The Gift of Prophecy
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 12. While you are opening your Bibles to that portion of the Word of God, let us review some of the things that we have been talking to you about in these studies because we have been discussing one particular subject for an extended period of time. We have been answering a question we have phrased, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We have suggested to you that the information related to the gifts of the Holy Spirit is found primarily in I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, and 14. We will not take the time now to review everything that we have learned from this particular portion of the Scripture in relation to the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We will say by way of review that at the present time we are discussing the practical gifts of the Holy Spirit. By the phrase, the practical gifts of the Holy Spirit , we mean those gifts or abilities which are given by the Holy Spirit to individual members of the Body of Christ for the welfare of the Body of Christ.

We have suggested to you that every person has some such gift, and it would behoove us as we examine these practical gifts to look into our own hearts and see if perchance we have a gift which we are not exercising. We would utter a word of caution, and that is that we are not misinterpreting what might be termed native or natural ability for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts bestowed by Him upon whomsoever He will without regard to the native ability of the person involved.

If you have your Bibles opened to I Corinthians, chapter 12, I would like for you to read with me the gifts of the Spirit, the practical gifts of the Spirit, which we are in the process of discussing.

I Corinthians 12:

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

This completes the list which is given in I Corinthians, chapter 12. I would like for you to keep a marker there and turn with me to the book of Romans, chapter 12, because here is given another list of the practical gifts of the Spirit bestowed upon individual believers at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. Will you notice, please, Romans, chapter 12, verses 5-8:

Romans 12:

5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

This completes the list of gifts which are recorded in Romans, chapter 12. Bible scholars have taken these gifts, and allowing for duplication and permitting the duplication and permitting the inclusion of one gift with another, which seems reasonable in the light of the gifts themselves, they have arrived at a list of gifts that number fifteen. They have divided this list of fifteen in a number of different ways. You may like to divide them in some way that particularly helps you in the understanding of them, though the division of these gifts is not exceedingly important save as you are able to understand them.

We have taken the liberty of dividing them into three groups. We have called one group spiritual gifts. We have called another group service gifts. We have called another group sign or supernatural gifts . We realize that when the Apostle Paul began his discussion of these gifts in I Corinthians, chapter 12, he referred to all of them as spiritual gifts , but he did so with the idea that the Holy Spirit is the One Who bestows the gifts.

We are using the term spiritual gifts to describe those gifts that are used to build up the Body of Christ spiritually. Service gifts need not necessarily be spiritual. They are used for the smooth operation of the organization of the Body of Christ, and they include such gifts as helps, government, giving, and showing mercy.

Sign gifts or supernatural gifts are those gifts among the fifteen that were used as proof of the authenticity of the apostles as they began their ministry. We refer to them as supernatural gifts as well because the sign gifts and the others included in the list all include a supernatural quality which cannot be game set. Those supernatural gifts include the gift of faith, the gift of**** healing, the gift of miracles, the gift of tongues, and the gift of the interpretation of tongues.

We began a discussion of the spiritual gifts, and we said we would get as far along as we could in the time that was allotted to us so we discussed with you the word of wisdom. We found that the word of wisdom, practically speaking, is for the spiritual welfare of the Church—the ability bestowed upon an individual to say the right thing at the right time in the right manner. If you do not think that that is an ability bestowed by the Holy Spirit and lacking in so many mouths which speak so many things, all you need to do is look at the confusion that is all about you.

Another gift which we considered was the word of knowledge. This word of knowledge we said was the ability bestowed by the Holy Spirit to express—and it is important to emphasize the word express —a special revelation from the Lord. This gift was particularly needful in the days of the early Church before the Scripture, or the Bible as we speak of it, was completed. It was needed by the apostles as they stood in defense of their lives and was promised to them by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Stephen was an individual who had the ability to speak not only with the gift of wisdom, but with the gift of knowledge. We said that the gift of knowledge was also the ability to arrive at a conclusion to know something that no one else knew if it meant that the welfare of the Church was at stake. For example, Ananias and Sapphira came into the Church, you will remember, with the information that they had sold all of their property and wanted to leave all of their money in the community chest. When Peter heard them make this statement, because he had the gift of knowledge, the gift of revelation—for that is the meaning of the word knowledge —he was able to say to both Ananias and Sapphira, “Why has Satan put it into your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” For had this thing been permitted to have carried on without interruption, an hypocrisy could have begun in the early Church that could have caused a great deal of destruction and damage.

Today, in light of this review, being able to think along the same lines, we want to consider another gift that was listed in the list that we read in your hearing which we have put among the gifts called spiritual . Will you notice in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 10:

I Corinthians 12:

10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

We Are To Covet This Gift

Notice right in the midst of the verse the second statement—“to another prophecy.” We want to speak with you about the gift of prophecy, which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon the individual whom He will. The gift of prophecy should hold our attention in a very real way because it is the only gift among all the sixteen that we are specifically instructed to covet. We are told to covet earnestly all the gifts, which means to leave yourself open for whatever gift God would be pleased to bestow since we have proven to you from the Word of God that it is the sovereign right of the Holy Spirit to bestow whatever gift He will. This gift is mentioned particularly by name as something we should covet. Will you notice I Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 1, where we read:

I Corinthians 14:

1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

The word desire and the word covet are one and the same. “Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.”

And if you will look at verse 39 of this same chapter, you will find the apostle emphasizing it again with the words:

I Corinthians 14:

39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

Notice for the purposes of our present discussion the first statement of that verse: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy…” Here is a definite instruction from the Word of God that this is a valuable gift which every believer should earnestly desire. So valuable is this gift, so important in the list that we have suggested to you, that word prophecy or some form of it is used over twenty-two times in this portion of the Word in which we are looking, I Corinthians, chapters 12-14.

If you are not familiar with your Bible, you may be wondering exactly what the gift of prophecy is. Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in this list are not defined in the Scripture. The only way that we can know what they are is to know the meaning of the original word from which the English word comes or to notice how that particular gift was exercised in the early Church. No sure, certain definition is given of most of the gifts, but of this particular gift a sure, certain definition is given which cannot be denied. The word prophesy itself simply means “to speak for something” or “to express something” where it can be heard, where it can be understood. It does have contained in it the elements of foretelling the future. That is not the exclusive meaning of the original word profotase itself. The definition is given here in the Scripture. If you will look at chapter 14 again and notice verses 1-3:

I Corinthians 14:

1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
2For 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.
3[This is the definition that we want you to follow.] But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

Read the verse again so that you have this simple definition firmly fixed in your mind: “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” This is a gift which I believe is possessed by many people. We are prone to think of it as being possessed only by pastors or preachers, and certainly I should think that every pastor would possess this gift. I should think he would have to possess it if his ministry as a pastor or preacher were effective. Remember, we should not confuse the gift of prophecy with the gifted individuals know as the prophets. This is a practical gift possessed by preachers, but I believe possessed by many other believers as well. I would suggest that you search your hearts, and if you find that you possess this gift, then exercise it; for in the exercise of it, there will be the development of it. Who knows, while you are tossing about for some kind of service, while you are tossing about wishing for an opportunity to do something for the Lord, there may be a vital opportunity at your very doorstep because you have the gift of prophecy.

The Matter Of Edification

Let us look at these words very briefly to understand what they mean so we will know if we have the gift of prophecy. The individual who has the gift of prophecy is able to speak unto men to edification. This word edification comes from the Greek word oiakedorma , which means “to build house.” For that reason, you will find that this word oiakedorma is translated by the English phrase “the building up.” You can build up people if you have the gift of prophecy.

How can you build them up? We are speaking about spiritual gifts, so we are speaking of building them up spiritually. You can build them up spiritually with a word of promise when they need it. You can build them up spiritually by reading with them the Word of God or, if you do not feel capable of ministering the Word of God yourself, God is so gracious in this age in which we live to provide such means as the printed page and tape ministry. You can gather folk into your house and you can play tapes for them that will build them up spiritually. You can answer their questions and encourage their hearts in relation to them. Anything that you do to build up a person spiritually is an indication that you have the gift of prophecy. We do not have time to linger longer on that word though more might be said about it.

The Matter Of Exhortation

Notice the next word in the definition—the word exhortation . This word comes from the Greek word haraclese , which means literally “to walk up beside someone and say something to them.” It means literally “to walk alongside of them and talk to them.” It means literally “to call them over to where you are and say something to them.” Of course, again we are talking about spiritual ministry, so your conversation would want to be the kind of conversation that would encourage them to go with the Lord. This word haraclese also has the idea of exhorting people to take another step forward, to exhort them to believe. I am going to use a phrase that may disturb some of you at the moment, “to believe in themselves.” Christians need to believe in themselves. You say, “Well, that sounds strange coming from a fundamental, orthodox minister of the Word of God. I thought folk need to believe in Christ.” We believe in Christ, then we believe in what we are as Christians. If we do not believe in what we are as Christians, we will go along living a defeated Christian life. There are any number of Christians who sit about whining about what they are unable to do, and what they wish they could do, and asking folk to pray that they may be able to do it when all in the world they need to do is get up and do it because the power of God is resident within their lives. God is not going to do any more for us than He already has until we exercise that which we have.

You will recall that the apostles came to the Lord Jesus Christ one day and said, “Lord, increase our faith.” You notice the answer He gave them. He didn't say, “I‘ll think about it.” He didn't say, “I will.” He simply said to them, “Exercise your faith.” Oh no, He didn't say it just that way. He said, “If a man has faith as a grain of mustard seed…,” and the implication of the text is, you do. “If a man has faith as a grain of mustard seed, he could say to that mountain, ‘Be thou removed,' and that mountain would be removed into the sea. Don't be asking Me for more faith. Exercise the faith you have.” That is the reason I say to you, Beloved, that there is a tremendous ministry in the ministry of exhortation, to walk alongside of someone and say to them, “Believe in yourself.” Encourage them to do the things that they need to do. You would be surprised how many people are in need of encouragement.

If you will forgive this illustration, and my wife will have to forgive it because she is an obedient soul. I asked her to answer a letter for me that I did not have time to answer. The letter came from a lady in a distant city and I didn't read what she wrote. I have complete confidence in what she writes, but she got a letter back from this lady, and I wasn't even mentioned. This lady said to her, “I have been a Christian for only a short time, and I have never found anybody, even though I go to a fundamental, Bible-believing church that I feel close to, to whom I feel so close. Will you be my friend, and will you let me unburden myself to you? Will you pray for me and tell me what to do about these things that I need so much help with?”

Why am I giving you this illustration? Certainly, you should know us well enough to know that we are not doing it to draw attention to ourselves, but to emphasize what I have just said— that there is a need for exhortation. There is a need for this ministry of prophecy, and it is not resident alone in the pulpit.

The Matter Of Comfort

Did you notice the third word? This ministry of prophecy includes the matter of edification, the matter of exhortation, and the matter of comfort. This word comfort is an interesting word. It comes from the Greek word parahmahphya. What it really means is “to call someone alongside and speak so softly that nobody but them can hear it.” What it involves is getting awfully close to somebody, so very close to an individual that you can share their burden and encourage their heart, and nobody will know about it but you and them.

It is one thing to grab a promise out of the Word of God and throw it at someone that is in need and say, “Believe it—that's all you need to do. Believe the Word. Believe the Word.” I think the most disgusted I have ever been is when I was with an individual who had gone to another Christian for help and that individual just threw at this very needy person, “Cast your burdens on the Lord for He cares for you.” I said to the individual when we left that person, “We may know something, but he doesn't know anything about the ministry of comfort. Cast your burdens on the Lord isn't a magic formula that works simply because you wave it in front of somebody. There has to be the comfort that goes along with it.” This is the gift of prophecy, and I would suggest to you that you find out whether you have it or not. If you have it, you exercise it.

Conclusion

Follow the Scriptural injunction found in I Thessalonians, chapter 5: “Despise not prophesyings.” In that same passage of Scripture, there is another injunction, and I personally believe that it is related. In verse 19, you read, “Quench not the Spirit.” In verse 20, you read, “Despise not prophesyings.”

There was sense in which the early Church had a problem with people standing up in the public assembly and uttering what they called a prophecy. Sometimes it was not interpreted and sometimes so many of them would be saying that you couldn't understand any of them. The gift of prophecy from that standpoint fell into disrepute and people tended to despise it. The Apostle Paul said, “Don't despise prophesying.”

The Word of God has many applications, and I would suggest to your hearts today that you not be guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit by looking lightly upon this gift of prophecy. If God has given it to you, don't fail to exercise it. Sometimes you do, you know. Sometimes you do fail to exercise this gift of prophecy because you are so involved in so many lesser things that when the telephone rings, all you can think of is, “There is somebody bothering me.” They may not be bothering you. At least, that may not be their intent. It may be an opportunity for you to exercise the gift of prophecy. Here you have your day planned and several things you want to do, and the doorbell rings. You say, “Who is that?” You peep out the window and you say, “I thought so.” Don't do that; don't do that. How do you know but what that isn't God giving you an opportunity to exercise the gift of prophecy? Make your own applications.


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