The Gift of Prophecy- 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

As a church, we prefer preaching expository – going through the books of the bible, and hence since last couple of months we’ve been doing a series called ‘Abiding Faith’ and we are preaching through 1 Thessalonians.

We prefer Expository preaching because it helps us to faithfully preach through every text in the bible and address every aspect of our Christian faith that is necessary for our hearts, it also prevents us from skipping portions that we may sometimes not feel comfortable preaching, but instead gives the scriptures the authority to speak into our lives.

With that in mind, the passage that we are looking at today is 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21.

Paul is ending his letter to the Thessalonian church and in his ending remarks, he quickly seems to give some very important instructions in just one or two lines. And in our text today he is telling the church

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good”

We are going to talk about prophecies today. We will look at 

  • What is prophecy?
  • The purpose of prophecy.
  • And the right way to test prophecy in our current context.

A simple definition of prophecy would be “a message from God to his people” spoken by a person, typically called a Prophet.

2 Peter 1:21 gives us a little more insight on prophecy, it says

“For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”

A prophecy therefore is a gift given by the Holy Spirt for the edification of the church, and the purpose is often to reveal the heart of God and draw us closer to Him. As a word of caution, remember, the gift of prophecy or to become a prophet is not the end goal. The end goal is Love, Love for God and love for people.

In 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul writes

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

In the Old Testament, prophecies were considered very seriously, God in fact even used this gift to give indications of the coming saviour, His son Jesus to save the wretched world from sin and death.

In our passage today, when we hear Paul’s tone of voice and the choice of words regarding prophecy we get a feeling that somehow the church wasn’t taking this gift seriously, because of which Paul had to insist

“Do not despise prophecies”.

To be honest, even at Gathering we haven’t really given too much emphasis on this gift of the Spirit, maybe because we wanted to be careful on how the gifts are used within the church context in a way it glorifies God and not man, and also to protect us from been exploited by some who use these gifts without the right awareness.

But I believe, today, maybe through this text God is speaking to us and drawing our hearts consider the benefits of this gift given by the Spirit for the edification of the Church.

Therefore, since the scripture is insisting that we do not despise the gift of prophecy and that we test them and keep what is good. In this sermon, I want to share three ways we can test prophecies.

I want to position these points addressing both parties, to those who receive prophecy and also to those who think have this gift and want to use it in a way it glories God.

1.       Test prophecies against the Word of God

The first thing that prophetic utterances should be tested by is the revealed Word of God. Is the prophecy in harmony with Scripture? A prophecy you receive from the Holy Spirit for another person or a prophecy you receive from another person will never contradict the written word of God.

At the heart of all the scripture, from Genesis to Revelation is the Gospel, the story of Jesus. The story begins in the garden of Eden where God created us in his image and likeness so that he can commune with us and share the wonderful love and friendship He had with son Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

And even when our sinful heart messed up that relationship by rebelling against God, God pursued us and still pursues us through His son Jesus’s death on the cross, he justifies us, and then he sanctifies us and one day he will glorify us and take us with him in heaven.

Even though this story sounds so simple, there is so much of depth and theology that one lifetime won’t be enough to fully understand it.

But what we have to be careful is, any remarks or comments or teachings and even prophesies that violate the essence of the Gospel message should be discarded from among us.

In Galatians 1:6-8 Paul writes

6 I am astonished that you are lso quickly deserting mhim who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to na different gospel— 7 onot that there is another one, but pthere are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or qan angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, rlet him be accursed.

In the same effect, in 1 John 4:1 John tells us to test the prophets

Beloved, do not believe every Spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

Brothers & sisters, the gift of prophecy is a wonderful gift, but if our heart is ignorant and unaware of the truths in the scripture, the devil can easily use it to misguide us and set us on a different path.

Therefore, if any of us desire to prophecy let him or her be rooted in the knowledge of the scriptures first.
At many occasions I’ve also observed that prophecies come with confirmations from the scriptures.

When I was a young Christian, I remember there were many prophecies people made over me, but the one’s that I really cherish, the one’s that stood the test are the one’s that came with a confirmation through a scripture verse.

But imagine a scenario where we don’t know the scriptures well, where our theological framework is distorted or incorrect, where we have not understood the Gospel in its entirety and one day a person comes to us and tells us ‘thus says the Lord’, on what basis will your heart confirm whether it is from the right spirit or the wrong one.

If we wish to operate in the gift of prophecy or we wish to hear God speak to us through a prophecy I suggest that we first devote ourselves in working on the right theological framework, and once that is established well, we will be able to test prophecies the way Paul is instructing the church in Thessalonica.

Some of the ways as a church we provide help is, through the preaching of the word of God, but we also have a program called Roots class where we study theology together.

Brothers & Sisters, I encourage you to invest and use these means given by the Spirit to help build a proper Gospel framework that even protect us in the area of prophecies.

2.       Test whether the prophecy points your heart to Jesus

Since the ultimate goal of every Christian is to know Christ, Christ is the ultimate reward we are aiming for.

It is wise to test whether the prophecy we receive from the Holy Spirit for another person and the prophecy you receive from another person through the Holy Spirit is ultimately pointing our heart to Jesus and His saving grace.

In John 17:3 Jesus reminds us the ultimate goal.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Paul’s ministry focus was very clear as we read in 1 Cor 2:1-2

When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you . . . . I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

Understand the battle between our Self and the Spirit, one will try to push you to pursue the world and its pleasures and the other will push you pursue Christ.

The question we should ask when we want to bring a prophecy or when we receive one is whether what’s been said is pushing you towards Self or towards the Spirit, to glorify Jesus in us or whether glorify our self.

If tomorrow someone comes and tells you that God told them to tell you to pursue such and such relationship, or pursue such and such career, or go to such and such place.

The question we need to ask is whether the long-awaited relationship we’ve been asked to pursue draws us to Christ or away from Him, whether the promising career that is waiting for will enable us to grow in Christ and whether the place we are excited to go is putting Christ first in my life.

Is Jesus at the center of that prophecy, will Jesus remain the hero of our story or are we replacing Him with either ourselves or with another person.

If we fail to ask this important question then we will be easily trapped by a twisted use a gift that is actually not from the right Spirit.

I remember a prophecy that someone made over me when I was young, he told me that God has revealed that He has a great plan for my Life. And he said that if I want to see God doing great things for me, I need to follow Him and do what He asks me to do because He said the Spirit of God is revealing things about me.

The question I had to ask myself was, is Jesus at the center of it or somebody else. I thank God for giving me to courage to say no. But I know of so many people who have fallen into such trap, where they have shipwrecked their Faith and fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Brother & sisters, test the prophecies that come your way and ensure that it is ultimately leading you to fall in love with Jesus. And we are in that position only when we are saturated in the Gospel and when we are walking in the Spirit.

3.       Test prophecies against a consistent moral conduct

The last and the final point I want to make is to….

In 1 John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every Spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

There is also a moral test that the prophet must pass. Is the person giving the prophecy exhibiting moral character consistent with his office? Jesus warned of these false prophets

Beware of false prophets, who come in to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15,16).

The fruit that people exhibit is the fruit of their doctrine and the fruit of their lives. Both of these must be in harmony with Gods Word. Does the prophet live a life glorifying to God? Is he in submission to the authority to Gods Word? Is he committed to a local body of Christ? Those who do not conform to Gods standards should not be regarded as prophets.

If, however, someone meets all these criteria, are we to assume that their message is supernaturally given? Not necessarily. Apart from false prophecy, there are other types of messages that may seem worthy, but are not sent directly from God. Someone can meet all these criteria and give a message believing that it was from God, yet the source can be that professed prophets own personality.

I believe the body of Christ, the church is given to us so that we can receive help in such matters.

God provides Elders, Pastors and Deacons to help guard ours hearts against wrong doctrines and against false prophets. Therefore, i believe it is always safe to filter prophecies through godly leaders God has placed over us.

As I conclude, I wish our church grows in all the gifts God has given us but let us do it in an orderly way without grieving the Lord.

With that, I hope I have given you enough insight on where the church stands with respect to the gift of prophecy and in case you have any questions pls feel free to reach out to us and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Lets pray

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