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Prophecy Spiritual Gifts Supernatural Stuff

Should Prophets Be “Under” An Apostle Or Pastor?

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I have heard the teaching, too many times to count, that prophets should be “under” the leadership of an apostle, or a pastor, depending on what terminology that particular stream happens to favor. Is this true? Should prophets be subject to an apostle? If not, how should prophets relate to the church?

First, this notion that prophets should be under the leadership of an apostle is entirely unbiblical. It is also, at the same time, entirely biblical.

Confused? Stick with me.

Submitting To Scripture

There is nowhere in scripture that proclaims a prophet must be under the leadership of an apostle or a pastor or anyone else. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:29 that when a prophet speaks, the “others should weigh carefully what is said.” Paul specifically says that the prophetic words should be subject to the leadership of the church, but he says nothing about the prophet.

At the same time, Jesus made one thing eternally clear to us when it comes to submission.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:24-28

Jesus tells us that we must submit ourselves to one another in the Kingdom of God. Note that He didn’t say this to the random masses who followed Him, but directly to His twelve disciples. Jesus told those men who would go on to become the foundational apostles that their authority and leadership must take on the humility that Jesus’ leadership did.

So this concept of submission to apostolic authority is biblical, but it isn’t just for prophets. It is for prophets, pastors, elders and other apostles. The way of the kingdom of God is that we all “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Any organization that exerts the authoritarian leadership of an “apostle” or “pastor” over anyone, prophet or otherwise, is on dangerous ground. Paul defended his apostleship, not by demanding others recognize it, but by demonstrating it through suffering and laboring for others. He laid down his life in service of others.

Biblical Submission

So yes, prophets should submit to apostles. And pastors. And janitors. And the sound guy.

And likewise, they should all submit to the prophet.

Out of reverence for Christ, we should all submit to each other. Without that kind of submission, we do great damage to the humility of the church. Scripture does not call us to ask or demand for submission from others, but to offer our submission to others.

There’s a big difference.

 

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Prophecy

What Does The Church Gain When Everyone Seeks Prophecy?

church

If you have existed in the right circles long enough, a cold sweat may come over you when you read 1 Corinthians 14:1. Surely Paul didn’t mean everyone in the church should eagerly desire the spiritual gift of prophecy. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who are a bother to the pastor. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who are irritating. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who constantly get it wrong.

Be honest: you’ve thought that before. Maybe you’re not a pastor—you’ve still thought things like that. We all have. We all have those who irritate us, those who bother us. We’d be lying if we said we’d be sad if God chose not to speak to them. If for no other reason than so we wouldn’t have to listen to them tell us about it.

But it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I have never met a person who isn’t a bother to someone. I’ve never met the person who isn’t irritating to someone else. The question is, are you a member of such a homogenous group that you never irritate each other? Because if you are, you aren’t fellowshipping with a diverse group of God’s children. You are fellowshipping with those you can tolerate. Plus that one guy who doesn’t fit but keeps coming anyway. They’re always there.

Real People Are Messy

No, Paul meant what he said. Encourage everyone to hear from God. Encourage the ones you like and the ones who bother you with every word that comes from their mouth. The fact that they irritate you is often not their problem, but yours.

Yes, if you encourage everyone to eagerly desire prophecy you will have a serious mess on your hands. But such is life. If you want a church without mess, then you really desire a church of death. People are messy from start to finish. We come into life pooping on ourselves and most of us go out the same way. In between we learn to make it look clean, but it’s only for show. We’re still messy all over, if not just on the inside.

Solomon said it like this:

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

Proverbs 14:4 NLT

In ancient days, if you owned an ox, it meant you were going to have to shovel manure, but without one, your harvest was going to be meager. We shouldn’t fear the mess that encouraging everyone to prophesy will surely make. Let me say it again: it will be messy!

What Do We Gain?

But what do we gain if we truly encouraged everyone to hear from the Lord prophetically?

  • Clarity
  • Direction
  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Intimacy

Does your church already have all of these? I didn’t think so. What do you think would change if your church had, like the men of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do?”

Our churches lack much power today because we are afraid to set them free to be messy. Prophecy is messy, but with patience, perseverance and love, the church will grow in such a way that the lost will flock to it.

The early church in Jerusalem didn’t grow because they engaged in the right strategies. It grew because it engaged in listening to the right source. Read Acts. God’s voice was there. Often. Powerfully.

Wherever God’s voice is, revival is not far behind.

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Prophecy

Can (And Will) God Speak To You?

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Can God speak to you? Or maybe more appropriately, will He?

I think Jesus answers that question quite clearly:

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Luke 5:12-13

Jesus makes his position clear: He is willing. The man with leprosy asked an honest question, though. It is the question lodged in most of our hearts. “Will God ____________?”

When it comes to hearing God’s voice prophetically, He has made it clear. We are to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy,” 1 Corinthians 14:1. The problem is not with God’s willingness, it is mostly with our willingness to ask.

Even a question asked with little faith, as the man with leprosy did, is precious to God. Had he not asked, Jesus would not have healed him. This man came to Jesus, knowing for sure Jesus could heal him. He just didn’t know if He would, but the man realized it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Even if we ask God in honesty, what does it hurt to ask?

For many, it is the fear of feeling let down. What if the man had asked Jesus and He said no? What if he asked and wasn’t healed? Back then leprosy was a death sentence that separated you from society. That produced the kind of desperation in his heart where he didn’t care if Jesus said he wasn’t willing, it was still worth asking. We need that kind of desperation when we ask God to speak to us.

Desperation for a word from God will cast out fear. If we throw ourselves into the hope that God is good, then no amount of disappointment will keep us away. No fear of rejection will prevent us from falling at Jesus’ feet asking for His voice. There will be no barriers.

Are you that desperate? Are you that willing to ask God to speak to you? Are you afraid that if you don’t come with enough faith, He won’t speak?

The question is not whether God is willing: that has already been settled. He is. The real question is, are you willing to ask no matter what the result?

A prayer for today:

Lord, give me grace and boldness to ask for Your voice. Give me unshakeable faith in Your goodness so that I will keep asking until I hear Your voice. Make me desperate for Your voice and Your presence.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

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Prophecy

What Is Prophetic Obedience?

obedience to prophecy

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are interested in the Lord speaking to you prophetically. There are too many benefits to being open to the Lord speaking to list. My number one reason is that my heart overflows with God’s love when He speaks. They are those moments I know that God knows me, cares about me and is walking with me. I know that as a reality from scripture, but when He speaks to me, I experience that.

And nothing is as powerful as experiential knowledge.

Experience

But sometimes there is a disconnect between prophetic revelation and obedience to it. Obedience can be a bad word in some people’s vocabulary these days. It can conjure images of legalism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Obedience isn’t the same as legalism, it is actually the opposite.

Legalism is the action of replacing a relationship with God with adherence to activities we think will earn us favor with God. Nothing besides the blood of Jesus will earn us that favor, so there are no activities we can perform that will gain us favor. So, if we are trying to earn God’s favor through activity, it is the opposite of obedience because we have already been disobedient to the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Matthew 22:37).

Legalism or Obedience

Obedience begins with a right relationship with God, and that only comes through our surrender to Jesus as substitutionary atonement. Nothing we do can save us but Jesus’ blood. Obedience to Jesus requires relationship to Him, and that cannot be gained through legalism. Legalism and obedience are complete opposites.

Jesus said it like this:

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

John 14:15

Jesus makes it very clear—obedience is not legalism, it is actually love. So, for some of you, obedience needs to be reframed into a proper understanding. And once we do that, it opens up a whole new world of activity in our lives in God.

Obedience, then, is not an aspect of our response to God, but an overflowing virtue of His life within us. If you have struggled to obey God by earning His favor, you know very well how it will wear you out. It will destroy you.

But if Christ is living within you, He is a wellspring of life, overflowing from your heart. Obedience, then, is more of a “yes” response to the activity the Holy Spirit is already performing inside you.

I take time to define this because many people erroneously believe that if the Lord speaks to us prophetically, it never requires any obedience. They believe this because of this misunderstanding of legalism. But having a mind to not obey prophetic words in our lives is one of the easiest ways to shut off the spigot of prophetic revelation. If we resist any subjective input God is willing to give us in our lives, why would He bother to give more?

Asking God To Speak

Having a heart set on obedience to God’s Written Word and His subjective prophetic word is critical to our growing relationship with God. Think of how many Sunday School stories are about men in scripture who chose to disobey the subjective leadership God was giving them. It never went well.

So it is for us. We cannot ask God to speak and then choose not to obey. We cannot choose what God will say or what He will speak about, but we can choose what our response will be.

And it should always be a “yes” deep within our spirit.

The work of walking out that prophetic obedience will always come from the Spirit, our hearts must only be set to obey.

As you seek God to speak more to you, set your heart to obey. When you ask God to speak, consider praying for:

  • Grace to accept the words He speaks
  • Patience to seek understanding of the things that aren’t clear
  • Wisdom to always trust God in His direction
  • Discernment to know what is and isn’t the voice of God
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Prophecy

Why Should We Seek Prophetic Revelation?

seek prophecy

Why should we seek prophetic revelation? Because God says to, that’s why.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:1

It’s Better Than “Because I Told You So”

This has always been an open and shut case for me. In fact, this verse is so clear that the only way it isn’t an open and shut case is if you try to redefine what “prophecy” means or if you choose to believe that prophecy died with the apostles. I’ve dealt with that elsewhere, but basically, much of the New Testament’s doctrine would go right out the window with prophecy if that were true, so we can’t just pick and choose what we like in God’s Word.

But to be honest, I wasn’t the kind of kid who liked “Because I told you so,” as an answer from my father (and fortunately I don’t remember him ever doing it). I like to know that there is purpose behind God commanding us to do something.

With prophecy there is. It is how we know that it is God leading our direction and not just our imagination, our own sinful will or the enemy deceiving us. We can have great confidence in our decisions and direction individually and corporately if we allow God to speak prophetically. He can and will tell us where to go and when we should change our plans.

In fact, there are simply too many benefits of prophecy to list them all, but if you need one, here are two abridged lists.

The Benefits of Prophecy in Your Personal Life:

  • Your heart will be moved by a God who knows you
  • You will walk in greater confidence of God’s love for you
  • You will look at others with God’s eyes as you grow in understanding of how He sees you

The Benefits of Prophecy in Your Ministry:

  • Your church will encounter God in a fresh way
  • You (pastor) will be challenged to lead your congregation open to the voice of God (more challenging than you think)
  • Your church will grow in confidence that God leads His people corporately, further engaging people in coming together as one body.
  • As you struggle through discerning prophecy, you will be forced to deal with the things that hinder unity (if you read between the lines here, then yes, it’s tough; but the outcome is worth it!)

What do you think? What would you add to this list?