What is prophecy?

Seeing the future

Prayer is when we speak to God;
prophecy is when God speaks to us. 
All of us are able to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:31), and the Word tells us to
desire to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:39).  Prophecy
occurs when a person speaks out words that they sense God is saying.  Prophetic words can be very powerful,
but they should be weighed and handled with care. 

1 Corinthians 14:3 describes the
safe parameters for prophecy.  It
is to be used to strengthen, encourage and comfort.  It is not
to be used to convict of sin, and if guidance occurs, it should confirm what
the Lord is already saying to a person. 

Prophecy does not have to be
spoken.  One of the most powerful
prophecies we have ever been given was in a meeting when we had a friend of
ours from England, Norman Barnes, with us.  Norman moves very powerfully in the gift of prophecy.  He had us sit on a sofa and covered us
completely with a large sheet.  As
his prophecy, he removed the sheet from us and told us that God had had us
hidden for a number of years but now was the time when we were going to be
revealed.  What was interesting was
the context of the prophecy.  Back
in the UK, we had been relatively well known.  When we came here to America, no one was interested in what
had happened back in England and we entered a ten year period of total
obscurity (very good for us!) We wondered if we were going to stay “on the
shelf” forever.  It was shortly
after this prophetic word that we helped to start House2House magazine which
has again thrust us more into the public eye.

The fact that God has used a person to prophesy does not make them a prophet.  The 5-fold ministry of the prophet as mentioned in Ephesians 4 occurs when a person is used to prophesy on a regular basis and over things that effect the course of the church.  It is usually a traveling ministry.  Along with apostles, prophets are part of the foundation (infrastructure) of the church.

5 replies on “What is prophecy?”

Thank you for speaking to the Fivefold ministry and the role of the prophet in it.
Is the prophecy you describe a manifestation of the “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” listed as Spiritual gifts, or do you see those as something different? If one is a prophet in the Eph. 4 sense of the word, I think it is undoubtedly prophecy. Would these spiritual gifts also have a regular usage, rather than being once-in-a-while prophecies?
Thanks – Stan

I’m glad you are writing about prophesy, Felicity. (Love the picture of the little girl!) Seems to me that this (the gift of prophesy) is an expression of God’s grace that is often misunderstood and underutilized.
I’ve always thought that 1 Cor 14:1 gives us an important insight. Speaking to house churches, Paul says that they (corporately) should pursue love but also earnestly desire spiritual gifts. “Earnestly desire” in the Greek means to sizzle or be hot. So, he’s saying that house churches should be “hot” for spiritual gifts. And, of all of the gifts, they should be most “hot” for prophesy. Why? I think it is because of all of the gifts, if it is properly used, it has the greatest capacity to strengthen (edify)the Body. See the end of 1 Cor. 14:26. (Your story above about Norman Barnes is a good example of this.)
One other thought. What if we saw the gifted people listed in Eph. 4 as coaches? That is, they “equip the saints for their work of ministry” by stirring up and training people in house churches in those particular gifts. So, the prophet (in this context) is not distinguished so much by being great at prophesying (although he/she might be). Rather, that person is great at helping house church members begin to utilize this gift (so that “all may prophesy”).
Seen in this way, Eph 4 is more like a list of different kinds of coaches (Tom Landry – football, Phil Jackson – basketball, Joe Torre – baseball, etc.) than great players (Peyton Manning-football, Lebron James – basketball, Alex Rodriguez – baseball, etc.)

Stan, in my experience, the gifts may somewhat overlap. I have quite frequently operated in words of knowledge, and they tend to be about a person’s current or past situation. For example, I remember once knowing in a meeting that someone had been sexually abused as a child. (I had in mind who it was–a person who had been sitting glowering at everything going on.) I was totally wrong. When I voiced the impression I was receiving, a sweet little lady in her seventies came up to me, and her story was that for years as a child she had been abused by an uncle, but had never told anyone and it had affected her whole life. It was a joy to pray with her and see her set free.
A word of wisdom is similar. An example would be when we had a joint project run between our church and another one in the UK. The person running the project belonged to the other church and he was doing a bad job in many ways. We could have fired him, but a word of wisdom given by someone suggested that decision be left in the hands of the other church (who fired him). If we had done the firing, it could have left a tense situation between the two churches.
I hope this helps

Stan, I just reread your question. Some people operate consistently in one the spiritual gifts. I have a friend who frequently uses the gift of a word of knowledge to lead people to the Lord. For example, one day God gave her a word of knowledge about a woman sitting on a park bench. She went up to her and got chatting and then told her, “You’ve just come out of a psychiatric ward, haven’t you?” The woman was amazed that she would know this, and my friend introduced her to Jesus.
This use of the spiritual gifts in the marketplace is a powerful tool for the spread of the Kingdom. I just finished editing an article based on an interview I did with Sean Steckbeck in Israel. He sees this kind of thing happen all the time too. The interview will appear on H2H (and maybe on my blog at some point too.)

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