REVIEW OF "GROWING IN THE PROPHETIC" BY MIKE BICKLE
The person writing this article has pastored charismatic churches and does not subscribe to cessationism as classically understood.
Cessationism, though it has many variants, is generally the idea that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are no longer operational in the Church today. Our view is that the gifts are, in fact, operational in the Church of our day but that what is taken for a manifestation of the charismatic gifts is often a misidentification. This is particularly so, we believe, in the case of prophecy as understood by Mike Bickle and by the prophetic movement in general..
We do not want to quench the Spirit nor do we want to despise prophesying (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19). However, to misidentify something that is not a Holy Spirit given gift is to make a potentially serious error.
MIKE BICKLE'S VIEW OF PROPHECY
So much hinges on Mike Bickle's view of prophecy. If he is incorrect in his understanding of the nature of prophecy, then a serious, even dangerous error has been committed.
Prophecy for Pastor Bickle seems to be the speaking out of inner knowledge that is alleged to owe its origin to the Holy Spirit. The form, content and accuracy of the prophecy may vary from person to person depending on the "level" of their prophetic ministry.
This view of prophecy is becoming standard in many Pentecostal and charismatic churches. At one point we held to such a view as well. However, it is not a view that springs naturally and easily from the pages of the New Testament. It is traditional more than anything else, a view that has become accepted by virtue of long usage and wide acceptance in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.
For instance, "God says He is desiring to build up His Church in love" is accepted as prophecy by many, but it is something that is true by virtue of what the Scripture already acknowledges in many ways. A prophet speaking to a particular person in a congregational meeting announces, "God is setting you apart for His special end-time ministry" is so general as to apply to all Christians. Are these examples of true prophecy or are they a declaration of the heart, mind and soul of the "prophet"?
WHAT IS PROPHECY?
Prophecy is not easy to define. Some say it is the proclamation of the Word of God, a presenting of the Gospel of salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Others say it is predictive in nature, foretelling future events. Yet others say it is the declaration of words of admonishment, correction, exhortation and/or comfort based on biblical principles. Still others see prophecy to be a mixture of one or more of the above.
Perhaps it is easier to say what prophecy is not. Prophecy is not a public or private announcement of the impressions a person receives in his/her mind. Prophecy is from God, a proclamation of the Word of God; it is not a declaring of the mind of a person however spiritual and biblically literate he/she might be.
Through a Christian's Bible reading, theological studies, exposure to teaching and preaching and other sources, concepts and images are formed and reflected upon. A reservoir of spiritual and biblical data is accumulated. From this storehouse impressions come to us. Expressing these impressions is normative and acceptable, but to call them prophecy is wrong and dangerous.
As leaders in the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's we engaged in what we thought was prophecy. Confidently we would declare the message of God for an individual, or so we thought. Our intentions were the best. We would sometimes anoint a person with oil, lay hands on a person and wait for the words from God to come to us. It was exciting, the very words of God spoken in our midst. After some time though we backed off of the prophetic ministry. A number of unhealthy things were occurring. One, people began to hold the "prophet" in special awe, a mixture of admiration and fear. Two, people were becoming dependent on receiving messages from God and were becoming dependent on the prophet. Three, it became an all consuming ministry, everything else paled in importance to receiving a "word from the Lord." Four, different prophetic ministers were giving contrary prophecies to the same person. Five, people were becoming fearful of not submitting to the prophetic word of God. Sometimes acting on the prophecies would have produced tragic consequences. Six, people were becoming disillusioned with the ministry and the prophets when the prophetic words did not come to reality.
Our "prophesying" was really a speaking out of the impressions we had in our minds. We were honest and sincere; we spent time with people and listened to them. We wanted God's very best for them. But we made a mistake by misidentifying the nature of prophecy. We could just as well have spoken the same words and identified them as our feelings and impressions based on our view of the Scripture. When we said "Thus saith the Lord," we were guilty of misrepresenting God.
What is prophecy? We may not know for certain. There is little information concerning just what prophecy is in the New Testament. And, it is to the New Testament we must look and not the prophets of the Old Testament. Currently it is said that God is raising up prophets in the Old Testament mode. But where is there proof of this in the Scripture itself? One does not have to be a dispensationalist to see that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is decidedly different in the two Testaments. The prophet Jeremiah said that each person would be taught individually by the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Jeremiah 31:31-35). Could it be that what some portions of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity often call prophecy is not prophecy at all?
IMPRESSIONS OR PROPHECY?
It is fine to declare our impressions to people. This is generally what we do all the time in conversation and preaching and teaching. We take what we've learned and apply it to specific situations. This is a common means of communication. However, when we label our impressions as prophecy we have crossed the line.
PROPHECY AND THE OCCULT CONNECTION
Making a connection between prophecy as often experienced in the recent "revival" and "prophetic" movements and the spiritistic and occult world must be done very carefully. Guilt by association is not a credible undertaking. At the same time, observers may make certain observations.
Psychics (clairvoyants, astrologers, palm readers and a whole host of others), through their spirit guides or other spiritistic mechanisms, reveal details of a person's life and will predict events to come in the person's life. This is the common fair. This is not Holy Spirit prophecy. The psychic information may be completely correct and the predicted events may indeed come to pass. Still it is not prophecy from the Holy Spirit, but it is powerfully seductive to both the psychic and his/her subject.
Accuracy of a prophecy is not a guarantee that the "prophet" heard from God. The sole criteria for judging prophecy must be whether it agrees with both the letter and "spirit" of the Bible. God may indeed do new things, but we believe never as to set aside the revealed written word. God has given us a means whereby we may ascertain truth and that is through the living Word, Jesus, and the written word, the Scripture.
We do not want to quench the Holy
Spirit or despise prophecy. A wrong view of
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