But how are the Children of the LORD to discern whether or not one is a prophet? Scripture, as always, provides the two-fold answer. Before addressing those two points, however, it is important to understand what a prophet is NOT.
As the apostle Paul indicated back in that passage in 1_Corinthians 12:28-31, it is not necessarily true that a prophet possesses ALL spiritual gifts. As well, a prophet is NOT to be expected to perform tasks that Scripture has called an abomination. In Deuteronomy 18:10-12a: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times ((which includes astrology)), or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits ((i.e., trying to talk with the dead)), or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD..." Thus, the Children of the LORD are NOT to expect such things of a TRUE prophet of what the world would call the so-called "cult" of CHRIST.
The first point in discerning whether or not one is a prophet is given to us later in that very same chapter, in Deuteronomy 18:18-22, in which God has said: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, which shall PRESUME to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it PRESUMPTUOUSLY: thou shalt not be afraid of him."
The second point in discerning a prophet is given to us by the apostle Paul again in that first of his two epistles to the Corinthians. Explaining that, in 1_Corinthians 14:33, "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints", Paul specifies in the very verse before it, in verse 32: "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." That is, the "spirit" (including the "breath" on which "words" are spoken) of those who are prophets must be in conformity with the prophets that have come before. That is, the words of prophets must be in conformity with Scripture.
Indeed, our Lord declared in John 10:35c: "((T))he scripture cannot be broken." In Matthew 5:17-18, He also said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall IN NO WISE pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Of course, we see God explaining why this is true, in Malachi 3:6a: "For I am the LORD, I change not".
Why are these two points so important? It is so that we be not deceived. After all, in the Deuteronomy 18 reference, we see that a prophet is indeed at risk of speaking PRESUMPTUOUSLY. Such could open the door to leading the Children of the LORD astray. As well, by not having prophets able to do ALL mighty wonders, the LORD keeps them humble, thus further preventing them from thinking of speaking PRESUMPTUOUSLY. Equally, by holding all prophets to be subject to the Scriptures before them, again the LORD keeps such prophets humble. This is so as to keep His prophets from "following the way of ((the prophet)) Balaam". (2_Peter 2:15c. See also: Numbers 22:28, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14.)
This is that against which Jesus had forewarned us to keep guard in Matthew 7:15a,16a,18,20: "Beware of false prophets... Ye shall know them by their fruits... A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." ...And a prophet whose words are not in conformity with Scripture is one who has spoken PRESUMPTUOUSLY. Such, clearly, is not "good fruit". Would such, then, at that point anyway, not clearly be a "false prophet"?
© June 4, 1995, The Standard Bearer
P.O. Box 765, O.O.B., ME 04064