Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
At least one lesbian is not happy with me for the case I made last week against same-sex marriage on our TV program. She wrote me this ALL CAPS e-mail with “VERY JUDGEMENTAL” in the subject line:
ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME AND I AM A CHRISTIAN LESBIAN AND HAVE BEEN FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS. STOP JUDGING AND MOVE ON!!! I AM SO TIRED OF ALL YOU UPTIGHT, DO RIGHT, SINNERS JUDGING PEOPLE.
I wrote her back asking her why she was judging me for judging. It seemed like a fair question. After all, if I am not to “judge” her, why is it OK for her to judge me? And if she’s a Christian, doesn’t she know that God has already judged homosexual behavior as immoral? I mean, I didn’t make the judgment that homosexual behavior was wrong. God is the standard of morality, not me.
But the main point is that my lesbian pen pal did what most liberals do when they are faced with arguments they don’t like—they misuse Jesus’ apparent command not to “judge” in order to shut you up. So if you oppose their behavior or their attempt to get the nation to endorse their immorality (i.e. same-sex marriage), you’re sure to hear “Thou shalt not judge!”
As with most slogans shouted by the left, the truth is exactly opposite to what they claim. Liberals take the judgment statements of Jesus out of context because they want to avoid any moral condemnation for their own actions, and they don’t want you to notice that they are making judgments too. Let’s take a look at what Jesus actually said:
Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt. 7:1-5)
Notice Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge—Jesus is telling us how to judge. He actually commands us to take the speck out of our brother’s eye—that involves making a judgment. But he also commands us to stop committing the bigger sins ourselves so we can better help our brother. In other words, when you judge, do so rightly not hypocritically.
Jesus expressed this same idea when he said “stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus would never tell us to stop judging– that would be suicide! Just think about how impossible life would be if you didn’t make judgments. You make hundreds, if not thousands, of judgments every day between good and evil, right and wrong, dangerous choices from safe ones. You’d be dead already if you didn’t make judgments.
What does this have to do with politics? Every law is a judgment about what’s best for society. Homosexual activists are making a judgment that same-sex marriage would be the best law for society. It’s a wrong judgment as I’ve argued in this column before (Gay Marriage: Even Liberals Know it’s Bad), but it’s a judgment nonetheless.
So in addition to being self-defeating, the belief that we “ought not judge” is completely impractical and even dangerous. Making judgments is unavoidable both personally and politically. If you want to meet a sudden and premature demise, just stop making judgments.
Unfortunately, liberals are propelling our society toward a premature demise by making the disastrous judgment that we ought not make judgments about their behavior. They, of course, can judge our behavior as immoral when we oppose same-sex marriage or the killing of the unborn. But we are not to judge their behavior. This is exactly the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus warned against. The passage they quote actually convicts them!
For folks so concerned about the “separation of church and state,” it’s amazing how fast liberals quote the Bible when they think it helps their case. Don’t let them get away with that. If they believe the Bible when they think it condemns judging (which it doesn’t), then ask them why they don’t believe the Bible when it certainly condemns homosexuality. If they want to use the Bible as their standard, then they will be judged by that same standard.
Editor’s Note: Introduction to the VOR Series The Basics.
You believe that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death. As a Christian, you believe these propositions not because they make you feel good, but because you think that they are true. Before I point out some of the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree, for instance, that if one of us is right, the other is wrong. The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t. Either Jesus offers humanity the one, true path to salvation (John 14:6) or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe all other faiths are mistaken, and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief, I should expect to suffer the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others, and many close to me, to reject the very idea of God. They too will languish in “eternal fire” (Matthew 24:41). If the basic doctrine of Christianity is correct, I have misused my life in the worst conceivable way. I admit this without a single caveat. The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.
— Sam Harris: Letter to a Christian Nation
Sam Harris and the militant atheists of our day are not stupid. Neither are the Orthodox Jews, agnostics, theologically-liberal Christians, or the host of others who have openly rejected the message of the gospel. The burden of proof is on us, the disciples of Jesus, to tell the world His message, and prove that there is no reasonable response to that message other than to fall down and worship Him as Lord. The VOR series, The Basics, is my attempt at doing just that.
Obviously, not everyone will believe what we have to say, no matter how much evidence we provide, and God is not someone that is to be analyzed and discussed as if He were a mere concept, or a hat-in-hand deity in desperate need of people to believe in Him, just waiting to answer every arrogant and haughty “intellectual” question we can come up with… but giving silly, illogical, or inadequate reasons for believing this remarkably radical and supernatural message we carry gives respect neither to the message itself, nor the people to whom we bring it. As Paul said, if Messiah is not raised, we are of all men most to be pitied, for we are giving people false hope, and giving up our lives for a lie.
Let us then strive after the truth, wherever it may lead. For then, we will know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.
Note from the Author: I have taken it upon myself to share with you a part of a booklet I put together entitled ‘Jesus Ministry’. It was written especially for young people, who have perhaps been going through the motions of church life without knowing ‘the reason for existence’ and the reality of the Kingdom of God. This is not a ‘plug’ for the book, rather it is an appeal to you, in as much as it has been God’s appeal to me in recent years. Whether young or old, God wants all of you; a Divine possession that will not only consume your life, but manifest His life through you in an unprecedented way!
Malachi 3 (NAB)
17 And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.
1 Peter 2 (1890 Darby Bible)
9 But ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light…
The term ‘possessed’ brings up all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts in our minds, especially when we read in the Scripture of those who were ‘possessed’ by evil spirits. In the Old Testament we read that the Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon. We do not hear enough today of the reason Christ died and shed His blood for us; that is the gift of His Spirit, poured out upon those who repent and believe. For this reason our God did this – that the Spirit may clothe Himself with a people! This is why Christ came into this world… to get for Himself a people for His own possession!
All New Testament teaching has its basis ultimately in the mission and message of Jesus – the focus being on Jesus – the Messiah and Son of God, who through His death and resurrection brought about salvation for God’s New Testament people. They would comprise of Jew and Gentile to form a last days community of disciples, living in the present time by the Spirit, as they awaited the final triumph of that salvation in the return of Christ. The first followers of Christ knew that the time of the Kingdom had been fulfilled and would be completed when Jesus returned. These men and women lived like all the issues of Jesus Christ dominated their very being. They were consumed with Him… possessed by Him and His realities. They knew that they existed as God’s people for that time – chosen, redeemed, possessed by God – as His end time people. There are a few things the early church lived out and are of vital importance to the present day disciple:
Though our bodies still await that awesome time when Christ will return to perfect His work concerning us and make us like Him, our spirits have already been, and continue to be transformed (transfigured) toward perfection in Jesus. (Romans 8: 11). God is working His life into us today!
God’s people are to live in the sense that the glory of the future is already at work within them, both for the transformation of the person and for the preparing of the whole people of God. Heavenly eternity has been set in their hearts by the Spirit.
Ephesians 1 (NAS)
13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14 which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
Listen to these words of revelation from Matthew Henry:
All who are designed for heaven hereafter are wrought or prepared for heaven while they are here; the stones of that spiritual building and temple above are squared and fashioned here below. And he that hath wrought us for this is God, because nothing less than a divine power can make a soul partaker of a divine nature; no hand less than the hand of God can work us for this thing. A great deal is to be done to prepare our souls for heaven, and that preparation of the heart is from the Lord.
So then, what does this have to do with me, I hear you ask. Well, this generation has no sense of ownership and being. It has been said by one man that the present generation of young people in Europe are living in a vacuum, and that they are waiting for something or someone to come along and fill that vacuum. Young people want a cause with which they can align themselves (and give themselves to.) All we have to do is watch the present situation on the news to see that young men are giving themselves to false ideals and putting their hope and identity in a god who always demands yet never communes, who hides and never reveals himself.
When we, the emerging generation in the Church catch a glimpse of, and take a look into what Christ has doneandisworking in us, then we will begin to understand that we are His, and His for a purpose. That purpose is to call others to obedience to the Gospel and to being a part of His people, His own possession. It is to see those who are possessed by anything other than Him, come to know of the freedom that comes by the possession of His Kingdom as it enters their hearts. That’s true identity, that’s true fellowship and that’s freedom!
There is an inner heart, there is an inner being, that can reach out, and you not only see the Lord Jesus but you feel the Lord Jesus… and you are one with Christ in an indissoluble union… you are part of Jesus Christ… you are one in Christ and with Him heirs of God.
Yesterday, I picked up a newspaper and looked at the damage in Costa Rica (only about an hour from where I am) and wept at the devastation. There is so much pain, and the ground is still shaking every 20 minutes as the rain falls down and the people look for shelter in the dampness and the cold. The animals are dying from lack of attention, and people are waiting on food as rescue workers do the best they can to provide continued relief. One mother died with her two small children in her arms only two yards from the front door and safety. Another pair of sisters died holding hands beside their homemade candy stand on the corner from their house, and their father was left to grieve them both.
As I watch, and know that they will rebuild (although the Sarapiqui will take years to restore, and some small, rural villages may never be inhabited again), I can’t help but think about Romans 8: all of creation groaning for the sons of God to be revealed. The very earth is crying out for something real…for an intervention. Those of us who claim to know Jesus and walk in the light of His freedom and all He has done to restore our lives from the devastation this world can bring, how are we sharing His love and truth with those around us? Do our very lives breathe with the hope He offers…the trust He’s placed inside of us in knowing that He is our stability? In knowing that we are His, and He will care for us? When we have the chance, do we bless those around us, or do we become afraid of becoming small, or lost, or forgotten…do we live as sons who know His love that cannot be lost, or do we live as orphans afraid of what can be taken away in a moment? I can’t help but think about these things as I see people rushing in to help those affected by the earthquake at the same time that others are looting the homes that were hastily abandoned in the tragedy. Which are we? Some churches who claim to follow Christ…some who claim to be Christians…use religion as an excuse to scare or control or steal even more from those who are already scared and dying. But the Lord is raising up His Church…His people…His remnant who will rush into the devastation and bring hope to a lost and dying world regardless of the cost to themselves. The ground is shaking, Lord. Be our stability, and may we find in you the strength to rescue those who are crying out for stability and hope.
On January 10th, VOR posted Dr. Brown’s The Hollow Sound of Anti-Israel Protests article on our Daily Kos diary. Daily Kos is known as one of the most liberal sites on the net, thus it is no surprise that response to the article in the comments section was quite negative (perhaps vitriolic is the more precise word), with most of the venom directed at Dr. Brown for things unrelated to the article. One of the more interesting (and less hateful) comment threads involved Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek”, suggesting that as believers in Jesus, we ought never support any side in a war, with nations needing to “turn the other cheek” upon being confronted militarily. The following is a sampling from the thread:
As your sister in Christ, might I suggest turning the other check is in both party’s interest if they really want this conflict resolved.
by grannyhelen on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 03:09:58 PM PST
I thought that Christ’s maxim was that if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek toward them. I don’t recall him saying, if someone slaps you on one cheek, bludgeon them with a sledge hammer. Please clarify.
by Leftywingnut on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 03:24:37 PM PST
I find it sadly amusing that so many so-called self-identified ‘Christians’ have to do all sort of logical gymnastics to twist Christ’s simple and direct language to suit their ends, as opposed to listening in their hearts and reading the specific words on the page.
These same ‘Christians’ love Leviticus when it tells them to persecute gays, but fail to abstain from eating shell-fish, wearing a cotton/poly shirt, or eating a bacon double cheeseburger.
Often times they moan about efforts against public prayer (in government chambers) without acknowledging Christ’s clear directive to pray in private rather than make a public display of their superior piety, ‘like the hypocrites.’
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.”
by Leftywingnut on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 03:49:12 PM PST
Are we “do[ing] all sort[s] of logical gymnastics to twist Christ’s simple and direct language to suit [our] end” when we support Israel in their war on terror? We want to obey Jesus in all ways, so what does He want us to do when He commands us to “turn the other cheek”? Should we abstain from defending ourselves from somebody physically attacking us? Should we denounce rather than support nations for defending themselves from terrorists? Consider the following:
Interestingly, while it is not uncommon for anti-missionaries to attack some of these passages, it is often the Jewish background to the passage that elucidates its meaning. Note, for example, that Luke 6:29 states, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also,” but Matthew 5:39, which occurs in the context of legal retaliation (see Matt. 5:38!), provides an important detail: “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Does this mean that if someone breaks into your home and tries to kill your spouse and your kids, you should sit idly by even if you could easily stop them, or, perhaps even turn your family over to the intruder to be brutalized? Does it mean that you don’t call the police or offer any resistance? Of course not. The issue is one of legal retaliation, in this case, for being publicly shamed, which we know because of the words, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek,” implying a backhanded slap against the face. That is to say, a right-handed orientation is assumed in similar legal cases, and, since a right-handed slap would strike the left cheek and a right-handed person would not strike with the left hand, being struck on the right cheek means being struck with the back of the hand.
As Nolland and others have noted, the Mishnah dealt with this very situation in m. B. K. 9:6. To summarize, ‘a slap with the back of the hand calls for twice the payment in recompense for other blows; in terms of dishonor it is on the same level as tearing an ear, plucking out hair, spitting on someone, pulling a cloak off, and loosing a woman’s hair in public.’
Now, it must be remembered that the Mishnah was often dealing with actual laws and procedures, along with legal theory, just as a court today would get into great detail in terms of determining culpability and assessing fines and punishments. That is perfectly understandable as an ongoing application of Torah law. Yeshua (Jesus), however, was saying to his disciples, ‘This is not for you. I’m calling you to something higher. When you are publicly shamed and have the right to exact payment, turn the other cheek. Make yourself vulnerable and don’t try to fight your opponent on his terms. Step higher!’
— Michael L. Brown: Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 4
As is so often the case, taking time to understand the subtleties in the Scriptures, rather than forcing some hyper-literalistic 21st Century application, reveals the truth.
Editor’s Note: This was an e-mail sent out on 12/15/08 to members of the Coalition of Conscience. For more information on how you can help with this cause, go to VOR’s home page, and click on the “Call to Action” tab.
Last week the Internet was abuzz with the release of Newsweek magazine’s feature story on the alleged religious case for same-sex “marriage.” Today, that Newsweek issue has hit newsstands across America, replete with a “Holy Bible” on the front cover, adorned with a rainbow (= gay) bookmark.
So, it is not enough to argue that homosexual men and women have the right to “marry,” but Newsweek’s Religion Editor, Lisa Miller, has now argued that the Bible itself supports same-sex “marriage.” To add insult to injury, Jon Meacham, the Managing Editor of Newsweek, has given his full support to Miller’s article.
Now that this atrocious article is out everywhere, it is essential that you know how to respond to the arguments it puts forth.
I will be devoting tonight’s Line of Fire radio broadcast (7-8 PM EST) to the Newsweek article, and you can listen to it live online if we do not yet broadcast in your area. (For station listings and information on the live online feed, go to: http://lineoffireradio.wordpress.com/. If you miss the show, it will be posted with our Line of Fire archives at: http://lineoffireradio.wordpress.com/posts/.)
The bad news is that grossly inaccurate statements and misleading misinformation and poor interpretation of the Scriptures are everywhere. The good news is that, “we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). So let us get equipped with the truth of God’s Word and let us get filled with God’s love and Spirit, confident that, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD” (Proverbs 21:30).
Firstly, I want to state that I am not a prophet, though I have prophesied by God’s grace. I come from a strong heritage of Welsh Apostolic / Pentecostal life, which had its roots in the Revival of 1904, and was the only movement to be directly born out of it. Because of God’s grace in saving me, I now speak on these issues, not as the final word, but as one who has been blessed and privileged to have witnessed some remarkable prophetic moments and vessels in my 31 years of life.
There is much debate about the role of prophets and prophecy in the Church today. Some argue that prophets & prophecy are confined to the time of the Old Testament and early church years; others say that whilst prophecy can continue, the role of the New Testament prophet does not. And to add to that, among those who believe in the present day prophet, there is debate as to what exactly he is and does.
Firstly, we need to clarify a number of key issues in this debate. Then God willing, next issue, we will look at some examples in history of prophets and prophecy that in my opinion touch something of the genuine manifestation of such gifts and graces.
There are two key areas for me that capture the heart of what we all need to consider:
1. The Role of the Prophet.
Ephesians 3: 5. This scripture contains Paul’s understanding of the role of the Apostle & Prophet. Paul states that the ‘mystery of Christ… has now been revealed by the Spirit…’ by these two ministries. To him, these ministries were to partner in a foundational role in New Testament ministry. He doesn’t say that the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were like a foundation to the Church, although of course there is truth to that. Rather, he is expressing the prophet’s present functioning in the New Testament Church, in which they were bringing a present ministry of the revelation of Jesus Christ that was unknown in previous generations! (The OT prophet could not do that!) The Apostle & Prophet were instruments now & together in NT revelation, during the early church years.
So New Testament prophets were and are vital to the ministry of revelation to the Church, of which the essence is Christ. For Paul and the early apostles, the written ministry they brought was eventually recognized to be of an infallible nature. Note however, that the NT prophets words are rarely recorded. We only have small glimpses in Acts, and in the prophecy spoken to the seven churches in Revelation. However, we do know one thing – the prophets in the NT played a foundational role, and worked in team ministry with the apostolic leader. This brought a powerful two-edged sword of ministry, both by revelatory preaching / teaching and through the revelation given in prophetic utterance.
Also, from this scripture, as well as Ephesians 2: 19 – 20, we can see something deeper regarding the prophets partnership with an apostle. It is not only foundational historically but functionally. We know from Acts that Paul (an apostle) & Silas (a prophet), as well as others, ministered on Paul’s Apostolic missionary team. This is vital today in an age where so called prophets are lone-rangers, spewing out words left, right and center, many of which are shallow, unjudged and dangerous, and a far-cry from a revelatory foundational-type ministry.
The concept of the Prophet as a foundational ministry was not new to the early Jewish Church. We read in Zechariah 4 of the prophetic word coming through Zechariah the prophet to Joshua the high priest & Zerubbabel. They were called to begin the building of the temple, to lay its foundations with shouts of ‘grace!’ We then turn to Ezra 5, where the historic account of this is given. There it mentions that Haggai & Zechariah, both prophets, were to accompany the builders of the House of God. In other words, both ministries were foundational in the rebuilding of the temple, one as wall-builders, the other as watchmen. Here we see the Old Testament type of what was to be in the New Testament, Apostle & Prophet working together in the building of the new people of God.
Then we go to the New Testament, in Matthew 21 – 24, Jesus comes to predict the rejection of Himself as the cornerstone, and yet promises the destruction of the physical – literal temple, and the construction of a more glorious spiritual temple. He is the chief apostle and prophet who laid a foundation for a new temple! Can you see what is taking place here? It is with this background in the OT & Gospels that Paul can speak of himself as a ‘wise master-builder’ in 1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 17, who lays a foundation of Jesus Christ, in the planting of new Churches. But what of the role of the watchman – the prophet? He too, with the Apostolic ministry can bring forth the mind of the Spirit in regard to this building ministry, as is so wonderfully demonstrated in Acts 16: 6 – 10, where the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ led them in Apostolic mission and building. Most commentators agree that the role of the prophet would have been key in this account.
Because of time, we cannot go into all of the issues involved in the present debates about the prophet, but I hope the above at least can get us started in beginning to see the issue with clarity. From this we can learn that a ‘go alone prophet’ is not good, nor biblical. Secondly, that whilst God primarily spoke through the Prophet in the OT, He now in the last days has spoken by His Son (Hebrews 1), who in turn has graced the Church not only with one ministry as the prophets of old, but the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4: 11 & 1 Corinthians 12). They all in their own unique way manifest the revelation and ministry of Jesus Christ to and through His people.
Another thing to note is that OT Prophets prophesied predominantly to a physical nation/s – Israel and the Gentiles. In that mix were those obedient to God, and those rebellious. We have to believe that early church prophets were similar in many ways to the OT characters for them to have been recognized as such. They probably would have had a certain style of conveying the word. The tones of the word, and the substance of the heart of God being expressed would had been familiar to the Jewish disciples. They were men who forth-told, and foretold, and all utterance was born in the heart of God. However, it is evident Scripturally that the emphasis of ministry in the OT went from the lone prophet speaking to a king & nation, to a NT expression of a 5-fold ministry ministering in plurality to a redeemed/ fulfillment body of people. The body of Christ then in AD 60 & now in 2008 is a people of a promise fulfilled. Therefore, whilst God can and does still bring words of chastisement, correction and warning to His NT people at times (we need it!) – the nature of the word now carries the revelation of the mystery of Christ and His heart. Whereas in times before, the OT word pointed ahead in small ways, and came with condemnation at times, in the NT it was no longer primarily a prophetic word of judgment to an unbelieving nation but of revelation to a fulfillment people who related to their Head. In the OT the prophet spoke to kings both good & bad for warning of judgment, instruction and rebuke. Today, our King is Jesus. It is no longer a word to a king but from our King. So therefore whilst there are some characteristic traits which carry through from OT to NT, there are some significantly unique dynamics to the ministry & the revelation NOW revealed! In that word now, we can receive chastisement (See Revelation 3) or warning of God’s severe dealings at times, but as sons! As when the writers of the Epistles gleaned from OT scripture to bring instruction to the NT people, so too the prophets probably ministered through much of the terminology of the OT prophets. However, there was a new dynamic. The prophets now, were in and for the Body of Christ, with other ministries for the maturing of the saints for service, and to bring the bodyto the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4: 13 & 15) We must remember to keep this balance and tension in our thinking regarding prophecy.
2. The Essence & Nature of Prophecy.
For me there are two key verses that capture what prophecy in fact is, both in Biblical times, and today. Firstly, there is the verse in Revelation 19: 10, which states that, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’In other words, all the prophetic utterance found in the book of Revelation, which came through John to the Church is at the heart – Christocentric (Christ centered)! So then prophecy is not the idea of men; it is not speculative words of things to come (although prediction can come by the Spirit as with Agabus & the famine); it is not impersonal. Rather in its purest sense, it is the Word of the Lord – Himself, by the Spirit to the Church, and thus NT prophets, like the OT ones, would have conveyed it as such. However, today it is not infallible, nor can it be added to Scripture, rather it brings out the treasures of truth written within Scripture. Now remember that prophecy must be judged in the light of Scripture because it comes through imperfect channels, but in its purest essence before coming through the channel, it is out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus to His people. Therefore, we can know how to judge a word when it carries this undeniable mark – the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has given us in Scripture. The prophetic channel, in keeping this plumb-line of ‘Christ testifying revelation’, can begin to mine the depths of prophecy and bring out treasures of the Kingdom through the prophetic word. They can be words that exhort, instruct, edify, and even through seasoned ministry – direct, so as long as they carry the undeniable mark of God’s character and truth, as revealed in His Son and in Scripture. Once delivered audibly, it then must be judged and agreed by those around that God has spoken. If it is judged to be so, we can act on it with faith!
Prophetic revelation then is a mine of precious stone, that can help the builders of God’s house in that foundational ministry, and in a more general way to encourage the people of God and lead them into greater things in the advancing of the Kingdom.
Secondly, the nature of prophecy is important. How do we know when we are to prophesy, how to prophesy and what to prophesy? Again, there is much to say, which I will say another time, but for me the key text is in 2 Peter 1: 21. Genuine prophecy never has and never should originate in the will of men. It is born of God, by the Holy Spirit in the deep places of a man. Peter says that prophets of God were men carried along by the Holy Spirit. I like the description of prophecy given by a powerful servant of God, D. P. Williams, who came out of the Welsh Revival in 1904 and was used in pioneering an Apostolic movement with powerful prophetic ministries in those he labored with. He says:
‘The prophetic word must be born in the bowels of Mercy, and the affections moved in the operation of the gift. This background of Divine character is most essential to the making of a channel, as there is possibility for the operation of the gift to be on the surface, and remain in shallow waters, or to keep the gift in a babyhood stage, without spiritual development.’
Some practical advice here. The first time I ever prophesied was when I was around 10 years old. I had seen powerful ministry of this kind from a babe, yet how did I know how to prophesy? I simply asked my mother, and she said these words, ‘just wait, be patient, you’ll know when you are to prophesy.’ So simple! And yet she had not tried to cajole me into something that might, or could be it. No! I was to wait for the genuine burning and bubbling of God from deep within!And that is my advice, which I believe to be rooted in the Word, and learnt from genuine experience of seeing powerful, deep and Christ revealing prophets and prophecy in my lifetime. Not to mention hearing of those who over the last 100 years in Wales have continued to bring that foundational ministry of the Prophet with the Apostle in Church planting and building. They too have led other members to be used in the gift of prophecy to the edifying of the Body for service.
Prophecy can come through many ways and means, however let the plumb-line of Peter’s words hold us on course for a genuine manifestation. It takes patience, waiting, depth of seeking, a pure heart and a genuine experience for the prophetic word to come forth. We can have prophetic preaching but also we should see as in both OT & NT prophets, that Spirit infused Word spoken to the people of God, direct from the moving of the Spirit deep within. This is why prophets prophesied in the first person, such was the immediacy of revelation and deep feeling of the Holy Spirit within. Peter says, they were ‘carried along…’ by the Holy Spirit. I am looking for such a manifestation today – genuine, untainted, powerful, and unmistakably God!
A final thought then on all the ‘prophetic talk’ today. For me the above principles are key to judging words, and knowing the authentic among our gatherings. (There is more to say, but time and space doesn’t permit.) But another thing worth considering is what brings about such mixed teaching / understanding about this ministry. One of my feelings is that it is only God Himself who can birth a genuine prophetic vessel, ‘as the Spirit wills,’ says Paul to Corinth. I have noted that the genuine prophetic ministries that I have heard of or witnessed in part, were all born in the fires of genuine revival! Could it be then, that many today are grasping after things or claiming things for themselves that have not been born in a supernatural move of God! I realize that God can and will raise up such vessels in His Church in all seasons, and yet it seems that the understanding of the depth of them is only realized by those come through fire, learn through fire, are hardened by fire and then bring a ministry of fire. They then pass on a baton of truth and understanding to their spiritual sons. The fire tests each man’s work, and purges the worthless! Next issue, I will be looking at these issues in the history of the Apostolic movement that was birthed in the Welsh Revival of 1904, and also the early years of the Latter Rain, which was indirectly influenced by the Welsh movement, but later became something uglier than it initially was.
May God cause this new generation to touch such things and not be satisfied with any less!