READ: Deuteronomy 16-18, Psalm 58, Luke 14, 1 Corinthians 14
We are instructed to desire to prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1). The scripture demystifies prophecy and frames it in terms of encouragement and edification of the Church body. We are, in fact, exhorted to excel in edifying those who belong to Jesus (v. 12). Interestingly, this means we are to work hard at exercising and improving the prophetic gifts which we should all seek. There is a discipline, an order, a growth cycle to prophecy. Prophecy is not the proprietary domain of the wild and woolly; all God’s people are to seek to prophecy eagerly. We are to seek to excel in edifying and encouraging one another.
Paul’s conclusion in 1 Corinthians 14: 15-19 is that he WILL pray in the Spirit (to build up his inner man) and he WILL prophecy (to edify and encourage the people of God). Our conclusion must be the same: intentional praying in the Spirit privately, increasing prophecy publicly. In the ordered life of the body, prophecy evidences that God truly continues to visit His people.
There is an active component to prophecy. We should be eager to bless others through encouragement and edification. We should enter a friend’s home, walk into a Bible study, and prepare for regular worship service with the intention to open our mouths and have the Spirit speak through us. Rather than participation in communal worship with a view to receive, we need to attend business meetings and family devotions with the intention to open our mouths and allow Jesus to speak through us. When we actively look for someone to edify, we are taking the lower place. When we wait for others to encourage us, when we hold our tongues that others may use theirs to praise us, we are ascending the higher place (Luke 14:10-11). When we lay down what others think of us in order to actively build up the body of Christ with our mouths, we humble ourselves and we delight the giver of the Spirit.
Jesus reminds us that salt that has lost its flavor is useless (v. 34). The disciple that has ceased to actively bless others with his or her mouth is useless. Prophecy (edification and exhortation) does not preclude acts of service, but it is a verbal gift that all are to exercise. Edification and exhortation does not preclude rebuke or prediction either, but the wise prophet is selective and occasional in those aspects of prophecy and concentrates his or her prophetic preparatory work on what will encourage and edify.
In the prophethood of all believers we all should open our mouths (in an orderly manner) and encourage and edify the body of Christ. We should desire this gift. We should discipline ourselves to actively use this gift. We should learn from the Holy Spirit and spiritual elders how to grow in this gift. Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember that the prophet who speaks his own words shall die (Deut. 18:20). Let our prophetic legacy be a trail of people encouraged to love and obey Jesus – not the tragedy of unfulfilled words which emerged from a soiled mouth and hypocritical heart.