The Biblical Paradigm for Prophetic Ministry
All ministry is directed toward a particular purpose. So often, we compartmentalize spiritual gifts into neat and tidy categories. We tell ourselves that because we have a specialized gifting, we are precluded from certain other responsibilities because they don’t fit into our box. We believe we can disobey the voice of God calling us because what He is calling us to doesn’t fit our self-imposed job description.
“I’m an intercessor,” I’ve heard some say, “I’m not much of an evangelist. I’ll pray and allow those with the gift of evangelism to do the Great Commission stuff.” This is simply a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts.
After His resurrection, Jesus gave us the Great Commission:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
The Great Commission applies to prophets as much as it does evangelists. Jesus, the Head of the Church, has oriented His Body, every part, toward one direction. We have one singular purpose, and it is to spread the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV) Emphasis added
This is the paradigm for all of ministry: we are to make disciples of all nations by declaring the message of reconciliation.
Genuine Prophetic Ministry Builds the Body
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 1until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
Paul tells us in this passage of Ephesians that Christ has given the Church special gifts in order to build her up into the whole measure of the fullness of Christ so that she may be fully equipped to fulfill the mission given to her by Christ. Specialized ministry gifts work together toward a single purpose. Just as building a house requires levels, drills, saws, concrete mixers, and all kinds of other tools, so the Great Commission requires the specialized gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the building of the Church.
Let me remind you, lest you think that because you are an equipper, you are exempt from preaching the Gospel yourself, be aware that Paul commanded Timothy, a pastor, to “do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:5) No one is exempt from personally fulfilling the Great Commission.
Prophecy and the Ministry of Reconciliation
The purpose of the prophetic, just like every other kind of ministry, is for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the proclamation of the message of reconciliation, and the building up of the Church into the “whole measure of the fulness of Christ”. A prophetic word that fails to accomplish this purpose is not a true prophetic word. I personally get weary of hearing heavenly encounters which go into great detail about the flowers in heaven or whatever but never do anything except build up the person who is sharing their “prophetic encounter”.
An excellent test of whether a prophetic word is genuine or not is to ask “Who does this help?” If the answer is not clear, it probably is not a worthwhile prophetic word. You may see a picture while praying for someone, but before blurting out what you see, ask the Holy Spirit what He is saying through that image. If you don’t get a clear sense, keep it to yourself until God reveals it.
Likewise, if someone gives you a prophetic word which doesn’t build you up to look more like Jesus or doesn’t speak a message of reconciliation or if it doesn’t strengthen, encourage, or comfort, it probably isn’t from God. You can pitch that into the garbage bin.
God is purifying prophetic ministry in the Church and it is so exciting. We shouldn’t be afraid of this. Instead, we ought to run headlong into what God is doing. God has commanded us through the Apostle Paul to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. Let’s obey and eagerly pursue these gifts, but let’s do so in purity and maturity.
May God bless you.
For more on prophetic ministry and discernment, check out these blogs:
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