What is the role of a prophet and prophecy for the church today?

Prophecy in these modern-days has largely been despised by the church. This is to a larger extent due to the way in which the prophetic charlatans have dramatized predictions. It has been surrounded by misunderstanding, confusion, and fear. Yet, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, the gift of prophecy is the most important spiritual gift. Paul considers it vital to the upbuilding of the church. Just what is the role of a prophet and prophecy for the church today?

Prophets and prophecy

When one thinks of a prophet or prophecy they would normally think of someone who can tell the future or knows what is going to happen before it happens.
Webster’s 1913 Dictionary defines a prophet as “literally, one who speaks for another, especially, one who speaks for God and interprets His will to man.” It goes on to define prophecy as, “to be an interpreter of the gods, to prophesy” It can mean, “A declaration of something to come; a foretelling; a prediction; an inspired foretelling.” or an “interpretation of Scripture; preaching; exhortation or instruction.” It can also mean a prophetic volume or collections of prophecy.

Informed Predictions vs prophecy

I was prompted to write this article after coming across something that Uebert Angel said with regards African politics and the Zimbabwean elections in particular. While those from his camp will describe his words as accurate prophecy. It is critically important that we distinguish between informed predictions and prophecy.
What Uebert did would hardly pass as prophecy. He just stated facts about what anyone with political knowledge already knew. So, what is prophecy? It has been defined as a “miracle of knowledge, a declaration or description or representation of something in the future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture.” Many pollsters were more accurate with regards the Zimbabwean elections but what they said does not make them prophets they are just good at making informed predictions.

Prophecy

If you looked up the word prophecy in a thesaurus you’d find similar words like: prediction, forecast, divination, foresight, etc. If we examine the word as it appears in Scripture, we find that it stems from the New Testament Greek word prophetus(n) or propheteuo(v). Simply put, the word in this context means to speak for God, to be a mouthpiece for the Lord – to speak divine revelation from God.
If you have followed some of these prophetic churches you will know of the many strange things that have been passed off as “speaking divine revelation from God” we have heard of colour of condom used, colour of panties, and blankets in what have been passed on as forensic prophecies. Others have spoken of Argentina winning the 2018 world cup and that surely did not come to pass.

This begs the question – Is the God of the Bible the only Source for Accurate Prophecy?

Indeed, we must be mindful that we have charlatans in our midst. Occultists who have invaded the church and are masquerading as prophets of God. (Wolves in sheep skin)
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him..” – Deuteronomy 18:21-22

What the bible says

The Biblical evidence demonstrates that God breathed prophecy always comes to pass. And the mark of a true prophet is one whose revelations are never wrong. While some crystal ball gazers may be able to hit upon something that actually does come to pass, it is not because they have had divine revelation. It has more to do with the law of averages. If you ‘predict’ enough future events, one of them is bound to happen (or something close) eventually.
A good reminder when considering those that ‘appear’ to be able to tell the future such as prophetic charlatans, mediums and the lot, is the saying,
“Even a clock that doesn’t work, is correct twice a day”

So, what can we learn from this? These prophetic charlatans, and the belief in them as being something divine, or people that give you spiritual cover, are another form of Satan’s ways of undermining one of God’s attributes. Only God is omniscient, but the mere suggestion that these prophetic charlatans have some ability to see the future and provide you spiritual cover, usurps our faith in God and places it in the occult practice of divination.
If I can know what is going to happen from ungodly counsel (or be tricked into thinking that), then why would I need communion with God? Only God has rightly claimed to be all knowing and the master of prophecy. Man’s best efforts fall very, very short. Remember even a clock that doesn’t work is correct twice a day.

Some Common Misconceptions About Prophecy

The gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 12) and the office of the prophet (Ephesians 4:11) are not the same thing.
There is a ministry of the prophet, but not everyone is a prophet. For example, a boy may wear a Manchester United football T-Shirt, but that does not mean he plays professional football for Manchester United Football Club. You may accurately predict things, but you are not operating in the simple gift of prophecy. This does not qualify you to stand in the office of a prophet, much like wearing a Manchester United football T-Shirt does not qualify you to play professional football for Manchester United Football Club. – you must be gifted. To stand in the office of a prophet, one must have a consistent manifestation of at least two of the revelation gifts (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, or discerning of spirits) plus prophecy.

They want to be seen as prophets

I have observed that these charlatans only want to come out and go public if they get a prediction right. When they guess correctly they will go all out to try and show the world that they got it right. It is almost as if they doubt their own powers, they know they are mostly wrong so the day they get it correct they will plaster it all over social media. We have seen the # This or that prophet saw it. Or prophet so and so said it. Question is, was it their word or God’s word? Are they claiming the glory or giving the glory to God?

The purpose of prophecy

Part of the mission God gives His people involves getting His message out to this world. That message is a message of warning, a call for repentance and a message of hope and good news. Prophecy has always been a part of that message. Prophecy has never been about showing off or embarrassing or humiliating others as we have seen some of these charlatans doing in their churches.
1 Corinthians 14: 3 says: But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
The variety of ways the church is built up by prophecy accentuate its necessity for the present-day church. Words of comfort and assurance, words of pleading, words of exhortation and admonition, words of exposure and correction–all of these are designed by the Spirit to bring and maintain renewal in Christ’s church.

We cannot afford to despise the gift of prophecy. Nor can we allow its capacity for misuse and misunderstanding to prevent us from embracing it. Rather we must diligently seek to curb its abuses by the guidelines of Scripture and “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21), so that the great constructive value of prophecy may be experienced by our churches. Through this unique spiritual gift the church is enabled to grow, mature and move forward according to the will of God. “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy … so that the church may be edified” (1 Corinthians 14:1, 5).

Seven Ways to Judge Prophecy

1. By their fruits you shall know them.
(Matthew 7:16-18,20)
2. Does it glorify Christ?
(John 16:14; I Corinthians 12:3; I John 4:1-2)
3. Does it agree with the Scriptures? (Isaiah 8:20)
4. Are their prophecies fulfilled? (Deuteronomy 18:22) Some prophecies are not of God even though they may come to pass. The benchmark remains that all prophecies should exalt the Lord Jesus.
5. Is the prophecy disjointed or confused? True prophecy is line upon line and precept upon precept.
(Isaiah 28:13)
6. Do the prophecies produce liberty or bondage? (Romans 8:15)
7. All believers have an unction (anointing) within them that tells them when something is wrong. Prophecies should witness with our spirit.
(I John 2:20,27)

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