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Lesson 13: Confidence in the Prophetic Gift *

Introduction: This week I was speaking to a young man whose church has a living prophet. Because of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29, that is not something I would automatically reject. Instead, what I found worthy of consideration was his statement that the words of the prophet were as authoritative as the words of the Bible. What do you think of that? If the prophet truly speaks for God, then that makes logical sense. Does it make Biblical sense? How about practical sense? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn what level of confidence we should have in the prophetic gift!

  1. The Prophet and the Walkers

    1. Read Matthew 13:14. Is this a statement from a prophet? (Yes. Jesus says this is a fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah.)

    2. Let's look at this prophecy. Read Matthew 13:14-15. About what is the prophet warning? (People are not paying attention. They are seeing and hearing messages, but they are not paying attention. The message is not sinking into the mind.)

    3. Read Luke 24:13-18. Imagine you are speaking with a friend, and a stranger comes up and asks you what you are talking about. How would you react?

      1. Why do the two stop to answer this question? Why are their faces "downcast?" (Their faces reflect their sad mood. They are taking this question very seriously. They stop before they answer the question.)

    4. Read Luke 24:19-21. How do they describe Jesus? (As a powerful prophet.)

      1. What is the significance of that? (They do not say He was the Messiah, the Son of God.)

      2. What is important about the "third day" reference? (Read Matthew 17:22-23. Jesus said that He would be raised to life on the third day. These two think all is lost.)

    5. Let's continue with our story in Luke 24. Read Luke 24:22-24. What would you say to these two?

      1. Does the prophecy of Isaiah about seeing and hearing but not understanding ( Matthew 13:14) apply to them? (Yes!)

    6. Read Luke 24:25-27. Let's review this situation. These men are discouraged and confused. They are thinking of the prophecy of Jesus and they are comparing it with what they know. How does Jesus help them to "see and hear?" (By opening to them the Bible.)

      1. Is Jesus doing the work of a prophet here? (Yes. The work of the prophet is to help humans understand God's will.)

      2. What is the benchmark for Jesus' explanation? (The Bible.)

      3. What important lesson do we learn from this story about our confidence in the prophetic gift? (That statements of prophets must be benchmarked against the Bible.)

      4. Why didn't Jesus just say to them "Hey knuckleheads, its Me!" (God's goal for us is to understand the theme of the Scriptures and how Jesus fits in it. This is prophet work: to help us understand how our current situation, our current issue fits into the flow of Scripture.)

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-3. What is the role of the prophet in our day? (Just as Jesus encouraged the two discouraged men, so the work of the prophet today is to encourage, strengthen and comfort believers.)

  2. The Prophet and the Bereans

    1. Read Acts 17:10-12. Is Paul a prophet? (Of course.)

      1. How did the Bereans determine this? (By testing Paul's words against the Bible.)

      2. Although the two men walking the road to Emmaus were not looking in a Bible as they spoke with Jesus, what gave them the conviction that Jesus was giving them a true message? (Read Luke 24:32. Their hearts burned as Jesus explained the relevant Scriptures to them.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. What is the purpose of giving the gift of prophecy to a believer? (For the common good.)

      1. Why does 1 Corinthians 12:11 stress that these spiritual gifts are the work of "one and the same Spirit?" (Because there must be harmony in the work of God. This is another reason why the Bible is the benchmark for anyone who claims to have the gift of prophecy.)

    3. Read Proverbs 2:1-6. This describes the process of understanding God's will. Let's break this down into its logical sequence.

      1. Re-read Proverbs 2:1-2. What kind of attitude does this describe? (This is someone who is open and anxious to understand God's word.)

      2. Re-read Proverbs 2:3. What activity does this describe? (Prayer. The "call out" is to God, the Holy Spirit, for insight and understanding.)

      3. Re-read Proverbs 2:4-6. What is the end result? (If we are diligent in seeking God's will, He will give us wisdom, knowledge and understanding.)

      4. What does this sequence teach us about confidence in the words of a modern prophet? (We should not approach a modern prophet like we approach a Chinese fortune cookie: we crack it open and find an answer. To be safe, we must have a deep understanding of the Bible. We must already know a great deal about how God directs the lives of humans. We then determine whether the words of the modern prophet "fit" into this stream of past revelation.)

    4. How should you react if a modern prophet gives a completely new understanding of the Bible? What if a modern prophet suggests a new doctrine? (Why would God give a message to someone now that He has not given to Moses, Paul or anyone else in the last 3,000 years? I can see a message that fits our time, but I would be very suspicious of a new message that has little relevance to our time and could have just as easily been given to Moses, Paul or some other Bible writer. If the new message in any way contradicts the Bible, I would reject it.)

  3. Modern Prophets

    1. Let's go back again to 1 Corinthians 14. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 & 1 Corinthians 14:29. How common was the gift of prophecy in the Corinthian church? (Very common.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 14:36-40. Is there an unclear line between prophets and the "spiritually gifted" in the Corinthian church?

      1. How does Paul suggest prophets are to be judged? (Paul points out that God's word did not originate with them. The inference is that prophets are to be judged by the stream of revelation starting with Genesis.)

    3. What guidance does this give us in evaluating modern prophets? (First, we should not be surprised by a Christian's claim to have the gift of prophecy. The gift, like other spiritual gifts, should be expected in a church. By Corinthian standards, it would seem something was wrong with a church which did not have at least one or two who had the gift of prophecy. Second, this gift is to strengthen the church and believers. This gift is not to change the stream of revelations given by God over the past millenniums.)

    4. Friend, are you open to the words of a modern prophet? Are you open to those who are spiritually gifted? You should be open and you should be testing. If a modern prophet gives comfort, direction and strength to a church, and the words of the prophet are consistent with the benchmark of the Bible, then you are blessed.

  4. Next week: We begin a new study on "The Christian Life."
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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