Prophecy in the New Testament Church
Pr. P. T. Thomas
The Word of God describes the period of the New Testament Church as the dispensation of grace and the end times. There are no divisions in the dispensation of church revealed in the Bible between the day of Pentecost and the day of the Second Coming of Christ. There is only one faith, one hope, one Lord, one Spirit and one baptism in each century of the church period. The Church is a body, a family, a fold of sheep, a bride, a garden and a house. All the ministries that the Holy Spirit does in and through the Church are not different from what has been done throughout Church history. There is also no difference in the ministry methods and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The variations are only in the number of people who dedicate themselves for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
All the spiritual blessings, gifts and the ministries given to the first century Church are for the entire Church for all times. None of the ministries of the Holy Spirit have been withdrawn from the Church. Therefore, the prophetic ministry is very much part of today’s Church. Like all other ministries, the prophetic ministry is for the spiritual growth of the Church (Ephesians 4:11-13). There is no ministry in the Church, which is aimed at gaining material benefits.
Even the ministry of healing is aimed more for the sanctification and unity of the Church and for growth in the personal lives of the sick, than simply for physical wholeness (James 5:14-16).
The Word of God declares, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added [or provided] unto you.” (Mathew 6:31-33, II Peter 1:13). Unlike other religions, the Church of God has no specific prayers, observances or ministries aimed at material gains. But such “ministries” are now creeping into the Church wherein people try to make a name for themselves. Many religions encourage fortunetellers. But when Paul teaches about spiritual gifts, he says that it is quite different from their former experiences with the dumb idols.
1. Prophecy should agree with doctrine (Romans 12:6)
Here faith means doctrine (Jude 3:20, Hebrews 3:14). There is no spiritual ministry outside the Word of God. We have to test every prophecy in the light of the revealed Word of God, before we accept or reject it.
When Jesus said, “not to worry about tomorrow” and “be always ready to welcome the Lord, who will come as if a thief comes.” Will the prophecies on future plans on earth be true to doctrine? (Mathew 6:34, 24:42, 44).
2. Prophecy gives exhortation (Acts 15:32, I Corinthians 14:31).
Exhortation is the practical guideline given by spiritual inspiration in the light of God’s Word so that it will enable God’s people to lead a spiritual life in their special life circumstances. The literal meaning of the word “prophecy” is “exhortation.”
3. Prophecy should establish us in our faith (Act 15:32)
The Holy Spirit will never use words to cause fear of any danger in the hearts of God’s children. The prophet Agabus’ warning to Paul about the chains and persecution awaiting him did not dishearten Paul. Here the Holy Spirit was using Paul’s courage as example for other believers.
4. Prophecy is for comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3)
We are comforted in our trust in God. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stead- fast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The ministry of prophecy helps us to concentrate and trust in God.
5. Prophecy is for spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 14:3, Ephesians 4:11-13)
Love of God is enmity towards the world. Anything which promotes material and worldly love is not of the Spirit of God. It is not for the spirits of this world to comprehend that which is given to the children of God (1 Corinthians 2:12).
6. Prophecy convicts us of our sins (1 Corinthians 14:24)
Prophecy points out our shortcomings and exhorts us to make corrections in life.
7. Prophecy discerns the individual (1 Corinthians 14:24)
Using cunning words and flattery, the greedy false prophets persuade the hearts of the poor, sincere believers in the Church today. These prophets claim high academic qualifications and give a false history of themselves. True prophecy will discern such cheaters and bring out the truth.
8. Prophecy reveals the secrets of the heart (1 Corinthians 14:25)
God alone knows the secrets in the hearts of man (1 Kings 8:40). Discerning the evil purposes in the hearts of men through genuine prophecy leads men to repentance.
9. Prophecy gives us knowledge of God’s presence and the fear of God (1 Corinthians 14:25)
In prophetic ministry it is not the special ability or gifts of the prophet revealed, but the knowledge of the presence of God.
10. Prophecy teaches (1 Corinthians 14:31)
Prophecy is not the announcing of the initial letters of the names of some men or women assembled in a large meeting and telling the names of certain common diseases which most people may have. Prophecy is not certain ambiguous statements, which can be interpreted in various ways, but instead, prophecy gives clear and specific teaching.
11. Prophecy reveals mystery and wisdom (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Prophecy leads people to the conviction of their sins and reveals the will of God resulting in the spiritual growth. Prophecy does not use vague words, but makes the revelations of God absolutely clear.
May these guidelines help us to discern prophets and their prophecy. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good” (2 Thessalonians 5:20, 21).