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Featured You're not a prophet? Then you're not mature!

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by JAL, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Anyone's list of mature saints would rightly include Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah, Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Paul, David, Joshua, Samuel, the author of Hebrews, the apostles, and Christ Himself. In the OT such men were variously called "a man of God", "a seer", or "a prophet". In fact the prophet Abraham is taken in Romans 4, Galatian 3, and Hebrews 11 as an exemplar par excellence of the Christian walk - a paradigm for ALL of us to follow.

    Is anyone seeing a pattern emerging here? I mostly certainly am.

    While exegesis is fallible, we favor the interpretations seemingly most harmonious with the author's words. This thread will expose evidence in 1Corinthians strongly favoring mature prophethood as the definition of spiritual maturity climaxed at 14:1, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual things, especially the gift of prophecy."

    The original Greek at 14:1 - and 12:1 as well - says not spiritual gifts but spiritual things because Paul's obsession isn't with a set of superfluous gifts (understood as merely an optional bonus to spirituality) but with spirituality/maturity itself. After all, the Corinthians were unspiritual (i.e.impoverished in spiritual things). For such 'mere babes in Christ' (1Cor 3), the obvious remedy is to 'eagerly pursue spiritual things, especially the gift of prophecy'. It is in fact only tautological - and thus irrefutable - to point out that a spiritually mature man is a man mature in spiritual things - and topping Paul's list of spiritual things is 'especially the gift of prophecy' (14:1).

    In a nutshell, 1Corinthians doesn't value gifts for gifts' sake but for maturity's sake. This is the epistle's most distinctive emphasis and yet it is still overlooked by the entire church even today, some 2000 years later.

    As we shall see, this thesis surfaces most strongly in chapters 2 and 3, but is powerfully reiterated at chapter 13 as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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  2. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    In that case, a believer is either a prophet or a loss!!
     
  3. St_Worm2

    St_Worm2 Senior Member Supporter

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    Hi @JAL, how do you line up what you just said above with a passage like this one.

    1 Corinthians 12
    28 God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
    29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
    30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
    31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
    If all are not appointed as prophets by God, but rather, appointed and gifted by Him as another part of the body of Christ instead, why would maturity in the faith not be measured according to each man's/woman's specific appointment/gift? Also, would not those who have been appointed by God as prophets (and been given the gift of prophesy by Him as well) always seem to be the mature ones in the faith (if prophesy alone is the mark/standard of measurement by which Christian "maturity" is judged)?

    Thanks!

    --David
    p.s. - the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control .. Galatians 5:22-23. It seems to me that where a Christian is at in regard to these "fruits" (in their daily walk) may actually be a better indicator how mature they are in Christ.
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  4. LightLoveHope

    LightLoveHope Jesus leads us to life

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    A prophet speaks God's response to a situation. We are not all eyes or mouths therefore not all prophets, simple
     
  5. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Understandable reaction, but to begin with, Paul characterizes all the charisms in chapter 12 as spiritual things (12:1) and therefore should be available to all. Look at verse 12:31 again, "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" in perfect parallel to 14:1, "Eagerly desire spiritual things, especially the gift of prophecy". Both verses are COMMANDED to the whole church. As I recall, Calvin confirmed that 12:31 is indeed a command to seek the greater gifts.

    Now back to your question. Why do verses 29 and 30 seem, on the face of it, to limit each person to a subset of the gifts? Most likely he's talking about either (A) the current assembly/meeting marked by a variety of manifestations spread across a variety of people (b) the current state of the local church (always bringing in new converts not yet fully gifted).

    Thus there is no compelling reason for a Christian to assume he cannot be eventually promoted from his current state of gifting (or lack thereof) to a higher one such as prophecy.

    Again, Paul's talking about 'spiritual things' and ranked prophecy very high at 12:31 and 14:1. Maturity associates more with those believers situated on the high end of the ranking, not the low end, by Paul's own standards. I'm just taking Paul at his words. However, I do believe there are some logical reasons for this association, and at some point I plan to cover them.

    It's easy to mix apples and oranges. Don't confuse maturity with merit (not sure if you're doing that). Suppose you undergo an IQ-elevating brain surgery as to become incredibly wise and well-suited for leadership. That makes you a better leader but doesn't increase your merit. Merit is graded in terms of effort, not in terms of gifting.

    In a powerful revival - and in my view Pentecost was nothing more than the greatest revival in history rivaled only by the days of Moses - anyone can be appointed as a prophet. That's like brain surgery. It's not meritorious. Furthermore there is often a huge expanse between an appointed prophet and a mature prophet (an advanced prophet). A person appointed to prophethood out of the blue (i.e. he wasn't very devout) has a nice head start to maturity but he's still a long way shy of being a mature prophet. All I'm saying is that spiritual maturity and prophetic maturity will coincide.​

    And what you're assuming is that a person mature in the fruits won't necessarily be a prophet. 1Corinthians is provided to us as a corrective to that mistaken assumption potentially (and historically) devastating to individual and corporate growth. If Paul's words are true, a superabundance of the fruits of the Spirit will always coincide with prophetic maturity. You can't have one without the other.
     
  6. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    See post 6 where I talked about being promoted to the higher gifts. Bear in mind that the apostolic church brought in a lot of new converts, spread rapidly, planted lots of new churches. As this happens, it creates a need for such promotions as there are more positions to be filled, and more people with needs to be ministered to. Just because you are today, say, a hand or foot in the body doesn't mean you can't be something different tomorrow.

    Also we can speculate that God likes to mix things up. Perhaps last Sunday, Mr. Billy Bob prophesied to the church. Perhaps next Sunday, Sally will prophesy instead.
     
  7. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    @EVERYONE:

    A few preliminaries before delving into 1Corinthians 2.

    Elsewhere I have demonstrated that the NT defines evangelism (‘witnessing’) as prophetic utterance. On this point see especially Post 179, Post 180, on another thread, with honorable mention to Post 183. Jesus described witnessing like this, "When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mat 10:19). Spirit-inspired speech – prophecy – plays an extremely prominent role in biblical pneumatology. With that in mind, note Paul’s focus on Spirit-inspired speech at 1Corinthians 2:13:

    “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (2:13)

    Who exactly are ‘We’ ? Surely not I, as I myself have never prophesied. At verse 10 he classified these Spirit-taught words as Spirit-revealed words. Throughout the NT, that term revealed – or revelation – regularly refers to direct revelation (in contrast to ordinary biblical scholarship). Again, who exactly are the ‘We’ receiving/speaking these revelations/prophecies? Read it like this:

    “This is what we [mature apostles and prophets] speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (2:13)

    Thus the word ‘We’ is an interpretive key unlocking this entire epistle. Paul leaves us little doubt as to who “We” is, for "God hath set forth us the apostles last" (1Cor 4:9). Considerable scholarship including Calvin concurs:
    (1) That chapter 2 is contrasting 'we the apostles' with the Corinthians.
    (2) That prophetic revelation is in view here.

    This is an epistle addressing Corinthian immaturity, sharply contrasting these ‘babes’ with We mature apostles and prophets who abound in Spirit-inspired speech. Mature believers prophesy. Period.

    I plan to comment a bit more on 1Corinthians 2 in my next post.
     
  8. A_Thinker

    A_Thinker Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you reduce the definition of prophecy to "evangelistic utterance", then, indeed, all professing christian are prophets, even the same as they are all priests.

    Despite that, it appears that some christians are called to a more particular functioning as a prophet in the body of Christ, else Paul would not have spoken of the role as a distinctive.
     
  9. Christ is Lord

    Christ is Lord Well-Known Member

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    Piggy backing on what was already said by @A_Thinker you can define a prophet as "evangelistic utterance". The first use of the word prophet is found in Exodus 7:1

    "But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?” And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet." Exodus 6:30–7:1

    The word prophet can be seen as being a spokesperson for someone else. So therefore, we as Christians when we evangelize and tell others about Christ and the gospel we are "prophets" in that sense.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
  10. topher694

    topher694 Go Turtle!

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    There were prophets who were immature (Jonah) and most had moments of immaturity while they were prophets.

    1 Corinthians 3:2
    I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able.

    So, Paul specifically says the Corinthians are not ready for mature (meat) teaching, so everything that follows is milk... Including 12, 13 & 14.

    It is backwards and even dangerous to equate the anointing (ie gifts or whatever you want to call them) with maturity. The anointing comes from Him, not us. It validates His word, not our calling or ministry. To put it another way, God's not impressed by your anointing, cause it's His. Many well known ministers have fallen hard due to getting this backwards.

    Maturity flows from the fruits, not the gifts. They represent character and integrity, which IS in our control. They reflect the heart not the ability. The fruit doesn't look at how you are gifted, but how you use the gift, how you treat others and your heart behind it. Spiritual maturity is far less common today than most Christians realize.
     
  11. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    I didn't reduce the definition of prophecy to evangelistic utterance. I reduced the definition of evangelism to prophetic utterance. That is to say, all evangelism is prophetic ministry, all witnessing is prophetic utterance. But prophecy isn't always evangelism/witnessing necessarily, or at least I don't feel any pressing need to make that assumption.
     
  12. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Jonah is a great example of prophecy-as-evangelism by the way. And as most of us have had periods of weakness or backsliding, I wouldn't be too quick to classify Jonah as immature. I have no idea, haven't given it much thought. It's a moot point since I stressed that spiritual maturity coincides with prophetic maturity. Therefore examples of prophetic immaturity are not counterexamples.

    I'm not sure why you think this passage is a counterpoint. Soon I'm going to show how it confirms my conclusions.

    Well to be more precise, I didn't equate them. I coincided them, and only at a mature level. But it's always easier to misrepresent what is said when trying to refute it, isn't it?

    Mostly you're arguing facts not in dispute. Not sure of the relevance.

    Character is NOT in your control, actually. Were that true, you could be instantaneously mature. Sanctification proceeds by reviving outpourings, and all you can do is wait upon God in prayer for them, precisely as you wait upon Him for outpourings of prophecy. You can't dictate the exact rate of maturation - neither in the fruits nor in the gifts.

    There is also a logical oversight here. Let's assume for the moment that God wants us to prophesy. But what if you're not mature? If He grants you too much prophetic power, you'll likely misuse it (for personal validation,theological validation, ministry validation, personal glory, and personal gain). On the other hand, if you ARE mature in character/fruits, why not give you prophecy? Thus the two arguably coincide temporally, at least at the level of mature-fruit-plus-mature-gifts. Or at least your words don't prove otherwise.
    Again, preaching to the choir. Common? I don't know of ANY mature prophets today. I don't even know of any prophets. Simply stated, there are zero mature Christians on the planet today. And that ought to alarm us.
     
  13. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    It was my understanding that the Hebrew word for prophet was first applied to Abraham.
    I'm not sure that passage is a good basis for the definition of a prophet. It begins with a simile and thus is of questionable literacy. Basically it's saying, "The relationship between you and I will be analagous to the relationship between you and Aaron." Since the term prophet seems to be used here analogically, I wouldn't build much doctrine on it.

    And if you're implying that ordinary evangelism is prophecy just because such a so-called evangelist CLAIMS to be a spokesperson for God, I beg to differ. A prophet is appointed by God. He isn't just any random Christian who marches out to the street-corner at whim and will and begins preaching.
     
  14. topher694

    topher694 Go Turtle!

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    This is just all off... Way off.

    I was going to ask how experienced in the prophetic you are, but I think you answered it. By your own admission and standard you are not mature, so why would we listen to you about what maturity is?

    I have a great deal of experience in the prophetic. I know several prophets. Some of my very best friends in the world in fact. I've trained several prophets personally. Every single one of them would agree with me because they've all preached the very same thing.
     
  15. Christ is Lord

    Christ is Lord Well-Known Member

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    The Hebrew word for is נָבִיא which means spokesperson in its basic sense. That’s why I said in a “sense” we are all prophets when we speak to others of the gospel. I will look up the usage of prophet in the LXX and compare it to the NT.
     
  16. Christ is Lord

    Christ is Lord Well-Known Member

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    Correct. However, the first instance that gives us a contextual clue of what a prophet does or is in Exodus 7:1
     
  17. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Mostly I'm asking you to listen to Paul.

    You've raised an epistemological issue. How can we be sure that someone is a prophet? How can one even be sure that he/she himself/herself is a prophet? I delved into epistemology on this thread. One is fully warranted in asserting a conclusion only if he feels 100% certain about it, until then he is only partially warranted, i.e. warranted to his degree of certainty. That's a tautological claim and thus irrefutable.

    The OT prophet needed 100% certainty - and he needed it to coincide with infallible revelation. Why so? Suppose he lacked 100% certainty and thus spoke in presumption. God allowed him to be stoned for getting the message wrong. Or suppose he DID have 100% certainty but was still mistaken. He could be stoned. I don't think God is unkind enough to allow that. Therefore to protect the prophet, God needed to coincide 100% certainty with 100% accuracy of message.

    In a nutshell, the OT prophetic gift was infallible. And the claim that NT prophets differ from OT prophets is pretty weak exegetically.

    To get back to your issue - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you walked up to me saying, 'Thus sayeth the Lord', I would ask myself, after you spoke, do I have 100% certainty that you are a prophet? And that the message was accurate and applies to me? If not, I'd likely disregard what you said and disregard your pretense of being a prophet.

    This is not to deny the possibility of fallible revelation, i.e. revelation received at less than 100% certainty. But I wouldn't classify such as prophecy in the strictest sense.
     
  18. topher694

    topher694 Go Turtle!

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    Again completely utterly wrong.
     
  19. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Agreed. I just wanted to distinguish an ordinary spokesperson from the supernatural gift of prophecy.
    If we don't make these distinctions, we fall into the error of assuming that any believer can evangelize or 'prophecy' at whim or will.
     
  20. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    I think epistemology is probably better reserved for the other thread. But you don't seem to be discussing/debating. You seem to be asserting without evidence.
     
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