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-- © GodSpeak International 2002 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.net> --

Author: Teresa Seputis ts@godspeak.net http://www.godspeak.net
Editor: Bob Hawley

Finding Your Place In God's Kingdom Order

Lesson 5
The Office Of Prophet

By Teresa Seputis

What Is A Prophet?

Simply speaking, a prophet is someone God has appointed as His spokesperson. It is one who delivers God's message to God's intended audience in the manner God wants it delivered. When a prophet speaks, the prophet does not represent him or herself. Instead the prophet represents God. (See 2 Peter 1:20.)

If that sounds scary, it should be. It is a serious thing to claim to speak for God when you are not really speaking for Him.

When people think of prophets, they often think of the Old Testament greats like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, etc. We see these Old Testament prophets speaking for God, and we also see them offering leadership and doing signs and wonders. I believe that the modern parallel of those prophets is more along the line of apostles than of present-day prophets. However, the prophetic is still very crucial and active in the church.

We see, in 1 Cor. 12:28, that God appointed prophets in His New Testament church. He released many gifts and offices into the church, and the prophetic is one of them. The main purpose of the prophetic, according to 1 Cor. 14:1-5, is to build up the church, to edify, strengthen, encourage and comfort. The reason God released the prophetic in His New Testament church was not to speak judgment and condemnation, but to build up the Body of Christ. He actually appointed some people into a prophetic leadership role, putting them there to equip believers and to build up the Body of Christ. We see this in Eph. 4:11-12: "It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up."

God expects the church to pay attention to what He speaks through His New Testament prophets. 2 Peter 1:19 makes this very clear. It says, "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

The book of Acts shows prophets operating in the early church. There are male and female prophets. We see female prophets in Acts 46:8-9. It says, "Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied."

We also see examples of New Testament prophets interacting with the New Testament apostles in the book of Acts. Here is one of them from Acts 46:10-14:

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."

We note from this example that prophets do not tell the apostles what to do. Rather they bring information from God and the apostles use that information to make their leadership decisions. Agabus did not tell Paul what to do, he merely told Paul (and Paul's traveling companions) what would happen should he continue on his way to Jerusalem. Paul understood that God was asking him to lay down his life for the gospel, the word prepared him for what lay ahead. The others (not the prophet who delivered the word) tried to use the word to influence Paul's decisions. However, Paul refused to be swayed by their arguments and obeyed what God had spoken personally to Him.

Sadly, not everyone who claims to be a prophet really is one. 1 John 4:1 warns us that there are false prophets operating in the church, and therefore it is necessary to judge prophecy. It says, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Modern-day Prophets

Modern-day prophets operate on either of two scopes, and many operate in both. Those are: personal prophecies and corporate prophecies.

Some prophets give personal messages from God to individuals. We call this "personal prophecy." God uses personal prophecy to speak to those who have not learned how to hear/discern His voice. Since they can't hear God directly, He sends one of His prophets to speak to them. But God also uses personal prophecy with those who are good at hearing His voice. He uses it to give them confirmations on what He has said directly to them. He also uses personal prophecy to encourage His children.

It is important to understand that God never intends for personal prophecy to become a substitute for His people learning to hear and recognize His voice. It is God's heart and desire for each Christian to know His voice because He desires to speak directly to each of us.

Some prophets operate on a corporate scope where God speaks through them to groups (such as in a local church meeting). The Lord may have a word of encouragement or challenge for the group, and He will use a prophet to deliver it to the group during the meeting. God loves to encourage His children and He frequently releases prophetic words of encouragement during the worship portion of a service.

Sometimes God releases corporate words when He wants to alert a group (or the Body of Christ at large) to something that is going to happen. One of the most poignant recent examples of this is the word that Chuck Piece gave shortly before the November 2000 elections in the USA. God wanted to alert the American church that this election would be critical for the nation and that they needed to fast and pray and seek that God's will be done in this election. At that time, none of the American believers dreamed of the Florida election recount battle that would break out. And none knew that a terrorist attack would be launched against some key East Coast cities and that America would be going to war against terrorism. None knew this particular presidency would be during one of the most critical times that the United States has experienced in recent history. But God knew all of this in advance. He wanted to alert His church to this fact. This is why He released a prophetic word through Chuck Pierce alerting American Christians to fast and pray about the upcoming elections.

Sometimes God releases corporate words when He wants to share His strategies or direction with the church. This can happen on either of two scopes. Some strategies and directions are for the Body of Christ at large, they apply to all believers. For instance, many prophetic voices are declaring that God wants to pour out His power and anointing in the lives of everyday believers. He is bringing most believers through a time of refiner's fire and purification, so that we can be holy vessels to carry His anointing. It will soon be "natural" for everyday believers "to walk in the supernatural" (as John Wimber would say). God is getting His church ready to be vessels of His power, glory and anointing. That is an example of a prophetic word to the entire Body of Christ.

There are times when God releases directions and strategies that are specific to a local group of believers. For instance, Jesus' prophecy to the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7) applied specifically to that church. It did not apply to the church in Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-12), nor did it apply to the church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-28). In fact the church in Ephesus is praised for its holiness and good works, but chided for allowing its love of God to grow cold. On the other hand, the church in Thyatira is praised for its love and faith, but it is chided for the unholiness that has sprung up in their midst. God directed one group to work on restoring their first love, and directed the other group to clean up their act and walking in holiness. He had different messages and strategies for different local groups (churches) because the churches were at different places in their walk with God. He still does this today.

Sometimes God releases directive words in a church service that can change the order of the service. If God gives this type of word, it must be delivered with care and in the right way. In most cases, God will have put one person (usually the pastor) in charge of the service, and He will release the directive word through a different person (one of His prophets). The prophet is not in charge of the service and does not have authority to alter or change the direction/flow of the service. So God expects the prophet to run the directive word by the leader, and allow the leader to determine what to do with it. The prophet is not to release a directive word directly to the body unless he has first touched bases with the leader and gotten a "go ahead" to deliver it. If the leader chooses not to release the directive word, the prophet's responsibility is ended because the prophet delivered the direction to the leader. And God will hold the leader accountable to do the right thing with it at the right time.

To review, we have talked about two types of prophecy: personal prophecy and corporate prophecy. Personal prophecy is a message from God, given through a prophet to a specific person. Corporate prophecy is when God uses a prophet to give a message to a group of believers at once. Corporate words can apply to a specific local group (church, home group, etc) or to the Body of Christ at large. Some prophets give only personal prophecies, some give only corporate ones and others give both.

-- © GodSpeak International 2002 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.net> --

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