Thursday, May 20, 2010
"LET US PROPHESY" OR PROPHECY IS NOT JUST FOR THE PENTECOSTALS
"Peter, following up that word which is before us--"a spiritual house" (I Peter 2:5) says a little later that the object of the spiritual house is to "show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The temple was to show forth the excellencies of the Lord, the embodiment of Divine thoughts, and the Lord's people in any place should be the embodiment and expression of "Divine thoughts. There should be there a disclosing of God's thoughts in a very blessed way, a coming to know the mind of the Lord for His people, a rich unveiling of what is in the heart of God concerning His own. That is how it ought to be; not just addresses or sermons, but a ministry of revelation under the Holy Spirit through an opened heaven. That is of value to the Lord and to His people. But it wants a living company for that..." T. A. Sparks, God's Spiritual House
According to scripture, ministry in the church (ekklesia) is not the primary responsibility of one or two people, but is spread out in an effusive fashion. "EACH ONE, as he has received a gift...minister it as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Peter 4:10). The Amplified version says it this way:
“As EACH OF YOU has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace—faithful stewards of the extremely diverse [powers and gifts granted to Christians by] unmerited favor.”
And Paul tells us that…
"God has given to EACH ONE the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (I Cor. 12:7) (read all of I Cor. 12)
Thus the church is, by its nature and calling, a society of ministers. This mutual benefiting one another is a central feature of the church gathered in HIS name. As we read in Hebrews 10:25:
“Forsake not the assembly of yourselves together but ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER.”
Christians do not assemble together to just "receive" but to minister their respective gifts, their portions of Christ, one to the other. We assemble together not just “to be fed” but “to feed” Christ one to another.
So how is this done? Peter writes:
"If anyone speaks, as speaking oracles of God; if anyone ministers, as ministering out of the strength which God supplies; that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might forever and ever." (see I Peter 4:1-11)
The speaking in these meetings is not the speaking of "the natural man." Peter says, "If anyone speaks" they should be "speaking the oracles of God." And all such ministry to one another is to flow "out of the strength which God supplies." This is the Lord Jesus Christ, ministering to His church, through one another, “as God supplies.” (I Peter 4:11)
And the reason for such gatherings? "That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might forever and ever."
And it is the Lord's desire that He be glorified "in" His saints, that His glory be manifested from within the members of His body:
"When He comes to be glorified IN His saints and to be marveled at IN all those who have believed..." 2 Thessalonians. 1:4-11)
When the Personhood of Christ is ministered to one another, by one another, God is glorified in all things "through Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the actual Minister in these meetings because the giftings are coming “through HIM.” The Glory and the Power and the Supply all come through Jesus Christ, by one another and to one another, and when that happens, the Father is glorified!
A church that is following the divine order in its functioning and prophetic revelation of Jesus Christ together will also experience an evangelism explosion that is even promised by the Holy Spirit:
"...let's say an outsider walks in on your meeting and all are speaking for God with great power and insight...What then? Well, the outsider would come under the conviction of his own sins and be called to account by all. The very secrets of His heart would be revealed by all, and right there--mystified--he would fall on his face in worship to God, proclaiming all the while that God most certainly dwells among you" (I Cor. 14:26).
Who would not want this type of church meeting? But this can never happen unless all the saints take seriously their need to bring something prophetic to the meetings that they themselves have heard and learned from the Lord. So, after Paul describes the kind of meetings that brings the lost to their knees while confessing that "God is among you," he tells them in the most practical terms what they need to do:
What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one of you has a vital role to play because each one of you has gifts. One person might bring a song. Another a teaching. Still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language while another interprets. But all should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the meeting of the assembly" (I Cor. 14:26).
How do we minister Christ to one another?"
The purpose of the church assembly is the exaltation of the Son of God one to another so that the church becomes an expression of its Head, who is Christ. "As we have received our gift, so minister Him one to another" is a paraphrase of I Peter 4:10, for all spiritual gifting, all wisdom, all perfection is in, through, by and for Jesus Christ in whom are hidden all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).
Paul says that we should desire spiritual endowments, but most of all, we should desire “prophecy” because it is the gift that excels to the building up of the body of Christ (see I Cor. 14).
“Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love—make it your aim, your great quest; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments, especially that you may prophesy…” (I Cor. 14:1).
Notice Paul says that we are not only to earnestly desire such spiritual endowments, but to “cultivate” them.
The reason Paul considered prophecy so vital was because it…
“speaks to men for their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation.” (I Cor. 14:3)
In reading Ephesians chapter four, you will discover that this “building up the body of Christ” was the central feature of the Spirit's ecclesiology. So here in I Corinthians, Paul is speaking of the practical side to what this “building up the body of Christ” actually looks like as each person shares ministry functions.
Now in a word, if you speak to men for “their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation” you are prophesying. Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time, but that is the case. It is not ecstatic speech, or other-worldly speech, or even speech with a Pentecostal-Charismatic flavor to it. It is simply the testimony of Jesus which builds up the body of Christ.
Do you see the interconnectedness of scripture regarding these things? Hebrews 10, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, I Peter 4, I Corinthians 12 & 14 etc. speak in unison regarding the building up of the body of Christ through MUTUAL MINISTRY. All saints from all persuasions are invited to be ministers of Christ one to another. It is open to all irrespective of race, culture, clergy training, etc.
Now there may be some reading this who think this is fine for Pentecostals, or think of such “prophecy” as what they have heard in Pentecostal gatherings. As a believer who spent many years in a Charismatic church, I can tell you that whenever I read this passage in I Corinthians, I viewed this passage through that grid and couldn’t’ see anything beyond it. So we often think someone needs to stand up and speak a "Thus Saith The Lord!" and speak in a somewhat bombastic and really 'spiritual' voice.
May God be merciful to us in allowing us to see that this is not the case at all, that “prophecy” is something that all of us are required to earnestly pursue and cultivate in order to build up the body of Christ and by speaking in such a way that feels quite normal.
Now we know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Would “all scripture” include this passage that admonishes us to pursue this gift? Is it diminished if we belong to another denomination which rejects the notions of charismatic gifts? I think if we do this, we nullify the purposes of God and even set ourselves in opposition to HIM regarding implicit instructions to the contrary.
Because I Corinthians 14 is considered “scripture,” I believe it carries as much weight as anything in Romans, and is profitable for our “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” just as is the book of Romans. So what is at stake here really is our obedience to the whole counsel of God. We just don’t have the luxury to cherry-pick what suits us or not.
What our denominational schisms have produced is a focused emphasis on some scripture while excluding others. But if “all scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” shouldn’t we begin to embrace and proclaim and practice all that God has written for our learning? Shouldn’t’ our approach to scripture be “holistic” rather than discriminatory? Who are we to exclude certain portions of scripture because they don’t fit our ecclesiastical paradigms? With this in mind, let’s take another look at “prophecy” as the excelling gift for building up the body of Christ. If it was the “excelling gift for building up the body of Christ” then, shouldn’t it be for our edification, practice and learning today?
WHAT IS PROPHECY?
In Revelations we are told that...
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev.19:10)
The Amplified says it this way:
“For the substance (essence) of the truth revealed by Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy—the vital breath, the inspiration of all inspired preaching and interpretation of the divine will and purpose [including both mine and yours]."
Authentic prophecy, authored by the Holy Spirit, is that which testifies of Jesus Christ. No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3). Remember, what Paul is trying to say here is that our LORD has the power of speech and HE speaks through HIS people by “the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy.”
This is not just testifying “of” Jesus, but it is Jesus testifying of HIMSELF, because it is “the testimony of Jesus.” It is Jesus testifying through HIS body, through its individual members.
While prophecy may contain foretelling, its primary purpose is forthtelling something of the glory, the praise, the exaltation, the excellencies of Jesus Christ. And when this happens, the body of Christ is truly “building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
Thus Peter writes of the gathering of God's people, and while he doesn't use the term "prophecy," I believe the declarations, the proclamations of the acts and virtues of Jesus Christ in the assembly, by God's holy priesthood, is the same thing because it is "the testimony of Jesus" :
"Come to Him--the living stone--rejected by people, but accepted by God as chosen and precious (Is His Headship precious to you?) Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus, the Liberating King (Nothing is acceptable to God that is not through, to, and for His Son)...[for] you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God's own, so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts and virtues of the One who called you out of inky darkness into His shimmering light (I Peter 2:4-5, 9).
And Paul also writes this to the Philippian ekklesia:
"If you find any comfort from being in Jesus Christ, the Liberator. If His love brings you some encouragement. If you experience true companionship with His Spirit. If His tenderness and mercy fill your heart, then, brothers and sisters, there is one thing that would complete my joy--come together as one in mind and spirit and purpose, sharing in the same love."
In my mind, I see this as speaking "prophetically" out of the abundance of the heart, the over-flow of Christ's presence in us. Does the love of Christ bring you encouragement? If it does, you have something to share. Do you experience the companionship of His Spirit? Speak of His companionship to the brothers and sisters. Does Christ's tenderness and mercy fill your heart? Share out of your experience of His tenderness and mercy and why it so fills you with such "joy unspeakable and full of glory." .