Monday, January 19, 2009

Prophecies vs. Prophets

Prophecies vs Prophets

With the outpouring of God’s Spirit in our churches today, we are hearing more prophetic words and utterances being made all over the land. Prophecies - once hardly ever practised in churches - are now a common exercise in many congregations of believers. The prophetic gift is once again being stirred into activity as the prophetic ministry rises steadily over the past few years. However, this rising move of the prophetic ministry is also accompanied by much confusion and misconception from people. One of these is the great confusion people have in distinguishing the gift of prophecy from the office (or ministry) of a prophet.

The gift of prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit where the power of God’s Spirit is manifested through a believer (1Cor. 12:10) to bring edification, exhortation and comfort to the body of Christ. A prophet, however is a gift to the body of Christ to equip the saints and contribute in specific ways to perfect the Church (Eph.4:11-13; 2:20). The latter ministry precedes the former in authority and power, as a prophet generally operates on a much higher level in the spiritual realm than the believers who gives occasional prophecies as led by the Holy Spirit. The difference between one called a prophet and one believer who prophesises as part of his general call is similar to that comparison drawn between a general clerk who is skilled in basic accounting principles to a qualified accountant who has been trained to manage accounts on a professional level.

As believers of the Lord Jesus, we are all encouraged to seek and exercise the gift of prophecy (1 Cor.14:1). As people with God’s Holy Spirit in us, we are supernaturally enabled, and should all be able to both hear from the Lord and, speak revelation according to the divine inspiration in us. As mentioned before, we are now seeing more of this happening in our midst as people are beginning to stir up the gift of prophecy in the church. However, apart from this general gift of prophecy is the special ministry that God has appointed to establish prophets as a special institution for His church. These prophets are to represent His voice and His authority. The glory is great, but so is the responsibility and the faithfulness demanded from such an appointment. As such, not many but only some are called to take up the office of prophets.
It is imperative to know the distinction between prophets and prophetically inclined believers; for if we do not, then there is always the possibility of us shutting ourselves out from receiving the gift God has given to equip and perfect us. Though a man may be practised and adept in the delivery of prophecies, nevertheless, without the anointing of God, he remains not a prophet by office. Accordingly, church leaders who are prophetic or with members who are prophetic - who think that there is therefore no great need for a prophet’s ministry in their church, should reconsider their position in the matter. It is important that we recognise prophets as God’s gifts to us, given together with the apostles, as the foundational ministry of the church.

Equipping Function

In establishing the ministry of Prophets, the Lord has not just given us a channel through which we can receive divine revelations and directions, but He has also set up a platform from which every believer learns from the appointed Prophets how to hear and receive from God and how also to yield to His Spirit’s leading to speak a prophetic word. The purpose here is so that we “can all prophesy” (1Cor.14:31) and deliver exhortation and encouragement to one another on a general level. In this sense, Prophets – like their counterparts in the fivefold – go beyond what their office requires them to do and work also to impart and develop their anointing and gifting in the rest of the believers not in their field of ministry. For the fivefold ministry has been given to the Church of Christ “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph.4:11). These five ministries are to equip the other members of the Church in doing the Lord’s work. Like how Evangelists impart a love for the lost to the Body of Christ and help all believers learn to lead others to the Lord though their primary job as Evangelists is to evangelise; and how Teachers impart a love for the truth and deliver the spiritual tools needed for all believers to search the truths in God’s Word for themselves though their primary call is to impart knowledge, Prophets are given to us to help us all to recognise the Lord’s voice and prophesy according to His leading though their primary vocation is to prophesy and speak God’s supreme directions to the Church.

We cannot be complete without the fivefold ministry of spiritual authority and anointing; and we must know and embrace the fullness of God’s provision for us in order to become the mighty army of God that we’re called to be. Even, if we may not have blatantly rejected or dismissed the ministry of Prophets, but ignorance of their purpose in the Church is enough to hinder us from coming to maturity and arriving at the stature corresponding to the fullness of Christ.


In appreciating the ministry of Prophets, we can try to look upon as “eyes” of the church (Isa. 29:10). As eyes on a body gives physical vision to a man, so the Prophets gives spiritual vision to the Church. They function as one who provide vision so the church may stay on the path that she has been called to walk. As we reckon that the world is moving in a much faster pace, many are in rampant confusion and pressure and are easily get distracted by the enemy to fulfil their destiny. Thus, the church faces an urgent need for prophetic foresight in order to have both efficiency and effectiveness in expanding the kingdom.

Apart from giving us vision, the “eyes” are also used to watch out for danger. Likewise, Prophets are used in similar manner as they sharply detect the schemes of the enemy and warn the church of evils. Until the prophets have taken their rightful place in the body, the church will continue to grope, stumble and be subject to unnecessary difficulties and danger. She may still fulfil the destiny that God has set for her, under the less than ideal conditions, but why would a church of god-loving believers want to do that when God has given us all that is needed for us to fulfil our calling in Him? It is like a blind man who rejects restoration of sight. For though it remains possible for a blind man to feel his way about and still get on with life in a slower way, it is unthinkable why any one would opt for a harder life without his eyes when he could have the convenience of sight.

Some of us have mistakenly thought of intercessors as the “eyes” of the church, and have thus relied on the intercessors for body (corporate) directions, visions and warnings. This is not meant to be, for though some of our godly intercessors can be very sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit and carry in their ministry a prophetic quality, they are still not the persons whom God’s anointing to speak as Him was given. Rather, intercessors are people who stand in the gap to intercede for the plan and purpose of God to be accomplished on earth. They propel the fulfilment of God’s plans as spoken from the Prophets’ mouths. They are like hands to the body; and so, depending on intercessors for visions and leadings are like using hands to grope and feel our way around instead of using our sight to see the way ahead.

The Lord desires that we should know the time of His work, the time of His judgment, and also the time of the enemy’s attack. One of the foremost functions of prophets is to discern the times and seasons of the spiritual realm. The psalmist’s most exasperating lamentation for their nations under siege was: “we do not see our signs, there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long” (Ps.74:9). Recognising signs and seasons in the spiritual is an essential aspect of the prophetic ministry that must be recovered and positioned properly in the Body of Christ. There are times and seasons for everything: “ To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Eccl.3:1). The Lord wept over the city of Jerusalem because she has failed to discern the time of His visitation (Lk.19:41-44).


The Prophets are also called to be the “watchmen” of the Church. They are the ones who are trained to recognise both enemy and kin. The Lord’s will is that they keep vigil over the Lord’s fold; and evil is not to escape their immediate detection. Nevertheless, the authority to confront remains with the elders and does not reside with the Prophets. Prophets would warn of danger, but it is the elders who would manage the situation. Problems and conflicts are likely to arise when watchmen (Prophets) function beyond their authority and interfere where they should not. For when that happens, the Prophets would be thought of as trying to usurp the authority of the elders in dictating moves or actions. So the line of authority must be clearly drawn and observed. Paul was careful to stay within the realm of authority that had been appointed to him (2 Cor.10:12-14). When a man steps out of the boundaries drawn on our realm of authority, the consequences are grave and are almost always destructive. This is something every one of us must accept and practice; for until a proper understanding and relationship are established between elders and watchmen, the Church will not be the kind of power and glory we are called. Unlike the Prophets in the Old Testament times, New Testament Prophets belong to a part of the body and must remain joined to the Head and to the rest of the Body. A Prophet’s identity cannot be realised when he stands alone; likewise, the Body also, will not be complete without the Prophets.

Receiving the Prophet

One of the reasons why some of us find difficulty in receiving the prophetic ministry is the peculiar anointing and character of Prophets. Especially when the Prophets are still young in their ministry and have not be nurtured in the attributes of mercy, compassion and love, they tend to walk strictly only in their gifting and may thus end up being concluded as harsh and judgmental and uncooperative. Allowance should therefore be given for these Prophets to refine and mature themselves in ministry, and we should not be too quick in dismissing Prophets whom we think are difficult to work with. Also, because of the Prophets’ unique anointing upon their lives and their unusual experiences in the spiritual realm, people find it hard to comprehend them. Prophets are given the special grace to perceive things that would otherwise escape the perceptions of an ordinary person, and it might take another Prophet to fully appreciate and understand a Prophet’s thoughts. Since most of us are not able to identify with the many things that come from a Prophet, let us nevertheless accept that the Lord’s anointing rests on them and let us receive them as they are.

Another reason why people do not welcome Prophets could be that the expectations placed upon the Prophets are not being met. Many of us expect Prophets to function as fortune-tellers who would foretell our future or events of the future. Some even expect the Prophets to give them a word from the Lord as and when they want to hear a word! Unrealistic and unnecessary pressures have been thrown upon the Prophets by people who have not come to understand the essence of the Prophetic ministry. Insecure and young Prophets who yield to such pressure will try to prove their worth or calling and they end up making mistakes because they have acted without the Lord’s leading. This then starts the circle of confusion and condemnation upon the Prophetic ministry.

A faithful Prophet is one who walks in the fear of the Lord; and who values his standing before God above anything else (1 Kg.17:1). The love of God must overcome the fear of man in a Prophet; for he cannot speak an unequivocal word from the Lord pure if he is attached to the fear of man and the desire for man’s recognition and acceptance. Many a times, the Lord allows His Prophets to suffer rejection from men so as to deliver them from the unnecessary attachment. A Prophet ought to know that they have received their commission from the Father, and it therefore does not matter what opinions people form of them when they act in obedience to the Lord. A prophet must not allow himself to be controlled by human expectations, or even their own, but only by the Lord’s.

Elijah was perceived as the “troubler of Isreal” (1 Kgs.18:17) by the people, but that did not stop him from discharging his prophetic calling in obedience to God’s leading. Prophets who are overly concerned about what people think of them will never be able to walk securely in their calling. And people who receive only Prophets who affirm their ministries or visions are probably not receiving true prophets. King Ahab who wanted to hear only from Prophets who would prophesy good things about Him received false words from deceiving prophets and rejected the true Prophet Micaiah (1 Kn. 22). Insecure people who receive only those who agree with them and those who do not oppose them, will often be susceptible to false prophetic ministry. Our pride is a great hindrance to receiving true prophetic word. “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obad.3).

Utter devotion to God’s glory and purpose will be required not only from all who desire to walk in the true prophetic anointing, but also from churches who are supposed to receive the Prophets of God. Those who do not receive the prophetic ministry ordained by God will not benefit and receive the prophetic reward.

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt.10:41).

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