"Members of One Another" Goes for Prophets, Too
Thursday Night, September 26, 1991
Question: You spoke of people having prophetic insight into what needs to be said. Is that something that requires a lot of prayer before you dare share that insight? Do you really weigh that out, or is it something that is fairly quick? Or does it vary depending on the situation? I see a danger in someone being a false prophet. I’ve seen that happen—where someone claimed to have insight when they didn’t. But it’s faithless to say that God won’t put insights into people.
I think a lot of the reason for false prophets in our generation, and in previous ones, is that the whole thing was approached in an Old Covenant way rather than in a New Covenant way. When you read about the gift of prophecy in the New Testament, you’ll find that virtually every time that gift is mentioned in the epistles, it’s in the context of being members of one another... the hand not saying to the eye, “I have no need of you.” Check it out—it’s always mentioned as part of the nature and substance of the Body of Christ. Eph. 4, 1Cor. 12, and Rom. 12 all speak of gifts in the context of being members of one another, being compacted together, and being joined and knit.
The Hebrews writer began by saying, “In times past God spoke through the prophets, but now...” Does that mean there are no prophets now? If he’s saying there were prophets in the past and he’s contrasting that situation with the way things are now, he seems to be eliminating prophecy. Well, obviously that can’t be true. The New Covenant not only discusses that there is that gift, but Agabus and Silas and others are mentioned as prophets. So the Hebrews writer can’t mean there are no such things as prophets now. But what it does mean is, “...but now through His Son.” The nature of a prophet now is that he or she is embedded in the Body of Christ as a finger or a knee or a foot—actually, in truth, as the eyes, as a part of the Body.
In times past, prophets were intermediaries between God and God’s People. God’s People had no clue about the Word of God, except for what was written in the Pentateuch (the Law of Moses) and what the prophets would tell them. Otherwise they were clueless. They didn’t have the Spirit of God. All they had were these external means of input and their own will power to accomplish this thing—and they failed miserably. The Hebrews writer says that God found fault with the first covenant because of the people. The words were all true, but He needed to put His Spirit in us to give us the power to walk this stuff out. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a chance. So He made us part of Himself because only HE could keep the law. Only God is righteous, as Jesus said to the rich young ruler. Only God can keep His own Law, so He made us and melted us into His Body. Jesus is the Head, and we are the Body. “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” “So it is with Christ...” speaking of the church (1Cor. 12:12-13). So God had a plan to fix the problem!
In the past, we had this prophetic element that was over the people and connected God to the people. Now the prophetic element is part of the people. That’s the difference. It’s part of Jesus, like all the other parts of the Body are also a part of Jesus. The prophets just happen to be the eyes. So it’s different now; there’s a whole new level of accountability. And frankly, most of the people who have passed themselves off as being prophetic in our generation and in the recent past have functioned like Old Testament prophets. They’re really not “joined and knit together by every supporting ligament.” They’re really not “compacted together” with others. They’re really not PART of the Body of Christ. They’re functioning as if they are bringing some “oracle from God” to a bunch of dumb people who can’t know God for themselves, and the people better obey them, because they have the final word. And they’re not even accountable with their own lives, for the most part. They’re not “daily, in public and from house to house.” They’re not “admonished daily, so that none may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13).
What do you think is going to happen to a man who calls himself a prophet but is not admonished daily by other saints? You might think he’s above all that because he’s a prophet, after all! But they will be hardened and deceived by sin. And they’re going to be much more likely to be hardened and deceived by sin than the average person, because they’re presuming to be teachers. They’ll come under a more severe judgment. There will be more penalty, more opposition from the enemy, and more possibility of error. The more you open your mouth, the more chance there is of error. Of course, it’s error not to open your mouth in many cases, too! But the point is that those who presume to be teachers are really in a lot of trouble if they’re not walking closely with God. And they can’t be close to God on a sustained basis if they’re not admonished daily by other believers. If they’re outside of the Body of Christ, bringing these oracles “in”, then they will be hardened and deceived by sin, according to the Hebrews writer—the same man who said “in times past through the prophets...now through the Son.”
So now, the prophet works through the Body of Christ. The prophets are not these men who “bring the oracles of God,” and everyone better just shut up and listen. Now they’re brothers and sisters who have a gift of eyesight. They have the vision to see. Primarily they have vision to see glory or lack of glory, the presence of Jesus or the lack of His presence. Occasionally it will be related to the future but will always involve seeing Jesus or the absence of Jesus.
Now there’s a difference between a person who has the gift of being a seer, and the whole body functioning as a prophetic people. The New Covenant says that the Kingdom of Priests shall be a Prophetic People. So in one sense, the whole Church should be seers. But in another sense, “God gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.” And, “First apostles, then prophets, then teachers...” The gift of prophet is distinguished from the entire Body being prophetic. There’s an element of prophecy in all of God’s people, but the prophet is especially adept at being the eyes, at detecting the presence of Jesus or the absence of Jesus.
In the midst of an assembly like this, a prophet is probably not, Biblically speaking, going to be standing up, saying “Thus saith the Lord!” in some Old Testament fashion. Primarily he’s going to be able to see, as he looks around the room, the brothers and sisters who are walking in some way, shape, or form outside the Spirit of Christ. He’s going to be able to see ambition, pride, apathy, hypocrisy, or some sort of deceit in their heart or their life. He’ll hear, in what they say, something troubling. Other people may hear the same thing and will say, “That was pretty good; can’t argue with that.” But a man who has been given the gift of being a seer will wince in pain. He’ll hardly be able to sit there, because he’s troubled so much by the origin of what was said, not necessarily the accuracy of it. The context of the person’s life that said it will somehow grate against and grieve the prophet. He’ll be able to feel what God feels, not just hear what everybody else hears. That will far and away be the most prominent and frequent thing that will happen in the gift of prophet—not necessarily a forth-telling of future events. It will be to see and smell and hear with the senses of Christ, and to know what’s happening even though it’s not obvious to the naked eye, or to other believers. A brother or sister with the gift of encouragement may say, “That was good! I think God is really doing a work in you.” But the prophet’s going to grab them by the elbow and say, “Man, what gave you the right to say that? Tell me about your relationship with your wife.” That’s going to be the ongoing, day-to-day functioning of the gift of prophet in the context of the Body of Christ, instead of the Old Covenant version of the thing.
Now we’ve seen some things that have to do with forth-telling—like something fulfilled in 24 hours in the presence of thirty witnesses. That’s part of the whole package, too! Amos said, “God does nothing without first telling His prophets.” Jesus said, “You’re My friends, and I want to tell you My plans. You aren’t My slaves, where I leave you out of everything, and the world gets wound up, and you’ve got to do the best you can. You’re My friends, and I want to let you in on the way things are, why they are that way, and what’s yet to come.”
It’s part of His friendship with us. It’s not a weird thing. It’s part of the fact that we’re partakers of the Divine Nature. Together He wants us to feel what He feels. If one part of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers. If one part rejoices, the whole Body rejoices. Well, isn’t your head part of your body? Mine is! Jesus is the Head of the Body, right? He’s part of the Body, and we’re connected to the Head, according to Ephesians 4. So if Jesus grieves, shouldn’t the whole Body grieve? If Jesus rejoices, and we’re really connected to the Head, shouldn’t the whole Body rejoice? So it’s not just limited to ourselves. It has to do with our relationship with the Head, Jesus, as well.
It’s the New Covenant, plain and simple. I’ve not found a third covenant in the Bible that misses all of that! I’ll grant you that it’s been incredibly abused and turned into a gimmick far and wide, but that doesn’t negate the precious truths of the Word of God.