John 15:3—You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
For nearly 20 centuries we have enjoyed the completed Word of God. So much so that the extreme value of a speaking prophet does not often cross our minds. But clearly, throughout God’s story with the Vine, the Father has strategically used the spoken word of a prophet to cleanse His people by confronting their sins, challenging their thinking, or changing their direction. But in the verse above, our Lord presents himself as a prophet with words that had a cleansing effect on these branches. We may often think of Him as an interceding high priest or a coming king but not so much as a prophet. In this earthly ministry, He often used questions as a tool to stop His audience (whoever it was) in their tracks. His authority quickly dismantled fleshly opinions and direct lies.
He is a present and perfect prophet. Moses spoke of Jesus when he proclaimed that God would raise up a prophet just like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Until Jesus, Moses was Israel’s first and greatest prophet, one whom the Lord knew intimately (Exodus 34:29-30). Not until John the Baptizer was there another prophet greater than Moses. After John the Prophet came the one of whom Moses wrote. John himself testified of Him (John 1:19-27). So we can conclude that Jesus was and is Israel’s greatest prophet thus by the Holy Spirit becomes the ultimate Prophet to the branches. When the Son of God proclaims the Word of God by the Spirit, it becomes a sharp two-edged sword in the heart of the child of God (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Such a powerful word transforms the believer’s heart and becomes a mighty weapon in his hand.
As I write this and look back over decades of preaching, I wonder how many times I have substituted the pure Word of the Spirit with clever stories or outlines, fleshly statements, or blustering loud tones?! O Lord, help us to stay out of the way so the still, yet powerful small voice of the Spirit can shatter wills and bring true repentance. Be encouraged; Jesus is still preaching through the Holy Spirit. He is still convicting the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment to come (John 16:7-8). Our audiences may hear our voice and never change, but when they hear God’s voice through the Spirit, the Spirit compels them that something must change.
The Prophets of History
There is not enough place in this article to even mention all the prophets from Moses to Jesus, but when referred to by Jesus in His teaching, the prophets made up one-third of the sacred, inspired scriptures. Jesus encouraged the downtrodden disciples on the road to Emmaus, after His resurrection, by pointing out all the things concerning Himself in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:27, 44). Abraham confronted the rich man in hell with the authority of Moses and the Prophets as being warning enough to save a soul from hellfire (Luke 16:30-31). The prophet’s voice was more powerful than one returning from the dead.
The Spirit of Christ in the Prophets
I am always fascinated with Peter’s words in I Peter 1:10-11. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
Bottom line: The prophets searched carefully about Jesus, and preached clearly about the sufferings and glory of Jesus because the Spirit of Jesus was testifying in them!
The good news is that the same Holy Spirit that informed and empowered the prophets of old is the same Holy Spirit that informs and empowers our messages today. On top of that, we have the completed text of scripture. This should set our hearts aflame with confidence and expectation as we humble ourselves and engage the Holy Spirit to empower His word as we teach and preach in the Vineyard. We must never underestimate the value of Christ’s words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the branches to make them clean. So, preach the Word accurately, authoritatively, in the filling and the power of the Holy Spirit. It is dynamite to the soul!
Prophets in the Church Today
Jesus led captivity captive and has given gifts to men. He has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:7-12). These are called ministry gifts that Jesus gave to the church.
The prophet is also mentioned as a motivational gift in Romans 12 (Romans 12:6). The idea here is to speak forth with the pure heart to expose sin, exalt righteousness, proclaim truth, and call to repentance.
“Since the completion of scripture, prophecy has not been a means of new revelation but is limited to proclaiming what has already been revealed in the written Word. Even the biblical prophets were preachers, proclaimers of God’s truth, both by revelation and reiteration. Only a comparatively small amount of what they preached is recorded in the Bible as God’s direct revelation. They must have continually repeated and re-emphasized those truths, as preachers today” (MacArthur’s Study Bible, page 1748).
On a Practical Note
I am not a prophet. My gifting is more of a shepherd, exhorter, teacher. My great motivation is to share new insights to encourage the sheep and be a helper of their joy (II Corinthians 1:24). Years ago I realized that sometimes the sheep need a prophet gifted to plow up the fallow ground. Sometimes the sheep become tone-deaf to the same voice and need a new voice to startle them to come out of the status quo. The Puritans would use the words light and heat to describe their messages. Sometimes our preaching needs the heat of the prophet so that the sheep will respect and respond to the light they already have. Calling on other voices of prophetic nature can be beneficial. Churches that have been given great light are good candidates for a reviving when the prophet drops in the plow of conviction under the direction of the Holy Spirit. That is how we come clean. Our “green thumb” Father has graciously used the voice of His Spirit through the voice of every true prophet to purify His Vine. So count on Jesus to cleanse the branches by His Spirit as you preach the Word. It’s the Father’s way.
The Father greatly used prophets in the Vineyard.
Moses was Israel’s first prophet.
Jesus was Israel’s greatest prophet.
Prophets were timely, strategic, prolific, and authoritative.
The Holy Spirit was the Spirit of the prophets.
Jesus gave prophets to the Church.
Prophets reiterate God’s truth in the Church which results in conviction and repentance.
Be alert to tone-deafness and the call of a prophet.
A Touch of Tozer
We may have differing opinions about the symbols and details of prophetic warnings, but God’s truth is here. We cannot get around it. Into history, into our world, the horsemen of the Apocalypse will come riding forth in God’s time. Dare we imagine we can live in pampered opulence—not even remembering to pray for this dying world—and still believe we will be ready for that hour when our Lord will call His people home?
As a minister of God’s Word, I add my caution to every caution and warning God has given us. If we are wasting our time and money and energy in foolish play, it will be tragic for us in that awful, coming hour.
I pray for myself. I pray that I may be more detached from this world and from its evils and its selfish systems. I pray that I may recognize that soft, silky deceptive voice that is opposed to our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that I will be able to stand with the overcomers even if it means that everyone around me is an enemy, even it means martyrdom.
Everything I read these days tells me we are experiencing a great new wave of interest in spiritism and devil worship. I take this as one of the signs that God’s age of grace and mercy is approaching the endpoint. It is evident that the time may be near when He proclaims: “I will have seen enough of mankind’s sin, rebellion, and perversion. It is time for the trumpets of judgment to sound!” . . .
In our day, we have seen the vision dimly, and we can only confess that we do not understand it all. I have said it before. Let us not get involved in trying to decipher all the minute details of God’s plans. The great central truth is what matters: When God gets enough of this world’s sin and violence and rebellion, He will do something about it!
God intends to restore the unity of His creation. He will sort out the good from the bad. He will halt the infection of evil. He will balance the scales of justice.
The Tozer Topical Reader, Volume 2
“Prophecy” p. 128-129