Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. - Matthew 7:15
Initially, I had been thinking to rant a little bit about the wrong things that false prophets are doing to us and our churches. I wanted to convince Christians who read this blog that they should be vigilant against these type of prophets.
I have changed my mind.
I realized that the best way to fight what is false is by outlining the truth.
There are infinitely many lies but only one truth.™
What do prophets and prophecy look like in the Bible?
1. Prophets are messengers of God
Prophecy is the office of giving messages from God to God's people, mostly about the future. Even in the new testament, where God has poured out his Spirit on everyone, you still see him reaffirm through Paul the necessity of having the office of prophecy filled in every church. While we can all speak to God unlike in the day of the Israelite, it still through this office that God reaches out to his church in a direct and supernatural manner. This he does so that we need each other to be a complete whole.
2. Prophets might not be accepted by the people they are sent to
Time and time again we see prophets rejected by the very people that they are passing messages to. How frustrating it must be to have a message and be rejected by the recipients. This means that whenever we reject a prophet, we must always consider if we are in the shoes of the countless many in the Bible who have rejected the word of the Lord.
3. A prophet connects people to God
The ultimate purpose of a prophet is to connect people to God. His/her job is to bring messages from God as God wills, so that the church might hear it and reach towards God. Every instance in the Bible where God has spoken has been targeted at getting people closer to his will and his path, closer to him. Most of the prophets in the Bible are people who have let go of their own desires and wishes and instead serve as conduits to God's words. While people revere them, they themselves lead their lives in such a way that they are not the center of attention but rather that God is the center.
4. A prophet is not a perfect man
Prophecy is not a gift given to someone who has reached the pinnacle of Christianity. Like every other office in the church, it is a Gift from God. The easiest way to think about this is to assume that the requirements for receiving the gift of administrating is the same as the requirements for receiving the gift of prophecy.
Prophets are, in their personal and public life, not perfect and to expect them to be is setting them up to fall. They, like every other christian, will stumble and fall from time to time. They will however, like every other christian, get up and repent, and move forward. The fall does not make them false prophets and neither does their seeming purity make them true ones.
5. A prophecy can be evaluated
Prophecies can be evaluated. Real prophecies that we see throughout the Bible can be evaluated. Prophecies are simply God's promises for the future and like any promise you should be able to evaluate them to see if they are fulfilled or not.
The reason we evaluate prophecies isn't because we are testing to see if God fulfills his promises or not. Rather, its so that we can check if the messenger is truly from God
As Christians, we have already believed in the most audacious promise of all, that we will have eternal life after death and so it would be ridiculus for us to then question whether God will deliver on promises in this temporal world. Instead, what we are seeking is a confirmation that the messanger from God, the prophet who is speaking to us, is actually from God.
Also, we are instructed by the Bible to do so
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. - Deuteronomy 18:22
Think of it this way. If a man is married and he receives a verbal message through someone from his wife, instructing him to do something, it is only sane that he verify that the message is indeed from his wife. If it is a message such as "I love you!", then he need not verify too hard since it does sound like his wife. However, if the message is "Sell our house and give the money to the messenger", he would immediately start questioning whether the messenger was truly sent by his wife or not. While he would believe that his wife would have a good reason for instructing him to do so, he would verify that the message is indeed from her before taking action.
One more verse to from the Bible
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
6. There are two major types of prophecies
Conditional Prophecies: These are prophecies that take the form of "If ... then ...". These promises are dependent on the recipients of the message doing something. There are lots of examples of these in the Bible, here is one of the simpler ones.
If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land - Leviticus 26:3-5
As we know from the Bible, the people to whom this was promised did receive the promise while they kept the requirements that God has set. However, they eventually stopped following God and God withdrew his blessings.
Unconditional Prophecies: These promises from God have no "If" to them. They are declarations of God's intent that are independent from any input on behalf of the recipient. They are things that are set to happen regardless of whether people follow God or don't, obey him or not.
A good example of such a promise is that of Christs coming.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. - Deuteronomy 18:18-19
This prophecy was not built upon any condition and did not depend on anything the people did. It did not ask them to remain pure or be sinful, to look to God or ignore him. It was unconditional.
For this type of promises, all it will take is time. It will happen and cannot be stopped.
7. Whatever we do, it must be done in love
Whether we accept or refuse, follow or reject a prophet and his/her prophecy, we must do it all in love. I can't tell you to do specific things when it comes to this because every situation has its own nuance. So instead, the principle of doing all in love is better.
Love does not shy away from the truth, but love does not break, rather it builds. There is a way to challenge prophets and their prophecies that is full of self-righteousness and there is a way that is full of love. Love's way does not restore only the recipient of that love but also restores us.
If we test prophets and their prophecy with love, only edification and growth can come out of it. Love restores those who have fallen and love holds up those who are stumbling. It does not judge but it corrects.
Do everything in love - 1 Corinthians 16:14
In this section, I will address some common issues that rise up against some of the things I wrote about above, and will continually update it as I get more and more questions.
C: We shouldn't challenge those appointed by God because the Bible tells us not to
R: I believe that the verse that is most relevant to that viewpoint is the one below
... Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?" - 1 Samuel 26:9
David speaks this words when his companion Abishai suggest they kill Saul, who was both their pursuer and the man they had just found asleep in a cave.
Many people these days, people who see the ungodly things done in the name of the Lord, refuse to stand up and speak out against such people because they feel that would be the equivalent of David killing Saul.
I realize that most of the people who say this, at least the ones that I have met, are good Christians who are trying to do the Godly thing and I applaud their heart. However, I believe they are mistaken in thinking that this applies to these situations and here is why.
What David is saying here is that he will not take power from Saul by force. He will not make himself king by executing the Lord's appointed king even though God had already told him that he would one day become King. The right analogy to this in the present day is someone trying to carry out a coup because the pastor of a church isn't acting Godly. However, this does not mean that we are expected to accept false teaching and practices and David never covered up the unjust practices of his king (which is why he had so many followers).
If this verse was truly to be applied elsewhere, then Paul would have been wrong in speaking out against Peter's sin and hypocrisy in-front of everyone when Peter refused to eat with the gentiles when his Jewish friends came (Gal 2:11-14). Paul's example instead tells us to challenge the hypocrisy and false practices within the church, not so that we can make a power grab but rather so that those who practice such teaching can be corrected. Or, if we are the ones who are wrong for not accepting these teachings, so that we can be corrected.