Christians who are going around prophesying well beyond their anointing. As a result of this unbridled practise the prophetic ministry has earned a bad reputation for the damage caused. 

The Holy Spirit is the PRIMARY source of Guidance for Christians

 Under the new covenant the Bible clearly teaches in Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." In Romans 8:16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Note here that it does not refer to prophets as the source of leading for the sons of God and neither do prophets confirm that one is truly a child of God. The true source is always the Holy Spirit and our primary dependence must be on God Himself and NOT prophets. However, this is not to say that God in His Wisdom could not use the prophetic to achieve guidance and confirmation of the genuineness of ones conversion experience.

 Some people have erroneously stifled the prophetic using the above Scriptures without realising that the true source of all God inspired prophesying is indeed the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there are those who have gone to the other unscriptural extreme of abandoning personal diligence in seeking the Lord for themselves and studying their Bible but opting for the easy way out by seeking the prophets for everything. Such people are vulnerable to being misled into heresies or false prophets because they lack sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures and a personal understanding of the true nature of the Lord Jesus and so correctly judging all prophecies.

Differences between Gift of Prophecy and Office of a Prophet

1). Gift given by the Holy Spirit as He wills - I Cor. 12 &14    

    Office given by Jesus (Ascension gift) - Eph. 4:7-11

2) Gift - ALL may prophesy -I Cor. 14:31

    Office- Only SOME are prophets - Eph 4:11, I Cor. 12:29

3) Gift given for edification, exhortation and comfort - I Cor. 14:3

     Office also includes correction, direction, judgement, rebuke and revelation - see Old and New Testaments. 

4)  Gift given to the body of Christ for the common good -I Cor. 12:7.

      Office- Prophets (and Apostles) are responsible also for laying the foundations of the church - Eph. 2:20, and to equip the saints and ensure stability and unity in the WHOLE body of Christ WORLD-WIDE - Eph 4:12-16.

5)  Gift of prophesy (together with the other gifts of the Spirit) make you a member of       the Body of Christ - I Cor. 12:12. 

      Office makes you (together with the other offices) a joint of the body holding together the whole body - Eph. 4:16. 

6)  Gift - the revelations are directed towards the PAST and the PRESENT (e.g., word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits)- I Cor. 12:8-10.

      Office also includes foretelling/predictions of the future - Book of Revelations, Acts, Matt. 24 (Jesus prophesies about future events).

 7) Gift speaks to an individual or local church - I Cor. 12:7, 14:3,24.

     Office speaks also to other churches and to nations - Book of Revelations, Old Testament prophets such as Daniel.

8) Gift delivers the word of the Lord.

     Office - prophets not only deliver the word of the Lord but may also BECOME the word of the Lord- Hosea chapters 1-3, Jonah.

 9)  Gift speaks to The Church - edification, exhortation and comfort.

     Office also speaks - future of The Church, economic, social, environmental, etc. 

10) Gift speaks what is acceptable to the Lord.

      Office speaks the Acceptable year of the Lord. 

11) Gift produces intercessors who make the desires of the people known to the              Lord.

       Office makes the desire of God known to the people. 

12) Gift speaks of God's grace. 

       Office speaks of God's grace and judgement. 

The Call To Be A Prophet - Some Helpful Indicators

As the prophetic ministry is restored to its true status in the local church as an office in its own right, there will obviously be many who will make claims to be called to the office.

 "No-one by deciding, or wishing it so, can become a prophet. The corps of prophets is not an open club. One cannot pay dues, or take training, or desire so intensely as to become a prophet. There is no membership roll, as in a church. One cannot inherit the prophet's mantle. It cannot be given by one man to another, though  a man can be the Lord's instrument for such. Reading this and a million other books will not make a man a prophet. Hours of prayer, diligence in intercession, seeking the gifts of the Spirit, none of these will make a man a prophet. There is no way a man can become a prophet by the flesh.

 Not only may a man not become a prophet unless God calls, he may become a prophet only by responding in obedience when He calls, as He calls, and in confirmed recognition within the body of Christ." (John and Paula Sandford)

It is important therefore for leadership to know how to determine whether such anointing is on certain individuals. In addition, there are those individuals who want to know whether they have the call to the office of a prophet. Below are some good indicators to help, but they are by no means the only indicators.

1) Supernatural sign - These may include:

 a) Visitation from The Father, The Lord Jesus or The Holy Spirit to tell you of the call to be a prophet.

 b) Being taken up to Heaven and told by the Lord of the call to be a prophet.

 c) Angelic visitation to announce God's call to you to be prophet. 

2)  People around you begin to recognise that you have an unusual ability, without knowing a person well or prior knowledge, to discern accurately where people are at ( as if you can see right through them).  

3) When or if you begin to know ACCURATELY things about the future through visions, dreams, trances, strong inward impressions, etc.

 4)  Spiritually discerning leaders will begin to recognise this prophetic ability.

 5)  God confirms through a recognised prophet your call to the office of Prophet.    

     " The call of a prophet is given solely by  the Lord. It was His Holy Spirit who called and spoke through every prophet of the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1). It remained the same in the days of the New Testament. It remains so now. One difference pertains. Now the prophet's call must be independently confirmed by the Lord through the body, and throughout his ministry. Apparently the people did not confirm a prophet's call in the Old. The Old Testament prophet stood over against everyone else. The New Testament prophet is not only called within the body, but the whole body is itself based upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20).

 The call of a prophet usually but not always includes his job description. This was so with both Jeremiah and Isaiah. The call of Ezekiel, however, does not contain his job description. (John and Paula Sandford)

 For those who are wondering about when the call to the office of the prophet may occur, below are some Biblical examples of when some Old Testament prophets were called. As the list indicates there is really no specific time, place or age that God will Sovereignly call someone.

                 Moses was eighty years.

                 Aaron was eighty-three years old (Exod. 7:7).

                 Abraham was seventy-five years. (Gen. 12.4).

                 Samuel was only a child (I Sam. 3:1-10).

                  Elisha was a young man of working age (I Kings 19:16, 19).

                  Jeremiah was in the womb - born with the call (Jer. 1:5).

                  John the Baptist was in the womb (Luke 1:13, 15).                 

Levels Of Anointing  Vs  Authority In The Church

There is considerable anguish among many in leadership in The Church in relation to the role of the prophetic. There is real concern that the prophetic could over take the current leadership structure and unjustifiably usurp control through influence of the flock by means of the "supernatural". In addition, there is the fear that because of the supernatural character of the prophetic many leaders unable to operate in this realm feel "shown up" as not having the anointing that they feel would command the respect of their congregation. In reality, they feel a sense of helplessness unable to "compete" in this realm of audience captivation.

One should not underestimate the length to which religious leaders have gone to throughout church history to snuff out the prophetic because of this fear. The Lord Jesus Christ was the first such victim in the New Testament after prophesying these Scriptures, in Luke 11:49,

 "Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,'"

It is very important to know that God has ordained that the prophetic will always be the greatest counter balance to all forms of leadership whether godly or ungodly. The Old Testament shows clearly how the prophetic was used by God to bring down both political and religious leadership. Even the best Kings such as David were humbled by the words of prophets on more than one occasion forcing him to repent. It is this anointing that irks those in positions of authority. No wonder the prophetic will always face some form of persecution. Their unwillingness to "tow the line" because they have a special anointing to see, hear, feel and smell the supernatural with such clarity and to speak with unaccustomed authority to both leadership and the people even when it hurts, makes them a prime target.

 It is NOT by accident that Jesus refers only to these two offices (apostles and prophets) in the above verse, but rather it reflects the greater responsibility, and spiritual anointing that God has Sovereignly ordained that they should carry. This greater Holy Spirit anointing that the apostle and prophet have over ALL other Divinely appointed offices in the Church is reinforced in I Cor. 12:28 it reads,

  " And God has appointed these in The Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."

To give two witnesses of this significance the Holy Spirit inspires Paul, in a different letter to a different church, to give this order of pre-eminence for the first two offices as written in Ephesians 4:11 it reads,

  "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,..."       

It would not be far fetched to say that only a handful of church leadership in the world today have come face to face with a truly mature prophet of biblical calibre because they are so rare in activity. Most have been banished from their local churches or forced, out of fear, to go into hiding thus keeping their true gifting hidden. If recent history in the USA is any indicator, than clearly The Church has not yet learnt from history and will do to the prophets as happened in Biblical times- a great tragedy indeed.

 There is nothing more unnerving and frustrating for a Pastor then to wake up one morning and discover that in the true Spiritual structure of The Church he is NOT ALL powerful and does not have the exclusive right to Divine guidance. That in fact, the Holy Spirit has set persons other than himself who have greater spiritual revelations and anointing manifested within the context of church government. This requires a servant-hood type of leadership humility as Jesus told his disciples who were competing for positions of greatest authority among themselves (Luke 22:24-27). Since it was not a person's choice to be called of God to the office of prophet or apostle but a Sovereign act of Jesus, THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, they are therefore obligated to fulfil their ministry with the same sense of commitment and conviction that the Pastor exercises. It is therefore, important that leadership should not "cut the tongue" of the messenger just because it gores them.

 The reasons for the greater anointing that apostles and prophets have over the other offices relates to the significance that God puts on The Church being built on the right foundation. In

Ephesians 2:20 it reads,

"...having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,..."

 The role of these two offices are therefore foundational to any church and clearly underscore the urgent need for churches to cry out to God, in fervent, persistent, and relentless prayer for the hastened restoration of these two offices back to the local church.

 It is very important to note here that all leadership should be based on servanthood, any way. This means that the rules also apply to those with the apostolic and prophetic offices. In fact, the five major offices listed in Eph. 4:11 complement each other and should be exercised with that in mind. The Pastor does NOT lose his governmental authority over the flock on account of this structure. On the contrary, with the close complementary assistance of the apostles and prophets, the pastor as overseer will exercise much more effective authority over the flock.  

Since he is charged by the Holy Spirit to shepherd, the apostle and prophet must not attempt to be shepherds but must communicate all matters of church government that the Lord reveals to them to the Pastor first and let him decide whether to, or how to implement it.  

Discussion questions

 1) Why is there ungodly competition in The Church, e.g., between denominations, within denominations?

 2) How do you think the prophets will help in removing this ungodly competition?

 3) Which office will be the key ministry in bringing about the global unity of the true bride?

 4) Can prophets be preachers? Give an example from the New Testament.

 5) Do you know a present day example of some one who has had a supernatural sign when they were called to be prophet? Are they a member of your church?

 6) Is it possible to exercise 'the prophecy of Scripture' today?

 7) Do we need prophets to have the spirit of prophecy manifested?

 8) Should you expect one of the four realms of prophecy to be manifested regularly during the service?

 9) Is the call to be a prophet unique from the other five Spiritual offices? If so, in what way? If not, why not?

 10) Do you think your church needs a prophet?  Why? Give at least five reasons.

 11) Can you think of five named Old Testament prophetesses, and one named New Testament prophetess? Give Scripture references.

 12) Do you think churches without prophets (and apostles) are likely to have major foundational flaws? List as many of the flaws as you can think of.

 

Published 2005

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