by Dennis Michelson
I Thessalonians 5:20
Introduction: The text says "despise not prophesyings." So what is the problem. Everywhere one turns there is a prophet (or prophetess) and they claim that God has given them a message for you. Those of you in Florida have recently endured the fiasco surrounding a 32-year-old Canadian, tattooed fingers and neck, placing his palm on the forehead of the sick, desperate and faithful.
Then he gives a mighty shout saying "Bam" and the recipient collapses and falls to the floor. Attendees dance in the aisles, shout to Heaven, laugh, shake violently and cry. Like a psychic, the prophet will proclaim someone in the crowd has a particular kind of tumor, growth or affliction.
"Someone's getting a new spinal cord tonight," he proclaims. When asked about his methodology he says "People just can't understand why God would tell me something like kick that woman in the face or the incident when I hit the guy in the mouth and his tooth popped out to the floor."
This prophet justifies his unorthodox ministry by claiming that miracles and healings are evidence of the Kingdom and if we do not have signs then all we have is a "bunch of theology." To his credit the superintendent of the Assemblies of God responded to all of this by saying "miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival - fidelity to the Word of God is the test."
The denominational leader went on to say "Jesus Himself said there would be many who would do miracles in His name and even cast out demons, but He does not know them. Jesus warned that many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." So the question before us is how can we know the difference between the true prophet and the false prophet?
1. The Definition of Prophecy
The Hebrew word for prophet signifies one who speaks under the pressure of a divine fervor or impulse. The root of the term actually means to "boil forth, gush out, or flow like a fountain." The prophet is one who hears a divine message and acts as a spokesman for the Almighty.
In Exodus 4:16 Aaron served as a prophet (or spokesman) for Moses. Prophecy can be either a foretelling (prediction) or forthtelling (preaching) but in either case the prophecy itself must originate from God. A true biblical prophet is a person to whom the will of God has been revealed under inspiration in order that it might in turn be communicated to the people.
This is the same concept we find in Isaiah 21:10 - "That which I have heard of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you." The prophet can "see" both contemporary issues and even future events. The Old Testament prophet was authorized to use the formula "Thus saith the Lord." In all instances the prophet will be loved or hated but never ignored.
- Channels of prophecy - anyone or anything.
- Constraint of prophecy - it is a revealing of God's story (HIStory) not impractical tripe like lottery numbers.
- Credentials of prophecy - the stamp of absolute verity and indisputable certainty. Mistakes in such a solemn matter can be fatal and God meant that none should be possible.
- Center of prophecy - Christ (I Peter 1:10-12) Fred Brown told me years ago that the last place you will find the Holy Ghost is at a Holy Ghost rally! It all points to Christ!
Prophecy then is a heavenly message delivered through earthly means.2. The Despising of Prophecy
The text is built around a present active imperative and the Apostle is saying do not consider as nothing or downgrade prophetic revelations. My personal view is that Paul is commanding them to not downgrade or hold in contempt the recently revealed prophetic revelations.
It is an argument for the truth that the New Testament Apostles were just as authoritative as the Old Testament prophets. Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to despise what he and the other Apostles of the first century would write or had written.
John 16:12-14 tells us that God had not finished speaking. I Corinthians 13:8 tells us that there will be a time when God finishes speaking in prophetic revelation. As Brother Roloff used to say "then it will be time to re-read it, not re-write it." It is extremely important to understand the significant implications of I Corinthians 13:8.
Either God is speaking or God has spoken. I believe the latter is the case and we need to act on what He has said rather than waiting for some new and novel truth from the lips of the latest charlatan prophet. "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say, than to you He hath said . . .."3. The Discernment of Prophecy (I Thessalonians 5:21)
The companion text before us tells us not to reject everything or accept everything - it says evaluate everything and keep only that which is good and despise the rest. That is what the "renewing of the mind" is all about in Romans 12:2.
He says prove or test all things by the standard of prophecy as found in God's previously revealed Word (the Bible). If your standard is the prophet and not the prophecy then you will seek what you should despise, and despise what you should seek.
Such is the condition found in many churches of our day. The comprehensive unity of Divine Revelation may be threatened in still another way and that is of adducing an additional independent source of revelation alongside what God has actually disclosed.
This is being done from many pulpits and mega-churches across the world. To assert a second source of the knowledge of God - be it reason, or nature, or tradition - is to despise, devalue and jeopardize the only legitimate source of Divine Revelation (the Bible).Conclusion
- Professing Christians are forsaking the proclamation of God's Word for all kinds of "strange fire." The following poem expresses precisely what I hear as a pastor over and over again - PUT DOWN YOUR BIBLES!
Put down your Bible, let me tell you what I feel
Just put that away and you could see something real
You should not try to read it, you will not all agree
It isn't all we have, that is what God told me
Put down your Scriptures and we can all just get along
We need to agree, not say who's right or wrong
Put down your Bible and take up my word
We no longer need to study, from God that's what I heard
The Scriptures are wonderful, but not the only way
There is so much more, God told me just today!
All you do is divide, and all we want is to be one
And we may not all agree on the nature of His Son
So just put it down and let's see what we can hear
I feel the voice of God whispering in my ear
I'm tired of theology it only hurts my head
I can tell you all about what the God of the universe said
He said it in my ear, audible was the sound
So please won't you listen and lay the Scriptures down
If they do not agree with what my God has spoken
It must be them and not me that is broken
If you would just let go of what you think they say
We can all be united in a single belief one day
You stand up and say that I just don't have it right
But have YOU ever seen an angel in the night?
I'm tired of what the Bible says throughout
I have one or two verses I love to talk about
So if you will not place your Bible on the shelf
You have no place here - go tell somebody else
He told me things, and I KNOW what I heard
He said "listen to me" and put down His Word.