We can see this distinction in Acts 21:8-22. Philip had 4 daughters ‘which did prophesy’ (the gift), but Agabus was a prophet (the office). Using the gift of prophecy does not make one a prophet, but the one holding the office of a prophet does use the gift.
Four Tests Of A Genuine Prophet (The Office)
- Christ has set them in the Church (the Body). (The New Testament does not allow for independent prophets who are not acceptable to other Spirit-filled believers. The prophet is a part of and accountable to the church.)
- Other recognized prophets will endorse him.
- His predictions will come to pass.
- His ministry will be associated with founding churches, equipping saints for ministry, etc.
2. WHAT PROPHECY IS NOT: SOME MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT PROPHECY
A. Prophecy Is Not To Be Confused With Preaching
Many today insist that prophecy in the Bible refers to preaching. This robs the gift of its supernatural character. Preaching and teaching is most usually the result of prayerful meditation in the Word of God coupled with diligent preparation. In contrast, prophecy is often spontaneous and has not been prepared beforehand by the person giving the message.
Prophetic utterance is under the immediate and direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In anointed preaching, the natural mind is assisted and inspired by the Spirit. In true prophesy the mind of the Spirit is speaking through human speech organs. However, in the course of anointed preaching the gift of prophecy also may operate during the message.
B. Prophecy Is Not To Be Confused With Predicting The Future
To prophesy is not to foretell but to speak for another (in comfort). If some hidden truth is revealed, this is the word of knowledge operating within the prophecy. A word of wisdom also may be contained within a prophecy, giving a form of prediction regarding some event in the future.
C. Prophecy Is Not For Personal Guidance
1 Corinthians 14:3 says, “… he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation and comfort.” There is no reason to believe that prophecy characteristically foretells the future or attempts to direct the personal future of anyone, based upon this scripture. It is therefore not wise to seek out anyone to give you personal guidance through the gifts of the Spirit. Ask God and He will give you wisdom (James 1:5) then use your own sanctified judgment and knowledge of the Word.
Even the New Testament prophet made no effort to make people obey or follow his leadings. He left the conclusions and initiative to the judgment of those who heard his utterance. On one occasion a prophet did predict a drought, but he did not offer any advice or guidance about what should be done. On another occasion a prophet foretold the arrest of Paul in Jerusalem and while Paul apparently did not doubt the truth of the prediction, he went to Jerusalem anyway, even against the expressed desires of other disciples. Personal guidance should be viewed as a confirmation of what God has already shown you, and if there is not God given witness in your own spirit, then any proffered personal guidance should be rejected.