Apostolic Reality!

(1 Corinthians 14:29-33) “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is seated, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace—as in all the churches of the saints.”

Today within the wider Body of the Messiah there is a great upsurge in those claiming to be prophets. The internet is infested with them. Often you will see rather naive and undiscerning believers rushing to the meetings to hopefully receive a personal prophecy and to hear “a word” for themselves from the Lord. In light of this growing ‘fad’ especially within Charismatic and Pentecostal circles, the question needs to be asked, “are we capable of distinguishing between the real spirit of prophecy from a spirit of clairvoyance?”

Supernatural revelations, manifestations and extra ’spiritual’ experiences and phenomena are not just seen in Christianity but also in other religions including speaking in tongues and foretelling the future. Even clairvoyants or fortune tellers can be quite accurate in their predictions. Of course the source of their power is demonic or in some cases a highly developed form of soul power that can affect people’s thinking and sway them emotionally and even affect them physically. Witch doctors have this capacity but in most cases their power is demonic.

Now we know from the New Testament that there were prophets in the first century Body of the Messiah and while the New Testament was still being written they operated in the local fellowships and were also mobile at times in their ministries. It was through certain prophets and teachers that Paul and Barnabus were set apart by the Holy Spirit for their apostolic ministry and their calling and gifting affirmed by the assembly at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).

In the New Testament we see that there is the office of a prophet within the Body of the Messiah that is different in its calling than one who prophesies in a worship meeting (1 Corinthians 12:10). God Himself has set in the Body of the Messiah the office of a prophet and it is a spiritual gift of leadership as are the offices of the apostle, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher (Ephesians 4:11).

Now there are those who will try to tell you that the gifts of the Spirit have passed away and ceased to exist after the first century and try to justify this stance on their misapplication and interpretation of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13:8-10. They will quote; “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect (or perfection) has come, then that which is in part will be done away”.

They assert that because we have the complete canon of scripture the gifts of prophecy or tongues or knowledge and by implication all of the gifts of the Spirit, have ceased to operate. They put their own interpretation on the phrase; “when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” They say “the perfect” or “perfection” is the Word of God and they assert this because they themselves do not understand and have never experienced the gifts of the Spirit operating in their lives, in their meetings or in some cases having seen the extremes in some fellowships where people get carried away with using them.

Those who assert that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer necessary will say to those who do move in the genuine gifts of the Spirit practiced Biblically; “well you have gifts but we have love!” which is a rather condescending attitude and misplaced. Even the apostle Paul stated in the same chapter that one could exercise all of the spiritual gifts and even be martyred yet without acting in love they would gain nothing of real spiritual value (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). However, if we read a little further down in the text of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 we see that “the perfect’ or “perfection” that comes refers to the time when the Lord will have returned and we will be in our resurrected and glorified bodies and no longer need the gifts of the Spirit because we will know as we are known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12).

So until that perfection comes we still need the gifts of the Spirit. It also needs to be said that the gifts of the Spirit are no substitute for the final authority of God’s Word, however, the gifts of the Spirit are the spiritual weapons the Holy Spirit uses to release the Word of God into people’s lives and into situations where God’s Word is needed and through His gifts do His convicting, converting, sanctifying and edifying work (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

Now as mentioned earlier in this post there are those claiming to be prophets today, or those who allow themselves to be called ‘prophets,’ and see themselves as having insight and personal knowledge superior to others and see themselves as oracles and those to whom others come to receive ‘a word’ from the Lord. Many who make this claim can come out with a string of personal prophecies of one sort or another and possibly have a certain degree of accuracy but in reality it can just be clairvoyance re-packaged in Christian wrapping.

Whether one is called to be an apostle, a prophet, and evangelist or a pastor and teacher they must be solidly grounded in the Word of God and know that there is no higher authority from which to receive revelation. Every utterance, every prophecy and every word of knowledge must be tested and affirmed by the written infallible Word of the Living God. We are commanded in scripture to “test all things” and we do this by the Word of God. As it is written; “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21a). It is also written that we must not go beyond what is written or add to or take away from the Word of God (1 Corinthians 4:6) (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32) (Proverbs 30:6) (Revelation 22:18-19).

Now we must be careful to call a prophet what God calls a prophet according to the Bible. A prophet today would be one who brings a timely word from the Bible applicable to a certain situation in a person’s life or in a local fellowship. Sometimes it will be an exhortation or edifying word but at other times it will be a challenge or even a rebuke or a hard word that needs to be given where there is unconfessed and unforsaken sin. These days the wider Body of the Messiah needs to discern the true prophet from the false prophet. Believers need to discern what is truly prophetic from what is dubious. This is why we need to have a good understanding of God’s Word exegetically and contextually but also an inner revelation of it from the blessed Holy Spirit.

We need to discern, appreciate and to understand the role of a prophet Biblically within the local Body of the Messiah. It is not a popular role at all but one who is called to the office will often have to experience persecution, reproach, being misunderstood, embarrassment, marginalization, criticism, even bouts of depression and at times accusations of resisting what God is doing.  These days many undiscerning naive believers mistake flamboyance as anointing, the gift of the gab as preaching, religious manipulation as the moving of the Spirit, amplified noise as worship and shallow boisterous comradery as fellowship. The internet and television are infested with those claiming to be ‘prophets’ of one sort or another. But is this apostolic reality?

Have these ‘prophets’ really stood in God’s presence? If they had they would never be saying and doing the things they are saying and doing. It is clear God has not spoken to them or speaking through them when what they are propagating in the name of the lord cannot be validated from God’s Word.

God Himself said of the false prophets in the time of Jeremiah. “I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and turned them back from their evil ways and deeds” (Jeremiah 23:21-22).

Now dreams and visions have their place but are not substitutes for the hearing of God’s Word. As God Himself has said; “Let the prophet who has a dream retell it, but let him who has My word speak it truthfully. For what is straw compared to grain?” declares the LORD. “Is not My word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that smashes a rock?” (Jeremiah 23:28-29). This affirmation is genuine apostolic reality and authority when considered in the light of the New Testament! One asks the question of all claiming to be prophets “is their foundation stone that has been laid by God in Zion a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation and that the one trusting in Him will never be dismayed (Isaiah 28:16).

Is what they are teaching built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with the Messiah Jesus Himself as the cornerstone?” (Ephesians 2:20). Any attempt to build any structure or ministry or church on anything or anyone else is destined to fall when the real storms of life hit the building as we have seen very recently with a certain famous global Church that did not have the solid foundation of apostolic reality as we see revealed in the Word of God, practiced and taught by the apostles of our Lord Jesus, and affirmed by the Old Testament prophets.

Watchman Nee the famous Chinese evangelist and Bible teacher wrote a book back in 1933 titled “The latent Power of the Soul.” In this book he describes that there are three sources of spiritual power. One of course is the power of the

Holy Spirit. However, there is a second spiritual power which is demonic in nature and then there is a third source of spiritual power which is the power of the soul. This was given to us in Adam and it has the capacity to move a person mentally emotionally and even affect them physically and enhance their intellect when tapped into. God brought all of the animals to Adam and Adam named them. He had a very powerful intellect unaffected by sin until the fall.

When Adam fell into sin this latent power of the soul became imprisoned within the human soul and became perverted by pride and sin and inward looking. I have a copy of the book and it explains why some preachers have persuasive power over people but that it is not always from the Spirit or from a demonic source, but from this latent soul power.

Most worship services these days sadly operate out of this soul power when its members are engaged in worship. It can resemble the real thing but its source is of human origin. We can ask ourselves the question “are we celebrating ways, means and methods of worship long overdue for examination?” Many believers are not capable of recognising flamboyant conduct from the real anointing.  They are not capable of distinguishing between Spirit and soul power. The soul contains the intellect the will and the emotions. It can be manipulated through music. The sound coming through loud amplifiers can actually move people to certain types of emotional responses. It is the same effect that we see in rock concerts or discos where the mesmerising power of music sways the crowds to the point where they can be easily manipulated.

Many worship services have repetitious choruses that are sung before the speaker comes and in a very real sense can psyche people up to the point where the preacher can manipulate the response he desires from them. This is also why worship leaders must be those who have spent time in God’s presence so that they can be tuned to the will of the Spirit when conducting the singing. Sadly many worship leaders ply their style as they would if they were playing to the audience of a rock concert. Many worship leaders actually follow the pattern of the secular musicians in the world who are past masters at manipulating the crowd.

Many claim that the Spirit is moving but what they do not realise is that this latest power of the soul can be the ‘power’ that is moving the people and getting the emotional responses. This is where spiritual discernment is needed. Not all emotionally charged worship is from God. We are to guard our spirits in these days of widespread spiritual seduction. All of us must “keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart in the Bible is the control centre of our lives and it consists of the soul and the spirit and these control the outward actions of the body.

We also need to distinguish between our faculties, discerning what is from the Holy Spirit or what is from the power of the soul, or from what may be of a demonic nature. The only way to be sure is to spend as much time as possible in the Word of God, by praying continuously in the Holy Spirit and by walking with Him moment by moment every day and claiming the power of the Messiah’s blood by confessing what the Word of God says His blood has power to do for us and in us (Jude 1:20-21) (Revelation 12:11).

Added to this, taking communion every day will enable us to distinguish what is from the Spirit or from the soul or even from what is from a demonic source, and keep us from giving into temptation when we are experiencing “heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Peter 1:6). When we are hearing a prophet or a preacher or following a worship leader and the muses with their loud amplifiers are we easily swept up into an enthusiasm and emotional response because everyone around us is in a euphoric state of mind and apparently being ‘moved’ spiritually? We need to distinguish between the real joy of the Lord from what is of a superficial nature which we see reflected in the world all around us especially through the media.

One of the things missing in modern Christendom is an appreciation and sober understanding of whom God is and the holiness of His character and knowing God as God. These so called ‘prophets’ we see today claiming to hear from God and ripping naive believers off financially to line their own pockets, are not preaching that holiness without which no one shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). They know nothing of apostolic reality or God’s holiness even though they claim apostolic authority!  True apostolic reality can only be affirmed by the Word of God through the spiritual discernment given by the Holy Spirit.

May the Messiah our Lord Jesus gives us the spiritual discernment in these last days of spiritual deception and seduction to distinguish between the power of the Spirit from the power of the soul and what may even be from a demonic source. When we come to worship we must make sure we worship God in the Spirit and in the truth, for such worshippers the Father Seeks (John 4: 23-24). If this is our approach to the Lord in our worship then we will understand the apostolic reality of worshipping the Lord in the beauty of His Holiness and in the Holy Spirit and be spiritually richer for it! (Ephesians 5:17-21) (Psalm 96:9).

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