To ‘prophesy’ means to speak words that come from God’s Holy Spirit. Therefore, the words must not come from the mind of the speaker. They cannot merely be an expression of the speaker’s hopes and desires, or his thoughts and ideas. Instead, the Holy Spirit gives the person words to speak.
So, this gift is very similar to the gift called tongues. Both of these gifts were present in the church in Corinth. During tongues, the speaker speaks in a language that he does not understand. A person who prophesies can understand his own words. However, the effect of the two gifts is very different. Because other people cannot understand a message in tongues, they cannot benefit from it. The speaker himself benefits because God is working in his life. Other people can only benefit if someone interprets. That too is a gift of the Holy Spirit (12:10).
On the other hand, when someone prophesies, the message can benefit other people in many ways. It can make them stronger in their relationship with God, and it can help them to develop in the Christian life. It can encourage them to trust God more. It can bring them comfort during troubles.
Such messages do not replace the Bible. The Bible is God’s word to all people at all times. It never changes. It is complete and it is perfect (Psalm 119:89).
However, God can still speak to people, and he has many ways to do that (Job 33:14). So it should not surprise us that he gives Christians the power to prophesy or to speak in tongues.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.