The Prophetic Word—The Gift of Prophecy

         In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul clearly places special emphasis regarding spiritual gifts on the gift of prophecy.

         It is as if he thinks it is most important. On the face of it, this makes little sense. All of the gifts are obviously important and necessary.

         Perhaps this is one of those teachings of Paul that some so-called Christians like to put in a separate category. You know, the ones they have a problem with because they’re either unwilling to understand or too rebellious to accept.

         Let’s review the verse in question:

         Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. [1 Corinthians 14:1]

         Paul certainly has the priorities right. Love must always come first or the ministry process will not work. This has everything to do with putting the Lord first in all things, but also because the Lord is Love, and love never fails.

         The second thing he tells the Corinthians is to desire earnestly spiritual gifts. These are actually spirituals, or “spiritual things,” since the word “gifts” does not appear in the original Greek. The Greek word is pneumatikos and is defined as that which is spiritual, or pertaining to the spirit. These pneumatikos are referenced in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians:

         Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

         Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

         And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.

         There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

(1) For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit,

(2) and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

(3)  to another faith by the same Spirit,

(4) and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

(5) and to another the effecting of miracles,

(6) and to another prophecy,

(7) and to another the distinguishing of spirits,

(8) to another various kinds of tongues,

(9) and to another the interpretation of tongues.

         But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. [1Corinthians 12:1-11]

        The nine spirituals listed above are directly connected to the Spirit immersion of Acts Chapter 2. In fact, they are the result, or effect of the Spirit of God working through believers.

         In 1 Corinthians 12:6, the Greek word energema is translated in the NASV as “effects,” and in other versions as “operations, working, or activities,” and is explained as spiritual things energized by God for His purposes.

         Many people have discounted this direct association primarily as a way to discount the Acts 2 experience since they personally oppose it. But this is grossly incorrect. I say this so people will no longer be deceived by false teaching. Pneumatikos are given by the Lord Jesus to His people for service in the kingdom. One of these is prophecy, and without prophesying, the Prophetic Word would be absent.

         The third directive Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 14:1 is to pursue especially the gift of prophesy. I use the term “prophesying” because spiritual energema have to do with function. If they are not being used, they effectively do not exist.

         There is the potential for spiritual pride within individuals who believe they possess gifts and are thus worthy of greater honor, and consequently appropriating titles for themselves based on what they think is a resident gift.

         However, the gift shows itself by our use of it, or its functionality, not because it is added as a title to a man-made spiritual resume. It is much more correct to state that a person functions in the gift of prophesying rather than that he is a prophet. Yet, it does not mean that a believer cannot be characterized as such if it is obvious that he functions on a regular basis in that particular place of service. This point is more important than one might think due to the desire of so many false prophets within Christianity who are more concerned with their standing among men than before God. They like the high places and open doors that come with titles. They also very much like the money than can be derived from their position.

         Real prophets, however, like real apostles, know that serving God according to their calling means that they will be treated the opposite of the false prophets. Paul states several times the perils of true apostolic ministry. It appears oftentimes that the Lord has thrown them into an evil world without much concern for their welfare. The apostles and prophets of the first century suffered greatly in their walk with God though they were very close to Him, leading us to surmise that the “initial” ministries are subject to often greater persecution, just as pioneers have it the hardest compared to later generations. False prophets, particularly those of the present, cannot relate to this and reject the entire idea. The apostles and prophets of the first century often did not know where their next meal was coming from, and that is the way God wanted it.

         For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.

         To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. [1Corinthians 4:9-13]

         Does this look like any ministers you know? (They would never allow Paul in most pulpits in America and certainly not on Christian television.)

         We must never forget as real disciples that the Lord has chosen for us a walk of faith and obedience. This is characterized as “Go here, do this.” What about the next step, one may wonder? The Lord almost always reveals the next step after a person has completed the prior step. Therefore, being a “prophet” cannot possibly be a static, entitled position associated with high standing among the Christian elite and with popularity among people in general, but one of obedience to God (not man) and functionality.

         Again, since there are nine energema, or effects of the Spirit, why would Paul single out prophesying as seemingly the most important?

         We must look at the context. He was referring to what was taking place in meetings of believers in first century Corinth. He was simply trying to explain that in open meetings it is better to speak in an understandable way, so that proper communication takes place.

         Speaking in tongues is all fine, good, necessary, and scriptural in individual prayer or prayer meetings, or in an open meeting if an interpreter is present (Paul himself wrote in verse eighteen, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all.”) Otherwise, it is largely a waste of time for the group as a whole in community meetings when people need to hear from God.

         Prophesying, on the other hand, is a Word from God spoken in the language of all, or pretty much all, and subsequently edifies the entire group. Thus, the Prophetic Word is that which is spoken by the inspiration of God and by the power of his Spirit to benefit another, and oftentimes many others.

         Moreover, groups of real believers usually contain more than one person who functions in the gift of prophecy, or should, and should thus take turns, though in polite order (see 14:29-32).

         The reason for all of this is to allow the Lord to speak to His people. If it is attempted through a way contrary to this model, or if another method is formulated which is actually in opposition to it, it generally means that the Lord Jesus is no longer in charge and has been subverted by false believers who have circumvented His authority. And if the group allows this, they are also guilty partakers.

         It should not be difficult, then, for an objective observer to note that traditional Christian church practice, regardless of denomination, is usually much different from that of first-century believers.

         This is why, for those who violate Scripture, the Prophetic Word has ceased.

         Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. [1 Corinthians 14:39] [1]

         © 2015 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Posted on May 14, 2015, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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