“Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
We read about prophets in the Old Testament as well as in the early church. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a prophet is “One who utters divinely inspired revelations.” It seems like the Bible is full of divinely inspired characters and prophets, but what about today? Do we still have prophets in the church?
Several members over at eBible.com had the same question. eBible is an interactive platform for reading and studying the Bible. Users ask questions and spark discussions on all kinds of topics, including church conflicts, salvation, and the authority of scripture. Below is a summary from one of our top contributors on eBible. I found it fascinating and I hope it helps answer this question for you!
The Purpose of Prophets
The gift of prophet seems to have been a temporary gift given by Christ for the laying of the foundation of the church. Prophets were foundational to the church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord to the early believers. Sometimes a prophet’s message was revelatory (new revelation and truth from God) and sometimes a prophet’s message was predictive (see Acts 11:28 and 21:10). The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people.
Are there true prophets today? If the purpose of a prophet was to reveal truth from God, why would we need prophets if we have the completed revelation from God in the Bible? If prophets were the “foundation” of the early church, are we still building the “foundation” today? Can God give someone a message to deliver to someone else? Absolutely! Does God reveal truth to someone in a supernatural way and enable that person to deliver that message to others? Absolutely! But is this the biblical gift of prophecy? No.
Always Come Back to the Bible
Whatever the case, whenever a person claims to be speaking for God (the essence of prophecy) the key is to compare what is said with what the Bible says. If God were to speak through a person today, it would be in 100% complete agreement with what God has already said in the Bible. God does not contradict Himself. 1 John 4:1 instructs us, “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 Thessalonians 5:20-21 declares, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” So, whether is it a “word from the Lord” or a supposed prophecy, our response should be the same. Compare what is said to what the Word of God says. If it contradicts the Bible, throw it out. If it agrees with the Bible, pray for wisdom and discernment as to how to apply the message (2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:5).