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

Don Stewart :: If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Should They Be Given The Same Authority As Scripture?

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If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Should They Be Given the Same Authority as Scripture?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 14

When someone gives a prophecy invoking the name of the Lord are we to place it on the same level as Scripture? How should we treat modern day prophetic utterances?

There Are Two Basic Positions on This Subject

There are basically two positions held by Bible-believing Christians on this subject. The first position believes that there is an ongoing ministry of prophecy in the church today. A second position holds that all prophecy has ceased so that this question is not relevant.

Option 1: There Are Modern Day Prophetic Messages

This first position accepts the idea that God still gives prophetic messages to the church. This being the case, it is important to understand how these messages should be received.

Modern Day Prophecies Are Not Scripture

While there have been certain people who have taught that modern-day prophetic utterances have the same authority as Scripture, almost all non-cessationists reject this idea. They do not give modern-day prophecies the same authority as the Bible. Modern-day prophecies are for the building up of the church – not for adding to the Word of God. This is an important distinction which they make.

Though some modern-day prophecies may prove to be supernaturally given and helpful to those who receive them, they are not to be placed on the same level as the Bible. Indeed, we are not to add to that which God has previously revealed.

There Is a Difference in Scope in Modern Day Prophecies

The difference between modern-day prophetic utterances and Scripture is a matter of scope. The words set down in the Bible have a universal and eternal application. Today, those who have a genuine message from the Lord will have its application in a limited and often localized application. Such messages relate to individuals, or a small number of people, and are not to be placed on the same level as Scripture. Indeed, the Scriptures are complete.

God Has Already Spoken

The writer to the Hebrews said that God has spoken to humanity in the past through the prophets. He put it this way.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds (Hebrews 1:1, 2 NRSV).

While God spoke in the past through prophets, His ultimate revelation was through Jesus, God the Son.

The Faith Has Been Delivered

The teachings of Jesus Christ have been proclaimed. The faith has been once–and–for–all revealed to us by God. Nothing further needs to be added. Jude wrote.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3 ESV).

The faith has been once–and–for–all given.

We Are Not Bring New Revelation

Therefore, we should not expect someone who has the gift of prophecy in our modern age to add to Scripture. Their message does not have that universal application. The Scripture is the final judge of all matters of faith and practice; it is not someone’s prophetic message.

Option 2: There Are No Modern Day Prophecies

Not everyone agrees that the gift of prophecy is still functioning. There is the viewpoint that all attempts at modern-day prophecy are futile since the gift is no longer to be exercised in the church. Therefore this is an irrelevant question. Nobody has the New Testament gift of prophecy today.

This includes messages which would have a limited application. It is argued that there is no such category of limited prophetic messages in the New Testament. Indeed, when the prophet spoke his or her words the message was for intended for all believers in Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, since they were the words of the Lord the message was infallible.

Thus, it is contended that those who believe the gift of prophecy still functions today in the church cannot have it both ways. If God is still speaking through prophets then the words are infallible and binding for all believers. There is no such thing as “limited prophecies.”

Therefore, according to this perspective, anyone who claims to be delivering a message directly from the Lord is mistaken – no matter how sincere or godly the person may be.

This briefly sums up the various positions with respect to modern day prophetic messages.

Summary – Question 14
If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Should They Be Given the Same Authority as Scripture?

There are Christians which believe the New Testament spiritual gift of prophecy remains with the church today. Therefore, we should expect prophetic utterances from those which have this particular gift.

This being the case, what authority should we give them? Is every Christian supposed to listen and obey their words? With respect to the idea that there are modern-day prophetic utterances we can say the following.

It is usually claimed that those who exercise the gift of prophecy in the present day are doing so in a limited scope. Christians who believe the gift of prophecy is still operating in the church generally acknowledge this. For the most part, they do not claim that modern-day prophetic messages would have universal appeal to all believers in every place.

Indeed, they insist that Scripture makes it clear that God has spoken to humanity through Jesus Christ and that the faith has been once and for all delivered to the saints. There is no need to add anything else to Scripture. Thus, any modern-day message could not be accepted with the same authority as Holy Scripture.

Not everyone agrees that the prophetic gift remains. There is also the perspective that God has told us everything that we need to know and that we do not need modern-day prophets. The prophets served a specific purpose while the New Testament was being composed. Once the Scripture was committed to writing the need for the prophetic word has ceased.

Furthermore, the words of the New Testament prophets were the words of God. Consequently, they were binding on all Christians.

Therefore, if one claims that the gift still functions today, then they should be consistent and claim that the words of the prophets are binding on all believers. Since very few people wish to do this, it gives further evidence that the prophetic gift, as revealed in the New Testament, has been withdrawn.

If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Then How Can They Be Tested? ← Prior Section
Were the Various Details of a Prophecy to Be Judged or the Prophecy Itself? Next Section →
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