Addressing the Prophets

Posted on January 25, 2022

by John E. Thomas

The prophet’s role is first and foremost to represent Jesus, to share what He is saying, and to help those who know Him (and those who don’t yet) respond to His will. 

In this generation, however, we have allowed that ministry to be polluted by our culture’s desire for knowledge and control. So much of prophetic ministry in the popular sphere has become more about commentary on current events than the sacred proclamation we’ve all been given—that of the King and His kingdom.

Psychics try to interpret the signs so that people can know what is coming; they look to the stars and other natural phenomena to give people a sense of security. A prophet, on the other hand, carries the word of the Lord and speaks His purpose and will into a situation. Biblical prophets described what happened before it came to pass, but too often today, prophetic people describe what has already happened.

A word from the Lord should primarily (though not exclusively) reveal God’s perspective and mankind’s response. What’s the next step? How does His kingdom come, and what is our role in responding to the prophetic word or even helping it come about? Biblically speaking, that’s what prophecy looks like.

One of the primary ways to recognize a true prophet is not the accuracy of their “revelation” but the fruit of their life (see Matthew 7:15–23). Not “Did what they say come to pass?” but “Did they sound/look like Jesus when they said it?” 

The Goal Is Knowing Him

If we don’t operate out of love and the fruit of the Spirit, we are worthless to God, the church, and the world as prophetic voices (1 Corinthians 13). We can prophesy accurately all day long, cast out demons, heal the sick, and do many other mighty miracles—but if we aren’t living righteously, we will miss what is truly important: knowing the Lord and being known by Him. One day the King will say, “I did not know you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” (See Matthew 7:23.)

The level of humility, kindness, gentleness, meekness, patience, and love in someone’s life—and in their delivery of a prophetic word—says more about the Source of the potential revelation than the word’s accuracy. When our voices become polluted with vitriol, slander, abusive speech, dissensions, and fits of anger, we are not manifesting the Spirit of our God but the spirit of the world.

Prophets stand outside the culture and speak into it; we don’t get caught up in the culture. We hear the Lord’s heart and help bring stability of doctrine and life, speaking words that inspire devotion and trust in Almighty God; we don’t simply echo popular news and conspiracy theories. 

When the people who listen to us are more concerned about the future than trusting in God and His plans for that future, when we cause people to shrink back in fear instead of stepping out in faith, when we promote “prepping” more than faithfulness, we are prophesying for the devil, not our Lord. And too many have done this. 

As ministers of the Gospel, we’re called to the same work as every other minister: that of building God’s kingdom and God’s church. Lately, it seems like the prophetic is known more for its weirdness and division than for its truth and faithfulness. Instead of developing long-suffering and self-control, many of us are developing our opinions and learning how to be caustic, defensive, and combative. That is not the fruit of the Spirit!

Back to the Basics

As a prophetic people and a prophetic movement, we need to get back to the basics. We make disciples, not information addicts. We help form Christlikeness in His bride and call those who don’t know Him to surrender to Him; that’s our goal, not growing our following or declaring the party line. 

We are not our own thing, an entity set apart from all others, but we are one piece of the broader Body of Christ. We foster unity (Ephesians 4:3) among ourselves and those we minister to. We work alongside other leaders to build the church: a company of people who love God with all they are, who are fully surrendered to His will, and who prioritize His heart and His kingdom over any nationality or political system.

God will not allow demonic activity to continue being called prophetic ministry. True prophetic ministry is not our words about people made in His image, our frustration at the people He’s called to leadership, calling vain imaginations and “make believe” legitimate visions and translations, or telling others what they want to hear instead of what God is saying.

We are not a law unto ourselves. We are responsible to heaven, and we are responsible to the church. We don’t have a right to say that no one can judge our ministries or our words; that is unbiblical and dangerous. It is the road to spiritual abuse and can foster narcissism. 

We are responsible to each other as prophetic ministers, and we are responsible to the leadership God has placed in the church.

Where Do We Go from Here?

If we want to live out biblical Christianity, hearing God’s voice and sharing His words accurately, these five steps are vital: 

  1. We need to stop promoting gifted people and start promoting faithful people. Gifting gives someone the ability to minister, but it is not a sign that they’re ready for authority. Authority should be given only to those who have proven Christlikeness. (See 1 Timothy 3:1–14; Titus 1:5–11; Matthew 7:15–23.)
  1. We need to be a part of the body. Not just “identify as Christian,” but actually have loving relationships around us that will hold us accountable for our lives and ministries. We need some kind of local body—the family of God in action, where we serve and don’t expect just to be served, where we can practice being known, vulnerable, and open to rebuke and correction. (See Hebrews 10:24–25; Mark 10:42–45; 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12.)
  1. We need to expect others to discern our words. When Paul talked about testing prophetic words, he obviously meant that those who heard the word would test it. If someone shares what they think is revelation, those who are listening have the responsibility to weigh what is shared. Properly discerned revelation is key to the body walking in prophecy well and not coming to despise it. Our job is not to prove we are gifted—but to serve humbly, even when we get it wrong. If we defend and argue our “revelation,” we are proud, not humble, and God resists the proud. (See 1 Corinthians 14:29; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:19–22.)
  1. We need to build our ministries on the Gospel, not our giftings. God gave us the power to demonstrate His Gospel. We need to spend more time allowing our gifts to witness to the truth about Him than the truth about our “callings.” Similarly, we need to build our ministries on Scripture more than encounters. Our main message should be Jesus, not prophecy. (See Acts 1:8; 2:42–43; Mathew 10:1, 7–8; Colossians 2:18–19.)
  1. We need to make character more important than gifting. One day you and I will be judged by our love, not our prophecies. In our personal lives, are we spending as much time learning to love well as we are learning to prophesy well? How do we handle conflict? Can we disagree in love, or do we belittle people who don’t think the way we do? Do we have a history of broken relationships and leaving churches? When there’s a pattern of disagreement and conflict in our lives, especially with other leaders, what is the common denominator? It is probably our lack of relationship skills! (See Galatians 5; 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 7:15–23; John 13:35.)

If we practice these things and champion them in our ministries and lives, I feel there is hope for the prophetic movement. But any ministry that lacks love, integrity, and true relational accountability—basically, the nature of Christ—has no place in His church. We are here to serve His bride, to make her more like Him, and to help foster a simple, pure devotion to Him. Anything else needs to be judged and removed from our hearts. That is my prayer for myself and how I desire to live as a prophetic individual.