We will continue with the topic of the gifts of the Spirit here in Part 5, with the emphasis on the gift of prophecy, and especially with the question whether all Christians can, and should, prophesy in the paper "Some Comments on 'Prophetic Scriptures Yet To Be Fulfilled' by Bill Hamon and Acts 3:19-21 with Mal. 4:5, 6; Matt. 17:11; Rev. 10:7; and 11:15."
We should all be open to be used in any gift of the Spirit at any time, as God would lead (for the glory of God and for the good of the body of Christ, including ministering to those outside of the body of Christ); we do not want to limit God in any way. However, if I understand the apostle Paul here, and I'm confident that I do, he is speaking of Christians being used on a regular basis in particular gifts/ministries. This way we can become proficient (specialists) in the use of our gifts (the gifts God uses us in), which enhances fruitfulness and order in the church, with each Christian (and especially those in the five-fold ministry [Eph. 4:11]) having their recognized roles to fulfill and being proficient at them. As I mentioned, God has important assignments for each of us to fulfill by His enabling grace. Some are anointed by God with special ministries like intercessory prayer; I trust we can see how important that gift is. God doesn't make us one member of the body of Christ one day, like an eye, or a hand, or an internal organ, and then make us a different member the next day. God is a God of order.
I'll quote part of what Hamon says about all Christians prophesying on pages 146, 147. (Unless otherwise noted, I am always quoting from his 2010 book, "Prophetic Scriptures Yet to Be Fulfilled.") "The Prophetic Movement brought the revelation of how to activate saints into their spiritual gifts of prophecy, word of knowledge, and wisdom. The Apostolic Movement did the same for the saints in the power gifts of healings, faith, and working of miracles. ... The core teaching on activation was that all saints can be prophetic in that they can hear the voice of God and minister the mind of Christ to others. ... Emphasis was given to the Scriptures that state, 'You can all prophesy one by one' [1 Cor. 14:31], 'desire spiritual gifts [but especially that you may prophesy]' [1 Cor. 14:1], but 'desire earnestly to prophesy' [1 Cor. 14:39], and 'let us prophesy in proportion to our faith' [Rom. 12:6], not by physical sensations or emotions of the soul." In an endnote Hamon listed the verses that I included in brackets. These verses have been widely used by many Pentecostals and Charismatics to try to demonstrate that all Christians (all those who have received [or yielded to] the Holy Spirit in that dimension of His work) can (and should) prophesy (I heard all of this back in the 60s), but I don't believe any of these verses teach that viewpoint.
As I mentioned, each of these verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 14 is discussed, in context, in my paper on 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, and Rom. 12:1-8 are discussed in my "A Paper on Faith." I won't repeat those discussions here, except to point out that 1 Cor. 14:29-33 confirm that the words "you can all prophesy one by one" were addressed to the "prophets" (the word "prophets" is used in verses 29 and 32); they were not addressed to all the Christians. One problem that the apostle Paul was dealing with when he wrote these verses was that the prophets were not sharing the floor with the other prophets (see verse 30), and in verse 29 he had already made the necessary point that there was a definite limit to how much of a meeting would be devoted to the ministry of the prophets (he said "let two or three prophets speak"), even as he had made the point, in verses 27, 28, that there must be a definite limit on how much of a meeting would be devoted to speaking with tongues, tongues that are to be interpreted: he said, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret."
As I mentioned, I believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today, including the gift of prophecy, but, in general, I have been disappointed with much I have observed the last 45 years. For one thing, I would estimate that about half of the prophecy I have heard (and I haven't heard all that much prophecy, because I haven't been around many churches, or meetings, where there was a lot of prophesying going on) was of the Spirit and about half was of the flesh. Most such "prophecies of the flesh" are quite innocent and couldn't do much damage. In some cases a Christian who has been taught that the New Testament teaches that they can, and should, prophesy has a thought and passes it on as what God is saying. But the potential is there for great damage, and it is a serious disservice to God, to call a message prophecy (a message that came from God for that occasion) if it isn't.
I'll give an example of what apparently was a prophecy of the flesh, a "prophecy" that came from a Christian, not the Holy Spirit. There was this well-to-do Christian family that started having some medical and financial troubles. In the middle of this trial, they turned to God and became born-again Christians. They were encouraged to go to a local Charismatic church for prayer, prophesy, etc. As you can imagine, they greatly rejoiced when they were informed through "prophecy" that their financial problems were over and that they would see the turnaround soon.
The problem was that shortly afterward they had to watch while their luxury cars were being driven away and their house was being repossessed, etc. I never heard a follow up on what happened to that family, but a "prophecy" like the one they received has a lot of power to confuse the issue and make people wonder about God, and especially for those not well grounded in Christianity. Hopefully that family continued to press on in God. We never have a good reason to turn from God. He is faithful, and He isn't responsible for many things that some Christians do. We are responsible to put Him and His Word first place in our hearts and lives. We are the ones on trial, not Him! Examples of unfortunate things like this happening through "prophecies" that aren't from God could be multiplied to a very large number, and some of them are far worse than the example I gave.
One thing I have observed over the years is that oftentimes many of the prophecies you hear at certain churches, or groups of churches, or different segments of the body of Christ just happen to confirm and emphasize the particular doctrines and practices of that church, group of churches, or those different segments of the body of Christ. It makes one wonder if all those prophecies came from the Holy Spirit. I'm confident that some of them didn't.
With all these problems (and potential problems) with the gift of prophecy, why don't we just reject that gift. I don't think God has given us that option, but we certainly need to do everything we can do to prevent misusing the gift. Bill Hamon tries to do that, but he believes that the Bible teaches that all Christians can (and should) prophesy.
If we tell Christians that the Bible authorizes them to prophesy, and it turns out that this idea didn't come from God and His Word, but from a misinterpretation of His Word, we have opened a door that should not have been opened, and it is bound to result in considerable damage. If God wants all Christians to prophesy, that's fine with me (cf. Num. 11:29), and I want to teach what He wants me to teach and do what He wants me to do, but as I mentioned, I don't believe the New Testament teaches that all are given the grace to prophesy. I realize that I'm not infallible, but I certainly can't see a Biblical basis to tell all Christians that God wants them to prophesy.
I'll give an example of the kind of things that concern me. I know of a church that invited a prophet to minister. The first thing the prophet said, after he had been introduced, was that he could guarantee that everybody there could have visions and revelations that morning. I don't see any scriptural basis for that guarantee, and what about the immature Christians or non-Christians at that meeting? It seems to me that for some people that could easily prove to be an open door for demons, not to mention the flesh.
It turned out that after that prophet had ministered at that church for several months, he left the church over matters of who had the authority, and finances, taking as many members of the church with him that he could when he left. (I don't know the prophet's side of the story.) I tried to speak with that prophet several times while he was at that church to discuss the verses that he used to back up the idea that all Christians can, and should, prophesy, but he never found time to speak with me. It was at the bookstore of that church, by the way, that I first came across Bill Hamon's books. They began selling his books when the prophet came to that church. I know that prophet had been to some of Bill Hamon's meetings, but I don't believe he was fully associated with that ministry.
I could go on with incidents that I have learned about (and I know that at least most of them are true), like "prophets" coming up with new doctrines, including doctrines dealing with end-time prophecy (I don't believe we need any new doctrines), or "prophets" using their gift to take advantage of women to whom they were "ministering"; or ministers using "prophecy" to manipulate, to raise money, to intimidate, to promote themselves and their ministries, etc. Quite a few prophets have fallen into serious sin (as have many other ministers) in our day. It was recently revealed that the prophet rated number one by many ministers in our day was forced to admit that he had ongoing problems with homosexuality and alcohol.
God is merciful, and he can restore those who have fallen into sin, and I pray for that minister and all Christians who have fallen into sin, that they may be fully restored. We all have the potential to fall. However, we must understand that when Christian ministers are in bondage to sin (which includes teaching things that are not Biblical), their ministries cannot be trusted. All ministers (all Christians) are called to be set apart for God and walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis. To the extent we are not walking in line with God's Word and by His Spirit, we will be walking in the flesh, which can open the door for the seductive, destructive, carefully designed influence of demon spirits. (I'll comment further on this important topic below.)
We shouldn't be surprised that most Christians are interested in personal prophecies (unless they believe that God doesn't do such things in our day). Essentially all people who have ever lived are looking for supernatural knowledge that deals with them, or can benefit them. The Bible shows that God can use personal prophecies to give direction to His people, but we must exercise great caution here. For one thing, we are not supposed to be led by personal prophecies. We are to be led by the Word of God and by the indwelling Spirit of God. Personal prophecies should confirm what we already know in our hearts by the Word of God and the indwelling Spirit of God, and we shouldn't act on a prophecy until we have that confirmation from the Word of God and the indwelling Spirit of God, and in most such cases it would be proper to seek confirmation from leaders we respect in the body of Christ. Typically God wants for us to get it right, not get it in a hurry.
I have known quite a few Christians who began to make it a top priority to seek for personal prophecies and some joined classes to learn to prophesy, but (based on my limited experience) I would have a hard time trying to think of any of them who ended up better off for the experience. I personally haven't seen much in the way of good fruit in the lives of those who began to make personal prophecies and prophesying a top priority. Some began to keep their book of personal prophecies, which in some cases seemed to become more important than the Bible. And, of course, we always have the potential for pride when some Christians begin to think they have something special from God. Please don't misunderstand me. I realize that there may be very large numbers of Christians who have greatly benefited from personal prophecies and from classes that teach Christians to prophesy (if God was calling those particular Christians to prophesy).
One key factor, of course, is how much of the personal prophecies (or prophecies in general) came from God. One thing that I have observed is that Christians get stirred up to minister to non-Christians when they believe God has given them a personal word for that person. God certainly can do that, and I trust He does do that on occasion. He is interested in saving people, for which we Christians are all thankful!
One thing that I have noticed over the years is that the majority of Christian ministers (there are many exceptions) that I have come across who are involved with the prophetic movement happen to believe in a oneness view of God, denying the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. (Thankfully, most of them that I am aware of don't make acceptance of the oneness view of God a requirement for being a true Christian, like some oneness Pentecostals do.) They speak a lot about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they deny the Trinity (the three Persons of the Trinity). I remember being at a church service one evening where the guest minister was a theologian who believed like that. After all of his talk about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he made the important, revealing point that when we get to heaven the only Person there for us to see, interact with, and worship will be Jesus. I am going to briefly discuss the Trinity and the oneness view of God in the last section of this paper, so I won't say any more here.
What about Prophecies, Other Gifts, Doctrines, and Anointings of Demons? I am seriously concerned about prophecies of the flesh. They can result in great damage, and they bring a reproach on the body of Christ. However, the thing that concerns me the most is the great potential for demonic prophecies (and clever demonic counterfeits for other gifts, doctrines, and anointings of the Spirit). Based on what I have learned and observed over the years, I am convinced that some supposed gifts of the Spirit are Satanic/demonic counterfeits for the real thing. And based on what I have observed, many Christians in our day (including some, or many, ministers) have very little, if any, awareness of, or holy caution regarding, the potential for Satan's "gifts" or "anointings." We ought to be all the more cautious because Jesus warned us of a great outpouring of Satanic/demonic deception in the last days.
Large numbers of Christians (very wrongly) assume that if something supernatural is taking place it must be God. If, for example, a "Christian" (it could be a very sincere Christian; it could be a backsliden Christian; or it could be someone pretending to be a Christian, coming as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:12-15]) reveals something about you that nobody else would know, or if genuine healing is taking place, or other miraculous things, large numbers (probably the majority) of Christians in our day would never even consider the possibility that it might not be of God. But Satan (with his evil angels and demons) has been doing these supernatural things all along, and the more he can get his ministers accepted by Christians the more damage he can do to the body of Christ. Also, when the devil (and his evil hosts) can get genuine Christian ministers to minister in supernatural gifts and anointings that come from him, it will ultimately result in great damage to the body of Christ.
Genuine Christians can be deceived. Is it possible that a genuine Christian could be deceived and yield to a demonic anointing? It might be instructive to ask whether a genuine Christian can be deceived and yield to a demonic temptation, or be in bondage in certain areas, or whether a genuine Christian can accept a doctrine of demons. Of course these things ought not be so, but these things happen all too often. How much can we deviate from the straight and narrow path and still be genuine Christians? God is the One who determines whether a Christian is genuine, or not, but the Bible makes it clear that we shouldn't just assume that all Christian ministers are walking and ministering in the truth, righteousness, holiness, and anointing of God, by the Holy Spirit, on a continuous basis.
Demons frequently do things that are in themselves good for people in order to further the devil's evil schemes, which ultimately will take people further from God and the truth, righteousness, holiness, life, blessing, and divine order of His kingdom. It seems to me that many Christians in our day, very much including ministers, have some darkness mixed in with the light. We are not supposed to be a mixture. We are called to walk in the light, with no darkness (no sin, no doctrines of demons, no demonic input), but a walk in the light is far from being automatic, and our generation needs a mighty reformation.
The devil is subtle, he approves, for example, of his ministers talking (or singing songs) about the blood of Jesus, and being born again, and love, and righteousness, and peace, etc. in order to confuse the issue. You have to get beneath the surface to find out what some "Christians" really believe, or how they live. And the devil knows how to make his "gifts" look good to Christian ministers and Christians who want to be ministered to. Of course this shouldn't happen, but it is happening in our day, and it will get worse if we don't wake up. We are dependent on the help of the Holy Spirit, but it is difficult for Him to reveal things to us that we are not open to receive.
Would God allow such things to happen? The Bible and the history of His people throughout the Old Testament and of the Christian church demonstrate that God typically leaves much room for His people to be tempted/tested; to be deceived; for false prophets and false doctrines to arise and lead many astray, even to the extent that often the majority are far from God and living in sin. And the New Testament shows that these things will get worse at the end of this age.
One gigantic problem we have in our day is that many Christian ministers are not solid in the basics of what the Bible teaches, and that one thing can be sufficient to open the door for demonic doctrines and demonic (supernatural) gifts and anointings. Some of the Christians who are involved in ministering in supernatural ways around Christianity (including genuine gifts of the Spirit) have come from liberal Christian backgrounds, which can be very dangerous. In general, liberal Christianity has very little respect for the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible. They don't understand that Christianity must be based on the solid foundation of the truth of God's Word, especially the gospel. Once that very wrong door has been opened it is rather easy to deny things like the existence of the devil and angels or demons (hasn't modern science proved that they are not real? NO!), or heaven and hell, or the virgin birth, or the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, or His literal resurrection, or for the need for righteous and holy living by God's grace through faith, in accordance with God's Word. All we need is to believe in the unconditional love of God and tolerance, right? No!
I'm thinking of a person I met many years ago (an enthusiastic, committed, attractive person of the sort that you like to be around, who was convinced that she was serving God) who was ministering healing, very much including inner healing, on a regular basis, which involved intense spiritual experiences of seeing visions, visualizing Jesus, etc. I was shocked (but not too shocked, because there is a lot of this around Christianity) when she responded to something I said by letting me know she didn't believe in demons. You certainly aren't going to be concerned that something supernatural you are doing could be demonic if you don't believe in demons. Large numbers of "Christians" today don't believe in the devil or demons, or the virgin birth, etc. And many Christians who believe in demons are convinced that they don't have to be concerned about being influenced by them. We are just automatically protected from them and their evil work, aren't we? No!
Well not to worry, because many ministers in our day have been trained in psychology, etc., which is purely scientific, right? No! Much modern psychology has flung open the door to the supernatural and many are open to anything that seems to bring results. With scientific respectability, now you can just call the demons "spirit guides" or "angels" who have been sent to help you, or you can say that you have learned (through science) to tap into the nebulous collective consciousness (or the universal mind, or the collective unconscious) of the universe. That sounds scientific doesn't it, and some of these things seem to bring good results (on a temporary basis). That must be God, right?
I am not too surprised when I hear Christian "ministers" who don't believe in demons tell me that one of their most effective prayer techniques is for them to close their eyes and visualize Jesus and that He will begin to carry on a conversation with them, but I am greatly concerned because there is a very good possibility that they are contacting a demon spirit impersonating Jesus. I was greatly surprised, however, when I learned that some evangelicals (who believe in demons) were using this same technique.
I will never forget what I heard a well-respected Pentecostal minister, who was extensively used in prophecy and the word of knowledge and for whose ministry I have a lot of respect, say about an experience God let him have once. God allowed a demon to give him a "prophecy." He was surprised how similar this "prophecy" was to the real thing. And I will never forget his telling how he went to a meeting of a well known healing evangelist and was shocked when God clearly revealed to him (even with a voice that seemed to be audible) that that minister was ministering by a demon spirit.
I have seen and heard too many things like this to not have some healthy reservations. We need to test ministries! We need to test the spirits! What do they really believe [cf. 1 John 4:1-6 (these verses are discussed in my paper, "Twenty-Eight Articles on the Topic of Holiness and Victory Over Sin" in article #15, pages 3, 4)]? How do they live [cf., e.g., Matt. 7:15-23]? (Also see, for example, 1 Tim. 1:18-20; 3:1-4:16; 5:17-25; 2 Tim. 2:1-4:8; and Titus 1:5-16.) Some Christian ministers have so little understanding of what the Bible really teaches they can easily be deceived by the great deceiver. And the more that Christians, very much including ministers, are in bondage to sin (and we have a very serious problem with that in our day), the more they are unable to discern what is of God and what is of the evil one. Demons can be very subtle, making things look, and sound, and feel good, and they know how to appeal to pride.
I'll say more on this important topic in the Appendix of this paper, which will eventually be on my internet site. The Appendix is not included on this Christian article site
We will continue, and finish, this study in Part 6, dealing with the topic, "Does the Bible Teach the Trinity?"