A Word about Prophecy.
It seems that many theological topics go through seasons of entering the discussion/debate field and at present, it looks to me like the gift of prophecy is under the microscope at present. I noted on the "Spirit of God!" blog that I was concerned to see something of a downgrade on the importance of the prophetic along with Greg Haslam's call from Brighton to restore the vital place of this gift. Haslam said;
"The primary function of the prophetic ministry is two-fold. It is to remove all the obstacles to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And secondly it is to promote the conditions essential for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit".
This is by no means meant to be criticism of a person or a group of churches and most certainly not charismatics. But I do think that if Greg Haslam is right, as is 1 Timothy 1:18, then the gift of prophecy is more important than a mere 'secondary issue' to ignore for the sake of the acceptance that we desire. A great deal more is at stake, especially if Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is right - that our greatest need of the hour is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival.
I want to draw attention to Terry Virgo's Firstline in the Newfrontiers magazine - June/August 2004- as an excellent defence of prophecy and a statement of the place that the prophetic should have among us as a people of God. Here are some of the sections that caught my eye.
"What the Bible actually teaches is that the degree of prophecy experienced in the Old Testament is to be surpassed and superseded by what happens in these last days in the church age. Joel prophesied that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit very liberally. Old and young, male and female would prophesy, see visions, dream dreams and be flooded by God’s empowering presence.
Paul seems to regard prophecy as similarly commonplace as prayer, as he refers to ‘prayer and prophecy’ in the same breath (see 1 Cor. 11:4,5). He says, ‘You can all prophesy one by one’ (1 Cor. 14:31). ‘If all prophesy and an unbeliever or ungifted man enters he is convicted by all … the secrets of his heart are disclosed; so he will fall on his face and worship God declaring that God is certainly among you’ (1 Cor. 14:24,25)
This says several things about Paul’s expectation. First, he expects church gatherings to include prophecies. Second, he welcomes them even when the unsaved are present. Third, he also expects prophecies to have penetrating content that cut to the heart. Nebulous generalisations really don’t cut it, so though we must not dismiss people’s early attempts to prophesy, we do need to keep asking God to develop our gifts".
How does that compare to "no mates, dates, correction or direction"?
Terry goes on: "Surely it’s not God’s purpose that most prophecies should be mundane and only rarely extraordinary. Paul’s expectation, as stated in Corinthians, seems to be the very opposite. He anticipates visitors coming to a gathered church only to be undone by the things that are said. So let’s not settle for our present experience but continue to press on, asking for ever greater development of our gifts.
The prophetic word gave us direction.
Prophecy can come as light and love to the individual or as direction to a movement. God leads us by His presence and His voice.
Local churches flooded with the presence of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the most potent weapons in God’s hands for world evangelism.
As we progress in our experience of hearing God’s voice and sensitively passing on what we hear, we can anticipate this powerful weapon being developed and also becoming more available in an evangelistic context, thereby taking God’s living word to the unsaved as well as to the saved".
I think that Terry's comments very much back up a comment left by Hobbes at my original post where he said; "Spiritual gifts are essential for the life and health of a Church". Of course we do not want to intentionally offend our cessationist brothers and sisters. But we can be so grateful for scholars like Gordon Fee who have devoted much work to proving that a belief in these gifts is no longer a wacky fundemental periphery but a view that demands respect. However I must point out that the same cessationist brothers and sisters feel no shame in stating their views very strongly - so why should we feel guilty at being just as forthright in our belief that indeed the spiritual gifts are indeed essential for the life and health of the Church?
Our views, positions and theologies on the spiritual gifts, the baptism of the Spirit, indeed any topic in any Systematic Theology must be wedded to the Word of God and not governed by our desire for acceptance among the wider body of Christ. Surely that acceptance and respect, if it is of God, will come from seeing a faithful body of believers grounding everything they believe in the Word of God and living it out in the power of His Spirit?
Let me close on the positive with an encouragement from Terry Virgo:
"He urges us to covet prophetic utterances that will increasingly make us a people enjoying His presence and captivated by His purposes!".