Prophecy!

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:39
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I appreciate the music that our worship leaders pick up, purposefully leading us to look away from the craziness of this world and look to God. We are blessed to have musicians who take this responsibility seriously. Some churches have leaders who just throw a few songs together. Some churches don’t even have musicians, or they don’t have any that are willing to serve.
The beauty of a local body of Christ. Everyone working together to point people to Christ.
Back in February, as we discussed 1 Corinthians 11, and we spent three weeks discussing the worship service.
We talked about
The attitude of worship: humility, unity, service, and focus.
The focus of worship: Christ: his life, death, redemption, and proclamation
The result of worship: blessing through unity and service
In 1 Corinthians 14, after discussing the Gifts of the Spirit and the need for love in the church, Paul circles back around the worship service and discusses some very specific problems that the Corinthians were having. Through those essential elements, he drives home the fact that a worship service, which is based upon love, is to bring people to God, not themselves, not someone else. Everything is designed to lead people to know God better and glorify him.
Let’s read the passage.
1 Corinthians 14:1–5 NIV
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
A worship service, based upon love, is to bring people to God. We are going to look at the words: strengthen, encourage, and comfort today.
Will you pray with me?
Before we can look at those words, we need to discuss a spiritual gift. Let’s talk about the Prophet.

The Prophet

We were introduced to the prophet in 1 Corinthians 12 in the random list of gifts that Paul referred to.
1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:10 NIV
to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
Prophecy.
We said back then:
“Scripturally, prophecy is speaking the message of God. The prophet confronted the people of this world, whether followers of God or not, about their lives. Telling them what it means to live godly and the consequences for not living godly. Sometimes, the prophet used future predictions to give support to his message, but the focus of the prophet was never the future, but the present, calling people to follow God.”
Paul mentions the prophet in his letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:11–13 NIV
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
One man spent way to long studying the role of the prophet in 1 Corinthians 14 and wrote this definition of the prophet:
“prophesying in Paul’s theology and in his argument in this chapter is the performing of intelligible, articulate, communicative speech-acts, the operative currency of which depends on the active agency of the Holy Spirit mediated through human minds and lives to build up, to encourage, to judge, to exhort, and to comfort others in the context of interpersonal relations.”
While I agree with his assessment, I will simplify this definition to this sentence.
“The prophet speaks truth based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, in order to encourage the church to live the glory of God.”
The work of the prophet in Paul’s day had pastoral preaching at its center.
Now, I have to speak carefully, because I will not say that I am speaking the words of God, as the prophet in Paul’s day could say. That’s way I try to pack my messages with Scripture and based everything I say on Scripture, because I know this is the Word of God. My opinion is my opinion. But, God’s Word is God’s Word. I spend time praying and seeking God that the message I speak would be used by him to change lives.
My role is that of a prophet.
If you look at what Paul wrote in
Ephesians 4:11 NIV
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
Biblically, the apostle was someone who had seen Christ and had been sent out by him to spread the Gospel. The prophet had received a message from God to strengthen, encourage, and comfort a local church. Those roles morphed into evangelists, who have not seen Christ but who have been sent out by him to spread the Gospel, and the pastor/teacher who, after seeking the help of the Holy Spirit, prepares a message to strengthen, encourage, and comfort a local church.
There has been a recent movement, called the neo-prophetic movement, which is catching many people’s eyes, where certain people have proclaimed themselves as prophets, predicting future events.
However, unfortunately, they have defined prophecy into a very narrow, highly supernatural sense, ripping it from it’s Biblical definition, and they often do not submit their revelations from the Lord to the evaluation of a congregation and a duly recognized group of church leaders.
Whenever someone claims to be able to predict the future, I want to ask if they are willing to submit to the Old Testament trial of a prophet.
Deuteronomy 18:20–22 NIV
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
If someone predicts the future and it doesn’t come to pass, Scripture says that they are not speaking for the Lord and should be put to death.
I’m not saying that we should put people to death now. But too few people approach this subject with the soberness needed.
I shudder whenever I hear someone say: “The Lord told me”. How do we know? Are we sure that it was from the Lord or that we have interpreted it correctly?
As one person wrote:
“It would probably be good if no Christian today ever said: “The Lord told me...” lest God get blamed for human error, but rather preface their remarks with, “I believe the Lord has told me...”
Coming back to Paul’s discussion of the role of the prophet, he highlights it because the prophet has a unique to reach out and lovingly build up those in the congregation toward God.
1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:5 NIV
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
As Warren Wiersbe wrote:
“Paul emphasized the importance of doctrinal teaching in the church. Our worship must be based on truth, or it may become superstitious emotionalism. Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it. The prophet shared truth with the church, and thereby edified the assembly.”
You will notice that Paul contrasts the gift of prophecy with the gift of tongues. But, I am going to set tongues aside until farther in chapter 14. Currently, we are just speaking of the role of a prophet.
“The prophet speaks truth based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, in order to encourage the church to live the glory of God.”
Having discussed the prophet, let us talk about the three things a prophet pursues. Incidentally, this should be what everyone pursues within a local church, but I am going to confine my discussion to the prophet, or in our case, the pastor or teacher.

1. The Prophet Strengthens

Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
The word strengthen could also be translated edify.
It is the same word for building.
I got to spend time with the contractors who were working on Dean and Nancy’s house before it was a house. When it was just an empty lot.
They came and walked around the empty property. They took measurements. And then they created a plan on how to transform that empty lot into the house that is there.
They dug a lot, and they figured out the slope of the ground, so that they could pour enough cement on the back side so that the house would be level. It’s amazing the difference between the front, which is ground level, and the back, which isn’t.
Like I said, they dug. They poured cement. They moved earth around.
They sat down with Dean and Nancy and decided what the inside and outside of the house would look like. They purposefully changed parts of the plans so that the house would not have any stairs and so the doorways were wide enough for easy access in all stages of life.
They discussed the garage extensively, and created something that met the need that Dean had. Specifically so that he would have a larger garage than I do. He was jealous of my flag pole and over-compensated.
That’s what a builder does. He looks at what is and what the end result is supposed to be, and then builds to get from here to there. Hopefully, he ends up with a building that is strong and useful.
The prophet looks at the church, both as a whole and as individuals, seeing what is and what should be, and purposefully preaches and engages in conversations to slowly bring the church, both as a whole and as individuals, to that end result.
Paul uses this word that the NIV translates “Strengthen” in Eph 4, the exact verses that we referred to before:
Ephesians 4:11–12 NIV
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
That word for “built up” is that same word. It’s a building word. It is seeing what the end result is supposed to be and doing what it takes to get to that end result.
Paul talks about this building earlier in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:19–22 NIV
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
My goal, and every teacher in this church should have this goal. My goal is to know everyone under my charge. This church has grown so that I cannot know intimate details about your life, like your favorite color, though you can share that with me. My goal is to know where you are spiritually. I pray for you by name. I pray for your families. And I pray that God would guide me and prepare me to build you to where you need to be spiritually. I prepare my sermons with that goal in mind. I prepare for conversations with that goal in mind.
I think about what Paul told the Galatians:
Galatians 4:19 NIV
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,
Boy, that is true.
Sometimes, I am not prepared for those conversations. Sometimes the sermons fall flat. But, God is faithful. And I am still able to speak words that build up, that are needed in that moment, to bring someone’s life one more step towards the building that is desired. That’s not me. That is God working through me.
The Prophet strengthens

2. The Prophet Encourages

Paul writes
1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
The word “encouraging” could also be translated “comfort” or “exhortation”.
For those of you who are interested, it is the word Paraklesis, which is the noun version of Parakaleo. It is a sister word to Paraklete, which is the description of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 NIV
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 15:26 NIV
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.
John 16:7–11 NIV
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The word is someone who comes alongside to embolden another person in their belief or their course of action. This person could also lift someone else’s spirits. This person could make a strong plea to change a course of action or belief.
This role is very much in line with the concept of building. But, instead of construction, picture a marathon. Paul has used marathon language before for the Christian life.
1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
The course has been set. The flag has dropped, and we are all running the course set out for us.
If I am a running, the first 2 minutes are okay.... barely. Then I die. Unless I have someone running with me.
Now, I have never run a marathon. But, when I was in Dallas, a friend and I would run twice a week for about fifteen minutes. If he did not run with me, I would give up. I needed him to keep me going, to keep me on the track.
The prophet comes alongside those who are running the Christian life. He sees this person who is about to give up and he comes alongside and speaks words of encouragement to him, giving him the strength to take the next step and the next step. Until finally, he catches his second wind and can go on his own.
The prophet looks over and sees someone discouraged, her spirits are down. Because of what she is feeling, she cannot run. The prophet comes alongside and speaks uplifting words. Until she is able to run with her eyes focused on her savior.
The prophet isn’t done yet. He sees someone who has left the track and is cutting across country, on a route that he knows will bring pain, misery, and disqualification. The prophet leaves the path after that person and comes alongside to speak words of exhortation, pointing the person back to Christ and the path that brings joy and reward.
Paul writes to Timothy, as he is a pastor at the church in Ephesus:
2 Timothy 4:1–2 NIV
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
2 Timothy 4:5 NIV
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
The prophet encourages.

3. The Prophet Comforts

Paul writes
1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
I know that I have already discussed “comfort” in the word encourage. But that was lifting someone’s spirits.
This is encouraging someone who is depressed or in grief. And it is the only place in Scripture where it is used.
A sister word is used in
1 Thessalonians 5:14 NIV
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Encourage the disheartened is the same word.
Yes, we all have times when we are sad.
But this is speaking of something deeper than just sadness.
This is speaking the loss of a loved one. The tragic death of a child.
This is the parent who has just been informed that their son is now transgender and has cut them out of his life.
This is the young lady who has been raped and doesn’t know what to do.
This is the young couple who have aborted their baby and just realized what they are going through.
This is the teen boy who has come face to face with the evil of this world and wants to kill himself.
We could add to this list. You could add to this lift from moments in your life.
The prophet imitates God, he sees, he hears, he comes and sits in the midst of the pain. And he cries, because sometimes words don’t come, and words do not cut it. He prays, grateful that the
Romans 8:26–27 NIV
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
I’ve been there. You’ve been there. And after much silence and tears, the prophet speaks what he has prepared, what he is burdened to share. Hopefully, not like Job’s friends, but like Jesus as Lazarus’ tomb, pointing to the hope that we have.
After he cried:
John 11:40 NIV
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Because out of the grief, new life came. Lazarus walked out of the tomb.
The prophet is always coming into the pain to show the hand and glory of God to people who cannot see because of the darkness of depression and grief.
The prophet strengthens, encourages, comforts.
But, always confined by love.
Paul speaks so highly of the role of a prophet because how it is tied into love.
Paul wrote in
1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Love builds up. Here in 1 corinthians 14, Paul writes
1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
Because prophecy builds up.
Love looks outside ourselves and does what is right for someone else, putting their needs above our own.
The prophet looks outside himself and works for the good and spiritual maturity of those around him.
Paul says: “Pursue love, and in that framework seek the things of the Spirit, especially prophecy, because prophecy builds up.”
This is not natural. Again, it is a gift of the spirit. It is not natural to speak truth to others in the framework of love. We either live in love and don’t speak, or we speak and we don’t love.
Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
A worship service, based upon love, is to bring people to God. The prophet helps by strengthening, encouraging, and comforting the people of God in their Christian life.
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