(1 Cor 14:3) But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
When we think of the gift of prophesy, we usually think of Old Testament prophets that spoke forth the word of God to the people. We also tend to think the gift is no longer valid because we have the full canon of Scripture. But are spiritual gifts for today? Can God speak through people with an important message we need to hear?
Prophecy, in a New Testament sense, is a specific word of God to His people for exhortation, edification, and comfort. When a word of God comes forth it will have an encouraging effect on the believers who are listening and pondering its contents. It must also line up with God’s Word or be rejected as false prophesy. (Isa 8:20)
We see the gift of prophecy operating constantly in the life of Jesus (John 6:63). There was the prophet Agabus who is seen prophesying in the Antioch church and in Caesarea (Acts 11:27-30; 21:8-11). There were other prophets in the Antioch church (Acts 13:1-2). Men and women prophesied in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 11:4-5). In the same church the gift was commonly used by believers in corporate worship and was regulated by the apostle Paul (1 Cor 12-14); Timothy’s gift was imparted by prophecy and the laying on of hands by the elders (1 Tim 4:14).
The gift was also predicted by the prophet Joel: (Joel 2:28) “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . The apostle Peter validated this promise in his preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Some would seem to flow in this gift more than others: (Rom 12:6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.
Prophecy may be given in the context of forth-telling (a personal word from God for the moment) or fore-telling (more predictive of the future). The gift may operate through Bible preaching and teaching, speaking out in a believer’s gathering, or one-on-one in a casual, supernaturally-natural way.
Now in terms of guidance, we see Barnabas and Saul being called to the mission field through the use of the gift of prophesy. (Acts 13:1-4) My pastor received a prophecy for me when God spoke to his heart and said, “Release Louie for the work I have called him to in Norco.” When I heard that I was so sobered and overwhelmed by the fact that God would give me such a personal word. We pioneered the church and enjoyed serving for twenty-one years there.
Stay open to hear a fresh word from the Lord. And be prepared to speak for God as well!