Every new year, someone seems to have a “prophetic word” to speak over God’s people. Or maybe you’ve known someone who said some very hurtful things to you, but they claimed it was the Spirit speaking through them.
The Holy Spirit is powerful. He often speaks through his people. He can supply conviction, truth, comfort, and encouragement. Words are very powerful tools.
Unfortunately, some Christians claim to speak in the Spirit and may use that as a reason to say whatever they want. So how do we differentiate the two?
In today’s article, we’ll discuss how to tell when someone is or isn’t speaking in the Spirit, and the dangers of saying things God never said.
Why Do People ‘Fake’ Speaking in the Spirit?
I want to be clear that this article doesn’t take a cessationist view. We’re not debating the gifts of the Spirit in this one.
In this article, we will discuss the idea of claiming that the Holy Spirit has placed something on someone’s heart to say to another Christian.
Although God does still speak to people, people can take advantage of others’ lack of discernment. When there’s no accountability or wise counsel to check them, people can get away with saying anything “in the Spirit” if they want to.
The question is, why do people do this? Several reasons.
1. It allows them to abuse people. Sometimes people want to be hurtful. They want to say something that will devastate you. But they also hope to appear to be holy. So they will tell you, “I think God told me to tell you this.” On a personal note, someone close to me did this very thing this past year. I want to draw a clear line here between conviction and condemning. This person went after my character, insecurities, and worth and said some things I will have to untangle for the rest of my life.
But the sad thing was they did it all in the name of the “Spirit.” Considering I have a very heavy gift of discernment, I can tell who was NOT speaking through that person. But they used “the Spirit is speaking through me” as an excuse to bludgeon me.
2. It allows them to appear more prophetic. Even in Paul’s day, prophecy and tongues were far more coveted than some other spiritual gifts. Paul shuts this misconception down quickly (1 Corinthians 12). In many Christian circles today, having the gift of prophecy can be seen as making someone an “elevated” Christian. Sadly, even in some churches, if you don’t have certain gifts of the Spirit, people question your belief in the first place.
Someone may fake saying a prophetic word in the Spirit solely to stay in the good graces of their Christian peers.
Some may also fake saying a “good prophecy” in the Spirit’s name because they know certain ears are itching to hear a good word. I see this all the time for single Christians. Someone will say to them, “The Spirit is speaking to me: this is your year to find your future spouse.” Yes, it could be that year. However, these speeches are often given indiscriminately to large groups (or possibly posted on social media sites). Certainly not everyone seeing that Tiktok video will find their kingdom spouse in that given year.
There were many instances in the Old Testament of false prophets who said what people wanted to hear so they could make a profit.
3. It allows them and others to get away with sin. Let’s imagine you claim the Spirit speaks through you and says it’s okay for you to cheat on your wife. To get into that affair with that woman. To continue to live a sinful lifestyle. In these cases, it’s not the Spirit speaking through you.
Although this type of false prophetic gift may be used less than the former two, it still happens. People can claim anything in the name of the Lord.
I advise serious discernment for any of these three types of so-called prophecies. And so does the Bible. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about false prophets.
What’s the Bible Say about Faking Speaking Through the Spirit?
The Bible doesn’t take too kindly when people speak falsely in God’s name. We could label most of these people as false prophets, or at the very least, in deep trouble. Too many people have used God’s name and faked his word to gain power, hurt people, and live whatever lifestyle they want.
Let’s see what the Bible says about this.
– Deuteronomy 18:20 dictates the death penalty for such people. Although we no longer live under the Law of Moses, God took very seriously when people would do and say things in his name that he never commanded.
– Jeremiah 14:14 says people will fake prophecies and visions, so be careful. This happened around the time that Babylon invaded Israel. The fake prophets told Israel someone would rescue them and defeat their enemies. That never happened. False prophets can give false hope.
– Matthew 24:24 indicates these types of people will one day be a sign of the times. People will speak fake words of God in the last days to make Christians complacent or steer them off their spiritual journey.
– 2 Timothy 4:3 says people will pretend to speak God’s word so they can live however they want. This will cause people to walk away from the truth.
Clearly, the Bible shows that God doesn’t like it when people put words into the mouth of God that were never spoken.
So to avoid falling away from the truth, how do we know when someone speaks to us through the Spirit or the flesh?
3 Signs Someone Has Spoken to You Through the Spirit
Let’s uncover some ways to know the Spirit has actually spoken through someone.
1. The Spirit will speak Scriptural truths. God speaks to us through the Bible. Nothing he has to “say” to us now will contradict his words in Scripture. Because God remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Malachi 3:6). If someone speaks a “word” to you that blatantly goes against what Scripture teaches, they have spoken to you through the flesh.
2. The Spirit will convict, not condemn. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to hold one another accountable when we sin. But the Spirit has a way of stirring us to do what is right (John 16:8). If someone has said something to you that triggered a depression—in my case, suicidal depression that led to an eating disorder—that is not of the Spirit.
3. The Spirit will seek to glorify God. God does not delight in sin. He hates it. The Spirit would not allow someone to fall into habitual sin simply because “everyone is doing it these days” or they “don’t feel like the Spirit is telling them no.”
Feelings shift. Feelings can be deceptive. What stands true is God’s stance against sinful behavior.
Be wary, brothers and sisters. Satan prowls like a roaring lion. It makes sense that he could sometimes even use God’s people to speak falsely “through the Spirit” to sway you from the path, to disobey God, or to dishearten you.
Remember that the Spirit convicts, uplifts, spurs on, encourages, clarifies, and comforts. If words spoken to you do not fit into those categories but instead downtrod, condemn, confuse, and defeat you—pray, seek the counsel of trusted Christians, be in Scripture constantly, and refuse the counsel of such a person who speaks such things.
Until they repent and speak the truth once more.