Do prophets still exist? (part 1)

Even writing that title gives me pause, as I know that there are people who have very strong views, and I cannot claim to have a specific, direct, personal revelation from God on the matter.  (Besides, if I did, that would pretty much be the answer, wouldn’t it?)  But I can give what I hope is a reasonable opinion, which is: it depends on what you mean by the question.

Yeah, I know.  That might sound either profound or like a cop-out (or even a profound cop-out), depending on where you already stand.  But bear with me.

To begin with, the question has often been prompted by the possibility of false prophets, by the public presence of those who style themselves as prophets while making what seem to be highly questionable proclamations.  A lot of silliness can be propagated by people claiming special insight.  “God told me you’re going to be my wife,” a young man once declared to a young woman.  She thought, “Well, who am I to argue with God?” and they were married.  And later divorced.  (True story.  And I can’t tell you if they divorced because he believed God told him to marry someone else.)

Indeed, you or someone you know may have been misled or deeply hurt by those who gave blithe but unfounded reassurances in the name of God.  It’s understandable that we’d want to know whether the gift of prophecy is still valid today, and if so, what the criteria would be to determine true prophecy from false.

Paul obviously believed in the continued existence of prophecy, and false teaching/prophecy was just as much a problem in the New Testament as it was in the Old (e.g., Matt 7:15; 24:11; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1).  But in 1 Corinthians 14 at least, the existence, possibility, and boundaries of prophecy simply weren’t Paul’s primary concern.  Love, mutual edification, and good church order were.

Following that lead, we might reframe the original question: does God, through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, build up his church through the words (sometimes divinely revealed) believers speak to each other?  To me, the answer to that question is clearly “Yes.”

For example, John is privately agonizing over some issue, then receives a phone call from his friend Mary: “Hi, Johnny.  For some reason or another, God directed me to pray for you just now, and told me to give you this verse.  I have no idea why, but here it is.”  And to John’s amazement and encouragement, Mary then quotes a text that speaks perfectly to the situation he had been struggling with only moments before.

Does that fall in the category of prophecy?  Perhaps.  Does that mean that Mary specifically has the gift of prophecy?  Again, perhaps.

But these are human-centered questions.  We could ask in a more God-centered way: is the above an example of the loving and edifying grace of God?


And to Paul, it seems, that’s what matters.

(I’ll continue the conversation in Tuesday’s post.)


One thought on “Do prophets still exist? (part 1)

  1. Interesting topic. Here is what I believe, mostly without much formal theology to back it up but I’ll throw it out there just the same. I believe that there are, basically because during the end times we’ll have false prophets and to have the false we must have the true. How we are ever going to discern which is which God only knows and only His grace will prove it out.

    I believe that there are those that are called to be prophets but precious few are willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices required to walk in a prophetic ministry. In your hypothetical case of Mary, what she said and how she behaved was very much prophetic but it doesn’t make her a prophetess. I believe that from time to time the Holy Spirit touches people with the gifts of the prophet for the good of the body. We don’t hear much about modern day prophets in the churches these days; few of us want to see them and believe they are real, probably for fear that we’ll be held accountable for their words.

    How many churches that are actual Christian churches have prophets or apostles? Those two foundational ministries in particular have fallen away is disfavor. Too much authority wrapped up in them for most people’s tastes.

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