A Word on Prophecy – Ray E Horton
Ordinary spirit-filled Christians are encouraged by Paul to prophesy. “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1).
Personal prophecy can be particularly good as long as it is truly directed by the Holy Spirit. It must always be tested to be sure it does not in any way contradict the written Word, and we do need the inward witness of the Holy Spirit in receiving through ourselves or others. We need to be sensitive concerning how a word is to come forth and His timing, as well as the tone and its sensitivity to people, getting our flesh out of the way. We need to learn to discern what is just for us, what is for another, and what is for the church.
Personal prophecy has been an important part of my life since I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1973. The Lord will have us even prophesy to ourselves and be personally encouraged. In that we often experience His love and direction or prompting of the Holy Spirit.
And sometimes there are areas of truth that we may not be open to, and the Lord can use other people in personal prophecy to reach us in that area. As we mature, that should be less and less true as we learn to hear God for ourselves. But sometimes it really is good to have confirmation.
It is not spiritually healthy for believers to become dependent on prophecy, rather than hearing God for themselves
One warning: I have also seen the tendency in some circles of believers of becoming dependent on prophecy, rather than hearing God for themselves. Sometimes people do not spend time in prayer and in their relationship with the Lord but are always seeking a word from others. That is not spiritually healthy.
Yet, occasional misuse of prophecy should not keep us from appreciating the great value of prophecy. We must not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater on something as important as God’s precious gift. God would have us all grow up in Him, actively draw on the Holy Spirit for ourselves and others and the church, and use prophecy, as led by the Spirit, being very careful of our motivations and the occasional inevitable mixture of the flesh, especially among the less mature.
Prophecy in the Church
In the church, we must be sensitive to whether there is acceptance of prophecy there. And we must be careful of the Holy Spirit’s timing for delivery (discernment of which is a part of the gift). Also ask, am I the person to deliver this? I am quite open to the prophetic word during worship, and there have been times when I haven’t had the release, so I prayed, “Lord, if it’s your desire, get this word out through someone else,” and He has. Also, what a blessing it is to deliver a word and later find that it confirmed the pastor’s message. That is very faith building for both pastor and the congregation.
And in the church, it is important to pay attention to proper protocol. A newer believer, or someone new to a church or not known for their gift, should always seek opportunity to run prophecy to be delivered past the pastor or a designated person. Prophecy should never be shouted out from the pew, and its best to come forward and use a microphone so the word can be heard as well as recorded.
We are all called to prophesy
New Testament prophecy is typically not predictive, although it can be when used in conjunction with Words of Wisdom and Words of Knowledge. But remember we are all called to prophesy. I believe it can and should be as much a sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as we are usually taught the Gift of Tongues is.
“But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort edification and exhortation and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3). That is the primary purpose of New Testament prophecy, and it is a beautiful way to be built up and to build up one another in the church. In fact, I would even call it essential to real spiritual growth for individual Christians and the churches, especially but not at all exclusively in our private devotional lives.
Remember, prophesying does not make one a prophet. A prophet is one who has been set aside by the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands to operate in that office: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). There may be prophets out there who have not yet been formally recognized, but they should be careful to stay within bounds if they are not in leadership, limiting their messages in church for the most part to simple prophecy.
It is good for pastors to teach on the subject of prophecy, being very careful to balance protecting the flock from false words with joining Paul in encouraging the flock to actively and earnestly pursue not only love but the gifts, especially prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1).
We really do not want to miss out on what the Holy Spirit has to say through people in our churches. Often a brother or sister may be open to hearing and bringing forth something that God wants to say where others may not be open. A lot gets in the way in the human mind – old wrong teaching, preconceived ideas, or what we ate for breakfast. So, we do need to hear God through others. Too often Christian leaders are afraid of the gift and don’t trust the Holy Spirit to be validly coming through others: “You must watch out for those loose cannons, you know).
The best protection from fleshly or wrong words, but honoring God’s desire to have the gifts in use in the church, is to actively and often teach on the subject, occasionally from the pulpit, and also in classes, one on one, and with written materials as well, so that people will learn to hear the Holy Spirit within, and realize that God will also prompt when or when not to share, privately or publicly, appropriately using the gift.