“You are the master of your unspoken words, but a slave to the words you have spoken” – (Winston Churchill)
As we minister to believers all around the country and around the world, some of the same questions keep coming up. What is the difference between the gift of prophecy vs the office of a prophet? Are there false prophets today? And, how can we recognize if someone is a false prophet or not?
Faith Comes By Hearing
Just as an introduction to this first question, in 1 Corinthians 14:30-31, Scripture tells us that all of us can prophesy, but prophecies must be given one at a time and decently and in order. Then in Romans chapter 12, the Word states we have been given gifts according to the grace that has been given to us. In other words, when we prophesy, it should be in proportion to our faith. Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” This scripture is not only present tense, but it is also means the “Word” of God. It was translated from the Greek word rhema and means, “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice.”
How incredible is that?
We Prophesy According to Our Faith
Therefore, as we piece all of that together, we can say that faith comes by hearing when we hear His living voice. In other words, we prophesy according to the faith we have from the grace (gift) we have been already given (Romans 12:6). Even if our faith is that of a mustard seed, we can then speak to mountains to move them.
Freely We Have Received; Freely We Give
As you can see, this really means we can all prophesy as a body of believers because prophecy is meant to edify each other and edify the church. Therefore, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, that we are all meant to pursue the God type of love (agape), be zealous in the gift of prophecy, as well as to speak prophetic words of edification, exhortation, and comfort in order to build people up. We can all do that, right? Of course. That’s why it’s a gift. It has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. We all get to unwrap it, and then we get to give it away to others. Freely we have received; freely we can give!
The Gift vs. The Office
The gift is for all, but being called to the ministry as a prophet of God (or into the office of a prophet) is to be called to be a part of the five-fold ministry. This is detailed in Ephesians 4:11-12. The office of a prophet is very different from operating in the gift of prophecy. As a calling, it is firstly affirmed by God to that individual, and then at a later stage, it’s affirmed by man, specifically by other members of the five-fold ministry. Most probably this affirmation will come by another prophet, but it can be confirmed by one of the other offices too (apostle, teacher, pastor and evangelist). Just because a man or a woman is called into the office of a prophet, it does not mean they are ready to be behind a pulpit or put into a place of influence. However, they are called to be raised up to be servant-leaders and to equip and train the Body of Christ to do the work of the ministry.
Pointing the Way
Thus, operating in a gift of prophecy vs. being called into the office of a prophet are very different indeed. And let me say this one thing:
A prophet’s job really isn’t to prophesy over individuals, but someone standing in the office of a prophet is meant to teach the church how to hear the voice of God more clearly.
Another function of their calling is to point and show the way. They may do this by providing words that indicate timings to the church leadership of where they are going and how to stay on track. Some prophets tend to be very straight forward in their approach when it comes to giving direction, re-direction, correction and seeing into the spiritual realms where others cannot.
Their Words Should Be Never Judgmental or Critical
This straight-forward, spiritual keenness can make people feel like the prophet is a little weird, and in some cases, even rude—but please hear me on this. Those who are called to the office of a prophet should love people and the church with the love of God, and so their communication should never be judgmental or critical. Their directness in wanting believers to be all God has called them to be can be received as a little harsh, when really, it’s not.
Basic Differences Between the Gift and the Office:
Gift of Prophecy:
- It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit
- Every believer is encouraged to prophesy
- It’s for edification, exhortation, and comfort (EEC)
- Prophetic utterance is a gift
- He/she is defined as a saint doing the work of the ministry
- The gift is for life
Office of a Prophet/Prophetess:
- It’s a gift from the Godhead
- God chooses the office; it’s not our choice
- It’s to train, equip, direct, correct, warn and govern
- He/she is a gift to the Body of Christ
- He/she is part of the five-fold ministry to equip the saints
- The calling is for life
Missing the Mark
Firstly, let me say this: just because a prophet may “miss the mark” or get something wrong, it does not mean he/she is a false prophet. In Scripture, it says to test the spirits or weigh the spoken word (1 John 4:1-2).
You do not judge the prophet personally, only the word he/she has delivered. The utterance should be tested by the Spirit.
I cannot say this strongly enough.
Characteristics of a False Prophet:
- Are they pointing the people back to themselves and not to Jesus? In other words, it’s all about them!
- They are not under the spiritual authority of a senior pastor/leader. In other words, there is no accountability, as they think they know all things.
- They bring dissention quickly within the leadership team and then in other areas of the church body. Is there always controversy or strife associated with them?
- They are judgmental, critical, and use manipulation to get what they want. They are not seeing or speaking through the heart and eyes of Father God, but speaking through the wrong spirit of condemnation.
- They may have been correct and true in the beginning, but due to offenses they have received, they now operate out of anger, frustration, and hurt.
Words Have Significance
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14 in verse 10: There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. He was saying this regarding the use of tongues spoken publicly in the assembly of believers. But this principle applies to any prophetic word given. Words have significance; they mean something. That prophetic utterance was either given by the Holy Spirit or it wasn’t. Whether you hear a word spoken in your church family or by a visiting prophet, we hope you have a better understanding that you are free to judge the word by the Word of God, but never the person. Everyone misses the mark sometime.
Speak Life & Encouragement
We also hope that now you know that the gift of prophecy is given for all believers to edify, exhort and comfort. Even if you are not called into the office of a prophet, you can start to speak prophetic words of life and encouragement to those around you as you start to spend more time hearing God’s voice.
We hope that by sharing this with you and answering these questions, we are bringing clarity to your understanding of prophecy!