Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

           Oh, how guilty the people who name the name of Christ have become in our day and age for assuming, ignoring and partaking! When it comes to false “prophets” in Christendom, people either assume that they are genuine, or they ignore them altogether, or they partake of their wickedness, and, sometimes all three. It would appear that when it comes to “prophets” the lines are somehow blurred and people find themselves lost in a complacent fog of confusion, whereas in Old Testament times the defining line for a true or false prophet was clear and simple: he or she was either of God, or he or she was not. Period.

            The question is why are people having so much trouble discerning the true from the false? We have found that the answer lies in the fact that first and foremost most professing Christians do not know what the Bible says. Neither do they know God’s character, nor do they understand His ways. On top of that, 1) people don’t possess discernment in the first place, 2) people don’t seek for and ask God for discernment, and 3) people want to believe what they want to believe whether it is true or not. Of course, all three of these positions are made up of lack of knowledge (which leads to destruction), unbelief (which results in darkness), and rebellion (which leads to separation from God.) (See: Hosea 4:6; Micah 3:6; Matthew 6:23; Isaiah 30:1; Matthew 25:31-33; 2 Corinthians 5:10.)

           Granted, confusion abounds as to the definition of a “prophet.” Simply put, a prophet is a spokesperson for God; that is, one who speaks forth what God has given him or her to speak through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This includes both forth telling and foretelling. We will first examine forth telling. Forth telling is when a servant of God preaches or teaches God’s Word, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, to the people. Inspired writings by men and women of God as moved by the Holy Spirit also fall into this category. We see this in the anointed writings of Charles Finney, William Law, Oswald Chambers, A. W. Tozer, Fenelon, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan and A. B. Simpson to name just a few. While forth telling for any group or generation may be inspired by God to address their present condition, it is always based on the Holy Bible and is not intended to overrule, rewrite, or replace God-breathed Scriptures that are eternal. Our foundation is the Word of God, and the scriptures are always the final authority in any matter. The Word of God is the foundation upon which all other inspiration of God takes place. Therefore, it must be in line with the Word of God in Spirit and in Truth.

            This brings us to another point. Anyone who names the name of Christ and preaches or teaches verbally, or by any other means such as writing, but who lacks the inspiration and anointing (Spirit) of God upon such is producing works that are dead letter. Such a message may reach minds, or may even stir up an emotional response, but it will fail to reach hearts even if the content is a sound exegesis of biblical fact. A. W. Tozer put it well when he once said concerning religious educational institutions, “fallen heads teaching fallen heads.”

            We might just as well, at this point, brace ourselves and take the plunge into the murky waters of Christian academia. Volumes could be written retracing the crooked path from today’s seminaries and institutions of clerical education back through the centuries to the initial formation of such. From the beginning, even before the beloved Apostle John was called to his heavenly home, the resurrected Christ said (to the church at Ephesus): “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. Revelation 2:4-6.” [Emphasis added.] (The definition of Nicolaitanism is the elevation of the clergy over the laity.)

            The prevailing attitude of this ungodly system has been, and is to this day, the belief that only those who have been “educated” in the “higher systems of religious learning” can properly understand, interpret or intercede on behalf of those of lower estate who have not been so exposed to specific theological persuasions, teachings, indoctrinations, and creeds of man. This prideful elevation of the elite over the common person, all in the name of Christ of course, has perverted the teachings, intent, purpose, and Spirit of true Christianity into a gross counterfeit that has not only deceived multitudes of people throughout the centuries, but has filled the corridors of hell with the deceived souls of the damned.

            Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees of His day can well be applied to the Nicolaitan system of our day: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” Matthew 23: 27, 28. In the next chapter of Matthew Jesus warned: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

            What do these false prophets look like in our day? They look like sheep—at least according to a contemporary, professing Christian’s definition of a sheep.  Usually this definition consists of the person being a “properly ordained” individual who has a piece of paper verifying that they are qualified to be in a leadership position. This isn’t necessarily always the case, though. If a person has enough money, charisma, clout, public exposure by means of television, radio or books, and has endorsements from others who have made it to the top of the big rock candy mountain of Christian entertainment and experience, they can suddenly be “popped” behind the pulpit in any setting that will best suit their self-serving purpose. Only a handful of discerning believers will ever bother to look into the background of such a phony celebrity and surface with the facts of their true identity—that of a wolf and false prophet.

            Next we come to foretelling. This activity causes a great deal of confusion in the church today. It can be divisive, destructive and even devastating. To begin with, God’s people need to be able to discern between the word of knowledge and prophecy as given on a personal level. Most of what passes as “personal prophecies” in religious circles today is either a genuine word of knowledge; a word of knowledge that begins in the right spirit and ends in the flesh (or wrong spirit); or a “word” or “prophesy” that is totally false. Such utterances should always be discerned as to whether they are of God or not. A word of knowledge will always be in line with God’s character, with Scripture, and will be a confirmation to the hearer of what the Holy Spirit has already laid on his or her heart. If it is truly a word from the Spirit of God, it will bear witness with the person’s spirit. True words of God never exalt a person in their pride, sin, self-righteousness or rebellion, but will rather expose and reprove them. This means that any “word of knowledge” or “prophecy” that is nothing more than sugar-coated flattery is not of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, concerning prophesy: “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” 1 corinthians 14:3. Somehow, in our humanistic, man-centered churches of today we have twisted and redefined “edification and “comfort” to mean: “Cause me to feel good about myself in my lifestyle, my attitudes, my disposition, my perverted way of thinking, and my sin so that I can go out unchallenged, unconverted, and unchanged.” (And, I might add, UNSAVED!)

            Godly edification and comfort always originates from who God is, what God has revealed to man as to what his responsibility and response is towards God in regard to faith and upright living. Comfort that is indeed strengthening to the heart, mind and soul always originates with the Holy Spirit who brings us into a greater revelation of Jesus Christ, our Rock, Fortress, and Refuge. True, lasting comfort is not wishy-washy sentiment, but is an embodiment of the keeping, saving, fiery power of God—that very power which brought the Universe into existence, but yet, at the same time is tender and gentle beyond the telling. Actually, there is no lasting comfort outside of the comfort that the Holy Spirit can impart because His is the only comfort with substance to it. Flowery words and sentiment can stir up our emotions, and give a measure of assurance that others understand somewhat what we may be experiencing, but rest assured that if you decide to trust in a “pink cloud” of comfort made up of positive only, psychological fluff and stuff, you will soon discover what it feels like to hit bottom like a rock dropped out of a ten-story window.

            Because the word of knowledge and prophecy can run parallel, sometimes they can become intertwined. Nevertheless, there must always be discernment in operation as to whether such is of God or not. Personal prophecies of a foretelling nature are extremely rare, and will usually occur in a private, not public, setting. Some maintain that there is no such thing as personal prophecy since the time of Christ. However, in the book of Acts we read of Agabus, a prophet, who foretold of Paul’s arrest. (See Acts 21:10-12.) In verse 9 of this same chapter we read of Philip the evangelist’s four daughters “which did prophesy.” Whether they foretold or forth told, the Bible does not say, although normally when it is noted in God’s Word that someone “prophesied” it went without saying that they were a prophet. Obviously, in our day and age it is altogether possible for God to use one of His servants to give a brother or sister a personal prophecy if He so desires; however, a strong word of caution is needed here, and it is this: Any person running to and fro proclaiming to be a prophet, who always has a “personal prophecy” for others is someone to avoid. (Do not let such a person lay hands on you!) First, a true prophet does not go about boasting and advertising to one and all that they are a prophet. You see no such thing in the Bible. Not only is there no precedent for it in Scripture, but it smacks of self-importance and pride, which God resists. Worse yet, this type of person generally operates with a religious spirit, and/or a familiar spirit. Needless to say, such a person is a false prophet, not necessarily because every word they utter is false, (it may not be) but because the spirit behind it is wrong. Also, we need to bear in mind that just because God may choose to use someone to give a prophecy of a foretelling nature, it does not mean that the person is a prophet in the biblical sense of the word.

            Over the years we have witnessed some devastating results of people receiving and believing personal false prophecies. I remember hearing of one young man who, after attending a men’s meeting where a “prophet” told him that God was calling him to China, sold all of his possessions, left for China, and ended up in a terrible state. A few years ago, a woman who had established herself as a “prophetess” in a certain church in a small community “prophesied” to a young bachelor that he needed to get ready, because God was sending him a wife within a short period of time. The man is still a bachelor.

            Years ago at a certain meeting I attended in Arizona, a “prophetess” waltzed up to me and said that my wayward husband was “coming back to me.” What she didn’t know was that he had remarried and was long gone, and 22 years later, he’s still out of sight. At another meeting I remember the special speaker in a certain church had the “gift of prophecy.” He called up a certain woman and went to great lengths to prophecy that she would have a child in a year. Unknown to him, (but known to others) the woman had had a hysterectomy!

            If all the false prophecies that have ever been uttered dating back to the time of the Patriarchs to the present were written on a single roll of paper, it would probably reach to the moon and back, perhaps several times. Yet, people follow after these false prophets to “get a word” in spite of the repeated warnings in Scripture about such practices. What is the difference between a false prophet and a fortune teller? The answer is not much—except for the crystal ball! Even a fortune teller will tell people things they don’t want to hear, which is more than a false prophet will do, because false prophets usually always appeal to a person’s religious pride, and tell people what they want to hear about themselves. It usually starts out this way: “Oh, my little child (or children) God loves you soooooo much! He is saying to you, fear not because you are my child (children) and I am going to bless you, and do a ‘new thing’ in this church (or nation, or world) that is going to be soooooo wonderful, and blah, blah, blah.

            We are aware of one church that uses “prophecies” to control and manipulate the people. Instead of pointing them to the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ as the final authority, they operate totally on a false foundation of unscriptural visions and “prophecies,” even to the point of denying that Jesus is God Incarnate. While they may claim to be Christians, this church is nothing more than a cult.

            The most tragic instance of someone that we personally know of who believed a false prophet is in the case of a married man with a wife and six children, five of which all lived at home at the time. A “prophet” prophesied over this man that he was called to be a “great prophet of God” so he needed to quit his job, fast and pray and wait for this “great ministry” to somehow “happen.” If ever a “prophet” and “prophecy” should have been properly discerned, this was it! The man and his wife lost their big home because, after a period of unemployment (and refusing other job offers) they were unable to keep up the payments. This was several years ago, and to this day, he is still positive that he is a “prophet” and is waiting for his “ministry” to develop.

            Are there no genuine prophecies? Yes, there are! Rayola, Krista and I have received specific prophecies (and words of knowledge) in the past that have actually come to pass, but they were far and few between. Is our ministry based upon them? Absolutely not! Furthermore, we never set out to try and fulfill them. If you receive a prophecy from someone whom you discern walks in Spirit and Truth, then what you need to do is to “put it on the shelf,” pray about it, and let God fulfill it in your life. Don’t try and make it happen.

            Pride is the fuel that feeds the fire of false prophets. This pride is twofold: the pride of the “prophet” and the pride of the one on the receiving end of the “prophecy.” False prophets take a great deal of pride in their self-appointed office or position as “prophet.” People who hunger for a “personal prophecy” are like baby birds in a nest, heads extended, beaks wide open, eager to receive whatever is dropped into the opening. The church needs to wake up, humble itself, and repent for disobedience (failure to “test the spirits”); repent for unbelief (in God’s written Word); repent for rebellion (against God’s warnings in Scripture); and repent of that specialty of Satan—PRIDE!

            Years ago we were invited to attend a meeting in a certain church to hear a speaker who was supposedly “right on.” After we got seated, we wished we had followed our initial instincts and stayed home. The spirit in that church was demonic through and through. The speaker began spewing forth pure heresy. I instantly recognized it as Manifest Sons of God doctrine, while Rayola recognized it as Mormonism. We escaped as soon as we had the opportunity to do so. We heard later that this individual had pointed us out as “witches.” After that meeting, we were soon vindicated as he went to a nearby town, worked his deception in another church, split it, and established a cult.

            But, some may argue, what about Ephesians 4:11 and 12, which state: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ….”  Again, we must define what each of these titles represent. Apostle means “sent out one,” which, in our day, are called missionaries. These people (both men and women) are sent out to preach the Gospel, disciple (teach) new converts, establish churches (pastor or overseer). Evangelists are those upon whom God places the burden of evangelizing, not only the unsaved, but also those in the church who have only an outward show of religion. Evangelists bring a strong word from God intended to stir people up to repentance and holy living. Pastors are overseers of the flock of God. They care for each individual sheep, bringing instruction in righteousness, correction, exhortation, and teaching doctrine (man’s response to God and responsibility towards others.) Teachers are responsible for laying a firm foundation upon Christ, thus making disciples. Those who forth tell (preach the Word) and occasionally foretell as the Spirit moves upon them are the prophets, but they never go around bragging that they are a prophet. They are to watch (guard) the church, protecting it from wolves and hirelings. As for edifying, this means building up a person’s faith and life in Christ, but how many Christians today have concluded that to edify means making somebody (usually themselves) feel good about self, or build up someone’s self-esteem (pride) or flatter (lie) so that the person (or self) is given a false, unrealistic impression?

            Unfortunately, these positions have been perverted by the false teachings of the Manifest Sons of God wherein certain leaders have proclaimed to be “apostles” and “prophets” who have, and are, instituting another cultish form of Nicolaitanism. This insidious belief system operates under different titles and names, but the spirit behind it is the same. Their goal is to bring the church into the subjection of these modern-day, so-called “apostles” and “prophets” whose platform consists of certain Scriptures that have been taken out of context, and subsequently twisted and perverted to mean something entirely different than their original intent. The aim of these false workers is to re-establish the foundation that was established by the true apostles and prophets of the New Testament. This movement is strong, growing, and militant. They truly believe that they are chosen by God to subjugate the entire world to their rule and reign, so that Jesus can return in them. This is big subject, but one that anyone with a computer and Internet can investigate for themselves.

            One final word on prophets and prophecies is this: Just because a person may occasionally be shown something by God for another person doesn’t mean that suddenly he or she is a “prophet.” Any born-again believer can be used by the Holy Spirit in any one of the gifts of the Spirit as God so chooses! For example, if someone prays for a person to be healed, and God heals them, that doesn’t mean that they should quit their job, sell everything and hit the road as a “healer” with a “healing ministry.” God can use anybody, or anything He chooses anytime He wants! He can speak through a donkey if He wants to! Remember Balaam’s ass? Nowhere do we read of Balaam’s ass trotting off to go on a speaking tour for God, although she would probably have done a far better, and more honest, job of it than the majority of today’s rich-in-things, poor-in-spirit puffed upblowhards.

            In closing, I quote the late A. W. Tozer, who was a true prophet of his day. He wrote: “Today we need prophetic preachers; not preachers of prophecy merely, but preachers with a gift of prophecy. The word of wisdom is missing. We need the gift of discernment again in our pulpits. It is not ability to predict that we need, but the anointed eye, the power of spiritual penetration and interpretation, the ability to appraise the religious scene as viewed from God’s position, and to tell us what is actually going on.

            “What is needed desperately today is prophetic insight. Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present. Learning will enable a man to pass judgment on our yesterdays, but it requires a gift of clear seeing to pass sentence on our own day.

            “We need to return to the message, methods and objectives of the New Testament. We need boldly and indignantly to cleanse the temple of all that sell cattle in the holy place, and overthrow the tables of the money-changers. And this must be done in our own lives first and then in the churches of which we are a part.” [Excerpts from The Size of the Soul, pgs. 126, 127, 133.]   Amen!