Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies (1 Thess. 5:19-20 NKJV),
amazingly, most churches and church leaders despise prophecy.
I went to a Bible college that taught me that the gifts of the Spirit faded out after the first century. They didn’t believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit either. They indoctrinated me in these things so that I argued with people who believed in them after I got out of college. Then the unthinkable happened—I got baptized in the Holy Spirit at a charismatic meeting. After that I had no more augment against it or the gifts of the Spirit.
Since then, I have been arguing for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and for using the gifts of the Spirit in congregational meetings. I find it amazing now to see how hated the gifts of the Spirit are in so many churches—to the point some say they are of the devil! Fortunately for people who believe like I do, we have the weight of biblical support on our side as we will see.
One of the few places in the Bible where it actually shows us what a New Testament meeting should look like is in 1 Corinthians.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged (1 Cor. 14:26-31 NKJV).
Many people in churches either have the gift of prophecy or are prophets whether or not they are recognized. The above verses assume several people in a church are prophets or have the gifts of prophecy or speaking in tongues (possibly a gift even more despised than prophecy). By analyzing this passage, it becomes clear there was not just one speaker in the churches Paul established. In chapter 12 of this book, he greatly emphasizes the many-member body.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-10 NKJV).
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Cor. 12:27-28 NKJV).
Paul asks if all were one member, “where would the body be?” I have been in meetings where the gifts of the spirit were allowed to flow, but I have very rarely seen several members operating in a service such as Paul is describing. Overwhelmingly, the meetings are dominated by one man preaching a sermon. I just don’t see this in Scripture.
Why did Paul say,
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1 NKJV)?
I have been in many churches, and very few them even allowed anyone to prophesy. Even in the ones that did, prophecy was rare. Why is this? Prophecy was a major part of the early church. Many, of course, say that these things faded out after the first century. Those who despise prophecy often quote the following as a proof text for this.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:9-11 NKJV).
Is there anyone who honestly believes that perfection has come to the church? If it hasn’t, then we still need prophecy. Again Paul said,
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph. 4:11-14 NKJV).
Here Paul is saying we still need the despised apostles and prophets until perfection comes to the church. If we still need prophets, then we still need prophecy. Is it not strange that three out of five ministries in this passage are still accepted but not the first two? Who says that if we throw out the first two, we must keep the last three? If we get rid of the first two, then should we not also get rid of the last three? The first two are the most important ministries; they are the foundation of the church!
It should also be noted that in these five ministries, four are real and one is a metaphorical description. “Pastors” is a metaphor and is not real position. The Bible sometimes uses the metaphor of “sheep” and “shepherds” (the meaning of “pastors”) for teachers as in this case, or elders. However, we can never make a reality out of the metaphor. Just as the pew warmers cannot be real sheep, the leaders cannot be real “pastors,”—much less make an official position out of it! And yet the made-up position of pastors has cast out the real ministries of apostles and prophets! Strange indeed! Possibly the two things most church leaders hate more than prophecy are apostles and prophets. Even the great leader of Israel, Joshua, was rebuked by Moses for coming against prophecy.
So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” Then Moses said to him, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:28-29 NKJV).
Prophecy can at times expose the secrets and motives of people’s hearts, including leaders.
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you (1 Cor. 14:24-25 NKJV).
Why do so many church leaders despise prophecy? Maybe they don’t want the secrets of their hearts exposed. Maybe they really don’t love the Lord, for it says in the book of Revelation,
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10 NKJV).
If someone does not believe in prophecy, then neither do they believe in the testimony of Jesus. In light of the above verse, can a church even have the testimony of Jesus without prophecy? The answer to that is they can’t have a “living” testimony. We can have a historical testimony without prophecy; but Jesus is a living God, not just a historical person. We should have a living, “present truth” (2 Pet. 1:12) testimony of Jesus in every service we have, not just dead letter. Why do so many “pastors” love the dead letter but hate the living testimony of Jesus—prophecy? Could it be that they themselves are really spiritually dead, though they have a reputation for being alive?
“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead’” (Rev. 3:1 ESV).
Paul, after spending a full chapter advocating prophecy and other spiritual gifts in church services, concludes by saying,
Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues
(1 Cor. 14:39 NKJV).