What is Prophecy?
Have you ever wondered why the Apostle Paul felt it necessary to encourage us in one of his letters to not despise prophecies? The only reason I can think of is that there must be a pretty solid tendency out there to, indeed, despise it.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:19–21
I have seen some of the most absurd things referred to as prophecy or prophetic over the years. I've heard so-called prophets use their words to manipulate people in ways that were more witchcraft than gifts of the spirit. I recently saw online a "Prophet" buy a truckload of bricks and prophesy that anyone buying one of these bricks from him for $100 each would experience blessings and prosperity... he sold out the truckload.
Go out online and do a search on prophetic ministry and it doesn't take long to find some sketchy stuff. And it is likely that Paul already was seeing this and felt he should remind the church not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Prophecy is simply the ability to hear what God is saying and relay that to others.
Marie and I are in different types of churches all over the world. We go in some that are excited and ready to embrace anything that sounds like God while others are not very receptive to charismatic manifestations and would rather we stay away from most supernatural ministry. I understand that. As a Pastor, it sometimes feels like it's just too messy and not worth the trouble.
Both of these churches should heed Paul's point. He says to not grow cynical and skeptical of the prophetic gifts. Don't quench the spirit's work among you. He even goes so far as to say that he wishes every single Christian would prophesy.
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. ~ 1 Corinthians 14:5a
But, in response to the church that seems to embrace anything and everything, Paul says " You need to test it all. before you just embrace it."
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul gives us a little bit of a filter to test New Testament prophecy.
But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. ~ 1 Corinthians 14:3b
If someone is presenting a word as something from God it should land easily within this filter.
Is it strengthening?
Are the weary lifted up?
Are their loads lightened?
Is it encouraging?
Do they feel the love and care of God?
Does it come against discouragement and burnout?
Is it comforting?
Are they confronted with the compassion of the Lord?
Do they feel seen and cared for?
You should also ask...
Does it line up with the character and nature of God?
Does it line up with scripture?
Does it glorify God or does it glorify the messenger?
The word being given does not itself have to come from scripture, or even have a high similarity... but it must not conflict with or go counter to its teachings. An example might be someone claiming God was blessing their sinful lifestyle choices. We should quickly be able to say that the word is not from God.
Marie and I never considered ourselves to be particularly prophetic or ever imagined we would be traveling the world teaching and activating prophetic ministers. But in this season of instability and uncertainty everywhere we look there is a tremendous need for people to bring the encouragement of heaven to earth. We believe that this is not simply a "feel good" ministry but that it is life-giving, life-saving, and extremely evangelistic.
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.