Prophetically Speaking by David Devenish - (Part 1)
I am constantly concerned that I do not fall into the evangelical trap of criticising everything that I do not like or find fault in and do not present my thoughts and ideas and visions for an alternate reality that seizes my imagination. I found this excellent article on the 'Gift of Prophecy' by Dave Devenish in an older Newfrontiers magazine that I don't think is available on the net. It was pre-the Newfrontiers website update!! Therefore I have taken the liberty of transcribing it in two sections so that this awesome material can be accessed by a wider audience than those who have the magazine, and I pray that God in His awesome grace may bring about a revival of this gift that we are commanded to earnestly seek - so that the world may be convicted of the Presence of God!
Prophetically Speaking by David Devenish
Newfrontiers Magazine – Winter 2001.
From the pages of the New Testament it is quite evident that prophesying in our gatherings, both large and small, is very important. According to 1 Corinthians 14:1, we should earnestly seek all the gifts but we should in particular seek the gift of prophecy. Prophecy in our gatherings is also intended to have an impact on those coming in as unbelievers. If everybody is prophesying then the unbeliever is likely to be convicted of sin and to exclaim that ‘God is really among you!’ (1 Cor 14:25). Furthermore it doesn’t seem to be something for the special few because Paul makes it clear that we can all prophesy in turn (1 Cor 14:31). He concludes the chapter by stressing the same things, saying ‘Be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:39).
A particular characteristic of the age of the Holy Spirit (from the Day of Pentecost until the second coming of Christ) is that there should be an abundance of the prophetic. In looking forward to this, Joel prophesied about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of this would be that ‘Your sons and daughters will prophesy’ (Joel 2:28). In other words the role of prophesying was not limited to a few special prophets; it was something that would be demonstrated widely amongst God’s people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy saying that this age of the Spirit had now dawned. Paul told the church in Thessalonica that they must not treat prophecies with contempt (1 Thess 5:20). It seems that whereas the church in Corinth perhaps went ‘over the top’ by not handling the spiritual gifts in an orderly way, the church of Thessalonica was in danger of despising the prophetic and putting out the Holy Spirit’s fire. In reality even in the charismatic movement we are probably more in danger of the mistakes of the Thessalonians than the mistakes of Corinth.
What is Prophesying?
So what is prophesying? The gift of prophecy is the special ability that God gives to members of the body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His gathered people, a group among them, or any one of His people individually, through a divinely anointed utterance. It is essentially a sense of the immediacy of God’s Presence demonstrated in His speaking to us. It is not a prepared talk explaining what the Scriptures mean, as some would say – that is teaching. However it is still consistent with God’s revealed word completed in Scripture.
2. Different Types of Prophesying.
There are different types of the prophetic gift referred to in the New Testament. All these aspects need to be reflected in our gatherings.
· It is a general characteristic of prophesying that God is speaking to us for our strengthening, encouragement and comfort. Many words we get in our gatherings obviously have that effect. Some may be brief, some longer and more involved but all should have an uplifting effect upon God’s people. Even if a prophetic word comes with a corrective aspect to it, it must clearly be seen in the context of strengthening and encouraging the church.
· There are individual prophetic words. Agabus brought such a word to Paul in Acts 21:11. Not only did he bring a very specific individual word, but he acted out the word so bringing it into very clear focus. I have experienced on a number of occasions when a dramatic presentation of the word, under the influence of the Holy Spirit has really helped in terms of making vivid what God is saying. However I believe this is still the exception rather than the rule because otherwise it could become just another method and lose its impact. Sometimes individual prophetic words bring an impartation of a gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to such a prophetic word when the elders laid hands on Timothy. (1 Tim 4:14).
· Some prophetic words are predictive. In Acts 11:27-30, Agabus predicted that there would be a famine. It is very important to note the response of the Antioch church. They did not say, ‘Well lets hold that and wait and see what happens’. They acted upon the prophetic word and as a result funds were available to help the poor Judean churches when the famine actually came.
· Prophetic words may give clear direction to the church. In Acts 13 at Antioch the Holy Spirit spoke to the effect that Barnabus and Saul needed to be set apart for the work to which they had already been called. It is noteworthy that this word came in a leadership context. I will be coming back to that later in the article.
· It is also anticipated that prophetic words will sometimes bring genuine conviction of sin. This is often linked with what we call ‘the word of knowledge’. I believe that the ‘word of knowledge’ is an important weapon in the prophetic armoury. When the woman in John 4 heard Jesus say that she had seven husbands and was now living with another man, the woman replied to the effect that she discerned that Jesus was a prophet (John 4:19). I believe it was almost certainly these sorts of prophetic words, which were occurring in Corinth, which would have caused unbelievers to be convicted of sin. A few years ago in one of our churches in Bedford, someone tentatively came to the front and shared what seemed an unusual prophetic word. It was simply two words; ‘Woolworth’s’ and ‘shoplifting’. It turned out that there was somebody present who was not a usual member of the congregation but had indeed been guilty of shoplifting in Woolworth’s.
3. How should we bring these words?
Normally I encourage people just to bring words at an appropriate time during the meeting. In smaller churches just bring them from where you are seated. In larger churches, it may be appropriate to have an extra microphone at the front to which people can come and share the prophetic word. A microphone aids hearing; it doesn’t give prophecy additional authority! I personally do not encourage the practice whereby every word has first to be vetted by the elder presiding in the meeting. In effect this makes the elder the sole judge of the prophetic words and does not seem to capture the ‘body ministry’ atmosphere of the New Testament. I think it is better to listen to the word and then test it. There would of course be exceptions to this. Somebody may not be very confident or may be new to this ministry and prefer to have such encouragement before bringing a prophecy. Furthermore if the word is very directional in terms of the life of the church or of that particular meeting, then it would be sensible to speak to the meeting leader first. However we should avoid the formality of ‘platform’ and do everything possible to encourage the sense of family and body ministry.