My guess is that many believers have had it with the prophetic. They don’t want to hear another person say that God told them something of consequence. I was feeling the same way until I read a verse yesterday morning that jumped off the page at me and I decided to write about it. Ironically, after I was done, I read an article from a colleague in Israel, who is also American-born. He wrote:
We have grown weary of false prophecies, false healings, false words from God…which is nothing but hillul Hashem – and taking up the Lord’s name in vain. This should not be, and is certainly leading to disappointments which are facilitating the predicted Great Falling Away. (Elhanan ben-Avraham)
The verse that struck me was 1 Thessalonians 5:20 and it is for the sentiment above that I believe God moved upon Paul to write it:
“Do not treat prophecies with contempt.”
For those of us who believe in the supernatural and that God still speaks today, you may have read this verse in the past and wondered, “Why would we ever despise prophecy or treat it with contempt?”
We have something in common
Let’s fast forward to January 2021. Just like those believers in Thessalonica, who had to deal with a plethora of false prophecy, many in the body feel burned by the recent false prophetic words. Sadly, it is not over. I just watched six “prophets” who are holding fast, with great boldness, to the false hope that President Trump, not Biden, will be inaugurated on January 20th. Wednesday’s nightmare of the Capitol building being overrun wasn’t enough for them.
One of them, a woman yelling in the voice of God Almighty, taking the name of the Great I Am in vain, declared that Trump will be the 46th president. (She might want to tell God that when a president wins a second term, he keeps the same number, which in this case, would be 45. Forgive my sarcasm, but when someone is yelling and lecturing the body of Messiah in the voice of God the Omniscient [all-knowing], you would hope that they would get the basic facts right.)
This is the same situation in which the Thessalonians found themselves. They had had it with false prophets who had predicted the coming of the Lord. They had had it with false teachers who had peddled heresies. They probably were scared of being deceived. Remember, they did not have the Bible as we do today. Even the Hebrew Scriptures were not readily available, as they were on scrolls and in Jewish synagogues. This is why the Apostles gave the believers creeds—to protect them from heresy, until the word of God was canonized, centuries later.
“…Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to Jacob, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5, NASB).
They called these creeds the regula fidei or rule of faith and Paul warned the Thessalonians about associating with people who did not abide by this creed.
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition (rule of faith) received from us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
One of the differences between modern day apostles/bishops, and the original apostles, was that they had divine authority to preach the TRUE, genuine Gospel before we had the New Testament canonized or even written. The apostles were the NT epistles before they were written, teaching true, life-giving doctrine. But without the scripture, there was much false prophecy.
Test, Don’t Reject
It would appear that the believers in Thessalonica had begun to despise prophetic utterances. But Paul saw prophecy as crucial. We see in 1 Corinthians 14 how we are encouraged to prophesy (v. 5). He states that it is essential for the building up of the body (v. 4), instructing them to not reject prophecy but, rather, to test prophecy.
Our present situation is particularly painful, because so many put their heart and soul into believing that God was behind the reelection of Donald Trump. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of leaders prophesied this. Even after the election, there was a massive prayer movement to “stop the steal.” After the Electoral College met on December 14th, prophets boldly predicted that Trump would overcome on January 6th. We made a video showing four false prophecies since November, where three of them promised a massive miracle or reversal during the Christmas season. (By the way, these men are all still prophesying daily on YouTube, as if their prophecies came to pass. None of them has even hinted that they missed he mark and one even said he will never apologize for “what God said.” Of course, the voice of God is subjective. That is why leaders must test prophecy.)
Guard the Flock
So, yes, it is reasonable that there would be some disillusionment with prophecy. But Paul says to not reject the prophetic gift. We need it. We cannot “despise” it. But as leaders, we must govern it. Many leaders are afraid to do so. We have a “code” among leaders not to critique each other in public. But we have a commission from God to protect the flock, and that must come first.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Don’t get me wrong, I would never criticize a fellow minister’s doctrine lightly. But the call to protect the sheep is higher than the “code.” And, I welcome criticism of my own teaching.