Dr Augustine Deke
TESTING individual prophecies can often be difficult.
What every Church needs is a prophet who has a proven track record, a person who is known for speaking the word of the Lord.
It is easier to test prophets than individual prophecies. A prophet can be watched over time to see if his life is bearing fruit for the Lord (Matthew 7:15-20). Every church needs a proven prophet who can be trusted to bring a reliable word when one is required.
Many modern Christians are afraid to reject anything spoken by one who claims to be a prophet or prophetess.
Jesus warned that false prophets and deceivers would come upon the earth, and that even some of the elect would be deceived by them (Mark 13:22,23).
False prophets have been present in the world in every age, but they are particularly common in times of crisis like our present age. We have seen a great outburst of prophetic activity, with all kinds of individuals and cults claiming to have the truth.
In this situation the church not only needs prophets who speak God’s truth, but must also learn to discern the true from the false. Whenever God releases a particular gift in the world, Satan tries to release a counterfeit of that gift.
We can be sure that as God restores the prophetic ministry, Satan will try and raise up false prophets. People-driven prophets are not God-driven prophets. In most cases it’s the followers who persuade prophets to speak what people wanted to hear about. This resulted in prophets lying in order to meet peoples’ needs.
“These are rebellious people, deceitful children, unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” (Isaiah 30:9-10)
When people chose not to listen to God’s instruction, they began to manipulate prophets. The vicious circle resulted in further exploitation of people by the prophets as proved by the following passages:
“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)
When wrong was supported by followers, it became difficult for outsiders to differentiate between true and false prophets. (Jeremiah 23:25-27, 23:33-35, 32. (27:10, 15)
Continuous abuse of people by false prophets tend to drift the hearers of the word away from God into idolatry. God called for such false prophets to be reprimanded. (Ezekiel 13:1-2,17)
Old Testament prophets of God were meant to be the mouth piece of God. However counterfeit prophets were there so as to mislead the children of God. God’s prophets performed miracles so as to bring people closer to God and not to man. (1 Kings 18:36-39). Focus was on God and not selfish ends. (Ezekiel 34:1-3)
Jeremiah best summarised the abuse of power by Old Testament false prophets: “They (prophets) follow an evil course and use their power unjustly.” (Jeremiah 23:10-12)
The Old Testament shows that true prophets preached repentance and directed people to obey the laws of God and not mankind ordinances. (Jeremiah 35:15)
Failure to observe or to be consistent with the dictates of the word is one of the signs of false prophets. African prophets seem to be embracing and importing more of their cultural norms in their discharge of duty, without considering biblical backing. (Isaiah 8:20). The economic condition of the continent has immensely contributed towards the evolution of religion within the context of prophets and their subjects.
In Africa, this false theology has created a new breed of prophets that operates within the unholy trinity: me, myself and I. Their message and theology has been shaped around their quest for social and economic emancipation.
Each time people seek divine intervention in their social and economic lives, they tend to be vulnerable to abuse and bribes. (Micah 3:11). Another motivation of false prophets is wealth. (Ezekiel 22:25)
Prophecy has many connotations in the African context. The thin line between prophets in African religion and African Christianity has further raised questions in orthodox Christianity.
- Dr Augustine Deke is Adjunct Professor at Team Impact Christian University. He also lectures at Zimbabwe Theological Seminary and the Associate College of Great Zimbabwe University. Feedback: [email protected]
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