How do we prophesy?

Yesterday I re-preached on The Gift of Prophecy. Due to a time constraint I didn’t get to go through some of the practical issues regarding the use of prophecy so we put this blog post together. You can also read what Sam Storms says about prophecy here.

So, how do we prophesy? 

In love! 

Remember what the greatest of “these” is at the end of 1 Corinthians 13? It is love! Love is so fundamental to God’s plan that it will last for eternity and last well beyond the usefulness of the gifts here on earth. Paul exhorts his spiritual son Timothy to remember that the aim of the charge they’ve received from the Lord is love (1 Timothy 1:5). It drives everything we do! Sandwiched between a teaching on how to use all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul goes into greater depth explaining a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:7-8 & 13 says,

[7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

When we get God’s heart for people, when we are loving people from a place of bearing, believing, hoping and enduring all things, then our heart is in position to be able to prophesy and use every other spiritual gift as well.  Furthermore, as we get the heart of God we will do more than simply have a heart for prophecy. It will drive and compel us to reject passivity and initiate in the same manner God did with us, by loving us first.  And this is a more excellent way to demonstrate the everlasting love to men and women.

Under the Authority of the Word of God

We believe in Sola Scriptura. This simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. This means we submit our hearts to swimming in the Word of God. Psalm 119 exhorts people to store up, to meditate on and to delight in the word of God. The word of God, not a prophetic word, ultimately is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

As Jesus says, those who obey His words are those that keep his commandments (John 14 and 15). As we simply obey the things Christ has laid out for us in His word, we will be a people more and more submitted to God through His scriptures. That heart is one that God is drawn to and will be able to steward the gift of prophecy well.

Under the authority of the local church & walking in community

When Paul is writing about using the gifts of the Holy Spirit he was giving direction to the local church! This is something that we believe is of great importance! Christ is the head of the body, the CHURCH. And so the best place to use the gift of prophecy is in a local church.  This gift is especially best used when you are a part of a family. The heart attitude God is after is often forged in the context of family and church.  As we submit ourselves to what Christ died for and established and has claimed as his bride, our hearts become humble, faithful, available and teachable. That is the heart God honors (2 Chronicles 7:14, James 4:6-10).

Part of being in the family involves community. Community is lauded both in secular and spiritual settings, but biblical community is hard to come by and easily lost. Koinonaia is the Greek word found in Acts 2:42-47 to describe what the heart is for church – intimate partaking and sharing. As men and women walk deeply together, in the midst of joy, in the midst of conflict, our hearts will be better prepared to steward prophecy.

Walking in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit

One of the neatest (yes, I said neat) things the Holy Spirit taught me in my years of studying the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that there are 9 Gifts and 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 enumerates on the fruit of the Holy Spirit, showing us what happens to those who allow the Spirit of Christ to be in residence. They love! They are full of joy and peace! They are patient and they deal with people in kindness and goodness. Not only that but there is a faithfulness to them. And if that wasn’t amazing enough, they grow in gentleness (even those who are rough & tumble) and in self-control. Wow! Could you imagine what your life would be like if the Holy Spirit was allowed to produce this fruit! When we prophesy, the result should be these 9 fruits.

This does not mean every prophetic word will give you an immediate sense of Jesus-goose-bumps. Remember that sometimes words are given to convict people of sin (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), but if it is truly revelation from the Lord, then it will ultimately produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

In order

In some cessationist circles, they fear the use of this gift because they fear everyone will simply be prophesying without control and without order. Gratefully, Paul explains that because our God is one of order and peace, this should not be normal for our meeting times.

1 Corinthians 14:26-33 says,

[26] What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. [27] If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. [28] But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. [29] Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. [30] If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. [31] For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, [32] and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. [33] For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. 

Remember we know in part and prophesy in part. It will take time to establish a culture that handles the prophetic well, but our God has never been in a hurry. So we will work diligently and expectantly and ask to God to do a fresh work in our midst.

Finally I would encourage you to read through Sam Storms Guidelines for Prophetic Ministry in Small Groups. I will post more this week on how to test prophetic words.

Grace and Peace!
John