Ecclesiology – Spiritual Gifts – Gift of Prophecy in the Bible
Table of Contents
Biblical Prophecy is another intricate and immense subject, and like other comprehensive topics, should be understood in the much larger context of what God teaches us in His word about the subject. Prophecy and prophets are mentioned continuously through the Bible, for this was one of the primary vehicles God used to speak His word. This subject is better understood within the larger context of understanding how God communicates.
How God Communicates
To help us properly understand prophecy, we need to understand Biblically what God teaches about how He communicates to us. Communication is defined as the impartation or exchanging of information.
Communication in the Greek is synonymous with the word commune, in Greek this is ‘koinonia’, which means to communicate, commune or fellowship (i.e. 1 John 1.3).
Communication from God is defined Biblically as any information, message or revelation that is from Him. The method or vehicle for this communication varies greatly to give understanding or experience to what God is communicating. Communication from God can only be accepted by faith, for if you do not believe a message is from God, you will not accept it (Heb 11.6). Conversely, if you accept something to be from God when it is not, you are deceived (1 John 4.1).
Here we list the various ways God communicates to mankind in the Bible:
- Nature – Ps 19.1, Romans 1.18-23 – The attributes of God are understood by looking at various aspect of nature, Nature declares or communicates God’s glory.
- Conscience – Jer 31.33, John 16.8-11, Rom 2.15 – Our conscience bears witness to the law God has put in the hearts of every man. The Holy Spirit uses our conscience to communicate conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgement.
- Scripture – 2 Tim 3.16, 2 Pet 1.20 – God speaks through His word, and it is profitable for all teaching in righteousness.
- Visions and Dreams – Numbers 12.6, Gen 40.8 – God will reveal Himself to prophets through visions and dreams. Interpretations of those dreams come from God.
- Night Dreams – Job 33.15-16 – God seals instructions in the hearts of men on their beds
- Visions while awake – Ezekiel 8.1-3 – OT contains multiple accounts of the prophet’s experiencing visions from God while awake.
- Audible – 1 Kings 19.12, Job 33.14, Ps 85.8, – God speaks audibly to His people.
- Direct Communication – Ex 4.15 – God puts His word in the prophet’s mouth and gave them the exact words to speak.
- Inspiration or heart – Job 32.8, Pr 21.1, Ex 4.21 – It is our spirit that receives understanding. God moves the hearts of leaders. He can also harden them.
- Circumstance – Esther 4.14 – Esther was spoken to in her circumstance.
- Answering by Priest – Urim and Thummim – 1 Sam 28.6, God would answer the questions of the people through the Priests with the Urimm and Thummim in the OT.
- Witnesses & Testimonies– Matt 18.16, 28.18 – Confirmation between the testimonies of multiple people, God will speak to us through other believers.
- Revelation – 1 Corin 2.10, 14.6, 2 Corin 3.16 – God reveals things to us through His Spirit.
- Holy Spirit directly – Rom 8.16 – The Holy Spirit speaks directly with our spirit.
- Changing believer’s mind/desires – Ps 145.18, Phil 2.13, Rom 12.2 – God works in you to will (desire) and to act according to His purpose. Changing your mind to know His will.
- Remembrance by the Holy Spirit – John 14.26 – The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance Jesus’ words and will teach us all things. Believers will remember scripture.
- Signs and Wonders – John 10.38, Acts 2.22, Heb 2.4 – God shows His approval and testifies through signs and wonders.
- Answers to Prayer – Ps 91.15, Eph 3.20 – God answers those who call upon Him, even beyond what we ask or think.
God Speaks in Mysteries and Answers Through Revelations
In this world, God speaks in mysteries. When something is not understood or believed, it remains a mystery or is veiled to the mind. Why does God speak in mysteries?
God tells us that He rewards those who diligently and legitimately seek Him, and His ways and His gifts. This is why He conceals information or communication and reveals the truth to the hearts of those who trust in Him (2 Corin 4.3). Those who desire God will seek Him out, and God tests the hearts of men to see who will earnestly come after Him (Ps 7.9, Jer 17.10, 20.12, Rev 2.23).
This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “`You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. – Matt 13.13
God seeks those who seek after Him. He rewards those who earnestly seek after Him. Jesus said He would reveal Himself to those who keep His commandments (John 14.21).
God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and truth – John 4.23
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him – Heb 11.6
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you – James 4.8
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened – Matt 7.8
What shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation (apokalypsis), or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine – 1 Corin 14.6
In 1 Corin 14.6 we see the Apostle Paul distinguishes prophecy from revelation. Each of these words have different meanings. This is because revelation is made in the heart once you receive understanding and comes as a result of anything God communicates with you. After you understand something, it is up to you to receive it by faith or not (Heb 6.5). Once you understand something you will be accountable for it (John 9.41, Rom 1.18).
The Greek word for revelation is ‘apokalypsis’, meaning uncovering, lay bare or naked, or reveal, which is different than the Greek word for prophecy.
Prophesy (with an s) is the verb, the description of the act or occurrence. Prophecy (with a c) is the noun, the identifier of the idea itself. Here we can glean a description from the original Hebrew and Greek words for what was meant when these words where used.
Hebrew Prophesy (s) –
Naba H5012 – A primitive root; to prophesy, that is, speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse): – prophesy (-ing) make self a prophet. (115 times in KJV)
Nataph H5197 – A primitive root; to ooze, that is, distil gradually; by implication to fall in drops; figuratively to speak by inspiration: – drop (-ping), prophesy (-et). (18 times in KJV)
Chazah H2372 – A primitive root; to gaze at; mentally to perceive, contemplate (with pleasure); specifically to have a vision of: – behold, look, prophesy, provide, see. (54 times in KJV)
Hebrew Prophecy (c) –
Massa H4853 – From H5375; a burden; specifically tribute, or (abstractly) porterage; figuratively an utterance, chiefly a doom, especially singing; mental, desire: – burden, carry away, prophecy, X they set, song, tribute. (65 times in KJV)
Nebuah H5016 – From H5012; a prediction (spoken or written): – prophecy. (3 times in KJV)
Nabiy H4853 – From H5012; a prophet or (generally) inspired man: – prophecy, that prophesy, prophet. (315 time in KJV)
Hebrew Prophet –
Nabiy’ H5030 – From H5012; a prophet or (generally) inspired man: – prophecy, that prophesy, prophet. (315 times in the KJV)
Greek Prophesy (s) –
Propheteuo G4395 – From G4396; to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, and exercise the prophetic office: – prophesy. (28 times in the KJV)
Greek Prophecy (c) –
Propheteia G 4393 – From G4396 (“prophecy”); prediction (scriptural or other): – prophecy, prophesying. (19 times in the KJV)
Prophetikos G4397 – From G4396; pertaining to a foreteller (“prophetic”): – of prophecy, of the prophets. ( 2 times in the KJV)
Greek Prophet –
Prophetes G 4396 – From a compound of (G4253 – meaning fore or in front of) and (G5346 – to speak or make known ones thoughts); a foreteller (“prophet”); by analogy an inspired speaker; by extension a poet: – prophet. (149 times in KJV)
Propheteia G4394 – From G4396 (“prophecy”); prediction (scriptural or other): – prophecy, prophesying. (19 times in the KJV)
What is Prophecy / A Prophet
Prophecy is the word or truths of God revealed to mankind. God shares truths through various means to humanity, i.e. nature reveals aspects of God (Ps 19.1), our conscience, etc. however, prophecy is when God communicates, informs or reveals something to a believer.
God hath revealed them (a message of wisdom) unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. – 2 Corin 2.10
Prophecy is a revelation or message (communication) from God. A prophecy is never of human origin, but is from the Holy Spirit that carries a human messenger.
For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:21
Prophecy in the New Testament
Purpose of the Gift of Prophecy
In the New Testament, a believer who has the gift of prophecy will share revelations or prophecies to the church, or to a specific person, from God as the Holy Spirit gives them faith to do so. We find the Apostle Paul’s description of the effects of prophecy in 1 Corin 12; where unbelievers whom have the secrets of their heart revealed, will fall down on his face and worship God.
If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 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. – 1 Corinthians 14.24-25
(Minister) According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith – Romans 12.6
Christians are specifically instructed in Thessalonians not to despise prophecies, or prevent them, but test them all. After a prophecy is tested, believers are to hold to what is good and reject anything else.
Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. – 1 Thess 5.19-22
Is Prophecy Different in the New Testament vs the Old Testament
There are some disputes, amongst Christian groups, whether prophecy differed between the Old and New Covenants. Specifically, for example, if a prophecy spoken by a New Testament Christian was the same as the prophecies of Isaiah.
The Bible strongly implies that the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles established the foundation of God’s word through the written scriptures that cannot be changed, added, subtracted, altered, or broken. That there is no other revelation that is foundational to our faith (Eph 2.20) and that any work done until Christ returns is to be built upon this foundation (1 Corin 3.11-12).
Understanding God’s use of Prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament, we find these are two different ways in which God establishes His work on earth. However, the foundation has been laid (completed) and there is no scripture to be given by prophecy until Christ returns. This is why the Bible is a closed canon and scripture is complete (2 Tim 3.16).
The purpose and function of prophetic revelation among New Testament Christians was fundamentally different from Old Testament Prophetically foundational scripture. Primarily we see that in the Old Testament, prophets where the messengers of God, used to inspire His scripture on Earth. In the New Testament, communication and inspiration of God is given directly to believers through the Holy Spirit and our relationship with Him. In the Old Testament God spoke through His prophets, in the New Testament we see that God now speaks to us through His Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Heb 1.1-2).
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2. but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.– Hebrews 1.1-2
The Old Testament prophets spoke God’s word to set a foundation in scripture for the truth God established on Earth for the Jews, God’s people, to follow (Ps 147.19-20). The foundation for our beliefs, or the way (Acts 9.2), was established by the Prophets and Apostles (1 Corin 3.11). Since the foundation of our belief has already been established, believers are to be careful to use their gifts to build upon this already established foundation (1 Corin 3.10-15).
You are no longer strangers, but citizens with the Saints, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone – Eph 2.19-20
Non-Foundational Gifts – Apostles and Prophets
The difference between the foundational offices of the former Prophets and Apostles needs to be understood in a separate context then those with the Spiritual gifts of Apostle and Prophet in 1 Corin 12. Even though the same words are used, we can clearly see a difference between those who established the foundations of our faith from God, a foundation which has already been established and cannot be set again as seen in Eph 2.20, compared to those with a spiritual gift of prophecy. Definitions need to be set in the context of how scripture defines them!
There were obviously many believers that had the spiritual gift of prophecy in the Church of Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, Thessalonica, etc. but we don’t have any additional books that were added to the Bible from their prophecies. Why? This is because they were not foundational Prophets or Apostles, and we may infer that this is not what the ‘gift of prophecy’ is to be used for as described in 1 Corinthians. They used their gifts as the Apostle Paul instructed, to reveal the secrets of the heart of those coming in to glorify God (1 Corin 14.24) and for the edification of the Church (1 Corin 14.3), not for doctrine or foundational teaching.
Old Testament Function
In the Old Testament, God tells us He will not do anything unless He first reveals it to his servants the prophets.
The Lord Jehovah will do nothing, except he reveal his secret unto his servants the prophets – Amos 3.7
In the Old Testament, a prophet was established by God for the people to inquire of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord did not dwelling in all His people all the time (during this Church age we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, Jer 31.34) therefore people needed prophets to inquire about the word of the Lord.
I will give that to the man of God, to tell us our way.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.) – 1 Samuel 9.9
Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” – 2 Kings 3.11
The law, the Prophets, the Holy Temple and how God worked in the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come (Col 2.17), of the coming New Testament.
Job of the Old Testament Prophet
First, we find that it was God who chose and raised up a person to be His prophet (Deut 18.15). This job or position sometimes referred to as the ‘office of a prophet’, was determined by God. The prophet’s job or duty was to be His spokesperson or to carry His message to the people on Earth. When we look throughout the Old Testament, the prophets typically carried messages of repentance from evil, to turn the hearts of God’s people back to God (2 Chron 7.14, Ps 51.13, Isa 55.6-7, Jer 26.3, Eze 18.21, 33, Joel 2.12-13, Jonah 3.10, Zech 1.3, Hosea 14). We find most frequently, God would rise up these prophets during times of great distress, when the hearts of the nation where rebellious towards God.
These prophets had extremely difficult duties, as most people would hate them for their words, as they spoke the truth of God’s word about judgement if they continued on the ungodly path they were on.
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38. the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.– Hebrews 11.35-38
New Testament Functions
After Jesus was seated at the right hand of God (Eph 4) believers, now the Saints of God (1 Peter 2.9) are His Holy Temple (Eph 2.21) and are taught by God directly (John 6.45). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to all believers to dwell and work in them (Phil 2.13). This is why it is written that in sundry times God spoke through His prophets but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son (Heb 1.1-2).
The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy (Rev 19.10). All believers have the Spirit of prophecy dwelling within them, the Holy Spirit (Rom 8.9). Jesus fulfilled the old order (covenant) of how humanity could communicate with God:
- The Temple (Place of God) – Replaced by temples of flesh. (1 Corin 6.19)
- The Priesthood (Mediator for God) – Replaced by the priesthood of believers. (1 Peter 2.9)
- The Prophets (Mouthpiece of God) – Replaced by the indwelling working of the Spirit. (Phil 2.13)
Believers no longer need a priest to mediate between them and God, for Jesus is our mediator and High Priest (Heb 4.14-16). In the same way a believer no longer needs to go to the temple to be near the presence of God (1 Corin 3.16), a believer no longer needs a prophet to inquire of the Lord. Believers are to come directly to God through Christ themselves (John 16.24), as the Holy Spirit dwells within you. God works directly through His disciples to carry His message in the world. As it says in Heb 1.2, in the same way God once spoke through the prophets of old, He now speaks to all of us through His Son, and in these last days this is how God speaks to all of us. We are all to be the prophets who carry God’s message.
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” – Revelation 19.10
The Apostle Paul alludes to the idea that all believers have the ability to prophesy; or at the very least should seek to do so.
For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. – 1 Corin 14.31
If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all – 1 Corin 14.24
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy – 1 Corin 14.1
Even more I wish you could all prophesy – 1 Corin 14.5
The Apostle Peter affirms that prophecy is given and performed by all of God’s people when He referenced the prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost, in which God would pour out His spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2.14-21).
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. – Joel 2.28
Order and Ordinances for Prophecy
Prophecy in the New Testament is to be done in proper order and judged by all others in the church. Prophecies are to be given one person at a time, by two or three prophets, and judged by those who are listening. Prophecies are to be tested, weighed carefully, and judged before accepting the good, and rejecting whatever is evil (2 Thess 5.19). The purpose is to build (edify) up the Church:
When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up – 1 Corinthians 14.26
If a revelation comes to someone sitting in the church they should stand up and share it, and if the Spirit prompts another to speak, the first should stop, each in proper order. Paul then says that all those in the church can prophesy each in turn and order for the purpose of instruction and/or encouragement of all (1 Corin 14.31).
The Apostle Paul also tells us the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet, therefore these activities will be done in moderation and control. If there is disorder and lack of self-control, it demonstrates it is not of God.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is seated, the first speaker should stop. 31. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32. The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace—as in all the churches of the saints – 1 Corinthians 14.29-32
Identification of a Prophet or Prophecy of God
Understanding the spiritual gift of prophecy is important. The Old Testament provides two solid tests for the prophets of God, this is for the Old Testament prophets that proclaimed, “thus says the Lord” (Eze 22.28), speaking for God:
- Everything a prophet foretells will come to pass
- Prophets of God will never lead you away from God or His ways
God warns His people that He will allow false prophets and deceivers to rise up to test whether or not they love Him. These false prophets and their teachings rise up to test the hearts of God’s people to see if they really love Him, and if they will adhere to His ways.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.– Deut 13.1-5
Do these same tests apply to those with the prophetic gift in the New Testament? First, it is obvious that since God is sovereign over all creation, and that He IS Truth (John 14.6), if something comes from Him it will be true. We know that true believers have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, dwelling within them. Also, God will not give direction or communication that will lead you away from Him or His truths. An easy answer is; a true believer will hold God’s word reverently, loving the truth, daring not to speak in God’s name without the Holy Spirit inspiring him by faith to speak what God gives.
It is also important to note in v. 4-5 we see that God is teaching us to place the content of a person’s message above their abilities to do anything supernatural or miraculous. It is the adherence to God’s truth that is to be placed above all else.
Warning against False Prophecy / Prophets
All people are to be judged by their fruits (Matt 7.20). Is the person giving the revelation a believer who follows Christ. What is the fruit in their life. What kind of reputation do they have.
- Do they carefully handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2.15),
- Do they go beyond the scripture (1 Corin 4.6),
- Do they teach what is good and remain simple regarding what is evil (Rom 16.19).
- Do they teach God’s word or do they contradict scripture (Num 23.19, 2 Tim 3.16).
Yes,” declares the LORD, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares – Jer 23.31
Young and Deceived Believers
There is a reason why the Bible tells us not to despise prophecies (1 Thess 5.20). For God knows his discerning believers would be skeptical of all types of deceit in the world. We know that new believers are still carnal (1 Corin 3.1) and untrained (1 Tim 4.8). Therefore, there may be honest believers that have themselves been deceived or are unable to discern the difference between their thoughts and God’s inspiration. This is why the mature in Christ are to gently instruct those in error so they may escape the snare of the Devil and deceit.
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Tim 2.25-26
This is another key difference between the Old Testament and New Testament, is in these last days, all of God’s children have His Spirit in them to inspire them. This is meant to be an encouragement as God’s Spirit will never contradict, however He may be teaching us different things (personally, not something different then scripture). This is why discernment is important.
That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – Ephesians 4.14
Even with all this, believers who are teachers, pastors and/or prophets are subject to error in their deliverance and are capable of stumbling in word. This is why they must be careful with their words for they will receive stricter judgment. Does this conflict with Deut 13.1? A true believer will humbly repent when convicted of stumbling with their words, practicing the fruit of repentance and humility and confess they did not hear from God. False teachers will not give up their pride or arrogance.
Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man – James 3.1-2
As it stands; new and charismatic believers tend to not be discerning, orderly or critical enough of the gift of prophecy, and older and conservative believers tend to be overly critical, rejecting this gift. We are not to quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5.19).
God teaches us to test every spirit. There are specific tests for every Spirit, however truth is always to be tested against the Bible or God’s revealed word. The Bible lays out very clearly the tests to use against prophecies and knowledge that comes from God.
Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world – 1 John 4.1
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3. And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. – 1 John 4.2-3
We are of God: he that knows God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. – 1 John 4.6
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ – Col 2.8
The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy – James 3.17
God teaches us what to look for in regard to wisdom that come from Him in James 3.17-18, the wisdom that is from above is;
- First pure – God’s word is pure without any malicious intent.
- Peaceable – God’s word always brings peace, not confusion or conflict.
- Gentle – God’s word is gentle not forceful over anyone’s will.
- Easy to be intreated – God’s word is open to inquiry for clarity and understanding.
- Full of mercy and good fruits – God’s word is merciful and good.
- Without partiality – Applies to all of God’s people the same.
- Without hypocrisy – There is no double standard.
- The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Is the Gift of Prophecy the Same as Teaching/ Exhortation
Some teach the prophecy is just another term in the New Testament for teachings or is a type of teaching. This is usually taught by those who do not accept prophecy as foretelling or revelation as defined by the Greek words used in the New Testament. It is true that revelations may include teaching, and often communicate a message. However, there is a clear contrast between the two words and gifts in the New Testament as described by Paul in various places.
Synonymous to Teaching
Teaching and prophecy are to be used to build up the Church. They are both methods of communication, however the word for teaching in the New Testament is Didache’ which means teaching or doctrine.
The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, …, so that the church may be built up – 1 Corin 14.5
In second Peter, we find that a comparison is made from Old Testament prophets to New Testament teachers, in that as there were false prophets before, so shall there be false teachers in the future.
False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction – 2 Peter 2.1
Antonymous to Teaching
The etymology of the words are very different between Didache’ (Teaching or doctrine) and Prophetes’ (Prophecy or foretelling).
We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If one’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; 7if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully – Romans 12.6-8
Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up – Eph 4.12
Teaching revelation and prophecy are all separated things as described by Paul.
- … What shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by
- revelation (apokalypsis’ – uncovering), or by
- knowledge (gnosis’ – knowledge), or by
- prophesying (prophetes’ – foretelling), or by
- Teaching (Didache’ – doctrine)
- – 1 Corin 14.6
We are taught not to despise prophecies (1 Thess 5.19). If prophecies were only teachings, this instruction would not really make sense since teaching was the main form of instruction to the Church. Prophecies are often despised because they come with so much scrutiny and caution. It is interesting to see this was the same case with the first Church.
Examples of the Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament
The New Testament has multiple examples of prophecy that took place. These are a few examples that we find in scripture;
- Agabus and a band of prophets travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch and stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world” (Acts 11:28).
- In the Church of Antioch, Tyre and Caesarea many prophets were actively working (Acts 13.1).
- Philip had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:8–9).
- Prophecy was actively performed among the members of the Church at Rome (Rom. 12:6).
- Prophecy was actively performed among the members of the Church at Corinth (1 Cor. 12:7–11; 14:1–40).
- Prophecy was actively performed among the members of the Church at Ephesus (Eph. 2:20; 4:11, Acts 19:1–7; 1 Tim. 1:18).
- Prophecy was actively performed among the members of the Church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:19–22).