Completing the Prophetic Circuit:
What It Means to "Test" the Voice of the Lord
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
I John 4:1
Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
I Thess. 5:20-21
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. I Cor. 14:29
One of our difficulties as prophetic people is knowing how to respond to the Lord’s Voice as it finds expression through one another. A perpetual choice is set before us. We can either believe what we hear (or read) through others, or we can disbelieve it. Either response carries a risk. If we just believe what we hear, we risk believing a voice other than the Lord’s. Or, if we just disbelieve what we hear, we risk rejecting the Voice of the Lord. Quite a dilemma.
To handle this problem, the Holy Spirit exhorted us through the apostles to “test” what we hear. To test something means to evaluate it against a standard outside the thing itself. The thing is not to be taken at face value on its own apparent merits.
In our earnest desire to believe the Lord’s Voice, and knowing the consequences of unbelief, there has crept into our global prophetic mindset a decided aversion to testing any word. The idea of testing prophetic words and teachings has come to be silently but automatically associated with unbelief and quenching the Spirit. (This is partly because some of the church uses “testing the spirits” as a cover for disbelieving any present manifestation of the Spirit.)
Consequently, the global prophetic mindset lives by an unspoken motto, “Believe first, then test later (if at all.)” Especially if something is operating in a “flow,” our feeling is that the flow itself should be seen as self-verifying evidence of the Spirit’s moving and uttering through a minister. Our belief is, “Never interrupt a flow. Let it alone. If there is anything to test, deal with it later.”
What we have failed to realize however is that the interactive testing of prophetic utterance is as much a part of the Voice of the Lord as is the utterance itself. There is a mystery here, but we must try to apprehend it as much as possible. Let’s see if we can.
The Truth of Counterbalancing Dynamic
Through the passages cited above, the Lord wants us to understand that the prophetic, especially in a corporate regard, is not just about an individual’s “one-way flow of the Spirit” presenting itself as His Voice. Rather, the Voice of the Lord is a total counterbalancing spiritual dynamic, of which the flow toward the hearers is one part.
The true Voice of the Lord in the body of Christ functions as a spiritual circuit. There is a “positive” flow out from the emanator toward the hearers, and there is a return “checking” flow from the hearers back toward the emanator.
This return dynamic is sampled in Isa. 55:11, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty…” The Lord’s Voice always goes out from Him to then return to Him, completing a spiritual circuit. Likewise, in the prophetic conducting of His Word, the Lord designed there be an “outgoing flow” and a return “testing for spiritual standardization” of the flow.
As a riverbank is to a river, so is the return testing to the flow. The testing validates the channel of the flow, verifying the correct measures and parameters to every utterance. The sum of these counter-balancing dynamics together forms a complete spiritual circuit that comprises “the Voice of the Lord.”
We see this concept of circuitry in nature regarding the manifestation of energy. We have “alternating current.” We have “pulses.” We have frequency “cycles” with “ups” and “downs” in wave motion. It is the ups with the downs together, or the bursts of pulses together with the rests, that form a cycle of energy. The alternation completes the current to make it fully manifest.
The same is true of the divine energy of the Lord’s Voice. The Voice of the Lord in its completed manifestation functions as a counter-balancing spiritual dynamic of “flow” and “testing.” It does not just operate in “flow” mode. The testing is as much a part of His Voice as the flow, and is required to complete the circuit for the fruitful registering of His Voice to His body.
That the testing of the Lord’s Voice must be a part of His Voice is inescapably so. Why? It must be so because the Holy Spirit is not contrary to Himself, yet it is the Holy Spirit through His apostles Who has exhorted us to test His Voice through one another!
When we think about testing prophecy, we tend to think of the prophetic word as being “from the Lord” (or other spirit) but that the testing is somehow “merely of us”—as if of our own mind. Not so. We already know that everything we say in the church is to be “by the Spirit.” So if we have been exhorted to test, the Lord’s expectation must be that our testing is of the Spirit’s inspiration—our testing is as much “of the Spirit” as the word and the flow which is being tested.
One may object: “But that doesn’t make sense! The Holy Spirit testing Himself?—testing His own Word? Nonsense.” No, it isn’t non-sense. It is only non-sense to us because we have a distorted view of the dynamic by which the Lord’s Voice manifests. We do not comprehend the complete dynamic of counter-balance with the aspect of “return checking” as part of the Lord’s Voice.
Testing of the Christ
If we want proof of the co-equal validity of testing the prophetic, we can find it in the Lord’s own ministry. The Lord did not expect to be believed simply because He claimed to be speaking the words of the Father. He expected an inner testing process to take place in the hearers in which the Father proved to them independently that Christ was Who He said He was and that His Words were indeed those of the Father.
This is why, for instance, the Lord’s ministry was surrounded by witnesses. These included John the Baptist, the Lord’s own miracles, and the Voice of the Father to the hearer (see John 5:31-37). Jesus offered these witnesses to the Jews for the proving of His claims. He did not come without witnesses.
Again, this is why, on Peter’s confession that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus says, “Blessed are you Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven has revealed it to you.”
Jesus is saying, “Blessed are you Simon for not taking my word for it with your own ears, but that you heard it from the Father directly.” As a result of this proving by the Father’s direct revelation to Peter, the complete cycle of the Voice of the Lord was completed between the Lord and Peter.
We all know that the Word of God is likened to a seed. But the fruitfulness of the Word occurs only through the marriage of the word with the ground. That marriage involves the ground’s response to the Word, including its testing of the word. It’s this marriage that completes the Word, bringing the return of fruit—again, a return based in Spirit-led testing.
So it is to be for the church as we hear the Lord through one another. The Lord wants completed cycles of His Voice realized within and among us by our testing and proving of what we hear against the objective standard of the Father’s own revelation to each of us. The full Voice of the Lord can only be fully apprehended through completing the testing part of the cycle.
The Consequences of Untested Prophetic Flow
The untested, unproven prophetic word is both unfruitful and dangerous. Prophecy that is rejected without testing finds us guilty of pride and unbelief. On the other hand, prophecy that is received without testing automatically opens our flow (or our reception of someone else’s flow) to usurpation by false spirits. This is because untested prophetic utterance and teaching has no parameters to define its limits of application. Truth is only established through the defining of the meanings and applications of words!
As prophetic sheep, we have been trained to receive the prophetic without testing. We have been brow-beaten by prophetic ministries into guilt over sincere examination and questioning of prophetic flows. Furthermore, the non-interactive large-scale atmospheres of big prophetic meetings where ministries can speak without possibility of challenge or question have helped shield the prophetic flow from finding completion through testing.
As such, we have been trained against completing the counter-balancing circuit of return. So we have ended up with only half a prophetic circuit. We have been “short-circuited.” And by rejecting the corrective testing part of the circuit, we set ourselves up for punitive judgment later. (Though “if we would judge ourselves [now], we should not be judged [later].”)
The evidence of judgment among us is already plain. It is seen in a cumulative “dopey” spirit—in some places marked also by tomfoolery and banality—that has overtaken much prophetic ministry over time. One misapplied flow has been added to another, then to another—each faultily-founded move birthing a yet more faultily-laid move.
Fundamental premises at the base of numerous flows have never been tested and have produced fruitless churches and “moves of God” marked by specious phenomenon. We have had lots of “river” and no “riverbanks” leading to damaging displays of one-way prophetic energy—giving the unbelieving critics all the more opportunity to scoff at us.
The restoration of the prophetic voice and flow of the Spirit will never come to lasting fruition in the earth until there is a restoration of the return circuit of testing. But let me make this clear. Testing is not about mistrust, distrust and suspicion. Mistrust is a negative attitude that belongs to the realm of unbelief.
The true “Spirit of testing” is about a superior trust in the Father past what we are hearing prophetically. It is a transcendent trust that allows the exposing of any impurities in someone’s flow and leads to fruitful validated completion of God’s Voice in our midst. Testing is about the positive establishing of the “riverbank”—the parameters and limits of the flow—that prevent genuine prophetic energy from being corrupted and hijacked by false spirits and fleshly enthusiasm.
We Must Submit to Be Tested
We know it is a sign of pride and unbelief to reject the prophetic flow without testing it first. But it is also a sign of pride and unbelief if we refuse to subject our flow to the testing of sincere, faithful questioners and challengers. As prophetic ministries, we ought to crave the testing of sincere faithful hearers. And we must not allow past encounters with unbelieving critics to make us invulnerable to genuine testing.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't be confident of the authority by which we speak prophetically. We should be boldly (but humbly) confident in our words! But we should remember that confidence in our own authority should not be expected to automatically translate into the confidence of others in our authority.
If we have confidence in our authority, then we should not be afraid to be questioned. Sincere questioning of our ministry can only confirm the accuracy of what we have, or else expose a weakness in it to make it better. It can never hurt us! But if we feel our “flow” is threatened by being questioned, that is enough to tell us we have a problem.
Submission to testing helps to anchor our humility and protect us from provocation into foolish words, unbridled teachings and false predictions by counterfeit spirits. It helps keep us from finding our sense of self-worth in our “flow” instead of in Christ. And it is the only thing that makes our word and our flow totally fruitful—to us as well as our hearers and readers.
Perhaps these thoughts will be helpful to all readers as we keep pressing in together to know the fullness of the Lord’s Voice in our lives.
Many blessings to all the saints.
Riverside, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created October 10, 2005