The three gifts of inspiration and encouragement
The gift of prophecy. "propheteia"
The gift of prophecy is sixth in the list in 1Cor.12v8-10.. Paul tells us to earnestly desire to operate this gift in our Christian gatherings, because through it we can greatly edify, encourage, and comfort our fellow Christians. 1Cor.14v1-3. However:
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY MUST BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE PROPHETIC OFFICE.
All Christians may prophesy, but very few Christians have a prophetic ministry.
Most of the Christians who prophesy, do not possess a prophetic office and ministry, which is second only to apostolic ministry. 1Cor.14v5,24,31. 12v28. Eph.4v11. The person with a simple gift of prophecy has a local ministry; the person with a prophetic office can have a wider ministry outside of his locality. There is a considerable difference between the prophetic ministry of Agabus, and the prophetic gifts of Philip's four daughters in Acts.21v9,10. Some have no authority or ministry to predict like Agabus, and must not try. Rom.12v6. The predictive prophecies of the Old Testament, were manifestations of words of wisdom, and words of knowledge. The simple gift of prophecy does not hold the pre-eminent place in the gifts; it is prophecy that contains the mind, purposes and knowledge of God that is of supreme importance. This is seen in its most perfect operation in our Lord's messages to the seven churches in Revelation.
All Christians may prophesy, but not many regularly manifest gifts of revelation.
The simple gift of prophecy builds up, exhorts, and comforts; whereas, the gifts of revelation, direct, predict and reveal. The person with a simple gift of prophecy may sometimes manifest gifts of revelation, but that does not give them a prophetic office. It is the regular manifestation of revelation gifts on a high level of authority that proves a person has the office of a prophet. The prophetic office also manifests power gifts, which are well outside the sphere of the simple gift of prophecy. The “seer” and “prophet” of the Old Testament, and the New Testament “prophet” spoken of in Eph.4v11. and 1Cor.12v28., speak of a similar office; they both speak of a regular ministry of the gifts of revelation, and some manifestation of the power gifts.
Prophetic ministries vary a great deal in content, power and authority.
Prophets can vary a great deal in the level of power of their manifestation of spiritual gifts, some have much greater authority than others. Numb.12v6-15. The prophetic ministries of Moses and Elijah were quite exceptional in their power and authority, and were recognised as such. God even likens the ministry of Jesus to the ministry of Moses, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, LIKE UNTO ME; unto him ye shall hearken.” Deut.18v15,18,19. Prophets vary greatly in the content and type of their ministries, as well as in the power of their ministries, and the importance of their prophecies. This can be clearly seen when we compare the detailed prophetic revelations of Daniel with David's psalms, which consisted mainly of psalms of praise, worship and instruction; but also including a few remarkable and important predictive prophecies. Acts.2v25-36. There can be great variety in prophetic ministry.
Prophets should develop spiritual gifts and ministries in their local Church.
Prophetic ministry has an important place in the reception of spiritual gifts and the development of spiritual ministries. Deut.34v9. 1Kings.19v16,19-21. 2Kings.2v9. Lk.9v1,2. 10v1-9. Acts.19v1-6. Rom.1v10,11. Christians are not led into an experience of spiritual gifts, or ministries, through just listening to doctrine. It is not pretty sermons, but spiritual power ministered in love that counts with God. A pulpit can be a means of real self-deception; it is only as we minister to people's needs that our spiritual resources are revealed. Christ ministered to those in need, and so should we. A pulpit ministry that never directly ministers to people's needs is an unscriptural delusion, and sheer escapism from Christian responsibility.
ALL KINDS OF PROPHECY MUST BE DISTINGUISHED FROM PREACHING AND TEACHING.
The Old Testament distinguishes a prophet from a teacher or preacher.
The Old Testament prophet was a “nabi,” or if a prophetess, a “nebiah;” the prophet was one who allowed God to “flow forth” His thoughts through them; “naba” means “flow forth.” Sometimes these words were good tidings; at other times they were words of warning or judgement. The true prophet was not afraid to proclaim what God had told them. If a prophet had visions they were also called a seer, a “chozeh,” or a “roeh.” Gen.20v7. Ezra.5v1. Exod.15v20. 2Sam.24v11. 30v10. Amos.7v12. In 1Chron.29v29. all three words are found; “the book of Samuel the seer ('roeh'), the book of Nathan the prophet ('nabi'), and in the book of Gad the seer ('chozeh').” Gesenius says a seer was, “one who sees, i.e., who is taught by visions.” In 1Sam.9v9. we read, “Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: 'Come let us go to the seer;' for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer. See Appendix 4. The Hebrew Words For Prophets And Seers.
Genuine Old Testament prophets prophesied the mind and purposes of God. The anger of God came against those who pretended to prophesy, when they gave their own thoughts and imaginations, instead of God's thoughts. 2Chron.18v11. Jer.14v14. 23v21,25,26,32. 27v10,14. The Old Testament prophet was someone who allowed God's thoughts “to bubble up, flow forth, or pour forth,” “naba,” from them; their heavenly words distilled and dropped like dew and gentle rain, “nataph.” There is a great difference between the prophet who told God's thoughts, and the preacher, “a qoheleth,” like Solomon, who proclaims wisdom. “ Eccles.1v1,2,12. 7v27. 12v8,9,10.
The New Testament also distinguishes between a prophet and a teacher or preacher.
The verb “propheteuo,” “to prophesy,” is never translated as “preach” or “teach” in the Authorised Version, or any other accurate translation. See 1Pet.1v10. Mt.7v22. 11v13. 15v7. 26v68. Mk.7v6. 14v65. Lk.1v67. 22v64. Jn.11v51. Acts.2v17,18. 19v6. 21v9. 1Cor.11v4,5. 13v9. 14v1,3,4,5,24,31,39. Jude.v14. Rev.10v11. 11v3.. The noun “propheteia,” “prophecy,” is never translated as “preaching;” and “prophetes,” “prophet,” is never translated as “preacher,” or “teacher.”
The following Greek words for “teach” and “preach are not used to speak of a person prophesying, they clearly speak of the telling forth of truth out of the mind, by process of thought. “Didasko.” “To teach, to instruct.” “Katangello.” “To report down,” “proclaim.” “Diangello.” “To announce through,” so “to declare fully.” “Dialegomai.” “To dialogue,” “to say thoroughly, to converse, discuss, dispute, reason, dialogue.” “Suzeeteo,” “to reason.” “Euangelizo,-omai.” “To tell good news, or good tidings.” “Kerusso.” “To cry or proclaim as a herald,” “Laleo.” “To talk, say, speak, tell, preach,” it can speak of a conversational style of preaching. So we see that “prophecy” and “preaching,” are looked upon as two quite distinct ministries. Those who teach and preach expound God's revealed Word; those who prophesy speak the mind of God under His direct influence. The following Greek scholars confirm this fact.
Grimm and Thayer. State on page 553 and 554 in their Lexicon on “propheteuo,” to prophesy, and “prophetes,” prophet.
“c. To utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by Divine revelation:-- d. To break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or in praise of the Divine counsels. f. The prophets that appeared in the apostolic age among the Christians: ---and in the religious assemblies of the Christians, being suddenly seized by the Spirit, whose promptings, however, do not impair their self-government, 1Cor.14v32., give utterance in glowing and exalted but intelligible language to those things which the Holy Spirit teaches them, and which have power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, stimulate their hearers.”
Bishop Ellicott. In his Critical and Grammatical Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, points out on 1Thes.5v20., that prophecies were: “varied declarations of the Divine counsels and expositions of God's oracles, immediately inspired by and emanating from the Holy Spirit. --- The difference between ordinary 'didache' and 'propheteia' consisted in this, that the latter was due to the immediate influence of the Spirit, the former to an 'exoikeias dialegesthai' (speaking out of one's own mind).”
Robinson's Lexicon. On page 723 and 724, shows the difference between prophets and teachers.
“In Septuagint and New Testament, “prophetes” corresponds to Hebrew “nabi,” one who speaks from a Divine influence, under inspiration, whether as foretelling future events, or as exhorting, reproving, threatening individuals or nations, that is, as the ambassador of God and the interpreter of His will to men;--- With the Jewish use of “nabi” and “prophetes” was connected the idea, that the prophet spoke not his own thoughts, but what he received from God, retaining however his own consciousness and self-possession. They seem to have differed from the “didaskaloi” (teachers) in this, that while the latter spoke in a calm, collected, didactic discourse, adapted to instruct and enlighten the hearers, the prophet spoke more from the impulse of sudden inspiration, from the light of a sudden revelation at the moment, (apokalupsis” 1Cor.14v30.), and his discourse was probably more adapted by means of powerful exhortations to awaken the feelings and conscience of the hearers, the idea of speaking from an immediate revelation seems here to be fundamental, as relating either to future events or to the mind of the Spirit in general; cp. Acts.11v27. 21v10. So Acts.13v1. 1Cor.12v28,29. 14v29,32,37. Eph.2v20. 3v5. 4v11.”
The Greek words for preaching or teaching are never used for prophecy or prophesying. A prophetic ministry is certainly quite different from a teaching and preaching ministry. A prophet, through the revelation gifts, reveals the will and knowledge of God, the teacher expounds known truth under Divine anointing. The prophetic ministry also includes some ability to teach and preach; both Judas and Silas taught as well as had a prophetic ministry. Acts.15v32. The prophetic ministry also contains a measure of a teaching ministry, but a teaching ministry does not contain a prophetic ministry. Paul, it appears, had the essential qualities and attributes of apostolic, prophetic and teaching ministries. 1Tim.2v7. 2Tim.1v11. 4v3. 1Cor.15v51-53. 2Cor.12v1-4.
We see, then, that both prophet and preacher proclaim; however, a prophet's message is directly from God; the source of the preacher's message is the working of his mind upon known truth. Ps.40v9. Is.61v1. Neh.6v7. Jonah.3v2. Both have an important place in the Church. From James.5v13-20., we see that God expects the elders of the Church, that is the pastors, bishops, and teachers, to be men of prayer, who manifest the gifts of the spirit and bring healing to the sick. They can also receive prophecies and gifts of revelation, even if they do not have a prophetic ministry, which involves a regular ministry of the gifts of revelation.
ALL KINDS OF PROPHECY MUST BE PROPERLY REGULATED.
We must not surrender our right to judge prophetic utterances.
We have the right and duty to judge prophetic utterances. 1Cor.14v29-33. We have to “Prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good and beautiful.” In 1Thes.5v21. the word for “prove” is “dokimazo,” which is used for the testing of metals; it speaks of a test with the expectation of approval. In 1Cor.14v29. the word for “judge” is “diakrino,” and that means to discern, discriminate and judge. We should not only decide which part of a prophetic message applies to ourselves, we have the right to judge if a prophecy is from the Lord; and we should reject anything that comes from the human mind, or from evil spirits. Jer.23v16,25-34. Even Ahab knew that only Micaiah was telling the truth. 1Kings.22v19-30. The Holy Spirit will always witness to the truth. 1Jn.2v26,27. Rev.2v20-25. Important prophetic truth will be confirmed out of the mouths of two or three reliable witnesses. Deut.19v15. with 2Cor.14v29. The mature spiritual members of the local church will, if they walk with God, preserve their church from error due to immaturity, fanaticism, and wilful sin. Most false cults have come into being through someone making a claim to exclusive inspiration, and multitudes have been deceived by Satan, because they have unconditionally surrendered their right to judge these “revelations.” Christians should not make this same dreadful mistake.
We must put to a severe test prophecies that direct us, and we must not direct others by prophecy.
In 1Thess.5v19-22., Paul tells us that we must never unreservedly accept prophecies, he writes; v19. “Do not quench the Spirit. v20. Do not despise prophetic utterances. v21. But prove, test, and examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; v22.abstain from every form of evil.” “Prove,” as we have seen, is “dokimazo” 1381, which means, to test, to examine, to scrutinize, to see if something is genuine or not, it is used of metals being tested by fire etc. Then after the test has proved things genuine, to approve, endorse and accept. I have repeated this Scripture twice, to drive the point home.
Prophecies, which direct us and tell us what to do, should be regarded with caution and carefully examined, for under the New Covenant, personal direction usually comes direct to the sons of God from their Father. Rom.8v14. Heb.8v10,11. God may speak through prophets by the gifts to confirm guidance that He has already given to us, or He may use prophets to direct and warn in emergencies or danger, as Agabus and the Christians at Tyre warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem. See Acts.20v20-23. 21v3,4,10,11. We thank God for the guidance that He gives to us through the gifts of the Spirit, it can be very precious, and it will be even more precious if we approach other Christian's revelations about ourselves with caution. Old Testament prophets foretold, led and directed people. New Testament prophets foretell, and warn in emergency.
We must not give prophecy precedence over Scripture.
The Church is built upon the Scriptures given to the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, and particularly the truth received from our Saviour. Eph.2v20. 3v5. No one can receive truth that will add to, or supersede the New Testament revelation. Rev.22v18,19. Prophecies must be checked by the Scriptures, it is a false reverence to accept any prophecy without a Scriptural test or question. 1Jn.4v1-5. It is not the words, “Thus saith the Lord,” that decide the authenticity of a prophecy; it is their conformity to the Scriptures, and their manifest accuracy, power and anointing. Jer.23v28-32. Heb.4v12. 2Pet.3v16. Divine guidance is a reality, but we should not try to run our lives just by spiritual revelation, God expects us to obey His written Word and also to use some sanctified common sense. Ps.32v8,9. Prov.3v6.
Paul tells us that we should seek and manifest spiritual gifts out of love for God and people. Let us, therefore, not become “hyper gift conscious,” but rather get taken up with the Giver and His living Word, and the needs of people. Only Christ can satisfy the longing soul, and even His lovely gifts cannot meet the longings of the heart, if we think of them apart from Him. Spiritual gifts are the manifestations of Christ the Living Word and His written Word, let us never divorce them from each other. A correct balance will preserve us from many heartbreaks and dangers. “God's Word endures for ever.” 1Pet.1v23,25.
We must not lose our order or self-control.
There should be a real propriety and Divine beauty in the manifestations of prophecy.
The order and propriety of Old Testament and New Testament prophets who were “moved” (“pheromenoi,” 1Pet.1v21. with Acts.27v15,17. Heb.6v1.) by the “Holy Ghost,” are in marked contrast to the deranged and frenzied ravings of the prophets of Baal and other Heathen prophets. 1King.18v25-40. Jam.3v13-18. The spirit of a prophet should be under the control of that prophet, and subject to the wisdom, guidance and judgement of other prophets. God is not the author of confusion and disorder; He desires peace, and wants everything to be done in a becoming and orderly manner. 1Cor.14v32,33,40.
There should be no selfish monopolisation of prophecy.
Prophets should not monopolise the manifestation of prophecy, either by extended prophecy, or by extended description, or interpretation of a prophecy or vision. Paul tells us that if a prophet continues long in prophecy, or in an explanation of that prophecy, when another indicates that they have something from God, they should cease. In 1Cor.14v30., “let the first hold his peace,” “ho protos sigato,” the third person singular present active imperative of “sigao,” “to be silent, to keep silent;” which some have suggested indicates a swift conclusion rather than an abrupt immediate cessation of prophecy. However, in 1Cor.14v28. the present active imperative “sigato,” is used to show the complete cessation of loud public speaking in tongues, if there is no interpreter present. In 1Cor.14v34., the third person plural present active imperative “sigatosan,” is used to show that the women were to be silent, and not to “chatter,” “lalein,” in the church services; they could, however, pray and prophesy in the Church. 1Cor.11v5,16,18. Silence is often golden, even in the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must avoid the spiritual selfishness of the Corinthians, they wanted to monopolise their Christian gatherings and do everything. Modern churches often suffer from a spiritual stagnation, and a lack of prophecy, rather than an excess of it. Prophecy does not come as an uncontrollable utterance, nor is there any suspension of the mind or will; we can and should control it.
N. B. We should limit and weigh prophecies.
We should only have as many prophecies as we can judge, weigh, assimilate and remember. Paul writes, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge;” Some feel that this means that we should never have more than three prophecies at one meeting, and this is sensible and correct for a short meeting. However, Paul also states, “ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted.” 1Cor.14v24,29,31. This shows that we cannot restrict all services to three prophecies regardless of their type or length. Those who restrict prophecy in this way have to answer the following questions. Are we to treat a day or night of prayer to the same restriction as a one-hour meeting devoted to Bible study? Does the number of prophecies that we can have depend on how many artificial breaks we make between services? Can we have twelve prophecies by dividing one six-hour service up into four services? I am not being sarcastic, I am just pointing out the difficulties and problems that arise, if we try to limit every meeting to two or three prophecies regardless of its nature or length. Remember Saul prophesied all day and night. 1Sam.19v18-24.
We should follow Paul's instructions and only have as many prophecies as we can judge, weigh, assimilate and remember. We should not treat prophecies lightly, we should carefully and prayerfully weigh and assimilate them; and this should involve commenting on them, and discussing them. In 1Cor.14v29., Paul writes, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.” “Judge,” is “diakrinetosan,” the present imperative 3rd person plural of “diakrino;” which means literally, “to judge through, to pass judgement on,” and so, “to examine, discern, scrutinise.” The present tense shows the continual and permanent necessity for the examination and discussion of prophetic revelations.
We need to remember that Paul is giving his instructions on prophecy in the context of the meetings of his day, and not in the context of our present day Western Churches. Christians were always under some measure of persecution, they were not permitted to own consecrated buildings; they were in a very similar position to the underground Church in former Communist countries. Their services took place in the open air, hired rooms, and even catacombs, but usually in homes. Acts.2v2,46. 5v12. 10v6,17,32. 11v12-14. 12v12. 16v15. 18v7,8. 20v7,9. 21v8-12. 28v41. Rom.16v3-5,23. 1Cor.16v19. Col.4v15. Philem.v2. Paul had an evangelistic mission in the lecture-hall of Tyrannus. Acts.19v7-12. However, in 1Cor.14, Paul is not thinking of a large evangelistic meeting, or convention, Paul is writing about the manifestation of spiritual gifts in the context of the communion service of 1Cor.11v18-34.; which in Paul's day almost always took place in a home, around a simple meal; and was, therefore, generally a comparatively small gathering. Lk.22v7-20. Acts.2v46. 20v6-12. All the prophets in a large public gathering, certainly can't be allowed to prophesy, but in a house meeting, where there were only a small number of Christians and prophets, it could occur. In 1Cor.14v24,31.,
Paul was not only thinking of a comparatively small house meeting with a limited number of prophets present, he was also speaking of a much longer meeting than our short one hour services of today. In Acts.20v6-12., Paul's meeting at Troas lasted right through the night. This meeting consisted mainly of dialogue, for in v7, “preached,” is “dielegeto,” the imperfect middle of “dialegomai,” dialogued, reasoned; in v9, “preaching,” is “dialegomenou,” the present middle participle of dialegomai,” in v11, “talked,” is “homilesas,” informal conversation. We can well see in the light of such a long meeting, and conversational dialogue, how Paul could say that the limited number of local Christians and prophets could all prophesy if they observed his rule to judge, weigh and assimilate two or three prophecies before allowing any more prophecy. In our 1 or 2 hour services, that are devoted to singing and preaching, three prophecies and three interpretations of tongues, are often more than people can, judge assimilate and remember. A Christian may have many revelations from the Lord in his daily life, however, these are usually not for others; we have to follow Paul's rule and speak out and prophesy, only what is relevant, important, essential and inspired by the Holy Spirit at that time.
Let us endeavour to keep a sensible balance and order, and aim to bless and build up others. The Scriptures contain several instances where the Holy Spirit inspired many people to prophesy at one time during a special out-pouring of His power and blessing: for example, the seventy elders of Israel prophesied at one “meeting.” Numb.11v24-29. See also 1Sam.10v10-13. 19v18-24. 2Kings.2v3,5. In Acts.19v6., all twelve men prophesied at their baptism in the Holy Spirit. On these occasions, when the Holy Spirit causes a large number of people to prophesy, it seems to be more for personal edification than public edification. However, this kind of prophesying is the exception and not the rule, and we should not set this as the Christian norm; nor should we say that it is out of order when it does very occasionally take place.
We must not despise genuine prophesying. 1Thes.5v19,20.
Those who are sceptical and critical about genuine prophecy are in real spiritual danger, as are those who look upon prophecy as a pleasant thing, but without any real importance. However, even though the gift of prophecy is not as important as the prophetic office, it has a vital place in the local church. Even Timothy had to be reminded by Paul of the importance of prophecies that had been given for his personal comfort and edification. 1Tim.4v14,15. 2Tim.1v6-8. Heb.12v25.
The idea that no real notice should be taken of prophetic utterances is quite perilous and reveals a real spirit of unbelief and scepticism. Those who ignored the Old Testament prophets got into real trouble and ended up in defeat and captivity. 2Chron.36v15-21. Jehoshaphat knew that to prosper you had to believe and obey genuine prophetic utterances. 2Chron.20v20. The fact that prophets were placed second only to apostles in the New Testament, shows the importance of prophecy in Christ's Church. Indeed, the apostles were really a kind of prophet; they manifested the power gifts that in the Old Testament would have resulted in them being called prophets. Apostolic ministry includes some aspects of prophetic ministry, but it also contains the commission from Christ to evangelise and pioneer churches.
Ignoring genuine prophetic utterances can have the most serious and tragic consequences, as the Lord's messages to the seven churches in Revelation clearly reveals. Rev.2 & 3. Even Paul got into trouble by ignoring the prophetic warnings of the Christians at Tyre, and Agabus the prophet. Acts.21v4,10-13. Acts.20v22-24. 22v17,18,21. 26v29. It is no good saying, “How lovely,” or “How true,” if we promptly forget and ignore what God has said. James.1v22-27. God is looking for Christians who will tremble at His Word and obey it, whether it comes though His written Word, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but, alas, this is rare. Ps.2v11. Ezra.9v4. 10v3. Is.66v2,5. Phil.2v12. The revival at Jerusalem shows what God can accomplish through humble, contrite Christians, who are determined to obey God.
We must be careful not to misconstrue and misinterpret prophecy.
The statement in 2Pet.1v20,21., “that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation;” almost certainly means that prophecy springs from a Divine origin, not from a prophet's private will or desire. It should not read “is,” for it is not “estin,” but “ginetai,” that is, “comes” or “springs out of private disclosure,” “genetai idias epiluseos.” “Epilusis,” means “releasing, loosing, solving explaining, disclosing;” it does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament; but, the verb “epiluo” occurs twice in the New Testament, once in Mk.4v34., where it translated as “expounded” or “explained;” and in Acts.19v39., where it is translated as “determined,” “decided” or “settled.” Peter makes the point clear, when in the next verse he states that prophecy “came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Peter uses “pheromenoi,” the present passive participle of “phero,” which in Acts.27v15,17., is used of a ship being carried along before a very strong gale. The prophets spoke as they were blown along in the gale of the Spirit. See. 2Tim.3v16. To interpret the Scriptures correctly, we need to be blown along in the gale of the Spirit, then God will give us insights that are hidden from the wise and prudent. Mt.11v25-27. Lk.10v20-24. Eph.1v13-23. 3v16-21. In Heb.6v1., we read that we are to allow ourselves to be borne along and carried to maturity; “pherometha,” the present passive subjunctive of “phero,” “to carry;” passive, “to be carried;” the passive shows the need of our personal surrender to God, as well as God being the agent and author of our maturity.
We should not interpret either Scriptural truth, or prophetic utterance, by our preconceived ideas or desires, we must search the Scriptures, and seek God for His interpretation, or we can go badly astray. We can put a construction on a genuine prophecy and revelation that is wholly unwarranted. The apostle John had to correct the false interpretation of Christ's words; “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” Jn.21v22,23. On some occasions we may not understand a prophecy or a revelation, however, those for whom it is intended will usually understand.
Sometimes it may need the passage of time, and new circumstances, to disclose what a prophecy or revelation means. Some prophecies may foretell something far ahead in time, and we should not try to give them a present application. Even great Old Testament prophets were puzzled by some prophecies, until God told them that they were in the distant future. 1Pet.1v10-12. If there is any doubt over the interpretation of a prophecy or revelation, it is best to be silent and prayerful, and let God reveal its true import at the correct time. Let us not jump to hasty conclusions. We must remember that one prophecy can speak to many people, and different parts of the same prophecy can speak to different people. We should never say that a prophecy is just for a certain person, for it may also apply to others. God knows what is in people's hearts and He is a discreet and wise gentleman, He prefers to meet people's needs by general rather than specific prophecy, to save them from embarrassment. Never forget that people have always the right to judge and reject prophetic revelations. 1Thes.5v20,21.
A DEFINITION OF PROPHECY.
Prophecy is a supernatural utterance given by the Holy Spirit that can take the form of exhortation, encouragement, prayer or song. It is a revelation from God whose purpose is to edify and encourage the Church. There may be prediction channelled through this gift on occasions, when the prophecy contains words of wisdom and knowledge. Prophecy enables God to meet hidden needs in the Church. A prophecy may contain something that the prophet already knows, which God desires to be spoken to help others, or it may contain some revelation that the prophet was previously unaware of. A true prophecy will be endued with Divine life and power. The word “prophet” describes someone who is the mouthpiece of God. 1Cor.14v2. There is a spirit of expectancy where this gift is powerfully manifested, for when the Holy Spirit speaks words of tender comfort through a loving heart, the very peace of Heaven is ministered
THE IMPORTANCE AND USE OF PROPHECY.
It enables God to edify, exhort, and comfort His Church. 1Cor.14v3-5.
It edifies. The noun “oikodome,” means the act of building, from “oikos,” a home, and “demo,” to build, and it is used figuratively in the New Testament of spiritual edification. Prophecy builds faith, character, love and knowledge. 1Cor.14v31. If the Divine Architect is to build up His Church as He desires, this gift must be in operation, for without it the Church cannot be built up as it should be. Mt.16v16,18. Eph.2v21,22. Rev.2v7,11,17,29. 3v6,13,22. Prophecy that fails to build up Christians, and harms them, is certainly not of God; Christians always benefit from genuine Holy Ghost inspired prophecy.
It exhorts. The Greek word “paraklesis,” means “a calling to one's side, a calling near, an invitation.” Its kindred word “parakletos,” means “Comforter” in Jn.14v16,26. 15v26. 16v7., and “advocate” in 1Jn.2v1.. Both of these words speak of a care, comfort, and consolation that is most precious. The English word “comfort” means more than its popular idea of soothing; it is derived from the Latin “comfortare,” which means “to make strong.” This is why Wycliffe translated Lk.1v80., “the child waxed and was comforted in spirit,” and Tyndale translated Lk.22v43., “there appeared an angel from heaven comforting him.” Prophecy should, strengthen, cheer, brace and encourage. The Holy Spirit does not comfort and strengthen merely by saying nice things to us; sometimes He may convict us of sin. Jesus gave a strong rebuke to the Laodiceans in Rev.3v15-20., He said they were “wretched, miserable, naked, blind, and spiritually poor, and told them to repent. Christ said, “As many as I love ('phileo,' a warm feeling of love), I rebuke and discipline.” His rebuke was given out of a gentle spirit and a deep warm love and affection for them, even though their state was critical and their witness was a disgrace, to them and Him.
Judgement can be foretold by the word of wisdom, Rev.2v5,15,16,20-23., but this will be the exception, not the rule, those who are always thundering judgement or criticism, are manifesting their own bitterness of spirit instead of the Comforter's strengthening gentleness. Heb.12v11-15. 2Cor.13v14. Jonah.4v1-11. Christ's strengthening comfort corrects as well as consoles us, but with His people His gentle humanity and tenderness, and inviting mercy and grace are always apparent. Mt.11v28-30. Heb.12v5. God's aim in prophecy is to encourage us, not discourage us, the Holy Spirit is called to our side to help us, not to condemn us, let us rejoice in His strengthening comfort and gentleness. See Acts.9v31. Rom.15v4,5. 2Cor.1v3,4,5,6,7. Phil.2v1. Heb.6v18. “Paraklesis” occurs in all these verses.
It comforts. The noun “paramuthia,” which means “to speak near or close to anyone, with soothing and consoling words,” carries an even greater degree of tenderness than the word “paraklesis,” it only occurs here in the New Testament. The noun “paramuthion,” occurs in Phil.2v1., and is translated as “comfort” in the Authorised Version; some say that “paramuthia,” stresses the process of comfort, whereas “paramuthion” stresses the instrument of comfort. God is gentle and kind, and speaks words of gracious persuasion, tender incentive, and healing comfort to the people of God. Prophecy from our gracious Lord is not critical or harsh; there may sometimes be rebuke, as in Rev.3v16,17., but Jesus is merciful and kind with His own, even in His disciplines. Christians can come into Church gatherings with hidden needs and conflicts, which no one knows, however, through prophecy, the Holy Spirit, can meet these needs and build up, encourage and comfort these needy Christians. We can all “learn” and all be “comforted,” by the use of this gift. 1Cor.14v31. Through prophetic encouragement we can fight a good fight against the powers of darkness. 1Tim.1v18. “Precious promises.” 2Pet.1v4.
Prophecy can be a channel of the gifts of revelation.
A prophetic utterance can on occasions be used in winning the lost, for it can contain a word of knowledge, which reveals the secrets of people's hearts, our Lord brought salvation to the woman at the well by this means. Jn.4v15-42. 1Cor.14v24,25. This has a powerful evangelistic appeal. A prophecy may contain revelation gifts, and predict and warn of future events. Prophecy is spoken of as “a light in a dark place,” and it can prepare us for either great blessing or great trouble. 1Pet.1v19. In fact prophecy can contain all the various ministries that can come to us through the gifts of revelation.
Prophecy can be valuable in prayer, praise, worship and song.
David's Psalm's contain both prophetic prayer and prophetic praise; others followed his example and prophesied with lyres, harps and cymbals. 1Chron.25v1. In 1Cor.14v15., Paul is speaking of prophetic hymns and songs, as well as ordinary hymns and songs, just as in Eph.5v19. and Col.3v16. One of the most moving events of my life was to hear a young girl of nine sing a beautiful prophetic prayer, several verses long to the tune of, “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries, may Jesus Christ be praised.” It was in perfect rhyme and metre, a wonderful prayer for the conversion of my father. The little girl's face was transfigured, and shone with a visible light; she was oblivious to all around her as she worshipped the Lord. I was still attending school, and had just been turned out of home by my father for being a Christian, so this was a real sign from God to me. The little girl's earnest prayers, and the prayers of many others, were answered; my father became a Christian, when the Lord gave him a vision of the Abyss. For other prophetic prayers, see, 1Sam.2v1-10. Lk.1v39-80.. Prophecy is a wonderful gift, it is no wonder that Paul uses the word “zeloute” to describe how intensely we should desire this lovely gift of God. “Make love your quest, and be eager for spiritual gifts, but chiefly for prophecy.” Weymouth, 1Cor.14v39. This gift has made the difference between victory and defeat on innumerable occasions in the history of God's people.