The Litmus Test
And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ — 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NKJV
False prophets have been around since the beginning, and they will be around until Jesus returns; but how shall we know them? They look like “sheep” and sound like “sheep” (Matt. 7:15). They all start or end their prophecies by saying, “thus says the Lord.” They all seem to have an agenda that is not God’s; and, they all seem to be motivated by money, fame, or power. But what is the litmus test?
A litmus test is a test used in Chemistry, used to determine acidity or alkalinity of a chemical substance. Acid turns litmus paper red and an alkaline compound turns it blue. With respect to prophecy, “it’s a test in which a single factor (an attitude, event or fact) is decisive” (Merriam-Webster). Scripturally, the 80/20 rule isn’t applied, but rather the One Strike rule: “if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (verse 22).
Should there be a litmus test for prophets? Absolutely! We should “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, [to see] whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1. Also see 1 Cor. 14:29). The test for Prophets isn’t their anointing or charisma (Rom. 11:29); it’s not their prestige or popularity; it’s not their personal prosperity, wealth or riches; it’s not their leadership in a mega-church or their large ministry; nor is it their political power. It is just one thing! (Verse 22).
Prophecies fail because of presumption (Deut. 18:20, 22). A false prophet will be driven by presumption that is born out of his/her pride and arrogance; thus their words fall to the ground (1 Sam. 3:19). As in the case of the prophet Samuel, God has always used prophets to politically speak truth to Power through out the Scriptures. Recently, over fifty national and international renowned ministers’ prophesized the re-election of Trump, but their words failed. Why? God wasn’t in the words that they presumptuously spoke. Instead, did they comprise their ethics for a seat at the table? Did they decide to drape the Gospel in the American flag? Was it just about money, fame, or power? Or did they just speak out of their delusions and the imaginations of their mind? (Jer. 14:14; 23:26).
After applying the litmus test, what should we do? First, God says, don’t be afraid of them, i.e., don’t reverence them or stand in awe of them; second, we are instructed to watch and avoid them (Rom. 16:17); and, third, we should stay filled with the Word and the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:11; John 14:26). Beware of false prophets!