Category Archives: prophet

The Full Christ Needed Today

christ & church

by Scott

One of my favourite passages in all of Scripture is found in Ephesians. Actually, Ephesians, though smaller as compared to other portions of Scripture, carries a very significant role in explaining some of the greater and more ‘cosmic’ concepts of the work of God. This small letter packs in much wisdom and revelation.

And one passage I really enjoy pondering is found in 4:7-16. It, too, is filled with rich aspects in regards to the purpose of God in Christ for the new covenant age that dawned so long ago. Though a bit of a lengthier passage, here are the words from the NIV: Continue reading

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The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes

A Secret Huguenot Assembly Captured

By Marv

Note: After nearly a century of peace, persecution of the Huguenots, the French Protestants, flared up again under Louis XIV, when he declared Protestantism illegal in 1685. Those who did not convert nor managed to flee faced death, imprisonment or condemnation to the galleys. One major pocket of resistance was the mountainous Cevennes region in the south. There believers continued to meet in secret “Assemblies,” sometimes in caves, literally “underground.”

As the authorities continued to hunt them down, open war resulted in this area between 1702 and 1704. These particular Huguenots became known as the “Camisards,”  and many testimonies have survived of signs and wonders among them. Many prophesied, even very young children. Often they were warned by the Spirit of impending danger from enemy forces, and were saved from death or capture.

From several of those who eventually escaped to England, a collection of testimonies of these marvels appears in a book titled Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes (The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes). Here is an excerpt of one such testimony by a man named Jean Cavalier, recorded January 1707 (translation mine).

There was beginning to be a lot of talk around about the “Prophets” of our region, stories you’d hear. So when some friends invited me to one of these prayer “Assemblies,” though I was just a kid of 15 or 16 and  not exactly given to devotion,  I jumped on the chance, thinking that I might see there some of those “Inspired” ones who said such strange things. But no sooner had I entered the barn where everyone was, that I noticed a boy lying on his back going through curious agitations.  This started to freak me out and really put me off. But then he  started to speak, and he said among other things that there were some persons there in the gathering who had come merely out of curiosity, and in a mocking spirit, and that if they did not repent, God would point them out and they’d be  put to shame. He added some other things like this, so clearly painting a picture of me, that he could not have represented my state of mind better if he had access to the very depths of my heart. And this shook me up no small bit. In my limited mindset I figured these folks for some kind of fortune tellers, as some people said. But anyway, this little “soothsayer” has spoken of persons–plural–and so I imagined that I was not the only one in there who found it all weird. So I hoped I’d escape notice, being only one of many, and I wished at that moment I was thirty miles away from there. I was repenting–of my decision to come–and I determined to make for the door and get out of there as fast as I could. Not only was I upset and frightened at this little boy’s calling out my very thoughts, but I was scared that he would call me by name or something even worse. I had never in my life found my self in such a predicament.

But it got worse. With my only thought and desire to get out of there, I saw another very young boy–directly in my path–between me and the door–fall to the floor in even more violent agitations than his comrade, so to speak, and cry out loud that there was a person of ill will trying to leave, and that they should post people at the door to stop him lest he go and denounce the Assembly. Then this new “soothsayer” began to say out loud with the most perfect precision the things I had been saying to myself as the other one had begun speaking. Not only this, but he even called out my first and last names, and came and grabbed my arm, at which point he added several things to get me to humble myself before God, to repent, and to give Him glory etc. My inner trepidation turned to outright terror and I froze. I was cornered, because this last boy had spoken of one single person,–obviously me! As for the door–forget that. My God! I said to myself, who are these people? And who told these little boys everything that was in my heart? What am I going to do if they come at me? What will happen to me? What will my parents say? I was in a fix, for sure. And yet, I added, these people talk about God. Had they been Witches, they wouldn’t be saying all the good things they were. They wouldn’t be praying such fine prayers. They wouldn’t be singing Psalms and the two children wouldn’t have exhorted me to repent. These thoughts calmed my mind a bit and led me to pray to God.

Then, something particular happened, which I must tell here. The second “soothsayer”–or rather Prophet–or I don’t know what–continued to speak. As he rattled off endless things against the morals of this perverse century, against the  idolatry of the Papists, against all sorts of superstitions, etc. All of a sudden he stopped his discourse and speaking in a different tone, said that there were several believers wandering in the fields and forest nearby looking for the Assembly, and that to bring them in, someone had to go out and sing a Psalm. I’d had a mind to volunteer to go and sing with them, the perfect excuse to get me out the door, but I didn’t dare, out of fear for the “soothsayers” at the door. A group went out and began to sing. As for me, I continued to pray to God as best I could. I thought it would be a good sign if the singing actually did bring in more people as the little Prophet had predicted. We’ll see, I said, if what he said comes true or maybe it was all just coincidence–the things he’d said about me. As I stood there by myself, lo and behold, the people came back in with a bunch of others brought in by the Psalm-singing. That really got to me, and set my mind whirling, for at least a quarter of an hour, on such matters as a kid my age never had in his whole life.

My opinion of the people began to change, as I reflected on things I had always heard, that it was only God who searches hearts and minds, that it could not be Satan who declared war on sin or glorified the name of God as they were doing at this Assembly. These thoughts really calmed me down, and even gave me joy.

Then a third young boy fell down like the others. After some agitations, he got up, full of the Spirit, and said something like this: “I assure you, my child, you are safe here in this this Assembly. Never fear; I am with you. And I want now to put my Word in your mouth, so that you may console my people.” This moved me even more, and fortified my heart, seeing that they were no longer talking about me the way they were before. Whereas before I had only prayed in fear and trembling, gasping for breath, now I began to ask fervently that He would be pleased to let me know His will, so that He would fill me with horror for those things, if ever they came not from Him, and on the other hand, if they were Gifts of His Grace that he would imprint them on my heart.

The young preacher prayed a wonderful prayer, to which I was extremely attentive, feeling propelled with a great zeal. He said next that the text of Scripture which was to be the subject of the message the Spirit was putting in his mouth was was Isaiah 55:1-2: ““Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” etc.

He spoke for two entire hours with an amazing ease, saying things so moving and wonderful that everyone was in tears, including me. … And the two hours passed like two minutes. But what child has the ability to speak like that? Everyone assured me the little boy did not know how to read. But even if he could, surely he would not have the capacity in himself to compose such a message much less to deliver it or to have the boldness for public speaking–and in [standard] French no less. …

As for me, as he preached, as the young inspired boy spoke various things which particularly touched me and which I took closely to heart, I experienced an unspeakable contentment. I was thrilled when he said that the least and the simplest were of great worth in God’s sight. That it was those who were the most destitute that He wanted to enrich, since Jesus Christ Himself came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. But one has to feel the misery, has to know the spiritual poverty and then to hunger and thirst, so as to be admitted to the banquet, to receive the wine and the mild, to be quenched in the river of His delights. My soul was overcome. I was outside of myself. It seemed to me that all these great things were for me alone. I was no longer wavering; my doubts vanished; I felt in myself that hunger and thirst for God’s graces. Yet in the sense of my deep unworthiness, my eyes became fountains of tears.

What Is Prophecy? (Part 2)

by Scott

Last week, I began some posts on the gift of prophecy and the ministry of the prophet. I believe it is a given, both biblically and practically, that these giftings-ministries are both needed and given today.

Christ, the great prophet, expected his church to be a prophetic body empowered by the prophetic Spirit. This wasn’t to end with the affirmation of a canon of Scripture. Rather, with the Scripture acting as a standard, the body of Christ was to get on with not only it’s priestly and kingly ministries, but also its prophetic ministry. And thankfully, Christ has gifted specific people as prophets to equip the people of God to hear God and speak faithfully on behalf of God.

Let me address 3 points that I think become easy misnomers about prophecy:

a) Prophecy is mainly about prediction.

I alluded to this one in my previous article, but I think it worth fleshing out a bit more.

I suppose, at least for some, the word prediction makes one think of all types of spooky stuff – palm reading, fortune-telling, etc. It’s part and parcel to the spookiness that exists around terms like prophecy and revelation. And, some of it is warranted when you consider the practice of certain folk today. Or, even more, we turn to the Bible, our minds mainly recall the predictive texts, especially the ones that were to point to Christ.

But, again, this is not inherent. Just like shouting and street corner-preaching is not the innate characteristic of an evangelist. Just like 45-minute sermons are not implicit in the shepherding call. Just like Scripture-writing is not inherent to apostolic ministry.

So, whereas prophecy could include an aspect of foretelling, I would say it is firstly about forthtelling. Prophets always spoke into their own time. That’s typically what they had in mind. True, there is a Christocentric nature to the words of the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures, and the New Testament writers applied their words in such a way. But the words of Samuel and David and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Hosea were given smack dab in the middle of their situations. Even the words of the great apostolic prophet, John, in his visionary text of Revelation, come forth into an early church of his day. I’m always reminded of how he starts things out:

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. (Rev 1:1)

Somehow these words can easily be adjusted to say: The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place when these things  begin. They haven’t begun yet (or maybe they have now), but they will begin one day, in the distant future from John. And then these things will soon take place from that day forward from when things were set in motion.

But that’s not what John is getting at. Revelation speaks to the church of his day, even 7 churches in the area of Asia.

Of course, some of this does have a predictive element. If John or the prophets of old were speaking into their day, they were preparing people for situations that were going to take place in the future for them. Nevertheless, the element of prediction is smaller than we might imagine. This, again, is due to the nature of prophecy – the word of the Lord into particular ongoing situations. Into Israel, in to Judah, into Rome, into Galatia, into Jewish Christians of the early decades, into churches in Asia minor.

So,what does a non-predictive prophecy look like?

Maybe something like this: The Lord says to the church, ‘Listen, oh listen, my children. Where are your ears? Where is your attentiveness? Where have you gone? If you will listen, will I not speak words of life, words of direction, words of healing, words of tenderness? Will I not make your paths straight? Listen, oh listen, my children.’

Very real. Very practical. Very much into the current life of the church.

Prophecy is firstly about speaking forth the word of the Lord for now.

b) Prophecy is mainly about rebuke.

This is another misnomer that hangs in the air with regards to prophecy. But a quick glance at 1 Cor 14:3 reminds us of one central goal with prophecy.

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

It doesn’t mean that prophecy is merely a pat on the back from a pushover Santa Claus type figure: ‘You’ll be ok. Hang in there.’ At times, prophecy will involve correction and rebuke. But even with these words, such comes forth with the ultimate goal of seeing people strengthened, edified and built up. This is also in line with Paul’s earlier words about the purpose of all gifts of the Spirit:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7)

Therefore, I would say a helpful and good working definition for prophecy is this: a Spirit-inspired, intelligible, verbally delivered message intended to edify, encourage and comfort other believers.

3) Prophecy is mainly word-for-word.

It took a while, but the evangelical church as a whole has mainly moved away from more of a dictation concept with regards to the inspiration of Scripture. This view basically sees the words of Scripture as given either through an audible voice or through the direct hearing of God’s voice in a visionary context. But we know that some of the writers utilised first and second-hand testimony, varying documents and sources and accounts available at the time, oral traditions, etc. Very practical stuff for assisting these wise authors and compilers of Scripture. Of course, we are not sure how much of Scripture records more direct revelation and how much of it is providential revelation, if you will. Nevertheless, the point is we recognise that Scripture is not a dictated text.

But, while some may recognise that certain portions of Scripture are not dictated (genealogies, proverbs, reports in the Gospels, etc), maybe there still remains an underlying thought that at least the detailed words of the prophets were pretty much word-for-word speeches and written recordings of God’s revelation.

Now, I don’t disagree that some prophetic messages were given in a more direct sense (at least as direct as it can be from God in all his God-ness speaking to finite and fallen humans). But I also am convinced that absolute direct speech from God, which is then disseminated from one person to another person or group of people, is not inherent to prophecy.

Why would I say such?

I am simply reminded of Paul’s words himself: For we know in part and we prophesy in part. (1 Cor 13:9)

Of course, one could argue that what is being communicated here is this: No one person sees the whole picture and counsel of God. But the picture (via words) that is given from God is complete in that picture itself.

It’s plausible. And we cannot really argue in detail one way or the other.

But, let’s simply consider something practical: Let’s say God gives a revelation of his fatherly care for people. Do we really think that one particular revelation is going to come in all its fulness?

What about God’s rightness and faithfulness? If God were to open his mouth and explain to finite and fallen humans how right-eous and faithful he is, how’s that gonna play out?

Yeah, I’m thinking it’s not only a piece of the entire counsel of God, but it’s a small piece of the entire counsel of God on that one facet of his character, purpose and plan. Again: For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

And, though some will feel quite uncomfortable with me suggesting something from experience, I can simply testify that the outworking of prophecy seems to move along in this direction. Sometimes the voice is more clear cut than others. But sometimes it comes through what we sense in our spirit’s, in the deep parts of who we are. It’s not so clear, but the communication still comes forth with a prophetic edge, functioning along the lines of the ever-important goal found on Paul’s pen in 1 Cor 12:7 and 14:3.

We can know his voice. But only in part. We can speak forth the word of the Lord. But never in fulness. Prophecy was never meant as a word-for-word dictation message from God via a human. It’s not unlike the goal of the spiritual gift known as interpretation of tongues. The point is not to interpret from the tongue to the known language of the church in direct word-for-word form. It is to communicate the message of the tongue, the heart and thesis of what the Spirit is looking to see communicated.

I’ve seen prophecy on a regular basis for the almost 16 years of my life in Christ and I could never be moved to see it as something foregone, ending a long time ago with the finished product of our canon of Scripture. And I have not only known prophecy and revelation to come forth today, but I have also known the true fruit to come from it, that of edification, strengthening, encouragement, exhortation and the common good.

Maybe it’s time we let down our guard and begin to a) listen to him and b) build relationships with men and women of God that are faithfully and healthily looking to do the same.

What Is Prophecy? (Part 1)

by Scott

Due to my post last week, I thought I would revisit some basic thoughts and teaching around the gift of prophecy. I’ve done something like this before, but I thought I would break it up into shorter posts and bring a few additional thoughts in as needed. But I think it safe to conclude that more and more of the church has awakened to the fact that this gift is both available and needed in shaping the body of Christ today. Continue reading

Prophets Galore!

by Scott

Not too long ago, I took some time and read a major portion of the Old Testament. Basically Genesis to 2 Chronicles. Not all in one day. Heavens no! But over a couple of months. It was good to read larger chunks, to get the sweeping history of the Hebrew people and God’s work amongst them.

But there was one thing that did catch me by surprise, especially as I read the books of Samuel and Kings.

You might have not noticed it before. And the thing is, I would have expected me to previously notice, since I’m one of those charismatics around here.

There were a whole lot of prophets in the time of the ancient Israelites. I mean a whole lot. Search the word prophet in just the books of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings and the word arises about 100 times.

But it’s easy to miss this.

Why?

Well, I think when you have a particular theology that says a prophet is this or that, and this or that alone, then it’s easy to either miss or skip over what is right there in front of us.

It’s quite like the ministry gift of apostle. When people normally talk about apostles, what they have in mind is either the twelve or the twelve plus Paul. Of course, these 13 were apostles in the early church. But they were not the only ones. And I am also convinced that starting with the 12 and Paul shows our off-base approach from the beginning, mainly because we are have forgot to start with the greatest apostle of all time. You know, that guy named Jesus. Nope, not Paul. Not Peter. Not even John. It was Jesus – the sent-one from the Father, apostled with a specific mission to accomplish.

But, even after rightly starting with Christ, and then moving to the 12 and Paul, we forget that the New Testament mentions up to another 10 apostles. People like Barnabas, Apollos, James, Silas, Timothy and others. I’ve set out why I believe there were other apostles besides the twelve and Paul, which you can read in part 1 and part 2.

I didn’t really head into this Old Testament reading with a plan to catch every time it spoke of a prophet or prophets. It kind of just caught my attention unlike before in reading the Old Testament. Call it a specific Holy Spirit thing or simply what you will. But I was blown away how the word kept coming up over and over again.

First off, and this something I was quite aware of before, but it’s easy to note that there were specific prophets throughout the Old Testament that many are not usually aware of – people like:

  • Gad (1 Sam 22:5; 2 Sam 24:11; 1 Chron 21:9)
  • Nathan (2 Sam 7:2; 12:25; etc)
  • Ahijah (1 Kgs 11:29; 14:18)
  • Micaiah (1 Kgs 22:8, 14, 19)
  • Huldah, who was a woman (2 Kgs 22:14)

And, catch this. The ministry of the prophet did not end with the ‘Old Testament’, but continued into the new covenant. We’ve got folk like:

  • Agabus (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-14)
  • Antioch prophets (Acts 13:1-3)
  • Judas & Silas (Acts 15:32)
  • Specific prophets mentioned in Corinth (1 Cor 14:29)
  • The ever revelatory apostolic prophet, John

One thing I also noticed is how many times it spoke of prophets (plural) being together, rather than just a single guy (or lady) here or there. In 1 Sam 10 we read about a procession of prophets. We are told of a group of prophets in 1 Sam 19:20. We read in 1 Kings 18 that, while Jezebeel was trying to kill off Yahweh’s prophets, a guy named Obadiah, not the prophet, was saving a hundred prophets of the Lord. So when Elijah says at Mount Carmel that he’s the only prophet of Yahweh left (1 Kings 18:22), he is communicating that he is the only one that is not in hiding.

Quite overwhelming when you start to look at the biblical text and the wider spectrum of the prophetic ministry. You might walk away thinking these prophets were everywhere.

In all, being reminded that such a ministry was more active amongst God’s people than first imagined, I have 3 points that come to me. These are points that I already believed about the ministry of the prophet, but they were even more highlighted in my recent reading of the Old Testament.

1) Prophets are not mainly Scripture writers

It’s true. A prophet is not mainly called to be an Old Testament Scripture writer, just as an apostle is not primarily called to pen New Testament Scripture. They might have and some did. But this is not essential. That’s why only a few did so in comparison to the wider nature of these two ministries. In the end, a prophet is one bearing a message from God, the ‘word of the Lord’, whether that message gets put to paper or not. Therefore, while I love Scripture and appreciate the prophets who did have their hand in it, we must continually be reminded this is not essential to the prophetic ministry. And this is why, as I will again argue later, I think it very reasonable to acknowledge the prophetic gift has continued today, since it was not solely wrapped up in the production of Scripture.

2) The ministry of the prophet both alongside and post-Scripture

Half of this point is not too disconnected from the first. The Hebrew community preserved the revelation given to them by their prophets of old, with a solid portion being penned as part of Scripture. But the word of the Lord was continually active para-Scripture, meaning alongside it’s recording. Matter of fact, with Scripture normatively being written after the spoken message was brought forth by the prophet, the plentitude of prophets were functioning in a similar vein as the well-known prophets. They were speaking the word and counsel of the Lord.

But, even more, because God was always speaking and revealing himself alongside the writing of Scripture, I think this gives precedence to the continuation of the gift and ministry today, even after having a canon of Scripture. Scripture was never given back then to replace the active ministry of the prophet. And Scripture is not here now to replace this needed ministry. I’m not saying prophecies today need to be placed in the canon, somewhere after 3 John. We have a canon and a canon remains a measuring stick. And I do not believe prophecy adds anything to the redemptive revelation in Christ. But Paul makes it very clear that this ministry role is extremely important for the body of Christ. Check out passages like Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11-13; 1 Cor 12:28. This is one of the five ministries given to help equip the church to be all that Christ desires it to be. I’d say it’s not optional.

Prophets functioned alongside the writing of Scripture in both the ‘Old’ and ‘New Testament’ times. And prophets are to continue functioning even after both have been finalised.

3) The importance of teamwork for prophets

As I mentioned above, I was struck during this reading with how many times I read about the plurality of prophets – the procession of prophets, the group of prophets. It’s probably not unlikely that there were schools of prophets where people were trained for this ministry. Something of that nature. And amongst a larger group of prophets, there would have been lead prophets – people like Samuel or Elijah. Maybe some functioned as a kind of counsel, while others had a stronger ministry with specific prophetic insights, and then others came to the forefront as lead prophets, even finding their messages in holy writ. But we should not simply blow these ‘other’ prophets aside as somehow unimportant.

And this is why – God is all about teamwork.

Think about Father, Son and Spirit. Think about God’s empowering the church to accomplish his mission. Things about God getting his revelation to humanity. It’s team. Always has been and always will be.

And, so, these prophets worked together as team. It’s not unlike when we turn to the pages of the New Testament and consider apostolic ministry. I am very willing to recognise that someone like John or Peter or Paul had a stronger measure of apostolic ministry as compared with a Barnabas or Apollos or James. But they were still all very much apostles. The same holds true with prophets. I am thankful for Isaiah or Ezekiel. But we also miss something if we think Nathan, Gad, Huldah, and others were inconsequential. Each had their measure of gifting, their anointing, their calling and we should give space for each to function in their own measure. The same stands true for teachers, shepherds and evangelists. Though I am a teacher, my measure of gifting is my measure of gifting and not that of a Scot McKnight or NT Wright or Jamie Smith or Ben Witherington.

But, regardless of measure, prophets or teachers or apostles or whomever are called to work in team. That’s what I believe Ephesians 4:11-13 is all about – the five ministries of the ascended Christ working together to equip and prepare God’s people for ministry themselves. This is why apostles and prophets work together to lay proper foundations in the local church.

There is no lone-ranger prophet, nor apostle, nor pastor. There is only team. God functions this way. Family is to function this way. The body of Christ is to function this way.

So, in all, I hope something fresh has been opened up in the Scriptures in regards to the prophetic ministry. And I hope our eyes have been opened a bit more to the reality that a) the ministry of the prophet is much wider than we sometimes allow and b) that God always desired that this important ministry continue even now.