Thursday, July 07, 2016

Personal prophecies

"Agabus' prophecy concerning Paul"
Image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 21:17-40

TO CHEW ON: "When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, 'Thus says the Holy Spirit, "So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles."' Acts 21:11

"Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done." Acts 21:33

The brutal beating and arrest that Paul experienced in our reading today were part of a bigger story. A little context:

- Just before this Jerusalem beating, Paul had concluded his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:14).

- At the last several stops, he had been warned not to go to Jerusalem. In Tyre " … disciples … told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem" - Acts 21:4. Then at Caesarea Agabus " … took Paul's belt etc..." (verse quoted above) - Acts 21:11.

But Paul went anyway. Was it a mistake on his part? What about the personal prophecies we see delivered here—were they a legitimate word from the Lord? Should we be seeing such personal prophecy ministries in our churches.

Such ministry does happen in Pentecostal and charismatic churches, but it can be abused. Jack Hayford addresses the issue of personal prophecy in a sidebar article of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible. He lists five safeguards against personal prophecy abuses:

1. The "word" will usually not be new to the mind of the person addressed. (This was true in Paul's case - Acts 20:22-24; 21:4.)
2. The character of the person bringing the "word" ought to be weighed. (Agabus had a reputation as a prophet - Acts 11:28; 21:10.)

3. Remember that the prophecy or "word" is not to be considered controlling. In other words, such prophecies should never be perceived as dominating anyone's free will.

4. All prophecy is "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9) which means as true as the "part" may be it does not give the whole picture. (Paul's arrest led to a trip to Rome and an opportunity to share his testimony there.)
5. In the light of a "word" we should prayerfully consider that word as Mary did the shepherds' report (Luke 2:19). 
(All green-shaded areas are quotes from "The Issue of Personal Prophecy" by Jack Hayford, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1531.

Paul was certainly not taken by surprise when he was mobbed, beaten, and bound. Instead he not only kept his wits about him but, as we will see tomorrow, used his infamy as a platform for his testimony.

Dear Father, help me to be in tune with You and Your Spirit, regardless of the way how You choose to speak to me. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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