Instructions About Prophecy

The activity of the Holy Spirit reveals God’s presence and power among his people.

The ministry of the Spirit was promised in the Old Testament.

Then afterward
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
(Joel 2:28)

On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from Joel to declare that this promise had been fulfilled (Acts 2.16-21).

Prophecy was one way to show that the Holy Spirit was active among God’s people.

Prophecy – A Spiritual Gift

When Paul cataloged spiritual gifts, prophecy was one of the gifts of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:10To another the working of powerful deeds, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

People who frequently prophesied were identified as prophets. Paul recognized prophets along with apostles and teachers as important ministers in the church.

1 Corinthians 12.28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then deeds of power . . .

Prophecy – Values and Cautions

The ministry of prophecy was a function of the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul instructed: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5.19).

The next imperative connected prophecy with the tendency to put out the fire of the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5.20 – Do not despise prophecies.

Why would anyone deny the work of the Spirit as he provided important information to the church?

There was a problem in Thessalonica about the day of the Lord. Apparently, the problem came from an erroneous prophecy.

A mistaken prophecy about the second coming necessitated a second letter to the church.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,

Not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

Test the Message

Even though prophecy distressed the early church in Thessalonica, prophecy was to be encouraged and not quenched.

Prophecy is a work of the Holy Spirit, but it comes through human beings. As a work of the Spirit, it is to be valued. As a message from humans, it is to be tested.

1 Thessalonians 5.21 – But test everything; hold fast to what is good.

Paul gave similar directions to the church in Corinth. He said, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29).

How do you test prophecy? Answer these two questions and you will be well on your way to knowing the value of a prophecy.

— Is it consistent with the gospel message?

— Does it build up the congregation?

Once tested, the logical step is, “hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5.21b-22).

Avoid Extremes

There are two extremes that must be avoided with prophecy.

There are those who deny that any kind of prophecy exists after the apostolic age. Included in this belief are sign gifts like tongues and healing.

Some well-known Bible teachers ascribe to this cessationist view. With all due respect, I find it difficult to justify their position from Scripture.

The other extreme is an over-valuation of prophecy and an unqualified acceptance of prophetic words that come from recognized prophets.

An unwillingness to “test” the message of prophets makes adherents vulnerable to conspiracy theories and cults.

Paul gave clear guidance to both extremes. If we follow his directions we will be able to hear from the Spirit and test the message we have heard.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this powerful passage on today’s YouTube broadcast. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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