Spiritual Gifts and Graces – Second Thoughts

gifts and graces basic I don’t often come back to an overlong sermon with a sense that I should perhaps have said even more.  Today I took time to recap the previous four weeks and then still managed to run out of time on the new teaching.  Grrrr!!  As a result, I wasn’t sure that I’d given an adequate definition of prophecy.  And some folk asked other questions too about 1 Cor 14.


1.  What is prophecy?

In the sermon I said that prophecy is a word from God which strengthen the body, or a word which brings encouragement and comfort to believers, or it is an evangelistic word which brings conviction.


More fundamentally, it is a directional word given by someone speaking for God.  Greg Haslam says in a very helpful explanation that:

There is divine energy operating within prophecy to achieve what God wants to achieve… The simplest life can relay blessings that may rock a continent for God.  We are to believe in the possibility that God may use us in this way.  Hebrews 4.12 tells “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

This is a graphic illustration of the power of God’s word when it goes forth with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It cuts precisely and often deeply, like a surgeon’s scalpel of sword.  God knows where to cut, what to cut, and when to cut.  The prophetic word has power to penetrate people’s hearts more deeply than any merely human words.  A single sentence can change a person’s life for ever. It can even affect whole churches in this way.


In our spiritual gifts guide we say that the gift of Prophecy is the divine enablement to speak God’s truth with power and clarity in a timely and culturally relevant manner for correction, repentance, or edification.


Also of note is that Haslam understands the “word of God” in Heb 4.12 to be a prophetic word rather than the Word of God, i.e. the Bible. 


2.  What is the difference between prophecy and preaching?

Teaching and preaching are pre-planned, but prophecy is not.


Some people believe that prophecy and preaching are the same thing. Reluctant to allow for the direct gift of prophecy to be still operating today, they instead wish to believe that it has been replaced by inspired preaching. This, notwithstanding that the offices of prophet, pastor and teacher are listed as quite separate by Paul.

Certainly, there are times when a prophet will preach, or a preacher will prophesy. And sometimes the two merge together in prophetic preaching. It does not mean that prophet equals preacher, or that prophesying equates to preaching.

An example is the case of C.H. Spurgeon – often called the ‘Prince of Preachers’. Spurgeon was indeed a gifted preacher, with the power of the Holy Spirit very evidently operating in him and amongst his listeners when he spoke from his pulpit. But even Spurgeon was careful to distinguish between prophecy and preaching.
Ernest Gentile, in Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy: Prophetic Gifts in Ministry Today, says “He reckons that there were as many as a dozen cases in which, interrupting his sermon, he had suddenly pointed to someone in his audience and given a striking description without any knowledge of the person. These spontaneous descriptions had usually caused the conversion of the person addressed.”

Bishop David Pytches, in Does God Speak Today?, recounts a story Spurgeon related in the first volume of his autobiography, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography: The Early Years, 1834-1859: “While preaching in the hall on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker. He keeps his shop open on Sundays. It was open last Sabbath morning, and he took ninepence – with fourpence profit from it. His soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!'”


Later a city missionary happened to meet the shoemaker. As they discussed Spurgeon, the shoemaker explained that Spurgeon’s word was exactly right and had caused his conversion. Fearful at first to return to the church and risk further exposure, the man finally concluded that it must have been God. From then on he shut up his shop on Sundays and went to God’s house to hear the Baptist prophet preach. (Gentile, Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy)


Spurgeon himself described the ‘unction’ that came upon him at such times as, “a dew from the Lord, a divine presence which you will recognise at once … ‘an unction from the holy one.'” (Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students)


Another common misunderstanding is that prophecy equates to powerful preaching about societal ills, sin in politics, environmental destruction, exploitation of the vulnerable, and similar important issues. Of course, prophets and preachers may thunder about such things, and probably will, but it is not the thundering which makes such preaching become prophecy. Rather, it is the accuracy and authority which comes from hearing a direct word from God about what to say. As we can see in Spurgeon’s example – he could not have known what he said before he said it. This is one mark of true prophecy.


Anyone can preach about the sin they are aware of among those around them, but few have the gift of speaking about what they do not know beforehand – at least without making fools of themselves.


The words preach and prophesy come from two entirely different Greek words. To “preach” means to proclaim, announce, cry, or tell. Jesus said, “Go  into all the world, and preach the gospel..” (Mark 16:15). He didn’t say to prophesy the Gospel.  The word prophecy means to “bubble up, to flow forth, or to cause to drop like rain.”


3.  Does Paul contradict himself over whether women can speak in church?

Check my post to see it it helps.

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