PROPHETS/PROPHESY: Are they for today? (Part 2)

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on October 27, 2007

Continuing with where the previous post left off, here’s an trustworthy article on the role of prophecy & how it is to be operated in the modern day church. I studied the article, alongside Scripture awhile back, & it is my conclusion that it is one of the most accurate ones you’ll find on the subject…..& the one which best represents where I stand on the subject. If others disagree, fine……..for there’s more than enough room for discussion, & I’d be more than open to share my mind. Pray ya’ll enjoy…( & if anyone would like more information on the subject, go here: http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue95.htm


http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue74b.htm )

Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1Thessalonians 5:19-22)

Paul instructs us to take prophetic utterances seriously. To “despise” means to treat with “dismissive disdain.”1 In 1Corinthians 14:31, Paul wrote, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.” He spoke, not about utterances of official authoritative prophets, but about prophetic utterances that could be given by any member of the congregation.

Today many are confused about the meaning of the term “prophecy” as it was used in the 1st century church, and what, if anything, it is in the church today. Some assume that prophesies were spontaneous, “ecstatic utterances” caused by the Holy Spirit. Some, who hold this view, believe that these utterances have ceased. Others hold the same view, but believe that these ecstatic utterances are also for the church today. Still others believe that prophecy in the first century was the Holy Spirit giving inspired revelation that was necessary to fill in the gap caused by the incomplete canon of the New Testament. Those who hold this latter view generally say that all prophecy has ceased.2

Here is what I believe: that prophecy, as addressed by the passages above, is to proclaim valid implications and applications of authoritative Scripture. Under the New Covenant, every redeemed child of God has the Holy Spirit, and therefore may prophesy. This is an implication of Peter’s citation of Joel in Acts 2:17—rather than the Holy Spirit only coming upon certain persons as under the Old Covenant, He indwells every true New Covenant believer. This is why they “may all prophesy” as Paul wrote.

The Reformation Teaching on Prophecy in the Church

The restoration of prophecy for every believer was important to both Luther and Calvin. The alternative was that only the teaching magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church had the authority to prophesy. Luther often cited 1Corinthians 14:31 as proof of Rome’s error in this regard. For example, consider how Luther used the passage here:

Also, “You can all prophesy, one by one” [I Cor. 14:31]. What sense is there to this drunken prattle of the pope and his papists, though handed down over many generations: “We command, we earnestly direct, the Church of Rome is Mistress of the churches and the articles of faith”? All right, let her sit and teach and be a mistress, yet here she is commanded to be silent, if a revelation is made to one sitting by. Not only she, but each of us, one by one, may prophesy, says Paul, a master and corrector even of Peter when he acted insincerely [Gal. 2:14ff.]. How much more ought we not then confidently judge the church of Rome in its insincerity and feigned authority. We are not to be judged by this church lest we imperil our own salvation and be found to deny Christ.3

In the following discussion of 2Peter 1:19, Luther cites 1Corinthians 14:31 in his discussion of prophecy in the church:

But why does he say: “We have a sure prophetic Word”? Answer: I believe indeed that henceforth we shall not have prophets like those the Jews had in times past in the Old Testament. But a prophet must really be one who preaches about Jesus Christ. Therefore although many prophets in the Old Testament foretold future things, they really came, and were sent by God, to proclaim the Christ. Now those who believe in Christ are all prophets; for they have the real and chief qualification prophets should have, even though they do not all have the gift of foretelling the future. For just as through faith we are brothers of the Lord Christ, kings, and priests, so we are also all prophets through Christ. For we can all state what pertains to salvation, God’s glory, and a Christian life. In addition, we can also talk about future events insofar as it is necessary for us to know about them. For example, we can say that the Last Day will come and that we will rise from the dead. Furthermore, we understand all Scripture. Paul also speaks about this in 1 Cor. 14:31: “For you can all prophesy one by one.”4

Calvin rebuked “enthusiasts” who thought that the utterance of spontaneous ideas apart from the scripture was prophecy:

In like manner, when Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Quench not the Spirit,” he does not carry them aloft to empty speculation apart from the word; he immediately adds, “Despise not prophesying,” (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). By this, doubtless, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is quenched the moment prophesying falls into contempt. How is this answered by those swelling enthusiasts, in whose idea the only true illumination consists, in carelessly laying aside, and bidding adieu to the Word of God, while, with no less confidence than folly, they fasten upon any dreaming notion which may have casually sprung up in their minds? Surely a very different sobriety becomes the children of God. As they feel that without the Spirit of God they are utterly devoid of the light of truth, so they are not ignorant that the word is the instrument by which the illumination of the Spirit is dispensed.5

The Reformation view was that prophecy was the teaching of the Word and proclamation of the terms of the gospel. Since every believer has the Holy Spirit, every believer has the “keys of the kingdom” and can authoritatively declare the terms of entrance into the kingdom. All are anointed and all have the authoritative teachings of Christ and His apostles. Therefore they may prophesy.

Matthew Henry saw prophesying as taught in 1Thessalonians 5:20 as a means of grace:

Despise not prophesyings (v. 20); for, if we neglect the means of grace, we forfeit the Spirit of grace. By prophesyings here we are to understand the preaching of the word, the interpreting and applying of the scriptures; and this we must not despise, but should prize and value, because it is the ordinance of God, appointed of him for our furtherance and increase in knowledge and grace, in holiness and comfort. We must not despise preaching, though it be plain, and not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, and though we be told no more than what we knew before. It is useful, and many times needful, to have our minds stirred up, our affections and resolutions excited, to those things that we knew before to be our interest and our duty.6

This view is commonly found from the Reformation through the 19th century. For example, consider the 19th century scholar Albert Barnes’ comments on 1Thessalonians 5:20:

But the office of addressing mankind on the great duties of religion, and of publishing salvation, is to be God’s great ordinance for converting the world. It should not be despised, and no man commends his own wisdom who contemns it—for it is God’s appointment—the means which he has designated for saving men. . . . There is nothing else that has so much power over mankind as the preaching of the gospel.7

Every believer who accurately announces the terms of the gospel to the lost is prophesying with the full authority of God.


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