Article by the Late Pastor Walt Healy "Holy Spirit - The Gift and Promise."
HOLY SPIRIT - THE GIFT AND PROMISE
Holy Spirit has an unchanging mission throughout human history—to bear testimony to the revealed truth of God by open demonstration of supernatural power.
He is central to the working out of the plan and provision of God for all men. He worked mightily in the prophets of old, and even more mightily in New Testament ministries such as Peter’s and Paul’s. Jesus spoke of this coming work of the Holy Spirit to be given after His resurrection.
John 7:37-39 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The gift could not be given while Jesus was still on the earth. He would first have to be received in heaven and enter into His glory. Certainly the Holy Spirit was already present, but Jesus was pointing to an obvious distinction between the then current ministry presence of the Holy Spirit and what Jesus would send as The Gift and The Promise.
It should be noted that Holy Spirit has a dual presence in believers. Scripture teaches that He is within every believer and He is “upon” those who are “baptized in the Holy Spirit”. The distinction is that He is in every born again child of God to mature the character of Christ and also will come upon those who seek and receive by faith His empowerment to mature the ministry of Christ through us.
Calling on God to save us and accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord brings Holy Spirit into our “hearts”, our innermost being. Asking Jesus to baptize (immerse) us in the Holy Spirit is what releases power or ability from heaven to do the work assigned to us by God.
Thus, it is possible to be a church-going believer but not be baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 8 we see that those believers who had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit were prayed over and the Holy Spirit who was already in them also came upon them.
There are key features to be aware of in the vast difference of Holy Spirit’s presence and ministry before Jesus ascended and after He ascended. When He returned to heaven, He birthed the church and a new day of grace was opened. Thereafter:
- The gift of the Holy Spirit is personal. He is not an influence on your life; not a manifestation in your life. He is a distinct Person of the Godhead who seeks to come to each individual in a personal way. The new birth is the reception of the distinct Second Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinctly the reception of the Third Person. (Since Jesus is the baptizer here, one needs Him first.) These are each specific transactions between a person and God.
- The gift of the Holy Spirit is indwelling. Before Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit would sometimes come ‘upon’ them and ‘move’ them but He was always a visitor. Since Jesus ascended, Holy Spirit comes to dwell within and to exercise control of the entire personality from that position which is described in Scripture as the heart.
- The gift is permanent. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would abide with them forever.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit couldn’t be given for two reasons. First, while Christ was here He was the personal representative of the Godhead. Only when Jesus left earth, would Holy Spirit replace Him as the personal representative of the Godhead. Second, the gift, and therefore the claim to the Holy Spirit, rests upon Christ’s death and resurrection. It is not a gift given on merit, but solely on the basis of the atonement, the saving work of Jesus finished on earth and consummated in heaven.
Gal. 3:13-14 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Christ’s redemptive purpose was so that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us, that blessing being that we might receive “the promise of the spirit through faith.” Take note of these vital facts brought out in this passage:
- It is only by redemption. Jesus purchased us, having secured the legal right to bestow the Spirit. It is by faith and therefore of grace and not by works or personal merit. We simply believe in what He has done.
- It is by promise. The promise is to you!
- Lk. 24:49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of
- Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
- Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The promise and the blessing of Abraham are linked in Galatians as one. Recall in Gen. 15, God made a covenant with Abraham. That covenant was sealed by the blood of animals and its follow-up was Ishmael, son of Abraham’s flesh. But in Gen. 17, God speaks of an everlasting covenant and seals it with the blood of a man by circumcision. Its follow-up was Isaac, son of God’s promise.
The original covenant was not identified by any particular time period, while the second was everlasting. The first covenant was to Abram while the second was to Abraham, a name change God made by inserting the Hebrew letter ‘heh’ (the breath) into the center of Abram’s being.
The promise was to the seed of Abraham. Paul explained that this was specifically Christ who died on a cross. The cross alone, however, did not, in and of itself, consummate God’s redemptive act. It is true that the Lord had provided Himself, a lamb for the sacrifice. It is true that the Lamb of God was enough. It is true that in the shedding of blood there is remission of sins, complete forgiveness... but the blood has to be applied.
Heb. 9:11-12 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Heb. 12:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
This is the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus’ blood must be sprinkled. Abel’s blood was left on earth. Christ’s entered into heaven. Abel’s blood cries out for vengeance; Christ’s for pardon. The Holy Spirit could not be given until this blood was sprinkled. He does not come due to your merit. He is given on the basis of Christ’s perfect redemption. Thereafter, the Holy Spirit is given as God’s personal testimony that court is out and man is freed by the blood. The giving of the Holy Spirit is the joint testimony of Father and Son that you are clean forever.
Christ purchased your redemption, your salvation, on earth through His death and resurrection. He then ascended to heaven, presented His blood, received the promise of the Spirit and as Peter says,
Acts 2:33 “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.”
Thus, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all instrumental in this greatest of all gifts starting on the Day of Pentecost. From God’s point of view, “It is finished.” Every man who will ask can receive this gift. That is called grace.
Let’s remember Gal. 3:14, ‘through faith’ we receive the promise of the Spirit.
Gal. 3:2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Gal. 3:5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
These verses underscore that it is never our works of human effort that receives from God; it is always simply believing by faith. That’s the reception of grace. However, faith can never be seen apart from obedience. This applies to receiving the Holy Spirit and to all that is of grace. In other words, if it is tied to redemption, it is automatically by grace through faith.
Acts 5:32 “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
These are important things scripture introduces as needed for reception of the Holy Spirit. From Acts 2:38, first of all, repent; second, be baptized.
The third is from John 7:37-39, already quoted, “If any man thirst, let him drink.” (Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.”) The point is, if you don’t thirst for the Holy Spirit you won’t drink. Drinking is voluntarily internalizing a thing. In other words, the ‘good’ person who is sound in all his doings but who doesn’t drink won’t receive this gift. On the other hand, the unsound person who does thirst for this gift can receive it. You may think that isn’t fair but grace can only come through faith.
From Luke 11:13, ask. It is an obligation to do so. The attitude, ‘God knows where I live; if He wants to save me, He is bigger than I am’ is wrong.
In John. 7:37 we saw drinking. Now, fifth is receiving. To drink is to satisfy thirst. I am satisfied when I drink but I get thirsty again and therefore drink again. The verb tense of Ephesians 5:18, “be filled with the Spirit,” is continuous present tense, which equates to ‘be being filled’ at all times. Thus, we are to be receiving regularly.
Finally, according to Romans 6:13, is yielding. Surrender yourselves and your bodily members. This is total and unconditional. It is one thing to submit the will and another to give over the body. It is one thing to submit to God in rational service and another to offer one’s body. This surrender is progressive, starting as an act of will in fully yielded to the service of God, and then growing in that attitude of surrender until our body and its members is a testimony to the good, more acceptable, and perfect will of God. Thus, we must ‘be being filled with the Holy Spirit.’
Some, indeed, receive the gift without following these steps. They are under the sovereign hand of God. However, if the sovereignty of God has not done this in your life, the obedience of faith will. Romans 4:16 says the promise is guaranteed through faith. I urge you then, to submit today to the desire of the Lord to pour out this gift. Repent, be baptized, drink, ask, receive, and yield.
HEARING FROM GOD
1- Take time to dwell in God's presence. Scheduling a certain time each day helps us get into the habit of spending time with Him.
2- Spend a portion of the scheduled time with the Lord in worship; singing or speaking praises, reading the Psalms, unto Him.
3- Ask the Lord to speak to you, and tell Him you are listening. Get quiet and listen for His voice. Practice staying quiet for a longer period each day. You'll be surprised how much God really wants to speak to you.
4- Study to show yourself approved unto God. Read and study the scriptures. Ask God to help you become a lover of His word. Search out good books on the subject of hearing God.
5- Develop love for others. Begin to ask God for a new appreciation for His Body. We must prophecy in love. It all works by love.
6- Become sensitive to different feelings within or on your body: pains that were not there prior to ministry time, etc. This may be a word of knowledge.
7- Keep a note pad and pen by your bed to jot down any dreams you may have. Some might be from the Lord. If we do not write them down right away, we can easily forget them. Then when you get up, look up key words or subjects from the dream in your Bible.
8- Do not put limits on how God may or may not speak to you. He is very creative.
9- Stay free from a sinful lifestyle by yielding to Jesus and appropriating forgiveness through His shed blood. Our sins separate us from God.
10- Be sure to tithe. By obeying in the tithe, God opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing. We see through these windows into God's plans and purposes for our lives and the lives of others. Is there a better blessing than hearing Him speak?
MODERN DAY MYTHS ABOUT PROPHECY
Myth #1 - Only a few special people are called to prophesy.
What the Bible says: Everyone has a gift and may use their gift.
1 Corinthians 14:26, "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
1 Corinthians 14:31, " For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."
Myth #2 - Asking for the gifts opens us up to demonic deception.
What the Bible says: God gives good gifts to His children.
Luke 11: 9-13, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. For if a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
I Corinthians 14:1, "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Myth #3 - When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, He must keep on giving it to us again when we need to use it.
What the Bible says: The Holy Spirit gives the gift; we use it by faith.
I Corinthians 12:11 (Amp), "All these endowments, (gifts) are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same Holy Spirit, Who apportions, (gives) to each person individually as He chooses."
Romans 12:6 (Amp), "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: He whose gift is prophecy, let him prophesy according to the proportion of his faith."
18 KEYS TO PROPHESYING
by Wendell Smith (edited)
Too often the church has neglected a practical approach to the gifts of the Spirit. This has caused many to fear or abuse this means of building up the body. This article gives explicit guidelines and keys to give us a better understanding of the purpose and operation of the gift of prophecy.
Have a Clear Conscience. A person with a clear conscience is a person who is released into confidence in any area of ministry (Prov. 28:1).
Build Up Your Mind. Study Scripture. A person who is going to move in the prophetic must be one who is speaking the Word of the Lord. He, therefore, must fill his mind with God's Word (Eph. 5:18-19, Col. 3:16).
Build Up Your Spirit. Speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues strengthens the spirit, the inner man, to prepare to move into the prophetic (I Cor. 14:4).
Yield To The Holy Spirit. A person who wants to move in this realm must be totally consecrated to be obedient to the initial voice of the Holy Spirit. It is important to be willing to do whatever the Lord speaks to you under the control of the Holy Spirit
Remember the Purpose of Prophecy. The purpose of the prophetic is given in I Corinthians 14:3: 1) edification, 2) exhortation, and 3) comfort. A person moving in the prophetic realm in the congregation should never be involved in rebuke or condemnation. If you feel you receive a word of rebuke or correction, that word should be shared with someone in leadership. It is only the ministry of the prophet that should use the prophetic for this kind of adjustment in the church.
Worship Releases Prophecy. During times of worship, the prophetic mantle is released in the presence of the Lord. Anyone who is going to move in the prophetic must be totally involved in worshiping the Lord in Spirit and in Truth (Rev. 19:10).
Concentrate on the Things of the Spirit. It is of benefit to close one's eyes, concentrate, and focus one's attention on the things of the Spirit and on what the Lord is saying, avoiding all distractions.
Listen For the Words of The Spirit. The Holy Spirit will speak to you as you learn His voice and will bring phrases, words, or visions to your mind with a prophetic anointing for you to share them. Many words can come into a person's mind; it's important to try not to make these up or create something similar to the words of the Spirit. A sensitive heart and a finely-tuned inner ear will help one recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Recognize the "Pushing" of the Holy Spirit. There will be times when the Holy Spirit will indicate His presence and anointing upon the vessel for the prophetic message. Oftentimes a person's heart will begin beating quickly and he will feel an impulse to speak. It is very important to be totally committed and sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that this subjective confirmation does not become an excuse for self-glorification. Read Job 32:18-20.
Practice Prophesying. Although this sounds rather unspiritual, a person who desires to move in the prophetic realm must spend time alone in the presence of the Lord. Even in those times he will find himself anointed by the Holy Spirit to share a certain message. Reading the prophecies of the Bible oftentimes can stir that prophetic spirit in a person.
Look for Confirmation. Many times, in the congregation during a service, other words will come which will confirm the direction of your heart. Songs, exhortations, Scriptures, etc., can be confirming factors in knowing that you are in the flow of the Spirit. However, if several have already prophesied and you simply confirm it, it does not necessarily mean that you are to prophesy in addition to those who already have.
Wait for Experienced Ones to Step Out. This is not always a definite rule, but in a large congregation or a major church meeting, and especially in a place where you are not well-known, you should allow those who are in leadership or in experienced and recognized prophetic ministries to be the first to set the tone and flow of the Spirit.
Use Your Own Language. It is not necessary to have "thee's" and "thou's" to be spiritual in your prophetic flow. The reason we hear many of those words is simply because of the certain vision that a person may be meditating upon in the Scriptures. It is important to use your own language and be natural when you share a word of prophecy.
Evaluate: Prophecy or Exhortation? Be careful not to prophesy a feeling, a "pet peeve," or something that has just been mentioned and therefore on your mind. Many times we feel a word that we would like to share is an exhortation but it may not be prophecy. A prophetic word should have a certain unction on it that will confirm it as a word of prophecy.
Check Questionable Content with Leadership. Is the content of what I am about to share doctrinal, is it appropriate, is it timely, is it necessary, is it a rebuke, is it in the flow, or is it a personal prophecy aimed at one person? If there are any questions or doubts, such prophecy should be screened by a leader in the church.
Refrain From Personal Prophecy. Personal prophecy should be administered by one who is a recognized prophet or under guidance from a strong prophetic minister in the church. 1 Timothy 5:22 says, "Lay hands suddenly on no man." The gift of prophecy in the congregation is not for the purpose of ministering to individuals, although it will in a general sense. All prophecy should be tested by those who are experienced in this gift; therefore, do not give personal prophecy when there is no other to test it.
Speak Loudly and Clearly. It is important that people are able to hear and understand what you are saying. However, it is not necessary that a person shouts or screams in order to sound spiritual.
Quit When the Flow Quits. Many times the Holy Spirit will give us a partial word or we will not be sufficiently in tune to continue the flow as the Holy Spirit would give it to us. It is important not to keep going in a word simply to make it sound better to our own ears, or to make the "good feeling" last longer or to simply get attention.
Allowing the river of God to flow in the church is the primary function of moving in the prophetic realm. God's design is that there always be a river of life which edifies, exhorts, comforts, and strengthens the body of Christ in the congregation.
Reprinted from Trinity Times, Trinity Church Lubbock, Texas.
PROPHECY VERSUS PROPHETS
1 Cor. 14:3 - Prophecy edifies, exhorts and comforts. Only the prophet is called to bring rebuke or correction in the church. Individuals w/o recognition as Prophets should not.
1 Corinthians 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
1 Cor. 14:29 “…let the others judge…” Prophecy should be delivered either in the presence of leaders or in such a way as to allow for their discernment of the message.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
- Personal prophecy should not be given or received by anyone unless he or she is recognized as a prophetic leader (minister) in the church.
- Novices often project feelings; they should get their thoughts screened by a leader lest they:
- share doctrinal error
- often lack appropriateness
- act w/o “covering”
- If the messenger has to notify you of their “giftedness,” they have none.
- If the message does not point to Christ it is not of the Holy Spirit whose ministry is to glorify Him.
- If it does not conform to the Word (written), it is in error. Scripture, not private revelation, is the ultimate test of doctrine and practice.
- If it is not based in love it is not of the very Nature of God.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY - BY JOHN WIMBER
CHARISMA, NOVEMBER 1992
Personal revelations are biblical and profitable, but we must be vigilant in testing them against scriptural guidelines.
The Bible teaches that God communicates with us in a variety of ways. For example, God speaks in a general way to all men and women through creation (Ps. 19:1-2), through our consciences (Rom. 2:14-15) and through His continuing providence (Acts 14:17). He communicates more directly through the written Word, which is not only the written record of His acts, but also the authoritative revelation of who He is and how we may have communion with Him.
But it does not end there. In the Old and New Testaments, we see God speaking to His children in dramatic, sometimes startling ways: prophecies, dreams and visions, inner impressions, angels, tongues and interpretations, among others.
The gift of prophecy, mentioned by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10, is one method of God's communication that is receiving a great deal of emphasis in the contemporary church. Unfortunately, there has been neglect, misunderstanding or misuse of this manifestation of the Spirit-everywhere from Corinth to California, and from the first century to the 20th.
At the heart of the debate over contemporary prophecy is the question, How can we know if we are hearing from God?
The apostle Paul says that if an unbeliever comes into the church when people are prophesying, he or she may be convinced that they are telling the truth and may discover God there (1 Cor. 14:24-25). In our own Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, this has happened repeatedly. Not long ago, a church member approached a female visitor and told her the secrets of her heart. As a result, the woman knew God was speaking to her, was converted and is now happily settled in our church.
Such a prophetic word is not a prepared message or a learned skill. Nor should it be considered to have the same authority as Scripture. It's simply an immediate report of some revelation the Spirit has given in regard to a contemporary situation (1 Cor. 14:29-30).
The gift of prophecy is generally a message of strengthening, encouragement and comfort (14:3). It's an inspired message for the moment in the common language and could be prefaced by "Now hear this."
Unfortunately, the idea that God can and does speak to us in such a way frightens some Christians because it involves subjective experience. They readily accept preaching, teaching, witnessing and Bible study as authentic ways God speaks because they appear to be so clearly rooted in Scripture. Yet even these "objective" means of revelation are affected by the more subjective element of the Spirit's quickening the hearts of both the speaker and hearers. And while all Christians agree with the authority of Scripture, not all agree with how to interpret it.
Some Christians even maintain that belief in more subjective expressions of God's communication opens the door to emotional delusion or, worse yet, satanic deception. Fearing the worst, they retreat to the position that the Bible is the sole source of revelation today. (Their position is not that God could not speak today in these ways, but that He has chosen not to.)
But are their concerns actually rooted in the teaching of Scripture? Or is their interpretation based more on their anxieties or bad experiences?
The most casual reading of the Bible teaches that in biblical times God spoke to His people through the prophetic gifts. The Bible also teaches that He will speak to us in a similar way even today.
But how do we avoid the pitfalls of subjective revelation? How can we know if a prophetic message is truly from God? If prophecy, dreams, visions and other forms of direct revelation are biblical, then it's reasonable to look for biblical guidelines regarding their authenticity.
What safeguards, then, does Scripture provide to ensure that we are not led astray by "prophetic" words?
1. Personal prophecy should glorify the Word of God, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit's primary mission is to bring glory to the Son (John 16:14), so any prophecy, dream or vision should point us toward Jesus.
A good test for knowing if we are crossing the line on this point is to ask two questions:
Does the prophetic person often talk about himself (or herself), subtly lifting up his experience and ministry at the expense of Jesus' glory? If so, we will have an uncomfortable feeling, getting more caught up in his or her story than in the life of Christ.
Are we constantly seeking after and hoping for words from the prophetic person, so much so that we suffer disappointment and even depression when we don't receive one? Then he or she is undermining our ability to hear from God through His Word and through the "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit.
2. Prophetic messages should conform to the Word of God, the Bible. Paul says elders must "encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Tit. 1:9, NIV). The content of extra-biblical revelation should always be in accordance with and submitted to Scripture. A so-called "word" that encourages someone to commit adultery or to believe that Jesus was not raised from the dead is rejected because it is a direct refutation of Scripture.
Some personal words of prophecy, however, deal with issues not addressed by the Bible. Those revelations that can be neither contradicted nor verified by Scripture should not be rejected out of hand. For example, prophetic words that warn someone about a dangerous business dealing or a hurtful relationship may or may not be legitimate. There are other criteria for judging their authenticity.
3. Prophecy should not be used to establish doctrine or practice. This is more subtle than the previous point.
The apostle Paul warned Timothy about anyone who "teaches false doctrine and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching" (1 Tim. 6:3). In that day as this, some experiences and so called revelations are outside the scope of both Scripture and everyday experience, and thus should not be looked to as authoritative truth for understanding major doctrine and practice. In other words, private prophecy can never control our interpretation of Scripture.
I've observed that Christians don't always recognize when prophetically gifted people are allowing private revelations to control their understanding of Scripture. After hearing remarkable and accurate prophetic words, for example, it's easy to lower our guards and not think biblically when a prophetic person begins teaching from the Bible.
We are dazzled by their prophetic gifts and blinded to their biblical ignorance. If they are so right about all the details of my life, we think, how could they be wrong about Scripture? This is especially a temptation when a prophetic minister speaks about doctrines surrounding the second coming of Christ, a subject rife with speculation about which church leaders have never been in agreement.
We must resist the temptation to allow a "private revelation" to overcome the most basic principles of biblical interpretation. Scripture, not prophecy, is the ultimate test of all doctrine and practice.
4. Those who deliver a prophetic word should be of sound moral character, submitted to the lordship of Jesus and producing good fruit in their ministry. Jesus warned that false prophets would come in "sheep's clothing" (Matt. 7:15-23), meaning they would be camouflaged to look like one of us. So how are we to know the difference between a true and a false prophet?
Jesus said we are to be fruit inspectors: "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matt. 7:16). Does their ministry point people to Jesus and His Word? Are folks led to repentance and deeper faith in God?
This means that a person delivering prophecies should be willing to have his or her words tested by the elders of the church (1 Cor. 14:29-32). Pastoral oversight tests prophetic ministry and guides its recipients in appropriate responses. Complaints or questions about specific prophetic ministry should be thoroughly investigated and brought to clear resolution by responsible pastors.
If a prophetic word predicts a future event, it should be fulfilled. If the predicted event does not happen, either God has not spoken (Deut. 18:21-22), or unspoken conditions of the prophecy were not fulfilled (Jer. 18:7-10; Jon. 2-4).
The quality of a person's fruit is determined by his or her character. A good test of mature character is to see if the messenger is submitted to pastoral oversight. Independent, unteachable and self-proclaimed "prophets" are dangerous. To protect the body of Christ, the pastors and elders of a congregation should check out the character and fruit of anyone who prophesies. A failure to do this leads to all kinds of abuse and hurt in the body of Christ.
The problem of independent, traveling people who stir up significant pastoral problems in congregations is not confined to the prophetic. The phenomenon of traveling teachers, evangelists and self-styled apostles who abuse Christians and cause controversy and division is widespread. In this regard, independent prophetic figures are only a part of the bigger problem of hyper-individualism in Western Christianity and the unwillingness of pastors to give proper oversight to their ministry.
5. Prophetic messages should be given in the spirit of love (1 Cor. 14:3; James 3:17). Even a word of rebuke is to be given in the spirit of love. Information about individuals that is negative or that may be embarrassing should not be spoken publicly without first confronting the individual in private.
Prophetic gifting should never be used for controlling purposes. It should be overseen to ensure that believers' personal responsibility and authority for their own lives (as well as pastoral authority over a church) are not undermined.
6. No one should make major decisions based on personal prophetic words alone (1 Cor. 14:27-32). Personal prophetic words should be weighed by elders, pastors and other prophetic people, as well as the person who is receiving the word. Personal words should be given in a way and in a setting that allows for this to happen.
For example, the prophet Agabus warned Paul that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be arrested, and the other disciples pleaded with him not to go (Acts 21:10-14). Paul accepted the prophetic word but still went on to Jerusalem, where he was later arrested. He accepted the revelation of his coming suffering, but he rejected the disciples' application - that he therefore should not go.
A friend of mine recently told me of a simultaneous dream that he and his wife experienced one night last March. The dreams were almost identical, with the exception of a few details. The dreams came at a time when they were deciding among several job opportunities. The dream seemed to indicate he should reject a job that, by most other criteria, he should accept. When he approached a prophetically gifted person, he was told the interpretation was "obvious"- he should not accept the job he thought was for him.
"But," he told me, "the older I get, the less I trust 'obvious' answers." So he and his wife instead trusted the quiet leading of the Holy Spirit. They took the job that the prophetic person warned them about, and decided to wait and see if there was another interpretation to their dreams. Six months later, a series of events occurred that gave an entirely different and accurate understanding to their dreams. Had he relied on the "prophetic" insight into their dreams, they would have missed out on God's call for their lives.
7. Many, if not most, personal prophetic words given today are conditional and, as such, are invitations - not certainties (Jer. 18:7-10). We must continue to seek God for the promised blessings to come to pass.
I'm a little uncomfortable whenever I teach this point because it can be construed as an easy out for missed prophecy. "The prophet wasn't wrong," we hear. "The disobedience of the person who received the prophecy prevented the word from being fulfilled." This argument is similar to the one that blames any lack of healing on the paltry faith of the person being prayed for.
The problem with this thinking, though, is that the primary responsibility for healing in Scripture is laid at the feet of the person who prays, not on the sick. Likewise, in the majority of instances where a prophetic word is unfulfilled, it should be attributed to inaccurate prophecy, not disobedience on the receiver's part.
The gift of prophecy and other personal revelations must be received and understood in a biblical way. And we must be vigilant in testing all that we believe and do against Scripture.
If we do that, our lives will fulfill Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-11: "That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God."
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONDING TO PERSONAL PROPHECY
1. Immediately write out your prophecy and ponder it. Seek Bible verses that may coincide with your prophecy. Write them down next to the areas they confirm. Keep the written prophecy in a note book or folder along with others. This keeps an ongoing record of what God is saying to you during your life.
2. War a good warfare with your prophecy. Pray it back to the Lord during your private prayer times. Declare the scriptures you've found that confirm God's plan for your life.
1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.
3. Be diligent and faithful. Don't give up because things don't happen like we thought, or in the time frame we expected. All prophecy is conditional. We must seek to nurture our relationship with the Lord in obedience and faith to see it come to pass. Matt. 6:33 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.
1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
4. Review your prophecy with your spiritual covering (Pastor/Eldership). Your pastor is a source of caring input into your life with regard to prophecy, particularly in relationship to the timing of certain words being fulfilled. It should be noted that personal prophecy does not replace the need for pastoral counseling and oversight, and that receiving a valid, genuine word from the Lord is not license to become independent and return home feeling spiritually superior. Prophecy is one way that we can know the will and heart of God. Pastoral counsel is another complimentary way and the two should flow together.
5. Don't take immediate action on a word without confirmation and counsel from your Pastor/Eldership. God's process for prophetic fulfillment is usually later than we would expect. God is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. Our frustration or urgency we might feel to fulfill our prophecy does not move God. Hebrews 6:11-12 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
6. Prove every word with Biblical principles and a witness of the spirit. God will not speak a prophetic word that is contradictory to the written Logos Word of the Bible. Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
1 Thes. 5:19-21 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
7. Remember that prophecies are always conditional. As Abraham continued forward in his relationship with God, his prophetic destiny unfolded step by step by obedience and faith. James 1:22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Hebrews 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them, but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.