Today’s text: 1Chronicles 20-22 1Corinthians 14:1-20
Growing up in an Assembly of God church, I heard lots of sermons and teaching on the gift of tongues. So much emphasis was placed on speaking in tongues that often little focus was placed upon the other gifts. Here in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul emphasizes that the gift of prophecy is more beneficial to the congregation than the gift of tongues. Paul did not discredit the practice of speaking in tongues but rather focuses upon a gift which brings common benefit to the body. He addresses a problem with the priority given to the two gifts and encourages them to seek a gift that would help them do good to others.
Any discussion concerning prophecy can quickly become quite complicated. The principal reason for the complicated nature of the subject is that the definition of the term prophecy is seldom agreed upon. When we look at those who held the office of prophet, especially in the Old Testament books, there is little difference of opinion over how they carried out the duties of their office. Principally those who held the office of a prophet foretold future events. I do not think the ‘office of prophet’ is what Paul was addressing here. Very few throughout the history of the church have been called to the office of prophet. Paul is addressing what is often referred to as the ‘simple gift’ of prophecy. Some commentaries lean towards it being a divinely inspired ability to explain the word of God through preaching or teaching. Other commentaries see it more as a spontaneous divinely inspired and anointed utterance or supernatural proclamation in a known language. What we can agree on, based upon this particular text, is that prophecy edifies, exhorts and comforts the church. Prophecy builds up and strengthens the faith of its hearers as it leads them to the word of God.
It is not the same thing as the interpretation of tongues but it is a separate utterance given in a known language. It is not necessarily a prediction or foretelling of future events. It may differ from preaching or teaching in that it is not preplanned. Prophecy is not equivalent to Scripture but Scripture is the standard by which prophecy is to be measured. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 – 21 instructs us not to despise prophecy but to test and to hold to what is good. Prophecy is a gift that is administered through an imperfect vessel. Sometimes people may think they have heard from God when in fact they’re responding to strong desires and erroneously offer what they believed to have been divinely inspired. This can be especially dangerous when it affects the key areas of one’s life. All prophecy should be examined in the light of Scripture. When examining prophecy we should ask ourselves is it wise? Does it give clear direction or does it create confusion? Does it edify or lift up Jesus? Does it edify or build up the church? Is it consistent with the Bible? Does it mesh with the other ways you are hearing from God, what you hear through the word, what you hear through the counsel of others or what you have observed in the events and circumstances of your life? Remember, test all prophesy and hold only to that which stands in the illumination of the Word.