Following my previous blog ‘What the conference taught me’ , I came across a number of responses with questions about how prophecy should be tested. I enjoy receiving such questions, because behind the question I sense a sincere search for what belongs to God, what belongs to people or what even belongs to darkness. In this blog I do not want to provide a complete list of ways in which you can test the prophetic word, for example. There are plenty of books that say all kinds of things about that. I would like to give you some thoughts to reflect on. These are thoughts that have helped me to deal more relaxed with expressions of the Spirit.
The Bible as a touchstone
When I ask the question how something should be tested, the answer I often get is that a prophetic word must be tested against the Bible. That is absolutely the case, but that sounds easier than it is. The premise is that a prophetic word can never contradict the Bible, because God does not contradict himself.
At the same time, if we are to test a prophetic word or expression of the Spirit, we must also be willing to test ourselves. You test yourself by asking yourself questions and answering those questions honestly. One question could be what our motive is for testing. Is it always the case that we want to unmask the darkness or should we sometimes also recognize that testing is sometimes a means to avoid having to relate to the work of the Holy Spirit? Moreover, using the Bible as a touchstone is not without obligation. If the Bible is truly our touchstone for examining expressions of the Spirit, then conversely we should also be willing to be open toall expressions that we encounter in God’s Word. Don’t be too quick to say that we would like that, because we also encounter this event in the Bible.
Saul went to Ramah and on the way he too was overcome by the Spirit of God. He was in a state of ecstasy all the way to the prophet’s house, and when he got there he also took off his clothes and became mad in the presence of Samuel, and fell naked before him on the ground. So he lay there all day and night, and ever since they have said, Is Saul now also one of the prophets? (1 Samuel 19:23-24)
Is it from God or is it from myself?
When I give training on understanding God’s voice, the most frequently asked question is: “How do I know if a thought is my own or if it is actually God speaking to me?” In any case, God speaks to us primarily through his Word, his Logos. In that same Word we encounter many people who understand and are God’s direct speakingRhema . That spoken Word of God is very important. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4:“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” So this is what the Lord speaks directly to you that is compared to the bread that you eat daily.
God chooses to make his voice heard in a vulnerable way. A gentle breeze that you could easily explain away. This means that God wants to speak to us in a recognizable way. Young Samuel thought he heard the voice of Eli, who was familiar to him, but it was really God who spoke to him. Thoughts of God can sometimes resemble human thoughts and the trick is to become familiar with the voice of the Shepherd in walking with Jesus and reading his Word. After all, his sheep recognize his voice.
Sometimes we may also recognize that there is an overlap in what your own thoughts are and the thoughts of God. God’s Spirit communicates with our human spirit. This sometimes results in an interplay between what you think and what God wants to say. David puts this beautifully in one of his psalms. My heart repeats after You : ‘Seek my near!’ I will seek your presence, O LORD, (Psalm 27:8)
Testing the prophet
In the New Testament we encounter the prophet Agabus. The first time we meet him in the book of Acts, he prophesies that a famine would strike the world (Acts 11:28). The same verse immediately states that Agabus’ prophetic words actually came true. The utterance of those words also seems to me to be an important way to check whether a prophet really speaks words from God.
At the same time, it is very difficult for the first listeners to decide on the spot whether these are words from God. The Lord thought it was important to sound this prophecy from the mouth of Agabus, so that the church could take action. Testing against the Bible seems difficult to me in this case, so it had to be tested in a different way.
We see in verse 27 that Agabus was not alone. There was a group of prophets who came from Jerusalem to Antioch. I could well imagine that the testing of a prophetic word took place within the team of prophets. The fellow prophets tune in to God to see if they can agree with Agabus’s impression. It is interesting to see that prophets in the New Testament were not loners, but could keep each other sharp in teams. The connection with others also provides insight into what the fruit of God is in someone’s life, because you recognize the tree by the fruit.
Relationship and connection
The most important key to testing expressions of the Holy Spirit and prophecy (and words of knowledge) is relationship and connection!
It requires a good connection with yourself to understand your own motives when it comes to testing, but also to see to what extent you are open to expressions of the Holy Spirit.
It requires an intimate relationship with God to ultimately become familiar with the voice of the Holy Spirit and to deal relaxed with a possible overlap with thoughts of your own.
It requires a good connection with each other to see the fruit from the other’s perspective and to give each other healthy feedback from a relationship and in collaboration with the Holy Spirit.
We need each other to get to know the multi-colored nature of God. A prophecy or an expression of the Spirit is an opportunity to enter into conversation with God and with each other. I hope and pray that such connecting conversations will eventually lead to wonder and worship.