Thursday, October 05, 2006

prophecy v. scripture

Almost completely quoting Wayne Grudem, here are indications that “Prophets” did not speak with authority equal to Scripture - yet they did speak. And I'm thinking they (we) still do.

In Acts 21:4, the disciples at Tyre: “Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” Paul disobeyed it. Would he do this if this prophecy contained God’s very words and had authority equal to Scripture?

In Acts 21:10–11, Agabus prophesied that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind Paul and “deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles,” a prediction that was nearly correct but not quite: the Romans, not the Jews, bound Paul and the Jews, rather than delivering him voluntarily, tried to kill him and he had to be rescued by force. The prediction was not far off, but it had inaccuracies in detail that would have called into question the validity of any Old Testament prophet. On the other hand, this text could be perfectly well explained by supposing that Agabus had had a vision of Paul as a prisoner of the Romans in Jerusalem, surrounded by an angry mob of Jews. His own interpretation of such a “vision” or “revelation” from the Holy Spirit would be that the Jews had bound Paul and handed him over to the Romans, and that is what Agabus would (somewhat erroneously) prophesy. This is exactly the kind of fallible prophecy that would fit the definition of New Testament congregational prophecy proposed above—reporting in one’s own words something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.

1 Thessalonians 5:19–21: Paul tells the Thessalonians, “do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:20–21). If the Thessalonians had thought that prophecy equaled God’s Word in authority, he would never have had to tell the Thessalonians not to despise it—they “received” and “accepted” God’s Word “with joy from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:13; cf. 4:15). But when Paul tells them to “test everything” it must include at least the prophecies he mentioned in the previous phrase. He implies that prophecies contain some things that are good and some things that are not good when he encourages them to “hold fast what is good.” This is something that could never have been said of the words of an Old Testament prophet, or the authoritative teachings of a New Testament apostle.

1 Corinthians 14:29–38: When Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor. 14:29), he suggests that they should listen carefully and sift the good from the bad, accepting some and rejecting the rest (for this is the implication of the Greek word διακρίνω (G1359) here translated “weigh what is said”). We cannot imagine that an Old Testament prophet like Isaiah would have said, “Listen to what I say and weigh what is said—sort the good from the bad, what you accept from what you should not accept”! If prophecy had absolute divine authority, it would be sin to do this. But here Paul commands that it be done, suggesting that New Testament prophecy did not have the authority of God’s very words.

In 1 Corinthians 14:30, Paul allows one prophet to interrupt another one: “If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one.” Again, if prophets had been speaking God’s very words, equal in value to Scripture, it is hard to imagine that Paul would say they should be interrupted and not be allowed to finish their message. But that is what Paul commands.

Paul suggests that no one at Corinth, a church that had much prophecy, was able to speak God’s very words. He says in 1 Corinthians 14:36, “What! Did the word of God come forth from you or are you the only ones it has reached?” (author’s translation).

Then in verses 37 and 38, in he claims authority far greater than any prophet at Corinth: “If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.”

All these passages indicate that the common idea that prophets spoke “words of the Lord” when the apostles were not present in the early churches is simply incorrect.

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No-blog Randy said...

I think we are dealing with semantics here. A "true" prophet is one who DOES speak for God. If he is telling the future, then it must happen as he says, or he is not a true prophet.

Let me put it a different, more modern way. If I raise my right hand in court and swear to tell the truth, and then tell a lie, it could still be said that I was testifying. Even though I sweared to tell the truth, I did not.

Just because someone calls himself a prophet or is known as a prophet, that doesn't make him a prophet of God.


rick said...

You are right in that we hold different definitions of the word prophet but I think that difference results in more than semantics in how we ultimately think about these things.