Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said; "We can say that a prophet was a person to whom truth was imparted by the Holy Spirit. Indeed we can say that he received a revelation of truth
and was given power also to speak and to utter this truth in a more or less ecstatic manner".".
I feel constrained by a number of urgent influences when writing this piece. Firstly I have been really challenged by Hugh's comment to stick as firmly and as closely to the Word of God as possible and secondly I feel that when seeing the urgency of more 5-fold Ascension Gifts in the context of World Mission, it is important to be less apologetic about it. For I believe that the world is at stake here, and the sole passion on my heart is to do as excellent a job that the church can accomplish, so that we can indeed "speed the Lord's return"!
So some Scriptures to begin demonstrating the vitality of New Testament prophecy:
1. (1 Corinthians 11:4-5, 14:3) The New Testament church prophesied regularly when together.
2. (Acts 19:6) Those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit prophesied at the laying on of hands, WHEN they received.
3. (Romans 12:6, Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 29) Prophecy is a gift that the Risen Christ gives to the church.
4. (Ephesians 4:4-6) Apostles and Prophets were given the revelation of the full plan of salvation.
5. (1 Thessalonians 5:20) Christians MUST value prophecy and not despise it.
6. (1 Corinthians 14:1) The gift of prophecy must be sought above any other.
What then is a Prophet?
1. He is a Spokesman of God.
Exodus 7:1 - "Your brother Aaron shall be your prophet".
Haggai 1:13 - "Then Haggai, the messanger of God, spoke by the comission of the Lord".
Jeremiah 1:7 - "Then the Lord said ... Do not say, 'I am but a youth' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you to speak, you shall speak".
Isaiah 6:8-9 - "Whom shall I send and who will go for Us? Then I said, "Here I am, send me!". He said, "Go".
Ezekiel 2:3-4 - "Then He said to me, 'Son of man I am sending you ... and you shall say to them".
Ezekiel 3:10-11 - "Moreover He said to me, 'Son of Man take into your heart all My words ... go to the exiles and speak to them, and tell them ...".
2. He is a Watcher For God.
Isaiah 62:6 - "On your walls I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth".
I realise that the majority of texts I am using here are from the Old Testament, but while I do understand the difference between Old and New Testament prophets, I think there are some similiarities in their comission and calling and I believe there are principles that can be learnt (1 Corinthians 10:6 - "these things happened as examples for us"). In this key text, I see such a powerful link between the ministry of the prophet and the role of an intercessor. The Lord God has appointed watchmen (or prophets as I am arguing) not just to look and see but to then "give Him no rest" until when? Until He returns a second time? No, until "Jerusalem is made a praise in the earth".
a. To warn of His judgement and imminent departure.
There is a disturbing progression in Ezekiel (which I have never heard preached on!) which details the withdrawal of the glory of the Lord in stages from the temple - to a mountain outside the city. I think, on the one hand it shows the astonishing grace of God (the withdrawal was in stages not immediately) but on the other, the fact that He cannot tolerate sin and will withdraw His active Presence if His Spirit is quenched or grieved.
Ezekiel 8:6 - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v12) - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v15) - "Son of man do you see ... ?". (v17) - "Do you see this son of man?".
Ezekiel 9:3 - "Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been to the threshold of the temple".
Ezekiel 10:18 - "Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim".
Ezekiel 10:19 - "And they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord's house and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them".
Ezekiel 11:23 - "And the glory of the Lrod went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city".
b. To look for His coming in revival.
Ezekiel 43:2, 5 - "Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing the east; and behold the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory ... and behold the glory of the Lord filled the house".
3. He is a Catalyst Used by God.
Throughout the Bible, there are many references to the power of the spoken Word. God is a speaking God, and His silence usually demonstrates some form of judgement. (Psalm 33:6) "By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made". This is true of God, yet I would argue that it was intended to be also true of His prophets (inspiration) and His teachers (preparation).
Jeremiah 5:14 - "Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, "Because you have spoken this word, behold I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood and it will consume them".
Ezekiel 37:4 - "He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones ...". (v9) - "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy son of man ...". (v12) - "Prophesy and say to them ...". (v14) - "I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life".
I believe that the prophet's words in a local church context can unlock personal issues. I remember being at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000. It was the first meeting and I just couldn't "get into" the worship. The devil was busy reminding me of my sin and how unworthy I was. Then Terry Virgo got up and prophesied (and I shall never forget it); "This is dancing ground ... I have cleared the way ... you're free to dance now". From then on the whole Bible Week seemed unlocked to me.
But also unlock and unleash a corporate powerful spirit of prayer, intercession, worship. I have been fortunate to be in some contexts (such as Stoneleigh Bible Week, Brighton Leaders Conference and at Church of Christ the King, Brighton) where the worship has been progressing beautifully but not quite "there" - and then a prophetic word is spoken, the people are arrested and the whole tone and manner of the meeting changes. Of course a sensitive elder in charge is essential to hear from God, weigh whether the word is of God and respond to it.
Some practical matters ...
John Hosier recommends that; "It is probably best not to have a prophet leading the church. He can get so much revelation that the church can blow up trying to implement it all. It is not always wise to have elders who are prophets, for they tend to be impatient and frustrated when considering the small details of church life that elders must give attention to".