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Pointers along the way #731

Activating the prophetic gift?

- Jacob Ninan

Following the fashionable trend of speaking in tongues that bloomed with the charismatic movement, the current thing seems to be to prophesy! 'Everyone' would like to prophesy, 'speak into' other people's lives and 'declare' life and healing into broken situations. But just look around and see how many of these 'prophecies' actually come true! Hardly any. But what is happening is that the listening believer is scared to ignore what the prophet has said, thinking of what would happen if they disobeyed God. They even do nonsensical things such as getting married to someone who is very obvious to everyone else as a wrong choice, just because a 'prophet' of God told them.

Then there are 'schools of prophets' training people to become prophets and where their gift of prophecy can be 'activated'. I am wary of this word 'activation' which is not in the Bible but which has connections with the New Age movement. But there is also a wrong theology prevalent among this new prophetic movement.

Spiritual gifts are given to individual members of the body of Christ according to what God has chosen for each one (1Co.12:11). We can ask for any gift, and in fact, we are exhorted to seek them earnestly (14:1). But the final decision is with the Lord. He distributes different gifts to each one (12:8-10). It is very clear that some people have certain gifts while others have some other gifts (vv.29,30). For example, it says that all are not prophets, i.e., all don't have the gift of prophecy. But, at the same time, it does not mean that each one can have only one gift. Obviously, Paul had several gifts.

But some people wrongly teach that everyone can have any or all of the gifts. They quote Ep.1:3, "Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing." This is talking about us collectively, and not individually as we have already seen. Another favourite quotation is from 1Co.14:31, "you can all prophesy." That's not fair! Here it is talking about avoiding confusion in a church where several prophets are present, saying they need to do it one after another! The full quotation is, "you can all prophesy one by one," which is connected to vv.29,30! We should interpret verses according to their context!

Why should we desire the gift of prophecy? Because that is a gift that "speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation" (v.3). Not to have control over the others or to shine before them! The real gift of prophecy is a very useful one, and that is why Paul emphasised that when asking people to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (v.1). Later on in the same chapter, he tells people to prefer this gift over that of speaking in tongues (which has its own benefits for oneself and for others).

The problem is if we believe the false teaching as given above and assume that we can prophesy. Then we go through the 'activation' steps without the Lord having given us that gift. Then it hurts us and others.


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