Perfecting the Prophetic Ministry
All Christians should strive for mastery in every endeavor and especially in their divine gifts and callings. The apostle Paul expressed to us in Eph 4 that the ascension ministries were given by the Lord to help perfect & equip the believers in their Godly service. While the spirit given to each Christian at salvation is perfect, the Christian himself is currently being perfected and will not fully attain perfection until the resurrection. In the mean time we are “being perfected”. Being transformed into His likeness is another way to communicate this.
Each Christian is called and has gifts. To state this is not to imply that each person is fully mature in their gift or calling from the day they are born – or born again – for that matter. While gifts are given according to His grace, how we mature in them has a lot to do with our own activities, commitment, belief systems and even discipleship. Being called and functioning in maturity in gifts or ministry are not the same thing. When realizing that they have been given a gift or called to a ministry a person needs to also realize that they have been granted an opportunity to grow and mature in those gifts or ministries, and it will take time and effort to be equipped or perfected.
God knows our calling before we do.
Jer 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
A wonderful aspect to the prophetic ministry is to identify spiritual gifts, callings and ministries and to even energize these for a person. However, there has been much too much confusion and disappointment surrounding this because of failure to identify and separate the gift and the process of maturing in the gift.
As with anything in life there are those who have been given greater opportunity than others to learn and grow in the things they have been given. There is no record of Elijah in the bible before he came on the scene as a full blown prophetic ministry in 1 Kings 17:1. This does not mean that he did not have a history or a process of maturing in the prophetic ministry. Samuel was an example of one with great gifting, such was his caliber that as he grew in his ministry the Lord did not allow any of his words fail. Yet Samuel did not have a perfect mentor. In fact his mentor, Eli, was not very discerning or even prophetic. Yet Samuel was of such character that he was able to glean wisdom presented from a less than perfect vessel. A wise person can receive from reproof which is not deserved more than a fool will from correction which is well deserved (Prov 17:10 ). Perhaps Samuel learned this from his mother Hannah who turned an unjust rebuke from Eli into favor which blessed her life and brought children to replace her barrenness.
Samuel was the first in scripture to set up a school of the prophets, which put into place a process by which those with prophetic gifts could grow and mature under guidance and protection. Without a good foundation of the principles of good character, a person may enter into a ministry with power exhibited and yet have bad fruit, and even lose any chance of a heavenly reward.
Balaam is no doubt one of the more powerful prophetic voices in the scripture. He was never called a false prophet in either the Old or New Testament. Yet Peter describes him as a man filled with iniquity, loving unrighteousness, a mad man in his actions.
2 Peter 2:15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
Balaam’s prophecies were all true and he even prayed “Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!” (Num 23:10b) requesting that he would receive the blessings that he prophesied for Israel. While this would have been available to him if he were obedient. Rather he received the violent death of an enemy of God’s people because his actions did not match his gifting (Josh 13:22).
Jesus said that we would know a prophet by the fruit –
Matt 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?
17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
While Balaam was never called a false prophet, he bore the fruit of a false prophet even though his prophecies were true. There is fruit of the ministry, but also fruit of the minister. The fruit of the minister is the fruit of the spirit.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
If we are not diligent to perfect the fruit of the spirit in a ministers life, even though he may have a powerful gift and ministry, good fruit will not result and Jesus warned us to beware.
Matt 7:18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
1 Kings 13 gives an account of a young man of God from Judah that prophesied against the altars in Bethel. With tremendous confirmation of his word, immediately the altar split and fire came down from heaven. Instantly king Jeroboam pointed to him and ordered the soldiers to arrest him. As soon as he pointed at him the king’s hand withered up causing him to call back his troops and ask the young man of God to pray for him. The man of God agreed and the Lord healed Jeroboam immediately. Jeroboam offered him a gift which was wisely declined because the Lord’s instructions to the young man were to return without recompense.
On his way back an old prophet who was not walking with the Lord – again it does not say he was a false prophet- came and found him. It appears he just wanted fellowship with this young man because he had heard of the manifestation of the power of God. The story ends as the young man of God loses his life because he submitted himself to illegitimate authority with poor fruit. This caused him to disobey the instructions which the Lord had given him and took him off the path of safety that the Lord had given to him to follow.
The young man was called a man of God, signifying his character. He was never called a prophet until the old prophet wanted to flatter him and manipulate him which the young man of God fell prey to. If he had stayed on course with the instruction the Lord had given him, had he waited for the title “prophet” to be granted by the proper authority he would not have died prematurely and Israel would have had a great prophetic ministry through him in time. Instead he was called “The man of God who disobeyed.”
His disobedience was not a willful disobedience, such as Adam who willingly sinned, but such as eve who was deceived. In the end he received honor because of his true ministry and true prophecy (2 Kings 23:17,18) but had he judged the other prophet by his fruit and remained on the course for training that the Lord had for him he would not have died prematurely.
This young man of God had powerful gifting and a great calling. Had he discerned the bad fruit with the old prophet and continued in obedience, I believe that he would have been know as one of the sons of the prophet and eventually a prophet.
The sons of the prophets were those who were called to prophetic ministry who submitted themselves to a proven prophetic leader for instruction and equipping. This began with Samuel with his school of the prophets, and continued on through the years through other prophetic ministries such as Elijah and Elisha.
The company of sons of the prophet were used in many ways to bring the word of the Lord to the people of God, to kings and those in authority. In a time when not all of God’s people had the spirit of God upon them the prophetic ministry was of paramount importance in providing the people of God with the word of the Lord. The beauty of the training of sons of the prophet into the ministry of the prophet is the mentoring and expansion of the gifts which was available by the fellowship of those called to prophetic ministry.
Prophets are servants to God and to mankind, but gifting does not insure character. The gifts are received by faith, but fruit comes through character. Fruit is drawn out through service to others. Building upon the character of a believer, represented by the description “man of God”. Using the relationship, discipleship and covering indicated through the description “son of the prophet” a company of prophets was raised up and provided to the people of God which brought the benefit of the true ministry.
Jesus said “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.” (Matt 10:41a). Receiving the reward of prophetic ministry is a powerful blessing when it is accepted. In days gone by the ministry was honored and not profaned. Keep in mind the ministry of a prophet can be profaned by those who will not receive it and also by those called to it who act prematurely because they have neglected the stages of development.
In the church today we have great need of prophetic ministers who have the character and fruit of a man or woman of God proven in their lives. We have great need of prophetic mentors who will help to train and equip those with prophetic gifting, this also requires the willingness of those with the character and calling to prophetic ministry to submit themselves in a relationship such as that exemplified by the “sons of the prophet” seen in both the Old and New Testaments.
Similarly, building upon the concept of the school of the prophets and the fellowship created thereby, there is a possibility of a company of prophets working together for the benefit of all. (1 Sam 10:10; 19:20; 1 Cor 14:29). Where there are a “company” of prophetic ministers willing to fellowship and work together for the benefit of the Kingdom, righteous judgment will be the result.
It is too bad that the perception of the prophetic ministry is one of a loner, but this is generally the view that people have of a prophet. I do not believe this is a biblical viewpoint. This is not to say that one called to prophetic ministry must not be able to stand alone if necessary. In fact, I believe this is a Christian trait, not necessarily a prophetic trait. However, not all Christians manifest the ability to stand alone when necessity calls, yet it is a requirement for a prophetic minister and he will no doubt be tested in this area as he matures.
It is imperative that the prophetic ministry receive insight and revelation directly from the Lord. However, since we all “know in part” therefore we only “prophesy in part” (1 Cor 13:9). For those who are truly desirous of a bigger picture then all the stages of prophetic ministry are a requirement.
If we will grow in the character of Christ, manifesting the fruit of the spirit, our foundation will be laid. If we will come into relationship with mature prophetic ministry yielding our gifts and calling for the good of maturity that comes with discipleship and training. If we will receive proven prophetic ministry and build a fellowship or company of trusted fellow prophetic souls, we will find that the Lord will be more than happy to reveal His plans. I believe we are in more need of hearing God’s plans than ever before.
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret [plans, council] to His servants the prophets.
Lloyd C. Phillips
The Fellow Laborers’ International Network (FLInt Net)
P.O. Box 113
Missoula, MT 59806 Phone (406) 251- 5730