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iBelieve: The Gift of Inspiration | PDF Version | Study Guide: The Gift of Prophecy

Court-watchers and other interested Americans sometimes toss around the expression original intent. The U.S. Constitution ought to be the nation’s  “Bible,” they say — and they also explore what the founders of our country must have meant as they picked up quill pens and wrote the articles and amendments. Despite those worthy goals, it still takes an elaborate national judicial system, including our Supreme Court, to continually make the Constitution a living, breathing, functioning document to guide our national life.

In the same way, most Christians celebrate a concept known as sola scriptura: “The Bible and the Bible only.” Sometimes it’s expressed this way: “Our only rule of faith.” But beyond the Old and New Testaments, does the Church continue to need specific counsel and encouragement in these last days — a more detailed expression of heaven’s wisdom and providence?

Interestingly, some leading Christian journals refer to this or that church leader as a “prophet” — even here in the 21st century. In Bible times, men and women endowed with a prophetic gift performed many ministries for the Lord; most notably, they were spokespersons for the Lord. (The descriptive phrase “seer” portrays such a person’s miraculous ability to discern and relate God’s messages.) In New Testament times, writers routinely spoke of prophecy as a distinct and important spiritual gift. Prophets were expected to help found the church; they had a passion for mission work and the spreading of the gospel; they built up the church in its study and understanding of truth. Paul writes in Ephesians about how preachers, teachers, evangelists, and prophets all combine to lead the flock into a stable and unwavering faith: until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature (4:13). The positive result of the prophet’s work is in the very next verse, where Christians rooted in the faith aren’t tossed back and forth by every breeze of questionable doctrine that comes along.

Less noted, but equally important, is the prophet’s role in relating future events as God chooses to reveal them to His Church. As controversial matters arise, threatening to split or confuse the Body of faith, the prophet can also be a helpful and trustworthy influence in guiding the people back to solid doctrinal ground.

One important question divides believers today: whether or not the gift of prophecy is an ongoing presence in modern times. Some suggest that, while the other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 are a lasting necessity, the prophetic gift ended along with the apostolic era. However, the Bible makes no such suggestion; furthermore, Scripture is filled with warnings that we should beware of false prophets. If there is to be no prophecy whatsoever here at the close of history, wouldn’t the Bible simply say that? “Beware of all people claiming to be prophets”?

The Adventist* faith community joins many other churches in believing that God can and will use the gift of prophecy to guide His people clear up to the second coming of Jesus. Examining the Bible evidence and clear list of guidelines, Adventists believe that the prophetic gift did occur in the life and ministry of one of its early founders. What are the Bible tests, then, which can help people of faith to make such an evaluation — now and in future times of challenge?

The paramount test is that of sola scriptura: the Bible itself as the supreme standard. The Word of God is the highest authority in the Christian’s life. Any new prophetic gift must be tested by the 66 books that have already been accepted as authoritative canon through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A prophet’s word of instruction must fit and amplify the testimony that came before — and never the other way around!

In addition, a prophet’s predictions will come true; their testimonies must show clear evidence of being heaven-sent (Jeremiah 28:9). The prophet’s personal life will bear the kind of humble, servant-oriented fruit we would all expect a man or woman of God to manifest; they will live holy, selfless lives marked by harmony, not controversy. Their words of counsel will be transformative; people will grow in Christian maturity as they weigh and absorb the new messages. Discerning Adventists are careful to describe any new prophetic messages to the church as being: “lesser light leading to the greater light.”

One of the key tests that marks the life and witness of a true biblical prophet is this: they will be people whose passion is to uplift Jesus Christ. They will never detract from His glory; they will not divide and destroy His place of supremacy in the structure of the Church and in their lives. They will magnify Jesus; love Jesus; eloquently place Him before the people as their only hope of eternal salvation.

With the Bible’s generous and clear guidelines in place, Christians in these final generations can eagerly seek the new blessings God may continue to shower upon His people through the gift of prophecy.

*Seventh-day Adventists are sometimes referred to as Adventists.

David B.Smith writes from California. (18 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.