Here is a teaching I did back in 2000 about discerning prophetic words. I’ve added some more thoughts to it recently.
Perhaps this will help us some in knowing what is true and what is false.
This is a teaching that I believe is very important for us as the body of Christ.
As we grow in our callings and prophetic gifts and abilities, it becomes more and more crucial that these Words are discerned properly, and that they come from a clean and a pure heart.
It becomes very easy for other things to come in that can add a mixture to the pure stream of God’s river and prophetic flow.
Now, we also don’t want to go obviously to the other extreme, where the “spirit will be quenched either,” and we “despise prophecy.”
“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil,” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.
Below then, are four things which become important for us to use as criteria so that we can then properly judge or discern, prophetic words.
Hopefully then, we can come to mature manhood as a church, and will be able to know the voice of God as He is calling us to come up higher.
Perhaps we know of some of these things, but do we practice them; do we put them to use?
If we don’t then, we are accepting EVERYTHING that comes our way in a church service, a gathering, conference, or across our computer screens.
There are so many voices out there in the world, and there are also perhaps, many “voices” which we have heard and seen from the prophetic community — some are good and pure; but others leave us with a taste of cardboard and are defiled.
To be sure, “We prophesy in part and we know in part,” and I am not referring to a type of perfectionism here, but merely so that we can develop and use better discernment towards the prophetic.
- Does it bear witness with your spirit that it is of the Holy Spirit?
- Does it line up with the word?
- Don’t judge a word out of “presumption.”
- What is the spirit of the prophet? Does it line up with spirit of the message?
- Content flow, clarity — Is it simple… is it readable, is it clear… or is it muddled? Does it change persons in the midst of the word?
1 Here is where discerning of Spirits is important.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said, (1 Corinthians 14:29).
Others should “weigh carefully” what is being said, or “discern” the message, whether it be from God or not.
*It is interesting to note that we are told here in scripture that if something is given to someone else who is sitting down, then they should give their message, and the first speaker should stop. Now, this obviously needs to be done in a decent and orderly fashion.
“And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged,” 1 Corinthians 14:30-321.
I wonder how often this sort of thing happens.
The first speaker then, must have enough sensitivity to know when to stop speaking, so that someone else will be able to speak forth his or her message from The LORD.
We also have some solid teaching in 1 John as well:
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” 1 John 4:1.
We need to be more like the Bereans:
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” Acts 17:11.
They examined the scriptures every day and checked to see what Paul was saying was indeed true. We need to be of the same mind.
2 Obviously the prophetic word needs to have as its basis, the content of what can be substantiated in scripture.
Any true prophetic word will not violate or go against the simple truths that may be found in scripture.
I believe that those who are young in the prophetic gift prophesy a word from The LORD, which is mostly scripture in content.
What I mean here is that much of the prophetic word can be found “word for word” in scripture.
As we grow in our maturity and are more experienced with hearing from God, He then can trust us with words that have as their content, more of a directional flow, or are more profound in content.
They still will have as their basis and foundation though, the foundational truths which may be found in scripture.
In other words, they will build-up and edify, while at the same time, they will point to the severity of God as found in His judgment for a nation or an individual.
3 When we judge a prophetic word out of our own presumption, we are not accurate in our discernment.
Presumption, meaning to “presume” something is true to not, comes from our own opinions, ideas, and biases.
We can very easily become “swayed” by what we hear in the news media, other friends, or books we have read.
God wants us to follow after His Spirit so that we can correctly know what is true and what is not.
To presume means:
- To take for granted as being true in the absence of proof to the contrary: We presumed she was innocent.
- To constitute reasonable evidence for assuming; appear to prove: A signed hotel bill presumes occupancy of a room.
- To venture without authority or permission; dare: He presumed to invite himself to dinner.
- To act over confidently; take liberties.
- To take unwarranted advantage of something; go beyond the proper limits: Don’t presume on their hospitality.
- To take for granted that something is true or factual; suppose: That’s the new assistant, I presume.
4 By this I mean, is the message angry, does it have a sense of self-pity, or is it coming from a spirit of being hurt?
It is so very important that we “empty ourselves,” and not carry things inside us that may well cause a root of bitterness to spring up, or that could obstruct the prophetic flow.
These things can easily creep in, and taint the message of the word that we speak.
We are called to build-up and edify the body of Christ, not to scold or embitter others.
Does the message portray attitudes that come out of unhealthy or damaged relationships with others, or can we see a patient and fruitful character portrayed in the word which is given?
I am not saying that there will not be judgment in any of these words, nor correction, nor anything less than the “full counsel of God.”
5 God is not the God of confusion, but He wants us to understand what He is saying to us. Thus the message needs to be one of clarity and not to be obscure.
“Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:7.
By this I don’t mean that it is wrong for a prophetic word to change from a word which is spoken from the Father’s heart to that of Christ.
It becomes very important who our audience is also in the prophetic word, which is given.
There are times I have seen Words which say, “My daughter”, or “My jewel,” and this Word has been sent out to the entire body of Christ and even posted on a site.
These types of words are NOT meant for the entire body, but are PERSONAL words that should be kept by the individual.
In the content of the message, are there words which seem to single out the person speaking as if they are more important, or “above others?” If so, then the Word is coming from a source other than God.
We are called as servants not that others would “serve us.” We need to ask God for wisdom and ask Him “who” the prophetic word is for and He will inform us.
If it is a word for a specific church or group of people, then ask The LORD when and how to deliver it.
If it is for an individual or simply something said for one’s self, then ask Him about that as well.
Finally, if it is for the body of Christ at large, and is “universal” in nature and content, then:
“Then The LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay,” Habakkuk 2:2-3.
Original version: July 24, 2000
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to The LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?