by Jeff Pohlman
In 1 Corinthians 14 : 31-33, we see...
31- For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted [ed. - encouraged]; 32- and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33- for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the [ekklesia's] of the saints. (emphasis & parentheses mine)
And, in Matthew 7 : 13-20, Jesus gives this description of the good and the bad ...
13- Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14- For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it. 15- Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16- You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17- Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18- A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19- Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20- So then, you will know them by their fruits. (emphasis mine)
(New American Standard Version [NASV]- AMG Publishers - Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Greek Study Bible)
You will find some well-meaning people, who call themselves "Christians," who are going about saying that certain of the spiritual, ministerial, or motivational gifts given by God to His ekklesia are dead, withered, or non-existent. I find this odd, since the true nature of our God is to expand and create, yet those people tell a story of a God who dies off, is withering and possibly even dieing out all together. Not my God. At times, when you visit their "churches" you will even hear them say that they believe in the Holy Trinity, and their definition of such is, Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures. They firmly believe that the written word has replaced the dynamic of Holy Spirit.
I am one of those who inadvertently shakes up their theology a bit. When I hear them espouse such teachings I immediately wonder whether wolves have somehow figured out how to give birth to sheep. You see, at some time in their midst, you'll hear one or more of them ponder what it might be like to be around one of God's miracles. You know? One of the more noticeable ones (I find that the miracle of our salvation is a wonderful one, but they seem to think it's rather dull - I disagree). They'll ask into their Bible study or Sunday School crowd whether someone has truly seen a miracle. I have seen many, but in my own flesh I bear the scars of a terrible car accident from when I was 18 years old, and was miraculously brought back to life by Him. So, when I humbly speak of what HE DID (I most certainly didn't do it - and don't have the capacity to self heal or bring back to life like that), it stuns them, because they have to admit that He IS still powerful - TODAY, right here in our midst!!!
As I state in other parts of my writings, other Christians are not our (or my) enemy, but in truth, satan and his ugly hordes are our enemy. I can have compassion on those who are slightly misinformed for a temporary time. I know that in time, Jesus will bring them to a personal revelation of Him, and they will truly get to see that He is still in the miraculous-business, as well as fully in the salvation-business (if they are truly seeking Jesus directly). The good news (the Greek word is gospel) of who Jesus really is gets unwittingly replaced by the gospel of Paul, or the gospel of John, or the gospel of the Romans, or the gospel of the Hebrews, by these well-meaning yet misguided friends. All those other "gospel"-people know about Jesus, but the good news is that you can know Jesus.
Along these lines, you will see that He instructs us through Paul to be about something that is sometimes called The Five-Fold Ministry, apostling, prophesying, evangelizing, pastoring, and teaching (Eph 4: 11-13). Just like I said in the introduction, none of these gifts, which He gave to the ekklesia for the building up of the ekklesia, has ever gone silent, withered, or died. They are just as strong today as they were at the start of Christianity, some 2,000+ years ago.
After apostleship, prophecy is a most understood gift, yet also a most encouraged gift. Sadly, the general "Christian" public usually thinks of prophecy in terms of going to some fortune teller, or reading (the deceased) Madelyn Murray O'Hare's predictions for the new year in The National Enquirer, or finding their astrological horoscope in the local newspaper. This is a grossly incorrect view of GOD's version of prophecy, and all of those activities just mentioned are what a true Christian should not even be interested in. They rank with divination and necromancy and we are told never to take part in them (Deut 18: 10 - 13).
Once in a great while, you will read, see, or hear where God actually issues a "foretelling" type of prophecy that is time-dated and predictive, but these sorts of prophetic words are the rarer of the two types (and it's possible that you have neither read, heard or seen any of these types). The more common types are what are called "forthtelling." If you have never heard that phrase, it means the telling forth of truth. The speaking of truth into someone's life. At times it might be a revealing of something that the person was unaware of, or it might be an uncovering of something that the person was purposely trying to hide, amongst many other possibilities.
CLARIFYING THE DIFFERENCES
If a prophecy is of the foretelling variety, it will be subject to judgment, in order to see whether the foretold events really do take place. In the 1980s I confronted a very well known "televangelist" who is still operating today, with three predictions he had made in a previous meeting that I and several of my fellow employees attended during chapel one day, where we worked. This so-called man-of-god was incensed that we privately brought up the error, or false prophecy, with him. I guess he's fortunate that we didn't share it in public, like the false prophecy that he delivered in the first place. Sorry, if you're going to utter forth words as if you are the oracle of God, and they are going to be predictive, with time and date exactness implied, well then, the Body of Christ is going to check and see whether you really heard from Jesus or not. If you didn't hear correctly, you're going to be judged as a false prophet - or at least having given a false representation at one time. Obviously there is a burden of responsibility for someone to be truly speaking God's thoughts if he or she is going to include, "Thus sayeth The Lord."
If a prophecy is of the forthtelling variety, it is still subject to judgment, as the opening scripture in 1 Cor 14:32 suggests. Most people I know in modern day will either try to have a recorder (tape or mini-CD) handy, or they'll write down the details of the prophecy that is forthtelling. Before the technology advent of tape recorders, I knew many prophetic people who had companions traveling with them who in essence were scribes, who could scribble down fast enough, or write in secretarial shorthand, what was said. Again, the specific purpose is so that it can be weighed in with the other prophets, checked to see if there is confirmation with the spirit in other prophets, and in case foretelling future information is also within the text.
AVOID NATURAL FLESHLY DISCERNMENT
The skill of reading someone is not new, and this adds the dimension of responsibility to what a prophet does, because it becomes the more difficult when you are trying to keep flesh or bodily thinking out of what is supposed to be a delivering of a spirit-message to a person. As an example, I am a public teacher and I am trained and skilled to read people in an audience, on purpose, to be sure I am holding the audience's attention. Someone in public ministry, for a length of time, sooner or later learns to read body language and eye movements. This can creep into what a prophet says, and the prophet must maintain diligence to sift out these "readings."
Let me give you one more example. A business friend of mine is a lawyer named Mac, a "Christian" man, and his specialized skill is jury selection. He is extremely skilled, and he has written a great book on Amazing Face Reading. At first blush, you might think this topic is a great parlor-game piece of entertainment, until you research and find it is highly legitimate, and the skill he has developed is truly refined and absolutely accurate. After years of study, Mac would sit on a beach with a sign in front of him saying "$10 Face Reading." The point was that he was learning to insure the accuracy of what he'd learned in study. If he got the face reading wrong, as in, if the people said that he didn't read their faces correctly to tell them what the truth was, about their background life, he returned the $10. He would insist on close friends standing by if possible, to verify the correctness (and he still practices in this manner). This isn't some devilish palm reading scheme. It is truly a skill. From creases and shapes all over your face, that are as varied as our thumb prints, he is able to tell you who you are - highly accurately.
My wife and I can tell you that he is indeed absolutely accurate, we have been with him and seen his detailed accuracy, and for those who wouldn't know any better, they might mistake his delivery to be the same as that of a prophet's. Unfortunately, we were managing at a convention for a trade association that I worked for at the time, I had contracted Mac to speak, plus we had another close Christian friend, Larry, contracted to speak on a different topic. At one point, Mac, Larry and his wife, my wife and I were standing quietly in a corner of an otherwise noisy crowd, waiting for an auditorium to open, and Mac just started reading Larry's face back to him, without fanfare, and without attracting attention of other surrounding people, but just as a gesture to Larry. Believe me, this is NOT a parlor trick. Larry had a type of crease fold in his ears that indicated imminent heart failure if Larry didn't change his lifestyle soon (Mac was reading "what is" in Larry's physical character, and this was a rare instance that Mac didn't really want to get into, but felt convicted to try to salvage a bad impending health issue for Larry). Without changing his lifestyle, Larry did indeed have two heart failures that eventually took him home to be with Jesus. So, this form of reading a person's face is indeed a viable tool, and it doesn't need to be a fortune teller's mystical presentation. Likewise, a prophetic person needs to be careful if he or she knows this skill of reading, because it deals in the flesh and not the spirit.
Back to this mannerism of recording and accountability, all who are true prophets will make sure that they don't get off on some head-trip, power-trip, or control game, by interjecting personal feelings and stray information, when the Lord didn't intend for it to be there in the forthtelling. All prophets I know, who are true prophets, are very careful and diligent to hold their tongues, and sift out of the presentation their personal judgment and assessments when prophesying. Sometimes this causes a prophetic word to sound odd to the outside hearers (after all - the word isn't necessarily for the outsider, but for the one being prophesied to), when the prophet stops mid-sentence, or gives what appears to be incomplete information. Sometimes one prophet will only give a partial message and another will add on to it, maybe even at another time and place, making a complete message, where the individual messages are odd or disjointed by themselves. But in The Spirit of God, I have seen it happen time and again, when a prophet gives simply what he or she is told to say, then the chosen words are very convicting, because they are words that have been formulating in the spirit-hearts of the receiver (not necessarily the giver). When that happens, the receiver is absolutely convicted to the core, as it should be.
Interestingly, on the heels of what is referred to as The Love Chapter, or 1 Corinthians 13; the apostle Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians 14 : 1...
1- Pursue love, yet earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
(New American Standard Version [NASV]- AMG Publishers - Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Greek Study Bible)
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