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Prophecy in the Church Today: an interview with Michael Sullivant

 

PR: What do you think are some of the main misunderstandings among believers concerning the prophetic gifts?

The most obvious misunderstanding is that they have somehow become unnecessary and God has planned that they would cease before the return of Jesus. Cessationism is clearly negated by what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:4-8:

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another mistaken view is that NT prophetic ministry should be viewed as an infallible exact science or on par with Scripture. This can lead to several related errors:

  • That such giftedness automatically implies maturity in character and/or doctrine on the part of the human vessel. When we want to study about the spiritual gifts we typically turn to 1 Corinthians. Yet, when we want to expose immaturity and carnality in the church, we also turn to 1 Corinthians. I think you get the point.
  • That prophetically gifted people do not need to live by the same basic biblical patterns of life, ethics and standards as other believers do. That somehow these people are above and beyond these basics.
  • That prophets know just about everything about anything or that God will tell them if they ask Him to.
  • That God is “continually talking” to prophets and that prophets are continually hearing the voice of God.
  • That prophets cannot have or enjoy aspects of an ordinary life because of their extra-ordinary giftedness.
  • That prophets are not to be properly subject, like everyone else, to the governors of their churches.

A further result of the above thinking is that prophecy is given undue emphasis. People may begin to see it as the normal way to discern the will of God for our lives instead of the renewing of our minds and the wisdom of Scripture. They may act on the word of a prophet even if it hasn’t been confirmed in their heart or by some other outside objective sources. Every vivid dream or picture in the mind may come to be seen as a divine communication.

PR: What is the role of the prophetic in evangelism?

Prophetic ministry is wonderfully seen in the NT as a significant means of conviction, conversion and opening up the gospel to whole new groups of people. We see revelatory words at work through the ministry of Jesus Himself. (By the way, there is a very important concept to highlight here. I deeply believe that Jesus conducted His miraculous ministry, not out of His divinity, but out of His Spirit-filled humanity. This is the basis on which He could say in John 14:12, that the works that He did, and greater works, would be multiplied through His followers who would receive the very same Spirit’s power.) It seems that it was a simple word of knowledge through our Lord that led to Nathaniel’s extravagant commitment to Him. It was prophetic insight that touched the heart of the woman at the well. This ultimately opened up the whole village to believe in Jesus. In fact, we see Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Son of God in Matthew 16 was based on a personal revelation from the Father to Peter’s heart. As Paul would later say in 1 Cor 12:1, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ but by the Holy Spirit”. A “prophetic” revelation from the Holy Spirit to the heart and mind of a human being is the very dynamic that initiates their conversion.

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Category: Pneuma Review, Spirit, Spring 2004

About the Author: Michael Sullivant and his wife Terri live in the Kansas City, Missouri area. They have given themselves to planting communities of faith in several U.S. states, pastoring, teaching, writing, coaching, building leaders and traveling to offer ministry in many nations. Michael is the author of Prophetic Etiquette: Your Complete Handbook on Giving and Receiving Prophecy (Creation House, 2000), and Your Kingdom Come (Creation House, 2000), and a devotional commentary called The Romance of Romans: God's Big God-Story (2011). www.radius-group.org

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