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Prophets and prophecies
- Jacob Ninan
With the charismatic movement has come a wide awareness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even among denominations that do not officially acknowledge them. One good thing that this accomplished was to throw open 'ministries' to the common believer who had not belonged till then to the 'priestly' or the 'servants of God' class in different groups. But what we see now is a proliferation of people taking up ministries of their own. It is clear from looking at the ministry scene that not all these ministries have been sent forth by God. Of particular interest is the gift of prophecy which is being exercised by many Toms, Dicks and Harrys, spiritually speaking.
When the Bible says, "All can prophesy", it is only in the context of a church meeting where opportunity is being given to different ones to share what the Lord has laid on their hearts or revealed to them for the benefit of the others (1Co.14:29-31). This 'all' refers to those who have something prophetic to share with the church, and the instruction here is with reference to each one having to wait for his turn. But the Bible says very clearly in another place that all are not prophets (1Co.12:29)! Even though all the members of the Body of Christ have some gift and function given to them by God (v.6,7), it is clear that very few are prophets by calling. It is fine if we are to seek to share words with others to build them up, comfort, or exhort them (1Co.14:3,1). But this does not mean that we get into the office of prophets by doing so. Only those who have been called by God can take on that responsibility.
God warns us in His word about false prophets on one hand, and also about others who imagine themselves to be prophets and bring forth their own words, pretending or imagining that they are words from God (Je.27:15;Ez.13:9). Such people are 'prophesying' to impress the people present, to enhance their reputation, to enlarge their empire, to make money, to prove their gifts, to improve their self-image, etc. God has not sent them.
Why do people go and listen to these people? It may be because they themselves do not know God well, they are not sure of what the Bible says, they are scared that they might end up disobeying God, they are overawed by someone who speaks in the name of the Lord, etc. As a result they go astray.
It does little harm to the hearers if the 'prophets' speak generally of God going to bless people (unless what God wants to warn them about is really the opposite!). But when the so-called prophecy becomes directive, practically forcing people to go against their better judgment in relation to marriage, job, relocation, etc., the results can be very drastic, as we are unfortunately seeing many times these days.
God's instruction is for us to judge what even recognised prophets speak, leave alone the pretentious ones (1Th.5:20,21). We must not forget that it is we are ultimately responsible for our choices.