I promised the other week when the whole Strange Fire thing was going on that I would write about the nature of prophecy, so here goes.
Prophecy is the Word of God. True prophecy, that is. And all prophecy that is given in the church must be tested and weighed to examine if it is indeed true prophecy. Yet true prophecy is the Word of the Lord. But wait! Hang on a minute! If true prophecy is the Word of the Lord, how can we possibly believe in Sola Scriptura? If true prophecy is the Word of God, doesn’t that set up prophecy as an alternative to Scripture in terms of authority? Doesn’t that just open up the way to all sorts of problems of competition between prophecy and Scripture?
No, not at all. Prophecy is the Word of the Lord. Yet prophecy is under the authority of Scripture. Prophecy is the Word of God. Yet prophecy is no threat to the supreme authority of the Bible.
What? How can that be? Well, what is the Word of God? Jesus is the Word of God. Scripture is the Word of God. And preaching is the Word of God too. Yet preaching is no threat to Christ or to the Scriptures in terms of authority. There isn’t a competition between the Bible and true preaching. They’re both the Word of God, yet the Bible is the authority over preaching. And the same is true of prophecy.
For a moment then, let’s group preaching and prophecy together as proclamation. Jesus is the Word of God, the Bible is the Word of God, and Proclamation is the Word of God. Yet Jesus isn’t the Bible, the Bible isn’t proclamation, and proclamation isn’t Jesus. But we don’t have three different Words. Rather we have a united, three-fold Word, which comes to us in three forms. The three are distinct, yet inseparable, and they each speak the same thing to us – Jesus.
So that means true proclamation can’t be separated from either the Bible or from Jesus. True proclamation, whether in preaching or in prophesy, is proclaiming Christ biblically. Now, that’s not in any way to suggest that preaching and prophecy are the same. Preaching is one way of proclaiming Christ biblically, and prophecy is another (and, in fact, the sacraments are two more ways of proclaiming Christ biblically too). In preaching and in prophecy, Christ is proclaimed biblically in very different forms, yet He is proclaimed biblically in both (if they are true preaching and true prophecy).
So, let’s zoom in from proclamation in general, to prophecy in particular. True prophecy is proclaiming Christ biblically. Revelation 19:10 tells us that ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ After all, if prophecy is a gift distributed by the Holy Spirit and in which He is at work, then it will contribute to His work of glorifying Jesus (John 16:14). True prophecy isn’t all about us, nor is the focus on the Holy Spirit; true prophecy proclaims and glorifies Jesus Christ.
So that means that when we talk about testing or weighing prophecy (as we must – 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19-21), we’re not simply asking if the prophecy is biblical. As Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees regarding biblical interpretation, just because something seems biblical (in that case an interpretation of Scripture, in this case a prophecy), if it misses the point of the Scriptures – Jesus Christ Himself – then it isn’t really biblical at all (John 5:39-40, 46-47). So, just as for preaching, when it comes to prophecy, the test of its truth is found in asking, ‘is Christ proclaimed biblically?’
Stay tuned for part 2...