Pudding, Praise…and Prophecy
4 October 2017
Five questions to be answered in this session:
• 1. Is Prophecy for today?
• 2. What is Prophecy?
• 3. How does it work?
• 4. Who can Prophesy?
• 5. How can I do it?
Taking them in turn:
1. Is Prophecy for today?
The is a part of the “cessationist” debate. Cessationism is the view that many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ended at the end of the apostolic age, when the Canon of Scripture was complete. There is not time or space to spend a long time on that today, but it has to be acknowledged that this is a serious theological position held by many great saints throughout the ages.
However, our position as a church is that we are “ continuationists ”. We believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to Jesus’ church throughout the church age, which began at Pentecost, and which will end at the second coming. We are in the era prophesied by the prophet Joel, and quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost:
• “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”
For a robust, and, frankly, unassailable defence of continuationism, Jack Deere’s book “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” is excellent.
2. What is Prophecy?
This is key question.
We have to first of all differentiate it from the Old Testament prophets who spoke words direct from God, and whose words became inspired Scripture. The NT word for prophet means more like an “inspired spokesman”. There is no sense at all that NT prophecy is equal to Scripture. On the contrary, everything that everyone says has to be tested with reference to Scripture.
As Isaiah said: “If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn”.
Before we try to define “prophecy” in the New Testament let’s look at some examples from Acts, the only inspired church history we have.
• The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 7v29)
• While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” (Acts 10v17)
In both the example above we have the Spirit communicating directly with the believer.
• Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off….the two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…. (Acts 13v1-3)
This is a turning point in the history of the church. And it came about by prophecy in the midst of a church meeting. How we need this to be the norm in our churches! (NB – note that teaching and prophecy are identified as different gifts)
• During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 10v27-29)
Again, a major initiative in the life of the early happens because of the voice of the prophet!
Then we have some teaching on the subject in the book of 1 Corinthians:
• “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort” (1 Cor14v3)
• But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14v24ff)
Prophecy is there to upbuild believers and to challenge and convict unbelievers. How can we say we don’t want it?!
So..what is it?
Wayne Grudem’s definition is very helpful. He says that NT prophecy is:
“Telling something God has spontaneously brought to mind”.
This definition de-mystifies something that is natural to the Christian. Basically, we receive something from God and pass it on.
3. How Does Prophecy Work?
God, who has all the knowledge in the universe, chooses to share some of it by means of a
Revelation to an individual, who then
Processes that revelation and makes a
Choice as how how to deal with it. That revelation is then
Spoken by the individual who has received it and it needs to be
Evaluated by those who receive it.
It may be delivered publically ,privately in prayer or counselling – and even in writing. It is left to us to use our judgement as to how we pass it on.
4. Who Can Prophesy?
Just like there will be a gifted evangelist, who functions nationally and locally, and we are not all evangelists – yet everyone is called to witness and evangelise – so there are different levels, giftings, anointings of prophecy.
The Ephesians 4 Prophet
• So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4)
This is clearly a high-profile prophet – the kind of person who may call a nation to repentance, given major directional input to a church of groups of churches
The one gifted in prophecy
– Philip’s daughters?
The person gifted in prophecy is likely to be locally based in church, who God uses in a local church context to minister in this way. The prophet Agabus, may have been such a one. Also in Acts 21 we read
Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Philip’s teenage daughters all prophesied. What Youth group that must have been. How we need people in the church who can hear from God and speak into situations!
The ordinary believer.
In the passage in 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of the ordinary believer, and encourages all to seek to prophesy.
• “Follow the way of love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy”
• “I would like each one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy
• “You can all prophesy in turn so that each one may be instructed”
• “Be eager to prophesy”
It is clear. We can all prophesy and contribute to the church in this way.
5. How Can I prophesy?
Here are fifteen suggestions for prophecy in the local church:
Believe that this is for today
• Believe that it is for you
• Actively desire it and pray for it – if we follow Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians, to eagerly desire prophecy is a requirement for the mature church.
• Be available – you are a player, not a spectator
• Recognise that you are spiritually qualified – God always uses sinners as his spokespeople, because the righteousness of Jesus is credited to us.
• Keep short accounts with God..and others
• Be expectant
• Seek to build and to bless – the whole purpose of this gift is to build up others.
• DEVELOP YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!!!!! – we hear God as we spend time in His presence. As Philip Greenslade said: “Only a warm bed stands between me and being a prophet”
• Learn to know the voice of God – this is something developed over years – even a lifetime.
• Be bold and take risks – sometimes we will get it wrong, and risk looking silly. Do we love God and other enough to take that risk?
• Speak in English – a prophecy does not have to be in King James English to come from God. Normal, English, normal intonation is the standing order!
• Avoid the first person –when we say “I am saying, says the Lord..” we are doing the evaluation for the person receiving, it is up to them to test what you are saying to determine what God is saying to them if anything
• Offer in humility and submission
• Invite and submit to evaluation – as Paul says to the Thessalonians “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good”
These are just pointers. As we learn to listen to the voice of God and to speak what we believe He is saying to others, we will grow, be blessed and be a blessing.
Let’s ask God to make this a normal part of our Christian experience and our church life