On Monday I wrote a blog post giving some practical guidelines to walking in the prophetic. Today I wanted to follow up with to do what scripture exhorts us to do with prophecy – test it!
Again Sam Storms gives a lot of clarity on the use of spiritual gifts. He says that the greatest need isn’t the ability to hear God’s voice with greater clarity, rather:
The most urgent need is a church that is theologically literate and sufficiently familiar with the Bible that it can effectively judge and evaluate both the source and meaning of dreams, visions and subjective impression (Page 135 - The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts).
Let’s take a look at how to test a prophetic word or revelation.
How to Test a Prophetic Word
Remember the difference between Old and New Testament Prophecy. Old Testament Prophets like Moses and Elijah had the ability to speak and write words that had absolute divine authority. When Moses shows up and tells us what God said, the people of God should not question it (or they might get leprosy). That is because prophets spoke the very words of God, as they were the chosen spokesperson by God for the people of God.
In the New Testament we read Ephesians 4:7-12 and learn that Christ gave GIFTS to His body. One of those gifts are people who are prophets. In the New Testament it is a gift and not an office.
We know this because the Apostle did not go around to establish new apostles in churches. They didn’t install people into the office of prophet either. And that is the biggest difference between the Old Testament and New Testament. I like to think about it in terms of Big “P” and little “p”.
When we prophesy we simply say, “I sense God is doing this” or “I think I have a picture that may be from the Lord”. There is no “Thus saith the Lord!” with those who are a prophet gift or walk in the prophetic.
So, how do we test these words?
Word of God
Does it align with what Scripture reveals to be true? Does it confirm something that Christ has taught us in his word? Or does it add anything to the word of God? If so… you can quickly dismiss it. You test prophetic words in a way that you do not test scripture (2 Thess. 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16).
When are walking deeply with brothers and sisters who are growing in the likeness of Christ, we can trust them and the Spirit of God in them to weigh what is said (1 Corinthians 14:29). When your pastor and brothers and sisters are affirming what was said, you can more readily lay hold of that promise spoken over you. However, if they are feeling cautious, then you need to continue to test the word of God.
Edification (Love + Fruit of the Spirit)
Here is one of the main reasons Paul wants us to prophecy – for their upbuilding and encouragement (1 Corinthians 14:3). Even if you are sharing something that might be tough (dealing with a fear or facing pain), it needs to be done in such away that the person leaves feeling the love of God. Remember that love is so essential to God’s plan for the universe that it will last for eternity (1 Corinthians 13). Furthermore any prophetic word should be dripping with the fruit of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Some revelation might be tough, but the end result should bear fruit that remains.
You test these words over time and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is especially true of words that pertain to the future. One way to do this is simply to ask God what He thinks about it in our personal devotion time. Two questions to ask God are “what does this mean?” and “what do you want me to do?” As we test it against the word of God, let our community get a hold of it and see if it aligns with the love of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, then it becomes our job to steward the word, hold fast to what is good and get rid of what is not from the Holy Spirit.
Let us move on to spiritual maturity and rightly handle the word of truth.
Grace for the process!