Just because a statement comes with the words “Thus saith the Lord” attached, or because it is couched in King James English, does not mean that it is truly a word from the Lord. Sadly, some people try to use prophecy to further their own agendas. Others are sincere, but have not developed the spiritual skills to sort out what God is saying from what arises from their own subconscious mind.
Maybe you have received a word from someone, and are not sure whether to accept it. Or maybe you think you have heard from God about something, but want to be sure that it really is God.
These guidelines will help you to check out prophetic words, words of knowledge or words of wisdom that you believe you have received personally from God, that have been given to you as a personal word by somebody else, or that are spoken out in the congregation.
1. Does it line up with Scripture?
God is the author of both Scripture and a true prophetic word. (2 Tim 3:16., 2 Pet 1:20) He does not change, and will not say something different in prophecy to what He has already said in His word. If someone gives you a “prophecy” which tells you to do something that God forbids in His Word, you can be sure it is not God.
2. Does it line up with the character of God?
Sometimes something can line up with the letter of the Word, but is contrary to the character of God – e.g. it is harsh, unloving or unjust. The letter kills, but the Spirit (who embodies God’s character) gives life (2 Cor 3:6.)
3. Does it line up with my own spirit?
As New Covenant believers we have the Spirit of God living within us. It is His job to communicate the things of God to us. (Jn 14:26). Prophecy simply confirms, or occasionally prepares us for, God’s word to our own spirit. If it does not strike a chord with our spirit, we should throw it out.
Even if it is a word of rebuke which we chose not to accept because we don’t want to know about it, if it is of God we will know in our spirit that it is true.
4. Is it true?
God is a God of truth. He does not lie, exaggerate, or fiddle with truth. If it is not true, it is not God. Likewise, if a “prophecy” appears to assume something about us that we know in our hearts is not true, although others looking at us from the outside might think it is true, then that word is not from God. He knows our hearts, and judges us according to what is within us, not according to external appearances. (1 Samuel 16:7)
5. Is it profitable?
Unlike the devil, God is not interested in tickling our curiousity. Nor is He interested in showing off His knowledge or anything else. He does not need to prove a thing to anyone. If a word is true but irrelevant, chances are it came from a psychic source not God.
6. If a time frame is given, does it come to pass in the time frame?
Deut 18:22. God knows when He plans to do things. If a prophetic word says, “Today I will do such-and-such,” and by 1 minute past midnight tomorrow morning such-and-such has not happened, it was not God. If a time frame is implied (eg personal prophecies imply that what is spoken will happen in the person’s lifetime) it must happen within that implied time frame.
However, if no specific time frame (particularly in relation to what God is going to do in and through your life) don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow. Put it on the back burner and let God cook it properly!
7. Where is it leading me/us?
Deut 13:1-5. A word might meet all the above criteria, yet still be from the pit of hell to lead us away from God. Acts 16:16-18. We need to ask, “If I take this into my spirit, will it bring me closer to God or take me away from Him?”
8. What is the spirit behind it?
Let’s look more closely at the Scripture in Acts 16:16-18. It would seem to pass the first 5 tests above. Did it line up with Scripture? Yes, the Apostles were proclaiming the Christ whose coming fills the pages of the Old Testament. Did it line up with the character of God? Yes, it was certainly according to God’s character that those listening should hear the way of salvation. Did it line up with the Apostles’ own spirits? It surely must have, for they knew who they were and to what they were called. Was it true? Yes! Was it profitable? Yes!
Many Christians today would be delighted to receive such a word, and would readily accept it as from the Lord. Yet for all that, Paul knew that this was not a prophecy from God. How? He had the spiritual discernment to recognize the spirit behind it. If it had been allowed to go unchallenged, the focus would have been taken off the message that Paul and his companions were bringing, and placed instead upon this woman as a “wonderful prophet.” Worse, it would soften up the hearers to receive other words from her – words which would have undoubtedly been just the opposite of the Gospel.
When God is active, the devil is also active in imitation and deception. Like Paul in this Scripture, we need the gift of discerning of spirits to recognize what spirit is active behind any spiritual activity.