Prophecy: Prophecy is the gift of grace God gives members of the body of Christ by which they can receive and communicate messages He gives them for others concerning present or even future situations. (Listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6)
Today’s Bible reading
But, if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. — Jeremiah 20:9
More thoughts for meditation
I Corinthians 12:28-9 — “God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets…Are all apostles? Are all prophets?”
Ephesians 4:11 — “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets.”
The word is prophetes (prof-ay’-tace)—an inspired speaker.
Romans 12:6 — “If one’s gift is prophesying, let them use it in proportion to their faith.”
The word here is propheteuo (prof-ate-yoo’-o)—to foretell events, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office.
Prophecy is a gift God gives the whole church (1 Cor.12:28-29; Eph. 4:11; Rom. 12:6); it is a gift we should desire (1 Cor. 14:1) and not despise (1 Thess. 5:19-21).
The spirit of prophecy provides the necessary wildness that must be part of every church. Everyone is filled or at least influenced by the Holy Spirit, so revelation and supernatural insight are like an animating force that gives the group its mystery, excitement, and sense of being bigger than just a social circle. The fire of prophecy is dangerous and Paul does not want us to quench it: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything” (1 Thess. 5:20-21).
The church has often accommodated itself to social order of or its contexts. It is not called the Roman Catholic Church for nothing, or Southern Baptists and PCUSA for that matter. The polity of the church is often hierarchical and resembles the governments of the world. The pope is a king, and many pastors are, too. In the U.S. most churches are run by a corporate board and try to be democratic. There are reasons to be orderly according to commonly understood principles. The presence of prophets in the church balance out the orderly instincts of many; they often helpfully disrupt the homeostasis and allow for change and development to happen. We all need a bit of the prophetic in our lives: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Not all believers are prophets (I Cor. 12: 29) but all believers can, apparently, prophesy (1 Cor. 14:24,31,39). Circle of Hope has an open dialogue built in to allow for the prophets to speak. We see ourselves as a prophetic witness to society, not an aspect of it.
The gift of prophecy
The prophet made it in to all three of Paul’s lists. When he lays out elements of a typical meeting in 1 Corinthians 14 he spends a lot of time on the prophets: “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy (v.1)…Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace” (vv. 29-33). This gift is integral to how God moves us.
Prophets edify, comfort, encourage, exhort and convict (Acts 15:32, 1 Cor. 14:3, 24-25). Unlike Old Testament prophets, their role is not primarily to guide, since everyone is filled with the Spirit and has access to God.
The chief prophet is Jesus. All prophets are subject to Him and His revelation (Deut. 8:15,18 quoted in Acts 3:20-23). Some commentators say the prophet is also subject to the Bible and will not contradict it. Obviously, the Bible does not say that since the New Testament was not written to refer to when it was being written. But the New Testament letters do say that people must discern the authority of the prophet. Paul defends the authority of his message vigorously. People agreed he spoke from God and preserved his letters in the New Testament as a result (2 Cor 10:1-6).
Sometimes, the gift of prophecy may be used to reveal or disclose (even the future). This is the use that engenders all the stories and which moves people deeply, like when a prophet unveils someone’s direction or secret sin. More likely, the prophet gives God’s message for the moment in relation to a particular situation faced by the group or by individuals.
Prophecy can have three possible sources, so it needs to be tested.
- The Holy Spirit (2 Sam. 23:2; Jer. 1:9; Acts 19:6,21:11).
- Evil and lying spirits (Isaiah 8:19-20; 1 Kings 22:22; Matt. 7:15–20, 8:29, 24:11,24; Acts 16:17)
- The human spirit (Jer. 23:16; Ez. 13:2-3)
There is quite a bit of teaching about how to guarding against excess. This gift is prone to that.
1) Use the spiritual weapons indicated in scripture:
- tests (Deut. 18:20-22, 13:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4:1-6)
- the gift of discerning spirits (I Cor. 12:10)
- the general discernment of all receivers of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14:29) .
2) Study the scripture relating to prophecy and the history of the church. (I Peter 1:16-21)
Further study material
- Old Testament prophecy: Exodus 4:10-16, 7-1-2; Deut. 13:1-5; 1 Sam. 9:6-9, 23:2-4; Jer. 1:1-19, 24:1-10; Isaiah 6:1-13
- Prophecy in Acts: 2:14-18; 9:10-19; 10:1-48; 11:27-30; 13:1-3; 15:32-35; 16:6-10,16-18; 18:9-11; 19:1-6; 20:22-23; 21:4, 8-14, 22:17-21; 23:11.
- Prophecy in Paul’s letters: 1 Cor. 11:2-6, 12-14; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 3:4-6, 4:11-16; 1 Thess. 4:14-18, 5:19-22; 1 Tim. 1:18-19a, 4:13-14 (see Acts 16:1); 2 Tim. 1:6-7.
- Prophecy in Peter’s and John’s writings: 2 Peter 1:20-2:3; John 14:26, 16:7-15; 1 John 4:1-6; Revelation 1:1-3, 9-19; 13:11-17.
Suggestions for action
Pray: Burn in me Holy Spirit and help me not to quench that fire, but to let it out.
There is probably a lot more prophecy in our lives than we notice. A lot of post-Enlightenment thinking is boiled down to an argument between two extremes (binary thinking). So our environment has a lot of “this or that” in it. But there are many people who sing, write, speak and act from a third or fourth way. As a church we are persistently looking for the “third way.” If you are convinced by either/or, it might be hard to open up to the prophetic spirit. Sit back and let God massage your distinctives for a minute. You don’t need to desert all your core beliefs to listen.
Who are the prophets in your immediate environment? Our communication industry is so pervasive, you may be mostly influenced by prophets you don’t know personally. The Bible does not know of any of those kind of untestable prophets (or only testable in principle or abstraction). Who offers prophecy to you who can be tested? You know their strengths and weaknesses and can see how their words seem beyond their personality. Maybe you should reconsider what God has given you in them.
Do you despise prophetic utterance? That habit is apparently common enough for Paul to forbid it. If we despise it, cynicism, arrogance, perfectionism, hopelessness and ignorance might dominate us. What about you? Ask Jesus about it.