These are fearful words spoken by Jesus. And we all want to ensure that they are words we never hear. But, if we don’t want to hear them, then we’d better notice what these words teach us. For these fearful words show us that what is essential is, not prophecies and wonders, but to truly know the Lord and be known by Him. We can never rely on our prophesying (or casting out of demons, or working of wonders); that is not where our hope is found or where our salvation rests. We rely, not on what we have done for Christ, but what He has done for us.
Prophecies and spiritual gifts, then, according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7, aren’t necessarily a proof of godliness, or even of salvation. Instead, they can even be used in an ungodly way which does the opposite of what they’re supposed to do – keeping people away from knowing Jesus and being known by Him, instead of drawing people to Him in faith.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should forget about prophecies and spiritual gifts. For the Scriptures instruct us to eagerly desire these things (1 Cor. 12:31). Rather, it means that we must be careful in what we do with prophecy and other spiritual gifts; we must make use of them in the right way.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul gives an instruction which is well-known by Charismatics and Pentecostals. ‘Do not quench the Spirit,’ he writes (1 Thess. 5:19). Doesn’t that mean that we should make room for the gifts of the Spirit? Well, yes. But that’s not all. For Paul continues his instructions about not quenching the Spirit: ‘Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess. 5:19-22). Not only does not quenching the Spirit mean not despising prophecies, it also means testing all things and then holding fast to what is good and abstaining from every form of evil. We quench the Spirit by despising prophecies if we refuse to hear them and allow no room for them. But, we also quench the Spirit if we hear prophecies but do not test them. And we quench the Spirit when we don’t hold fast to the good we hear in prophecy and abstain from evil and false prophetic words.
Not quenching the Spirit does not simply mean having lots of prophecy in church. In fact, we could have an awful lot of prophecy every week and still be quenching the Spirit if we’re not testing it and not holding onto the good. In other words, we cannot simply accept anything that claims to be prophecy as true prophecy. Everything that claims to be prophecy must be tested and weighed. And then, when it is tested and found to be true prophecy, it should be heeded.