NT prophecy is for today and is NOT authoritative

NT prophecy is for today and is NOT authoritative February 14, 2013

None of these reasons listed below are unique to me, but I thought I would collect and restate them here for you. One of the best writers on this subject is Wayne Grudem, and though I have not gone back to his writing in producing this, I am sure that his influence will be seen in this list. For more on the outworking of all this practically, please see my series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To be provoked to pursue God wholeheartedly for all that he has for us, watch Tope’s recent sermon at Desiring God.

  1. In the OT prophecy is reserved for a select few who provide spiritual authority and direction to God’s people. In the New, prophecy is available to all Gods people (Acts 2). It is not possible  that everbody’s prophecies are authoritative for every other person.
  2. In Acts 2 (and in passage from Joel that Peter is quoting) we are told that this outpouring of the Spirit is for “all flesh” and takes place in the “last days.” If the Spirit has since been withdrawn (at least in this sense) then we are now living in days after the last days which makes no sense!
  3. It is surely the above passage that is the context for Peter’s promise of the “gift of the Spirit” which in verse 38 and 39 is promised for “you and for your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord shall call.” Surely this applies to us too!
  4. It seems the purpose of the gift of the Spirit in Acts 2 is to in some measure restore the relationship of God’s people with himself. If God is going to communicate with us in some way today, what are we to call this if not prophecy?
  5. The purposes of prophecy are defined as “upbuilding, encouragement and consolation.” (1 Corinthians 14:3),  these purposes do not seem to overlap at all with the purposes of Scripture which are “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  6. It is clear that even in the OT prophecy is not always equated with Scripture. Just for starters the following biblical figures are described as having prophesied or being prophets and yet some or all of their prophecies are not included in the Scripture: Abraham (Gen 20:7), Saul (1 Samuel 10:11), the prophets with Saul (1 Samuel 10), Michiah’s other prophecies about Ahab, the many of Matthew 7:22, Anna (Luke 2:42), four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:9), the people referred to in Romans 12:6 with the gift of prophecy, the Corinthians who prophesied, the elders who laid hands on Timothy (1 Tim 4:14), etc…
  7. Clearly many people in the Bible other than the Apostles prophesied.
  8. In the OT the authority rested with the prophets. In the NT the authority rested instead with the Apostles, although there were also Prophets around.
  9. Prophecy is not always 100% reliable in the Bible. Nathan told David to go ahead and build the temple before telling him that he was wrong (2 Samuel 12), Balaam in Numbers 22 was both a false prophet and spoke for God on occasion.
  10. In Acts 21 we see Paul ignoring the pleas of those who urged him “by the Holy Spirit” not to go to Jerusalem.  We also see a minor error in Agabus prophecy, and the wrong application by Paul’s friends, unless we feel Paul directly disobeyed a prophetic word!
  11. If prophecy is equivalent to authoritative, inerrant scripture why does 1 Corinthians 13:9  say “For we know in part and we prophesy in part”
  12. If prophecy is due to cease when Scripture is complete why does the Bible never tell us that?
  13. Why does the Bible instead in 1 Corinthians 13 tell us that prophecy will cease when we see Jesus face to face?
  14.  What are we to make of the following direct commands of Paul if prophecy and other gifts have cased, why are they in the Bible?
  15. 1 Corinthians 14:1  “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Why are we not meant to do that now?
  16. 1 Corinthians 14:5  “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” If prophecy has ceased, then the church can’t be built up in this way now!
  17. 1 Corinthians 14:24 “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all” Again, if prophecy has ceased this effect is no longer available.
  18. 1 Corinthians 14:31  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged” Why would God not want us to do the same today?”
  19. 1 Corinthians 14:39  “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  Has anyone told the SBC about this verse?
  20. 1 Thess 5:19-21 “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good”
  21. Note that we are meant to test prophecies, rather than the prophet. In other words it is possible for a godly man to prophecy  both good words, and words that he believes to be prophecy but are in fact not.
  22. On what biblical basis can we pick and choose which commands of Paul to obey and which to disobey? If we reject all these commands why would we not for example also reject his commands about say the role of women, or indeed lots of other matters?
  23. Throughout church history many have spoken about “strong impressions” from the Holy Spirit, about receiving a “call” to preach, about being guided by God in various ways, and in some cases receiving supernatural knowledge (Spurgeon being a case in point).
  24. If we are to accept that prophecy is going to continue and be available to all God’s people it stands to reason that this gift would need to be secondary to an objective measuring stick to weight it by. Otherwise the result would be chaos as people would rush after one prophecy and then another and have no means of knowing which were accurate.
  25. Prophecy guides us only on specific, non doctrinal matters, that are not addressed by the Bible. It is part of God’s mercy to us to provide leadership to his people. It is only one means by which God speaks to us, and it is subordinate to both the voices of Scripture and reason.

Over to you: Which of these reasons do you find convincing (or not!) What other reasons have I left off? What reasons are there to come to a different view?

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  • Patrick

    Let’s see if this prophesy is authoritative or not.

    “The Lord, Jesus Christ will return bodily to earth, He will resurrect humanity, some to life, some to contempt, He will judge mankind in righteousness, He will reward us righteously, He will restore the universe and death, sin and evil will be done with forever”.

    That is how all can prophesy that believe. I for one think we all are priests, prophets and kings in a sense due to Christ sharing His status with us.

  • Glenn

    After much practical experience in the Charismatic world I say we drop the word prophetic. If it carries no final authority then it really is an opinion or advice. I have seen to many newly converted Christians not understand prophecy and be led to believe prophetic words are the words of God. And even John Wimber had Grudem’s understanding of prophecy, yet entertained a brief period with the KC prophets.

    • But Glenn, that’s n argument from experience not Scripture!

  • One Twitter commentator linked to this article which according to him demolishes the Grudem view. For fairness I thought I would link to it here: http://t.co/wYo2yPz7

    • Allen Ray Mickle Jr.

      Too few have considered Farnell’s extensive work on NT prophecy, especially his interaction with Grudem.

  • Alex B

    I believe that prophecy does still exist but in a different way to Biblical times, often talked about as prophecy with a small p now instead of a big P during Biblical times. As we now have the full Bible, modern day prophecy effectively interprets how Biblical truth relates to specific situations, rather than predicting future events or adding to the Bible as it could do during Biblical times.

    I get the impression from your title and intro that you would disagree with my view, but I think all your 15 points are consistent with my view and some (eg point 15) lean more towards it. Do you agree?

  • Al Smith

    Perhaps defining what you mean by “prophecy” might be helpful. It’s such a nebulous term and people seem to mean such different things by it, there’s always the risk of different camps talking past each other.

  • Caleb Bronson

    This was an excellent compilation! Point 20. really struck me, along with the idea (which is reflected in many of your points) that prophecies are non-scriptural encouragements from the Lord through his servants. Some of them he included in scripture, especially in the OT, but we are all now equipped with the Holy Spirit. My conclusion would be, then, that all of God’s children have the ability and response-ability to encourage, uplift, and console. Simply put, Christians should prophesy.

  • jackbrooks

    I note that Agabus never commands anyone what to do, so his example of being a prophet is helpful — it challenges those who try to boss others around in the Lord’s name. And the normal prophetic gift in 1st Corinthians 14 is for exhortation, strengthening and conviction. Since the Scripture was given to minister in those ways, Paul implies that the gift *used* Scripture to pinpoint immediate needs in the congregation of the moment. It did not add to the Scriptures. Lots of people had the gift, presumably, but none of their words were added into the canon. This is one way we know that the gift of prophecy did not supply canonical revelations.

  • Nick Uva

    Adrian, your point about the subjective nature of a person’s calling to ministry is quite good and important. There is no Christian whose experience with God is wholly objective – at least I hope not for his sake.

    One thing which I feel needs more emphasis in these discussions is the Romans 12 gift. I’ve always taught such gifts represent a middle ground or level in prophetic anointing and calling, in between the manifestation of the Spirit as in 1 Cor 12 (which is given to every man potentially) and the office of a prophet given by the Son in Eph 4.

    What’s interesting is that such a gift operates by faith. And the fact that Paul says it operates by faith militates against the unbiblical view of the gifts held by cessationists, which seems to put them on the level of a superhero’s superhuman powers in how they work. While we often make such arguments in the context of healing gifts, here I find it expressed in the realm of the prophetic as well. If a healing or prophetic gift was an automatic and never-failing endowment like Superman’s super-strength, why would we need to be exhorted to prophesy in accordance with the proportion of faith we have?

  • RichJ

    In the Gospels when Jesus referenced “scripture” he refereed to the entire OT including prophecies. In the epistles the writings of Paul are equated to scripture by Peter – without excepting his prophetic passages.

  • Jeff Featherstone

    Within the church in Britain I would have thought that, unlike 30 years ago, the question of ‘is it biblical to believe that the NT gift of prophecy continues to exist today?’ is largely uncontroversial in churches that have a high view of scripture-with the answer being ‘yes’. The real danger is in churches that claim to believe this but where in practice there is rarely, if ever, the gift of prophecy exercised in their public meetings-and often this is the case in churches where the gift would far more regularly have been regularly a feature of their meetings 10-20 years ago. The number of churches where there is a real gulf between what they theoretically believe and what they do in practice is a real concern.