The spiritual gift of prophecy – What is it?
The gift of prophecy is mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Romans 12:6 teaches, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith." In this verse, prophecy is one of many gifts that some believers would have to varying degrees.
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In 1 Corinthians 12:10, we read "to another prophecy," a reference to prophecy as one of many spiritual gifts in the church. Prophecy or "prophets" is also mentioned in verse 29.
First Corinthians 14 discusses prophecy in more detail, teaching, "The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" (v. 3). Verse 5 teaches that the goal of prophecy is "so that the church may be built up."
When speaking of orderly worship in Corinth, Paul added, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets" (1 Corinthians 14:29-32).
This passage notes: 1) only two or three prophets could speak at a worship gathering, 2) the congregation was to consider or reflect upon what was spoken, 3) prophets were to speak one at a time, and 4) prophets could control when they spoke. This fourth aspect is important, since some at Corinth were apparently involved in disorderly worship that may have included emotional or mystical aspects of religion that reflected the pagan religions of their surrounding culture.
What is the gift of prophecy? There is much misunderstanding regarding its definition. Many understand prophecy as speech that predicts the future. However, this is only one aspect of the biblical prophet's work. Prophesying can also mean to proclaim as a pastor does during a sermon. In this sense, a person can be gifted in prophesying still today.
However, there do not appear to still be people in the church with the ability to regularly tell the future as some did in the Bible. Those who claim to do so were often considered false teachers in the church. For example, 2 Peter 2:1 teaches, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction."
God can still reveal the future through a person today if He chooses to do so. However, it is clear that prophesying was more than just telling the future and that there was much caution concerning how prophets operated in the early church due to the threat of false prophets. Today, the gift of prophecy may operate in the sense of giftedness in proclaiming God's Word, yet God's Word has provided sufficient revelation for today. No further predictive prophecy is necessary to understand His will or teachings.
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