If the gift of prophecy is to be exercised in the church today, believers must have guidelines to determine whether or not a particular prophetic utterance has come from God.
Conform To Gods Word
The first thing that prophetic utterances should be tested by is the revealed Word of God. Is the prophecy in harmony with Scripture? The Apostle John encourages us to test the prophets:
Beloved, do not believe every Spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
Any alleged prophetic teaching that contradicts what God has previously revealed demonstrates itself to be from another source. Thus a prophetic utterance must first be in harmony with what God has previously revealed. The Bible says to be on guard against false prophecies.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8).
Testify To Jesus
The second test is similar to the first. The Scripture is clear that prophecy should reveal Jesus Christ:
For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy ( Revelation 19:10). By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God (1John 4:2,3).
Prophetic utterances should magnify Jesus Christ and Him alone. In addition, if the one giving the prophecy denies that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, then that person is a false prophet. Thus, the way the prophets view Jesus character and teaching is another test that can be applied.
There is also a moral test that the prophet must pass. Is the person giving the prophecy exhibiting moral character consistent with his office? Jesus warned of these false prophets.
Beware of false prophets, who come in to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15, 16).
The fruit that people exhibit is the fruit of their doctrine and the fruit of their lives. Both of these must be in harmony with Gods Word. Does the prophet live a life glorifying to God? Is he in submission to the authority to Gods Word? Those who do not conform to Gods standards should not be regarded as prophets.
If, however, someone meets all these criteria, are we to assume that their message is supernaturally given? Not necessarily. Apart from false prophecy, there are other types of messages that may seem worthy, but are not sent directly from God. Someone can meet all these criteria and give a message believing that it was from God, yet the source can be that professed prophets own personality.
Leaders To Judge
The ones who are to judge whether a prophecy is God-given are the leaders in that particular assembly where the prophecy is uttered. The prophecies should not be spoken without the leaders commenting upon them. The basis of their judgment is a supernaturally given discernment by God.
The Bible says that prophetic utterances should be allowed in the churches. “Do not despise prophecies” (1Thessalonians 5:20).
Prophecies should not be despised, but they should be tested. “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1Thessalonians 5:21).
Therefore, with regard to prophecy we can conclude:
1. A prophet must not contradict anything God has previously revealed.
2. A prophecy must exalt Jesus Christ.
3. A prophets life must be consistent with the prophecy he or she gives.
4. Because someone meets the above criteria does not necessarily mean that the message is from God. The leaders of each particular assembly should be the ones who make the determination.
5. Prophecies should be tested, and if they hold true, they should not be despised.