Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2012
Have you ever wondered what the apostle Paul meant when he told the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies”? Why would he say such a thing? If the Christians back then were anything like Christians are today—and I think that is fairly likely—then they had to struggle with some of the same issues with which we struggle. One of the struggles we sometimes face is knowing the difference between moving “in the Spirit” and moving “in the flesh”.
With the rise of the modern Charismatic Movement in the Twentieth Century came a restoration of spiritual gifts to the Church, and an emphasis on the present-day activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Practices that we see in the book of Acts and in the early Church were suddenly happening again, right before our eyes! And it has been exciting.
Often, if our spiritual enemy can’t stop something, he’ll try to join it and corrupt it, misdirect it, or at least counterfeit it. This has been true with various practices within the Charismatic Movement. Sometimes, what started in the Spirit ended tragically in the flesh. This has been evident, at times, in the realm of prophetic utterances.
We believe that God’s Word is forever settled in heaven, and that the logos Word of the Holy Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired by the Holy Spirit; we also believe that the Spirit gives Rhema “now” words to guide and encourage believers today. But, when one purports to speak for God or to declare His Word authoritatively, there must always be the recognition that we are imperfect vessels, and we must test these words.
One friend of mine collects “prophecy bloopers” where believers made loud public pronouncements “in the name of the Lord” that were, well, suspect. For instance, one man rushed to the front of the church during a service and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘My people, my people, even as Abraham built the ark and saved his family, so I am building My Church!’” A few moments later, he ran back up front, grabbed the microphone and said, “My people, My people, I have made a mistake!”
In another church, one aspiring spokesman for God comforted a saint with these words: “Surely I, the Lord, have known your rising up and your sitting down; I have known your thoughts and intentions; I have known and numbered the very hairs on your head. But … I have temporarily forgotten your name!”
Of course, there have been far more egregious abuses of prophetic giftings or exploitation of people’s hunger and trust. Sometimes, this has provoked cynicism and doubt. Sadly, it has made some stumble or withdraw, or be willing to throw the “baby” of prophetic gifting out with the “bathwater” of false prophecy.
We should not despise a gift from God, nor reject the moving of His Holy Spirit. He gives us His presence and Word for His glory, for our benefit, and for the benefit of others. We must test all words, but if they line up with the Bible, then we should act upon them.
When the Lord spoke to Ezekiel, He said, “Prophesy to these bones!” By the Word of the Lord, spoken through His prophet, a valley of dry bones became a living and breathing army, ready for battle and equipped for victory (see Ezekiel 37). In these days, we see dry bones all around us, and God is saying, “Can these bones live?” We know the answer, if we will but be obedient to speak as He gives us words.
Scripture Reference: Ezekiel 37
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.