Thursday, February 21, 2008

Prophecy and Teaching: How Are They Different Gifts?

I am finally carving out some time to read Wayne Grudem's The Gift of Prophecy. I've had it for about 5 years and knew one day I would want to read through it. Chapter 6 is extremely helpful for me as I think about the NT gift of prophecy.

It is important to note that the first 5 chapters do a great job of establishing the fact that NT prophecy is NOT the same as OT prophecy. OT prophecy was speaking the very words of God and thus authoritative. NT prophecy is speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind.

Here are some nuggets:

The Nature of Prophecy:
2 factors that are essential to prophecy:
1. a revelation from the Holy Spirit.
2. a public report of that revelation.

The Nature of Teaching:
1. based on Scripture, not on a spontaneous revelation.
2. seeks to interpret and apply the Scripture.

This is why Paul allowed women to prophesy but not teach. Teaching carries much more authority than prophecy.

So here is the distinction: "If a message is the result of conscious reflection on the text of Scripture, containing interpretation of the text and application to life, then it is (in NT terms) a teaching. But if a message is the report of something God brings suddenly to mind, then it is a prophecy. And, of course, even prepared teachings can be interrupted by unplanned additional material which the Bible teacher suddenly feels God is bringing to his mind--in that case, it would be a 'teaching' with some prophecy mixed in" (p. 120).

"Prophets in the NT churches reported in their own words something which, it seemed to them, God had forcefully brought to mind. So teaching based on the written Word of God had far greater authority than occasional prophecies which the speaker thought were from God" (p. 122).

In prophecy, one can never be 100% sure it is from God. Thus, it does not carry near the same weight as a teaching from Scripture (which is certainly from God).

I would highly recommend that you read The Gift of Prophecy if you want to study this issue in more depth. It is a well written, engaging, and Bible-saturated teatment of the topic.

12 comments:

Eron said...

I still don't get how any revelation from God can not be authoritative.

justin said...

That is a great question eron. A few thoughts:
-"Revelation" is the language Paul uses for prophecy. We certainly don't interpret this use of language as big "R" revelation of systematic theology.

-It is not authoritative because there is no way to know if a particular revelation is actually from God or not.

Justin Nale said...

But if it is from God, how can it not be authoritative? How can our inability to discern truth from fiction affect the authority of any revelation from God?

justin said...

My struggle with the question comes from the text itself. When you read 1 Cor. 14:30 do you get the sense that the "revelation" is authoritative? Paul actually teaches that some revelations get cut off. If it was authoritative, would Paul tell the person to sit down and lose the revelation for good?

When you read Eph. 1:17, do you get the sense that Paul is praying for the Ephesians to recived authoritative revelation in that same sense as the Bible?

If all the revelations given to the prophets in Corinth were authoritative, why are none of them recorded as Scripture for the benefit of the church today?

What do we mean when we say something is authoritative? Is a "prompting" by God authoritative? if not, then you must conclude that something from God is not authoritative.

Just trying to get the sense of the Text.

eron said...

Tough questions. I appreciate Grudem, Storms etc, but I think I side with the Reformed tradition on this one.

pastor justin said...

eron,
I want to lean that way as well. However, I just cannot own up to cessationism Biblically. There is just NO good reason to affirm the ceasing of the gifts.

Anonymous said...

If a cessationist would believe that the Holy Spirit does any activity in the mind of the believer (which all would) you have the same problem with authority. How you define authority is crucial. Does someone who believes the Lord gives "r" revelation do so with some sense of authority--something that seems to ring true. Even in the common denominator activity of the Spirit in illumining Scripture you have to agree that He illumines with a sense of authority.

However, that He gives "r" revelation, promptings, burdens, reminders to pray for people in unique times, assistance while praying, bringing "R" Scripture to mind in no way blurs the distinction of the authority of the canonical Word of God once for all delivered to the saints.

The Spirit does nothing without some sense of authority--but Scripture clearly draws lines between the Spirit's work in inspiring Sacred Scripture to which we evaluate all prophecy--and the ongoing work of the Spirit Christ promised (John 14-16).

Rob

Anonymous said...

"There is just NO good reason to affirm the ceasing of the gifts."

I think Richard Gaffin, Sinclair Ferguson, John Calvin, Albert Mohler, most of the puritans, Vern Poythress, Michael Horton, John Frame, and the rest of the Reformed tradition (except for a few today) have some good reasons to hold to their position.

pastor justin said...

anonymous,
Please forgive my overstatement and lack of humility.

It would have been more accurate to say, "TO ME there is just no good reason to affirm the ceasing of the gifts."

These guys are all smarter than I and I'm sure their reasons make perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Justin. It is a very difficult issue to work through. I'm not at all settled on it.

Rob Tombrella said...

There is a joy in learning more about the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. As a former total cessationist who now profits from recieving and on occassion giving prophecy i appreciate your humility.

rob

Anonymous said...

Please explain how this radically new view of prophecy fits with statements like 1 Peter 1.19 "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place" where prophecy is not only completely dependable but is contrasted with Peter's actual first hand experience of the transfiguration. His eyewitness experience was less certain that the prophecy. How can this be?