Do not put out the spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies contempt. Test everything. 1 Thes 5:19
How can we treat prophecy with contempt?
- By not bothering much with prophecy
- By listening to prophecy passively rather than engaging with it and drinking it in
- By not responding to it in faith and action
How do we test or ‘weigh’ prophecy?
Prophecy needs to be tested and weighed because due to the human element:
- Sometimes with the best of intentions we can miss the mark.
- Sometimes we can get the word partially correct. For example, the church in Tyre had prophesied to Paul (Acts 21:4) through the Spirit about the suffering he would undergo in Jerusalem and so those prophesying urged him as part of their prophecy not to go. This was a true prediction but a wrong conclusion and application.
- Sometimes there can be false prophecies and prophets (Jer 29, Mt 24:24, 2 Pet 2:1).
Here are four questions to ask to help test a prophetic word:
1. Is it in line with scripture?
- If it is counter-bible then toss it out. An example would be, “God says that your current state of sin is OK, and that you can remain in adultery because he knows the pressure that you have been under, and he will make an exception for you…”
- If it is in line with Scripture, or if Scripture doesn’t address the issue, then you will move to the next question…
2. Does it settle well with my spirit? Colossians 3:15 speaks of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as an umpire who helps judge what we hear and bring a sense of either peace or unease. If in the minutes, hours and days following a prophecy over you, you get increasingly uneasy about it, then it is usually (not always) a sign that God’s spirit in you is not confirming that the prophecy was from God. Alternatively, if you find yourself getting increasingly excited about it – although you may have no idea how or when it may come to pass – then it is probably God’s spirit in you confirming that the prophecy was from God.
3. Does the counsel of respected others confirm? Don’t run around seeking the advice of many or you will just drown the voice of the Spirit. Go to one or two other mature Christian leaders or friends to ask what they think. God has ordained wisdom and protection through other people. See Gal 2:1-2 where Paul goes to those “who seemed to be leaders” to test his “revelation”. See also Proverbs 14:11.
4. Does circumstance confirm? Because God is in control of all circumstance, then if after prayer and appropriate action, the door refuses to open, then you have to conclude that the prophecy was either off the mark, or ‘not for now’. Either way, don’t despise it but rather simply say, “Well Lord, I am going to just put that prophecy aside for now confident that you will bring it to pass if it is from you”. Acts 16:7 is a great example of this: Paul felt prompted to go to Bithynia but was wrong and God closed the door….only to open a wonderful door into Macedonia.