This week we will continue our look at the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Specifically we’ll focus on the gift of prophecy.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
We’ve discussed this many times and know that the word prophecy comes from a Greek word that means forth speaking, in other words, to proclaim. The way it is used here refers to proclaiming God’s purposes and will. It is usually associated with foretelling the future, but there are more examples of the former than the latter in Scripture.
When the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:11 records the crowd responded to the prophesying of the recipients this way, “we hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God”. On that day many were saved and many scoffed at what they heard, but the purposes of God were proclaimed. Aside from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians and the book of Revelations, the only other time prophecy is mentioned is in Acts 19:6 when the Christians at Ephesus were filled with the Spirit and prophesied.
As for the nature of the general ministry of prophets, Acts 15:32 tells us “Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” Being the positive people we are [not], when God had his men and women foretell future events, we usually recognize the warning contained in it rather than the blessing. Even so, we must recognize that the primary reason for prophecy is to encourage and strengthen.
I think that is pretty plain as far as using prophecy in a church setting. How are we now to let that gift minister in our own lives? Are we even supposed to? Paul, in 1st Corinthians 14 details how there is a spiritual ministry of the gifts as well as a public. He is not saying that the one who prophesies is edified only if he or she does so in a foreign language (without interpretation). His teaching is that you can prophesy in an unknown language and edify only your spirit, or you can prophesy in a known language and edify both understanding and spirit. Continue reading