Friday, January 23, 2009

Preaching and prophecy?

". . . expositional preachers are modern day prophets, serving merely as conduits through which the Word of God may flow into the people of God in order to do the work of God in them." Mark Dever at Adrian Warnock's blog
I want to agree with this in what it says about preaching, but I have a concern. The next implication could easily be that prophecy is preaching. I do think there is an overlap.. some preaching is prophetic and that would be good to have in your church. Both are the exercising of a spiritual gift and so have their focus in confession of the gospel (1 Cor 12v3), serving for the common good (v7), using a gift assigned by the Spirit (v11),  and must be exercised in love (ch13). 1 Cor 12v28 lists "second prophets, third teachers" as distinct rather than identical gifts.

In light of which Paul sets up case studies on tongues and prophecy (1 Cor 14). From this we see that prophecy is speaking for upbuilding and encouragement and consolation of the church (v3). Prophecy is defined in contrast to uninterpreted tongues as being able to be understood. Prophecy furthermore has an evangelistic effect on an unbeliever who comes into a Christian meeting, hearing prophecy "he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,  the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God anddeclare that God is really among you" (v24-25). Much like OT prophecy it has a major theme, calling people to turn back to God. At times it may be predictive (see Agabus in Acts) but much like the Old Testament prophets prediction is not the major theme.

Prophecy is a gift for men and women to exercise (11v4-5) - though it seems many who merge the definitions of preaching and prophecy wouldn't like where that goes for who can preach. Prophecy must be weighed and tested (v29) and seemingly gains it's authority not from the one prophesying but from the congregation. Prophecy seems to be both a prepared service and a spontaneous thing (v26, 30) where the source of preaching ought largely to be exposition of Scripture (which should have a fairly broad methodological definition). Clearly it's different from Old Testament prophecy, where a false prophet might be stoned - here a prophecy can be offered and tested and rejected and the church life goes on.

This gift is one to be eagerly desired (1 Cor 14v1) by a church. It might not be your gift - but your church needs it, and Scripture appeals to our desires to long for it. Why? Because this gift builds up the church and that is a cause for all Christians to rally behind and seek to excel in.  The Holy Spirit gifts the church with prophets and preachers for he is committed to building up the church (1 Cor 14v6,12).