“The Holy Spirit – giving you spiritual gifts” (2). – The gift of prophecy
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We want to address ourselves to five questions today:
- 1. Is Prophecy for today?
- 2. What is Prophecy?
- 3. How does it work?
- 4. Who can Prophesy?
- 5. How can I do it?
NB Prophecy and Scripture. Scripture is the inspired infallible authoritative word of God. All prophetic gifts today stand under the authority of the Bible and subject to it.
To deal with the initial question:
- 1. Is Prophecy for today?
We will just treat this briefly as it was covered in depth in the last session when we looked at the “cessationist debate”. Notes about this are on the blog. The position we adopt is the “non-cessationist” position which is summarised thus:
- All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the whole of the church age.
- God gives them to individuals as he sees fit
- They are given to build the body of Christ
- The body of Christ can not reach maturity without them
- We should therefore seek them and exercise them
In obedience to the word of God, therefore we earnestly desire to function in the gifts of the Holy Spirit – especially to prophesy 1 Corinthians 14:1
[ Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues ] Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
2. What is Prophecy?
This is an absolutely critical question: if we want to exercise this, we have to know what it is! The difficulty with this arises because, like many words, the meaning can be different according to the context.
For example in much of the Bible it clearly refers to the inspiration of scripture:
20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (1 Peter 1 v20-21)
But we also have examples in Old and New testaments of people who were prophesying but were clearly NOT writing scripture: Saul prophesied, along with many others – and their utterances never came to be recorded in Scripture. Philip had four daughters church is who prophesied – but their words were not Scripture. Agabus was recognised as a prophet, but his words were not recorded in scripture. In the church in Corinth Paul said that “two or three prophets should speak” – but they were not writing words of Scripture.
Vine says prophecy “signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God”
Grudem says “By the time of the New Testament, the word “prophet” meant “one who had supernatural knowledge” or simply “spokesman” (Grudem)
Both of these definition are useful and indicate that there is a wider meaning to prophecy than the anointing that enabled people to write scripture.
- So our working definition of prophecy is:
- “The speaking out of something revealed by the Holy Spirit”
- By this definition the believer is acting as a spokesman, or reporter, of something that God has given them.
3. How does Prophecy Work?
It is possible to miss the blessing by being over-analytical – but a brief analysis of how the gift operates will help us here.
In the above flowchart, we start with God. God possesses every piece of knowledge, information, encouragement, rebuke and wisdom. There is nothing that he does not possess (in accordance with his character). So he is perfectly able, and willing, to give pieces of his revelation to his children. This is “revelation”. It can come by something gently coming to mind, a Scripture, a vision a picture – or a myriad of other ways.
When that happens, this individual processes it, evaluates it and makes a choice as to whether or not to share it, in what way, to whom and when. Utterance is when they decide to share it in their own words (as a spokesman, or reporter, not a medium), and the process of evaluation and testing by the leadership of the local church then follows.
This process is quite simple and it is clear that there is both a supernatural and a human element. The process commences with God – but the processing, delivery and testing is human.
4. Who Can Prophesy?
The passage from Romans 12 may help:
Romans 12 v.3-8
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
It is clear that there is a gift of prophecy – in other words there are some for whom the use of the gift is a regular occurrence and they are effective in it. However that deos not restrict it’s use to those who are gifted, any more than showing mercy or giving generously is limited to those who are gifted. In other words – you can prophesy – and shuld aspire to do so!
So finally – how?
- 5. How Can I Prophesy?
Believe that this is for today – God will not enable you to prophesy unless you believe that it is possible for Him to do so. Many cessationists when they use phrases like “God laid it on my heart” or “God quickened this Scripture to me” are in fact prophesying, although they would dispute it!
- Believe that it is for you – the Romans Scripture shows that this is something that all believers – including you – are able to do
- Actively desire it and pray for it –1 Cortinthian 14 v 1 requires you to desire to do this,
- Be available – you are a player, not a spectator – our meetings need to be team events, not spectator sports!
- Recognise that you are spiritually qualified – we often feel that we are not spiritually qualified to minister in any way. But when God says that we are qualified – we have no right to doubt it! The perfect life of Jesus has been ascribed to us – we are qualified!
- Keep short accounts with God..and others. Notwithstanding the point above, sin comes between ourselves and God. But when cleared up by confession we are quite able to hear God. One of the greatest barriers to hearing God is unforgiveness – make sure that there is nothing standing in the way of you hearing God.
- Be expectant – every day expect God to use you to speak his word, Come to every meeting with a sense of expectancy
- Seek to build and to bless – remember that prophecy is to build up others
- DEVELOP YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!!!!! – nothing equips us to prophesy more than a close walk with Him. The normal disciplines of the Christian life, prayer, the word, obedience, fellowship are critical to anyone who would move in prophecy.
- Learn to know the voice of God – how does God speak to you? Learn to hear his voice and respond to it.
- Be bold and take risks –ultimately, if we want to bless others there is a risk of embarrassment, it’s just a risk you have to take.
- Speak in English – these are your words directed to others for them to understand. Make sure they are in plain English – not super-spiritual gobbledegook
- Avoid the first person –you are speaking as a spokesman, not a medium: therefore phrases like “The Lord says:…” are inappropriate, and indicate that the prophecy has already been judged, The suggested formula is a phrase like: “I feel the Lord may want to remind us…”
- Offer in humility and submission “God opposes the proud…”
- Invite and submit to evaluation – the evaluation and testing of prophecy is a key element of the process. If someone does not welcome this, then their contribution is not wanted.
- Recommended Reading
- “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” Jack Deere (1993)
- “Surprised by the Voice of God” Jack Deere (1996)
- “The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Testament and today” Wayne Grudem (1998)