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Are there any more scriptures that we fail to obey?

Unfortunately, yes—the verses that were referenced at the opening of this chapter.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Even though Paul clearly teaches that these manifestations of the Spirit are “for the common good,” we don’t seem to want this kind of common good in our churches. Even if we did, we have a problem right off the bat, in verse seven. Each one of us in the church is given the manifestation of the Spirit? Each one? To every person in the church? That would be bedlam.

Did I mention that God Himself gives these gifts? That doesn’t seem to matter. We once again resort to the dustbin-of-biblical-history reasoning. Even if we did entertain the possibility that these gifts are for today, we don’t know how we’re supposed to enable this. Actually, it’s not just ignorance—we don’t want to. It’s too messy, too gooey.

While we’re busy identifying our disdain for various portions of Scripture, here are few more to add to our total:

“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:29–33a NIV).

This scripture refers to activity that is so far off the wall that most of us won’t even consider it. They’re too Pentecostal, too Charismatic. People prophesying? Right. Talk about opening up a Pandora’s Box of idiocy. This, in spite of the fact that Paul tells us in this very passage that prophets are in control of themselves, God is a God of peace and not disorder and that others in the group should weigh carefully what has been said. Perhaps we should be humble enough to admit that we don’t have the spiritual gravitas to deal with the clear admonition of Scripture. Instead, in order to avoid applying these verses to church practice, we magnify the errors of others, wrongly adduce that charlatans on religious media are biblical examples of spiritual giftedness, give heed to rumors and weird stories we’ve heard and use them as excuses to deny the Word of God and their use in church or even individual practice. Interesting how we haven’t stopped teaching, preaching and leading because of the weird, even heretical, teachings of preachers, pastors and leaders throughout Church history up to our present time.

This is a biblical disgrace. Paul specifically tells us, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21). We do despise prophecies. Despise them? We don’t even allow them, in blatant disobedience to the Word of God.

The office of prophet is one of the most important ministries in the Church. In the Ephesians 4 ministry list, it is positioned second behind the office of the apostle and just before the evangelist.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11–12).

In Romans 12, it ranks first:

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6–8).

And although it is sixth in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, just a few verses later Paul places the office of prophet second, again, behind apostleship:

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Paul emphasizes this ministry gift in 1 Corinthians 14:1: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Why should we earnestly desire to prophesy? He tells us two verses later. “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3).

Are we concerned about weak believers? We should consider the solution in light of this verse. Prophecy builds up, encourages and consoles, it says. However, we refuse to do so, even though weak believers abound in our churches as do an abundance of people who need spiritual encouragement and consolation. Please allow me to emphasize that prophecy, according to Scripture, offers spiritual encouragement and consolation—a word from God, not merely a pat on the back or an admonition to man up in the midst of difficulty and trial.

For those who maintain that prophecy is as much forth-telling as it is foretelling, then these verses should be considered:

“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged…” (1 Corinthians 14:29–31).

Please note: “You can all prophesy one by one…” If, by our exegesis, we maintain that prophecy is teaching and teaching prophecy, then we should let others participate in this ministry as these verses indicate. Pardon me for my cynicism, but it seems to me that such statements which at first seem to be attempts to help clarify the definition of prophecy are instead simply efforts to keep the ministry of teaching—or prophesying, if you prefer—in the hands of a few.

How important is prophecy to Paul? He won’t leave it alone. As he wraps up this topic at the end of chapter 14, he reiterates, “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy…” (Verse 39a).

So please allow me to ask an honest, transparent question. How many other subjects in Scripture do pastors and leaders ignore to which so much attention is paid and which we are admonished twice earnestly to desire?

None come to mind.

We’ve been bamboozled. Lulled into sonorous, spiritual ignorance and stupefaction. It’s time to prayerfully return to Scripture, to ask the Lord how can walk in its truth.

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