This brief article will have little, if anything, to do with Catholics, for a change, except maybe some in the Catholic Charismatic Movement. No, this is mainly for those Protestants who believe in “personal prophecy,” especially those in the “Word of Faith” type churches. Now, the serious problems in the Word of Faith Movement are many, but our focus today will be on this single issue of personal prophecy, i.e., when someone gives a special “word from the Lord” to either an individual or to the whole congregation.
We have a dear Christian friend who used to be part of this Word of Faith Movement. She has a sweet spirit, loves God with all her heart, and would do anything to please God. But her life was pretty much ruined by the Word of Faith church she attended. Through several personal prophecies from others in her church and in prayer meetings, she was led to believe that it was God’s will to marry a particular man in her church to whom she was not physically attracted, nor had any desire whatsoever to even date. But the prophecies seemed to imply that it was her “duty” to marry him. Wanting to be obedient to God, she gave in and married this man. After they got married, the man became very controlling and the spiritual lives of both of them were sorely affected, and they both realized their mistake. They are both now miserable and (not wanting to grieve God further through divorce) are trapped in a very unhappy marriage. These particular “prophecies” deceived them both and swallowed them up into a life of bondage.
No doubt, there are many more tragic stories similar to this one. All too often, this happens because 1) there are many false prophets out there, like Jesus said there would be (Matthew 24:11), and 2) there is a desperate lack of biblical discernment in the church today. These facts provide a major reason that we are in this great apostasy (falling away from the faith) in these last days. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
Not everything uttered as a “prophecy” is from God. Some of these utterances may simply come from peer pressure, since everyone else in the group may be prophesying, and the person doesn’t want to appear “unspiritual”; or he gets caught up in the moment and all the emotion; or a person’s prophecy can be from his own spirit (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16); and then there are some that will be directly given by the “inspiration” of demons. Either way, none of these are from God. These false messages have done more harm to the body of Christ than we can imagine.
Many have fallen prey to the effects of such prophecies, and this is especially true if one is desperately seeking to “hear from God.” His life can be drastically changed by a single false prophecy.
Now, there is such a thing as the gift of prophecy in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:10), and God does not want us to despise this gift (1 Thessalonians 5:20), but there is also much abuse in this area. So, to balance this, the Bible tells us to “examine everything carefully [and] hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21 - NASB), and we do this with God’s Word, the Scriptures.
Christians, be very careful. The next time you hear someone say, “Thus saith the Lord…”, ask yourself these questions:
- First and foremost, is what the “prophet” saying lining up with Scripture? Even if what he says comes to pass, and even if miracles are involved, his message should not be accepted if it goes against God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
- Are the people saying, “Wow! What a great prophet this guy is! What wonderful prophecies!”, or is Jesus Christ the One being glorified?
- Is he going on and on using flowery speech or “King James” language, or is he getting straight to the point and speaking like he normally would?
- Is the “prophet” blasting someone with threats and warnings, or is he encouraging / consoling and confirming in the faith (which is the purpose of prophecy in the church)? (1 Corinthians 14:3)
- Did the prophecy “come out of nowhere,” or was it a confirmation of something that God was already dealing with you about?
- Is the person known to have given false prophecies before?
- What is this “prophet’s” life like? Is he really a man of God, showing the fruit of the spirit (before AND after the giving of the message)?
Christians should never rush to accept any prophetic message. All prophecies MUST be tested first. The only prophecies that are infallible (i.e., without the possibility of error) are those in Scripture, and thus, the Bible is our standard by which we test everything.
Let us learn from the mistakes of those who have failed to apply this test, and have suffered the consequences. Because of this failure, some have lost physical / temporal things, some have lost their lives, and it is very likely that some have lost their eternal souls.