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Prophets and Prophecy


Prophets and Prophecy

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In the New Testament, to prophesy is to edify the church by speaking words of edification, exhortation and consolation. (See 1 Corinthians 14:3-4 javascript popup window ). This type of prophecy is teaching inspired by God, and is considered one of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11 javascript popup window )

The Bible also includes predictive prophecy - supernatural knowledge shared by those who had the office of the prophet - inspired by God and spoken at His command. (See Deuteronomy 18:18-19 javascript popup window ).

Naturally, presumptious  or false  prophecy is not inspired nor condoned by God. (See: Deuteronomy 13:1-4 javascript popup window, Deuteronomy 18:20-22 javascript popup window, Jeremiah 14:14 javascript popup window ).

Most Christians believe that the office of ''prophet'' - along with the office of ''apostle'' - passed away around the end of the first century.

However, in today's church, several movements teach that God is restoring the so-called five-fold ministry. Two major trends can recognized:
  • In the more controversial of these movements, including the Toronto Blessing and other movements based largely on Latter Rain theology, many teachers incorrectly consider themselves to occupy the office of ''prophet,'' with the authority ascribed to that office in scripture. Like the ''apostles'' they recognize, most of them speak presumptiously - sharing their own insights, fantasies and other messages not inspired nor condoned by God. In the process, they introduce aberrant and/or heretical teachings. (Examples are Rick Joyner; Bob Jones and other former Kansas City Prophets).

    Many of them bring a steady stream of "warnings" (usually against America), and will claim prophetic successes (usually after the fact), while "prophesying" vague, ambiguous predictions. Their messages often come with a built-in catch-22, e.g. 'if enough people pray' the predicted dissaster will not come to pass. If, perchance, it does, 'not enough people prayed.'

    Many false prophets use their 'the-Lord-told-me-to-tell-you' approach to hawk their wares (books, tapes, seminars, survival kits, etcetera), and/or to further their perculiar conspiracy theories (e.g. New World Order).

  • In the less controversial ''house church'' or ''home church'' movement, those who operate in the office of ''prophet'' in the belief that God is restoring the five-fold ministry, generally tend to prophesy in the New Testament sense of the term (as described above). Here, too, apostles are recognized, but unlike in the other movements these ''apostles'' do not introduce new  (extra-biblical) teachings and practices.

History shows that the danger of extrabiblical, aberrant and/or heretical teachings is, of course, very real. Therefore, we must always - without exception - test all prophecies, dreams, teachings, and etcetera by the standard of Scripture:

(Acts 17:11 javascript popup window NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Note that Paul later reiterated this point in his letter to the Thessalonians:

(1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 javascript popup window NIV) Do not put out the Spirit's fire; {20} do not treat prophecies with contempt. {21} Test everything. Hold on to the good. {22} Avoid every kind of evil.

The fact that we constantly have to  test, keeps us dependent on God and His Word, as opposed to on a teacher or movement.
Regarding the five-fold ministry, Robert Bowman writes:

It has recently become popular to speak of "the five-fold ministry," a system of church government with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The neo-Pentecostal "Restoration" movement and its offshoot, "kingdom now" teaching, claims that one of the things which God is "restoring" to the church is this five-fold ministry. The sole prooftext used to support this concept is Ephesians 4:11-13 javascript popup window, which states that Christ gave "some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God." The word "until," it is argued, proves that the church today needs apostles and prophets as much as evangelists, pastors, and teachers. However, it is the "building up" of the church (v.12) which must continue until the church is mature, not all five of the offices listed in verse 11. This is clear when the whole text is read as follows: "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers; [these offices were given] to equip the saints for the work of service, [which work has as its goal] to build up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith..." The offices of apostle and prophet would naturally cease in the church once their role in "equipping the saints" was completed; that is, once the New Testament canon was completed.


Christian Beware the New Prophets An extract from the book Beware the New Prophets by Bill Randles
Christian The Faulty Foundation of the Five-Fold Ministry by Robert M. Bowman
Christian Manifestations and Spiritual Gifts Seen in light on 1 Corinthians 14 (A verse-by-verse study)
Christian OT vs NT prophecy by Anton Hein

- Books - Online -
Christian "The Prophetic Call - True and False Prophets" Do you know the difference between the gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet? An online book by Arthus Katz. Very timely in light of today's interest for all things prophetic...

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About this page:
Prophets and Prophecy
First posted: Nov 18, 1996
Last Updated: Sep. 18, 2003
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