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Sabbath School Lessons on The Prophetic Gift
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: The Authority of the Prophets *
Introduction: What authority is given to prophets? Are all prophets
given the same authority? Don't all true prophets have the same
source? If the prophet perfectly relays the message from God, then
the answer is easy: the prophet's message is God's message. What if
the prophet is a "low faith" prophet ( Romans 12:6)? What if the
prophet lies part of the time and tells the truth part of the time (1
Kings 13)? Let's dive into the Bible and see what we can learn!
- Still Testing?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Paul is wrapping up his
letter to the church of the Thessalonians. He has a number
of "bullets" in closing to guide them. If I told you to
"be joyful always," could you do it? With sufficient
determination could you constantly muster up joy?
- If you say "no," joy is not like that. Do you think
there is a connection between joy and the instruction
to "pray continually" and "give thanks in all
circumstances?" (I think so. We can determine to pray
and give thanks. Joy, however, is an attitude. Being
grateful and in contact with God are keys to joy.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. What do you think it means
to "put out the Spirit's fire?"
- Is this more than just putting out the Holy Spirit?
- What if it also said "don't let the Spirit burn too
hot?" Would something between "out" and "hot" for the
Holy Spirit make you more comfortable?
- Would "don't put out the Spirit's room
temperature warmth" be consistent with this
text? (As a member of a non-charismatic church,
I often hear or read members negatively refer to
the "charismatic movement" or being
"Pentecostal." I think such an attitude is
terribly dangerous. The Holy Spirit should be in
our life and His presence should be hot. Fire is
- What does it mean, as a practical matter, to hold a
statement in contempt? (The worst kind of contempt is
just to ignore something.)
- If we are told not to ignore prophecies fired by
the Holy Spirit, what does that mean we should
- Read again 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Does this testing refer
to prophecies? (Are they part of "everything?" If so, then
the answer is "yes.")
- Is the "test" for the prophecy or the prophet? Once
we have a true prophet, should we stop testing?
- Let's think about this a moment. If you are
constantly testing the words of the prophet, are you
treating them with some degree of contempt? (In
general, I presume people are telling me the truth.
However, probably due to my litigation background, I
have a little mental meter that is constantly running
which registers inconsistent statements when others
are talking to me. Am I holding others in contempt?
I hope not.)
- In the United States, magazines will have ads with a
beautiful, young woman running through a sunlit,
grassy field with birds and butterflies all around.
The ad is for a prescription medicine that will help
you overcome some medical problem. This is followed
by at least one page of small print explaining how in
some cases the medicine could make your nose fall off
or could kill you. Lawyers, no doubt, are
responsible for the small print. Every week I read
the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in
writing these lessons. Although I'm not a prophet, if
you don't test what I write I will be disappointed.
It is no contempt (in my case) to test.
- Read Acts 21:8-11. It looks like Paul had no shortage of
prophets around him. I count five, not including Paul or
Luke (who was recording the event) in these verses! What
is the message from Agabus the prophet? (That if Paul goes
to Jerusalem he will be arrested.)
- Read Acts 21:12-14. Is Paul treating the words of Agabus
- What about the words of Luke - who says that he was
also pleading with Paul not to go to Jerusalem?
- Our study is about the authority of the prophets.
Why would the Holy Spirit give Agabus this message if
it were not to warn Paul against going to Jerusalem?
- Would it be beneficial to Paul to know the
future, even if it did not change his plans?
- The people said "The Lord's will be done." What is
the Lord's will here? That Paul go or not go to
Jerusalem? (If you continue to read Acts 21 you will
find that Paul was arrested when he arrived at
Jerusalem. There followed years of imprisonment, and
an appeal to Rome. If Paul did not die during this
imprisonment, he likely died shortly thereafter. At
least we know that Paul considered what Agabus said,
he did not ignore him.)
- Nathan and David
- Read Mark 12:35-37. Let's look at this for a different
purpose than Jesus had in mind. Was King David a prophet?
(Yes. He is not only the author of sections of the Bible,
but here he is predicting the future.)
- By citing David, is Jesus affirming David's authority
to speak for God? (Yes.)
- Read 2 Samuel 12:1-7. Is Nathan a prophet?(Yes.)
- Has Nathan written a book or section of the Bible?
- What kind of authority does Nathan (a prophet without
a Bible section) have over David (a prophet with
Bible sections)? (Nathan was delivering the word of
God - and David realized it ( 2 Samuel 12:13).)
- How did David realize it? (At a minimum, David
recognized from the Ten Commandments that
stealing was sin - especially when the rich are
taking from the poor.)
- Why didn't God just speak directly to David? (He
probably was - and David resisted.)
- If, prior to Nathan's visit, David was giving advice
on marriage, would you test his statements?
- In this story, is Nathan making up new rules? (No.
This is part of paying attention to the prophet - is
the message consistent with old messages?)
- Evading the Roaring Lion
- Read 1 Kings 13:1-5. It is hard for me to stay away from
this story. Is the "man of God" a true prophet?
(Performing miracles is not enough for us to say, but the
fact he was warning against false worship, and he fact
that he is giving God's word tells us he is a true
- Read 1 Kings 13:6-10. Why does the prophet not have lunch
with the King? (God had given him specific instructions
about not eating.)
- Read 1 Kings 13:11-15. What should be the answer to the
invitation of the old prophet? (No. Same answer as was
given the King. The young prophet gave the correct answer.
1 Kings 13:16-17.)
- Read 1 Kings 13:18-21. How can God say the young prophet
- Read 1 Kings 13:22-26. Is the old prophet a true prophet?
(God spoke through him - see 1 Kings 13:20 - and what he
warned came true. In addition, in 1 Kings 13:31-32 we find
that he confirms the message to turn away from false
worship. The commentators disagree on whether the old
prophet is a true prophet, but we know God did indeed
speak through this old prophet.)
- What lesson do we learn about the authority of prophets
from this unique story? (Their statements need to be
consistent with prior messages from God.)
- How would you apply this to modern-day prophets? (All
modern prophets have to be tested against the Bible. We
have a great store of messages from God in the Bible. If
we reject the old message, in favor of a conflicting
modern message, we might be eaten by a roaring lion (1
- Friend, would you like to avoid becoming lion chow? If so,
will you listen, and not ignore, the message of those with
the gift of prophecy? Will you test them against the
- Next week: The Integrity of the Prophetic Gift.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.