We are to judge prophetic words but we do not seem to very good at it. However, Paul gave prayer for a city church that had seen wholesale revival breakout. In it, we are given a model for judging prophecy.
I am not talking some prophetic word that clear goes against the written word. We know that is a false prophecy. I am talking about people who give you a word that seems right but it still needs to be judged. (That’s all of them.)
Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus, a city church that has been rocked with revival to the point all of Asia Minor have heard about what God did there. (Acts 19-20)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:17)
Let’s break down what exactly Paul was praying for the believers. (and still is the prayer over believers today.)
Understanding the Apostolic Prayers
Insight into the prayer goes a little deeper than just what the (english) text shows us. We have to understand that we only have manuscripts, not what is known as “autograph of Scripture.” Most consider the Codex Vaticanus to be the most important of the manuscripts. The question becomes about Papyrus 46, the oldest copy of Ephesus that dated back to 175. This is of value because some of the translation work is not easy.
This is what (we believe the passage reads like in the original,
ἵνα ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ Πατὴρ τῆς δόξης δώῃ ὑμῖν πνεῦμα σοφίας καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως ἐν ἐπιγνώσει αὐτοῦ
As you can gather, this question about how to judge prophetic words is a study into the meaning of the Greek. There is a richness in the depth of what the word Paul used that breaks open our understanding of how God wants us to address the concept of prophecy.
Who is the Father of Glory?
Paul prayed that the God, the Father of Glory…. Who is the Father of Glory and what does this title for the Father mean? Paul seems to have different titles for God at different times to different churches. When he wrote to the believers at Ephesus; this was how he talked about the Father.
I think this is partly due to the understanding of the believer in Ephesus that had seen miracles, signs and wonders as a way of life. It was out of this very city that they started sending “even handkerchiefs and aprons” to people. (Acts 19:12)
They had seen what Luke called “extraordinary miracles” and even seen the false prophets known as “Seven sons of Sceva” get their butts beat up by devils.
In this context, Paul wrote, Πατὴρ τῆς δόξης as how he saw the Father. What does that mean? The word for Father means “one that imparts life.” The rest of the title is about “unspoken manifestation of God.” (“of glory.”)
In today’s Pentecostal church, we call them a “divine encounter.” Isaiah had one of these in Isaiah 6. Acts 4:31 is another example of this in scripture. Church history, especially early Pentecostal history is full of these types of testimonies as well.
It seems that Paul was praying for God, “the one that imparts encounters” because the believers that would be reading the letter have a history of supernatural events happening from the time that Paul was with them in the midst of the revival.
What is the “spirit of”
All through the New Testament, we find the mention of the “spirit of..” In John 14:17, it is the Spirit of Truth, for example. Paul opened Romans praying for the “spirit of holiness.” (Romans 1:4) John the Revelator (no idea if this the Apostle or not!) said that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:10) All through the scripture we see writers talking about having “the spirit of….”
In fact, in Ephesus 1, Paul used this type of language twice is just a few verses. He talked about the “Spirit of promise” just right before he prayed for them to have a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of revelation.
The word used by the Apostle is πνεῦμα which is used very commonly to be the Holy Spirit. It can be translated as “Breath or wind of God.” This is interesting when you think about Genesis 1:2 and the Spirit of God (which is breath in Hebrew) is hovering over the earth. The breath of God is understood to be life giving.
It seems reasonable to believe that Paul is asking God to give the believers a life of wisdom and revelation in the Holy Spirit. This is why it was so important to the first century believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:1-4.
What is apostolic wisdom?
The wisdom of this world is not the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 3:19) that Paul prayed for the faithful. It wanted them to have wisdom from Heaven like Solomon asked for. (1 Kings 3:1-15) What is the life of wisdom that he wanted the people to have?
The word is σοφίας which means to have “intelligence or skillful insight.” It is interesting that the word, sophistication, comes from the Greek word for wisdom. We understand it to be “simplified or refined” but the root for the word is actually wisdom.
It would seem that Paul was asking God to give them a life of intelligence. In this line of thinking, I would see it as military intelligence. The prayer for them to have a lifestyle of getting God’s strategy for living in this world. All through scripture we see God giving people who do His will His strategy. An example would be Ananias of Damascus when God told him to go lay hands on Saul that was out to murder him (and all his friends.) See Acts 9.
As you can see, Paul was committed to the people in Ephesus receiving divine encounters that would lead them into a lifestyle of intimacy in the Holy Spirit and walking out a life of insight from prayer.
Living in revelation
What does it mean to have a “spirit of revelation?” Is it possible to have a lifestyle of revelation? While it is possible, most people live without personal knowledge concerning the things of the Spirit. Some of it is due to bad theology and other is lack of knowledge.
ἀποκαλύψεως is a word that means “unveiling the manifestation of Christ or instruction unto divine truth.” The purpose of revelation is to unveil Jesus to you. There is 18 times that this word is used in the New Testament and it is always to be introduction of Christ in a fresh way.
In Luke 2:32, we see that we see that Jesus is the revelation of hope to the Gentiles. In Romans 2:5, Jesus is revealed as the righteous Judge. After 14 years, Paul went to meet believers based on a unveiling of Christ to present the gospel that is preached to the Gentiles. (Galatians 2:1-2) The Book of Revelation begins with the unveiling of Jesus to John.
All revelation from the Lord leads to deeper understanding of who Jesus is and His nature. Any “prophetic encounter” that does not lead you closer to the Man Jesus must be cursed. All prophecy must be judged by the reality of a deeper walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Paul prayed for the faithful to have a “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” He was asking the Lord to come and reveal to them a lifestyle of strategy to unveil the reality of Jesus for the believers.
Growing in knowledge of Jesus
What does it mean to have knowledge of Him? There is the knowledge that the world wants to have but that is not what Paul is praying for. What does it mean to have spiritual knowledge of Jesus? It might not be what you think it is.
There is 20 times in the New Testament that we see the use of ἐπίγνωσις. It can mean several things but the most clear example would be “perception and discernment of Christ.” This word is also used in Colossians 1:9 when Paul prayed that “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…”
What does it mean to discern Christ? 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 tells us that biblical discernment is to give us the mind of Christ about things. When we proper discern we have the thinking of Jesus about Himself. How we perceive the Savior of the world should be from gaining discernment from walking in the life of the Spirit.
Growing in the knowledge of Jesus is from spending time in the place of prayer and having encounters with the Lord through the scripture. This is the knowledge that we must gain, not the type the world and their teachers often.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:8)
Judge Prophecy in Jesus
As you can see, it is important that we judge prophecy through the lens of relationship with Christ. Does the prophetic word call you closer to the Bridegroom or not? It is does not call you to a closer walk with the Lord, it must be discarded.
We hear all types of prophecies go forth in our assemblies but do we stop and ask, “Will this word make closer to the Lord?” This simple question allowed us to see a prophetic word for what it is quickly. While many want to develop a theocracy in society through prophetic words; it does not hold up to the test of Ephesians 1:17.
I am not saying there is not a place for calling forth things as a prophet. There is a place for it without question. However, this should be the exception and not the rule. The calling of the New Testament prophet is to lead men into truth; not predict elections or give people direction for life. Speaking of future events should be rare, not the norm.
When we understand this truth, we do not need to wait to see if “the prophecy comes to pass.” We can know on the spot if it of the Lord or not. If someone gives a word that Brother Tom will become mayor of Small Town, Missouri. All we need to do is ask if will bring Tom closer to the Lord in his walk in the Spirit. It does not, it is a false prophecy.
Growing in the Prophetic
I hope that people come into this understanding and grow in the prophetic by growing in their intimacy with the Lord. While people seek to hear the word of the Lord, there is pain. Everything you grow in requires pain. Most prophetic voices that I know have walked through suffering and bears the marks of struggle.
I want to see people mature in the gifting of prophecy. We have a long journey from where God has called us to live into his Spirit.
The “hope of glory Christ in you” ( Colossians 1:27) is still the goal of every believer. We have to move from quoting this truth to being the embodiment of it. What happens when we walk so close to the Lord that the hope (expectation) of Glory (manifested presence) become tangible? When we walk in the Lord, the presence of the Lord comes with us?
As a student of Acts, the model of people that are full of the Holy Spirit that change their regions is something you see on about page of the book. Philip is one of my heroes of the faith. He was full of the Holy Spirit as one of the seven in Acts 6. This happened in 36 AD and he is still burning in 65 AD when Paul saw him for the last time. (Acts 21:7-9)
It is easy to burn for Jesus for a week after a conference but will you burn for 30 years like Philip did?
Let’s end this with praying Ephesus 1:17 with the understanding that we have from the biblical languages.
May the Giver of encounters grant you a lifestyle of divine strategy to unveil Christ so you can discern who Jesus is better.