How clearly does the voice of prophecy resound today? Are prophets still listening to God and speaking His prophetic truth in our generation? Has their voice diminished or is it strong? Prophets throughout the ages have been mocked, ridiculed, crucified and burned. Few people, if any, stand in line saying, “Pick me, Lord! Pick me to prophesy!”
Just before Stephen was stoned to death, he asked,
“Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? . . .”
Of all the spiritual gifts, why does prophecy get such a bad wrap? Undoubtedly, there is a lethargy toward spiritual gifts, an absence of mature mentors and misguided notions of prophecy. All, perhaps, put this beautiful and important gift in dim light.
Yet, prophecy remains among the gifts God gives to the church.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them . . . To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Six times Paul states that the gifts are given by the Spirit “as he determines,” including the voice of prophecy.
Gifts of Love
‘Charisma’ (singular) or ‘charismata’ (plural), commonly translated as gifts, means ‘gift of God’s love.‘ God beautifully lavishes His church with gifts of His love. Another word, ‘phanerosis,’ we also find translated as gift, means manifestation.
For the church to experience God’s love, His gifts must be seen and known. Without the gifts, His love remains hidden, not just from the church, but from the entire world.
The gift of prophecy encourages believers while convicting those who neither know nor acknowledge God.
“. . . prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers . . . But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted . . .”
1 Corinthians 14:22-25
The voice of prophecy bridges the gap between those inside and outside the church. Both declare, “God is really among you!”
“. . . they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'”
1 Corinthians 14:24-25
Honestly, I’ve approached the prophetic praying the secrets of my heart would forever remain hidden. Nonetheless, the unveiling of the heart draws one closer to our loving Father. Whatever God exposes, He redeems!
The Voice of Prophecy
When Jesus, the perfect Prophet, met the woman at the well and told her everything she ever did, worship was her predictable response.
“. . . You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jesus spoke to her privately, honoring and elevating her to a place of dignity while exposing the real pain and giving her the hope of an intimate relationship with God.
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24
One prophetic word brought a woman out of a hopeless situation and an entire town into knowing Jesus the Messiah.
The honest voice of prophecy encourages those who hear and points them not to the prophet but to God. Prophets precisely tune their ears to hear God’s voice and focus their sight to heavenly realms to accurately relay what they hear and see to others.
“But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”
1 Corinthians 14:3
Although most prophecy adheres to this principle, not all. One doesn’t have to read the Bible long before realizing that the voice of prophecy often brought necessary correction from their loving Father.
Earthly fathers who refuse to correct when necessary, harm those entrusted to them. Every loving father, including our Heavenly Father, loves enough to speak correction. He invites the listener to strength, courage and comfort.
Paul commands his listeners to covet and zealously pursues prophecy.
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy . . .”
1 Corinthians 14:39
Why such a strong admonishment? Why does he encourage everyone to prophesy?
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
1 Corinthians 14:1
What is it about the voice of prophecy that brings substantial “strengthening, encouragement and comfort?”
Whenever I have prophesied over others or God has spoken to me through a prophet, the awareness that God knows, sees and loves, even in the midst of personal messiness, inspires greater faith and trust, motivating to godly purpose and calling. Why?
“. . . the one who prophesies edifies the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:4
For this reason, the voice of prophecy must be tested to ensure it agrees with the heart of God and the Word of Scripture, the Bible.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20
The scrutinizing of the voice of prophecy ensures the purity of the word spoken. When God gives His gifts, it is the recipient’s responsibility to exercise and develop those gifts to reach their fullest potential and greatest benefit to His Kingdom.
The prophet requires a safe and loving atmosphere to hone the prophetic gift. Godly prophetic mentors, solid in the faith and established in the Word guide the maturing process.
We often see groups of prophets hanging out together in the Old Testament. For good reason! Here they developed, became accountable and grew in their gift (2 Kgs 6:1). Elisha followed Elijah, learning and growing in his gift. The disciples followed Jesus, watching and training as prophets.
The Prophetic Office
Testing the voice of prophecy is especially essential in regard to the office of the prophet. Few prophets mature to a recognized place of holding the position, or ministry, of a prophet, which is different than operating in the prophetic gift.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Many people today create business cards identifying themselves as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. How God labels a ministry matters far more.
Though many operate in the gifting found within the five-fold ministry, few hold the true spiritual office of that position. One of the frustrating aspects of any ministry is being pigeon-holed under a title, not God-given — frustrating for the individual and for the people under his or her ministry.
Avoiding man-made labels and maintaining a humble, godly attitude ensures the free-flow of the gifts God gives. He calls each of us to pursue spiritual gifts, test and hone them, then use them for His Kingdom purposes.
Prophets and prophetesses boldly arise! May your senses be open to perceive the currents of heaven releasing the prophetic voice once again for the “strengthening, encouraging and comfort” of all.