They Were “Weird” But They Were Genuine!

I would like to balance what I wrote yesterday (see “The Prophets were Weird”) with a New Testament perspective. It is not my intention—and far beyond my qualifications—to undertake an exhaustive examination of prophetic ministry in the church. I just want to add some thoughts on understanding and appreciating the role of this genuine spiritual gift in edifying the body.  And, of course, I acknowledge your right to disagree—in part or in whole—with these thoughts!

Prophetic gifts operate only through total dependence on God. This applies in the New Testament as soundly as it did in the Old Testament. Jesus distributes the gifts of the Spirit as He chooses and through the Spirit these gifts “build up” His church His way.

In the Old Testament, there were numerous “prophets of God” at any given time. They mingled with one another on various occasions. They lived their lives among the people, not cloistered together in a commune like the Essenes of Qumran would later do. When they spoke for God, they stood apart from the crowd… even in the crowd. Their semi-isolation from one another served to prevent their conspiring to put their own ideas over on the people. If a prophet spoke falsely, the other prophets could be counted on to independently rebuke and expose the falsehood. All genuine prophets over Israel and Judah spoke the truth of God in harmony with one another. Therefore, we can assume that genuine prophets—or believers gifted for prophecy—will always speak truths that can be evaluated (with the help of the Holy Spirit, and by the entire body) to be in harmony with scripture. Prophets may walk “apart from the crowd” and stand their ground for God’s truth even when it’s not popular, but they willingly (and with humility) submit what they say to their brothers and sisters for confirmation in the full light of divine revelation.

The chief fallacy of Islam lies in its claim that Muhammad was the final—and now only—”prophet” of God. The entire system of Islam is the construct of one man (and the spirit behind his “revelations”). Joseph Smith can be considered a false prophet by the same standard, for there was no confirmation of his anointing or his teachings by any other independent prophetic source. Both Islam and Mormonism deny the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. Prophets don’t found religions or “systems” for living under God! God hates “religion”. If you meet a person claiming to be a prophet who says God told him to start a “new faith” or “new religion” (according to a new gospel?)…RUN!

Reminder: Elijah didn’t call attention to himself. The genuine prophetic message, will always point to the things of God. Prophets don’t spend time defending themselves or justifying themselves. They will always give God’s people God’s truth, God’s direction, God’s comfort, God’s rebuke, God’s correction, God’s promise, etc. Paul desired that all should seek to “prophesy” in order to edify the entire body. The entire assembly of believers bears the responsibility for testing every word of prophecy.

Jesus speaks through the Spirit to be understood. The prophetic gift as expressed in a gathering of believers who are totally depending on God does not need to be—and will not be—presented in odd apocalyptic language. The language may have an uncommon, poetic beauty, but it won’t sound like a corruption of King James English! If Jesus wants to speak to the members of His body today through the gift of prophecy as it is seen in the New Testament, He means for everyone in that gathering to understand the message. The message will “stand the test”. In this case, there’s “weird”… and then there’s “genuine”. His building up of His body is not “weird”.

Jesus wants us focused on Him and the work He wants to set before us—not on “the signs of the times.”  The clear command of Jesus can be summed up as:  “love God, love one another, and make disciples”. For believers grounded in the word, this command drowns out every other noise in the world! He gave the disciples the signs that would come just before His return more as a comfort than as a license for believers to scare others into the Kingdom. He wants them to come seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness. I doubt scaring them away with self-righteousness was what He had in mind. Those who are more focused on the signs of the times than they are on Jesus give themselves away every time! They live in dependence on their chosen interpretation of (and preparation for) the “end times”. They may derive their interpretation from scripture on their own. Some unquestioningly parrot the interpretation taught by a spiritual leader under whose “authority” they have placed themselves. They may have accepted in its entirety the work of one of the many renowned commentators who have attempted to “unlock” the apocalyptic symbols in the Bible. Wherever they found their interpretation, they know the “whole truth” and they will argue for it with single-minded purpose. No one has “unlocked” the entirety of “end times” scripture with 100% accuracy! Any teacher on this subject who can’t leave room for the insights of others as fulfillment unfolds around us should not be trusted. The teachings of Jesus and the Apostles place far more emphasis on how we are to live as disciples and make disciples than on “end times”. There is way too much argument over the “signs” and far too little focus on Jesus and His last instruction—the Great Commission. Yes, He is coming again! Yes, we believe it will be soon. But He left clear instructions for us to “occupy and expand” while we await His return. In order to obey those instructions, we must remain in the place of total dependence on Him and focus all our attention on the person, nature, character and commands of our King!

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