Prophetable and Profitable
We have had various discussions about the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Martin Top. We’re an odd church. We’re made up of moderate Pentecostals as well as reformed cessationists. Nevertheless, I wish to give some thought to prophecy and prophesying.
In 1996, I attended a youth event at Fulwood Free Methodist Church. It was a weekend led by an extrovert Assemblies of God Pastor called Andy (I cannot remember his surname). He spent much of the weekend ‘prophesying’. By this I mean passing on messages apparently from God to individuals in the congregation. He said something in his sermon which I felt was wrong; so I went up to see him afterwards to ask him for clarification. During this conversation, the urge to prophecy came over him, and he told me I would be a preacher, preach prophetically, and from a large old fashioned wooden pulpit. Well three years later I did indeed start preaching, some tell me that God has spoken to them through me, and my first and so far only pastorate involves walking up wooden steps that allow me to peer down from a height at my congregation. So does this prove him a prophet?
Back in 1996 also, I attended a Kay’s Farm meeting, during which the speaker, a Mr Alan Smith from Kent, prophesied I would deliver ‘the prophetic word’. Was he a prophet?
Well it depends what we mean by prophet. As an office, I believe its time has been and gone. The office of Prophet, like that of Agabus or any in the Old Testament, implies they were recognised men and women through whom God regularly spoke. God speaks to me through the Bible, something that did not exist in its present form prior to 95AD. I also believe that the New Testament prophet was different to the Old Testament prophet. They could declare no new doctrines- the revealing of doctrinal truth was entrusted to the apostles. The office of prophet was therefore already diminished by the time of the early church.
I do, however, believe in the verb to prophesy. I think it simply means to speak God’s will, purpose or judgement to a person, persons or people. I believe this happens through preaching the Bible. How many times have we heard preaching and heard God speak to us or address an issue in our life? I believe this is prophesying. When you share the good news of Jesus with your friends and neighbours, I believe you are prophesying to them- God is either revealing His truth to them, or you are pronouncing His judgement on them for rejecting it.
The Elizabethan puritans called their preaching days away from regular Sunday services ‘prophesyings’. It was in defence of them that the great Archbishop Grindall was deprived of his office by Queen Elizabeth I. In other words, they believed that mere unfettered exposition of God’s word was a prophetic event, and I’m in partial agreement with them.
In 1 Timothy 2:12, however, Paul seems to forbid women from teaching men, whist elsewhere allowing them to prophesy, which Phillip’s daughters do in Acts 21 and Corinthian women do, albeit with their heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:5). This leads me to believe that teaching and prophesying are sometimes different things. I know I do not speak on behalf of everyone in the church, but I believe we had several prophesyings take place on Sunday morning. We have begun having times of open prayer in our services during which folk will read a passage of scripture that the Lord has laid on their heart. How I have been blessed by those words! Surely the voice of God did speak unto us!
If you wanted me to pronounce all things prophetic as dead and buried, you’ll find my words a disappointment. Likewise, if you claim to be a prophet, moved by the Spirit to reveal God’s truth outside of the Bible, you’ll find yourself unemployed in my scheme of things. But if you share scriptural truth and faithfully become God’s conduit through whom His written word is made known, I believe you may indeed prophesy:
Ezekiel 37:4: “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’”
Luke 21:15: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Psalm 51:15: O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall show forth your praise.