September 23, 2011

The Function of Prophecy in the New Testament

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 5:25 pm
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At City of God, the question of whether preaching is prophecy is brought up.  Undoubtedly, this is the case, but there are many purposes of prophecy in the New Testament.  I wrote the following outline while part of Vineyard Church.  Scripture citations are from the Revised Standard Version.

Purposes of the Prophetic According to the New Testament

©2002 Peter W. Dunn


            Why do we need a strong prophetic ministry in the church?  It is very clear that the church cannot function as it was intended to unless God is in control, and He can only be in control if his people are listening to what He is saying.  The Spirit guides, builds up and purifies the church.  Pastors, if you want to know why your church is not healthy, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

I was recently told that prophecy may only edify and encourage–that NT protocols only allow for positive prophecy.  This is clearly not biblical.  There are many other purposes of the prophetic which go well beyond to edify and encourage.  This is strongly supported in the Post-Resurrection church, of which we are a part.

  1. To guide the church in mission
    1. Acts 9:  Peter’s vision, angelic visitation to Corneilius.  Propelled the church to open up to the gentiles and thus began the evangelization of non-Jews.
    2. Acts 8.26:  An angel speaks to Philip to go to south road towards Gaza.  There he meets the Ethiopian Eunuch.
    3. Acts 13:  Set apart Barnabas and Saul:  This propelled the gentile mission from its Antioch base.
    4. Acts 16.6-9: 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8 so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
      1. This was a wise choice for the Holy Spirit, because the Macedonian churches became Paul’s most generous supporters, and they often financed his missions to other parts of the world.  Prob. Lydia became his most generous supporter.
      2. There may be other good reasons, but we can never know.  If we step out in the flesh, we may make what looks like a good choice but with disastrous consequences.
  2. To expose demonic activity
    1. Jesus did this regularly
      1. Matt 16.23 (Jesus discerned that Satan was behind Peter’s rebuke).
      2. Luke 13.16 (Jesus knew the woman was bound by Satan for 18 years)
      3. Luke 22.31 (Jesus knew that Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat)
    2. Jesus Disciples and followers also have this gift
      1. Luke 22.3 (How did the evangelist know that Satan had entered Judas; clearly someone had prophetic discernment);
      2. Acts 5.3  (Peter knew that Ananias had been inspired by Satan to withhold secretly part of the money).
      3. 2 Cor 12.7 (Paul knew that his thorn in the flesh came from Satan)
      4. 1 Thes 2.18 (Paul knew he had been hindered by Satan from coming to the Thessalonians)
      5. Revelation, a prophetic book, unveils the activity of the demonic in the persecution of the church (see esp. chs. 12-19).
  3. To encourage and edify
    1. “exhort” in English means, “To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd Ed 1992 by Houghton Mifflin.):  Hence the word (parakalo) parakalw in Greek may be translated as encourage or exhort, depending on context.  Hence, encouragement and edification can come in the form of strong admonitions or warnings.
    2. 1 Cor 14.31:  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; …”
    3. Eph 5.19 “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, …”
  4. To reveal sin and the thoughts of people (Nathan reveals David’s sin in 2 Sam 12)
    1. Jesus
      1. Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4
      2. Luke 5.22; 9.47 (“Jesus perceived the thoughts of their hearts.”)
    2. 1 Cor 14.24-25:  “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
  5. To help maintain the doctrinal purity of the church
    1. To help the church make correct decisions regarding doctrine and practice.
      1. Acts 15.28:  “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”:  Decision by the church elder not to require circumcision of Gentile believers.
    2. To warn against false doctrine and false teachers.”
      1. 1 Tim 4.1:  “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, …”
      2. Jesus speaking prophetically says:  Matt 24.4-5:  “Take heed that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”
  6. To reveal the future to God’s people:  To help God’s people be prepared for difficult times.
    1. Agabus in Acts 11.27f.; 21.10f.
    2. The Book of Revelation reveals future persecutions
    3. Matt 10.16f.  Jesus predicts persecution against the disipcles.

VII. To pronounce judgment

  1. Jesus pronounces a future judgment against the Jews in Matt. 21-28-22.14; and 23.37-24.51.
  2. Acts 13.10-11:  Paul pronounces judgment on Elymas (also an example of purpose II).
  3. Acts 7.51: 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Stephen’s discourse is prophetic; look tells us he is a man filled with the Holy Spirit and he is giving an apology, a defense for the faith:  see purpose VIII.
  4. On Christians:  Acts 5.9-10:  Peter pronounces a judgment of death upon Sapphira.
  5. Acts 8.20f.  Peter pronounces judgment on Simon Magus
  6. Gal 1.9:  Paul calls down a curse on the false teachers.

VIII. To help a martyr defend the faith, esp. at a time of persecution

  1. Matt 10.19-20: “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
  2. Acts 4.8:  Peter gives a defense before the elders, scribes and high priest.  Luke explicitly tells us that his speech is prophetic.

IX. To act as a sign and wonder to propel evangelism (1 Cor 14.24-25)

X. To ordain leaders (1 Tim 1.18; 4.14)


February 23, 2010

When that which is perfect comes: 1 Corinthians 13.8-13

8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (RSV)

Cessationists often believe that the meaning of “that which is perfect” is the NT. Thus, prophecies and speaking tongues are no longer valid because we have the New Testament (see e.g., this blog).  The perfect which Paul awaits however cannot be the NT since Paul had no idea that there would be collection of books used in the post-apostolic church called the NT. This is anachronistic exegesis.  Furthermore, it is not correct to say that it is a good theological understanding of the passage, since the NT itself does not have a theology of the NT–i.e., it has obviously a theology or theologies, which we call NT theology, but it does not discuss the NT as a theological category.  The biblical theology purported by cessationists is actually coherent only from a post-reformation point of view.

That which is perfect for Paul is properly understood to be the second coming of Christ who we will know directly and face to face.  The NT is not perfect in the sense of the Greek term, teleion (complete) ; it partially reveals to us the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.  When Jesus Christ is come, then we will see face to face the author and perfecter of our faith.  Until then, we are still in need of the gifts of the Spirit to guide us.

March 2, 2009

What’s Wrong with the Rapture?

Author’s note:  While pastor of teaching and training at a local, charismatic church (hence the emphasis on prophecy), I was troubled by the number of people who accepted the doctrine of the Rapture, so I wrote this little tract.  More recently, a friend told me that I had once expressed a view of Dispensationalism to him which showed that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  Therefore, as a part of a friendly debate, I offer this tract on the Rapture.

What is Wrong with the Rapture?
©2001 Peter W. Dunn

Introduction:   Christian books, radio, and TV are filled with a message of blessed hope: There will be a Rapture, an event in which all faithful Christians will be caught up in the air to join the Lord and spend a blessed seven years of feasting in heaven. Meanwhile, the most terrible plagues and punishments will fall upon all the faithless people left behind on earth, while the devil enforces a one-world government through an anti-Christ who will reign for seven years. Then Jesus will return to reign with his saints for 1000 years.

February 18, 2009

A review of Ronald A. N. Kydd, Charismatic Gifts in the in the Early Church

Review of Ronald A. N. Kydd, Charismatic Gifts in the in the Early Church: An Exploration into the Gifts of the Spirit during the First Three Centuries of the Christian Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1984) (pdf).

This is the only primer to the subject, when I last checked.  It is a readable book but not without faults.  There is another short review at endued.wordpress.comRonald Kydd is a former professor at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College in Peterborough, Ontario, and is now an Anglican minister and teaches at Tyndale Seminary.  I’ve never met him.

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