5 Reasons “Believe in the Prophets” does not translate to the New Testament
I have heard many prophets or prophetic leaders quote 2 Chronicles 20:20 recently, regarding their prophecies. I just heard another one proclaim it this morning.
“Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” (2 Chr. 20:20)
The first thing I want to point out is that this was not a doctrinal statement. Jehoshaphat was under attack. As he hears that armies are coming from the other side of the Dead Sea, he cries out to God before his people. Please go and read the whole chapter. It is a very powerful prayer. As he finishes Jahaziel, a priest, is overcome by the Spirit and gives a powerful prophetic word. Again, please read the chapter.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chr. (20:15)
The next day, Jehoshaphat, referring to that specific prophetic word, exhorts the people to, “have faith in his prophets”. But there is no evidence that we are to always have faith in the prophets. It doesn’t appear that this a doctrine that we see repeated over and over again in scripture. But even if so, how do we handle this in light of the New Testament? Is this idea upheld in the example of the book of Acts? In a word, “no.”
The idea of having “faith in the prophets” (which means, in the prophetic word that God gave through them, not in the prophets themselves) is an Old Testament concept that did not transfer to the New Testament. There are some changes between the way God dealt with the nation of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures and the way He speaks to the eklessia in New Testament. Why? Because:
1. Now, we have the word of God and every believer can read it. We are not dependent on prophets in the same way that the Israelites were.
2. In Yeshua, every believer, whether they are a prophet or not, has the Spirit of God and can prophesy. (Acts 2:17)
3. Before we had the written word of God, the word of the prophet was like the word of God. God used the Hebrew prophets as the primary way to deliver his word to His people. But things have changed.
Hebrews 1:1 says, “In the PAST God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us BY HIS SON, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
We can say that Yeshua is the word of God. And His body is on earth. He speaks today through the written word of God primarily and through the entire body of Messiah. Not, exclusively through prophets as in the days of ancient Israel.
4. I absolutely believe in the continuation of the function of prophet for today. I have seen it in operation many times over many years. I have many friends whom I consider to be New Testament prophets. However, prophets do not lead the global eklessia. When the senior leader of a network or movement is primarily a prophet, problems often arise. When a prophet seeks to function as an apostle (a senior leader over leaders), he often makes mistakes. Prophets need to be inspired, but you lead by principle. When both gifts function together—where apostles lead and prophets inspire—there can be much fruit.
When the function of prophet is disconnected from the other Ephesians 4:11 gifts: apostles, pastors, teachers and evangelists, it is not reliable. It was never meant to function in a vacuum, such as we often see today. In the book of Acts, the prophets are not leading the eklessia, but apostolic teams with different Ephesians 4:11 gifts. In Acts 13:1, God spoke through a team of prophets and teachers—and we can say apostles were there, because Paul and Baranabas were present. In Acts 15, as they seek to deal with the biggest theological controversy in the New Testament, we see that the focus is not on “the prophets,” but rather, “the apostles and the elders.” (see Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22 and 23) Prophets are not mentioned. Were they there? Of course, just as were pastors, teachers and evangelists among “the elders.”
But in recent weeks, I am hearing constantly, “believe in the prophets and you will prosper.” This is off … and the many of the prophecies have proven to be inaccurate.
5. Now, if you want to have an Old Testament standard for prophets, then you have to embrace it all.
“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” (Deut. 18:20)
Are any of the prophets who are telling us, “believe in the prophets,” willing to be put to death if their prophecies are wrong? Of course, I am not and would never advocate for this and neither did Paul. He says in 1 Corinthians 14 that he desires that we would all prophesy. Certainly he is not asking believers to risk their lives. But if you are going to use the Old Testament standard, you need to embrace ALL of this standard. Or, admit that some things have changed. It changed because in the days before Yeshua, if the prophet was wrong or led the people astray, the results could be catastrophic. They could be led to idol worship, gross sin or rebellion. People needed to have a high level of confidence in the prophets. This is why the punishment was death. It weeded out many would be false prophets. In light of the written word of God and wider leadership teams, the stakes are not as high.
In the New Testament, prophets and all leaders are accountable to apostolic teams. I am convinced that much of the false prophecy that has come forth this year, whether it is regarding the Coronavirus ending in April/Passover or the election, is a result of men and women who are not accountable to an apostolic team of leaders; ministers who are independent. For instance, does it bother you that not one of the prophets who said Coronavirus would end by April or would have no effect all, have not publicly acknowledged this fail or repented? This is result of not only pride, but a lack of team, apostolic leadership. If someone on our team made such a mistake, there would be at least 10 men that would demand they deal with it. Many of these prophets take for granted their followers, as they just continue on, ignoring the elephant in the room.
Why is this happening?
I believe that the Lord has sovereignly allowed this deception to take place to force us into right order. There needs to be an aligning of the apostolic and the prophetic. While prophets may get the word of the Lord, it is apostolic leaders who can often add practical wisdom: timing, is the prophecy conditional, should it be shared publicly or is it for private prayer? Whenever I have received a major prophetic word (and I do not consider myself a Ephesians 11 prophet and have not been recognized as such—just someone who sometimes prophesies and loves to teach on biblical prophecy), I have counseled with my team—both peers and overseers. It is a great protection and has saved me from making mistakes. If I get attacked, I have the peace that I passed it through the proper checks and balances. Often, even when I am encouraged to share it, I get helpful advice on how to share it.
I believe we are on the cusp of a leadership reformation. I am encouraged by the ministries of people like Bishop Joe Mattera, Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Mark Chironna and others who are seeking to bring a course correction. Something beautiful may come forth!