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March 18, 2018 Every Believer a Prophet

 

Scripture readings:

 

26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:26-29, ESV)

 

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. (I Cor 14:1-5, ESV)

 

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. (vs 12)

 

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (vss. 24-26)

 

 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order. (vss 39-40)

 

[I. Introduction] We have seen that it is the Lord’s desire that every believer, every member of his new covenant, live as a priest. This matter is not just a fanciful idea but it is the unfolding of divine revelation. Living as a priest does not mean wearing special clothing. It does not mean being celibate. It does not mean having a special caste of people in the church different from others. Those things are either borrowed from the Old Testament or are man-made traditions (celibacy).

 

Living as a priest means to be filled, saturated, and permeated with God and to have God flow out of a person so that they might be the living expression of God! It also means that we serve God. We serve God not by offering animal sacrifices as the priests did under the old covenant but by offering sinners up to God. A New Testament priest brings the good news to others and the Holy Spirit, not the persuasion of the Christian, will make the sinner responsive and acceptable to God (Rom 15:15-16).

 

 

Yes, every believer is a priest and should live as a priest!

 

Every believer can be and should be a prophet as well.

 

[II.] What is a prophet? There is a notion that prophecy is predicting the future or that a prophet is somehow “taken over” by the Holy Spirit and speaks in something almost like a trance. Normatively, both of these notions are wrong. Of course, prophecy may include a prediction of future events. We do see that now and then in the Scriptures. Because these predictions are sometimes fascinating or remarkable they tend to stand out in our minds. Likewise, a prophet may experience a great degree of command and control under the Spirit as King Saul did. However, neither of these experiences are normative. The spirit of the prophet is under the control of the prophet (I Cor 14:32).

 

Simply, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. There is more to being a prophet than just that, but that is the most basic understanding. And so, Abraham is called a prophet even though he never predicted the future. Miriam and Deborah are also called prophets (“prophetesses”) showing that women are prophets, too.

 

One verse that proves that prophecy, especially in the new covenant, is not predicting is I Cor 14:3:

 

…one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (ESV)

 

Anytime a child of God is speaking about divine things and people are built up, encouraged, or consoled then that person is prophesying. Oh! This is what we are called to do! Build one another up, not tear another down. Encourage one another! Console one another in times of trouble.

 

[III.] It is God’s will that every believer would be a prophet. We saw that when the Israelites were in the wilderness, travelling to the promised land, there were two men, Eldad and Medad, who began prophesying because the Spirit came upon them. Joshua wanted Moses to stop them from doing so because they were not among the seventy elders of Israel who were known to be prophets. But Moses under inspiration says, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” He doesn’t say, “I would that all the Lord’s people be prophets.” He says, “Would that all the Lord’s people be prophets.” It wasn’t just Moses’ desire. It was God’s desire.

 

When we come to the NT the same desire is expressed. In I Cor 14:5 the apostle writes,

 

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

 

He wants them all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. Prophecy is greater than tongues because it builds up the church. He will tell us later that tongues just builds up the one who has that gift but prophecy builds the whole church, not just one person.

 

In verse 31 he writes, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.”

 

Not only does Paul desire that they all prophesy, and he has the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16), but he says that they can! Verse 31 is a further proof that prophecy is not prediction. When anyone prophesies others learn and are encouraged. Most predictions in the Bible are not auspicious and, therefore, not encouraging but, rather, a warning. Prophesying is mainly speaking on behalf of God the divine truths found in Scripture for the building up of the church. Every believer can do this!

 

We must realize that we are shackled with traditions. The practice of one man preaching and an entire congregation simply listening is not found in the New Testament in the context of the church. Of course, publicly preaching the gospel to crowds is right and good. Here, in Corinthians, Paul is addressing the meetings of the local church. The practice of one man preaching and everyone else just listening is a tradition. It is a manifestation of the clergy-laity mindset which itself has been abandoned by the Lord in the new covenant.

 

I have said before, I would love to keep my messages down to about 10 or 15 minutes and for us to have 20 or 30 minutes of prophesying. Until we are all exercised to do this I will have to keep preaching for 30 minutes.

 

The Reformation began a return to biblical ways of doctrine and practice. Many errors were corrected in the Reformation and a return to divinely ordained ways was initiated. However, many people think that reformation is done. It is not. We must continue to reform our ways to correspond to what God has shown us. We must recover what was lost.

 

The functioning of every member has been lost. We ought to recover it.

 

[IV.] How do we recover prophesying?  How do we do it? I will tell you how we do this and I am going to keep it very simple. There are three things that we can do so that we will speak on the Lord’s behalf.

 

[A.] The first thing we can do is to simply relate our experience with the Lord.  We often call this testifying. Everyone can do this because every believer has experiences with the Lord. When we testify we let others know that the Lord is real and he is engaged in our lives. Our own experiences can be encouraging to others, especially when we share how we overcame a certain doubt or obstacle as we sought to obey the Lord. This is the simplest kind of prophecy that even a brand new Christian can participate.

 

[B.] The second thing we must experience in order to speak on behalf of the Lord is the enjoyment of Christ. Christ is so enjoyable! The more we enjoy him the more we wish to speak about him and the life that we have in him. It is such a natural thing to talk about the things that we enjoy because we want others to have a taste of the same joy that we have. If we read a good novel we tell others about it so that they might read it and find joy, too. And, when we learn that someone else has appreciated the same book we get excited.

 

The same is true of movies. When we see one that moves us we tell others about it. Anything that blesses us we wish to share with others. No one has blessed us more than the Lord Jesus. When we enjoy him we spontaneously share the enjoyment.

 

Even though the Corinthian church was full of problems, they knew how to enjoy the Lord.

 

In I Cor 1:9 we read,

 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [1]

 

Fellowship is more than just getting together. The English word fellowship comes from the Greek word κοινονια which means “the common.” We share a common life and a common joy with the Lord himself. His life brings us enjoyment.

 

In verse 30 Christ is said to be our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption. If we have all these things, how can we not enjoy them? I tell you the more enjoy Christ and what we have in him the more we will open our mouths. How often we speak is a measure of our enjoyment.

 

[C.] The third thing that we must do to prophesy is to abide in his words. We must become saturated and equipped with the word. It is not a coincidence that those who do the most prophesying in our assembly are those who spend time in the word. We must be supplied in order to supply others.

 

Do not think that the Lord will just instantly give you a word to speak in the meetings of the church or, actually, anywhere. He will do that on some occasions. But the Spirit normally works through the words that He has already inspired, the Bible. He might bring them to memory but you have to take them in.

 

Verse 31 says, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.”

 

When someone prophesies the others learn. In every other facet of life when someone provides learning for others they must learn first. This is true in science, literature, math, chess, golf, automotive mechanics, any field whatsoever.  Knowledge of God and his word is no different. If we wish to speak the things of God then we need to learn. We learn by reading and studying his word.

 

This, more than any other reason, is why not so many Christians speak. We need to get into his word often and we will receive a supply so that we can supply others.

 

[V.] What will happen if every believer is a prophet? Paul tells us.

 

First, we will be encouraged, built up, and consoled. We saw that from the passage that we read.

 

Secondly, we will learn. All will learn. Especially, the one who prepares will learn.

 

Thirdly, some will be convicted. This is a good thing. We read, in verses 24-26 of I Cor:

 

“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”

 

Why would someone be convicted? I do not think it is because the Spirit is giving supernatural knowledge of his sins and someone then reveals them. The phrase, “he is convicted by all,” intimates that he is brought to the realization that God is speaking through the combined testimony of many and, possibly, that someone shared one of their own failures and it touched him.

 

One author has related this experience not with unbelievers, but with fellow believers.

 

“A meeting in which all the saints are speaking for the Lord is full of nourishing, cherishing, adjusting, and correcting. A brother may be in the meeting who has a habit that is not so fitting for the church life. With only one person speaking and the rest listening, a message may never be given that touches this brother’s habit. Because many portions are presented in the meeting, many things can be touched. In such a meeting, the saints get corrected without anyone knowing.”[2]

 

[VI. Conclusion] Every believer is a priest and should live as a priest. But every believer is also a prophet and should speak as a prophet. The apostle Paul says this. God desires it. Let us live in God’s will not our own.  Most of us would never choose to say things in public. Some may be afraid of saying something wrong. We all say things wrong all the time. Never let that deter you. We are talking to our family members – the church. Let us accept one another and if we say something wrong just talk about it afterwards with love.

 

Yes, some may be fearful. The way you get over the fear of anything is by doing it. You can start out by just saying, “I want everyone to know that I love Jesus.” That’s it. Then sit down. How hard is that? Then the next time you can say, “I want everyone to know that I love Jesus because…” and give one reason. He forgave me my many sins. He healed me. He gave me a victory over a bad habit. Another time you can just stand up and read a favorite verse. That’s it. Then sit down. The next time you can read a verse and say what it is about the verse that touched you.

 

“Lord, thank you that you would like us all to prophesy. Grant us a greater measure of your Spirit and your word that we may fulfill your desire. Amen.”

 

We can practice right now.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 1:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Witness Lee, The Excelling Gift for the Building Up of the Church (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1989), 15.