Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is the Gift of Prophecy? (3)

John 16: 8-9 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.

1 Cor 14:24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all. (NIV)

For the unbeliever prophecy brings rebuke and conviction of sin as the Holy Spirit acts on the unrepentant heart with the hammer blows of the Law. We too bring the Law - the glory due a holy and righteous God in whose sight sinners cannot sand without the secrets of the heart being laid bare (1 Cor 14:25). AS it brings conviction, the gift of prophecy evokes God's holy presence, sows the seeds of repentance as they come into the throne room of our Lord whose judgment flashes like lightning (Hosea 6:5). Their tongues falling silent before his holy Law (Romans 3:19).

Used in this way, prophecy produces a healthy fear of God. From which the soul is led to Christ, being made conscious of sin (Romans 3:20), and feeling its need for forgiveness which our Lord is quick to bestow.

The gift of prophecy then is the application of Law and Gospel (although I'm willing to concede that it has other important functions). It brings revelation that under God's Law we all stand guilty of transgression. And the revelation of Jesus' testimony through which the forgiveness of sins, and the justification by faith alone, is offered to those who believe. When applied to our lives, the prophetic should offer the severity of God's law to those secure in their sins, and the sweetness of the Gospel to those in terror of the law. All in step with the Holy Spirit whose primary purpose is to bring us to Christ.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What is the Gift of Prophecy? (2)

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Rev 19:10 For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (ESV)

What is prophecy? For Christians it is nothing less than Jesus' words breathed on us by the Holy Spirit for our encouragement and consolation. Fulfilling his promise that he will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18).

Prophecy is not something we summon up like mystics at a seance, or through our own pious efforts, but it is a gift from the Word made flesh who reminds us (because we need the reminder) of his testimony which gives eternal life to those who hear and believe.

Prophecy is not something outside of God's Word, because it is through Spirit-inspired Scripture that we first hear Jesus' words, which alone are sufficient for us. But away from the pages of the Bible we are prone to forget the Gospel. So our Lord comes to us by his Spirit to bear witness in our hearts to his goodness, with words that are truth and life, so we might proclaim his marvellous works among all the peoples (Psalm 96:3).

Monday, November 22, 2010

What is the Gift of Prophecy? (1)

Lately I've struggled with this question - as though the Lutheran and charismatic sides of my Christian faith were in hand-to-hand combat over it, leaving me steadfast in impasse; with no way to reconcile objective and subjective Christian experience. My questioning over the gift of prophecy revolves around a number of important issues for me which advice from well-meaning Christian friends has yet to resolve. These issues are:

1 Reliability

If a prophetic word is not as reliable or steadfast as God's Word, why would the Holy Spirit choose to communicate this way. When I hear, "I felt that the Spirit said this", how can I be sure that it was God. Not just what sincere Christians want me to hear, what I would like to hear, or just the result of a half-digested scrap of beef (as Scrooge thought of the ghost of Jacob Marley in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol").

"Ah", I hear, "but you must test the word". Well, yes, I acknowledge the Apostle Paul says we must test everything. But if the gift of prophecy is what charismatics claim it is, even testing relies on a subjective experience. My spirit testifying with the Spirit that this is true; an inner revelation that the prophetic word and Scripture match up. Which leaves me looking back at my imperfect self.

Whereas God's Word always pulls me away from myself to his Word which is eternal and living (1 Peter 1:23), sweet to the taste (Psalm 119:103), and sharper than the sharpest two-edge sword (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word is where the external triumphs over the internal gnosticism of other world religions and cults.

2. Sola Scriptura

When prophetic words are being offered in place of the preaching of God's Word, there is cause for concern. At Winchester Vineyard Church, I have witnessed the erosion of Sola Scriptura in action. Where the Bible does not have supremacy above their prophetic speakers. While prophecy brings encouragement, the lack of a solid diet of Scripture cannot be very healthy to us as God's people, especially when question of discernment still exist for the congregation e.g. "is this prophetic word especially for me?" No such uncertainly exists when we hear God's Word, when law and gospel are rightly preached in their saving office.

3. The "prophetic office"

I remain convinced by Scripture that the Prophetic Office ceased with the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles who alone were speaking the very words of Scripture. There is no new revelation today except what we received 2000 years ago, from the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact the Bible warns us about adding anything to this revelation (Rev 22: 18-19), which should give us pause before accepting the latest announcements off the prophetic hot lines in America. We should equally be concerned with the growing authority these self-appointed 'Prophets' in America have, especially when their prophetic calls are greeted with the same aplomb as Presidential speeches. Here also questions of trust and discernment arise: "have these words been properly tested?", "whose agenda does this service, God's kingdom or that leader's prophetic ministry and reputation?" The rise of the Kansas City Prophets, the New Apostolic Reformation, Cindy Jacobs, and others within the hyper-charismatic movement seem to me to be wrenching the attention of Christians away from God's Word. When Christians are increasingly relying on the latest prophetic word for guidance, our reliance on God's Word suffers - and maybe this is their intention. To shepherd us away from Scripture so their ministries can grow at the expense of the integrity of God's Word and the message of the gospel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Psalm 27:13

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 27 speaks with confidence about God's character. God is our light, our salvation, our stronghold, our helper. Based on these attributes, the Psalmist's cries towards God move us to approach in praise, in prayer, waiting with patience. In the hope that he will keep us safe, exalt us above our enemies. That he will never forsake us, but lead us along the right path.

All these hopes are fulfilled in Christ Jesus, who is the rock upon which our confidence stands. Through his name we approach the heavenly throne room. By his cross we are kept safe from God's righteous judgment, from the power of sin and the devil. United with him in his resurrection we will be raised to new life, freed from the enemy of death. In Christ and through Christ our heavenly Father has laid the straight path of salvation for us, and has promised that not one of his sheep will perish.

In Jesus Christ we surely saw the goodness of the Lord.