Romans 12:6b

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

July 7, 1999


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and now has moved on to the practical side of things. We now have moved into a section where he is encouraging the church in Rome to realize that they are a living organism, a "body". They all have a function in the body, they all have a part to play. That part in the body is determined by the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given each one.

(Rom 12:6 KJV) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

The Gift of Prophecy

Definition of the gift

prophesy (O.T.) Ė naba' Ė to prophesy; being a spokesman for another (Ex. 7:1). For us, the idea is that of being a spokesman for God, speaking in Godís name and with His authority. It comes from a word meaning "to bubble forth, as from a fountain".

Technically, it is something that could rightly be prefaced with the phrase, "Thus saith the Lord". In some Pentecostal traditions, this is what is always said before a prophetic utterance. I donít think itís always necessary to have to tell people when prophecy is being exercised. I believe that sometimes while I am teaching, God is operating this gift in me, and He is speaking to you. Sometimes is can be a very natural kind of thing.

prophecy Ė propheteuo Ė to prophesy, speak forth by divine inspirations; "to utter forth".

It does not necessarily have to do with telling the future, though there may be times when that is the case. God dwells outside of time and since He knows, sees, and lives in the future, itís no big deal for Him to talk about the future.

Who can God speak through?

Anyone. God even uses "unclean" vessels.

Balaam, considered a false prophet (2Pet. 2:15), spoke some incredible, true prophecies about Israel (Num. 23-24).

God can use you. But donít lift yourself up either. Donít forget that God even spoke through Balaamís donkey (Num. 22:28-30).

Components of the gift

(1 Cor 14:1-4 KJV) Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. {2} For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. {3} But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. {4} He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

1. It is aimed at men.

Tongues are aimed at God, prophecy aims at man. It is God speaking through a person, directed at human beings.

2. Edification

edification Ė oikodome Ė (the act of) building, building up; the act of one who promotes another's growth.

This is what all of Godís Word does to us, builds us up, building our faith.

3. Exhortation

exhortation Ė paraklesis Ė a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); supplication; exhortation, admonition, encouragement

It may be a gentle kind of encouragement, or something a little more like a kick in the seat of the pants.

4. Comfort

comfort Ė paramuthia Ė calming and consoling. When Lazarus had died, the Jews came to "comfort" Mary and Martha (John 11:19).

The tenderness of a dad toward his children:

1 Thessalonians 2:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father [doth] his children,

What about predicting the future? It may or may not happen. But even then, keep in mind, prophecy always has these components in mind. Even when the future is being spoken about, itís either as a warning to get moving (exhortation) or encouragement to hang in there (comfort). Prophecy in Scripture always meets these criteria.

Operating the gift

(Rom 12:6 KJV) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

With each gift, Paul gives a little word to describe how that gift is to be used. With some of the gifts, itís pretty simple, just use the gift ("he that teacheth, on teaching"). With others, thereís a little extra added (such as here with prophecy) to describe the manner in which the gift is to be used.

proportion Ė analogia (our word "analogy") Ė proportional; conformable

faith Ė pistis Ė conviction of the truth of anything, belief

1. Faith

It takes faith to speak for God.

Itís not just a matter of having a message from the Lord in your mind, but to be brave enough to speak it out in front of others, to risk being "wrong", takes faith.

(Rom 12:6 NLT) ÖSo if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.

Weymouth has a helpful note: "Let there be no word spoken but from the conviction that God gives it."

Not everyone is going to have a word from God that is intended for being spoken out. If that were the case, then weíd be all interrupting each other and all speaking at the same time. Because of this, donít worry if nothing comes to your mind as weíre waiting on the Lord.

Learn to wait. Learn to listen. Donít expect to have something to say.

But when you begin to have something in your mind, youíre going to have to exercise faith to speak it out. Itís risky.

Sometimes God will give you an entire message, and itís just a matter of getting it out. Other times, He will only give you the beginning of the message, and itís up to you to start speaking before He will give you the rest.

2. There should be a limits.

(1 Cor 14:29 KJV) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

We can get too enamoured with prophecy. There is a danger of falling into the trap of not learning to think for yourself and to rely on others telling you your "fortune". Instead of calling up the "psychic hotline", I go to church and have someone prophesy over me.

Warnings about looking for "personal messages" Ė Donald Gee (Spiritual Gifts in the Ministry Today, pgs. 51-52):

"I suppose we all desire to hear guiding words from the Lord. The Bible gives a place for such direction from the Holy Spirit, and we have the privilege of keeping a place for it also. It can provide some of the most precious Pentecostal experiences of a lifetime. But it must be kept in proportion. An examination of the Scriptures will show us that as a matter of fact the early Christians did not continually receive such voices from heaven. In most cases they made their decisions by the use of what we often call "sanctified common sense" and lived quite normal lives. Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be made the frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for "messages" through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as from contemporaries. For most of our Christian pathway we are to walk by faith and not by sight. The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Temperance in all things is a good principle in this matter also, and, indeed, is Paulís own guiding principle when dealing with these attractive spiritual gifts in his letter to the Corinthians. He deliberately rations their use to "two or three at the most," and all attempts to evade the principle lead to disaster. It is clear that even the inspiring Spirit of God does not make void the possibilities of perversions by the human spirit."

3. Submit to judgment.

(1 Cor 14:29 KJV) Ö and let the other judge.

Be willing to have your words judged. You may be wrong.

Actually, I find this a little helpful. I think that at times we arenít always real good at discerning just which word is from God and which isnít. For those who are just beginning to exercise their spiritual gifts, itís helpful to know that theyíre on track. Or not.

I personally think itís a good practice to sometimes preface your words with, "I think the Lord may be saying Ö" Let your words be tested.

Donald Gee, (ibid., pg.50), writes, "One of the abiding safeguards for those who wish to be true is humility of mind, and a willingness always to submit their revelation "to another that sitteth by".

Donald Gee also writes (ibid., pg. 47-48), "The claim to inspiration is permissible, but not the claim to infallibility."

Just because God has spoken through you in the past doesnít mean that everything you say will be without error.

4. Donít "interrupt the sermon".

(1 Cor 14:30-31 KJV) If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. {31} For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

The idea in this verse is that if while one person is prophesying, another person receives a word from the Lord, that the first person should shut up and sit down. Some churches have taken this to mean that you can interrupt the sermon!

I think that this is addressing the times when the church is waiting and ministering to the Lord. I think the times that the Word is opened for teaching falls under a different category, and should not be interrupted.

(1 Cor 14:40 KJV) Let all things be done decently and in order.

5. Donít be a hog.

(1 Cor 14:30-31 KJV) If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. {31} For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

The whole point is to let others speak as well. Sometimes God will give you just a little nugget to share, but the temptation is to share the nugget and then elaborate on what youíve shared. This is what preachers do. Sometimes itís best to just stick with what God has shared and leave it at that.

Our prayer times Ė Sometimes one of us can go on and on and on in our prayer, and though it might be a fine prayer, we ought to leave room for others to pray as well.

6. You have control over it.

(1 Cor 14:32 KJV) And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

In churches, you will hear of people doing and saying all kinds of things, and then blaming it on the Lord saying, "The Holy Spirit made me do it!"

The error in that way of thinking is the fact that the Holy Spirit does not take away your control.

In fact, we need to learn to yield control of the gifts to the functioning of the entire body, not just whether or not youíve got something burning to say.

The working of the gift of prophecy involves both spiritual abilities as well as human, intellectual abilities:

J. R. Pridie writes, "It is the spiritual faculties that are employed in receiving the matter for prophecy, while the intellectual faculties are called into play in order that the substances of the prophetic communication may be transmuted into matter for the edification of the Church. The spiritual faculties are receptive, the intellectual are selective Ö (Donald Gee, Spiritual Gifts in the Ministry Today, pgs. 50-51; quoting J.R. Pridie, The Spiritual Gifts).

You donít lose control over your mind. In fact, your mind is enhanced by the work of the Spirit.

7. Music helps.

Elisha on one occasion was having difficulty with a request to prophesy for King Jehoram of Israel. He despised the man. So he called for a musician,

2 Kings 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.

The fact that music plays such a big part in our "afterglows" is no mystery. Music has the ability of softening the heart and opening us up to the things of the Lord. (see also 1Chr. 25:1-3)

8. Itís not just a "guy" thing.

God speaks through women as well. Miriam, Mosesí sister was a prophetess (Ex. 15:20). Deborah, a judge over Israel, was a prophetess (Judg. 4:4). Isaiahís wife was a prophetess (Is. 8:3). Huldah was used to clarify Godís word to King Josiah (2Ki. 22:14). Anna was used by God (Luke 2:32) to give witness to the baby Jesus being the Messiah. Philip the evangelist had four daughters who did prophesy (Acts 21:8).

Ladies, donít be afraid to speak up!


Testing the prophecy

God is serious about people not misleading others. He doesnít want you to be claiming to speak for Him when He hasnít given you a message.

(Deu 18:20 KJV) But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

You can be led astray.

There is a fascinating story in 1Kings 13 about a prophet that is sent by God to go into the northern kingdom of Israel and to prophecy to King Jeroboam regarding how he has led the kingdom away from the Lord. God clearly gives the prophet specific instructions of what heís to do and where heís to go. God tells the man that heís to go to the city of Bethel, give the message, and get back as soon as possible without stopping on the way. The guy goes to Bethel and while heís prophesying, God does some incredible, miraculous things. Jeroboam is blown away. Word gets out that this guy has done some incredible things. An old prophet hears about it and is curious, so he goes and meets up with the younger prophet on his way home. When the old guy invites the younger prophet home for dinner, the younger guy explains that the Lord told him to go straight home. Then,

{1Kings 13:18} He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.

The younger prophet doesnít bother to ask any questions, and just accepts the guyís word for it. After they get to the older guyís house, the older prophet actually gets a real word from the Lord (showing that God can use anyone):

{1Kings 13:21} And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, {22} But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

And when the young guy left, heís met with a lion and is killed. Bummer. He didnít bother to test what the guy had said.

Others can be discouraged

When some people encounter "pseudo-prophecy", they can start to think that everything about the Holy Spirit is a sham.

The church in Thessalonica had been very confused by some false prophesying going on about the return of the Lord. I think that itís possibly for this reason that Paul writes,

(1 Th 5:19-22 KJV) Quench not the Spirit. {20} Despise not prophesyings. {21} Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. {22} Abstain from all appearance of evil.

The Tests:

1. The test of time.

(Deu 18:21-22 KJV) And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? {22} When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

If something has been predicted, and it doesnít come to pass, then God wasnít the one who said it. Sometimes we just have to wait and see.

Donít be afraid of them Ė Chuck Smith had an experience in his early years of ministry where some men came to him and prophesied over him about a black coffin, threatening that he would die if he didnít take up their doctrine. The funny thing is that the guy who gave this "prophecy" over Chuck was dead within two weeks.

2. The test of Scripture.

(Deu 13:1-3 KJV) If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, {2} And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; {3} Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

In this case, either a miracle has occurred, or else a prediction has actually come true. Yet the prophet is a false prophet.

Does it match up with Scripture? Does it proclaim the same God that is revealed in the Bible?

Itís important that we know the Scriptures and know our doctrine.

If you think that God has given you a word, one of the things that you ought to be filtering things through is your knowledge of Godís Word.

3. The discerning of spirits. (discernment Ė 1John 4:1)

Thereís going to be time that things are said that donít quite fit anywhere in Scripture, and they arenít necessarily things that are being predicted.

God may use the "discerning of spirits" in someoneís life to validate a word.

Once the prophet Jeremiah was with a group of prophets (Jer. 28), when one of them broke out with a prophecy declaring that the Babylonian captivity would be over in two more years. At that time, Jeremiah basically said, "I sure hope so, sounds good to me." But as Jeremiah was walking home from church, the Lord spoke to him and told him that it wasnít true. God told Jeremiah that the prophecy was false.

The difficulty with this is that this too borders on prophecy as well. It can be a subjective thing as well.

We have a great need for those with the gift of discernment.

Various sources for a prophecy

1. God Ė There is a distinct possibility that God is speaking.

2. Satan

There is a possibility that a demonic element may be involved.

(1 Tim 4:1 NASB) But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

We are to test the spirits:

(1 John 4:1 NASB) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

3. Man

I think that most of the time when something is claimed to be a word from the Lord, and I have a struggle with it, Iíd have to say that the person was simply putting their own thoughts into words.

(Jer 23:16 KJV) Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

Why would people make up a "prophecy"?

Sometimes it is all about attention. A person wants to be noticed. They want to feel important. So they speak up with a "thus saith the Lord" attached, and people take notice.

Sometimes itís a matter of the person expressing their own feelings, whether they are gushy, romantic, loving feelings because of the mood the music has put them in, or whether they are harsh, angry feelings because the person is full of anger for some reason.

Sometimes it seems to be of the issue of a person wanting to exercise control over another person. If you want someone to listen to your advice, what better way to get the point across than to claim that the message is from God Himself?

The Word

Prophecy, visions, dreams, etc are all wonderful. But the best is Godís Word. Stay in Godís Word.

(Jer 23:28 KJV) The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.