THE APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC PROTOCAL
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).
Words have power. In a basic way, the very definition of life might be communication. The higher life forms in the animal kingdom are considered to be those that can communicate on a higher level. To communicate means “to exchange.” We determine that something is alive as long as it is able to communicate or interact with its environment, such as breathing the air or partaking of food. When this exchange stops, death has come.
Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (see John 6:63). We have true spiritual life to the degree that our communication with the Lord is developed and maintained. If we have spiritual communication with Jesus, people can kill our body, but they cannot kill us because our life is on a higher level.
Jesus is the Word of God (see John 1:1). He is the Father’s communication with the creation. Those who hear His voice are joined to the greatest power in the universe—the power of life. One word from the Lord and the creation was formed. The Lord did not bring forth the creation by thinking—He spoke. Likewise, the Lord did not instruct His disciples, “Think and this mountain will be moved,” but rather, “Whoever says to this mountain” (see Mark 11:23). Words are the conduit for the greatest power in the universe. The more spiritual we become, the more we will understand this.
The more closely joined we become to the Word Himself, the more precious and powerful our words will be. Someone once said, “It is amazing how few words the Word Himself used.” The more valuable a thing is to us, the more carefully we will handle it. In the same way, we will be more careful with words as we grow in our comprehension of their power. And the more careful we are with this great power, the more power the Lord can entrust to us.
Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances (Proverbs 25:11).
Words “spoken in right circumstances” are words that fit perfectly with those circumstances. Words that are spoken out of time can lose their power. Since the Lord moves in perfect order, the anointing is often connected to timing. If we are going to be used to speak His words, we must be sensitive not only to what He wants to say, but also to when He wants to say it.
Jesus’ whole life on earth was a testimony to the grace of timing. He not only knew exactly what to say in every circumstance, He knew when to say it. He knew that a gentle teaching on living waters would touch the heart of the woman at the well, who was obviously living a life of discontent (see John 4). Jesus also knew that the teaching on being born again would capture the attention of Nicodemus (see John 3). Had those teachings been given in the opposite settings, they would probably not have had the impact that they did.
What the Lord is anointing for one person or group may not be what He is anointing for another. Even though the seven churches in Revelation all lived at the same time and in the same geographic location, they all needed a different prophetic word from the Lord (see Revelation 2 and 3). For our words to have the power that they are intended to have, we must abide in the Word Himself, for He is the language of the Spirit.
Transcending Human Language
As we covered previously in 1Corinthians 2:6-16, Paul explained the importance of understanding and speaking spiritual words. This text is so important, let’s look at it again and examine it in a bit more depth.
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away;
but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory;
the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;
but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God,
which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.
For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Because the Spirit searches the deep things of God, anyone who is led by the Spirit will be on a constant quest to go deeper. Our greatest quest is to know the Lord and to be so close to Him that He will not want to do anything without revealing it to us because we are His friends.
As this text also declares, the language of the Spirit transcends human language. It is contrary and offensive to the natural mind of men. This is one reason why the Lord speaks to us through dreams and visions. He is not trying to confuse us by all the strange symbols and metaphors that dreams and visions usually consist of, but He is trying to teach us the language of the Spirit—which is much greater than human language. It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In the language of the Spirit, this is certainly true. The symbolism of dreams and visions often reveals far more than human language can. This is foolishness to the natural mind, but for those who are spiritual, it is a much higher form of communication.
Living waters come from the “innermost being” (see John 7:38-39). To speak words of true life, we must share that which comes from our hearts, not just our minds. The Jewish exorcists in Acts 19:13-16 knew about Jesus in their minds, but He did not dwell in their hearts. Therefore, when they tried to use His name to drive out darkness, the darkness rose up and drove them out.
Demons are spiritual beings, and they only respond to words that are spiritual. For our words to have the power of light to drive out darkness, they must come from the heart, which is joined to the heart of God. We only have true spiritual authority to the degree that the King dwells within us.
We have probably all heard someone teach a message that he heard from someone else. Often the teaching was much anointed when the first person taught it but devoid of anointing when repeated. That is because the one trying to repeat the teaching knew it in his mind but had not yet had it transferred to his heart.
This does not mean that we cannot ever share something which was first given to another, for every time we share from the Scriptures we do that. But the words must become “ours.” We cannot have a relationship with another person’s knowledge of Jesus—He must be our Jesus. True ministry is not just parroting knowledge. True ministry is by the Spirit, who abides in our hearts. Only the Spirit can beget that which is spiritual (see John 3:6). Also, as we are told in 1John 2:27:
And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
This Scripture does not mean that we are not to receive teaching from people, for the Lord gave teachers to His church for that purpose. However, we must recognize the anointing of the Holy Spirit working through the people.
The men on the road to Emmaus were sensitive to the spiritual words spoken to them by Jesus because their hearts burned within them. However, they did not recognize the Lord until they saw Him break the bread. Our eyes will be opened when we see Jesus as the One who is breaking our bread and teaching us, regardless of through whom the teaching comes. It is not just hearing the words of the Lord that we are after, but hearing the Word Himself.
Walking in Truth
The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once lamented that he could find ten men who would die for the Bible for everyone who would read it. This ratio is probably accurate for other Christian duties as well. We can probably find ten men who will fight for prayer in public schools for every one who actually prays with his children at home. We may have ten men or women who complain about the sex and violence on television for every one who actually refuses to watch it. This must change. Our power to be salt and light in the world does not depend just on what we believe, but on our faithfulness to live our beliefs.
Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We are utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit for bearing true spiritual fruit. Because the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (see John 16:13), He will only endorse with His presence and power that which is true.
The Lord judges our hearts, not our minds. For this reason, “heart religion” is about to take precedence over intellectual religion. However, we must never abandon our commitment to sound biblical truth. The highest levels of power will be given to those who have embraced both the Word and the Spirit. When we are abiding in the Lord, the Word and the Spirit are in perfect agreement.
The great darkness that is now sweeping the world has happened on our watch. The great release of power that is coming in Christian leadership will be the result of a deep repentance and conviction of sin which sweeps over the body of Christ. Movements that exhort men and women to fulfill their spiritual responsibilities will have a profound impact on the whole church. The repentance that resulted from the humiliations of the past decade is also about to bear great fruit.
The Lord declared, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Even though much of the humility has been the result of God’s judgment, the degree to which the church embraced the judgment has prepared her to be lifted up in the esteem of the nations. Even though the attacks and slander will always be with us, the world’s esteem for the advancing church is about to rise dramatically.
The Patience for Lasting Fruit
Some consider it a travesty that the New Testament does not take a decisive stand against the great moral evils of the times in which it was written, such as slavery, abortion, and infanticide. It is true that the first-century church leaders did not wage frontal assaults against these evils. However, it was not because of negligence or irresponsibility; instead, they had a higher strategy for using a greater power. They did not just flail at the branches of human depravity—they put the ax to the root of the tree.
With focused, unyielding concentration, the apostles of the early church maintained their frontal assault on sin. They drove back the spirit of death by lifting up the Prince of Life. When the issue of slavery did arise in his letter to Philemon, Paul did not attack the issue of slavery directly, but rose above it by appealing to love and the fact that the slave, Onesimus, was a Christian brother (see Philemon 10-11). This may offend the penchant for militancy that issue-oriented activists usually have, but it is the way of the Spirit. As even the secular historian, Will Durant, observed, “Caesar tried to change men by changing institutions. Christ changed institutions by changing men.”
The way of the Spirit is to penetrate beyond what a frontal assault on issues can usually accomplish. There are times for bold confrontations, but usually the Lord works much more slowly than we are willing to accept. This is because He is working toward a much deeper, more complete and lasting change. The Lord works from the inside out, not the outside in.
The “divinely powerful” weapons are about to be reclaimed and used on an unprecedented scale by the church (see II Corinthians 10:3-5). As intercessory and spiritual warfare movements continue to mature, the results will become increasingly spectacular. Even so, the most powerful weapon given to the church is spiritual truth. Facts can be “truth,” but spiritual truth is only found when knowledge is properly combined with life. It is when we live what we believe that we embrace spiritual, eternal truth. As the church begins to live the truth that she knows, her light will increase and shine into the darkness.
Light is more powerful than darkness. Love is more powerful than hatred; life is more powerful than death. As we begin to walk in the light, the love and the life of the Son of God, we will put darkness and death to flight. The power of the church lies not just in her ability to articulate the truth, but to walk in it. This is the foundation of the great release of power that is coming to the body of Christ.
The Greater Wisdom
The way of the Spirit is practical. He is working to have the will of God done on earth as it is in heaven (see Matthew 6:10). We, too, must be committed to seeing practical fruit. However, our desire not to be “so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good” has often resulted in our becoming so earthly minded that we are not doing any spiritual good. If we impact men spiritually, it will ultimately result in earthly good, but the reverse is not true. If we only impact institutions and outward behavior, we may change the facade of things, but we have not dealt with the roots, and they will sprout again.
It is not just bearing fruit that counts, but bearing fruit which remains (see John 15:16). In order to bear the fruit that is eternal, we must learn patience. We are exhorted to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (see Hebrews 6:12). The great wisdom that is about to come upon the church is to see from the eternal perspective, which will impart the essential ability to plan with strategy and vision for lasting fruit.
The original apostolic burden—to labor until Christ was formed in His people and to present all men complete in Christ (see Galatians 4:19, Colossians 1:28)—is still the true burden of apostolic and prophetic ministries. We are called to be like Christ and to do the works that He did. When this is achieved, He will be so lifted up by His people that all men will be drawn to Him. This will always be the greatest fruit of prophetic ministry, and indeed any ministry.