“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7–11; emphasis mine).
We’ve covered the three gifts of the Spirit that do something, or the power gifts: (special) faith, working of miracles, and gifts of healings.
Then we went over the gifts that reveal something, or the revelation gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits.
Now we’ll take a look at the three gifts that say something, or the utterance gifts: prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
I left the vocal gifts for last because we have more to do with these gifts than the other gifts. After all, we’re the ones who do the speaking and we can miss it, and other’s may not catch our blunder. On-the-other-hand, for example, it’s hard to miss God when the working of miracles is happening. We can’t work a miracle out of our heads or emotions. This is also why Paul spent so much time talking about the vocal gifts in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
So the question is what is prophecy? Prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known language.
It’s the Holy Spirit working through our spirit to say an inspired utterance. Prophecy in the Greek (Vines Expository Dictionary) means pro, “forth”, and phemi, “to speak.” It means to speak forth. It’s the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God. It can be fore-telling, but it’s mostly forth-telling. We see much in the Old Testament of fore-telling (predicting the future), but in the New Testament Church it’s mostly forth-telling — the speaking forth edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3).
Most of us think of prophecy as the prediction of the future, but a revelation of God’s plans and knowledge of the future is the gift of the word of wisdom. We call the word of wisdom prophecy because it is often revealed through supernatural utterance (prophecy). Yet, it can also be given in a vision. Also, the word of knowledge can be revealed by prophecy, or supernatural utterance.
There can also be a form of prophecy when preaching or witnessing. Words come out of our spirit we didn’t even know we knew when ministering to someone, but the Holy Spirit knows and He helps us with our weaknesses. Yet, preaching by inspiration isn’t the gift of prophecy. The function of prophecy is different. Preaching is for getting people to make a decision for Christ (1 Corinthians 1:21). Prophecy is to edify and exhort and, like all the gifts of the Spirit, to arrest peoples attention to listen to the word of God. People are saved through the preaching of the Word, not through prophecy.
The gift of prophecy goes beyond speaking by our own intellect and reasoning processes. It comes out of our spirits from the Holy Spirit.
It’s important that we understand what the Bible says prophecy is for: “He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Prophecy in it’s basic form is to bring edification, exhortation, and comfort to people. Notice it says nothing about predicting the future.
Paul also writes (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that he wishes we all would prophesy: “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied” (1 Corinthians 14:5). He didn’t say he wishes we were all prophets. In fact, he indicates that not everybody is an apostle or prophet: “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” (1 Corinthians 12:28–29). The obvious answer is not everyone is prophet.
So why would God say He would like us all to prophesy, but not everyone is a prophet? Because a prophet is a ministry gift who’s primary spiritual gift is the gift of prophesy. It’s a ministry gift like a pastor of evangelist. It’s a full time calling. There’s much responsibility to be in the office of a prophet, and there’s more authority when he speaks in the name of the Lord.
Not everyone is called to be a prophet. In the prophet’s ministry, we’ll see the gift of prophecy manifest more often. Why? That’s his/her calling. But the simple gift of prophecy is available for the whole church so the body can be edified.
Perhaps this scripture will help make it clearer.
The Girls and Agabus
“On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”
Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:8–12).
Notice Phillip’s daughters all prophesied but weren’t called prophets. God instead called a prophet by the name of Agabus to minister to Paul. The girls ministered edification, exhortation, and comfort (forth-telling), but, Agabus, the prophet, ministered the word of wisdom (fore-telling).
It’s important to understand that Agabus didn’t instruct Paul what to do, he only revealed what was going to happen. We’re not, in the New Testament, to seek guidance by prophets. In the New Testament, we’re to be led by the Spirit of God as children of God: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). Why? Folks in the Old Covenant were spiritually dead. They weren’t born again. Not everyone had access to God’s Spirit. Only the prophet, king, and priest, except on the occasion God would anoint someone for a specific task. In the New Testament, we all have access to the Spirit of God. We’re born again of the Spirit, and it’s God’s will that we all learn to be lead in our daily lives by His Spirit. An opportunity not afforded to those in the Old Testament.
Desire to Prophesy
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:39).
Apparently, it’s very important that we, as Christians, edify, exhort, and comfort one another through inspired utterance in a known tongue.
I think we do this often times without really realizing we’re inspired by the Holy Spirit. Have you ever said something that blesses a brother or sister without knowing how much it would do so? Or perhaps, you just felt like you should say something to a fellow believer, and it was the right thing for the right time? I think sometimes we’re not conscious of God’s influence, but He’s there. On-the-other-hand, I’m hoping that this lesson will inspire us yield more readily to the Holy Spirit to speak words of encouragement to each other. God wants us to prophesy. God wants to edify His church. God wants us to be available to prophesy. Let’s learn how to do this “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Stay strong and prepared!