Summary: Prophesy is not so much about foretelling the future as it is announcing God's message, which more often than not is a call to repentance. God's prophetic church will call the world to repentance.
A PROPHET TO THE NATIONS
God spoke to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:4-5, ESV). Jeremiah, like all of the great prophets, felt inadequate for the calling, but God reassured him that he would not be alone, saying, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (vv.9-10).
No one man can claim the mantle of Jeremiah today. Christ made the last call and commission in Matthew 28:18-20 when He issued the marching orders of his army of 12. There are no successors to the apostles; but the body of Christ, which is being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, must carry out the commission in every age, if it is faithful to Him. Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:9-10).
THE EMPOWERING AND COMMISSIONING OF THE CHURCH
The commission began with the apostles: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20). Jesus promised the 12 that He would not leave them as orphans saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit, through Peter, extended the promise to as many as the Lord shall call (Acts 2:39). It has always been the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, for Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8). However, the Spirit has never worked directly on the hearts of sinners, but always through human agency. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).
TRACING THE PATH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
In Luke’s account of the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:46-47). The apostles did not use the word “love” a single time in sermons recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts, yet today, the airwaves are filled with preachers telling unrepentant sinners, “God loves you just like you are, and He wants you to be healthy, happy, and rich.” Paul warns of those who by flattery and fair speech deceive their listeners. While God’s love for lost humanity is the motive for His sending His son, the message of the cross is a message of crucifixion—His and ours. Paul wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom 6:6). The commission is not to tell the world how much God loves them, but to preach repentance for remission.
• “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
• “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
• “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:30-32).