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The Prophetic Mantle: Points About Prophets

The Prophetic Mantle: Points About Prophets September 13, 2018Leave a comment
prophetic mantle

This post is an excerpt from my book Hearing the Heart of Heaven which is available now. You can find out more about it, and download a free chapter, here.

There are certain individuals God calls to be prophets. This prophetic mantle – the anointing or empowering of God for that prophetic vocation – is not commonly available to anyone, but if someone prophesies, does that make them a prophet?

Whilst anyone can prophesy, not everyone does. There is always the potential though because God speaks to all His children. When someone prophesies consistently, we could say that they have a prophetic gift. If someone has a gift that seems to be expressed more frequently, with greater accuracy and authority, and people are blessed by it, we could say that they have a prophetic ministry. These would be the people that have respect and listening ears primed when they come to share. Comparison isn’t the point here – it isn’t about levels or placings on some kind of prophetic league table. I merely wanted to highlight growth, and how we can identify different levels of gifting.

So if we’ve identified someone with a prophetic ministry, does that mean they are a prophet? In fact, what is a prophet? Is someone who prophesies a prophet?  What does it mean to have a prophetic mantle? Who decides who is a prophet? Do we? Do others? Does Jesus? As our starting place, let’s examine what scripture says about prophets.

The important thing to note is that sometimes we can get our theology of the prophets primarily from the Old Testament. I’m not saying that the Old Testament shouldn’t inform and shape our understanding – it is inspired scripture, after all – but we live in New Testament times. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that the events of the Old Testament are examples and warnings to us, and he tells the Roman church that the Old Testament contains examples for our teaching and encouragement. Our first step in building our theology about anything is to always look through the lens of the New Testament. That includes our view of the Old Testament and what it teaches, as well. So to understand biblical theology about prophets, we need to know what the New Testament teaches about prophets and let that shape our understanding, as well as what we see in the Old Testament. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, talks about prophets as one of a group of ‘five-fold ministries’. His words give some insight into the definition and role of prophets: ‘When He [Christ] ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men…  And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ.’ There are a number of observations here which apply to all the fivefold ministries. However, our focus is on prophets. So what can we see?

Firstly, prophets are called by Jesus; Christ ‘gave gifts to men’. There is a specific and individual call to the prophetic office which is not a general invitation, but a unique call. We can see this throughout the Old Testament as many of the prophets had incredible life-changing encounters. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are just three to name, each give a prophetic mantle to speak on behalf of God. Clearly, prophets must be gifted in prophecy – and uniquely, powerfully so. There is an authority and endorsement that comes with a powerful prophetic gift. It doesn’t negate character, of course, but godly and mature character accompanying a strong gift are signs of a prophet. If either is missing, we aren’t talking about a prophet.

Secondly, it isn’t just about the gift, but also who the man or woman is. The scripture says that, ‘He (Christ) gave the… prophets… to the [church]. The person is the gift to the church, not just their abilities. There is something about who they are as an individual that is part of the package. Their personality, perceptions, insights and ways of thinking are just as much a part of the prophetic office as is their ability to prophesy. It is as much about who they are as it is about what they can do. This is why character is as essential to the prophetic mantle as gifting is.

Thirdly, prophets are meant to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’. Their role is to disciple, train and mentor believers in prophetic ministry. They reproduce themselves by helping others develop their own prophetic gifts. An authentic prophet is less concerned about being a superstar and more about helping others grow. 

Fourthly, prophets have a heart to see the Church flourish because they want to be part of ‘building up the body of Christ’. As such they are not only passionate about the church, but they are part of a church. As we’ve seen before, prophecy builds up, encourages and consoles people in community. Therefore a prophet understands that they must first be in a community to be able to do that, and so they also need to be in right relationship with the leaders of that community. This means that prophets are not self-appointed; they live in community with other believers and over time, let their call, fruit and gift speak for themselves to a point whereby they are recognised by the members of that community and released to minister by the community leaders. It is an unhealthy sign for a prophet to not be part of a godly community, or be covered by godly leadership. If these things aren’t present, it should raise red flags.

Similarly, communities and leaders recognise their own prophets, as opposed to being told who their prophets are. Jesus taught that prophets reveal themselves by the fruit of their lives.  Community living and submission to leadership are the best revealers of fruit. It follows that an absence of either should be a concern. The prophetic mantle is never meant to exist in isolation.

Calling ourselves ‘prophet’ doesn’t necessarily mean we are! If you feel you have a call to the prophetic office, then get involved in community, serve your spiritual leaders, walk with God and become more like Him, and trust that He will increase your favour and influence in the right time, in the right way. Healthy prophets are a blessing to the church because they are foundational in the life of the local church, so we need them!

Practising The Prophetic

We’ve seen that anyone and everyone, in the New Covenant, can hear God and speak as his representative prophetically. We’ve also learnt about prophets and characteristics of healthy prophets. These six attributes are godly character recognised by others, a strong prophetic gift endorsed by leaders and the community, a desire to disciple and train others in the prophetic ministry, a passion for the church, integration with a local community of believers, and wholehearted submission to spiritual leaders in that same community.

Ask God, and other trusted people, including your church leader, how they feel you are progressing in each of these six areas and if there are any areas of concern they have. Listen to their opinions and take their advice. It’ll help you grow.

This post is an excerpt from my book Hearing the Heart of Heaven which is available now. You can find out more about it, and download a free chapter, here.

 

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