Introduction: There is a very curious thing these days in
Christianity. If a church claims a modern-day prophet, then
all other modern prophets are false prophets. If a church
does not have a modern-day prophet, then all modern prophets
are false prophets. Why is “false” the default setting for
modern prophets when Joel 2:28-29 and Romans 12:6 seem to
say the gift will be widespread? Let’s dive into our study
and see if common notions about evaluating prophets are
Biblical notions!

  1. Test One – the True God?

    1. Read Deuteronomy 13:1-3. Let’s say the prophet
      tells us that in 90 days a meteor will destroy Las
      Vegas, and that happens just as predicted. Is this
      a true prophet? (According to this text, we don’t
      have enough information to decide.)

      1. What additional information would be required?
        (You would have to know whether that prophet
        led people to the true God.)

      2. What prophetic “test” arises out of
        Deuteronomy 13? (Being accurate in your
        predictions proves nothing. The true test is
        where you are leading people to the true God.)

    2. Read 1 John 4:1-3. Would John agree with the
      Deuteronomy 13 test? (Yes! If a prophet
      acknowledges that Jesus is from God they are a true

  2. Test Two – One-Way Accuracy?

    1. Read Jeremiah 27:16-22. What problem is facing the
      people of God? (They have prophets telling them two
      very different things. Jeremiah tells them that
      Babylon is going to steal more of the temple
      furnishings. Other prophets say what has already
      been stolen will soon be brought back.)

      1. Would “Test One” help sort out this conflict?
        (No. All the prophets say they are relying on
        the true God.)

    2. In Jeremiah 28:1-4 we find a specific illustration
      of this conflict. A prophet named Hananiah
      contradicts Jeremiah on this point. Read
      Jeremiah’s reaction in Jeremiah 28:5-6. What is
      Jeremiah’s reaction to this prophecy which he
      considers to be false? (He says “I hope you are

      1. Is there a lesson in this for us today?

      2. Which message do you think the people would
        want to believe: that of Hananiah or that of
        Jeremiah? (Hananiah. He is saying positive
        things about the future. He is giving the
        “pro-country,” “pro-God” message.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 28:7-9. We just learned that being
      accurate proves nothing. Is Jeremiah saying
      something else?

      1. Isn’t Jeremiah’s test a little self-serving?
        He says to Hananiah “You are a true prophet
        only if your prophecy comes true, but I’m a
        true prophet whether or not what I say comes

      2. Is there an issue about whether a prophet is
        saying things the people want to hear?
        (Assuming you are claiming the true God for
        your source, Jeremiah says being accurate only
        proves something if you are saying what the
        people want to hear.)

      3. Is there any logical reason why two different
        tests should apply depending on the message?
        Why would we have a different test depending
        on whether the prophet is saying something
        that is popular? (The natural heart would say
        the popular thing. That is why being accurate
        is important then.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 18:5-10. What problem arises with
      using accuracy as a test of a true prophet? (The
      people can change. If they repent they can avoid a
      bad prediction, if they sin they can lose a good

      1. If you are not confused by now, you should be.
        Can you ever use accuracy as a test of a true
        prophet? (Considering all that Jeremiah says,
        it seems that accuracy (whether the prediction
        comes true) only works as a tie-breaker.
        Instead of applying a one-sided test, Jeremiah
        is saying to Hananiah “We both acknowledge the
        true God. In a conflict between two
        apparently true prophets, you decide who is
        speaking for God by the accuracy of the

        1. How much help is that? You cannot tell who
          is a true prophet until whatever they have
          been disputing happens. (It doesn’t help
          on that problem, but it would tell you who
          to depend on in the future.)

    5. Let’s look at one last text on prophetic accuracy.
      Read Deuteronomy 18:21-22. Would this prophet be
      leading people to the true God? (It seems so – for
      the prophecy is in the name of the true God.)

      1. Doesn’t this reinstate accuracy as a proper
        test of a prophet?

        1. If so, of what is accuracy a test here?
          (It seems we are looking at an otherwise
          true prophet who gets carried away and
          says things in the name of the Lord that
          reflects the prophet’s own thinking.)

      2. What do we do with a presumptuous prophet?
        (Read Deuteronomy 18:20 and compare it with
        Deuteronomy 18:22. Why would we be told not to
        fear someone who is dead? What I think is
        being said is that prophets who speak for
        other gods are to be put to death, but a
        prophet of the true God who speaks
        presumptiously (inaccurately) should not be

  3. Test Three – Divine Intervention

    1. Read Jeremiah 28:15-17. What bright-line test do
      we find here? (This is a nice and clear test: God
      removes the false prophet.)

  4. Test Four – Past Revelation

    1. Read Isaiah 8:19. If you want to get accurate
      answers, where should you look? (Ask God.)

    2. How can we tell whether God is speaking to us
      through the Holy Spirit or through a prophet? (Read
      Isaiah 8:20. You check the accuracy of the current
      message by past revelations you believe are from

      1. What are the “law” and the “testimony?” (I
        believe the law is the gold-standard Ten
        Commandments (written personally by God). If
        you read through Isaiah 8, testimony refers to
        testimony about God. Thus, this is the
        familiar test of whether the prophet is
        leading people to the true God.)

    3. Read Lamentations 2:14. How is “exposing our sin”
      consistent with the law? Are prophets supposed to
      embarrass us? (The problem with the natural heart
      is that we have an amazing ability to deceive
      ourselves that what we are doing is consistent with
      God’s will. Part of the work of the true prophet
      is to strip away this self-deception. Only when we
      see our sins clearly will we repent.)

  5. Test Five – The Tree/Fruit Test

    1. Read Matthew 7:15-19. What “fruit” is produced by a
      prophet? (This must mean the results of the
      prophet’s work. The result of their lives, the
      result of their words, the result of their

  6. One Standard?

    1. As you consider these tests, are some more
      important than others?

      1. Are some easier to apply than others?

      2. Is there a uniform standard or overarching
        test that arises?

        1. If not, is there an order in which these
          tests should be applied?

    2. Let me suggest the following multi-part test:

      1. The most obvious and easy test is whether they
        promote the true God – Jesus. If they do not,
        they are not a true prophet.

      2. If they support God, then you must take a much
        closer look to make a judgment. The closer
        look is whether they speak in accord with
        existing revelations from God and whether the
        results of the prophet’s work is Godly people.

      3. The last, and least reliable test, is whether
        the prophet predicted something that did not
        occur. It is difficult to know whether the
        prophecy failed because God changed His mind
        (because the people changed), or whether the
        prophet was false or just presumptuous. I
        would not reject a failed prophecy prophet out
        of hand if the prophet met the first two parts
        of this test. Instead, I would carefully test
        each subsequent statement.

    3. Friend, the default setting for modern-day prophets
      should not be “false.” Instead, when we find a
      “prophet” who is promoting the gospel of Jesus, we
      need to seriously consider whether that person is
      bringing us further light from God.

  7. Next week: The Work of the Prophets.