Prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1) is a spoken message (1 Corinthians 14:32) in human words, usually made to the gathered believers, based on a spontaneous, personal revelation from the Holy Spirit for the purpose of edification, encouragement, consolation, conviction or guidance, but not necessarily free from a mixture of human error, and thus needing assessment on the basis of the apostolic (Biblical) teaching and mature spiritual wisdom. (John Piper – adapted.)
• Prophecy is God’s mouthpiece to the Church.
• Prophecy has nothing to do with human reasoning or intellect and is not born in the mind of man by studying the Bible or good books.
• Prophecy is born of God and is relayed through the Spirit to the believer and thus to the Church.
• Prophecy is a divinely inspired word that is spoken, not read. Prophecy is extemporaneous which means that it is an immediate, “at that moment” declaration under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit rather than a “word” that is prepared beforehand. Although the seeds of that which is spoken “in the moment” may have been in our hearts for sometime, that which is prophesied (as prophecy) is what flows forth at the time.
• Prophecy is a divinely inspired supernatural utterance in a known tongue.
• The Greek word for prophecy implies “to speak for another.” When we prophesy, we speak for God.
• All believers are encouraged to covet and to earnestly desire to prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1,5,24,31)
• Prophecy is often the “key” or the first step into exercising other Gifts of the Spirit.
• Not everyone who prophesies is a prophet. (1 Corinthians 12:29)
Difference between Prophecy and a Prophet
• Prophecy is a message from God to the Church through a prophet or any member of the redeemed community. A Prophet is a messenger set by God in the Church.
• All can prophesy, (1 Corinthians 14:1,5,24,31) but not everyone has the mantle/anointing or the office of a prophet. (1 Corinthians 12:29)
• Prophecy is both foretelling and forthtelling – Foretelling is directional, futuristic and revelatory. – Forthtelling is bringing forth a message from God. All who prophesy are involved in forthtelling while foretelling is generally the domain of the prophet.
• The Gift of Prophecy is for building up (edification, exhortation and comfort) whereas the ministry of a prophet can involve correction and re-direction. The ministry of a Prophet will usually be seen in a greater “depth” or “level” of prophetic ministry.
The Purpose of Prophecy
• Edification – to build up or to develop spiritually, strengthening, charging (like a battery) with spiritual power.
• Exhortation – encouragement, a calling near, an urging, a warning accompanied by grace.
• Comfort – consolation, reassurance, support. • To convict and to convince – to convict the unbeliever of his sin and his need for God – to make manifest the secrets of his heart (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
• Instruction and Learning – “interpreting the divine will and purpose of God, so that all may be instructed, stimulated and encouraged”. (1 Corinthians 14:31, Amplified Bible)
Exercising the Gift of Prophecy
• As in the exercise of all of the Gifts of the Spirit – move in love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:1).
• Eagerly desire to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1, 39). Anyone who is born again and baptised in the Holy Spirit can prophesy.
• The Gift of Prophecy is received through: – an inner voice – a flow of thoughts, impressions – an audible voice – an angelic visitation – dreams and visions or seeing something with your spiritual eyes
• The words or visions for a prophecy are most likely to come in an atmosphere of prayer and adoration (Acts 13:2). In a meeting situation, this often occurs in the time of worship.
• Prophecy may be uttered loudly or quietly and can be ministered by word, by song, prose or demonstrative acts (Acts 21:10-11) or any combination of these.
• You may sense an anointing for prophetic utterance: – a witness of the Spirit in one’s own heart – a quickening that urges you to speak
• Having received an anointing for prophecy, wait for the right time to bring it forth. The prophecy may be for a later time. (NB. 1 Corinthians 14:32; John 14:26)
• The one prophesying should always be fully in control of himself. Too much emotion can be counter-productive.
• You may only be given the first few words and may not know how it will continue or end. Speak these out in faith. The first few words are like a stopper in a bottle. Once they are out, the rest will follow. (Like a box of tissues – pull out the first one and the next is right there)
• You may not have words but may simply sense a burden or see a picture in your mind’s eye. What you see can be formed into a prophetic word or you can describe the picture that you have seen or that you are seeing at that moment.
• Don’t be surprised if the prophecy is brief. Long prophecies are not an evidence of a mature gift.
(Haggai 1:13 e.g.)
• Beware of carrying on in the flesh once the anointing has lifted. Stop immediately the anointing ceases even if it seems that things are left in the air. It may be that God has said all that is to be said or that someone else will carry on where you left off. 1 Corinthians 14:30)
• It is not necessary to “introduce” the prophetic word in a set manner (e.g. “Thus saith the Lord …”). Allow and expect variety. In some situations, you can simply say, “I believe that God is saying …”
• Often, prophecies will be full of biblical language and scriptures. The book of Revelation is a prophecy containing over 400 Old Testament references.
• It is not necessary to prophesy in King James English!! However, if we have filled our heads and hearts with the K.J.V. language and we have become accustomed to hearing God speak in that way, it will not be surprising if the Holy Spirit causes you to recall the Word of God in K.J.V. English.
• Prophecy should be given in our natural voice – that is, there is no need for affectation or for “the religious monologue” or the “stained-glass voice”!
• If you are visiting another church, either refrain from speaking or seek approval from the leadership before speaking forth.
• The exercise of the gift of Prophecy is normally for when people “gather together”, either in larger congregational meetings or in smaller home group settings etc..
What will be expected of a Gift of Prophecy?
• It will be a unique, extemporaneous utterance. – unique in that it fulfils a role that preaching does not fulfil. – extemporaneous in that it will not depend on prior preparation in the same manner as a sermon. (It will have its own kind of heart preparation.)
• It will be a convincing utterance. – It will have the “mark of God” upon it. There will be an evidence of “Thus saith the Lord” even if that phrase is not used.
• It will be under the authority of the written Word. The scriptural scope of prophecy is “edification, exhortation and comfort.” It will not contradict Scripture but will line up with Scripture.
• It will be under the authority of the church leadership. God will not by-pass those He has set in the Church. We obey Him when we obey them. The moment gifts are used for personal ends, personal opinions or agendas, then disorder and confusion will follow.
• It will inspire faith and trust.
• It will bring an heightened awareness of the presence of God.
• It will encourage, confirm and strengthen, graciously guide and add a prophetic balance to the preaching and teaching of the written Word.
• It will confirm those who minister the Word of God.
• It will equate with the character of the person who prophesies (Matthew 7:16-20).
Some practical points that govern prophesying in the Assembly
• Refrain from scolding, lecturing or whipping people through prophecy. This also applies to negative, harsh or judgmental prophesying.
• Avoid prophesying your pet doctrines and favourite emphases.
• Avoid the temptation to give out “personal counselling” to some need of which you happen to be aware.
• Avoid correcting the leadership through prophecy.
• Avoid introducing a brand new direction into the service through prophecy.
• Avoid “preaching” for extended periods while prophesying by elaborating or expanding on the message after the anointing lifts.
• Refrain from redundant or repetitive prophecies. When the mind of God has been clearly communicated through several messages already, do not jump in and repeat what has already been given. Let what has already been brought remain clear, concise and powerful. The force of prophecy is dissolved through wordiness.
• Stay in the tune and tenor of the meeting. Do not go cross-current or against the current. This frustrates and obstructs the message the Lord wants spoken. If a conflict develops and two or more separated veins are flowing, then the leadership must be responsible for coming in and directing the meeting as they feel the Holy Spirit is leading.
• Refrain from yelling, screaming, whining or other extremes in voice or manner. The ideal is to speak inspirationally, but observing all the common laws of communication (good grammar, pronunciation, tone, etc.).. This is simply a part of doing “all things decently and in order.”
• Refrain from injecting self and personal problems into your prophecy – moods, pressures or circumstances, empty heartedness, anger, irritation, hastiness, opinions, etc.. It is important to have any negative elements purged from your own heart. Avoid speaking on issues where you know you still have negative emotional involvement.
• Refrain from speaking if you have an unclear or obscure message. If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, it produces confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33; 14:4-12).
• Stick to the Word. This is especially true for beginners. “Do not swim out too far from shore until you are sure your vessel is itself well-established.” The Spirit Himself seems to somewhat confine beginners to prophesying the written Word itself with very few other comments. Related to this is the principle of staying within your measure of faith.
• Does the character of the person prophesying bear witness to the gift? (Matthew 7:16-20) Personal character is the “standard” for the operation of a spiritual gift.
• Does it glorify Christ? (John 16:14; Revelation 19:10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3). If it glorifies anything or anybody but Christ, it is not right.
• Does it line up with the Bible? The Spirit of God will not contradict Himself. The Word and the Spirit agree. If it doesn’t agree with the Word of God, it is not right.
• Are their prophecies fulfilled? This is more in the realm of a prophet’s ministry – bearing in mind that sometimes prophecies can take many years to be fulfilled. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
• Does the prophecy produce liberty or bondage? (Romans 8:15; Deuteronomy 13:1-50)
• Is there a witness in our spirit to the prophecy? (John 16:13; 1 John 2:20 and 27)
For a prophecy to be accepted as valid it should find an echo in the hearts of spiritually mature people. It should be confirmed by biblically saturated insight. And it should find a resonance in the hearts and minds of those who have the mind of Christ and are ruled by His peace. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; Colossians 1:9; 3:15; Ephesians 5:15-17; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 1:9-10). (John Piper)