The gifts of the Spirit are being poured out in increasing measure and many prophetic voices are emerging to share what they sense the Lord is saying. Even as we rejoice in this, we should also be seeking to become people of prophetic accuracy and revelatory depth. There are many gifts of the Spirit which are in operation and as we learn the specific purpose of each one, we will be able to more clearly define what is “prophetic” and what is not.
Any true prophetic word will…
- …have an element of revelation as well as future implication (1 Corinthians 14:6; Ephesians 3:3-4).
- … reveal a mystery or hidden truth of the kingdom (I Corinthians 13:2; 14:24).
- … be fueled by the inspiration of the Spirit and not the skill of man (2 Peter 1:21).
- … be clear of man’s added thoughts or interpretations (2 Peter 1:20).
- …carry some instruction and encouragement (1 Corinthians 14:31).
- … manifest and bear fruit (1 Corinthians 14:3-5; 22; 2 Thessalonians 2:2).
Sometimes, words are given as prophecy when they are actually words of WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE or FAITH:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB).
When a word of wisdom is given, people will be given clarity in their situation as mysteries are solved and pieces to the puzzle are given. God’s heart is revealed in a way to bring fullness of purpose. When a word of knowledge is shared, it is a specific FACT about another person’s life that can ONLY be known through the power of the Spirit. The purpose of this gift is to open up people’s hearts and increase their faith in order to receive more from the Lord. It acts like a conversation opener to get to the ultimate purpose of sharing the hope of the gospel with someone. Though both of these gifts are powerful, they are not prophetic.
The gift of faith can often be mistaken as being prophetic because of the reality of feeling God’s heart for the impossible. When Faith is present, anything is possible! By speaking FAITH to someone, there is actually an impartation for the impossible and an increased measure of God’s love and hope. The human temptation is to ADD to that faith by suggesting HOW God will reveal Himself to someone (i.e. “You’re going to have a baby!” instead of “God says that He is the God of the impossible and He releases to you now an increased faith for your dreams to be fulfilled!”) Romans 12:6 says that “…if a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” Though faith is foundational to sound prophetic words, it is not to be confused with a specific directive that a word of prophecy would have.
There are also those who operate in the gift of encouragement/exhortation (“…we have different gifts, according to the grace given us….if it is encouraging, let him encourage. Romans 12:5, 8). This, too, is a gift of the Spirit! When believers share words as Exhorters or Encouragers, they offer encouragement, hope and always look at the bright side of things! This is their gift – to lift up and edify others. The purpose of these words is to see things as Jesus does and offer hope for the future. Though this is certainly needed in the body of Christ today, we can’t afford to simply lump all these words into the “prophetic” pile. There must be a pressing in for even greater specificity when sharing God’s heart to grow in strategic intercession and prophetic accuracy.
Why is this important? Why is it important to distinguish what the Spirit is doing?
In past years, the prophetic arm of the Church has gotten a bad reputation for being inaccurate, misleading and self-absorbed. Due to the lack of accountability and a willingness to examine the fruit over the long haul, many streams of the contemporary Church don’t trust anything or anyone “prophetic”. This means we need to be more intentional in building trust in the prophetic words that are shared by operating in integrity, sound biblical theology and in accountable relationships with others. We need to be willing to ask the hard questions and look back over previous words to see if they were fulfilled. What’s the testimony? What’s the fruit?
It’s not just the prophetic words that need to be examined, but the prophetic vessels, as well. We are now living in the days when false prophets are abounding. These are not prophets who get wrong words. These are misguided prophets who prophesy out of a wrong spirit – for the wrong reasons (read the story of Balaam in Numbers 22). One of the primary reasons for this is our human tendency towards words that appeal to our flesh – usually promising promotion, validation, or increased reputation. If we are not secure in our identity, we look to “prophetic promises” that guarantee our success and vilification. This can be dangerous if we camp out on these promises and forsake taking up our cross daily.
We must be willing to test the validity and integrity of the vessel that is speaking the word. As you can imagine, this can be extremely challenging over Facebook. Just because someone “likes” a word that is posted has very little to do with its accuracy or validity. It may sound good, but I urge you brothers and sisters to TEST it and EVALUATE it over the long haul. If it does not bear fruit and draw you or others closer to the heart and will of God – run from it! Anyone can post an encouragement and “declare” something over you. That does not make them a prophet! So they have followers online – does anyone follow them at home? What’s their reputation with those closest to them? What’s their track record for prophetic accuracy? This is not nit-picking. It’s biblical protocol.
Personally, I have to test myself on a consistent basis. I have to continually fight the temptation to build a “following” online and thus contrive something that will garner more shares. If I have not died to myself and my reputation, I can easily fall prey to the allure of social promotion and a counterfeit ministry that goes nowhere. I determined recently that I value being known in heavenly places more than I value being known online. It’s worth my earthly reputation to get my heavenly reward.
I appeal to you as prophetic vessels. We desperately need prophetic voices today that are accurate, revelatory, timely, and carry the authority of heaven. We need to press in for greater intimacy with the Lord, getting ever closer to His heart and His throne where the fullness of His Truth, Revelation and Glory are to be seen. We need to expect greater mysteries to be revealed and more specific directives to unfold that will demonstrate the absolute authority and integrity of God’s plans. We need to evaluate our words for greater fruitfulness and effectiveness in bringing heaven to earth. We need to embrace one another’s gifts and strengths and encourage one another to go higher!
God is calling forth a powerful prophetic company that can move heaven, not just move people. We have the opportunity to change history by partnering with the Holy Spirit in the tools He has given us. Let’s see just how far God wants to take us as we press in for more.