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

Don Stewart :: Were the Various Details of a Prophecy to Be Judged or the Prophecy Itself?

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Were the Various Details of a Prophecy to Be Judged or the Prophecy Itself?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 15

Christians are told to judge prophetic messages. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about this necessity. He said.

Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 NLT).

They were to test everything.

To the Corinthians, he wrote something similar.

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

It is obvious that when a person spoke out a prophetic message the elders of the church were supposed to evaluate the message.

What Was Being Judged?

However there is a question as to what exactly is to be judged. Is it the different details of the content of the prophecy, or is it the very prophecy itself? This is an important issue.

Were the leaders in the church commanded to determine if each detail was God-given revelation, or were they to determine whether the person was a genuine prophet who made a genuine prophecy? If they determined it was a genuine prophecy, then all of the details were accepted as true.

Option 1: It Was the Details That Were to Be Judged

Christians are divided on this issue. Some believe that the specific details of each prophecy were what was being judged. This position assumes that the prophecies contained truth mixed with error. It was up to the leaders to separate the fact from the fiction. In general, those who hold this position believe that the gift of prophecy is still to function in the church today. Those with the gift speak God’s truth but they do not speak it infallibly. It is for the leadership in the local assembly of believers to separate the true from the false.

Option 2: It Was the Message Itself – Not the Particular Details

On the other hand, there is the position that any prophecy which comes from the God of the Bible could not contain errors. Indeed, God could not inspire anyone to speak mistaken words. Therefore it was not the specific details that were being judged but rather the prophecy itself. It was either all or nothing.

If the prophecy were from the Lord, then it would be true in all its details. If it were not from the Lord, then the message should be rejected. Those who do not believe the gift of prophecy is still active in the church today generally hold this position.

Did the New Testament Prophets Make Mistakes?

At the heart of this issue is the question of New Testament prophets and the content of their message. It is alleged by some Christians that New Testament prophets, contrary to their Old Testament counterparts, were not infallible in the messages in which they gave. If this is the case, and if the gift of prophecy is still operating in the church, then people can prophesy today in the name of the Lord and give messages that are not correct in every detail.

Others strongly disagree and argue that a true spokesman for God would by definition have to be infallible. Otherwise we would be left to our own fallible means of sorting out truth from error.

Furthermore, the New Testament knows nothing of “fallible prophets of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, what good would a fallible prophet be?

Bible-believing Christians disagree on this issue of modern day prophecy as well as what exactly was being judged.

Summary – Question 15
Were the Various Details of a Prophecy to Be Judged or the Prophecy Itself?

There is a debate among Christians as to what was being judged by the leaders of the church when a prophecy was given to the local assembly. Some believe that it was the job of the leaders to judge each particular detail of the prophecy. This point of view assumes that some of the details the prophet gave may have been untrue. Therefore, it was the responsibility of the leadership to point out the errors which were spoken by the prophet as well as emphasize the truth.

On the other hand there are those who argue that it was the prophecy itself that was judged. The leaders listened to the complete message and then determined if it was from God. There was no weighing of the specific details – if God spoke through the prophet, then the entire message would have been true.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the New Testament that would give us the idea that God’s prophets would speak fallibly. Indeed, that would cause enormous problems. We would then have to resort to the decisions of fallible people to determine what part of God’s message was fallible and what part was infallible! This would provide no assurance or comfort whatsoever.

It thus seems much better to assume that it was the message itself, not the details, which were evaluated.

If There Are Modern-Day Prophetic Utterances, Should They Be Given The Same Authority As Scripture? ← Prior Section
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