God’s concern for the prophetic is both maturity and authenticity.
The first principle might be summed up in the phrase, “The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.” The second principle might be summed up in the phrase, “Many false prophets will arise to distract and draw away God’s people.”
God’s perspective on both of these principle thoughts is “continue to be faithful” so that immature prophets and false prophets do not move you from the prophetic.
We are commanded to pursue prophecy. All of us. It is singular that Paul singles out what moderns tend to despise and exalts the gift of prophecy above other gifts. Prophecy at any level carries the ideas of representing God as a communicator for God. It means to reveal what is hidden by communication of past, present, and future conditions in a way that reveals what God is doing, designs, determines, decides, and delegates.
Prophecy means communicate by speaking outward what arrives inward.
1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone communicates, he should communicate as if the very words of God are his message.” [Or, speak representing and communicating for God.]
Preaching be prophetic, but prophecy is more than preaching. Preaching is fundamentally declaration with demonstration that calls for response or action, an announcement that demands acceptance or rejection by the very nature of the message. Apostolic preaching will leave people with a choice, and the choice usually means “change to be changed” or else you miss what God is doing right now.
Prophetic preaching simply carries prophetic function into preaching. Prophets typically speak of the past to analyze history from God’s perspective, the present to reveal what God is doing, and the future so we can prepare to fulfill the what-God-wants.
The gift capacity of prophecy is available to all believers functioning with a kingdom Ecclesia. In no case can the gift capacity properly function in or through a person should have no shareholder relationship with kingdom Ecclesia. We also have prophets as a kingdom leadership function or dynamic preparing and positioning kingdom citizens to do the work of ministry and bring the Ecclesia into maturity of influence and impact. In any case, as has always been true, prophetic communication is tested. The New Testament tests answer to the New Testament operations and functions, of course, and the tests focus upon the motivations, heart conditions, and spiritual sourcing of those that represent God in communication for God. [See both 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 John 4:1)
Jesus tells us there are pseudo or false prophets (Matthew 7:16, 20). The fruit, or what they produce, we test by motivation, heart condition, and spiritual sourcing. While we can certainly expect to hear from God in ways that require us to wonder, through strangers speaking from no other context but spiritual revelation or from people with less than perfect prophetic polish – note the difference between immature and false in the testing – we should usually receive prophecy from people known to us or known to us by their validation within the kingdom Ecclesias.
Contrary to all modern positivism about prophecy, authentic prophecy is inherently condemning and convicting, judgmental and exposing of hidden issues from the past and present conditions of the heart that call people to repentance. This is apparent in Paul’s discussion:
1 Corinthians 14: “But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be exposed by connection (to their past wrongs) and judged up by evidence presented in what you say. As they listen, their hidden heart condition will be manifested by what you say, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, ‘God is truly here among you.’”
Many people assume prophecy to be about the future, a way of obligating God to provide what they want, so they approach prophecy like the lottery, hoping to gain a guarantee of good, success, and happiness. This approach to prophecy is witchcraft! Prophecy reveals what is hidden and can be as much about the past and present as the future.
God guarantees the Bible to be perfect. No such guarantee applies to prophecy. Each of us has responsibility to “test” both the spirit and the person. Do not be intimidated by this part of the prophetic process! Measure the intention of the person, the setting in which the prophecy is given, the basic message in its simplest form, and the authenticity of the revealing of hidden things of the heart.
We should always test prophecies that sound “too good to be true” and overtly positivism for manipulation. While we should test all prophetic words, we should assume that God has a purpose for revealing hidden things, and test the word in that context.
Paul says, “Do not devalue prophecies by despising them.” It would seem that the very nature of the prophetic gives us opportunity to devalue or despise and degrade them. Paul appears to assume that there will be ample opportunity for the revelation of hidden things to be dismissed for various reasons. Testing prophecy doesn’t mean debasing it, but mining it for the value. Keep the good and throw away the rest.
In other words, the “you’ve won the lottery” prophet doesn’t leave much to be dismissed. People are eager to believe this word. It is the revelation of hidden things that require us to devote time and prayer that give value to the word. Despising prophecy comes by dismissing it, and dismissing it often comes because of experiences with immature or false prophetic voices. Of course those that fail to test it at all would actually be devaluing the word, collecting prophetic words in a scrap book makes them more like fortune cookie scripts that do not require us to take them seriously.
Test the person as much as the word spoken by the person. The word can be accurate but the intention of the spirit behind it intimidation or manipulation. Especially test the words that come without context of kingdom structure. Those that refuse accountability for their words should be dismissed no matter the accuracy or desirability of the word because these words arrive outside the protocols of prophecy. They demean all prophetic function by refusing to follow kingdom protocols. Even if the first words are pure, the foundation eventually becomes polluted with dysfunction. People often prophesy to create the need for themselves, and they soon require that you make them a filtering system for your entire life: they need to be needed and feed their personal need desperately. You become a control point for their desperate sense of inadequacy.
The prophetic process requires submission at each step: revelation, communication, interpretation, application, and implementation. None of those step occur in a vacuum. At some point the revelation must blend with other revelations in order to achieve it intended end.
Because prophecy is so powerful, healthy, and essential by design and definition, we need to deal with the prophetic seriously. As we would test the integrity of a surgeon or attorney who involvement in our lives would carry long term effects, we should both embrace the provided prophetic ministry and test its integrity. Prophetic ministry moves us to maturity, deals with our limitations, fits us into the Ecclesia where we serve the kingdom, and provides for our health and well-being. We value it so much that we insist upon its fitness for function.
“Do not despise or devalue prophecy” doesn’t mean “be gullible and naïve.” A healthy judgment of the prophetic is essential. Everything should stand up to scrutiny. The “I speak for God so just take what I say because I say so” should cause you to run. The humble and meek prophet will still have the courage to speak without hesitation, but the beating heart of God will be heard in the word.
After all, Jesus did say “Many false prophets” would come. The level of immaturity in the prophetic alone should make you consider the prophetic word carefully. However, the false and the immature are two very different things! The false prophet made give you an accurate word but the motive is to manipulate or intimidate, to gain something from your amazement, or to make the prophet a source for your life. The false prophet seeks a following, validation, money, fame, or honor. Seeking anything from the prophetic function brings some level of “using spiritual power to get what I want” into the process, a subtle but deadly witchcraft. On the other hand, waiting for a perfect prophet will leave you empty of prophetic function!
The false will move you off course by some measure of deception. Some false prophets move you away from your assigned leadership. Some false prophets want your money. Some false prophets have an agenda of self-righteousness, a need to prove themselves to someone or somebody, a pathology of emotional or mental dysfunction that the use of a spiritual capacity enables.
So, proceed with eyes and ears open before you open your heart. On the other hand, do not so avoid risk that you devalue prophecy. The prophetic process protects you and those prophesying. Follow it. Bring what you receiving into the open: it is a revealing of hidden things so it should not be a private matter. If you do not wish to submit your life to leaders and your revelations to their consideration, you are simply dysfunctional yourself and make the prophetic dysfunctional as well.
If you are not expert in Scripture, improve, but always humbly assume that God has provided someone to lead your life who has greater expertise and experience. The Bible is the text book for prophecy. Accountability is the place of safety for all involved. And, leadership is the kingdom was to maturity. By honoring your leaders, submitting to their discipline, you mature in a safe environment where hidden things revealed are valued as treasure and applied to the blueprint of your personal destiny.