The Prophet

"Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message...Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord." Acts 15:32-35

Last night, Dana and I assisted my Mom and Dad with their departure from a week long hospital stay and a re-entry to their own home. Their doctor made the call at about 5:00 PM, and we pulled up to their home at 8:30 PM. There were certain vital signs and health concerns that had to be in order before the doctor would sign his name to Dad's release. Once those criteria were reached, and the antibiotics had been put into his system, he was good to go. He was one happy camper. Truly, there is no place like home.

I love reading how the ministry of preaching and teaching took hold in the early church. The Book of Acts is so revealing, and always reminding me of the essential vital signs of a healthy church, and the qualified health inspectors that had their hand on the pulse of the Body of Christ. The church that doesn't have these vital signs or ignores the voices of those who give the church regular Spiritual Checkups is not going to survive the evil viruses that the enemy unleashes, to destroy the church.

I attended a seminary that was founded as "The School of The Prophets." When I discovered this reference to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I remember thinking it was a real stretch to use such a grandiose term to describe who I was. Still, The Founders understood more about preaching and teaching than I did. The term has grown on me over the past 40 years.

Acts refers to prophets in the early church, in such a matter of fact fashion. Two men were introduced as "also being prophets themselves." There was no fanfare, no introduction or name in lights celebrity status attached to this announcement. They were prophets.

To many people the very word, prophet refers to someone who foretells the future. To others it conjures up the mental image of Charlton Heston coming down the mountain in a robe, with a white beard, carrying tablets of stone, and roaring at the scene of chaos in the Hebrew camp. To others it is simply a synonym for preacher, someone who forth-tells the word of God, but doesn't wander into fore-telling the future.

The early church needed prophets, preachers and teachers. Acts reveals them all. The contemporary church is short on them. Guess which expression of the Body of Christ reveals more vital signs? This is not a trick question.

The word prophet is transliterated from the Greek language. To see it written in English, one sees very little change in the root of it in the Greek word "prophetes." See what I mean? It meant "to forth-tell, or to divulge."

In the New Testament, prophets ministered to the early church when "they were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate, their hearers." The Blue Letter Bible

Prophets were not glorified genies that came out of a lamp, nor were they people who made glib predictions about the future. They were not entertainers at parties or presbyteries, using their prophetic voice to perform cheap parlor tricks. They had a spirit sensitive to the voice of God, and they heard from God. What they heard, they spoke.

Prophets had that rare combination of courage and humility to speak forth into others, what they heard God's Spirit say to them. Do they still minister to the local church? Some say. "No."... quoting

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease." 1 Corinthians 13:8

The major point of that passage, is that selfless love is the motivation for a prophet, not selfish ambition. Others believe speaking forth a strong word, from the Word of God is the current expression of the New Testament model. This expression can be corrupted by an angry preacher venting his spleen, using the bully pulpit to browbeat people into seeing things his way.

Note to self: If you have a prophetic word, have the courage to speak it, but also the humility to say it with a broken heart.

Fore-telling the future, and forth-telling the Word of God are the most common expressions of the prophet. The end result of any expression of this Spiritual gift is the encouraging and the strengthening of the brethren.

To release any prophetic word, void of encouragement to believers, weakens the Body of Christ. It is probably not a word from God. Check the source. Not everything that smells like smoke is HOLY SMOKE. Hell has a way of sending up counterfeit smoke signals. The Wise know the difference.

I Cor. 12:10 reveals that prophecy is a gift of The Spirit. That being true, it will always glorify Jesus and be birthed in prayer. The purpose of The Spirit is to glorify Christ, and Jesus lives to make intercession. To speak a word for God that is not received in the climate of prayer is to confuse one's personal preference with a Biblical reference. Jesus prayed, "Not MY will, but THY will be done." Prophets don't speak until they come to that same place of humility.

Ephesians 4:11 says, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

The gift of prophecy is not a new idea, but using it as a personal possession is a bad idea. It is a gift, but it doesn't belong to the prophet. It comes from God, and prophets who grieve the Holy Spirit and bring dishonor to Jesus can expect it to have the gift removed from their hands.

Paul feared this most of all. He prayed that he might not ever become a "castaway." There is nothing more pathetic than a prophet shooting his mouth off, and running around naked, without a mantle from God. Wise prophets cover themselves in prayer, before they deliver a message for God.

I Timothy 4:14 says, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery."

Paul's warning to Timothy reveals a process in the early church for the setting apart of people for ministry. There were trusted elders, or presbyters who spoke a prophetic word into prospective ministers, and leaders.

Churches that practice the laying on of hands, often neglect the prophetic word. They may fill a slot on a committee, a staff, or a deacon roll, and settle for people who are not filled with The Spirit. This is a toxic virus that attacks the Body of Christ with deadly results. Stop it!

WARNING: Don't ever elect people, God never selected.

Prophetic people have voices that are heard in Heaven, long before they are heard in the church. Prophetic voices are voices very familiar to Jesus. They fill themselves with His Spirit, and linger in the presence of Jesus, as they join Him in the work of intercession.

The prophet seeks nothing more and settles for nothing less than God's direction, protection and correction, in their own lives. They don't rush to the microphone, with a good idea. They must know it is God's idea. They kneel at God's altar, and make sure they are consumed by the fire of God, before they try to shed His light or bring the heat. Prophets will TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!