I love prophecy. I thank God for the times a word of prophecy has helped me see more clearly. I pray that the gift of prophecy will be seen more and more in the church. I want to obey the Bible’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Clearly, the Bible does not endorse the church ignoring the gift of prophecy.
There is an error to avoid that is at least as dangerous as ignoring the gift of prophecy. That is the error of overemphasis. Prophecy has an important place in the christian life, but it cannot take the place of sound teaching. In fact, prophecy must be subject to sound Bible teaching. Below are seven statements that illustrate the important role of teaching in the life of the church.
- Paul taught his lifestyle to the church, he did not prophesy it (1 Corinthians 4:17).
- The Thessalonians were told to hold firm to the traditions they were taught by Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:15). On the other hand, they were instructed to test prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
- Timothy was told to teach, not prophesy, Paul’s instructions to the church (1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2).
- Elders who labour in teaching are to be honoured (1 Timothy 5:17). There is no mention of elders who prophesy.
- An elder must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). There is no mention of an elder needing to be able to prophesy.
- Timothy was urged to keep a close watch on the teaching (1 Timothy 4:16). He is not told to take heed to prophesying.
- James warned that those who teach, not those who prophesy, will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
I want to celebrate prophecy while not allowing it to eclipse the role the Bible assigns to teaching.
Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be made the frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for “messages” through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as of contemporaries … The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.*
*Donald Gee, Spiritual Gifts in the Work of Ministry Today (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1963), pp. 51–52.