Prophecy Pt II - Weigh the Message

Prophecy Part II:
Weigh the Message, Discern the Voice

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
Author Unknown

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle

“Trust, but verify.”
Russian proverb (popularized by Ronald Reagan)

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”
Leonardo da Vinci
In our previous discussion, The Dangers of Unaccountable Prophecy, we examined the vital importance of discerning true prophecy from falsehood. We also warned against the dangers of unaccountable prophecy from self-appointed prophets operating outside biblical authority structures. Modern prophecy, while still a valid gift, lacks the infallibility of Scripture and must be carefully tested against God’s Word. While celebrating the ongoing role of prophecy, it calls believers to biblical discernment, rejecting any so-called revelations that contradict sound doctrine, breed disunity, or undermine spiritual authority. Prophecy is a sacred gift from God, intended to edify, encourage, and console the Church (1 Corinthians 14:3). However, the Bible is clear that true prophecy must be subject to scrutiny and accountability being carefully evaluated by those in spiritual authority over the local church. As we journey together, let us turn our gaze toward how we authenticate and rightly steward words purported to be from the Lord.

Testing the Source
How do we discern whether a prophetic word is from God? As we mentioned in our previous blog, the first step in discerning whether a prophetic word is from God is to examine the source and content of the prophetic message itself. Scrutinizing the source of a prophetic message is akin to examining the root of a tree. We must ask piercing questions: Does this person have genuine intimacy with God, abiding in His Word and seeking His glory alone, or do they seem driven by self-interest, misguided zeal, or ungodly influences? In both 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, Paul instructs that a word must be weighed and tested by others; any prophecies that contradict Scripture or sows discord among believers are to be rejected outright. A genuine word from the Lord will never contradict His unchanging nature or the teachings of Scripture. The Bible teaches that all Scripture comes from God and is useful for teaching, pointing out where we are wrong, correcting us when we stray, and training us to live rightly (2 Timothy 3:16). God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), so anything purporting to be from Him yet clashing with the Bible’s truth should be rejected outright. The Lord will not let anyone or anything else take credit for His glory (Isaiah 42:8). A true prophetic word speaks from a heart devoted solely to Christ and firmly grounded in sound biblical doctrine. Anything less casts doubt on the message’s origins.

Examining the Motive
We must also carefully consider the motivations behind prophetic claims. John instructs, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1, ESV). Is the person seeking fame, financial gain, or a following? A true prophetic word points people to Christ, not to the person speaking. Self-promotion, greed, or a desire for power and control over others are insidious motives that can corrupt any ministry. Sometimes, purported prophecies are employed as a means of manipulation to compel certain behaviors, engender fear, or produce a desired outcome that benefits a person, persons, or a ministry. This compulsion violates the sacred purpose of prophecy, which is to edify, encourage, and bring conviction in a spirit of love (1 Corinthians 14:3). A genuine word from God liberates, not oppresses, and directs our gaze toward the freedom found in Christ, not the personal agendas of man. As John the Baptist declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). A prophetic word should build up the body of Christ in Christlike humility, not gratify egos, line pockets, or wield control over people. A willing submission to God’s Spirit leaves no room for self-serving ambition.

Evaluating the Fruit
A prophetic word’s spiritual fruit, its ultimate impact on the lives of believers, serves as a potent litmus test. Does it produce greater love for God and neighbor? A deeper hunger for holiness? A passionate desire to serve Christ’s eternal purposes? The ultimate test of prophecy is not the charisma or claims of the prophet but the conformity of their words to the revealed Word of God. As Hebrews 1:1-2 declares, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is the ultimate standard by which all prophecies must be measured. True prophecy bears the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). It does not breed spiritual toxicity, division, condemnation or judgment, or behavior antithetical to the biblical model of prophecy, and exposes the true nature of this individual’s ‘ministry’ (James 3:16, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:10, Matthew 7:1, Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 14:3). Godly prophecy edifies and encourages the Church toward greater unity and maturity in Christ. Jesus said we would know false prophets by their rotten spiritual fruits (Matthew 7:16), and He promised, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). When a church remains faithful to the Word of God and submits to godly leadership, it will withstand assaults of false prophecy and continue to thrive, despite the dire ‘prophecies’ of those who operate outside of biblical authority structures.

A Life Displaying Christ
While good fruit offers compelling evidence of a true prophet, we must dig even deeper to the root: their character and lifestyle. Diligently stewarding their prophetic gift in service to others, and not wielding it like a badge of status or channeling it for personal gain. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV). At the end of the day, Jesus proclaimed that truth would be self- verifying: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, ESV). Thus, we can know whether a prophecy is true. A life transparently radiating the beauty of Christ leaves an unmistakable imprint. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV). A genuine prophet will be a humble servant, not lording their supposed gift over others (Matthew 20:25-28). As Moses exemplified, those who truly walk with God are “very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3, ESV). That said, we must be careful not to become overly cynical, writing off the legitimate prophetic ministry gifted to the church. Paul reminded the Thessalonians not to despise prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20). An atmosphere of open-minded yet biblically grounded discernment allows the Holy Spirit to work while guarding against deception. Ultimately, genuine prophecy is not merely about imparting new revelations; it is about hearing the living voice of God as He speaks through His inspired, authoritative Word.

The Confirmation of Community
While testing prophecies individually is wise, we dare not neglect the discernment of the wider body of Christ. While lone prophetic voices may emerge, we are one flock with one Shepherd (John 10:16), linked together by His Spirit. As such, significant prophetic revelations and directions should be confirmed through the collective discernment of respected leaders and spiritually mature believers (Acts 15:22). A truly inspired word from the Lord will bear witness in the hearts of all His people and not just a select few and will catalyze greater spiritual unity, not cause fragmentation or cultish isolation from the larger body of Christ. When guided by God’s Spirit, the diverse members of Christ’s body will ultimately arrive at a unified mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). Lone ranger tendencies are dangerous; we need one another’s insight and accountability, and Scripture underscores seeking multiple witnesses when evaluating prophecies. In Deuteronomy 19:15, Moses declares, “A single witness shall not suffice...only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be established” (ESV). While given legally, this wisdom applies to testing prophecy and Paul echoes this in 2 Corinthians 13:1, quoting Deuteronomy: “Every charge must be established by two or three witnesses” (ESV). The word “charge” in Greek is μαρτύριον (marturion), from the root μάρτυς (martus), which means witness. Paul emphasizes the importance of having multiple witnesses or pieces of evidence to confirm the truth. He then applies this principle to addressing significant church matters. Concerning prophecy specifically, he instructs: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29, ESV). This communal process guards against individual bias or error, allowing the church to prayerfully consider prophetic utterances together. Acts 15 exemplifies this, where the leaders in Jerusalem did not rely on one voice when deciding about Gentile believers. After hearing from Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and James, they reached a unified decision under the Spirit’s guidance (Acts 15:22-28). Seeking multiple credible witnesses safeguards against deception, ensuring revelations align with Scripture’s whole counsel and the church’s spiritual discernment. We must remain open yet test all things by this biblical standard. It is also wise to consider any prophetic revelation in its cultural context. Does it resonate with the truth of God’s Word while applying it faithfully to a specific time and place? Or does it appear to be an attempt to reshape theology to fit the spirit of the age? Paul urged the Colossians not to be taken captive by “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, ESV). The gospel remains constant, so we must discern truth from human or cultural cravings.

The Prophet’s Example
To further illustrate these principles, we would do well to remember the example of the quintessential prophet: Jesus. He spoke with authority yet humility, aligning perfectly with Scripture while challenging man-made traditions. His authority was evident in His teachings, His miracles, and His interactions with people. When Jesus spoke, people recognized that He was not merely repeating the teachings of others but was speaking with divine authority. At the same time, Jesus demonstrated humility in various ways. Despite being the Son of God, He did not assert His authority for personal gain or dominance. His words bore undeniable spiritual fruit, leading people into deeper communion with the Father. Although He operated in the power of the Spirit, He deflected glory away from Himself, declaring, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works” (John 14:10, ESV). “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV). While we must remain open to the ongoing gift of prophecy, we must also remember the unique, final authority of God’s completed revelation in Scripture. The Word of God is the plumb line by which all other words and revelations are measured. Any prophecy that purports to supersede or contradict Scripture should be rejected outright.

A Posture of Humility
Ultimately, whether we are evaluating prophetic words or operating in that gift ourselves, an attitude of profound humility before God and His Word is paramount. As Paul exhorted, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3, ESV). Even revered prophets like Moses were prone to error (Numbers 20:12). Throughout the book of Jeremiah, there are several instances where false prophets proclaimed messages of peace and prosperity to Judah, contradicting Jeremiah’s warnings of impending judgment from God. In Jeremiah 28, the prophet Hananiah declared that within two years, the yoke of Babylon would be broken off from the nations, including Judah. However, Jeremiah countered this prophecy, stating that it was false and that Hananiah’s death would be a sign of its falsehood. These false prophecies led the people astray and contributed to their eventual downfall. In Ezekiel 13, the Lord rebukes the false prophets of Israel who prophesied from their own hearts (v. 2), who “follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing” (v. 3, ESV), yet claimed to speak God’s words and expected Him to fulfill their word although He has not spoken (v. 6-7). Even with this sobering backdrop, we may still encounter unprofitable prophecies that do not resonate with Scripture.

Responding to Unprofitable Prophecy
We may become distracted and unsettled when we receive a prophetic word that does not resonate. Thus, it is crucial to approach the situation with discernment and humility, exercising wisdom and caution in responding. Besides testing the word against Scripture, evaluating fruit, and examining the context and motive, remember Paul advises two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1):
  1. Trust your inner witness: If you have no inner confirmation or peace about this word, do not ignore that feeling. We are instructed to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and not accept everything that claims to be prophetic at face value. If it does not ring true, that is an important caution.
  2. Pray for discernment: Seek guidance through prayer and ask for discernment directly from the Holy Spirit. Proverbs 2:3-6 (ESV), “For if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
  3. Pray for confirmation: Because prophecies can be misinterpreted or manipulated, earnestly pray for God to provide a clear sign or confirmation that aligns with His character and Word. Gideon, in Judges 6:36-40, sought confirmation through a fleece, asking God for a specific sign of assurance. Similarly, you can present your request before God, asking Him to confirm the prophetic word through a specific sign. As you wait upon the Lord in faith, trust that He will reveal Himself and confirm His word in a way that leaves no room for doubt.
4. Seek godly counsel: Do not try to discern a word completely on your own. Share with trusted, mature believers you respect and seek their prayerful input and perspective. Sometimes an outside perspective can help identify things we can not see ourselves.

Once you have established, through two or three witnesses, that the prophecy is not from God, or obscured by misinterpretation or manipulation, here are some other thoughts on how to navigate these situations
  1. Do not feel bound by it: Just because someone spoke something over you does not mean you have to receive it, especially if it does not align with Scripture. We have free will to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
  2. Focus on what you know to be true: Return your mind to the unchanging truth of God’s Word and what He has already spoken into your life through Scripture and your relationship with Him. Do not let this temporary distraction override the greater voice of the Lord.
  3. Release it to God: If, after prayerful consideration, you discern this word did not come from God, then release yourself from it. Recommit that area of your life to the Lord and ask Him to continue guiding you according to His will.
The most important thing is to not let an unconfirmed prophecy override the peace of God which will guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).

Dear reader, may we tremble at the awesome responsibility of representing the Almighty, quick to repent and submit to His correction. In this hour of spiritual fog and falsehood, we are summoned to passionate discernment. With contrite hearts tuned to the Lord’s still, small voice, be equipped to distinguish truth from falsehood in these Critical Days. Complacency is not an option as deceptions multiply. Instead, immerse yourselves in the truth of Scripture until it saturates your mind and heart. Earnestly pray for the Spirit’s gift of discernment to expose the real from the counterfeit and pursue godly wisdom and Christlike character so you can recognize its fruit in others. Band together in humility so that we may combine our discernment as we navigate these perilous yet promising days. The voices clamoring for your allegiance are legion, but there is only One Voice that leads to abundant life. By God’s grace, we will learn to discern and unreservedly follow the unmistakable sound of the Good Shepherd’s call (John 10:27).

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