What is prophecy?

The Greek word used in the New Testament is “Propheteia”.  This word has two roots; “pro”, meaning “forth”, and “phemi”, meaning “to speak”.  In other words, the literal meaning is “to speak forth”.

Strong’s lexicon describes it as: “a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events”

Prophecy is speaking the words of God that can only be known by divine revelation.

Prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:10) and something that we are called to “eagerly desire” (i.e. actively seek after and ask for) (1 Cor 14:1) because the purpose of the gift is to “edify the church” (1 Cor 14:4,5).  Prophecy is available for all believers to use (in fact Paul commands us all to be seeking it) but there are often “prophets” within churches.  These are people with a particular gifting and accurate track record in this and will often be given more authority and visibility in prophesying.  They are not infallible!!  In the Old Testament, Prophets had a very different role from the New Testament.  They spoke the “very words of God” and to disobey a Prophet was to disobey God.

Consequently, prophets had a very stringent job description – if they got it wrong then they were stoned to death!  (Deut 18:17-20).  The New Testament prophets were/are different.  We are commanded to weigh prophecies (1 Cor 14:29) which implies that New Testament prophets are not expected to be infallible.  Agabus was a respected and accepted “prophet” within the church (Acts 21:10,11) and he prophesied over Paul.  Some of what he said was true (Paul was arrested) but other bits were inaccurate (it was not the Jews who handed him over but the Romans who rescued him from the Jews!)  New Testament prophets are not the same as Old Testament Prophets.  It should be noted that there is no record in the NT of a prophet using the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” or “The Lord says”.

IF A PROPHECY IS FROM GOD IT WILL NEVER CONTRADICT THE BIBLE (Titus 1:9). All prophecy must be weighed against scripture and tested.

What is it for?

Revelation 19:10
Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

The point of all prophecy is to bring glory to Jesus Christ!

It is also to build up the church through exhortation, edification and comfort (1 Cor 14:4,5); to be a warning (Acts 21:11); for salvation (1 Cor 14:25); for our obedience (Isaiah 56:1 etc.); for reassurance (John 14:15-18).

Most prophecy is conditional i.e. “If you do this then I will do this” or “If you do not stop doing this then I will do this” (e.g. Jonah).

How do we do this?

We can only learn by doing it!  We will learn to hear the voice of God by making mistakes!  GOD WOULD MUCH RATHER THAT YOU TRIED AND GOT IT WRONG THAT REFUSE TO HAVE A GO.  He will not continue to speak to someone who will not share it with the church.  Housegroups are a safe place where we are able to make mistakes and not feel stupid.  This is the place to grow in these things.

Before We Give A Prophecy (or “Word”)

If we think that we have a word, here are three things to check before we give it:

  • Am I seeking glory for Jesus or myself?
  • Am I acting out of love? (James 3:17).  Even a rebuke can be given in love.
  • To the best of my knowledge is this biblical?  Be willing to have it tested!

If you are okay on these three things then you can give the word with the right heart and you should go for it.  You can take the risk in the knowledge that God is pleased with your heart, even if you do not get it right.  You will be able to learn if you have the right motivation!  Even if it is not a specific word from God but it meets the above criteria then everyone will benefit!

Guidelines in Giving a Word

These are for people prophesying or be prophesied to/over.

  • Be humble and be prepared that it may be tested (1 Cor 14:29-32).
    Avoid the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” or “The Lord says”, because this gives an impression of unquestionability.  Allow those it is for or those in authority to test it.  I had an experience as a young Christian of someone “prophesying” over me with a word that meant nothing to me and was, quite frankly, wrong.  The person gave the word in such a way as to make it difficult to question and when I did question it they would not back down and told me that I was wrong!  It is better to say “I thought that God might be saying” or “I felt that” or “It occurred to me”.  If it is from God then it does not need dressing up and you don’t look stupid if it was not right!
  • No one should make major decisions based on prophecy alone.
    It may be that you were feeling that God was saying something to you then someone comes and prophesies that same thing over you and it confirms what you thought, or you may be being given the same word from several people independently.  In either of these cases it is time to take notice and act on it.  If, however, someone prophesies that you should marry “X” or you should move to “Bognor” then do not act on it until God has spoken to you directly or through several other people independently.  I have had a very well known and very gifted prophetic person “prophesy” directionally to me and it was almost TOTALLY disastrous because I nearly acted on it and it was wrong!  Always seek confirmation!  Be very careful in giving directional prophesies – that is not to say do not do it (you may be the confirmation that the person was waiting for!) but be careful how you deliver it!
  • Prophecy should never be used to establish doctrine or practice.
    Just because God spoke to you and told you to do something on an occasion, do not then assume that that is they way that it should be done from then on.  The ONLY place from where practice and doctrine are to be established is the bible – specifically the teaching passages and the precedents in the bible.
  • Prophecy should be given in the appropriate place.
    If God speaks to you about someone’s sin then first go to them privately.  If you discuss it with others then you will be guilty of gossip, if you blurt it out in public then you will hurt the person and make it very hard for them to repent. You can control what you say, how much you say and when you say it! (1 Cor 14:32).
  • Submit to those in authority.
    If you really believe that God has spoken to you about something regarding the church.  You must submit it to the leaders and let them act on it.  If you think that they are wrong then pray for them.  You must not then undermine their authority.

What happens in this church?

Prophecy is a powerful gift from God which we are commanded to seek after and use but it is also very open to misuse and abuse and so must be carefully pastored.  In this church I will not allow anyone who is not a member of a housegroup to give a prophecy to the church unless I have first heard it and weighed it up.  I want to encourage prophecy, we desperately need to hear the voice of God today but I also have a responsibility to protect the church.

Often, I may get people who I feel God is teaching in this area out to the front and get them to prophesy over people. This is not a side-show, this is to stretch and train them and to encourage the church.

As I said before, WE DESPERATELY NEED TO HEAR GOD’S VOICE and so if you feel God has or is speaking to you about something talk to the relevant person or to your housegroup leader.