Who’s to Blame?

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

A very disturbing river runs through the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, a river of mysticism and random weirdness viewed as spiritual maturity. But this spiritual phooey actually sets itself against spiritual maturity, and Christian thinking! I speak now of those weird moments in a service where prophets speak God’s message for that specific congregation and moment in time. That very thing is biblical and desperately needed in our world today. But have you ever been in a service where the message or its spirit didn’t feel right or line up with Scripture? These random acts of spiritual weirdness must be considered biblically.

How do we carry out God’s desire to grant prophetic utterances and wisdom in the community of faith while avoiding the other side of the tracks? The prophetic office is a high calling and responsibility, much like preachers and Bible teachers. From whom much is given, much is required! Paul placed prophecy on the high end of importance in the Corinthian congregation (1 Cor 14:5).

What’s it like to be used as God’s mouthpiece for his people? The prophets of Israel in the Old Testament give us great examples. Many people look at the prophets as soothsayers or fortune tellers, or even future tellers. While some prophets did have some of these characteristics, Moses laid out expectations of the prophetic office.

He called for any true prophet that predicted the future that it must come to pass (Deut 18:21-22). A prophet job was to speak God’s word to his people in his time. Two passages in Deuteronomy help to define this biblical office. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 gives the primary qualification of a prophet. The Lord’s prophets drew people to the Lord. They wouldn’t lead God’s people astray. If one did, it was not a prophet of God.

” A prophet’s job was to speak God’s word to his people in his time. “

– Jonathan Srock

Prophets did not operate in the spirit of confusion. Read and Old Testament prophecy and you will find it’s clear as glass. You’ll know immediately whether God is angry or promising hope and blessing to his people. Prophetic messages must not confuse God’s people.

Another passage in Deuteronomy concerns the foreshadowing of Jesus as the ultimate Prophet for God’s people. If a prophet speaks about the future, it must come true (Deut 18:15-22). Recently, certain prophetic movements refused to evaluate the prophet’s life for godly behavior and prophetic integrity. We spend so much time legitimizing people with the title of prophet or apostle or other leadership titles when we should be seeking God’s voice.

” We spend so much time legitimizing people with the title of prophet or apostle or other leadership titles when we should be seeking God’s voice. “

– Jonathan Srock

These are simple qualifications we can easily verify. God doesn’t mess around with the prophetic office because they speak for him. When you hear prophets stand up and say, “Thus says the Lord,” it is a solemn pronouncement. No one would want to be caught speaking for God unless it is from him. Let us be careful to not grieve the Holy Spirit!

Prophets in biblical times evaluated the culture around them and addressed shortcomings of God’s people. They may have been harsh, but they hit the bull’s-eye when they spoke up. They spoke to issues and problems in the church. They called God’s people to obedience and holiness. They communicated God’s sovereign plan to his people. No prophet ever had trouble pointing out the faults of the community and demanding God’s highest standard.

They call people out with divine authority behind them. Prophets in the church today need to do the same. Their high calling is to call out sin, wickedness, worldliness, and demand a return to God. This office is vital to the health of the church.

Old Testament prophets were targeted to the spirit of God’s Torah, his law and instruction to his people. Everything they set was backed up by Scripture. God doesn’t say something today that contradicts what he already said. He does not change. His prophetic word will only glorify him and remind his people of who he is and what he expects.

Prophetic messages have different purposes from exhorting, encouraging, challenging, and convicting. Their messages spoke to their audience in their time, but often pointed forward to fuller fulfillment in the future. They wrote down their prophecies, so there’s nothing wrong with writing them down today. Of course, that means that they will be easier to evaluate. These messages that move the congregation of yesterday can still move the congregation of today.

For example, every semester at seminary, when our workload and life would catch up to us, inevitably God would speak in our chapel service, reminding us that he is our source for encouragement, strength, and rest. Students would get so caught up in assignments, papers, and tests that our relationship with God would suffer. He made a house call to remind us that he came first. This message is for everyone at all times.

God uses human beings to speak his message, and every person used has their own style. But Scripture also tells us prophets can control themselves (1 Cor 14:30-33, 40). Prophetic utterance is not an out of body experience. God is a God of order. He doesn’t interrupt himself in a service or during his message. And other prophets weigh what is prophesied (1 Cor 14:29). This is still true for today’s prophets. Church leaders have the challenging job of hearing from God and making sure that prophets speak his words to his people.

We need to take responsibility for human involvement in spiritual weirdness. Because of their high calling, prophets must only speak what God has given them. The moment they operate in the flesh, they put themselves, and God’s people, in danger. If such error occurs, profits need to admit that they have missed God. This doesn’t mean he can’t still use them. He most certainly will, provided they are humble and contrite when they don’t speak his word. We all represent God in some way. We all must be humble vessels for him to use us. The church needs God’s word from his prophets today more than ever! The world is spiraling into wickedness faster than ever before. We need his leading and prompting, and we need to hear his voice. We must not despise the prophetic office, but seek to hear through his prophets regularly.

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