In recent years there has been a massive surge of interest in both the gift and role of prophecy in the local church. More recently a dialogue has begun about a wider emphasis of the role of prophecy outside of the local church – in the workplace. Such conversations are healthy, helpful and encouraging but the best advice about prophecy is found in the bible itself.
An amazing gift
The apostle Paul goes to great lengths to bring direction and guidelines to the young church in Corinth. It’s a church that is not struggling to see evidences of the work of the Spirit being openly manifest in their corporate gatherings, but rather a congregation in danger of suffering the negative downside of abuse. Paul’s wisdom as he speaks into the life of the church as an apostle is more than just advice – he knows that he has the mind of Christ and the authority to bring order and direction.
Paul explains what the gifts of the Spirit do – the encouragement, edification and exhortation; the gifts of the Spirit are clearly essential for the building of the Church. They are significant, and necessary. So much so that he makes an impassioned bold plea to the Church, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”
Especially that you may prophesy – 1 Cor 14:14
It is very clear from Paul’s writings what the benefit of prophecy is. So much so, that it makes no sense to ever consider the gifts of the Spirit to have ceased, especially when the need is so great! The one who prophesies speaks to people for their up-building and encouragement and consolation, prophecy builds up the church.
For everyone – including you!
Paul then ventures further in his passion to see the Church built and strengthened by making a plea to not just the leaders, but to all of the church regardless of their age, gender or role either in or outside of the Church, ” I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.”
I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.
Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church – nothing does it better than prophecy.
Simply, quoting 1 Cor 14, if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. That’s what you want to see, isn’t it?
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy
Paul really is pressing the point. Prophecy is good for the church because it brings such massive encouragement. And we need as much encouragement as we can get.
It’s worth really pursuing.
Prophecy is not about saying whatever comes to mind though. When Paul talks about earnestly, eagerly or coveting the gift of prophecy he is talking about a pursuit of the One who gives the gifts. Longing for the gift of prophecy starts with praying for it, fasting, reading about it, asking questions about it, discussing it, getting enthused for it. It’s not a complacent approach where revelation is just ‘thrust upon us’ and we nonchalantly just declare it. No, it’s precious, and worth pursuing.
Paul in Romans 12:6 brings one last encouragement to us about the gift, if you have it, then use it in proportion to your faith. Don’t start prophesying the end of the world! Stick to what God is showing you, not your imagination. If God has shown you something then say so! Let’s encourage each other to be honest about our communication of what God has really said.
I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
In closing, Moses encounters the same thing (Numbers 11) where God comes on the seventy leaders of Israel, and also on two others who were outside of the camp. They all prophesy. The people wonder about this, but Moses’ encouragement echoes down the centuries to us, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Have a think about Joel 2.
So what’s the best advice about prophecy? Desire it, long for it, crave it, make way for it – and never despise it.