417 NW 42nd Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
The Rev. Randy Felton
This is a series of lessons taught in the summer of 1995. After requests to further publish the teaching it has been decided to put the teaching notes into a booklet form and to make it available on our website. You may order this as a booklet by contact our ministry office.
First we are going to look at prophecy in general. 1 Corinthians 14: 3-4 tells us "But someone prophesying is speaking to people, edifying, encouraging and comforting them. A person speaking in a tongue does edify himself, but a person prophesying edifies the congregation." (Jewish New Testament)
The Hebrew for prophesy is NABA (naw baw) meaning to speak or sing by inspiration. In Greek we have CHAZAH (khaw zaw) meaning to mentally perceive, to have vision of.
By my count there are 661 verses in the Bible that deal with prophets, prophesy, or prophesying, yet we seem to know little about the subject. 1 Corinthians 12 : 1 says; "But, brothers, I do not want you to go on being ignorant about the things of the Spirit." Do not be offended by the idea of being ignorant. We are all ignorant, just about different things.
The gift of prophecy has a threefold purpose:
This is the New Testament pattern for prophecy. No where does the scripture teach that prophecy tells the future. Prophets are not fortune tellers. Some prophecy may deal with future events but are for "forth telling" NOT "foretelling". Prophecy is not a crystal ball to seek knowledge of the future. Prophecy is God communicating with man through man. A prophetic utterance is God inspired through a yielded servant. Paul tells us he wishes we all would prophesy ( 1 Corinthians 14:5) because it builds up or charges up the whole church (congregation).
The first mention of a prophet is found in Genesis 20:7. Abraham is called a prophet by God. God called him a prophet, not someone else. Numbers 12:6 tells us that when a prophet of the Lord arises, God will make Himself known to the prophet in visions and dreams. Deuteronomy 13:2 warns that false prophets lead away from God.........even if their prophecies come true.
Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him that before he created him in the womb, God selected him. Before he was born, God consecrated him, and appointed him a prophet concerning the nations.
We can tell from these scriptures, that God calls the prophet, even before he is born, he has been selected by God for that service. This is concerning the "Office of a Prophet" not the simple gift of prophecy. What we are going to discuss at this time is prophecy in general.
1 Corinthians 14 tells us that prophecy edifies, encourages or comforts. The word edify is also translated by some as "build up" or others have said it is closer to our understanding of "charge" as in charging a battery. Prophecy must either charge us up, encourage us or comfort. Very often it will not do this for the one delivering the prophecy, only the ones receiving it. Prophecy is divine inspiration and the one delivering the prophecy does not have this coming from their mind, but out of the spirit and sometimes it leaves no emotional trace in the person giving the prophecy. Some prophecies are given almost unconsciously, or off-handed. God will quicken it to the heart of the hearer.
Edify - Building, confirmation, a structure, charge (in the sense
of charging a battery).
Exhort - Comfort, consolation, entreaty, encourage.
Comfort - Consolation, solace.
Next I will look at the "gift of prophecy".
GIFT OF PROPHECY
I want to start with a few quotes from Robert B. Hall in his book, "Anyone Can Prophesy".
" Our loving heavenly father speaks to us for our guidance and when He does this directly, thats what we call it, guidance. But when He speaks to us through another person, we call it prophecy, and it is just as important to us as direct guidance because the source of the communication is God Himself. "
" Prophecy is introductory or conformational, but it does not stand alone. "
" So the first testing of prophecy is that it doesnt stand alone. Something either precedes or follows it that fits it, joins with it, completes it, and agrees with it. "
" The second testing of prophecy is that it is in line with what we already know of Gods will. God is consistent; He is true and does not contradict Himself. "
" The third test we would call simply the law of love....if the message is loving, it is of God; if it is not loving, it comes from another source. Thus a prophecy might steer someone away from a certain course, but if it was condemnatory, we would suspect the source. "
This gives us some guidelines to add to the last chapter. We test the prophecy ourselves before it is given, then the ones hearing the prophecy will test it. This is how we have a check and balance system for the gifts of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:32 tells us that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is not a God of confusion but of peace. The New American Standard version says "spirits of the prophets". The prophets own spirit, not the Holy Spirit. The prophet has the ability to speak or not, even when the Holy Spirit has directed him. The prophet does not have the ability to speak for God at his own discretion, he must wait on the Lord to provide the anointing or the unction.
The prophecy of the Tanakh or what we call the "Old Testament" dealt with future events often. Prophets would go and announce Gods call upon someones life which would be fulfilled at a later time. This can be called predictive prophecy. Samuel spoke to Saul and later to David about their kingship over Israel......and it came to pass. One of the tests of prophecy is if it comes to pass.
Today, in the times of the writings of the apostles, what we call the "New Testament times", prophecy is more " Forth Telling " than foretelling. God uses prophets to direct and remind the body, not so much to tell future events. Prophecy is not fortune telling, it is not a crystal ball that we get from God to tell us what will happen. It is witchcraft and rebellion to look for someone to look into your future for your gain or your curiosity. You do not seek prophecy, prophecy seeks you! It is all at Gods instigation. You may pray for a revelation, for a prophecy to direct and reveal to you, but it will be at Gods discretion. Our proper posture is to seek God ........ NOT gifts or power. Let me clarify that. We are to seek God and a relationship with Him. In developing that relationship we have access to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the power given to us by Jesus. It is already ours, we do not need to seek it. We may want to learn what it is and how to operate withing the gifts given to us but we do not need to seek the gifts or the power. People that obsess with power or gifts or manifestations often get led into error because they forget the relationship and concentrate on the outward signs. You are far better off to seek the intimate relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and just accept the gifts given. This doesnt mean we are to be ignorant about the gifts, quite the contrary. The Bible is very clear that we are not to be ignorant about spirituals.
Often the gifts of Wisdom or Knowledge or Interpretation of Tongues is confused with Prophecy. They are closely related and sometimes overlap or are used in conjunction with each other.
I will give some brief definitions to try to explain the differences.
Wisdom - Having a word concerning a situation that does not come from your own understanding. I find this most often in counseling situations.
Knowledge - Being aware of a specific need without being told about it. Sometimes in prayer and sometimes in conversation.
Interpretation of Tongues - This will often have prophetic overtones but is always preceded by a message in tongues.
Prophecy is God speaking to us through another person. Therefore the message is hindered by the speaker at times. A person will usually speak wit the limitations of his/her vocabulary. The personality of the speaker will come through with the message. The vessels God uses, (us) are imperfect and often the messages we deliver are imperfect because of human limitations. Poor speech, improper use of the language, stuttering, stammering, etc. does not mean the message is not from God ......... it means the human element is imperfect.
FALSE PROPHETS AND FALSE PROPHECY
There is on underlying truth concerning false prophets. No one wants to hear or follow one, and no one wants to be one. One can be intrinsically evil and be a true prophet - of the Devil. We would still classify this as a false prophet.
A prophet speaks from divine inspiration. Therefore, one can speak prophecy that comes to pass and be false prophet in the sense that his source is Satan. If the prophecy does not point toward tor lead to God, if it does not uplift Jesus, then the source is not from God and is false.
Sometimes evil can predict the future from what is already known in the spirit world. Demonic influence comes from those fallen spirits that have been around since Satan was cast out of heaven. They have studied and influenced mankind from the beginning and are pretty good judges of character. They also know history and what is going on with other people and circumstances as far as is possible from information given by other evil spirits. Therefore they make some pretty shrewd guesses. This is why some of the prophecies concerning future events may come to pass. This is also why it is important t judge by the scripture when a prophecy is give. Does it edify, encourage, comfort, lift up Jesus, align with the written Word of God, agree with your spirit ? If not, then the source is suspect.
Speaking for God is an awesome responsibility. If you have a dream or a vision and you feel it should be shared, share it but tell those you are sharing it with that it is your dream or vision. Judge it and let the hearers judge it as well. Dont assume it is from God unless you have judged it and it aligns with the criteria for judging. Jeremiah 23 has directions and warnings about false prophets.
There are groups and sects that are into all kinds of weird things because they believe God has called them into this. Often the guidance rests on the word of their prophet alone. They claim to have a higher knowledge or revelation about God. They hear direct form God and do not need anything further. The scripture is only used to back up what they have spoken, usually out of context.
It is necessary to ask some questions about anyone who is prophesying.
Who are they?
To what organizations do they belong?
Who do they answer to? Is there any way for correction or someone to hold them accountable for their actions?
Everyone must have some way to submit themselves to authority. This is a role filled by the denominations. There are independent ministers that belong to fellowships for reasons of accountability. One of the first red flags that should go up is someone who is outside any organization or authority. A prophet who is not a member of a congregation, or a fellowship would be suspect. There has to be a way for checks and balances.
The motives for false prophecy is rooted in pride. Often people get caught up in the limelight of being able to speak for God. Elevating themselves to this position of prophet can be dangerous, not only for them but for the people who listen to them.
False prophecy holds three dangers:
It angers God
It misleads men
It divides you within yourself
It is no idle to speak in Gods name because people do not respond idly.
I would suggest that the prophet assume the people hearing him are less mature than the prophet, therefore he should be cautious in judging the prophecy. I would also suggest that the hearers should assume that the prophet is less mature then they are and cautiously judge whatever is spoken in Gods name. Do not be too quick to act on a prophecy, especially without taking the time to carefully judge the message.
The Office of a Prophet
Very few churches have a designated office of prophet. Most congregations have someone who most look to as a prophet even though he may not be officially recognized by the church or denomination. I view the office of a prophet as one which God has called you to, even if it hasnt been recognized "officially" by the church. Prophets tend to be unpopular with the organized body, especially if the prophet is bringing correction.
There can also be a two edged sword with this office. If the church should establish an official ministry of prophet the person holding the position may cease from operating the gift. It could happen like this; our prophet becomes so mired in his official position that he no longer speaks for God, only the organization. On the other hand he may continue his gift and becomes so unpopular to the extent that he looses his job within the organized church.
As Robert Hall has titled his book, "Anyone can Prophesy". Not many are called to be prophets. We are all called to speak for God from time to time. It may be as simple as instruction to our children, or encouragement to a loved one. It may be a declaration before an entire congregation but that still does not make you a prophet in the sense that you stand in that office, or are called to that ministry. There is a difference in the day to day opportunities for God to use and speak through us and the ministry of a prophet. The difference is the intensity of the call and the frequency of the gift. The prophet is called and cannot help but speak out what God has given him to say. This happens time and time again. It happens so often and with such inspiration that those around him notice and he is accepted as a prophet, sometimes even before the prophet recognizes it. This acceptance is not based on hearing what is always pleasing but on who is perceived as the inspiration. The office or ministry is sometimes entered into reluctantly when the person called can no longer resist or deny what God is doing in their life.
The scripture tells us to seek to prophesy, since the whole church may be edified; 1 Corinthians 14:1. I do not know of anywhere the scripture tells us to seek to be a prophet. Seeking the office of a prophet does not apply anymore than seeking to be a pastor as if it were only a career choice. The offices within the body of believers are callings and not arbitrary choices we make for ourselves. You might want to refer to the first chapter of Jeremiah for this.
If you feel a calling, test it. This would be a good time to fast and pray. Seek counsel from those you trust spiritually that have some accountability. Be cautious about receiving a word concerning a calling God has not been dealing with you about first. Be cautious about accepting a word from someone outside the normal bounds of Christian fellowship. There are those who are independent and unknown that God has called and uses but there is the opportunity for error more often when these people are not in a position to have oversight. People who have no direct congregational affiliation, who are not under the authority of a pastor or governing body to provide oversight and correction are to be viewed cautiously. Do not accept a word simply because it may be pleasing to your ear or ego.
Some years ago I was talking with a close friend of mine who happened to be a retired Episcopal priest. I was telling him I was having trouble discerning Gods will and plan concerning some particular things I was wrestling with at the time. He spoke a word of wisdom I have drawn from for years. He said " You are having trouble deciding if you are being led or seduced". This is a good measure I have used often in the years since. Leading and seduction can appear similar, but come from different sources. Seduction may be from Satan or simply form your own flesh. The leading comes from the Holy Spirit. The way we discern, is to spend time with the Holy Spirit in prayer and learn what He is telling us to do. This will apply in simple matters concerning your daily routine or the weightier issues of Gods calling on your life. The responsibility that goes with an office is not to be taken lightly and one should not be too quick to assume such and office. The people called of God to an office are there because they simply cannot help themselves. The call is so great, the anointing so present in the function of that office that they cannot help but fulfill it. God has chosen them and they cannot resist the call.
I suggest that if you feel called into ministry in any office, but particularly that of prophet, that you spend much time in prayer. Having done that, study, learn all you can about that ministry or office, then relax. If God has truly called you, the calling will be fulfilled. You will find yourself ministering without realizing you are doing it because you cannot NOT do it. For those called into ministry, it is not something that needs to be forced, it comes naturally. It does not come without effort, but it is not created by ourselves.
Rev. Randy Felton
417 NW 42nd Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
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