Prophecy, the Gift that “Says” Something Part Five
By Rev. Bob Liichow
1 Corinthians 12:10 (KJV 1900) To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: Of all of this listing of nine spiritual gifts the vocal gifts are the easiest to be abused and frankly “faked” by people. When it comes to the working of miracles or divine healing either things actually happen that can be quantified or they do not. For example, when Benny Hinn commands people to “be healed” or “rise and walk” and the people do not (nor have they ever done so due to Hinn’s SINistry) then a decision must be made; either Hinn is to blame or the sick person. If someone stands up and declares that the Lord has “shown them” three people in the audience that need deliverance (a word of knowledge) — and no one comes forward or if someone does and they are not “delivered” what does that demonstrate? It is impossible to fake a healing (apart from the use of shills, which does happen), just as it is impossible to reveal something about someone to the individual that is not true, i.e. “The Lord says you have a daughter” and the person is not married and chaste. However, when it comes to the vocal gifts can people discern if in fact: (1) they actually possess such vocal gifts and (2) that others are genuinely being used by the Holy Spirit to speak? After all, if a person is speaking in an “unknown tongue” how is anyone else supposed to be able to understand it? Thus, who is to say authoritatively that one does not have the genuine gift apart from knowing all languages? Concerning these specific gifts the apostle Paul goes to greater lengths to bring correction to the people regarding speaking in tongues because it seemed to be problematic to the congregation whereas the other gifts are simply cited. For some strange reason these vocal manifestations have proven “problematic” throughout the entire history of the Church. As has been the pattern let’s begin with some definitions.
The Gift of Prophecy
Prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known tongue. Divers kinds of tongues is supernatural utterance in an unknown tongue. Interpretation of tongues is a supernatural showing forth of that which has been said in an unknown tongue.1 But the gift of prophecy is when words of English are given to an individual’s spirit, by the Holy Spirit—as the Spirit wills. And words of English in a known language begin to boil up out of your spirit, supernaturally. That is when the gift of prophecy comes into operation. . .The spiritual gift of prophecy comes boiling out of an individual, and sometimes, it will nearly lift you out of your seat. It builds up, and it comes to you supernaturally. . .Brother Kenneth E. Hagin was sitting in the congregation, and he said, ‘Boy! Norvel, I tell you, that blasted against the wall. I said, ‘I know it, Brother. It didn’t even sound like me. I could not believe what was coming out of me.2 DMI has covered in prior writings that according to the sign-gift enthusiasts there are various degrees of the expression of the prophetic gift. Hagin, Hayes, Copeland et al. declare that there is the so-called “simple gift” of prophecy, which any Spirit-filled Christian can utter to one another personally or maybe in a small group. Also there is the gift as expressed by a pastor and/or one in the “prophetic office.” In their belief system both types of prophecy, personal and corporate come from the Holy Spirit but it is only the secondary type of utterance by “God” that carries true gravitas. Is this what the Bible teaches regarding the prophetic gift? Is there a lessor and greater manifestation of prophecy depending upon the human mouthpiece? What does the apostle Paul have to say about this gift? As we have covered in the previous issues Paul’s approach in this letter is one of correction. The Corinthian Church was a carnal group in every area whether it was having a divisive spirit, suing one another, sexual immorality, and abuse of Christian liberty causing weaker brethren to stumble. For some reason most sign-gift folks seem to think the Corinthians got it “right” somehow when it comes to these spiritual gifts. Paul’s tone in his writing does not change one iota (or any “alphas” either I suppose, a little Greek humor) and after listing the gifts he brings yet further correction to the Church at Corinth. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:11–12 (KJV 1900)
The people in Corinth ranked people’s value and/or spirituality by the charismata he or she manifested. Some people desired the gifts that others had (envy), those possessing such gifts saw themselves as superior (pride) and others felt of no value at all (despair). Paul addresses all of these attitudes when he describes the Church as a body in 1 Cor. 12:27-30. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 1 Corinthians 12:27–30 (KJV 1900) The Church is one Body but many diverse parts. Just as in the human body each part is vital to the overall health of the body, even so in the Church. The gifts and callings are initiated by God (Romans 11:29). It is God who calls a man into the holy ministry, the role of the people is to validate that divine call by acknowledging and accepting the ministry of Christ through that servant. The Church is built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner stone (read Ephesians 2:19-22).
The fact that Paul assigned ordinal numbers (first … second … third) to the first three gifts suggests that these may have been relegated to a lesser role by the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor. 12:21–24). Those three kinds of gifted members—apostles … prophets … teachers—probably were rated lower than those who had the more spectacular gift of tongues. But the first three gifts may have been greater (v. 31) because of their extensive value to the whole body of Christ. This may be why he listed them first and then said that the church should eagerly desire (v. 31) the exercise of those gifts in the assembly (cf. 14:1–5). Gifted apostles, prophets, and teachers characteristically ministered to a whole church, and so would engender unity and mutual edification. The gift of tongues, on the other hand, suited the Corinthian penchant for self-expression and the pursuit of personal freedom. This self-centeredness also afflicted the church in other areas (e.g., eating sacrificial foods, women in worship, celebration of the Lord’s Supper). Love for others was an essential need in the Corinthian church, and to that fundamental attribute Paul then turned to pay eloquent tribute.3
It seems the Corinthian’s were exalting some gifts and gifted people are downplaying others. Paul continues his exhortation by asking a series of rhetorical questions — “Are all apostles? Are all prophets . . .?”(v.29) NO. “Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (v. 30) NO. As the citation by Walvoord and Zuck states it seems the Corinthian’s were coveting what was dramatic and self-directed over the gifts which were really needful, such as the foundational work of the apostles and prophets. Paul tells them if they must “covet” spiritual gifts, at least covet the “best” (most profitable for the church) gifts. Higher than all these gifts is manifesting the love of God. Some Bible commentators try to “punt” on the issue of prophets by simply relegating them to the Old Testament and the Apostles to the New Testament birth of the Church. As tempting as this approach may seem (it does simply things a lot if you go that route) it does not represent the plain teaching of the New Testament concerning the prophetic ministry. Paul tells the Corinthians that God has placed in the Church first apostles and then prophets (v.28). To the Ephesians he writes:
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Ephesians 2:20 (KJV 1900)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; Ephesians 3:5 (KJV 1900)
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Ephesians 4:10–12 (KJV 1900)
At the beginning of the Church there were recognized God-sent prophets, such as Agabus who is the only named “prophet” in the N.T (Acts 21:10). We also read of an example of some young women who prophesied (Acts 21:9) but were not designated as female prophets per se . The only N.T. reference to a female “prophetess” is found in Rev. 2:20, and she is a false prophet whom the church is rebuked for listening to! The two specific “ascension gifts” of apostle and prophet were given by our Lord to lay the foundation of the Church. Once the foundation of a “house” has been laid what happens next? The superstructure is then built upon (up on) the foundation that has (past tense) been laid. There is no longer any need to rebuild the foundation once it has been laid. This is exactly what every restorationists group, sect or cult has attempted to do —- re-lay the original foundation, as if this was even possible! We know from the O.T. what the role of the prophet was and there is no reason to believe that it changed in nature during the founding of the Church. What is fascinating in the N.T. is that the prophetic ministry was not written down for us. Unlike the O.T. the Church does not have any “major and minor” prophets. It seems that a portion of what the prophetic gift did was to reveal things to people that only God, certainly not some “stranger” would know:
But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 1 Cor. 14:24-25
At this point in time there was no canon of scripture collected for the Church; apart from the O.T. writings which Corinthian Gentiles would not be familiar with. This fact may help explain the supernatural manner in which God was working by His Spirit in and through His servants. The Bible tells us the prophetic role was indisputably foundational and important but it is the writings of the apostles that were preserved by the Holy Spirit and nothing remains of anything (apart from Agabus) of the N.T. prophets. Of all the three categories of gifts here (basically, those that do something, reveal something, or say something) it is the vocal gifts that Paul spends the most time on correcting. The gift of prophecy garners much of his attention:
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 1 Cor. 14:29–34
In this pericope Paul is addressing the public use of the gift of prophecy. If several people have been graced with this gift, fine and dandy, but the underlying principle is the revealing of God’s will, the instruction and comfort of the people gathered. Note also that just because someone may have the gift of prophecy does not give them carte blanche to say anything and mislead the people. Whatever is prophetically spoken is to be judged (30.109 ἀνακρίνω; διακρίνω: to make a judgment on the basis of careful and detailed information—‘to judge carefully, to evaluate carefully.’)4 as to whether or not what is being shared is from the Lord. As to the who are the “ye all can prophesy” refers to is simple — Paul is still speaking of those prophetically gifted NOT all Christians. We know this because he continues to speak to prophetic “order.” In v. 32 he lets them know that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. This is a crucial point to keep in mind. In the pagan world then and now people worked themselves up into ecstatic frenzies and while out of their minds but into the spirit they would speak. The Corinthians were no doubt influenced by the various cults and oracles in their city and may have believed that those who had a prophetic gift were “expected” to behave in certain ways under the influence of the ‘gods.’ Paul says not so, The Living God is a God of order and not confusion. He does not speak through His vessels giving conflicting messages (as is very common today among the so-called restored prophets), nor does He shout over the top of several others engaged in “revealing” something. God’s ways are those of order, clarity/certainty and peace in ALL church congregations. The comment regarding the role of women is also still within the context of prophesy and public ministry. The women simply were to keep silent during the service. They were not to prophesy publicly or teach the men of the congregation. Paul mentions the women because the Corinthians had problems understanding their proper roles as men and women in the totally new social family called the Church. We are told of the future of the gift by the apostle when he states: Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Cor. 13:8-11 After showing the excellency of walking in love (God is love) over expressing the gifts of the Spirit we read that these gifts are temporary in nature and they will come to an end when they no longer serve the purposes of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church (Col. 1:18). Prophetic utterances in the Church will be done away with —- 2673. καταργέω katargĕō, kat-arg-eh´-o; from 2596 and 691; to be (render) entirely idle (useless) –abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.5 The purpose of prophecy (and to some degree other tongues + the interpretation) was to reveal a portion of the mind/will of God to those gathered. At that time they had no canon of scriptures; at best they had Paul’s letter(s) and their own leaders. What the Corinthians had then was a partial revelation, which Paul did not denigrate, but he tells the people they are moving towards (teleos) the “perfect” or full revelation and when that has come, all these partial bits of understanding will cease. We know that Paul was speaking of the time when God’s revelation would be a complete record. How do we know this? Because of what Peter says in his second letter the following: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 2 Peter 1:16-20 The more sure word of prophecy is that which is recorded for all time and for all people in the writings of the Holy Bible. Personally I believe the perfect (complete revelation) ceased the moment the last word was spoken & transcribed by the last living apostle. True, the letters were not gathered and agreed upon until many years later, but they were completed much earlier and I believe that was all that was necessary. The chart on page nine gives us a little idea of the various gatherings of the writings of the New Testament. Paul makes it abundantly clear that these dramatic gifts will cease but that the power of God’s love, which is superior, will never cease. Love will always “trump” gifts because love is the fruit of the spirit. Fruit is produced over time, it requires patience, pruning at times and fertilizing and it is FRUIT that we have been appointed to bear (see Matthews 13:23; John 12:24) in our lives: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-24 God has commanded all of His children to be fruitful and multiply, both literally and spiritually. He does not command us to be “gifted” supernaturally. Jesus said that the world would know we were His disciples by our love (John 13:35) not by our alleged giftedness. When it comes to the prophetic gift/office the New Testament has more to say to the Church by way of warning us about the inherent danger associated with the pseudo-prophets. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15–20 (NASB95) Jesus warns His disciples to beware, i.e. BE AWARE of the reality of false prophets. They dress up just like the followers of Jesus, they will look like sheep not something else. How will we know them? Discerning these frauds does not come by looking at their gifts which can be counterfeited to some degree by Satan but at their fruit, which cannot be faked because it comes from within the heart, which is either dead or alive unto God. Death produces nothing alive, it produces only more death.
The Inherent Danger in the Restored Prophetic Voice
If I can get you to believe that I have been called to hear from God on the behalf of the Church and individuals such as your “needy” self then I can (and often will) absolutely control your life. Some of the most tragic events in the history of the Church have occurred when people relied on people claiming to be restored prophets sent to guide their lives.
All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Matthew 24:8–12 (KJV 1900) In speaking of the end of time our Lord reinforces His earlier message concerning these tares among the wheat —- “and MANY false prophets SHALL rise.” ‘Many’ in the Greek (πολλοί/polloi) refers to a great number and He uses the same word regarding those who will be led astray. From these two statements alone the Church it seems should expect numerous false prophets and that hosts of people will be deceived by them. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. Matthew 24:24–26 (KJV 1900) In the same discourse our Master gives further insight regarding the danger these SINisters (pseudo-Christs and pseudo-prophets) will pose for His people. Not only will there be a whole bunch of these frauds released upon the Church but they will be fueled with demonic powers. The word for ‘great’ is megas in the Greek from which we get our word “mega” — mega signs and wonders will be such an astounding nature that they could potentially deceive even the elect (but they will not). I think it is fair to translate “false Christs” into meaning more than just individuals who proclaim themselves to be Jesus Christ (DMI has covered several of these blatant idiots in the past) but it also can refer to those who are “falsely anointed,” i.e. the unseen power operating in and through them is not from the Holy Spirit but a demonic influence. Jesus has warned us repeatedly that these counterfeit ministry “gifts” are coming (beware 7:15, I have told you 24:25, believe it not 24:26) and not to fall prey to them. Our Lord’s warnings have largely gone unheeded by the Church from its inception. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:1–3 (KJV 1900) Here the Holy Spirit through the apostle Peter warns of false prophets and false teachers (I have yet to meet a restored prophet who does not also teach). As his Lord told him “many” polloi, SHALL follow their direction. Their words will drip with honey and they will teach the people doctrines the people want to hear for the purpose of transferring the hearer’s money into their pockets. It is because of these tares and their way of life/lifestyles that the Gospel is spoken evil of. The world sees people like Paul Cain, Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn and Rev. Ike (all call themselves prophets) and wants nothing to do with the “Church” because of their foolishness. Isn’t it odd how the world does not seem to be fooled by these people, only the Christians? Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (KJV 1900) At the end of his life on earth John the beloved warns His Master’s flock not to blithely believe everything that is being proclaimed. We are told to test, to examine what is offered as to whether or not it is genuine (remember Paul’s exhortation earlier for those “sitting by to judge” the prophecies). Why does he tell us this? Because MANY false prophets were already alive and active in the world and attacking the Church at the time of John writing this letter. John’s direction was for the Church to test the prophecies and do not believe what every spirit is saying through whatever yielded/gifted vessel. How were they to test the spirits and the words delivered? Does what is being shared agree with the teachings that have been handed down? When he penned this letter John’s life was almost over and the “faith” had been delivered to the saints. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3 Jude, often considered the brother of James the Just was not an apostle and wrote this letter later on when the foundational doctrines of the apostles were in place. How were people to test “prophetic” utterances and those bringing them? They were to look to the teaching of the apostles which the people had an understanding of or some access to the texts. I believe my argument is buttressed further by the example of the Bereans: These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11 Once the cannon of scriptures was set down there was and is simply no need for a “prophetic” word from the Lord. God has already spoken what more needs to be said? God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Hebrews 1:1–2 (KJV 1900) Yes, God once spoke through the prophets, but now He has spoken to us directly through His Son and the apostles have recorded all that the Spirit brought back to their remembrance to share (see John 14:26) with the Church. The eternal Word of God is totally sufficient for the Christian to live a fruitful life of godliness in service to their neighbors. The Church does not need anyone to stand up and declare “thus saith the Lord” when we have in our laps, the complete revelation of what God has “said” to humanity. The gift of prophecy and the role of prophets are over. The foundation has been laid 2,000 years ago and God, the Master Builder, has been building on this foundation ever since. In closing, The Church does not need a “now word” or a “new word” from the Lord. The Church needs simply to be faithful to the faith that has been delivered unto us. We need to be doers of the Word, not chasing after some other highly suspect and uncertain proclamations.
|Athanasius (b. 296)||Origen (b. 185)||Irenaeus (b. 130)||Marcion* (b. 85)|
|1 Corinthians||1 Corinthians||1 Corinthians||1 Corinthians|
|2 Corinthians||2 Corinthians||2 Corinthians||2 Corinthians|
|1 Thessalonians||1 Thessalonians||1 Thessalonians||1 Thessalonians|
|2 Thessalonians||2 Thessalonians||2 Thessalonians||2 Thessalonians|
|1 Timothy||1 Timothy||1 Timothy|
|2 Timothy||2 Timothy||2 Timothy|
|1 Peter||1 Peter||1 Peter|
|2 Peter||2 Peter||2 Peter|
|1 John||1 John||1 John|
|2 John||2 John||2 John|
|3 John||3 John||3 John|
1. Hagin, Kenneth. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts. Faith Library Publication, Tulsa, OK. 1991, p.121
2. Hayes, Norval. The Gift of Prophecy. Harrison House Publishers, Tulsa, OK. 1980, p. 6, 7, 8
3. David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 534.
4. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 363.
5. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament
A Current Example of the Prophetic Madness
This deluded soul, David E. Taylor told his congregation and the world that “God” had revealed to him the winner of the Super Bowl. Even with a fifty-fifty chance he guessed wrong and ended up (1) lying in the name of the Lord he says he serves, (2) embarrassing the Church which he represents as a public minister by being exposed as one deceived and deceiving others. For whatever reason he decided to promote this specific revelation from “God” on a global basis. One can only surmise that he did so in the hopes of expanding his influence among the hugely competitive prophetic marketplace. Here is a statement from his website: David E. Taylor is first and foremost, a friend of Jesus Christ, which allows him to serve in all the five-fold ministry offices, in which the offices of apostle, prophet and healing evangelist are the most notable. These offices enable him to conquer spiritual territories and dethrone demonic princes and their principalities in different cities and regions he goes to on behalf of a breakthrough for God’s church the Body of Christ. They serve to equip, empower and launch sons and daughters into God’s vineyard, to minister Jesus Christ and demonstrate His Latter Rain Glory to this generation. This man, who was completely wrong about his word from “God” would have people believe that he is an omni-competent healing evangelist! Folks, it is people like this who bring shame and ridicule upon the Body of Christ and rightly so in cases like these if we, the Church, do not do all we can to rebuke this man in love and bring correction to him. Much of the foolishness taking place in the Church today is due to the tolerant attitude and silence on that part of those who are orthodox Bible believing Christian leaders. Many solid pastors vacillate between on of the following three men: Wonderfully pious words to try to live by if you are an ostrich. The love of God compels us to warn our brothers and sisters of the grave spiritual danger they are facing by listening to the myriad of false teachers and false prophets. ious words to try to live by if you are an ostrich. The love of God compels us to warn our brothers and sisters of the grave spiritual danger they are facing by listening to the myriad of false teachers and false prophets. Pastors especially are charged with guarding their portion of His flock by feeding them the pure Word of God. It is only through a steady diet of sound teaching that we will become equipped to discern truth from error. This implies first that pastors must teach sound doctrine and secondly, that the flock will be faithful not only to hear but to act upon the glorious truths shared!