The Nature of Prophecy ...continued
Criteria for weighing Prophecy and Love
We have seen the need to weigh post-Pentecost prophecy but what are the criteria we should use in the weighing? We have talked about the motivation being one of love and the nature or character of the prophetic person and these may be used in part to weigh the gift.
William Kay sums up the criteria for judging or weighing prophecy in his excellent book called "Prophecy" (20). This is a book that should be on the bookshelf of every serious Christian leader and of those wishing to move in the prophetic gift.
"Judging prophecy: by what criteria? There is no list of criteria given in the Corinthian epistles or anywhere else in the New Testament. We have to work out how prophecy was judged by making deductions from texts, which are primarily dealing with other topics.
a. Christ himself is the head of the Church and its supreme judge. His judgement is in accordance with his words (In 12.48), and his words are incorporated within the Scriptures. This fact is stated in a different way in 2 Tim 3.16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". Initially, we must ask whether any prophetic utterance is in agreement with Scripture, or in conflict with it. If the prophecy conflicts with Scripture, it is the prophecy, which is wrong.
b. Christ himself in speaking of prophets said, "by their fruit you will recognise them" (Mat 7.16) .The prophet himself is judged: good trees bring forth good fruit. Good prophets bring forth good prophecies. The moral standing of the person who prophesies must be known before their prophecies can be adequately judged. For this reason it is impossible to make a proper judgement of prophecies which are given by strangers.
c. Prophecy can be judged by whether it fulfils the functions described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14.3. Does the prophetic utterance strengthen, encourage and comfort the congregation? Or, to put the question negatively: does the prophecy weaken discourage and upset the congregation? If so, we shall be right to be cautious. Obviously, as we have seen, Agabus spoke to Paul warning him of danger ahead. This warning was not direct encouragement, but it did strengthen Paul by confirming to him what he was going to have to face.
d. 1 John: 4.1,2 says, "do not believe every
spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God...this is how you
can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus
Christ has come in the flesh Is from God". This test is doctrinal. The
prophecy, which denies the true humanity of Christ, is false.
e. No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by
the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12.3). Anyone who denies the Lordship of Christ
will prophesy falsely.
When weighing prophecy it is important not to be rushed into validating something that you need time to think about. Take time because it is important that you understand God is not in a hurry, but he does want you to understand what he is communicating. All those who weigh prophecy will weigh things in line with their relationship with the Holy Spirit who is the one who leads us into all truth.
This is a link to some examples of how to weigh prophecy from the book "Prophecy" by William Kay.