“But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). In contrast to he who speaks in an unknown tongue (v. 2), Paul goes on to teach about someone who prophesies in English. There are three limitations or requirements for prophecy:
1. Prophecy Edifies. In the days when the King James Version was written, ‘edify’ meant to build something, like a structure. Webster today defines ‘edify’ as “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge”. So, any prophecy will build up the people of God. Prophecy that belittles or condemns doesn’t pass this test. Where is the love in that? Later, Paul tells us to ‘judge’ prophecy (v. 29). This is one of the tests that we should use.
2.Prophecy Exhorts. Exhortation is a word that has fallen out of usage in the English language, but it means ‘encourage’. The Bible is full of encouragement, but humanity is full of discouragement. The gift of prophecy will lift up and encourage the people of God to walk deeper, believe higher and act bolder. Here’s another measurement for judging prophecy.
3. Prophecy Comforts. In a lost world full of hurts and disappointments due to our fallen nature, spiritual gifts should be a comfort. We can expect prophetic words to comfort us in our hurts. When prophecy itself causes hurts, someone needs to judge that for what it is: humanity talking. Prophecy is when God gives us supernatural words to comfort another. This is the third measurement in judging prophecy.
For the sake of judging prophecy, we must understand that a message in tongues with interpretation is equal to prophecy.
I was once attending a church service at Calvary Temple in Fort Wayne. There were likely 1,200 people in the sanctuary that Sunday morning and the place was packed. The worship and preaching was inspiring and filled me with the Spirit. As the pastor was closing in prayer, someone in the congregation spoke out in tongues in a loud voice. Everyone was respectfully quiet as the message was spoken. Then the same person began interpreting the message in English. This was a message of judgment upon this church for its wickedness. God was going to destroy the church and punish the people in it for not listening to His voice. We all sat there stunned, the Spirit having been drained from us. Then the pastor spoke these words: “Paul tells us that we should let the prophets speak and the others judge whether God has spoken or not”, and dismissed us. I was young in my faith but was sensitive enough to be able to judge that one. There was no edifying, encouraging or comfort in that, only judgment and a lack of Christian love.
Tags: judging, prophecy, spiritual gifts