Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Prophetic Guidance

Under the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This is so, even though we now have the Holy Spirit resident within us.

These were given "for the equipping of the saint for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).

That He gave these gifts to the Church "till we come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" is evidence that they have not passed away from the Church, for we have not yet reached that fullness.

The prophetic office and the prophetic gift are very often thought of as primarily predictive in nature, that is, of foretelling the future. But that is a minor part. It is more about revealing the heart of God to His people.

The prophetic role is often also thought of as primarily being individual in nature. Many Christians want a prophet they can run to each week for a personal word. But the prophetic office is more for the Church than for the individual.

As individuals, we already have the Holy Spirit in us. We already have an anointing so that we can know what we need to know (1 John 2:20). If we hear from the prophet something we have not already heard from the Holy Spirit, we should be very careful about it. Rather, the prophetic role is to confirm what we are already hearing from the Holy Spirit in our spirit.

At the congregational level, not everybody is on the same page about what the Spirit is saying, so the prophetic role is more about recognizing and announcing, for the edification of the body, what the Spirit is saying and doing in the body.

Is the prophetic ministry a ministry of guidance? Yes. But let us be careful not to equate "guidance" with "prediction." The prophetic office and gifts are generally not predictive, but descriptive. Paul said that "he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (1 Corinthians 14:3). The prophetic word may be a convicting word, but it will never be a condemning word. It will be a word that builds up the individual and the body.

The guidance the prophetic offers us, generally, is in helping us understand the trajectory of what God wants to do in us and through us. It is generally not seeing into the future, but understanding the present moment. When we understand how God is working and what He wants to do in us, that helps us understand, in practical terms, how we should proceed. In that sense, it gives us guidance.

Paul talked about the gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. I understand these this way: The word of knowledge is about what has happened or is happening right now; the word of wisdom is about how we should proceed — what we should do about what is happening now.

Running to the prophetic for answers like one runs to their Magic 8 ball smacks of divination and is unbiblical.

Everyone who knows the Lord Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit within so that we are perfectly capable of hearing God’s yes or no.