CONCERNING PROPHECY

I have been concerned about the over emphasis of prophecy by some. I shouldn’t be surprised because I have come to learn that overemphasis of particular truths or views come in cycles and they do eventually run their course. Currently prophecy is one of those subjects. We definitely need some good sound teaching in this area.

First let me say that within the church, prophecy is a part of what we do. It’s not all of what we do, neither does it occupy the majority of what we do but it does have a place within the overall operation of God within his Church.

Now, let me say very precisely, I am not against prophecy. I have both prophesied and been prophesied to. Prophecy has been very encouraging to me especially at certain points in my life and really that is the purpose for the simple gift of prophecy within the Church.

Biblical prophecy in its simplest form is speaking to men to edification, exhortation, and comfort. Of course prophecy can also be coupled with the other gifts as is the case with those who are truly called to the office of the prophet. A prophet may have a word of wisdom which is to be spoken under the inspiration of the gift prophecy.

The gifts of the Spirit will oftentimes overlap. A believer may experience the gift of faith by which he will minister in the gifts of healing or the working of miracles.

Once while I was teaching a simple Bible class, I suddenly was empowered with boldness and spoke under such inspiration that one of the people present (later reported) how they had experienced healing. My speaking under the anointing that evening inspired their faith to act on what they had heard and God was glorified. This happened unbeknownst to me and was the result of my teaching the Word of God under the anointing.

Preaching or teaching under the anointing can often be coupled with the gifts to bring about the desired result of the Lord to answer the prayers of his people. Many times minister’s who are prayerfully prepared will speak by the gift of prophecy within the context of their preaching or teaching and sometimes they may not even know it until they hear reports of what God has done within the hearts of the hearer.

God did not put prophecy in the church to take the place of the preaching and teaching of his holy written word. There is far more in the New Testament about preaching and teaching the scriptures than there is about prophecy. Let me say it this way, the scriptures should be our main diet and the gifts a supplement to our diet. The gifts are very important but we must put God’s holy written word first.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have special meetings to teach on the subject of prophecy or the gifts of the Spirit so that folks can understand them from a scriptural standpoint. We should do this as with other Biblical subjects but the operation of the gifts of the Spirit are as the Spirit wills and not as we will.

It is my conviction that one thing which fuels much of the desire that folks have for prophesy is an intense desire to hear God’s voice. There is a subtle pitfall that needs to be avoided here. That pitfall is elevating personal prophecy above the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Those who elevate prophecy out of proportion tend to value the words of a prophecy as infallible as the word of God. Yet prophesy should always be judged by the written Word of God.

The function of the simple gift of prophecy within the body of Christ is not for doctrinal purposes. The Scriptures are the rule for our doctrine.

The simple gift of prophecy is given for edification, exhortation, and comfort. One does not have to be a prophet to have the gift of prophecy. For example, Acts 21:9 tells us that Philip the evangelist had four daughters, who were virgins, which did prophesy. Acts 19 tells us that Paul laid his hands on certain disciples and the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Yet, in the ministry of a prophet, the gift of prophecy is often coupled with other gifts such as the gift of the Word of Wisdom and/or the Word of Knowledge. For instance, in Acts 11 Agabus the prophet warned the church about a famine that was coming and in Acts 21 he confirmed that Paul was going to be bond in Jerusalem.

In neither incident did Agabus offer detailed guidance or doctrine because prophets were not set in the church to guide us or to to be our rule to live by. The Holy Spirit is our guide and the Word of God is our rule for living. Yet, Agabus did reveal certain facts that were known to God that one would not know simply from reading and/or studying scripture. The revelation of the coming famine allowed the church to prepare for it and the revelation of Paul being bond in Jerusalem was confirmation concerning the will of God.

PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT

Ephesians 6:18 says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication IN THE SPIRIT…” Jude 20 says, “…building up yourselves on your most holy faith, PRAYING IN THE HOLY GHOST.”

Notice the similarity of these two phrases, “praying in the Spirit” and “praying in the Holy Ghost.” In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses similar language when he describes speaking or praying in other tongues. In verse 2 he refers to speaking in other tongues as SPEAKING IN THE SPIRIT.

“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit IN THE SPIRIT he speaketh mysteries.”

Jude 20 says we are to BUILD UP ourselves on our most holy faith by praying in the Holy Ghost. Paul uses similar language in 1 Corinthians 14:4 where he says, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue EDIFIETH HIMSELF…” To edify is to build up.

Now notice 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, MY SPIRIT PRAYETH, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will SING WITH THE SPIRIT, and I will sing with the understanding also.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul describes praying in other tongues as “praying with, or in, the Spirit” and he uses this language in contrast to praying with the understanding. He also refers to singing in the Spirit in contrast to singing with the understanding.

Paul’s refers to other tongues as (1) speaking in the Spirit, (2) praying with the Spirit, and (3) singing with the Spirit.

WHO EVER HEARD OF AN AXE HEAD SWIMMING?

Back in 2004 my wife Angie and I faced a serious challenge after Angie became pregnant with our son. I will not go into all the details but I would like to high-light the role that the gifts of the Holy Spirit had during this very difficult time.

A few weeks into the pregnancy, Angie began to have some difficulties that were very concerning and very scary to say the least. During this time our faith was challenged and I did everything I could to keep hope and faith alive in my heart as well as my wife’s.

I stood in the gap for my unborn son who could not pray for himself and reminded God of the covenant David (my son) had with Him in Jesus Christ even though he was yet unborn. I did everything I knew to do to strengthen my faith as well as my wife’s faith. We drew strength from various sources such as Kenneth Hagin’s message El Shaddai which was very encouraging.

One Wednesday evening after teaching a Bible Study, I came home and took my wife to the emergency room because the problems were persisting. When the doctors examined things they found a dark mass of something that was endangering the life of our unborn child and we actually saw it because they showed it to us. They sent us home with the diagnosis of a threatened miscarriage.

I believe it was the following Saturday, Angie was again having some difficulty and it was very scary. We decided to go the prayer cottage on the grounds of the church we attended at the time so that we could pray. As we prayed, I prayed in tongues. The scripture says, “if I pray in an unknown tongue my spirit prays,” and as I prayed in tongues I began to have joy inside of me. I began to laugh because I had a note of victory in my spirit.

I don’t think this helped my wife (in the moment) because she was actually doing the hard physical work of carrying our child and that is tough enough in itself. Yet, my spirit was edified in the Lord through the gift of tongues and I had a witness of victory from praying in the Spirit.

On Sunday morning, my wife woke me up very early. I think it was somewhere between 4:00 and 4:30 am. She had just passed a huge blood clot and feared she had lost our child; she was frantic and understandably so. It was a very dark moment to say the least.

As I was being awakened by Angie, and before my natural mind knew what had just happened, I spoke by the Holy Ghost and these words came out of my mouth, “Who ever heard of an axe- head swimming?”

Angie testifies that she thought I was losing my mind, yet out of my spirit I was speaking through the gift of prophecy. I wasn’t yet fully awake but the gift of prophecy was in manifestation speaking about the hand of God on my child. Axe-heads don’t swim or float, but the one in 2 Kings 6:1-7 did!

Later that morning, Angie spoke with a nurse and described what had happened with the blood clot. That conversation did nothing but confirm the worst of her fears. After their conversation, I took the phone and went to a back room in our home and asked the nurse to shoot straight with me. She bluntly said, “It sounds like a miscarriage.”

It was Sunday, it was Angie’s birthday, and we had to wait till Monday afternoon to see the doctor. It was a long and dark day because all evidence pointed to the fact that we had lost our child in a miscarriage. At one point as I was trying to encourage or console my wife, she looked at me in deep sorrow and said, “You don’t understand, I lost my child!”

That day I stood as strongly as I could, though I struggled with doubt and fear. I continued to cry out for God to keep and protect my son and to raise my son from the dead if need be. I did not simply want a child, I wanted THIS child.

When we visited the doctor on Monday afternoon, the joy of the Lord filled our hearts as the ultrasound/sonogram revealed the beating heart of our little David and that ugly dark mass which was called “the threatened miscarriage ” was gone!

The axe-head did swim, just as the Lord has said he would!

I thank God for the gift of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit that the Holy Ghost gives to us. Many times throughout my marriage, the gift of prophecy has helped Angie and I through times when we needed help and encouragement.

The gifts of the Spirit have not ceased. We need them. If it had not been for the simple gift of tongues I don’t think I would have stood in faith as well as I did because praying in other tongues edifies us and builds us up on our most holy faith.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

If tongues were simply the gift of speaking another human language (which many times it is) why did Paul refer to speaking with the tongues of “men and angels?” What is the language or tongues of angels?

If tongues only severed the purpose of evangelism and were only for those who lived in the days of the first apostles, then why would Paul speak with the tongues of angels? What group of people spoke in that language? Is there any nation that speaks in the tongues of angels?  What purpose would speaking the language of angels serve in evangelism?

If the gift of tongues were simply the ability to speak another language so that the one speaking could communicate the gospel to people in their own native language, then what purpose does the gift of the interpretation of tongues serve? If those who are hearing the tongues hear the message and understand it in their language why would it need to be interpreted?

According to the scriptures, the interpretation of tongues is as much a gift of the Spirit as speaking in tongues is. Both are mentioned as gifts of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12:10. If speaking in other tongue is a supernatural gift, then so is the interpretation of tongues.

If tongues were for evangelistic purposes then why would Paul give instructions on the proper use of tongues in a public assembly in contrast to the use of tongues in personal devotion? How would tongues in personal devotion serve the purpose of evangelism?

Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians with regards to tongues and the interpretation of tongues are as follows: “If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. If there be no interpreter (present in the church assembly), let him keep silence IN THE CHURCH; and let him SPEAK TO HIMSELF, AND TO GOD.

Paul instructs those who would speak in tongues, to keep silence IN THE CHURCH if there is no interpreter present (i.e., if there in no one present with the gift of the interpretation of tongues). Notice that Paul says to keep silence in the church; yet, he encourages them to speak to themselves and to God, meaning privately they could speak in tongues in their personal devotion to God. Obviously then, there is value and benefit to speaking in tongues in our own personal prayer lives,

There is a difference between the simple gift of tongues in the life of a believer that is a blessing in our private prayer life, and the function of tongues in a public assembly.

In 1 Corinthians 14 we can see that speaking in tongues serves to bless us in our personal devotion but in a public assembly it should be interpreted so that others will be edified also. That is why Paul says the following.

“Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, MY SPIRIT PRAYETH, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT, and I will pray with the understanding also: I WILL SING WITH THE SPIRIT, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt BLESS WITH THE SPIRIT, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but THE OTHER is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: YET IN THE CHURCH I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”

Notice that when Paul says he spoke in tongues more than them all he is referring to his personal devotion because in contrast, he says “yet IN THE CHURCH I’d rather speak in my understanding to teach others.”

The Bible makes the distinction between the use of tongues in private devotion and its function in a public assembly. It’s the same gift but a different use or function of that gift.

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul addresses the proper use of this gift as well as other gifts within the body so that the body will be edified. Edifying the body of Christ and meeting the needs of others is to be our aim when the Spirit is in manifestation in our midst.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says to follow love and desire spiritual gifts but rather that you may prophesy, because prophesy edifies the body of Christ. Paul also tells them, “forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” The underlying emphasis of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the function of the gifts of the Spirit for the edification of the body of Christ. That is why Paul places emphasis on love in chapter 13, calling it the more excellent way at the end of chapter 12. Love is the more excellent way, not in contrast to the gifts but in view of the gifts.

The proper use of tongues needs to be taught by those who are gifted as teachers (which I am) because tongues were never meant to be a badge of spirituality. If it were, the Corinthians would have been the most spiritual group under Paul’s ministry because they were richly endowed and second to none in spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:6-7). Yet Paul calls them carnal and says that he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual but as to carnal,

Being spiritual, and being gifted are two entirely different things and much confusion and abuse happens when carnal people misuse the gifts. This was the problem with the Corinthians and the reason Paul had to address the issue and provide correction.

The Corinthians certainly had some things out of order, yet Paul doesn’t tell them to stop it altogether. Instead he gently corrects them by showing them the right way to do things. Paul tells the Corinthian believers to follow after love and desire spiritual gifts. This is the more excellent way.

TRUE CIRCUMCISION IN THE EYES OF GOD

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands (Ephesians 2:11).

  • You were called the uncircumcision by the Jews who are called the circumcision in the flesh.

In Philippians 3 the apostle Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

  • The concision is a reference to those who boast in physical circumcision in the flesh. However, according to the apostle Paul, those who are in Christ are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. In this we can see the contrast between circumcision in the flesh and circumcision in the spirit.
  • Paul goes on in the following verses (4-14) to disqualify any right he had as a circumcised Jew to boast in his flesh so that his boasting may be found only in Christ Jesus.

In Colossians 2, Paul tells the believers at Colosse that they were “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

  • In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks of “the circumcision” a reference to Jews in the flesh, as the circumcision in the flesh made by hands.
  • The physical circumcision of the ethnic Jew was in the flesh and made with human hands. True circumcision comes through faith in Jesus Christ and is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. This is “the circumcision” we receive through faith in Christ as mentioned above.

In Romans 2, Paul says to the ethnic Jew, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision” (Romans 2:25).

  • Jews in the flesh, who do not follow the law of God which would lead them to Christ, are uncircumcised in the eyes of God.

Paul continues in Romans 2 saying, “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the Law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?” (Romans 2:26).

  • Again, the uncircumcision is a reference to the Gentiles who were outside the covenants given to Israel.
  • The righteousness of the Law does not refer to the “works of the Law” but faith as Paul details throughout Romans.
  • Those who obey God though faith are the true circumcision regardless if they are Jews (circumcised in the flesh) or Gentiles (uncircumcised in the flesh).

Paul continues, “And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (Romans 2:27).

  • The true circumcision of the heart is set over against the outward circumcision of the flesh. Heart circumcision knows no ethnicity.

Finally, Paul says, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29).

  • The true Jew in the eyes of God is the one who has the circumcised heart. It has nothing to do with ethnicity.