As we continue to look at the spiritual gift or manifestation of prophecy, we see that there are basically two applications. The first is reiteration (preaching) of the word of God and the second is revelation. Hopefully, as we hear the word of God preached, taught, and applied, we are also hearing the voice of God through that word. The people of God need to hear His voice, and one way is through reiteration. But I also believe revelation is at work today. First, let me tell you what I don’t mean. By revelatory prophecy I do not mean revelation of new doctrine.
The function of the prophet was always to take already revealed truth and apply it to people, congregations, and situations. This ability to hear what God was saying to his church at a specific time in history is a manifestation of the spirit to that church – a revelation.
Do you ever get that sense?
There are times when I‘m going through my work week and I will begin to get a sense in my own spirit of something that God wants to do, and as I share it with someone else it’ll be confirmed in their own life and will kind of move throughout the church.
Sometimes as that kind of thing moves through a church, we begin to see that God is indeed speaking to us about either a problem that we have, or a vision or direction He wants us to have.
I believe God speaks to his people. I believe God speaks through his people, giving the church direction and an ability to make decisions and know which way to go. That is a revelatory dimension of the prophetic word.
Acts 13:2 says, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
The whole missionary journey began as they were worshiping, praying and fasting. Then the Lord spoke to them. How do you think that happened? I believe it happened then, the way it happens now.
God speaks to people who position themselves to hear
As people are praying and seeking God they're in the position to hear from God. I believe without a doubt that God begins to speak to those people and says, “Here’s the direction you should go.” I’ve seen that dynamic at work among leaders I have served with.
Men and women who know how to hear from God, and spend the time in prayer to be able to hear, need to learn to listen because God speaks to his church today.
I realize in saying that, there is the possibility that you open the door, that people will come and they’ll “get a feeling” – this quiver in their liver – and think, well, it just kind of came to me and I’m going to say it.
So, they pop up and start saying we should be doing this, and we should be doing that. And then at the end they say that wonderful phrase: “Thus saith the Lord.” Just because someone says, “Thus saith the Lord” doesn’t mean you’ve heard the voice of God.
Test everything, examine carefully
We aren’t told to just listen every time someone says “Thus saith the Lord.” We are told to “Test everything – examine what they say to see if it is good. Examine it thoroughly, carefully, and then hold on to the good.” That means if it’s not good – if it isn’t right or it doesn’t minister truth – you confront and you say, “That’s a bunch of baloney folks. I don’t buy that. That’s not something we’re going to do - the spirit of God is not affirming that to the Body."
Next question is this, “How do we examine?” It says “Test everything – examine carefully!” First ask, is it consistent with scripture? Is the word that’s coming to us something that is scriptural? If it’s not scriptural then it’s obviously not true.
But I want to add this as well. Just because it’s scriptural doesn’t mean it’s a direct word from God. Now I already alluded to that previously where someone could say, “Repent! You need to repent.” Is that scriptural? Yes, that’s scriptural. Is that a divine doctrine? You bet it is! Is it appropriate for us today? Maybe it is -- maybe it isn’t. But just because it’s a scriptural principle doesn’t mean it's for this situation.
Another way to test is to pray and listen. If God really is moving us into a new direction or a decision we have to make about leadership, a ministry, whatever, we’ll see those directions and decisions affirmed by the body – people who are close to the Lord, walking in the spirit. I don’t have any confidence at all in carnal people being able to understand or discern what God is saying to the church – it doesn’t happen.
A city dweller stopped to talk with a farmer. They got to talking about how cows can predict weather, and the farmer said, “When the cows are standing it means no rain for the next 24 hours. When they’re lying down, it means it’s going to rain.” The city person asked, “What does it mean when half the herd is standing, and the rest are lying down?” The farmer answered gravely, “That means that half of them are wrong!”
There will be a general sense and affirmation among the body telling us that yes, this is from the Lord for us now. Remember to ask first – is it biblical? Second – does it apply to our situation? And third – is there general affirmation by the body?