We’ve been moving through our series on the gifts of the Spirit called Seek the Gifts. As we have talked about each gift, I have encouraged you to be seeking the Spirit for your gifts and perfecting your ability to minister to others through them.
In our last post, I introduced the utterance gifts within the spiritual gifts Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12:10. I want to spend more time developing the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
These may be the most misunderstood gifts of the Spirit. They certainly were in the Corinthian church. But rather than telling the Corinthians to no longer use these gifts because they were so open to misuse and abuse, Paul gives further instruction so they used them properly and edified the church.
In this post, we will investigate and examine the gift of prophecy and how it should be used in a church service. You can distinguish it from the gift of the prophet because the prophetic ministry functioned in the church, but the Spirit made the prophetic gift for the church service.
What Prophecy Is and Isn’t
We must first define what prophecy is and is not in the Church. Paul does not define prophecy inasmuch as he talks about it. Much of our teaching about the prophetic gift comes from Paul’s expanded teaching on prophecy and speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.
Paul emphasizes prophecy above speaking in tongues in a church service because it is intelligible and edifies the body of Christ. In the service, Paul elevates prophecy above speaking in tongues. But speaking in tongues has its place both personally and corporately.
A person ministering in the prophetic gift speaks directly to the situation and culture of the church. He or she addresses worldliness in the church, misunderstanding of the vision and mission of Jesus, and misrepresentation of Jesus’ character.
This correction in the Spirit of the church or its congregation must not be divisive, derogatory, callout individuals, or be abrasive. The Holy Spirit does not correct with impunity. He desires to build people up and encourage them.
A person using the prophetic gift also encourages the body. Whether in persecution or attacked by the worldly culture around them, Christians need to hear the Lord’s words of encouragement, reminding them of God’s love for them.
The prophetic gift does not encourage the one using it. It is not about being “spiritual” looking in front of others. The Holy Spirit does not build up one individual in the corporate setting. His word is for the whole church.
A person with the prophetic gift must not use it as their own personal platform. You don’t listen to gossip in the foyer and then prophesy a message against gossip in the church. The Holy Spirit must address that situation if He wills. The prophetic gift concerns hearing from the Spirit and voicing as His mouth His message only.
The prophetic gift does not include prediction. Predictive words are part of the gift of words of wisdom. The prophetic gift instructs and exhorts the church when its culture does not conform to Christ.
The Function of the Gift
The prophetic gift functions in the body in three ways (1 Corinthians 14:3). First, the Spirit uses the prophetic gift to build the church up. The image of constructing a building is in view here. The prophetic gift is making a holy and able church with great power to change the world for Jesus. It strengthens the church to face a hostile world. It equips the saints for service to Jesus.
Second, the prophetic gift encourages the body of Christ. It binds up the broken, empowers the body to serve Christ, and reminds the church of its heart. One with the prophetic gift restores and refreshes the church.
Finally, the prophetic gift comforts and consoles Jesus’ body. We live in a cruel, cold, and dark world. They are against Jesus and us. And we need to hear the comforting words of our Jesus. We need to be consoled in the middle of the fight. The prophetic gift sees the struggle and comforts us.
Although Paul points out these three functions in 1 Corinthians 14, the Spirit uses the prophetic gift to instruct and correct the whole church. But He builds the church up, not tears it down.
The Clarity of Prophecy
The prophetic gift prophesies a clear message to the whole church. It is in the language of the people. It does not mince words. It speaks directly to the heart and issue the Spirit sees in the church.
Often in Revelation 2-3, we hear the words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Jesus speaks prophetically to the seven churches. That is what we need to hear from the prophetic gift today.
More than most of the gifts, the prophetic gift cannot be misunderstood. I have felt and heard the Holy Spirit in the prophecies from Him through His prophetic servants. He speaks to the need of the body. There’s nothing like it!
Paul includes in 1 Corinthians 14 specific instructions on how to operate in the prophetic gift. He talks about the prophetic gift releasing revelation to the church. The chief principles of the prophetic, tongues, and interpretation gifts are building up and order in the service.
Only two or three prophets speak in the service (1 Corinthians 14:29). And you are not on your own in hearing from the Spirit and speaking to the church. The other prophets and people with the prophetic gift carefully weigh what you say.
This keeps the church and those in it from being misled. The others weigh the word the Spirit speaks through you against the whole counsel of the Scriptures. They ensure the integrity of the word. The Spirit will never speak against the words of Christ. He always agrees with Scripture.
This prevents you from missing the Spirit’s leading. It is a protection for you and the church. If you have unintentionally misused your gift, those who share the gift can guide you and lovingly correct you.
They should correct you in private, not in the middle of the service. Church leadership may stop you from finishing the word. But spiritual leadership does this in a compassionate, comforting way.
If another prophetic word interrupts the first, the first one should stop until the other finishes (1 Corinthians 14:30-31). Those using the prophetic gift take turns in the service. The prophetic gift is not an uncontrollable, ecstatic gift. The prophet can control the gift (1 Corinthians 1412 32).
This falls under the principle of order (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Paul completes his instruction for the prophetic gift by challenging anyone who thinks they have the prophetic gift or are a prophet that they agree with apostolic proclamation in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
The prophetic gift brings the power of the Spirit’s edification, encouragement, and comfort to the body of Christ. He speaks powerfully through this gift to us. And we need to hear what He says. His words are light and life.
Let us desire not only to seek this gift from the Spirit, but to hear from the prophetic gift regularly. It makes the church powerful and impactful in the world. Do you have the prophetic gift? Are you using your gift to better the body of Christ?