Joel’s amazing prophecy in the Old Testament (Joel 2:28) was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and prophetic words became the experience of the many in the New Covenant, not just the special few as in the Old. The apostle Paul urged all in the Corinthian assembly to eagerly desire to prophesy (1 Cor 14:1—5). There’s no scriptural reason to believe prophecy has ceased and will continue when there is no longer any need for prophecy, that is, when the perfect comes, as Paul wrote . . .
“. . . . . we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. . . . . . . At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. 1 Cor 13:9—12 (NASB)
Because we see indistinctly, our prophesies need to be judged against God’s Word (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:29; 1 John 4:1). Always ask : is what is being said consistent with the scriptures? The Holy Spirit, who inspired the scriptures, will never say anything in contradiction to them. The apostle Paul wrote, Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully. (1 Thes 5:20-22, NASB). And his words in 1 Cor 14:30-32 (NASB) are both encouraging and cautionary . . .
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted . . .
Most instances of prophecy in the New Testament are found in the context of the assembly of Jesus’ people. Prophecy is distinctly different in the New Covenant compared to the Old. A prophecy just from one to another can be a great encouragement to a person. But there must be checks and balances. There are many voices in Christendom which are not holy. We are commanded to test the spirits.
It’s fine to desire giving a prophetic word or to receive one, but it is not healthy to chase after personal prophecy. That’s because the scriptures are our main guidance. We have great understanding and revelation by simply reading the scriptures with eager minds to know God’s will, the mind of Christ. Already we have inexhaustible riches given us in our new birth, God lavishing upon us his wisdom in abundance. Just read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians! Hey, mostly we don’t know what we already have in God’s promises. We must be passionate about renewing our minds and becoming conformed to Christ.
Knowing the scriptures, committing passages to memory, the words spoken by Jesus and the apostles, will protect us against deception and manipulation. When someone offers to give you ‘personal’ prophecy, take care. How can this be tested when this is offered as a service in the public arena? And care must be taken that it does not look like a Christian version of New Age guidance, even if offered by genuine believers. New Age practitioners regularly offer this and theirs are counterfeits of the true manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
Not only that, but we are a New Covenant people! Just read again what the apostle John wrote, warning against deception . . .
Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life. I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. 1 John 2:24—27.
Genuine prophecy arises as the Holy Spirit ‘distributes . . . . according to his will’ (1 Cor 12:11). It is empowered by the Holy Spirit, no less. To declare a revelation from God is a serious and a fearful thing. Many people have been hurt by attempts to give private personal prophecy, so caution is needed.
Giving a prophecy carries with it enormous responsibility from us all—speaker, listeners and recipient— to be confident that the words are from God and not the speaker’s own ideas or doctrinal biases. On the other hand, people can be wonderfully encouraged by a brother or sister whether by an inspired word of encouragement from the scriptures or through the spiritual gifts of prophecy, a word of wisdom and a word of knowledge (see 1 Cor 12:8–10).
The apostle Peter warned that that no prophecy of Scripture is of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). If we are solemnly warned not to interpret scripture privately, then it follows we must avoid any opportunity for private prophecy which escapes the scrutiny of others in the Body of Christ. At the very least, the recipient should be advised by the one communicating to seek confirmation of what was said with other mature believers.
Remember, if the Holy Spirit is the author, he will always point us to Jesus (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13—15) . . . For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10, NASB).
Finally, we must love one another as Jesus loves us. That means in our prophesying and in all services to others we pursue love, we make love our aim and not to please ourselves. It’s not about you or me. . . .
Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit. On the other hand, one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace. 1 Cor 14:1—3, NASB.
This is great Ian. Very balanced understanding of the matter. Thanks. Why chase after a word when we have The Word in our hearts?
Thank you for reminding us of God’s basics – meditate in the word, listen to the voice of the Spirit of God as He is never at variance with His revealed scripture, and test everything else.
Thank you for the reminder – as the end approaches more care will need to be exercised, so your word is timely and we all need constant reminders.