What is a prophet?
What is prophecy?
How do you judge prophecy?
The Bible is very clear that we must test all prophecy. We are not to be naïve and gullibly believe that just because someone says they have a message from God it really is from God. On the other hand we must also be open to God speaking to us through prophecy and not have an overly skeptical or dismissive attitude:
1Thes 5:19-21 – Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
I John 4:1 – Dear friends, 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.
You have three options when judging a prophecy:
- Reject the word
- Wait for confirmation on the word
- Receive the word.
In judging whether a prophecy really is from God we test three things:
- We test the message – does it line up with Scripture? Anything that contradicts the Bible should be rejected.
- We test the messenger – how godly and spiritually mature are they? If someone is living in sin, or seems like a fanatic, or is a new believer, you should be more cautious in receiving the word.
- We test the method – was it given in love and do you have peace? Prophecies given in a harsh condemning way or that shame and embarrass people are very unlikely to be from God.
It is also wise to take the prophecy to a spiritually mature believer, especially a Spirit-filled pastor who understands prophecy, and ask for their advice. This is especially true if the prophecy contains elements of correction or guidance.
Ultimately a prophecy is judged spiritually. Does it witness with your spirit? Does it seem right deep down inside? Does it seem like God is saying that it is right? When you pray about it does your spirit seem excited and free or are you knotted up in confusion and a feeling of dis-ease? Ultimately you must go with your gut-feeling.
If you are still not sure whether the word is from God, wait for confirmation. The Holy Spirit will confirm with your spirit whether it is from God or give you further direction.
What do you do once you have judged a prophecy?
Presuming that you have tested the prophecy and have judged it to be from God you should:
- Record and write the word down (Hab 2:2-3).
- Get advice from mature believers (Prov 15:22).
- Follow the prophecy and in so doing fight the good fight (1 Tim 1:18).
1 Tim 1:18 – I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.
We follow the prophecy by trusting God and standing in faith that the word will be fulfilled, and by doing everything that is necessary from our side to see the fulfilment of the prophecy. Obviously only God can make a prophecy come true but none-the-less there are still conditions we must fulfil.
It is critical that you realise that all prophecy is conditional – even if conditions were not stated in the prophecy. Prophecy is a declaration of what will be, provided you exercise your faith and obey God. For instance, if a person receives a prophecy that they will be a great evangelist one day that word will not come true – even if it is from God – if the person lives in sin, never develops their relationship with God, or is lazy in sharing the Gospel. However, we must also not try and make the prophecy come true or run ahead of God. We must submit the prophecy to God and trust Him to fulfil it in His own time.
It is also important to realise that after a great prophetic word we often experience prophetic contradiction. This is when our lives seem to go in the opposite direction to the prophecy spoken over our lives. For instance, Joseph was shown that his brothers would bow down before him but soon after found himself in a pit looking up at his brothers. David was prophesied to be the next king of Israel but soon found himself on the run as a fugitive and exile. The process of the fulfilment of a prophetic word is often:
- Declaration – God declares His intention and purpose for your life.
- Distress – puts you through trials and difficulty.
- Development – to cause you to develop in maturity and character.
- Demonstration – and then brings about the fulfilment of His purpose.
Probably the best response to personal prophecy in the Bible is that of Mary the mother of Jesus who received a prophecy that was incredibly difficult to believe. Yet note her response:
- She believed the prophecy.
Luke 1:38 – “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
- She then meditated on the prophecy.
Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
- She told an older more spiritually mature friend and received encouragement:
Luke 1:45 – [Elizabeth said] Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!
- She worshipped God with her whole heart:
Luke 1:46 – And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…”
If we will also believe our prophecies, treasure and ponder them in our hearts, receive wise counsel, and worship God wholeheartedly we will see the fulfilment of impossible things!
2 Chr 20:20 – “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
How do you distinguish between a Christian church and a cult?
Legitimate groups within Christianity
- We must differentiate between Christianity, cults and other religions.
- Within Christianity there are many groups that are considered truly Christian. In Germany there are three groups: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Free Church. Although there are differences between Free Churches and the other two groups, fundamentally they are all Christian.
- In Germany the Lutheran and Catholic churches receive financial support through the state and the Free Churches are supported through donations. Free Churches tend to emphasize the Bible more, practice baptism by immersion for believers, encourage small groups, and are more relaxed and contemporary in style. Baptists, Pentecostals, independent churches, and international churches would all fall into the category of free churches.
- The major world religions propose contradictory ways of being saved. It is not possible to be Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian at the same time. Each religion – by virtue of its truth claims – is exclusive. Each person is forced to choose between them. They may all be wrong; or all but one wrong; but they cannot all be true. For example, Jesus either is or is not the Son of God. We are either saved by our own works or we are saved by grace.
- From a Christian perspective there is only one true religion – Christianity. Other religions propose different paths to salvation that contradict Jesus and the Bible. They claim that there is a way of being saved other than through the death and resurrection of Christ. These other religions do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Saviour of the world. They do not accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God; and they all claim that salvation is attained by good works and not by grace.
- For example, Islam claims a person is saved by their good deeds and obedience to the five pillars of Islam. Muslims also claim Jesus never died on the Cross and reject salvation through Christ. Christianity on the other hand claims that salvation can only be found by accepting that Jesus died in our place on the Cross and that through repentance and faith we receive forgiveness and become a child of God.
- A person must choose between these religions. It would be illogical to claim one can be a believer in more than one religion because they are so different and contradictory.
- However, Christians should always treat adherents of other religions with respect and tolerance and work together for a better society for all.
- Apart from other religions and groups within Christianity there are those groups that claim to be Christian but are actually not. We call these cults. This would include groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism/Church of Latter-Day Saints, Scientology and the Unification Church.
- Many people who are paranoid about cults don’t know what a cult actually is so it is important to understand what makes a group a cult so we use the word appropriately.
- To be a legitimately Christian church a group must have orthodoxy (right believing) and orthopraxy (right practice). Essentially orthodoxy is holding to the historic Christian faith as taught in the Bible and the historic creeds, and orthopraxy is avoiding controlling and damaging practices.
- We could elaborate on this to say a cult is characterized by six features:
- Heresy – It teaches doctrines which are regarded as gross error. These are especially aberrant teachings about Jesus and salvation. This would include teaching that Jesus was not really God, we are saved through our own good works, or the Bible is not the inspired Word of God, and there is another book apart from the Bible (or an altered Bible) that is our final authority.
- Personality driven – Cults are led by leaders who have a Messiah complex. These so-called prophets claim exclusive revelation and build the organization around themselves. Occasionally the cult leader has many wives or receives sexual favours from women in the cult because of his special status.
- Control – Cults are almost impossible to leave. They use manipulation, domination and intimidation to coerce people. There may be threats of reprisal, death, or losing salvation if someone tries to leave.
- Religious pride – Cults are sectarian, divisive, and exclusive. They claim they are the only ones who really know and do what’s right.
- Brain washing – Cults try and control the thinking of their people through systematic and twisted teaching, isolating people from other teachers, and through secrecy.
- Abuse – Cults always abuse their people. They may have deviant sexual practices, fleece them of their money, take advantage of weak people, or use drugs. In the most extreme cases they may engage in criminal activities or make suicide pacts.
- Every Nation Kirche Berlin is part of the world-wide family of Every Nation churches that is in over 80 countries and includes over two thousand churches (www.everynation.org). We base our beliefs on the Bible and the historic creeds; the only person we want to make famous is Jesus; people are free to leave whenever they want; we recognize and respect many other groups as being on the cutting edge; we do not isolate our people from other teachings and openly ask people to check what we say against the Bible; and we do not abuse people. We do not have a single pastor but a team of pastors for mutual accountability. Furthermore, our pastors are accountable for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy to trans-local leaders who provide a place of appeal if members feel they are being mistreated.
- Let us be vigilant against heresy and cults but let us also not be afraid that every new expression of Christianity is a cult. As society and culture changes it would only be expected that the ancient truth of Christianity would be expressed in different styles and methods.