1 Corinthians 14:22
ESV - 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.
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That "tongues" (meaning LANGUAGES) is for unbelievers is something so easily forgotten by those who practice this today. When the disciples spoke in languages they did not know after Pentecost, it was a miracle and allowed them to preach the Gospel to people all over the world. This was the point of this spiritual gift. Now, it's been diluted and most people who claim to "speak in tongues," are not speaking in any discernible language, there is no one to interpret for the unbelievers in their midst, it is NOT used as the spiritual gift that was given to the disciples to teach unbelievers. The gift of prophecy, on the other hand, means to speak forth the Word of God. It doesn't mean simply to foretell the future. A prophet was one whom God used to speak to His people. So the gift of prophecy today would refer to anyone who has the gift of teaching and rightly dividing the Word of God so that believers, who have the indwelling Holy Spirit, can understand it and grow in their faith. Unbelievers who don't have the Spirit cannot discern spiritual matters but believers who want to grow in their faith and become closer to God need someone with this gift who can proclaim God's Word. In summary, the gift of "languages" was meant to preach the Gospel to unbelievers since that's all they can understand and the gift of prophecy is meant to teach believers and help them understand spiritual truth.
I think the best way to understand “Spiritual Gifts” such as prophesy is to see how they are used in the bible. Scripture also shows us how the gifts, such as prophesy and teaching, are unique and serve different purposes. Before we dig into the bible though, I would like to offer a simple definition of the gift of prophecy. I believe it is simply the “forth telling of a Word from God”. Directed by the Holy Spirit this word comes to a person with this gift as a dream, vision, thought, impression (highlighting of scripture) or even an audible voice. The forth telling may be directed toward a single individual, a group of people such as a local church, or even a nation such as Israel. The Word may be a call to confession of sin & repentance (turning away), an encouragement to have faith (take a stand against evil – human trafficking), a direction to perform a task (share the gospel, pray for others), or a ministry service to fulfil God’s will (befriend the lonely, care for the poor). Prophesy is used by God to direct individual Christians and the local church - to fulfil his calling on our lives and bring his kingdom to earth. Of course the Old Testament is filled with prophesy. There are prophesies in nearly even book forth telling of such future events as the Promised land, the Slavery Rescue, the Messiah Coming, the Exile Coming, the Remnant Returning, the Judgement Coming, etc. Many prophets also spoke about current issues - the “Sins” that God’s people had entangled themselves in and their messages included God’s call to “Repentance.” Prophesies dealt with idol worship, sexual immorality, injustice, corruption, neglect for poor and needy, etc. But I would like to take a close look at a few examples of Prophesies from the life of Jesus. In Matthew 23 Jesus confronts the Scribes and Pharisees with their sins and issues 7 dire warnings of what will happen if they don’t repent. Jesus describes their sins in detail and tells them how to repent. The purpose of prophesy that reveals and denounces sin is to bring the people to repentance, to turn back to God, and live in obedience to his will. In Matthew 24 Jesus tells his disciples the temple will be completely destroyed. He gives them a detailed account of what will happen to them, warns them to flee the city and what signs to look for his coming again. This prophesy was preparing them for their difficult road ahead but also encouraging because he was coming back for them. In John 4 Jesus encounters a woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well. Jesus tells her he has living water to give her that will become a spring welling up to eternal life. Jesus then tells her that he knows the man she is with is not her husband and he also knows about her 5 previous husbands. Then she says “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet”. Jesus gives her some truth about worshipping God in spirit and truth. Then Jesus makes the startling declaration that he is the Messiah she has been waiting for. The woman goes back to her town and tells everyone “he told me all that I ever did.” The people check it out for themselves and tell the woman – “we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” Prophesy resulting in widespread evangelism. The apostle Paul has good instruction on the use of the gift of prophesy. 1Cor 13:9 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” 1Cor 14:1 “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” 1Cor 14:3 “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, encouragement and consolation.” 1Cor 14:4 “The one who prophesies builds up the church.” 1Cor 14:6 “How will it benefit you unless I bring you some revelation, knowledge, prophesy or teaching.” 1Cor 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 1 Cor 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be encouraged”
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