Thursday, September 7, 2017
BREAKING THE PROPHETIC CODEPENDENCY
Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church, recently told of an individual approaching him and saying, “You have lots of good leaders around you but you don’t have any prophets.” He then insinuated that Morris needed to take him on as the staff prophet. Morris rightly replied, “I don’t need a prophet; I have the Holy Spirit.”
Indeed, the idea has become widespread that God is raising up an elite group of “prophets” who hear the Lord better than the “regular folk” and that they are necessary for giving spiritual insight and guidance to the church today. Those propagating this view love to quote Old Testament passages such as Amos 3:7 that reads, Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
A Dangerous Trend
I suggest that those propagating this view are producing a setting that is ripe for abuse and disillusionment. It is all too easy for an insecure individual or congregation to put their trust in a man (or woman) who claims to have a special line with God and says he hears from God on their behalf.
The people who buy into this kind of thinking are relinquishing their own responsibility to know God and have a relationship with Him. The “prophet” who takes this approach is taking on a role that was never given him by God--that of mediator between the people and God.
It is the perfect setting for an unhealthy codependency and is deadening to the unlimited work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ. This is not something new but has happened throughout history as documented in my book, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. And as Winston Churchill once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Not Found in the New Testament
This idea of an elite group of prophets that gives guidance to the churches is not found in the New Testament. Paul, for example, addresses his letters to “the saints” in a given locality and never intimates that they are somehow lacking and in need of a “prophet” to guide them. That is an Old Testament concept.
The emphasis of Jesus and the New Testament is on the Holy Spirit being made available to all of God’s people as opposed to the Old Testament where He was given only to certain prophets, judges and kings. Jesus spoke of this when He cried out, If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink, He who believes in Me as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-39).
John then remarks that Jesus spoke this concerning the Spirit whom those believing in Him would receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given. “Not yet given,” meaning in the unlimited sense to all of God’s people as prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-29) and intimated by Moses (Numbers 11:29).
This unlimited pouring out of the Holy Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and all began to speak prophetically by the Holy Spirit. I say they spoke prophetically because any speech inspired by the Spirit is prophetic. That is why Peter, in answer to those questioning the speaking in tongues, responded by quoting Joel’s prophecy that predicted that when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, sons and daughters would prophesy.
All of God’s People Have the Spirit
There is not a single example in the New Testament of anyone seeking out a prophet for direction or advice. There is not a single admonition in any of the letters to churches telling them they need to seek out a prophet to give them guidance.
Instead, Paul admonished them to realize that they are now the sanctuary of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in them both individually and corporately (I Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19). This is a reality of the New Covenant. They are a sort of “prophethood of all believers” as expressed in I Corinthians 14.
When Paul discusses the function of prophecy in the congregation, the assumption is that all of God’s people are included (I Corinthians 14:23-32). There is no elite group of prophets to whom everyone else must bow. When he uses the word “prophets” in vs. 29 it is functional language meaning “the one prophesying” or “the one with a prophecy.”
This is borne out by the fact that the entire Christian community is being addressed and inclusive language is used throughout, as in vs. 32 where he says, For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. Commenting on this passage, Dr. Gordon Fee says,
This does not mean, of course, that all will or do prophesy. It is simply to note that Paul’s concern here is not with a group of prophets, but with the functioning of prophecy in the assembly. The noun “prophets,” therefore, is to be understood as functional language similar to the use of interpreter in v. 28.
Paul’s assumption is that all of God’s people have the Holy Spirit and there is no need to seek out a prophet as in the Old Testament. They themselves are now the sanctuary of God and the Spirit of God dwells in them (I Corinthians 3:16-17). They merely need to realize who they are as God’s New Covenant people.
Time to Awaken
I pray that Christians everywhere will awaken to who they are in Christ. I pray that they will awaken to the blessings and benefits that are theirs through the cross of Christ. I pray that they will awaken to the fact that they, individually and corporately, are God’s dwelling place and His Spirit dwells in them. I pray that they will awaken to the fact that they have a direct line to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ. I pray that this Divine awakening will spread across America and the world.