Examining the Gift of Prophecy (1 Corinthians 14) by Dr Ern Baxter.
1. Every doctrine has a headquarters passage.
2. Here the church meeting is under consideration, with the possibility of an unbeliever or on ungifted coming in (v23).
3. Prophecy however is not specifically designed for soul winning - that is the result of preaching!
a) The Church Meeting. (14:26)
"This passage and indeed the whole chapter, presents a lively image of an early Christian assembly ... since those gifts have ceased, not one has the right to rise in the church under the impulse of his own mind to take part in its services" - Charles Hodge.
"We have in this series of actions the type of normal worship, in which all the elements of understanding and feeling are united and in which every believer endowed from above can give free scope to his particular gift. It is a SPIRITUAL BANQUET to which every guest brings his quota, just as in the agape" - Godet.
"The picture Paul draws is one which finds no counterpart in the greater modern churches. The chief distinction between the services of the Corinthian Church and those we are now familiar with is the much greater freedom with which in those days the membership of the Church took part in the service. Each member of the congregation had something to contribute for the edification of the church. We lose much of what would interest and much that would edify by enjoining silence upon the membership of the Church". - Expositors Bible 1981.
b) Preaching and Prophecy.
1. Two different words entirely.
2. In preaching, the mind, furnished with the studied Word, is anointed to declare what has been received from the Scriptures. In prophecy, the mind is not active in the preparation adn formation of the message, the person speaking in the language known to the assembly, under the same arrangement as with tongues - "as the Spirit gives utterance".
3. The preacher expounds the "prophecy of Scripture" - the written revelation. The gift of prophecy speaks from immediate Scriptural revelation concerning a local and specific situation. 1 Corinthians 14:29, 30 - "Let the prophets speak two or three and let the others judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace".
4. The preacher is a ministry gift, given by the risen Christ. Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit to the individual believer.
5. Since "they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14), it would be rather costly if everyone who prophesied was a preacher!
1. Prophecy especially desirable - (v1).
"Make love your aim and then set your heart on spiritual gifts. Especially on prophecy" - Dr Moffat.
a) 'Follow' refers to 'something indispensible'.
b) 'Desire' refers to a faculty 'simply desirable'.
c) Love as character is absolutely indispensible while gifts as ministry are highly desirable!
2. Purpose of Prophecy - (v3, 4, 31).
a) "He that prophesieth (Spirit enabled) speaketh unto men".
- "Edification" - "Building up".
- "Exhortation" - "Encouragement" (v 31 - "comforted).
- "Comfort" - "Consolation".
"Edification denotes a new development and a confirmation of faith, by some new view fitted to be strengthening the soul. Exhortation denotes an encouragement addressed to the will, an energetic impulse capable of effecting an awakening or advancement in Christian fidelity. Comfort points to hope. To soothe the ear. Putting pain to sleep or reviving hope". - Godet.
- "Learn" (v31).
Both the learning and encouragement of verse 31 seem to point to learning and encouragement in the proper and salutory exercise of the gift.
3. Prophecy "Greater" than Tongues "in the Church".
a) The term 'greater' is used here from the standpoint of utility.
b) 'Tongues' on their own do not edify the church.
4. Prophecy and the Unbeliever/Ungifted. - v23-25.
a) Remember the context - the church meeting.
b) "Tongues" alone does not edify. "But he that prophesieth edifieth the church" (v4).
c) What applies to the believer, applies moreso to the outsider!
d) This is not the normal way to win sinners - rather preaching.
e) HOWEVER if one should come in and prophecy is the prevailing gift, it will result in:
- "Convincing" - to convict, to show one to be wrong.
- "Judging" - Examination, detailed enquiry, his whole inner man is searched.
- "Manifestation" - The hidden evils of his heart are brought to life.
a) Remember "the light in the squalid place".
b) Ephesians 5:15 "All things are made manifest by the light".
- "Worship" - He will become a worshipper! Or a Christian.
- "Report" - Note the nature of the report. "God is among you!".
5. The Order of Prophecy. - vv29, 30.
a) Three Rules.
- "Two or three" prophets to speak in each meeting.
- "Let the others judge" - or examine, scrutinize and estimate. (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21). "Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things".
- The entire responsible body will evaluate.
- However if a judgement is necessary, the rule of eldership will undoubtedly obtain and the correction will be made by an elder.
b) Interference - "If anything is revealed to some else who is seated there, let the first be silent".
- First - Remember Chapter 13.
- Only a love-controlled church could obey.
- Undoubtedly the Corinthians did not yield to each other.
- There should be love and courtesy between the two.
- "It is by lengthening his discourse that the prophet is in danger of mixing what is his own with the divine communication. The apostle's injuncture is well fitted to set aside empty amplifications and verbiage" - Godet.
5. The Prophets are in control - v32.
- This is a continuation of the thought - "I can't stop" - may be the answer to some of what Paul has said.
- Under demon control, this is true (12:2).
- The Christian prophet is ALWAYS in control of his spirit.
- "The prophet has no right to make inspiration a pretext for refusing to submit to the rules laid down by Paul" - Godet.
7. The Measure of Faith.
- Romans 12:6 - "Let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith".
- "Let the prophet speak in exact proportion to his faith. Let there be no word spoken but from the conviction that God gives it" - Wey.
- "The prophet is to let his utterance be regulated strictly by the degree of faith of which he is concious in himself, the inward inspiration and the outward deliverance must keep pace and advance step by step together"- Ellicot.
8. Prophets subject to the Word - v37.
- "He will show that he is truly under the influence of the Holy Spirit by acknowledging my authority and by yielding obedience to the commands which I utter in the name and by the authority of the Lord" - Barnes.
- All gifts and activities are subject to the Word!
- The Word of God is the highest court!
9. Prophecy is desirable - v39.
- "Be earnestly ambitious to prophecy" - Wey.
- "Set your heart on the prophetic gift" - Dr Moffat.