The last thing the gifted or prophetic person would ever want to do is mislead the Church by abusing scripture, but it happens. With this in mind we approach this very important but foundational topic.
This is such a critical area. If we do not fully grasp the importance of God’s Word we are heading for tragedy and the consequences can indeed be terrible.
Devote yourself to Scripture
In the prophetic there can be few greater encouragements. One of Christianity’s most important doctrines is that of the authority of Scripture. Scripture is the basis for what we teach and for all prophetic ministry.
All of the Body of Christ are called to walk by faith, trusting God. Faith is an important part of Christianity – an essential part. But not just any faith will do – our faith must be in something that is true.
Faith must not be a false hope – it must be based on evidence. And such evidence needs to be taught. The church Jesus founded is to be a teaching church, and his people are to be people who are learning. (The term “disciple” means “one who learns.”)
Our call is not to draw people to the prophetic, or to ourselves but to God and the scriptures and relationship in and with the Church as God’s covenant people. The church is foundational on the scriptures not on our prophetic ministry. It is built on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets but this reference to the prophets is about the Old Testament prophetic utterances that point to Christ and His eternal kingdom, not Smantha’s prophetic picture last Sunday!
They want to learn
People who believe in a Savior will be eager to learn more about him. They will hunger and thirst not just for a feeling about God, but also for knowledge of God that involves facts. They will want to learn. Doctrine is so important—the New Testament makes that clear and it flows from the Scriptures. What we teach and prophetically declare MUST based on Scripture.
The importance of the ministry of the word
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and the church began to grow by the thousands. What did the people do? “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
There were many unusual needs, partly because some of the people had come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost and ended up staying for months longer than they expected. How did the people respond to this unexpected need? “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (verse 45).
The early Church an example of the importance of Scripture
Can we imagine what it must have been like in the days of the early church in its infancy? A new community was being formed—new leaders, new followers and new structures. The old social system, like an old wineskin, did not work for these people.
Many were cut off from family and former friends, so new ties had to be forged. At first, everyone’s needs were taken care of informally. But eventually a system was created to meet the needs. Donations were given to the apostles for redistribution to the needy (Acts 4:34-35).
As important as this charitable work was, the apostles did not spend all their time with it. They continued to focus their attention on teaching: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
Apparently the disciples delegated to other believers the responsibility of taking care of the poor. However, it wasn’t long before people began to complain. The system wasn’t working fairly, they said (Acts 6:1). If we had been apostles, we might have been tempted to step in to make sure that things ran right. But the Twelve resisted that temptation. They allowed lay members to take care of this need.
Why did the apostles back away from this important need? “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables…. We will…give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (verses 2-4).
The Word of God the Apostle’s priority . . .
Note the priority set by these spiritual leaders: praying, teaching and preaching. This priority still exists. Spiritual leaders should not get bogged down in things that take them away from prayer and the Word of God. The leaders role in the church is teaching and preaching, and we cannot do that without a firm foundation in prayer and study. The same can be said of the prophetic.
Teaching and preaching
Scripture emphasizes the importance of doctrine, of teaching, of truth. Jesus’ commission to the church includes teaching (Matthew 28:20). A concordance will quickly show that “teaching” was a large part of Jesus’ own ministry. It is the truth that sets people free, and the truth needs to be taught. Good feelings and pleasant words are not enough.
In the early church, the apostles preached and taught:
“The apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2).
“At daybreak they entered the temple courts…and began to teach the people” (Acts 5:21).
“They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (verse 42).
“Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (Acts 11:26).
“Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord” (Acts 15:35).
“Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God” (Acts 18:11).
“I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
“He preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31).
Paul told the Corinthians that everything in their worship meetings should be done for edifying or building the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). No matter what spiritual gift is being used, it should be used to edify. Edification is the priority. The only words we should speak should be “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Everything Paul did was for the purpose of edification (2 Corinthians 12:19). “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). This continues to be an important part of the prophetic today.
The pastoral epistles
After Paul had preached the gospel, raised up churches, corrected doctrinal errors, and trained assistants, he passed the baton of leadership to others. When the end of his life neared, he gave instructions to the next generation of church leaders. In the letters to Timothy and Titus, he also tells us that church pastors have an important responsibility:
“Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (verse 16).
“These are the things you are to teach and urge on them” (1 Timothy 6:2).
“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
A church leader “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
Clearly, doctrine is important in the church. We need solid teaching, based on diligent and accurate study of Scripture. We do not need anyone’s pet theories, but rather teaching that has been tested against the ideas of other faithful Christians.
Solid teaching doesn’t necessarily make us feel good. Solid teaching sometimes challenges our comfort zones. This is sometimes what we need.
Work is required
It is arrogant and dangerous for any one person to make his or her own interpretation the final word, and to proclaim all who disagree as incorrect and therefore not led by the Holy Spirit. No, when we approach Scripture it is helpful to do it in the context of the believing community today as well as the historic Christian church. Just as we hope that others learn from us, we also hope that we can learn from what others through their Christian experiences and discussions of Scripture – which is one of the reasons I encourage you to listen to and read a wide variety of Evangelical teachers such as Piper, Carson, Fee, MacArthur, Stott.
So what is the standard of truth?
It is Scripture. That is why it is essential that we strengthen our foundation in Scripture.