So, we began this new series a couple of weeks ago where we are learning about the various gifts the Lord has given to His body. And again, I’m not referring to the gifts that are the face of the church that everyone sees and esteems; I’m referring to more of the internal bones and organs of the body that provide the support that it needs and help with the overall function of the Lord’s church. So, we are learning what these particular gifts are and how God has designed them to work together for the building up of His church.
We started at the beginning of Romans chapter 12 where we learned how to prove God’s will for our lives—which is important to discovering what our place in the body is. And we saw that in verses 1&2, this comes by first learning to present our bodies as living sacrifices and then by having our minds renewed to think like God thinks.
You see, so many believers strive to know God’s will for their lives, but they fail at these two very basic and fundamental things---for if we do not learn to lay down our lives and adopt the mind of Christ, how will we ever discover His will for us? We can’t. We won’t.
No, we must do exactly what Jesus did in the Garden—truly offering ourselves up to God’s will being done in our lives and letting that same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. And just as Jesus walked completely in the will of His Father, so will we if we do these two things.
We then moved on to verses 3-5 last week where we learned that each member in the body of Christ has received a gift—that is, we have all been given a specific grace to accomplish a function in the church.
We saw that Paul went on to say in Romans 12:3-- “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Now this statement has had a variety of views in the church today because some take issue with the fact that God would give different measures of faith to different believers. And while I certainly believe that God has given each one of us the same amount of saving faith and has not given any more faith than others, I do not believe that Paul was referring to our general faith; I believe he is referring to the faith that we need pertaining to the gift of grace that we have been dealt.
You see, the terminology that is used in the New King James version that I just read from is correct. Paul literally said that God has dealt to each one a measure of faith because there is no definite article used in front of measure in the original text which always means that it should be translated “a” instead of “the.”
The next few verses further substantiate this view because Paul goes on to say, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (verses 4&5). The word “for” at the beginning of verse 4 is a term used to indicate that the writer is explaining what he just said. The translators could have said, “Because as we have many members…” And just look at what Paul says in this verse… He explains how a body has many different parts (i.e., members) but all the parts have different functions. So, it is obvious that contextually Paul is not talking about every member of the body of Christ having the same thing, but having different functions, different graces, and different offices.
So why did he use the term “faith” in reference to the different measures of faith that were distributed? Again, it is because he is not referring to the faith—the like precious faith that every believer receives to receive the Lord and then to walk by (Second Peter 1:1). He is referring to the faith that is needed to use and operate in our giftings and graces. In other words, this means that we have been given all the faith that we need to walk in the grace we’ve been given. Which is a way to discover what we are graced to do—for the things we truly believe in are a lot of times the thing we are called to do.
So, we’ve all been dealt the cards we have. And although the cards might look different, they are all aces, baby! Yes, we are all different, but we are all important—for everyone has a special gifting from God! Yes, every man and woman in the body of Christ has been given a specific function and a specific ability that is to be used for the building up of the body. And we saw how these giftings are exactly that—gifts—for they are given by God’s grace and not by our own merit.
I took us through several Scriptures that teach us that this same word Paul used for “gift” was used to describe things God has already given us by His grace and are simply in need of stirring up on the inside of us. Therefore, our giftings from God are not based on merit or our works but on God’s grace in the same manner our salvation was, is, and evermore shall be.
THE POSITION OF PROPHECY
So, what I would like us to begin doing this week is start unwrapping these gifts that Paul revealed to us in Romans 12:6-8 by seeing what kind of things God has graced His body with. So, first, notice that Romans 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to (what?) our faith.”
Notice, first of all, that this is saying that if one is given the gift of prophecy, then they are to use it. How? In proportion to the measure of faith that they have been dealt.
Again, as Paul says in the beginning of this verse, if we have been each given different measures of grace (again, not saving grace but gifting grace), then there must be different measures of faith given for us to operate in these different measures of grace we were given. Yes, each one of us have been given gifts differing depending on what part of the body we were placed in and each one of us have also been given different measures of faith in order to operate in that specific grace we have been given.
Now the phrase “let us use them” is not in the original Greek texts, but I believe it is appropriate because how many of you know that just because we have been given gifts of grace doesn’t mean they automatically will operate in our lives? No, we have to use the gifts given to us. You might say that we have to unwrap those gifts.
You see, we can have all kinds of gifts wrapped up under our tree, but if we never unwrap them and start utilizing what’s contained in the packages, they are a waste. God doesn’t want us wasting the gifts He’s given, church. No, He wants us unwrapping them and using them to bless others. Amen?
But the fact is in the remainder of this verse, the apostle Paul begins to get into some of the gifts given to the body of Christ. And the first one he mentions is one of his most talked about gifts in the Book of First Corinthians—the gift of prophecy.
This is the only one of the gifts of the Spirit that is “cross-posted” between First Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12. So, that tells you that this is a very important gift for the edification of the body of Christ. In fact, when you study Paul’s explanation of the gifts of the Spirit in First Corinthians chapter 14, you see how strongly he makes the point that prophecy is better than tongues because of how it edifies the body. (This is a point we will get more into shortly).
Now as we begin to look at this gift to the body, it’s important to realize that we all can desire to be more used in this gift. Paul invited us to do so in First Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1 when he encouraged us to “earnestly desire the best gifts”—particularly the gift of prophecy.
But the fact is, even though we all are invited to prophesy, there is a gift of prophecy that is given to certain members of Christ’s body. And that is what he is referring to here in Romans 12:6.
Now while we all certainly can be used in the gift of prophecy, the fact remains that there are those who are specifically called to operate in the position of prophecy in the body of Christ. This obviously includes those called into the office of a prophet, but also would include those who are simply wired for the prophetic. These are those who are simply more inclined to the prophetic and tend more to seeing & feeling things than others. In other words, they can sense things others in the body cannot.
Church, this is a vital gift to the body of Christ because just as our physical body relies on its senses being intact, the Lord’s body needs the gift of prophecy to “sense” things in the spirit. Why? Because it can see things others can’t see. It can smell things others can’t smell. It can feel things others can’t feel.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that this position in the body is more important than others, but that it serves a function that others in the body don’t. So, for example, just as the foot needs to recognize the need for our body’s ability to smell, that same sense of smell needs to recognize the important role the foot plays. Although, they play totally different roles in the body, they value the contribution the other part plays and learn to work together for what’s in the best interest of the entire body.
So, as various members of the body of Christ, we need to value this part of the body that is called to operate in the prophetic gift.
But like I said earlier, prophecy is something we can all operate in, in measure—and this is based on our pursuit of it. So, let’s look at this gift in detail in First Corinthians chapter 14 to see what it does, so that we know what we are pursuing.
You see, God gives us specific instructions concerning both prophecy and tongues in First Corinthians chapter 14—how they are to be done decently and in order, etc.
Now the very fact that Paul tells this church how, when they come together, to not let tongues be the only thing they practice and how one, two, or three are to speak in tongues at the most and then one interpret, tells us one very important thing. Evidently, these gifts are under our control to some degree. Elsewise, he would not have given them instructions on how they are to operate.
So, let’s go ahead and begin reading in verse 1 and learn more about this gift of prophecy:
Now notice that in verse 1, Paul says to pursue love and to desire spiritual gifts. Basically, what Paul was saying was— “Okay, church, pursue what I talked about in chapter 13 and desire what I talked about in chapter 12.” In other words, he was tying together the truths he talked about in the previous two chapters right here in this statement, and then he goes on to say, “but especially that you may prophesy.”
Why is this so significant? It is because, as Paul will go on to say in chapter 14, prophecy is a beautiful summarization of both of these two truths that he laid out to us in these prior two chapters. Why? Because we should desire the gifts because we are pursuing love. In other words, we should be coveting the gifts of the Spirit not because we are being covetous, but because we desire to help and be a blessing to other people. It is all about love, my friends, and if we only want to be used in the gifts for our own glory, fame, and self-promotion then we are missing the boat. We are first to pursue love and then desire spiritual gifts in order to more effectively love people.
So, what does this have to do with prophecy? Why should we especially desire that we might prophesy? It is because prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts others and, therefore, is the best way to love people vocally. Amen.
Now let me throw this in here again—but the very fact that God told us to especially desire to prophecy shows us that we all can be used in this gift of prophecy. Yes, again, just because we don’t see it operating in our life yet does not mean we are doomed to a life of not operating in this gift. We can desire it! We can seek it! We can press into it! Amen!
But the following point needs to be made here again—Although we all can prophesy, that does not make all of us prophets. Prophecy is different than the office of a prophet, just as our personal prayer language in tongues is different than the ministry gift of tongues and someone able to teach is different than the five-fold ministry gift of a teacher.
So, let’s now look at this gift in more detail so that we can become hungrier for it—for we become hungry for what we feed on:
The apostle Paul goes on to say in First Corinthians 14:2-3— “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
So, what we have here is Paul telling us why we should especially desire the spiritual gift of prophecy; it is because tongues speaks to God (which is certainly good for us as an individual). But if we are truly pursuing love, then prophecy should be the vocal gift that we desire most because it speaks words of edification, exhortation, and comfort to our brothers and sisters.
You see, while it is certainly important that we spend time speaking to God through praying in the Spirit in our own personal time, the greater good is to spend our life seeking to speak into the lives of our neighbor. While we can certainly edify, exhort, and comfort ourselves through praying in other tongues, it is more profitable to others to speak edifying, exhorting, and comforting words into them through prophecy. As we spend time speaking in tongues, we are focusing on building ourselves up, but as we spend time seeking to prophesy, we focus on building others up. This is love—the more excellent way.
So, I have concluded that a good definition of prophecy versus tongues is this: The gift of prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known language just as tongues is a supernatural utterance in an unknown language. In fact, prophecy basically produces the same results as speaking in other tongues. We can see this in verses 3 & 4 when Paul says that prophecy speaks edification to men and tongues edifies ourselves.
So, what does it mean to “edify”? It means to “build up.” This is why Jude said in verse 20 that, as we pray in the Spirit, we build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Now Jude was referring to building ourselves up, not on our own personal faith, but upon our most holy faith—that is, the faith of Jesus Christ (the faith of the new covenant). So, in other words, Jude was saying that tongues is a means for saints to build themselves up upon the foundation of this new and better covenant—meaning, if you want to learn more and go higher in your revelation of the New Testament doctrine, then tongues is a vehicle for doing so.
In fact, in Isaiah chapter 28, we have one of the very few Scriptures in the Old Testament where tongues was foretold. It said, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” But what I want you to notice are the verses before and after this passage. Notice that he talks about line upon line and precept upon precept. This is that edifying that Paul and Jude referred to.
But what I want you to see here is that prophecy also edifies and builds up like tongues does. The difference is that tongues builds us up personally while prophecy builds us up corporately.
THE MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
You see, back in the early church, tongues and prophecy were the two primary vehicles that God used to establish and build the church up on their most holy faith. In fact, prophecy was actually the main source of the New Testament doctrine that we call the holy canon of Scriptures (See Second Peter 1:20).
For many, that is a new revelation because what we have the benefit of seeing as the Holy Scripture is all recorded in our Holy Bible. But you do know that this Bible did not just originate from heaven, right? In other words, it did not fall out of the sky 2,000-plus years ago. No, it was written through inspired and supernatural utterance given to them in a known language! Therefore, the Bible is a result of prophecy because it was supernatural utterance given to each of these men in their known language.
In Second Peter 1:19, the Bible itself is called the more-sure word of prophecy! We call it the Word of God, but while it is certainly the Word (originated) of God, the vehicle through which God gave it to us is the Word of Prophecy.
Now there is an important lesson in this because Peter does not just call the Scriptures the “word of prophecy”; he calls it the “more sure word of prophecy.” You see, while words of prophecy that are given today certainly can be absolutely inspired of God and edifying, they can also be polluted, diluted, or completely uninspired.
This is why we are told to judge prophesies. The very fact that we are told to judge prophesies should show us that not all so-called prophesying is of God. Just because someone stands up and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” does not mean that everything that comes out of their mouth is of God. Just as the interpretation of tongues is just that, an interpretation, not a word for word translation, likewise, prophecy is not a word for word utterance given by God. A prophesy can include one thing that was indeed “Thus saith the Lord” and then another thing that was “Thus saith the dude.” This is because God’s living water flows through dirty pipes. Therefore, just as you would not just blindly drink something that flowed through a pipe, you shouldn’t just drink everything that flows through another person. You should judge it.
How many of you stay in a place somewhere that is not used that often and turn on the faucet and drink the water without first making sure the water is not corroded? I’ll tell you—I look at the water first and make sure it is not discolored and doesn’t stink before I put it in my mouth. In other words, I judge the water. I don’t judge the pipe because I am not qualified to judge pipes. What is on the inside of pipes is unknown and unseen to me. Therefore, I cannot judge pipes. But I certainly can judge the water that comes out of pipes through my senses.
Well, we should do this with prophesies: We should judge the words spoken; but avoid judging the one from whom the words came from. Why? Because they can miss it! It is not like God’s Words are continuously flowing through them. If it were a truly reputable and spiritual person, you might be able to be a little more trusting because, if the living water has flown through them enough, then they are more likely to be speaking by inspiration of God. But if it is like that place I described before, that does not have a reputation of being used efficiently in the past with a good testimony, then you better not blindly trust their “words.” You had better use your spiritual senses and determine if it is God or if it is just them.
HOW TO JUDGE PROPHECIES
So, how do we judge prophecies: Well, as we can learn from First Corinthians 12:3, those utterances inspired by the Holy Spirit will never defame Jesus and His finished work; they will always glorify Him. However, many Spirit-inspired utterances do not make reference to Jesus one way or another, so how do you judge these supernatural signs that are given to the Body? By obeying what Paul said after encouraging us to not despise prophecies in First Thessalonians 5:21— “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” You test all things! The Scripture teaches us to judge all prophecies—to judge them, first of all, by what I just said, “Do they glorify the deity and authority of our Lord, and do they glorify the finished work of our Savior?” Secondly, does that word you received line up with the Scriptures—meaning, does it contradict what is written. Always remember: “Thus saith the Lord” never is to be placed above “What is written.” Then, if they pass those two tests, you hold fast to that which “seems good”—meaning holding fast to the things which bear witness to your heart and you have peace with. Is that fire burning within you? Is the Spirit bearing witness inside of you? Does it seem right to your spirit and the Holy Ghost? If it does—hold fast to it! Don’t let go of the Word of Lord and it shall surely come to pass!
But the wonderful news is that even though prophecies are subject to inspection and can be off base, we have a “more sure” word of prophecy—namely the Word of God, and it never fails; it is always true; and we can be “more sure” that it is an unfailing prophecy.
So, the lesson in this is—make sure you do not always run around looking for a prophecy because they can fail. They are not a sure thing simply because they come through flawed vessels. Look unto the more sure word of prophecy and always, always, always, use God’s Word as the barometer to whether any words you receive contradict the truth or not.
Now we have seen that prophecies are given to, first of all, build us up—line upon line, precept upon precept—on our most holy faith. And we have seen that our most holy faith is God’s Holy Word. And this should not seem strange because look at all the prophecies that are recorded as Scripture.
PROPHECY EXHORTS AND COMFORTS
Then the apostle Paul goes on in First Corinthians 14:3 to say that another purpose of prophecy is to offer exhortation to others: Now to exhort means to encourage, spur on, or push someone forward.
You see, sometimes believers need to be encouraged. They need to know that God understands their situation. They need to be reminded of what His Word says to spur them on in their believing Him.
We see in the Scriptures how David encouraged himself in the Lord in First Samuel 30:6. Well, how did he do that? I guaranteed you that he prophesied to himself! He exhorted himself likely through the inspired songs that he wrote. Again, many of those songs were actually inspired Scriptures that he wrote called “psalms.”
Did you know that you can do this as well? While prophecy is mainly given to encourage others; you can prophesy to yourself and exhort yourself in the Lord. Amen! I have done this many of times. And do you want to know one way in which to do this? Through singing songs unto the Lord! Ephesians chapter 5 says that we are to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And in the verse before that he tells us to be continuously filled with the Spirit. How? By speaking to ourselves words of edification, exhortation, and comfort through singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord! Hallelujah!
Friends, this is prophetic in nature and what keeps us filled up with the Holy Spirit! We must learn to do what David did when he spoke words of prophecy to himself and exhorted his soul to bless the Lord! Amen. This is one of the best ways to exhort ourselves in the Lord. (Compare Colossians 3:16)
And, last but not least, Paul says that prophecies are given in order to bring comfort to people: Many people seem to think all prophecy is doom and gloom. But while prophecy can be giving bad news that is coming to pass, it is also to bring comfort to people. Like say a prophecy comes forth that says there is a famine coming, God will oftentimes couple that together with the good news that it will be done in so and so time, allowing people to get ready (This is comforting, isn’t it?).
OTHER FORMS OF PROPHECY
But one point that I want you to take away from this is that prophecy takes on many forms in how it comes forth. It is not just the time where one stands in front of you and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” No, prophecy can come forth in songs as one sings to the Lord. This can happen both corporately or in our prayer closet because as we begin to open our mouth in praise and adoration of God, the Holy Spirit can begin filling our mouths with a supernatural utterance that “gives thanks well”—just as tongues is a better and more inspired way to praise God.
Prophecy also can come forth in prayers: How many of you have ever experienced that as you were praying for a certain individual or a certain situation that you were maybe reminded of something concerning that thing you were praying about and then as you began praying words came into your mind and mouth that just flowed out of your heart. Well, that was likely a word of knowledge coupled together with prophecy!
Prophecy can also come forth in poetry or other writings. I have found that this is one of the ways that God has used me in prophecy more times than I could count. I used to accredit the inspiration that I feel when I write to just that, simply being inspired and as a gift pertaining to my calling. But what I can see now is that this is prophecy because this is all prophecy is. It is simply inspired utterance in a known language. So why can this not be expressed in writing?
There is also an element of prophecy in preaching and teaching and witnessing. Yes, we see many gifts of the Spirit in manifestation in the ministering of God’s Word. We can see the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and especially this gift of prophecy simply in the sharing of God’s Word.
Again, this was understood in the Early Church and where many of the Scriptural truths that we have today came from. They actually depended on prophecy to develop the doctrinal truths that we have today recorded in the Scriptures.
So, here is the lesson we should take away from this: We need to do more talking! We need to do more singing! We need to do more writing! We need to position ourselves to let this gift of prophecy flow through us! We need to give the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to distribute to us His inspired, supernatural utterance!
I’m convinced that there are some of us who have not discovered that we are called into this position of prophecy in the body of Christ and that is because we have not understood that prophecy can be packaged in so many ways.
So, begin to seek to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort into other’s lives! Do this by calling them on the phone, writing them a letter, etc. Be a good steward of the ability you have now to bless people with your words while in your heart hungering and desiring that this gift of prophecy flows through you more regularly. If you do this, you will see more of this supernatural utterance flowing through you, guaranteed. Amen.