Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spiritual Gifts - Prophecy

This is a series put together to examine the spiritual gifts discussed in Romans 12:3-8. The focus passage is as follows:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Definition: The gift of prophecy can be a touchy and therefore sometimes taboo subject, due to a misunderstanding of the word. Well, not really a misunderstanding, but more of a mis-focus of the word. Prophecy is typically defined today as the foretelling or prediction of what is to come (, definition 1). However, the Biblical use of the word is more like that of the third definition from the same source, which says: a divinely inspired utterance or revelation. How is that any different? Simple.

The best definition I’ve heard is that prophecy is not foretelling; it is forthtelling.

There were many times in the Old Testament that the prophets predicted things that were to come due to revelations they received from God. But they were not fortune-tellers or mystics. These were revelations that they did not figure out on their own or work to get…they were simply words that God wanted to share for that place and time.

Prophets are found in the Bible speaking about the future, the present, and even about the past. Sometimes they just spoke about a truth that God wanted to present for that time and place. Prophets are still alive and active today. They are the ones who are inspired by utterances from the Holy Spirit to speak truths and messages.

Although many people will argue that the Bible notes that prophecy is no longer needed because the complete truth and gospel have been revealed (Ephesians 2:20), I feel that prophets are used today to speak the truths of God without apology. Not that they are revealing new truths but rather speaking the truth for a time and place as God instructs.

These are speakers of the truth. Plain and simple.

Jesus Models This Gift: It is obvious in Jesus’ lifetime how he lived the life of a prophet. He spoke of His own death and resurrection. He told the woman at the well how she was living and how the Living Water could quench her thirst. He told of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. People believed He was a prophet even when they denied He was the Messiah. Today that still holds true.

Other Biblical examples of this Gift: There are many examples of prophets and even books in the Old Testament based solely around their lives and work for God. Elijah and Elisha will immediately come to mind as you think of Messianic prophesies. Daniel spoke boldly with the truths of God. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others who are considered “minor” prophets are also easily recalled. In the New Testament, you have Agabus who predicts a famine (Acts 11:27-28) and Paul’s sufferings. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. Judas and Silas are named as prophets in Acts 15:32. Paul received revelations from God via an angel in Acts 27:23-24, exhibiting that he too had prophetic gifts. Peter proclaimed to Ananias that he had lied due to the truth given to him by God in Acts 5:3. And of course, John gave us the entire book of Revelation, given directly to him as a prophetic vision.

Strengths: The major definition of a prophet’s gift is he/his unapologetic adherence to the truth of God. They must speak the absolute truth. They often can remind people of God’s love and guidance for them because God is reminding them. They can speak up with God’s will is being pushed aside. They simply cannot keep silent when God is stirring within them.

Pitfalls: These people do not mince words. Seriously. If you don’t want the truth, plain and simple, don’t ask a prophet for truth. Often their bluntness, even if delivered in a kind manner, is offensive because of the conviction it lays on people. These usually are not “people persons” as we too often don’t like to hear the truth even when we need to. These people are often considered to be judgmental and often may have to fight this tendency within themselves as the gift takes over some of their thoughts.

Just another note…prophecy, although it sounds like a cool gift to have, is a gift to be cautious of if you possess it. Not that it should not be used…quite the contrary. However, prophets will be held to whatever they say on God’s behalf. They must be truly familiar with His voice to be sure that the word that they are receiving is His.

Ideas of How to Work for God using this Gift: The purpose of a prophet is to help us live by God’s word and will in the time and place that we live. How do we apply his word to today? How do we live differently as He has called us to? Prophets can tell us, as God speaks through them to answer our questions. People with this gift are great for speaking about current events, lifestyles, and apologetics for today. Cult study would be another good one, as a prophet can receive revelation about how the word is being misconstrued in some of the belief systems of today.

Do You Have This Gift? (ref The Resurgence - Spiritual Gifts)

  • When studying God's Word, do you find that you discover the meaning and its implications before others do?
  • Do you seem to understand things about God's Word that other believers with the same background and experience don't seem to know?
  • Are you able to apply biblical truth in a practical way to help counsel others to make good life choices?
  • Do you get frustrated when people make foolish decisions that damage their quality of life, because you know what they should have done instead?
  • Do you find that when people have important decisions to make, they come to you for prayer and biblical counsel?
  • Do you find that when you counsel people, God the Spirit gives you wisdom to share with them from Scripture, which they accept as God's truth to them through you?

Summary: So has this changed your view of what a prophet is or what their purpose is? Do you have prophetic tendencies? Is this your main gift? These speakers of the truth are vital in the survival of Christianity in an ever-changing world.

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