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Personal Prophecy: How Much Can We Trust It?

After the service, this woman came to me very upset. I found myself pointing her to the two passages mentioned above and explaining to her the different purposes of prophecy and Scripture; prophecy being for confirming and encouraging and Scripture being for teaching, rebuking and correcting. I then offered her five minutes in our next service to present a rebuke to the congregation. “But don’t prophesy to us,” I said. “Take your Bible and show us where you think we are missing the mark.” “Oh, I could never do that,” she replied. “You just did it,” I said, “But you hid behind a ‘thus saith the Lord.’”

The point is that we must not allow personal prophecy to usurp the place of Scripture, prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the Old Testament, people often went to the prophet, or seer, to obtain direction and insight. In the New Testament, however, there is not a single example of anyone seeking guidance from a prophet. In the New Testament, the indwelling Holy Spirit is the right and privilege of every believer, making the mediation of a special prophet unnecessary. Prophetic ministry in the New Testament will thus confirm and strengthen, not mediate and legislate.

At this point some will want to distinguish between the gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet. The New Testament, however, does not make such a fine distinction. In the New Testament, prophetic ministry is available, at least potentially, to all believers. Although some individuals are referred to as prophets, there is no mention of a prophetic office. Dr. Gordon Fee may well be correct when, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, he says that those called prophets in the New Testament are probably those who prophesied more frequently than others.

Prophecy is Given As a Free Gift of Grace

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to prophecy as a charisma, the Greek word that is translated “Spiritual gift.” Charisma and its plural form charismata are derived from charis which is the Greek word for “grace.” Prophecy, therefore, is literally a grace-gift. It is freely given out of the graciousness and kindness of God, not because of any merit in the one who prophesies. Paul uses charisma, no doubt, to undermine the egoism and pride of the Corinthians in the exercise of their Spiritual gifts—including prophecy. Church history demonstrates that every generation needs to be reminded that these gifts flow out of God’s grace and are not badges of spiritual superiority.

Prophecy is Given to Glorify Christ

Mature pastoral guidance both values the prophetic gift and understands the potential pitfalls.

Although prophecy may offer hope and encouragement to individuals, the ultimate purpose is to draw them to Christ. Revelation 19:10 says, For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus (NLT). This coincides with John 16:14 where Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will bring Me glory. When prophecy becomes too anthropocentric (human-centered) there is cause for concern. When prophecy becomes earth-bound, and is used to enhance the status of a movement and its leaders, it has veered outside the Biblical parameters. When prophecy is used to manipulate people to give money or to accept a new teaching, it has become pseudo-prophecy. The Holy Spirit is in the earth to lift up Jesus, and true prophecy will redound to His glory.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2007

About the Author: Eddie L. Hyatt, D.Min. (Regent University), M.Div. and M.A. (Oral Roberts University), serves the body of Christ around the world by teaching with academic excellence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He has authored several books, including 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. His passion is to see authentic spiritual awakening transform the Church and impact the world in the Twenty-first century.

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