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SPIRITUAL GIFTS (6)

PROPHECY

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

All spiritual gifts are open to misuse and abuse. However, abuse does not invalidate the right use of a God-given ability! For example, we would not forbid the gift of teaching because some misused that gift for their own purposes. So it is with the gift of prophecy.

 

Some have claimed special revelation of "new" truth and have become self-styled "prophets of the Lord". This has often brought the whole area of the prophetic into disrepute and rejection with many Church groups and Christians. What we are seeking in this study is to get beyond the abuse and ignorance that is often associated with this gift and to break through into a clearer biblical understanding of its nature, function and purpose.

 

1. What images or concepts come to your mind when you hear the word, "prophecy"?

 

a) Elijah...Isaiah...Ezekiel...etc

b) False Prophets (ancient and modern)

c) Future events (tribulation/ second coming)

d) ____________________________________________________________

 

2. Consider and discuss this definition by C. Peter Wagner.

 

"The gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12/10; 14/1) is the special ability that God gives to the members of the Body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His gathered people, a group among them or any one of His people individually, through a divinely anointed utterance".

 

 

3. Read and discuss together the following references and make a note of what you learn about the nature or function of the gift of prophecy. What directives or cautions do you see from the verses?

 

a) Romans 12/6,7 ___________________________________________________

b) Acts 21/7-13 _____________________________________________________

c) 1 Cor. 13/2 ______________________________________________________

d) 1 Cor. 13/8-12 ___________________________________________________

e) 1 Cor. 14/1 ______________________________________________________

f) 1 Cor. 14/3,4 _____________________________________________________

g) 1 Cor. 14/29-32 __________________________________________________

 

4. Michael Green has written the following concerning prophecy. Do you agree or disagree?

 

"Prophecy is not the equivalent of Scripture. Prophecy is a particular word for a particular congregation (or person) at a particular time through a particular person. Scripture is for all Christians in all places at all times. That is the difference."

 

5. Given that Scripture distinguishes between teaching and prophecy (Romans 12/6,7;Acts 13/1), what would you see to be the similarities and differences?

 

6. Consider the following statement concerning the authority of prophecy as compared with that of Scripture.

 

"Prophecy today, although it may be very helpful and on occasion overwhelmingly specific, is not in the category of the revelation given to us in Holy Scripture. Scripture is God-inspired (2 Tim. 3/16). It was superintended by God in its origination and is free of pollutants. There is no mixture of human failing with an inerrant Spirit. God's special hand was on the authors, not to override their personalities but to hedge them about in their thoughts and expressions (2 Peter 1/20,21).

 

Such a claim cannot be made for prophecy today. A person may hear the voice of the Lord and be compelled to speak, but there is no assurance that it is pollutant-free. There will be a mixture of both fallible humanity and God's Spirit. This is true in the use of the teaching gift. There will be a mixing of culture, personality, intellect and maturity. This should not discourage us from desiring prophetic gifts, but caution us that all prophecy must be tested.

 

1 Cor.13/9 tells us that "we know in part and we prophesy in partů" There will always be something incomplete in any prophecy which is very unlike the complete authority of Scripture.

 

Three tests should be applied...

 

a) Theological Test .Prophetic words are to be measured by the revelation of the 0ld and New Testaments. True prophecy submits gladly to the final authority of Scripture.

 

b) Confessional Test . From 1 Cor. 12/1-3 we can see that no word originating with the Holy Spirit will speak disparagingly of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. It will be in full harmony with the full character of Jesus.

 

c) Moral Test .Jesus told us that we would know false prophets by their character - the fruit of their lives (Matt. 7/15-20). The warnings of the epistles are directed toward false prophets more than false prophecies.

 

7. What do you believe we ought to do with the directive of 1 Cor. 14/1 "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy..." How can we practically "eagerly desire spiritual gifts"?

 

8. Have you ever had the experience where you felt that you had "a word from the Lord" for someone or for the Church but were not sure what to do with it? Similarly, have you ever had anyone share with you an insight or truth that touched your heart in such a way that you just knew it was from God. The timing was just right. The insight was spot on. You simply bowed your head and said a heartfelt 'Thank You' to God because you knew He has spoken into your life through that person. Would you share such an experience with your group?

 

AN ADDITIONAL NOTE:

INTRODUCING AND INTEGRATION THE GIFT OF PROPHECY

 

I have been asked by a number of folk about how this particular spiritual gift can be helpfully and acceptably introduced into the life of a local Church. What follows are some guiding principles that I believe are necessary.

 

1. I believe that we are right in requiring that any of our folk who believe that God has given them an insight or a message (ie a prophecy), should write out that message and submit it to the Pastors and Deacons. As those who are charged by the Lord to shepherd His flock, we would prayerfully seek to discern if the message was from God to us as His people at this point of time.

 

2. If we sensed the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, we would then seek the most appropriate time and way in which the person receiving the message could share it with the Body. Sometimes the Lord can give a message that is not to be shared immediately but He identifies the time further along in our journey together. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to distribute the message in written rather than spoken form.

 

3. Although all may prophesy, some will come to be recognized by the Church as having a prophetic gifting or anointing. As the Church recognizes that gifting and affirms it (as we do with other spiritual gifts like teaching, for example), the Leadership would then release those people to be more spontaneous in that prophetic ministry.

 

4. In the same way that we evaluate the teaching/pulpit ministry by applying the authority and truth of Scripture to such teaching, so we are to do with prophecy. What safeguards does Scripture provide to ensure that we are not misled by wrong or immature prophecies?

 

a) Personal words should glorify Jesus Christ.

b) They should conform to the Word of God, the Bible.

c) The person delivering the prophecy should be of sound moral character and submitted to the Lordship of Jesus.

d) The person will be willing (and desiring) to have his or her words tested.

e) Such prophecies should be given in a spirit of love.

f) Prophecy should never be used to establish doctrine or practice without clear biblical support.

g) No one should make major decisions based on personal prophetic words alone. We believe it is unwise to allow visitors in our congregation to bring prophetic messages. We believe God will use those so gifted from within the local Church.

 

For some the above will appear too restrictive and even bordering on the possibility of dictating to the Lord and quenching the Holy Spirit. For others, the very idea of people being allowed to exercise this gift at all is going way too far!

 

We believe that the above guidelines represent responsible leadership that is both open to the Lord and yet sufficiently protective against the enemy of the Church. We also believe it allows for growth and maturing in our understanding and exercise of this gift which has great potential to "strengthen, encourage and comfort" the Church (1 Cor. 14/3).

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