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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Then How Can They Be Tested?

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If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Then How Can They Be Tested?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 13

If the gift of prophecy is to be exercised in the church today, as some claim, then believers must have guidelines to determine whether or not a particular prophetic utterance has come from God. How can these words be tested? The Bible has the following things to say about this subject.

Prophecies Must Conform to God’s Word

The first thing that prophetic utterances should be tested by is the revealed Word of God. Is the prophecy in harmony with Scripture? The Apostle John encourages us to test the prophets. He wrote the following.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1 NKJV).

It is clear that any alleged prophetic teaching that contradicts what God has previously revealed demonstrates itself to be from another source.

Thus, a prophetic utterance must first be in harmony with what God has previously revealed. The Bible says to be on guard against false prophecies.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8 ESV).

The words given must conform to what God has revealed.

The Prophecies Must Testify to Jesus

The second test is similar to the first. The Scripture is clear that prophecy should reveal truth about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. John wrote.

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. For I am a servant of God, just like you and other brothers and sisters who testify of their faith in Jesus. Worship God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus” (Revelation 19:10 NLT).

Jesus is the theme of all Bible prophecy.

Some People Were Cursing Christ with Their Prophecies

It seems that some were prophesying at Corinth and cursing Christ in the name of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote.

So I want you to know how to discern what is truly from God: No one speaking by the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one is able to say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3 NLT).

The Holy Spirit does not lead a prophet to curse Christ.

The Content of a Prophecy Is Crucial

The content of the prophet’s message is crucial. John again wrote.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:2, 3 NASB).

Prophetic utterances should magnify Jesus Christ and Him alone. If the one giving the prophecy denies that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, then that person is a false prophet. Thus, the way the prophets view Jesus’ character and teaching is another test that can be applied.

There Must Be Moral Consistency with the Prophet

There is also a moral test that the prophet must pass. Is the person giving the prophecy exhibiting moral character consistent with his office? Jesus warned of these false prophets.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15, 16 ESV).

The fruit that people exhibit is the fruit of their doctrine and the fruit of their lives. Both of these must be in harmony with God’s Word. Does the prophet live a life glorifying to God? Are they in submission to the authority to God’s Word? Those who do not conform to God’s standards should not be regarded as genuine prophets.

Paul wrote about the proper lifestyle of those who minister.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

The prophet must live a consistent life.

Meeting These Criteria Does Not Necessarily Mean a Supernatural Message

If, however, someone meets all these criteria, are we to assume that their message is supernaturally given? Not necessarily. Apart from false prophecy, there are other types of messages that may seem worthy, but are not sent directly from God. Someone can meet all these criteria and give a message believing that it was from God, yet the source can be that professed prophet’s own personality and thoughts.

The People Are to Judge the Prophecy

The ones who are to judge whether a prophecy is God-given are the people in that particular assembly where the prophecy is uttered.

Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said (1 Corinthians 14:29 NLT)

The prophecies should not be spoken without the people commenting upon them. The basis of their judgment is a supernaturally given discernment by God.

Prophecies Should Be Allowed, but Tested

The Bible says that prophetic utterances should be allowed in the churches. Paul wrote the following to the Thessalonians.

Do not scoff at prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20 NLT).

Prophecies should not be despised. In other words, they should be allowed.

Yet these prophecies should always be tested. Paul emphasized.

But test everything; hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NRSV).

The Bible says that we should hold on to the good.

These Are the Criteria the New Testament Gives

These criteria are what the New Testament sets for testing a prophetic message. The tests have not changed over time. Any prophetic message today has to be evaluated according to the biblical rules – there are no exceptions.

The Gift of Prophecy May Not Exist Today

However, we must note that it is not certain that the gift of prophecy is still meant to be exercised in the church today. There are many believers who think the New Testament teaches that prophecy was only a temporary gift for the church. Now that divine revelation is completed, and the Scriptures are written, there is no more need for the prophetic gift. This being the case, there is no need to test prophetic utterances because God is not speaking His infallible truth through prophets today.

Summary – Question 13
If There Are Modern-day Prophetic Utterances, Then How Can They Be Tested?

Christians are divided as to whether God is still giving the gift of prophecy to the church. If the gift still exists, then there are certain tests that should be applied to modern-day prophetic messages. They include the following.

A prophet’s message must not contradict anything God has previously revealed. This is primary. The God of the Bible does not contradict Himself. Thus, He will not say something today which contradicts that which He has earlier stated.

Furthermore, any prophetic message that is given must exalt the Person of Jesus Christ. Unless the prophetic word exalts Christ it is worthless.

A prophet’s life must be consistent with the prophecy he or she gives. In other words, they must practice what they preach.

Because someone meets these above criteria does not necessarily mean that the message is from God. Indeed, with the best of intentions, someone can speak what they believe to be a prophetic word when, in actuality, it is nothing more than their own human words.

Finally, it is the leaders of each particular assembly of believers which should be the ones who make the determination. Prophecies should be tested, and if they hold true, they should not be despised.

We must, however, note that there is the view that the gift of prophecy, as found in the New Testament, is no longer functioning in the church. It was given for a specific time to fulfill a specific purpose. Since the purpose has now been fulfilled the gift has been withdrawn. Thus, there is no such thing as prophetic utterances today.

Is the Gift of Prophecy Still Available for the Church? ← Prior Section
If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Should They Be Given The Same Authority As Scripture? Next Section →
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