INTRODUCTION – A few weeks ago Joshua introduced us to our passage for today = Acts 13:1-3, and then gave us a broad overview of the topic of Jesus giving spiritual gifts to His church, and how each of us are to respond to those gracious, necessary and strategic gifts.
Today I want to specifically address the subject of prophets and prophetesses and the gift of the prophetic in the 21st century church
If you have known the Lord for a while and have studied His book – – you know that the primary reason He has left His church on this planet, and the primary reason He has not returned for His church – – is because He wants as many people on the planet to come to know Him and become His disciples and part of this magnificent spiritual house He is building as possible – – and He wants to use those of us who know Him to pull this off.
For us to effectively accomplish this mission – – it is absolutely crucial that pastors and teachers harmoniously and lovingly co-labor side by side with prophets and prophetesses or those who are prophetically gifted, and discern their orders from Jesus the Head together.
I add that “or prophetically gifted” phrase because sometimes it is not clear who truly is a prophet or prophetess and who isn’t. As Christ’s church matures, this will become more clear and evident and obvious, but most of the church is immature when it comes to the prophetic.
I want to unequivocally say this morning that the lack of the prophetic voice into the decision making and priority setting process of the leadership of the church here on the Central Coast is hurting us significantly. More positively – I want to state unequivocally that as the leaders in Christ’s church who are more gifted in the teaching realm, and who are wired to always be concerned about doctrine and truth – – as these leaders here on the Central Coast learn to seek God together with those who are more prophetically gifted – – and who are wired to just hear God’s prophetic – in the now – word and speak it – – as these diversely gifted and diversely wired leaders learn to seek God and obey King Jesus the Head together – – we are going to see far more significant advance than we would ever see if the prophets just stick with the prophets and pastors and teachers just keep preaching and teaching the word and think their sound doctrine will get us where we need to get.
So to make this case, I want to start with a few words about Jesus and prophets, then we will proceed to the book of Acts, and then if time permits to the epistles.
But first let’s read our passage in Acts – that is the springboard for all that I am going to be sharing this morning. Acts 13:1-3
I. Jesus & Prophets
A. A word about our response to them – – Matt. 10:40,41 (turn to) Context = Jesus instructing the 12 disciples before He sent them out two by two to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons.
B. A word about His sending of prophets – Matt. 23:34,35 (turn to)
C. A word about counterfeits – Matt. 7:15 (“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” & 24:11,24 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many; …For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
The best way to spot a counterfeit is to know and experience the real thing. The very fact that Jesus speaks of false prophets should tell us He expects us to have real or true ones operating in our midst; and the devil is going to seek to sabotage that.
II. Light on Prophets & Prophetesses in the book of Acts
A. True prophets were operative in the early church – Acts 11:27, 28 (turn to it); 13:1; 15:32 (read); 21:9,10 (read);
B. False prophets were operative in the time of the early church – 13:6 Bar-Jesus
C. Decisions were made/direction was discerned based at least partly on the input of the prophets – – Acts 11:28-30; 13:1-3; Acts 21:9,10
D. Edification was experienced due to their preaching & ministry – 15:32
E. (not on outline) Prophets in the church in Jerusalem knew each other, evidently enjoyed some level of fellowship and sharpening together, and ministered together and they were known and identified by name.
III. Light on prophets and prophetesses in the epistles
A. The priority of prophets in the church – Acts 13:1 “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers”; I Cor. 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,..etc.; Ephesians = circular letter for churches throughout that greater region – -Eph. 2:20 “…you are of ….God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets..”; 3:5 “the mystery of Christ (vs. 4), which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;….”; 4:11 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” (P. 3 of Pastor Jim Feeney’s article)
B. False prophets were certainly a concern: Acts 13:6 (Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus), II Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you…”, I John 4:1 “…many false prophets have gone out into the world”; Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10
C. The Role of Women in Prophesying – Acts 21:9 “Now this man (Phillip the evangelist) had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses”; I Cor. 11:5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head,…..”(vs. 4 speaks of men praying or prophesying)
D. Prophets were expected to prophesy in worship gatherings – I Cor. 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”, 32 “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets”
E. For believers to be effectively and thoroughly equipped to fulfill their ministries and callings – – prophets must be in the mix (Eph. 4:11). Best is for the five fold to minister as a team – intimately related to one another.
IV. Definitions & Parameters
A. Prophecies or prophetic words today are Not on par with scripture – II Tim. 3:16
B. Not on par with old testament prophets, who were able to prophesy with great accuracy and even write scripture. When Isaiah or Jeremiah said, “Thus says the Lord” every word they spoke or wrote was from God’s mouth. And the penalty for a so called prophet in those days – who said something that was not from God was death. God said in Deut. 18:20 , “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”
C. As the church matures, so shall the prophetic mature. To expect prophets to operate in their gifts on the par with those in the book of Acts when the rest of us aren’t operating in our gifts on par with those in the book of Acts is a bit hypocritical. Prophets and prophetesses should be able to walk in the same level of godliness and maturity as pastors, teachers, evangelists and apostles, but let’s not require them to somehow walk in a greater level than the rest of us are.
D. Must be judged/examined just as one’s teaching must be judged/examined according to scripture – Acts 17:11 “Now these (the believers in Berea) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”; I Cor. 14:29-36; I Thess. 5:20,21
E. Strong’s Concordance: prophḗtēs (from 4253 /pró, “beforehand” and 5346 /phēmí, “elevating/asserting one idea over another, especially through the spoken-word”) – properly, one who speaks forth by the inspiration of God; a prophet. See 4394 (prophēteia).
A prophet (4396 /prophḗtēs) declares the mind (message) of God, which sometimes predicts the future (foretelling) – and more commonly, speaks forth His message for a particular situation. 4396 /prophḗtēs (“a prophet”) then is someone inspired by God to foretell or tell-forth (forthtell) the Word of God.
F. Different levels: 1. All of us can and should aspire to prophesy – I Cor. 12:31, 14:1, 39; 2. Some are given the gift of prophecy – I Cor. 12:10. 3. Some are given the office or calling of a prophet – Eph. 4:8,11
CONCLUSION – So what do we do about all this?
1. Well first – if you have harbored some prejudices or bias’s against prophets or prophetesses or prophetically gifted people, you need to repent. I’ve certainly had to do this a number of times because of my background wherein all things prophetic were scorned. There is a reason why we are commanded to not despise prophetic utterances in I Thess. 5:20.
2. If you feel you are a prophet or prophetess or at least that you are prophetically gifted, and you want to see your gifts used and appreciated – give yourself to building relationally with the congregation God has called you to be a part of. When non prophetically gifted people in a given fellowship know a prophetic person lives by the agreed upon distinctives and values of that said fellowship, and they consistently make attempts to build relationally with the people of that fellowship and clearly love the people of that fellowship – – it will not be hard to receive from their prophetic gifting.
3. What about when we are with those in the body of Christ who do yet see the value of the prophetic? Well first of all I believe we at locf have a stewardship to live this out at and within locf so that we have an ever more fruitful track record and testimony of the value of the prophetic gifts. Second, we may need to drop our prophetic lingo, but still go after the prophetic element in our gatherings together.
4. The Dave Ramsey/Financial Peace Univ. vs. YWAM/Dream Stream in the body of Christ