There have been significant changes in the delivery of prophetic ministries in recent years, with different generations of prophetic voices emerging. Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson and my close friend Paul Cain were a different generation of prophetic voices to those heard today. They fostered a unique sense of perspective and gifting’s that are not as prevalent among today’s prophetic voices. Particularly, a sense of the awe of God.
A new day brings renewed challenges and perspectives, and the past (as far back as you may venture to go) provides plenty of food for thought and consideration. Many people are wondering what God is doing with the prophetic ministry these days. Some say that Micah 3:5-7 holds the answer, and for that reason it’s worth pointing out the elephant in the room and raising a few eyebrows.
We must do everything to stop anything that brings the remarkable gift and ministry of prophecy into disrepute whether it’s issues about social media, pointless predictions or pay per click prophecies.
In the word of Howard Marshall in his commentary on Acts, “The possession of any kind of spiritual authority is a solemn responsibility rather than a privilege, and its possessor must constantly be aware of the temptation to domineer over those for whose spiritual welfare he is responsible; he must also beware of the danger of using his position for his own ends, whether as a means of making money or bolstering his own ego.”
The gift of prophecy is one given and inspired by God – not on demand, but rather as and when He chooses to disclose or reveal His word. We shouldn’t be flippant or take the prophetic ministry lightly; but at the same time, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously either. God can speak through a donkey.
It’s difficult to tell whether or not we’ve made any real progress in our understanding of prophetic ministry in recent years; you’d think that there would be a greater emphasis on holiness, grace and obedience and that we would have made more headway in terms of accountability by now. But has it all come to a screeching halt? Is the take-it-or-leave-it, “you can be a prophet if you want to” attitude towards the things of God bringing down the curtain on something that was once very precious and essential for the life of the Church? When the cry goes up, “Where is the God of Elijah?” some are asking, “Who is Elijah?” I have a different viewpoint – God is profoundly at work! We don’t build His church, but we are co-workers with Him in all that He is doing in this day. This is a day of remarkable opportunity and promise.
We’re a different generation, but there is no evidence from the Bible that God speaks in a different way or form to His Church nowadays. It’s more of the same – devotion, prayer, signs, dreams, visions and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, it cannot be suggested that prophetic ministries were at a loss in distant days because they did not have access to the resources readily available to us today. If anything, I believe today is not a ‘find your mountain’ time, but a time to be engaged, involved and part of the vision, ministry and outreach of the local church.
Prophetic standards statement
Interestingly, a group of ministries have recently taken it on themselves to release a “prophetic standards statement.” Personally, I consider it a needless exercise given that the scriptures already give us clear guidelines for the use of the gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy in its various forms. This is where accountability in a local church, exegesis and theology prove their worth!
“At a time when there are many questions in the Body concerning the gift of prophecy and the ministry of the prophet, and in light of the needs of local pastors as well as individual believers to have practical guidelines for processing prophetic words, as Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders, we felt that now was the opportune moment to produce this current document … it is our purpose is to help provide scriptural guidelines for the operation of the gift of prophecy and the functioning of the ministry of the prophet, while at the same time affirming the importance of these gifts and ministries.”
No matter how you approach the ministry of the prophet, God still continues to speak in the same way as He always has done. There are no shortcuts, secrets or improvisations; God clearly reveals His purpose to the Church through His Word, through preaching and in the mouths of his prophets.
God uses us in his timing and His sovereign and providential purposes
There is a question that some people might tend to ask about whether or not our modern churches reflect what the Holy Spirit intends for life in this post-modern church. This is particularly when it comes to the roles and dynamics of the Holy Spirit. There are also questions about gifts of the Spirit and prophecy and how we have lost the understanding not just about God’s timing, but how He uses us in His timing for His sovereign and providential purposes.
Another consideration is that maybe we haven’t grasped that intrinsically, prophecy and prophetic words aren’t equal to scripture, but are essentially important to our walk with God and each other as a people of hope.
Intimately or not, God wants us to understand, comprehend and know Him and His goodness and holiness
When we take the time to reflect on our past, we can see how much we’ve grown and learned. And often, it was challenging experiences that taught us the most. We can see how God was always there with us in that learning curve, coaching us through the tough times and helping us to understand more about who He is. It’s easy to miss these things when we’re in the midst of them, “in the heat of battle” but looking back we can see how much God has been teaching us all along. God is with us and for us in a way that we cannot comprehend. We don’t know what we don’t know, but God is knowable and His engagement with us in the deep recesses of our lives is with that in mind. The more we know Him, the better equipped we are to worship Him.
Life is a huge learning curve. The prophetic ministry has a huge responsibility to present itself in humility, with transparency and with unquestionable integrity. Isn’t that what prophets are meant to be like? The prophetic ministry reaffirms, asserts not so much fresh revelations, but at the heart of its outreach to the heart of the Church is the overwhelming, continued assertion of the message of the gospel and the grace of God. Sooner or later our learning curve brings us to fresh consideration of the Cross and all the wonders of grace that has been extended to us.
Genuine words of knowledge and prophetic utterances can stir the heart of the Church, but the gospel gives you a rock to stand on when the storms of life suddenly rage around and underneath you. Authentic prophetic ministry always stirs you to go after God with all your heart, to make Jesus the magnificent obsession of your heart.
In Christ, guilt is gone, shame is removed and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us.
When we look back on our lives and up towards God and with an understanding of the good news of the gospel and what Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross we realise that our sins have been forgiven and we are reconciled to God. Guilt is gone, shame is removed, and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us. We are holy. We sin, but we are no longer sinners. Our new default position is that we are the righteousness of God in Christ! Everything has changed!
A few questions
The learning curve for all of this is immense. What shall separate us from the love of God? How far is the East from the West? How new is a new creation? If you are seated with Christ in heavenly places, what does the world look like? There is so much to learn, but look at what you have already learned – it is an immense learning curve!
God is always at work in our hearts and lives, and sometimes we have no idea of the incredible work that He’s done until we review it on the final day. Trust that He’s always working for your good and His glory, even when you can’t see it.