1 Thessalonians 5:20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

This is our fourth post in this series. In our next post, we'll get into the reasons I take it the gift of prophecy is no longer present in the church today. But maybe there's question – what's the big deal? If someone believes this gift is for today, and they're not saying anything heretical, what harm does it bring? I believe both the Bible and experience show that it does bring harm, and therefore it is a big deal!

There are good men, men whom I greatly admire who take a different position on this issue (e.g. Wayne Grudem who has already been mentioned in previous posts and who will be mentioned again here). But out of love for the “prophets”, and love for those who hear them, we need to look carefully at why this is a big deal.

So far in this little series, we've concluded that prophecy is speaking forth the very words of God. Our working definition by Robert Saucy is, ““speech directly inspired by the Spirit of God, and therefore fully authoritative” (Robert L. Saucy, “Prophecy Today? An Initial Response,” Sundoulos [Spring 1990]: 5). If this conclusion is true, what does that mean for someone who says they are giving a prophecy, but also don't think it's anything more than ““telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind(Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1049)? Or instead of a prophet being able to confidently say, “thus says the Lord,” they say something like, “I think the Lord is putting on my mind that . . . “ or “It seems to me that the Lord is showing us . . .” or some similar expression” (ibid, 1056).

What does that mean practically, biblically?

I take it at least one biblical issue here is for the “prophet”.

How do they know it's not simply their own thoughts, and they are crediting this to the Lord? And if it is just their own thoughts, even if they're saying, “It seems to me”, or “I think”, God in Jeremiah 23 speaks against prophesying something that God did not speak; or running with something that God did not send. The context in Jeremiah 23 is a rebuke of prophets who instead of proclaiming the Lord's rebuke to a sinning people instead say, 'It shall be well with you' . . . 'No disaster shall come upon you'” (Jeremiah 23:17). That's not the issue here and now. But in the midst of God's strong rebukes to these false prophets, we see also this principle brought out: Jeremiah 23:21 a"I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. This principle does apply today.

With Grudem's very popular view of what prophecy is, there is real danger that people will mistake their impressions, intuition, or thoughts for the Lord “bringing something to mind”, with the result of a prophecy that is nothing more than their own personal opinion. In this case, they would become guilty of what verse 21 says: I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. Since Grudem's view already acknowledges that there may be errors in this gift of prophecy, the Old Testament “test” of accuracy (Deut. 18:20-22) can not even serve to check the individual and help them sort out that this was simply their own thoughts.

Later in the same passage, God says this: Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD (Jeremiah 23:32). Again, the context of this chapter is false prophets telling people everything was going to be alright when it wasn't. That is the heart of God's rebuke here, and it is entirely different from the issue of the gift of prophecy being in the church today. But note that the same principle as verse 21 comes through again in this verse. They speak for God, when I did not send them or charge them” (Jeremiah 23:32). Bottom line, this is a “big deal” biblically for the “prophet” because it may put an individual Christian in the dangerous position of receiving this rebuke from God: I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied (Jeremiah 23:21b).

It's one thing to be concerned about the “prophet”, but what are the ramifications for those who are exposed to these prophecies? A great example of this danger is brought out in a Pyromaniacs blog from this past summer(http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/08/pornographic-divination.html).. Again, the subject is Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. And here's one major danger based on that post: what if someone because of a vision accuses you of adultery, or molesting your grand-daughter? In the video, Driscoll relates that he has made these kind of accusations as a result of these kind of visions. On the one hand, Driscoll would say: “I'm not saying I'm a hundred percent always right with it”; but on the other hand, he's made the accusation. He's seen this from the Lord. “It's just like a TV was there”. So even if it never happened, and you strongly deny it, if someone believes this man has “the gift”, who will be believed? The man “who sees everything” or the innocent accused relative? If anything, there will always be a cloud of suspicion there. And again, the Old Testament test of accuracy of a prophet has been taken away – so you can't even use that as a means to check out how seriously to take this guy who admits he's not always 100% correct. Is this a big deal? Yep! It can have very destructive consequences in these kind of scenarios; or minimally, bring the same kind of confusion that Satan first introduced in the Garden of Eden: "Did God actually say”? (Gen. 3:1b).

Thankful for God's authoritative Scripture!


Pastor Scott