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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: Is the Gift of Prophecy Still Available for the Church?

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Is the Gift of Prophecy Still Available for the Church?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 12

The question as to whether or not the gift of prophecy is still to be exercised in the church today is one that has divided believers. Indeed, there is no agreement among Bible-believing Christians as to whether this particular gift of the Holy Spirit should still be exercised in the church today.

There Are Two Major Views with Respect to the Continuation of Prophecy

There are two major positions on this issue. The first option holds that the gift of prophecy is still to be exercised by the church today. It is a gift that God has given to be exercised throughout the church age.

There is another position that believes the gift of prophecy is no longer to be exercised by the church. The gift was only given for a short time and for a specific purpose.

We must emphasize that there are good, Bible-believing Christians that hold each of these positions. The arguments for each of these views are as follows.

Option 1: The Gift Is Still to Be Used Today

The first option says that prophecy is still a valid gift for the church today. There are a number of reasons as to why this is the case.

The Gift of Prophecy Was Not Limited to Giving New Revelation

The cessationist assumes that the gift of prophecy was solely for the speaking forth of the Word of God until the New Testament was finished. The non-cessationist believes this definition is too restrictive. Prophecy can be used for revelation or the explanation of the revelation. For example, we read in Luke’s gospel about Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, issuing a prophecy. Scripture says.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying (Luke 1:67 ESV).

The passage says that Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and he prophesied. The content of what he said was not new revelation but rather the announcement that certain promises found in the Old Testament were about to be fulfilled. This prophecy was for the purpose of informing, building up and consoling the people – it was not new truth which had previously been unrevealed.

The gift of prophecy basically consisted of speaking forth God’s truth. It did not have to be new revelation; neither did it have to be predictive. For example, Paul said.

But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3 HCSB).

Upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation does not necessarily mean that new revelation is being given.

The Gift of Prophecy Was Not Limited to Church Leaders

There is something else which must be considered. Not all of these people who prophesied were leaders of a local assembly. Paul wrote the following command to the Corinthians.

Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said (1 Corinthians 14:29 NLT)

Note that he makes the distinction between the prophets and the leaders.

This is further evidenced by the daughters of Philip the evangelist. We are told that they had the gift of prophecy.

He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9 NIV).

Philips’ daughters, while being given the prophetic gift, were not leaders in the church.

We also find that Judas and Silas were called prophets. Scripture says.

Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (Acts 15:32 NRSV).

Yet there is no indication they were in leadership. This indicates that the gift of prophecy is not reserved for church leaders.

There Is Nowhere Where the Bible Says the Gift of Prophecy Will Cease

We do not find any specific verse that says the gift of prophecy will cease. Certainly it does not tell us that it will be withdrawn after the apostles die. In fact, the Scripture seems to teach that all the gifts will continue until Christ returns. Paul wrote.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed (1 Corinthians 1:7 NIV).

Scripture does not specifically say that prophecy will cease.

There Is Nowhere Where the Bible Says the Gift of Prophecy Will Cease

What the Bible seems to teach with respect to the gift of prophecy is that it will continue until Christ returns. Paul wrote.

But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears (1 Corinthians 13:10 NIV).

The imperfect spiritual gifts will continue until Christ returns. This includes the gift of prophecy.

For these reasons, a number of Bible-believing Christians hold that the gift of prophecy is still to function in the church.

Option 2: The Gift of Prophecy Is No Longer Necessary

While many people believe the gift of prophecy remains in the church, there is also the view that this spiritual gift was meant for only those in the early church.

Indeed, this gift was given as a supernatural ability to speak forth God’s Word and give direct revelation until the time the New Testament was written. Once the New Testament was composed, the gift was no longer necessary. Since the completion of the New Testament this gift has no longer been operating. The arguments for this position include the following.

Prophecy Was a Foundational Gift

The gift of prophecy was a foundational gift given to the church. It was necessary as long as there was no final standard of authority to which people could turn. While the early Christians had the written Old Testament as their divine authority, they did not have a completed New Testament. The doctrine of Jesus Christ was taught orally for a time. Eventually the teaching about Jesus became committed to writing. Paul wrote about the apostles and prophets being foundational.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21 NASB).

We do not need to build upon the foundation again.

Prophecy Was a Foundational Gift

The nature of the gift of prophecy is found in First Corinthians. Paul wrote.

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:29-32 NRSV).

Prophecy is divine revelation. God stopped giving divine revelation when the New Testament was completed. Therefore, the gift no longer exists.

The Bible Does Not Promise That Prophecy Will Continue

There is no place where the Bible promises that the gift of prophecy will continue until Jesus Christ comes. In fact, the very nature of the gift demonstrates that it would only have a limited duration.

These facts have caused many to conclude that the gift of prophecy was given to a limited group of people for a limited duration. It has since been withdrawn.

Summary – Question 12
Is the Gift of Prophecy Still Available for the Church?

There is a disagreement among Christians as to whether the gift of prophecy is still to be exercised in the church.

Those who argue for its continuance say that the gift was not limited to giving new revelation. Therefore, we should not assume that it contains things never before revealed.

Neither was it limited to those in authority in the church. In fact, a number of people who prophesied were not in a leadership capacity.

Nowhere do we find the Scripture stating that the gift of prophecy will cease. On the contrary, when the perfect comes, Jesus Christ and His kingdom, then the imperfect gifts will pass away. Therefore, the gift of prophecy should continue to be used.

Those who argue against the continuation of the gift believe that it was foundational to the church. Since the foundation has already been build the gift is no longer necessary.

In addition, prophecy is spoken of as divine revelation – something that has ceased with the writing of the New Testament. This is where there is disagreement between the two positions. If prophecy consisted solely of divine revelation then it will be admitted that this gift is now unnecessary. However, those who argue for the continuance of prophecy claim that Bible prophecy consisted of more than infallible divine revelation.

Finally, there is no promise in Scripture that prophecy will continue. To determine whether or not the gift still exists must be determined by the evidence and the evidence leads us to believe the gift is no longer necessary because there is no more need for divine revelation.

There are good Bible-believers on both sides of this issue.

What Rules Does the New Testament Give for Prophesying at a Worship Service? ← Prior Section
If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Then How Can They Be Tested? Next Section →
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