All May Prophesy

In Luke’s Gospel we find the following message from a series of teachings that Jesus gives his disciples:

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it  be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. (Luke 12:8-10)  

We definitely do not want to deny our Lord.  We need to be prepared to “confess” Him before anyone who asks for our testimony, whether in private conversation or in courts of law.

Jesus continues His lesson to the disciples in the following two verses:

When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.  (Luke 12:11-12)

This promise, given to us by Jesus Himself, is powerful and very encouraging, but it may be difficult for some to believe that the Holy Spirit will speak to them in a time of crisis, especially an extemporaneous word that they haven’t prepared in advance.  

However, as we assemble together, the Lord provides many opportunities to learn how to receive His promise of inspiration in times of persecution as we exercise the gifts He has given us through His Holy Spirit.


My Own Experiences

Frankly, aside from being questioned by the school principal one or two times (and exonerated!), I have not been overly concerned about being brought before the “rulers and authorities.”  Recent changes in the world and the increasing numbers of Christians being persecuted for their faith have brought this possibility closer to our lives, however.

The promises Jesus gives in these verses from Luke are exceptionally comforting, particularly for those who may have a strong aversion to any kind of public speaking, which includes most of us.  Studies have even shown that Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is more feared than dying.

The Fear of Public Speaking

When I was a child, the times I had to deliver a book report or even participate in “Sharing Time,” were traumatic, and I rarely wanted to participate orally in classes, especially without writing down first what I would say.  Today, I no longer fear speaking in public, either in large or small groups, but I credit the power of the Holy Spirit in my life for giving me both the confidence and the words to say when I need them.

The Apostle Paul provides many insights into how the Holy Spirit moved in the Churches of his day.  Unfortunately, many Christians do not understand his many admonitions and guidelines, much, to our detriment, for we do not exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and if we do we have the same problems Paul warns about.  

This is what he writes about prophecy, for example, mainly to resolve some of the abuses of the gift in operation:  

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (I Corinthians 14:29-33)

Paul lists this spiritual gift of prophecy among all twelve of the gifts in I Corinthians 12:7-11, but it is mentioned here in Chapter 14 in order to correct some of the abuses of these gifts, including selfishly seeking to be the focus of everyone’s attention, or not preferring one another and speaking out-of-turn.  

Above all, the gift of tongues was being exercised in Corinth without the gift of interpretation of tongues. A combination of both gifts was necessary for understanding what was being said. Thus, anyone new coming into the assembly was led to confusion, and disorder was the result:

So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.  (I Corinthians 14:9-11)

In addition, confusion existed in the Corinthian church, for people were interrupting one another or trying to speak all at the same time.  Somehow, they were misguided into thinking that if the message came from God, He had to be obeyed instantly when the inspiration was first received.  

However, Paul relates the following:

You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (I Corinthians 14:31-33). 

This exhortation means that Paul’s desire is that everything may be done “properly and in an orderly manner” as the Church gathers together ( verse 40).  


Misconceptions About the Gifts

Some major misconceptions still exist about these gifts in the Church today, however, which have led either to their misuse or to the lack of their use altogether.  Many who use this gift have been deceived into thinking that the gift of tongues is used to deliver a message from God to the assembly, leading many Bible teachers today to teach that the gift of tongues is no longer valid or needed, when actually the opposite is true in these later days.  As much as I value the written Scriptures as the final authority on teaching and doctrine, I know personally how few people are able to read even the simplest texts with thorough understanding. This is why Paul says, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” (I Corinthians 14:31).  

Before His ascension, Jesus again promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5), and Jesus made clear that this promise is for the Church in every age and to the ends of the earth:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

Later, Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost also clearly reveals that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was for the whole church in the “last days.”  Peter quotes from the Prophet Joel, and in doing so, he connects the gifts of tongues with the gift of prophecy, for particular use in the last days, even until now.   

Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, however, clearly reveals that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was for the whole church in the “last days.”  Peter quotes from the Prophet Joel, and in doing so, he connects the gifts of tongues with the gift of prophecy for particular use in the last days, even until now.   

“And it shall be in the last days,” God says,
“That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.”  (Acts 2:17-18)

A careful examination of other relevant Scripture passages also reveals that all of the gifts were given to the Church for use in all ages for use in the uttermost parts of the world.  And the gift of tongues is not a message from God to the Church, but a message from the Church to God.  Paul makes clear that the gift of tongues is used for prayer, or to bless God in the Spirit:

Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified. (I Corinthians 14:16-17)

If people do not know what is being said in a prayer of blessing, Paul asks, how will they say “Amen” to the prayer?  And Paul continues to place this gift’s operation in context:

I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.  (I Corinthians 14:18-19)

However, not only does the Apostle Paul extol this gift’s use in his own life, but nowhere does he forbid the proper exercise of this gift: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues” (I Corinthians 14:39). 


Prophecy Guidelines

Paul instead advises the use of the gift of prophecy in the church assemblies because its operation needed no interpreter, being delivered in a known language.  Plus, the most significant uses of this gift in the assembly are not to predict the future or warn of a coming Shemitah or Blood Moon. Instead, the word of prophecy’s purpose is to bring exhortation, edification, and comfort to the Church, for God speaks personally to us through this inspired gift. 

Both of these speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit are similar, therefore, because they are both inspirationally received and delivered. In addition, through these gifts God gives believers experience and practice in speaking as the Holy Spirit gives us utterances (Acts 2:4, I Thessalonians 5:20).  

The Apostle Peter reiterates this same point when he writes, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God” (I Peter 4:11).


Preparations For Use

It is this same exercise of faith and power through the Holy Spirit that will give us the inspiration we may need if we are called before the rulers and the authorities in days of persecution.  And it is the same giftedness that allows us to give an answer to those who seek to know about our faith in Christ:  

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (I Peter 3:14-15)

Thus, it behoves us to practice the use of these gifts so that we will be prepared to hear the Lord’s voice spontaneously and inspirationally when we are called upon to make a defense of the Gospel.  


Exercising the Speaking Gifts

To use these gifts takes faith and trust in the Holy Spirit’s ability to bypass our brains, yet use our speaking organs to speak discernible truths.  We must first be filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the Spirit, as the following verses reveal:    

  • And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.  (Acts 2:4)
  • And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
  • And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. (Acts 5:18)
These verses demonstrate that God speaks to us through our spirits, not our souls.  In this carnal world we are accustomed to judging and evaluating everything we see and hear through our brains. However, the Word of God comes to us through our spirits which have been reborn.  Even God’s Word is useless to us if we receive it only through our minds, for it must be spiritually discerned, not mentally discerned.  
Above all, we must strive to fill our hearts with the Word of God as revealed in the Scriptures, for Jesus said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).
This is Paul’s meaning in the following passage, where he describes how his teaching comes from the words revealed by the Holy Spirit, not learned in a classroom.  He brings to the Corinthians words of life because they are Holy Spirit inspired:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2:12-13)

In the following verses, Paul continues to make this application clear:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:14-16)

The key to allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us, therefore, is to begin speaking, not necessarily knowing what we are going to say, but allowing the Spirit to give us the words as we speak, or  “as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

This inspiration takes faith and confidence, of course, for we must overcome our fear of pubic speaking, as well as speaking without preparation in writing:

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has ateaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (I Corinthians 14:26)

This also means that we need to have faith and confidence in one another in order to avoid speaking or hearing false doctrines in the Lord’s name, for as Paul wrote, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment” (I Corinthians 14:29).  We must be willing to both correct and be corrected in order to ensure that it is indeed the Lord inspiring the utterance.

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