While there is only two levels of prophecy, the gift of prophecy and the mantle of the prophet; there can be multiple layers. In this article, I want to take a look at the different layers of prophetic ministry in the Church today.
I am not saying that every layer presented here applies to every prophetic word every given. I realize that most of the “prophetic words” by the false prophets of the “prophetic movement” will not pass any of these as well.
Test of Systematic Theology
The first test of prophecy is simple: does it line up with the Bible and is it in harmony with systematic theology. This is assuming that someone claiming to have a word of prophecy actually knows their scripture. The truth is more prophetic a person is, the more sound they should be. A prophet claims to walk with God. Therefore, they should be the most theological person in the room.
I was in a service once when someone claimed to have a prophetic utterance and it went forth. Within a few sentences, it was clear that it was not the Lord speaking. We knew this because it did not line up with sound biblical teaching. In reality, it was more conspiracy theory than anything else. The pastor had no choice but to shut down the “utterance.” The person had to be confronted and dealt with church discipline.
There are people who use prophecy to try and push their theological ideologies on the congregation. I have seen someone give a word out loud that the pastor was Jezebel herself. (Not joking) Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through people without all the controls can lead to some crazy people saying crazy things and ending it with “Thus saint the Lord.”
This is why having biblical education in the local congregation is so important. In the context of my fellowship that would be Global University’s Berean School of the Bible. It could also be classes through Evangel University. Whatever it is, make theological education normal. This will reduce the problem with false prophecy in and of itself.
The Current Needs test
This test is when someone that does not know what it is going on in the church comes and delivers a prophetic utterance that is speaking to the church where they are currently. This is a straight forward test in most cases.
Let’s say, for example, an elder has recently committed adultery and it is not known by many in the church. They are dealing with it behind closed doors. However, in the service, the Holy Spirit moves on someone to give an utterance about repenting of hidden sexual sins in the house of God. They did not know what was going but the Spirit speaks through them. This is the current needs test.
It could also be about a weakness in the people that people would not address. This could be where the Spirit confronts attitudes about the lost in the area. Someone who does not care about evangelism stands up and gives an utterance about reaching the children of the neighborhood. It goes against their personal views but the Spirit takes over to address the lack in the people of God.
In most cases, this is confirmed and people do not like to talk about what they don’t want to do. It takes the prophetic utterance when the Spirit speaks through people, not person making up some prophecy. No one know the needs of the congregation like the Holy Spirit does.
The Biblical hermeneutics text
This might sound like the systematic theology test but this is different but just as important. There are times when the prophetic utterance will b confusing but once a deeper study of a text happens, the prophetic word makes perfect sense. There are times where it is first a false prophecy and you have to address it. However, sometimes, the Spirit is hiding revelation in the details for us to dig into.
Years ago, a prophecy went forth about how preachers were coming to the church to “reshape the gospel” (prosperity teachers) and they were to be discerned and put out of the congregation. In the prophecy was the words, “Consider my people, the Ephesians.” The problem: outside one verse (Eph 4:14) there is NO mention of false teachers.
A few of us that were bible college students started to dig into it and we realized that Acts 20:30 was said to the Ephesians and when you dig deeper into the Greek, it means to reshape the gospel. The Holy Spirit spoke to us and forced deeper levels of knowledge as a result. Part of the application was to become Bereans (Acts 17:12) so the false teachers would be discerned.
Some prophetic words will require understanding of the culture, history and grammar of the original people of the Bible. There are things that mean different things in our American culture than they didn’t mean in the Jewish culture of this first century.
In other words, educate yourself on the things of the Bible times!
The Missional Test
This is not just the missiology of Christianity here but this is about mission of the local congregation. Is it in line with the purpose of that assembly in that city? Some focus on different things. An overly evangelistic church (Is that possible?) will not get an utterance about stopping all outreach and just have home groups, for example. It would go against the mantle on that congregation.
I was part of a church once where someone gave a prophetic word that everyone was to stop doing witnessing because they “didn’t have any oil” (Matthew 25:1-3) and the people were to do nothing beside prayer meetings until they had power on the gospel. As you can guess, that prophetic word was rejected and the person was silenced. It did not pass the systematic theology test, the current needs or the missional test.
This is not to say that the Spirit will not change the mission of a people. However, it won’t be in one day and it won’t be through an unknown person with the gift of prophecy. Brownsville Revival happens in one day but there was a shifting towards it for two years. It did not just happen. Every mission that changes happens over a season.
So, we can test an utterance based on the vision or mission of a group. God does not create confusion but the enemy is the author of it. So if the future of a congregation becomes murky, the prophetic word must be rejected.
So desire the gift of prophecy….
The Bible is clear that one of the most important gift in the Church is the gift of prophecy. You should want to operate in it, no matter how hard it can be to discern. You might not receive it but you should still want it!