The gospel finds its place in men, women and children to the extent that the Holy Spirit enlivens and plants His written Word in their hearts. He does this in a number of ways. One of those ways is the prophetic word.
True prophecy is the Word of God coming through a human messenger. This is both its potential strength and weakness. Some people say that we should dispense with prophecy because of the potential for false prophecy. But this is like saying we should stop eating because of so many foods that prevent good health.
Even as we learn to distinguish nourishing foods from less nourishing foods, we can learn to discern true prophecy from false, so that prophecy will become an enormous blessing for all.
The truth is, we all need prophetic words. True prophecy sustains and nurtures us. True prophecy gives life, encouragement, warns us of danger, puts us on the right path, and dispels the lies of Satan. True prophecy takes us beyond our own thoughts, renews our minds and transforms our lives.
The prophetic word is prompted by the Spirit of God and is rooted in true revelation (1 Corinthians 14:30). It becomes fallible if the prophet has faulty perceptions and interpretations. But prophecy is one of those gifts that can improve with time and practice as the prophet grows in his walk with God Therefore, we should not despise prophecy, otherwise we stifle the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20).
What are the marks of a true prophetic word from God? How can we distinguish true prophecy from false?
First of all, true prophecy glorifies God and Jesus Christ as the Way, Truth and the Life. True prophecy never contradicts scripture. It draws us into closer relationship with the God of the Bible. It never rationalizes with sin. It encourages greater trust in God and His ways. It promotes unity and love in the body of Christ. It humbles us before God and before one another. It edifies, encourages and brings hope. All these things are present with true prophecy.
God wants to communicate with His children. What a miracle that He chooses to do so through flawed people! I have personally benefited from prophetic words, and I know from experience the blessing that true prophecy can be.
At the same time, I know of those who masquerade as prophets for the sake of personal gain. Such people can do great harm as they spread lies in the name of God for the sake of recognition and attention. Beware the so-called “prophet of God” who is popular with the masses!
The truth is, a true prophet will not often be loved by others because he loves God more than life itself. A true prophet does not seek popularity. His word will oppose the world, so the world will hate him. The only people who love the true prophet are those who hunger after God and His truth. When they hear the truth coming through God’s human messenger, they are set free.
We must fulfill the Great Commission by every means the Holy Spirit gives to us. True prophecy expands the body of Christ as it applies the written Word to life and ministry. The completion of the Great Commission depends upon its wise use among the people of God and those whose hearts He is preparing to receive His truth. May we seek this gift and use it wisely for His glory.