GIFT vs. OFFICE: THE PROPHETIC
by Bill Click
During the last 20 years, there have undoubtedly been more prophecies uttered than during all the previous years of the church's existence. Likewise, the last 20 years have featured more teaching on the prophetic gifting and office than throughout church history as well. As much as we have seen, heard, felt & experienced, however, this ministry is still being restored as the foundation of the Church (Eph.2:20).
The Prophetic ministry is the one which God has always offered to His people. The prophets of old foretold what would take place in the nation if the people obeyed or disobeyed God. They also revealed the relationship of God's people to others who had not received the same covenant. Depending on how kings, warriors, other prophets (false or true) and the people believed in their word, prophets were a safeguard as well as a leaning post of wisdom for important decisions. Some of them even performed miracles: especially when God's intervention was essential to the continual unfolding of His plan to bring forth Christ and provide the church with an eternal type and shadow of His heart and actions- one that was and is only fulfilled by Christ (Col.2:17; Heb.8:5-7).
In the New Covenant, the prophet's ministry is an expressly given measure of Christ's own prophetic mantle (Eph.4:7-11). Prophets of the Church age are to experience Christ personally, and are to receive from Him directly (Eph.3:4-5). In the New Testament church, the prophet's ministry is the second most highly prioritized in the "set" order of God (1Cor.12:28). In direct conjunction with the apostle's, the prophet's ministry is to provide foundation for the church to become a multi-membered, many functioning group which God calls a "household" (Eph.2:19-20). This foundation not only takes the form of speaking with Christ's voice, but also of equipping the church with that same anointing, charging the entire body in general and those called to become prophets in particular (Eph.4:11-13).
On the other hand, there was a lament which came forth in the Old Testament: "would God that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!" (Nu.11:29). In other words: almost without exception only prophets prophesied during the Old Testament period. But now under this "better covenant" the prayer of Moses has been answered to a degree (Heb.8:5). The answer was foretold by Joel, released at Pentecost, and is to be fully received and activated by the church until Christ's return (Jl.2:20; Ac.2:17; 1Cor.14:31).
Praise the Lord for His prophetic word. I can think of several prophecies right now which have truly made the difference in our lives. Although God has spoken to us every step of the way through, there is just something so special about a true word from God' wherever and whenever it can be found.
Today, except in the most religious, controlled, or uninitiated of environments the prophetic word is received and released in abundance. Prophetic ministries have sprung up literally everywhere. Although I am sure there are exceptions, there is no "place" that I know of in which there is no prophecy at all' even if there are many congregations within that same geographical area where prophecy is neither welcome nor available.
What is not quite so prevalent, however, is the understanding and discernment which categorizes prophecy as the Word of God does. In addition to what has been mentioned above, there is a great dearth of discrimination between the gift and the office. Because of this, true prophecy is often rejected and prophecy offered at the manifestation level is elevated to a place God has not given it. Let me explain.
Much of the mass-marketed, 'multiple Email in your box every morning,' space for rent, trinket city, gadget and gizmo anointing, clearly non-biblical "winds of doctrine" hype is' at the very, very, very best' manifestation or gift level prophecy. But because that's "what sells," "what viewers will tune into," "what BLESSES the people," what gets them into the "favorites" or "bookmarks" of your browser and is encouraging without qualifications or conditions' it's all "GO!"
Likewise, much of the big name, popularity oriented, crowd drawing, name dropping, phenomena pushing, money oriented, 'slickster-ing' that people flock to' often in the hopes of short cutting around character refinement by seeking after a manifestation rather than The Manifestor' is at the very, very, very best a manifestation or gift level prophecy. Some would say, "well . . . what's the problem: the prophetic is the prophetic is the prophetic." And my answer to that would be: "No way is this the case."
In the New Testament, God differentiates between the manifestation of "all flesh" to "prophesy," the gift of prophecy, and the office of prophet. And from the Old Testament and observation we can discern a fourth distinction: the difference between one with a call to be a prophet as opposed to being commissioned as a prophet' one "set" in the office. In fact, Jesus himself made it clear that "many are called but few are chosen" (Mt.20:16). So all four of these must be applied to the understanding of the prophetic if we are ever to begin to distinguish between the manifestation, the gift, the call, and the office.
Some may willingly concede these differences but not be quite willing to realize that they make all the difference' especially the gift of prophecy and the prophet.
The Spirit wrote through Paul: "he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort" (1Cor.14:3). The NIV says "strengthening, encouragement and comfort." Neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit was outlining the ministry of a prophet, because verse one begins " . . . desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy." Later, the Spirit leads Paul to set this in order: "ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all be comforted" (1Cor.14:31). So not only is it important that believers seek the gift of prophecy, but also that they position themselves to grow in it by learning as they comfort others and become comforted by others.
But the office of the prophet is much more about revealing Christ's heart to establish the church with His eternal nature and character than it is to empathize or make promises that improvement of conditions are coming. When Christ's heart is truly being revealed, there is an awe which focuses the hearer's attention on neither a promise for the future nor the one who is bringing the message, but rather on Christ and every degree of insufficiency in comparison with Him (Isa.6:5). The office of prophet is much more about catapulting God's people into the process of being prepared for ruling and reigning with Him than it is defining the many blessings that will come our way as we walk with Him (Jer.1:9-10).
So when the gift of prophecy is mistaken for the office of prophet, three travesties of divine justice take place.
The first travesty is that people hear words which promise blessing, yet fail to connect these words with the way they are living (receive no qualification or conditions), they never position themselves for anything to ever take place. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I have to make a point: although we have several prophecies yet to be completely fulfilled, the rest are either partially fulfilled or altogether completed. The reason I am stating this is that many, many people we have met or even ministered to over the years have yet to see any prophetic fulfillment whatsoever. In fact, more than a few have given up on their "word" entirely. This is very dangerous (1Tim.1:18-20).
The second travesty is that when a word is given the attention, promotion, credence or even hype of the prophetic office when at best it is manifestation or gift-level prophecy, it lacks the necessary spiritual authority to be true beyond the scope for which God intended it. One cannot "build and plant" with words that God intended only to be "encouraging and comforting." A word which is encouraging and comforting becomes a false prophecy when touted as a word which is true for the general public of the church. Just because someone wanting to make a living promoting the prophetic ministry sends you Email's or comes to your city, don't receive them as a prophet unless they sound and act like Jesus' tough on sin, easy on sinners; tough on the self-righteous, easy on those who need (& truly seek) mercy.
The third travesty of divine justice that occurs when the gift is mistaken for the office: it often becomes impossible for the office of prophet to be discerned and received. Implicit in the error of mistaking the gift for the office is that only a "good word" can be from the Lord. And "good word" is almost always defined as "one I like, one I want, one that tells me what I was already thinking." Because of this, when a real prophet begins to minister people often begin their rejection of God by saying "it's too harsh, they must be bitter, they've got issues, their critical," etc. Granted, the gift of prophecy can be more pleasant to the flesh, but that's the problem: in many more cases than we'd like to admit we have allowed ourselves to be deceived.
When God spoke in the Bible, more people died than were saved, more cities were wrecked than were built, and more repenting was called for than took place. Not just in the Old Testament.
Check out Jesus the prophet.