Spiritual Gifts – Prophecy
The gift of prophecy appears in all three of Paul’s major lists of spiritual gifts. The gift operates differently in each list even though the same term is used. (See my other articles on Manifestation, Motivational and Ministry gifts).
Prophecy, in its simplest definition, is to hear the specific message of the Lord for a particular gathering, and then to speak it out. Unlike the words of wisdom and knowledge, prophecy is given to a corporate gathering and is usually less related to an individual.
We see this gift expressed in all its splendour in the Old Testament prophets. In the Old Testament the role of the prophets was to stand against both the priests and the kings to provide a brake on abuses of power and to remind the nation of its calling to serve only the Lord.
In the New Testament, prophets are an accepted ministry in the church, and the expression of prophecy a normal part of church meetings. The role of prophecy in the New Testament was to “exhort, encourage and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). This suggests that the overall tone of prophecy is to be positive, building up rather than condemning, although there may sometimes be a place for prophecy that convicts or warns about hidden sins.
Prophecy was never accepted as “the word of the Lord” and should never be treated as such. It must always be tested (1Thessalomians 5:21), but not in such a way as to quench the Spirit or disrespect the gift (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Any “prophecy” that contradicts Scripture is not from the Lord.
Prophecy is not a sermon. Three is a place in the meeting for both teaching and prophecy. However, prophecy, like all gifts, needs to be administered by the church in a way that encourages order in the meeting but also spontaneous expressions of the desire of the Holy Spirit. Generally it is not helpful for people to randomly leap to their feet and declare “Thus says the Lord.” This is the issue being addressed by Paul in1 Corinthians 14.
Many churches, including New Life, have a prophetic protocol for their meetings. Often these involve writing down the words you believe the Lord is saying to the church and handing it to the pastor or the person leading the meeting. They are then at liberty to see if it is appropriate to read out the prophecy to the congregation or perhaps leave it until some other occasion. Usually in any congregation, people who have a good record of speaking genuine messages from the Holy Spirit are given more liberty than other, less trusted, believers.
Prophecy should never be used to direct another person into a specific course of action, for example, in marriage or career choices.
So how do we step forward in the gift of prophecy? We are told that we should seek all of the spiritual gifts but especially prophecy. “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Since these manifestation gifts are given for all believers to use, we should ask that God pours them out into our lives.
If you feel that God is saying something to you regarding the church, or an individual for that matter, write it down. Take it to your pastor or other trusted leader and ask for their advice. Ask them also to tell you about how the church handles the gift of prophecy.
As a matter of wisdom, it is far better to say, “I think God is saying…” rather than “Thus saith the Lord!” Humility in the use of any spiritual gift is far more effective than loud arrogance.
Above all, remember that all the gifts are valuable, and all the gifts are best used in the context of the Body where everyone is working together in the anointing of the Holy Spirit..