Lesson 8

The Authority of the Prophets

(1 Thessalonians 5, Acts 21, 2 Samuel 12, 1 Kings 13)
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Introduction: What authority is given to prophets? Are all prophets given the same authority? Don't all true prophets have the same source? If the prophet perfectly relays the message from God, then the answer is easy: the prophet's message is God's message. What if the prophet is a "low faith" prophet ( Romans 12:6)? What if the prophet lies part of the time and tells the truth part of the time (1 Kings 13)? Let's dive into the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Still Testing?


    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church of the Thessalonians. He has a number of "bullets" in closing to guide them. If I told you to "be joyful always," could you do it? With sufficient determination could you constantly muster up joy?


      1. If you say "no," joy is not like that. Do you think there is a connection between joy and the instruction to "pray continually" and "give thanks in all circumstances?" (I think so. We can determine to pray and give thanks. Joy, however, is an attitude. Being grateful and in contact with God are keys to joy.)


    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. What do you think it means to "put out the Spirit's fire?"


      1. Is this more than just putting out the Holy Spirit?


      2. What if it also said "don't let the Spirit burn too hot?" Would something between "out" and "hot" for the Holy Spirit make you more comfortable?


        1. Would "don't put out the Spirit's room temperature warmth" be consistent with this text? (As a member of a non-charismatic church, I often hear or read members negatively refer to the "charismatic movement" or being "Pentecostal." I think such an attitude is terribly dangerous. The Holy Spirit should be in our life and His presence should be hot. Fire is hot.)


      3. What does it mean, as a practical matter, to hold a statement in contempt? (The worst kind of contempt is just to ignore something.)


        1. If we are told not to ignore prophecies fired by the Holy Spirit, what does that mean we should do?


    3. Read again 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Does this testing refer to prophecies? (Are they part of "everything?" If so, then the answer is "yes.")


      1. Is the "test" for the prophecy or the prophet? Once we have a true prophet, should we stop testing?


      2. Let's think about this a moment. If you are constantly testing the words of the prophet, are you treating them with some degree of contempt? (In general, I presume people are telling me the truth. However, probably due to my litigation background, I have a little mental meter that is constantly running which registers inconsistent statements when others are talking to me. Am I holding others in contempt? I hope not.)


      3. In the United States, magazines will have ads with a beautiful, young woman running through a sunlit, grassy field with birds and butterflies all around. The ad is for a prescription medicine that will help you overcome some medical problem. This is followed by at least one page of small print explaining how in some cases the medicine could make your nose fall off or could kill you. Lawyers, no doubt, are responsible for the small print. Every week I read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in writing these lessons. Although I'm not a prophet, if you don't test what I write I will be disappointed. It is no contempt (in my case) to test.


    4. Read Acts 21:8-11. It looks like Paul had no shortage of prophets around him. I count five, not including Paul or Luke (who was recording the event) in these verses! What is the message from Agabus the prophet? (That if Paul goes to Jerusalem he will be arrested.)


    5. Read Acts 21:12-14. Is Paul treating the words of Agabus with contempt?


      1. What about the words of Luke - who says that he was also pleading with Paul not to go to Jerusalem?


      2. Our study is about the authority of the prophets. Why would the Holy Spirit give Agabus this message if it were not to warn Paul against going to Jerusalem?


        1. Would it be beneficial to Paul to know the future, even if it did not change his plans?


      3. The people said "The Lord's will be done." What is the Lord's will here? That Paul go or not go to Jerusalem? (If you continue to read Acts 21 you will find that Paul was arrested when he arrived at Jerusalem. There followed years of imprisonment, and an appeal to Rome. If Paul did not die during this imprisonment, he likely died shortly thereafter. At least we know that Paul considered what Agabus said, he did not ignore him.)


  2. Nathan and David


    1. Read Mark 12:35-37. Let's look at this for a different purpose than Jesus had in mind. Was King David a prophet? (Yes. He is not only the author of sections of the Bible, but here he is predicting the future.)


      1. By citing David, is Jesus affirming David's authority to speak for God? (Yes.)


    2. Read 2 Samuel 12:1-7. Is Nathan a prophet?(Yes.)


      1. Has Nathan written a book or section of the Bible? (No.)


      2. What kind of authority does Nathan (a prophet without a Bible section) have over David (a prophet with Bible sections)? (Nathan was delivering the word of God - and David realized it ( 2 Samuel 12:13).)


        1. How did David realize it? (At a minimum, David recognized from the Ten Commandments that stealing was sin - especially when the rich are taking from the poor.)


      3. Why didn't God just speak directly to David? (He probably was - and David resisted.)


      4. If, prior to Nathan's visit, David was giving advice on marriage, would you test his statements?


      5. In this story, is Nathan making up new rules? (No. This is part of paying attention to the prophet - is the message consistent with old messages?)


  3. Evading the Roaring Lion


    1. Read 1 Kings 13:1-5. It is hard for me to stay away from this story. Is the "man of God" a true prophet? (Performing miracles is not enough for us to say, but the fact he was warning against false worship, and he fact that he is giving God's word tells us he is a true prophet.)


    2. Read 1 Kings 13:6-10. Why does the prophet not have lunch with the King? (God had given him specific instructions about not eating.)


    3. Read 1 Kings 13:11-15. What should be the answer to the invitation of the old prophet? (No. Same answer as was given the King. The young prophet gave the correct answer. 1 Kings 13:16-17.)


    4. Read 1 Kings 13:18-21. How can God say the young prophet defied God?


    5. Read 1 Kings 13:22-26. Is the old prophet a true prophet? (God spoke through him - see 1 Kings 13:20 - and what he warned came true. In addition, in 1 Kings 13:31-32 we find that he confirms the message to turn away from false worship. The commentators disagree on whether the old prophet is a true prophet, but we know God did indeed speak through this old prophet.)


    6. What lesson do we learn about the authority of prophets from this unique story? (Their statements need to be consistent with prior messages from God.)


    7. How would you apply this to modern-day prophets? (All modern prophets have to be tested against the Bible. We have a great store of messages from God in the Bible. If we reject the old message, in favor of a conflicting modern message, we might be eaten by a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).)


    8. Friend, would you like to avoid becoming lion chow? If so, will you listen, and not ignore, the message of those with the gift of prophecy? Will you test them against the Bible?


  1. Next week: The Integrity of the Prophetic Gift.

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