The prophetic ministry has received much publicity; persons who claim to be prophets or oracles of God are heard on the airwaves daily. Here is a growing trend: Some of the comments, claims and antics of some self - styled prophets have over time given some cause for serious concern. Many have raised eyebrows, expressing their displeasure and disapproval, especially as some prophets have been known to make wild claims, false predictions and in some cases rain insults (verbal abuse) on their congregants and on persons they perceive to be antagonistic to their cause, including other members of the clergy. In this article, I attempt to touch on these concerns and more. Let`s get down to business.
The prophetic ministry through the lenses of Scripture
With a discussion such as this, where else will be appropriate to start from than the Scriptures? Let`s get in there briefly. The Bible reveals that the call of a prophet is a unilateral and sovereign decision of Almighty God. This call may take a more dramatic form such as that experienced by Moses (Exodus 4:1 – 9) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1 – 13). It may also not be that dramatic as was the case of Elisha (1 Kings 19:16 - 21).
It is worth-noting that prophets employed both predictions (fore-telling) and preaching (forth-telling) as their modus operandi. However, according to L. J. Wood, a Bible Scholar “…the greater part of their declarative ministry was in preaching to the people of their time.” They were also noted for their usage of symbolism in the communication of God`s message to their target audience.
Every prophet seems to have had a specific mission. However, there are certain roles that may be termed general. Dr. James Yamoah, an Old Testament Scholar notes, “…the primary role of the prophets was reformation (not innovative or new teaching)…” Prophets also brought words of encouragement to the people in times of suffering.
Butterworth and Motyer observe that “prophets are expected not only to speak to people on behalf of God, but to speak to God on behalf of the people.” A case in point will be when Moses interceded for the Israelites (Numbers 14:11 - 25).
The view that the prophetic ministry ceased with the apostolic age is nowhere in Scripture. Proponents of the “cessation theory” do a great deal of Scripture twisting and gymnastics in their bid to advance their presuppositions. That`s a whole topic on its own and a discussion for another day.
And just for the records, comb through the entire Scriptures page after page and you will certainly find no single instance where a prophet, man of God or Jesus Christ metamorphosed into an animal. No where! Neither physically nor spiritually!
With the basics covered, permit me to delve into a couple of issues surrounding the prophetic ministry in Ghana and by extension across the globe.
Contentious issues explored
In Ghana and perhaps other parts of the globe, it is not uncommon to see people point accusing fingers at the abuses prevalent in prophetic circles. Concerned citizens point to instances of failed prophecies (some related to elections and football tournament outcomes) and to certain self – styled prophets who engage in abuses such as sleeping with women who come to them for assistance, exploitation and the wanton use of abusive language. They point to certain unbiblical practices among some so-called prophets (and men of God) and the use of occult powers / fetish for the purposes of performing miracles. Some proceed with the logic that if indeed all these evidently wrong observable facts are prevalent and seemingly widespread, it certainly means that all who claim to be prophets (men of God) in our day are fake and sinister.
Admittedly, abuses are rife. This is obviously the stark reality. However, the fact that some so-called prophets are engaged in all kinds of dubious practices and antics is not enough reason for anyone to conclusively state that all we have in this day and age are pseudo prophets. In the first place, it will be instructive to observe that in both the Old and New Testaments, false prophets are mentioned and their misdeeds noted (1 Kings 18:17-40; Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 22:28; Mathew 17:15). The fact that there were false prophets in Bible times never meant that all the prophets were false.
Secondly, it is sound logic to assert that the existence of that which is false is proof that indeed that which is true exists. It is my estimation that the prevalence of false prophets (including fetish priests/occultists masquerading as prophets and genuine servants of God) in Ghana is formidable proof of the presence of true prophets. It will suffice to state that the negatives notwithstanding, the prophetic ministry as championed by God`s genuine prophets have done the nation much good; many have been healed, experienced supernatural interventions in their crises moments, received guidance, encouragement, revelations and the ministry of the God`s word. I am not holding brief for any prophet or man of God. Just read further and you will get my drift.
I think it appropriate at this point to state that the public reserves the right to express apprehension and aversion. The ethically bankrupt, self-important and inordinately disrespectful in ministerial/prophetic circles ought to be called to order. Better still, they ought to put themselves in check. For the greater good of society, charlatans must be exposed for who they really are; they should be named and shamed for their misdeeds and pomposity. Wherever and whenever an individual falls victim to the evil machinations of fraudsters (occultists and fetish priests included) masquerading as prophets and where it borders on criminality or illegality, a report should be lodged with the police; such persons ought to be made to face the full rigors of the law.
Finally, I wish to state that Christians ought to take caution, for not all who call themselves prophets or men of God are of God; some are wolves in sheep`s clothe - devils masquerading as angels of light. By their fruits you shall know them, Scripture opines. A pretty good rule to follow! The world renowned evangelist Reinhard Bonnke wisely notes, “Strong as is the prophetic fashion in the church at present, to build on it without constantly checking by the plum – line of the word of God would leave an unstable edifice.”