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Prophecy Redefined

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | Comments (63)

by John MacArthur

In episode 215 of Ask Pastor John, Dr. Piper gets to the crux of the cessationist-continuationist debate. In his view, modern prophecy is not “infallible, Scripture-level, authoritative speaking,” but rather “something that God spontaneously brings to mind in the moment, and—because we are fallible in the way we perceive it, and the way we think about it, and the way we speak it—it does not carry that same level of infallible, Scripture-level authority.”[1] He claims three texts of Scripture to provide “exegetical reasons” for his view.

John’s view is also Wayne Grudem’s view, and represents a radical departure from the historic position of the Christian church. More to the point, it is a direct contradiction of 2 Peter 1:21:  “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” What God gave to His prophets was not diminished one iota by human fallibility. The Holy Spirit so superintended the speaking (and writing) of every single word such that what God wanted to say was spoken, and it was spoken unequivocally. Piper’s and Grudem’s novel view departs from the biblical, historic view of the gift of prophecy and dangerously tampers with divine integrity and authority.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible demonstrates four foundational characteristics of true prophecy. First, true prophecy is always verbal, the very words of God. It’s never an impulse or an impression; it’s never a feeling that needs interpretation.[2] Rather, true prophecy is a precise message.

Second, true prophecy is propositional—it is testable as either true or false. That’s what logicians recognize as the law of the excluded middle—a proposition is either true, or its negation is true. If someone invokes the Holy Spirit as the source of his prophecy, but what he says is false, God commands His people to reject both prophecy and prophet (Deut 13:1–5; 18:20–22).

Third, true prophecy is infallible. Whatever God spoke through His prophets was error-free and utterly unaffected by human fallibility.

Fourth, because a true prophecy is verbal, propositional, and inerrant, the only conclusion to draw is that it carries the full weight of divine authority. Ever since the end of the apostolic age and the completion of the canon, only Scripture can legitimately claim that level of authority (2 Tim. 3:16).

John Piper defended his departure from the biblical, historical view of the gift of prophecy by citing three biblical texts. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, Paul says: “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” Piper makes much of the fact that Paul speaks of prophecies, or prophetic utterances, rather than the prophets themselves. He insists that this is a categorical difference from 1 John 4:1, in which the apostle John calls the church to “test the spirits . . . because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (emphasis added).

A Distinction Without a Difference

To distinguish between (a) testing and rejecting false prophecies and (b) testing and rejecting false prophets is to make a distinction without a difference. Nowhere in Scripture is a prophet divorced from the words he speaks, as Piper proposes. On the contrary, by the very definition of the word, a prophet was one who spoke forth the words of God. A true prophet was judged on the basis of the truth or falsehood of his prophecies. A false prophet was one who uttered false prophecies; and false prophecies are, by definition, the utterances from a false prophet. This distinction without a difference indicates the kind of interpretive overparsing used to arrive at a particular interpretation. That is something so unlike nearly every other aspect of John Piper’s ministry.

Testing Does Not Legitimize Prophetic Fallibility

In his podcast comments, Piper reveals an assumption that lies at the heart of the continuationist view of fallible prophecy. He believes that testing and evaluating prophets by their prophecies are things “you would not do if they spoke with infallible, inerrant, Scripture-quality authority.”[3]

But isn’t that precisely what we see in the Old Testament—God commanding His people to test those who spoke with infallible, inerrant, Scripture-quality authority? Whether someone predicted falsely (Deut. 18:20–22), or predicted truly and yet prescribed falsely (Deut. 13:1–5)—if what he spoke was not in accord with God’s previously revealed words—God commanded the people to judge him as a false prophet and condemn him to death.

So, does the command to test and judge Old Testament prophets imply they could legitimately deliver fallible prophecies? Absolutely not. God’s command required Old Testament believers to guard zealously, and without prejudice, the truth entrusted to them, which is remarkably consistent with commands in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14). To assume, as Piper does, that being told to test New Testament prophecies implies a brand-new category of “fallible prophecy” is baseless. It fails the test of biblical scrutiny.

Radical Redefinition Without Comment

There is a second reason why biblical commands to test prophecy (cf. 1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thess 5:19–21) do not amount to evidence for fallible prophecy. Such an interpretation assumes that New Testament prophecy is radically different from the Old Testament gift.

Following Grudem, Piper posits a radical discontinuity between prophecy in the two Testaments, as if Old Testament prophecy is infallible and authoritative, while the New Testament gift of prophecy is not. But that bold conclusion is nothing more than a highly questionable inference. However, if such a radical redefinition of this gift had taken place between the Old Testament and New Testament eras, we would be right to expect explicit statements in Scripture to inform us of this change. As Sam Waldron states:

If New Testament prophecy in distinction from Old Testament prophecy was not infallible in its pronouncements, this would have constituted an absolutely fundamental contrast between the Old Testament institution and the New Testament institution. To suppose that a difference as important as this would be passed over without explicit comment is unthinkable.[4]

That is, however, precisely what the continuationist asks us to believe.

Not only is an explicit redefinition of prophecy absent from the New Testament, the overwhelming witness is to the continuity of prophetic gift from the Old to the New Testament. First, the New Testament uses identical terminology (e.g., prophet, prophesy, prophecy), side by side, to refer to both (a) Old Testament prophets and prophecy and (b) New Testament prophets and prophecy. Taking just the book of Acts for example, Luke refers to Old Testament prophets in 2:16, 3:24–25, 10:43, 13:27, 13:40, 15:15, 24:14, 26:22, 26:27, and 28:23. Interspersed among those passages are references to New Testament prophets and prophecy in 2:17–18, 11:27–28, 13:1, 15:32, and 21:9–11.[5] Luke makes no distinction between the nature of their prophecies and the level of their authority, but considers them equal in every respect. Anyone who reads Luke’s record in Acts would naturally conclude that the prophetic gift of the New Testament is on par with that of the Old Testament—indeed, that they were one and the same gift.

The burden of proof, then, weighs heavily on the continuationist to clearly defend from Scripture this radical redefinition of prophecy. Appeals to dubious inferences drawn from texts that speak about testing prophecy “do not approach the kind of explicit precedent”[6] required to meet that burden. As long as the cessationist can provide plain-sense interpretations of texts like 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19–21 that are consistent with the traditional definition of prophecy, there is no biblical warrant for anyone to accept such radical and unfounded redefinitions.

Why Would Christians Despise Prophecy?

Piper goes on to raise the question of why Thessalonian Christians would have been tempted to despise prophecies if those prophecies had Scripture-level authority.[7] His own answer to that question is, “Probably because they [the prophecies] are wacko . . . stupid . . . weird . . . [and] off the wall.” Piper is by no means the only continuationist to create that kind of chaotic background as a setting for the early churches. But the error, as I see it, is that he and others have superimposed their personal experiences in the contemporary charismatic movement onto the local churches of the New Testament. While that’s unjustified and anachronistic, it does help us understand Piper’s abiding reluctance to reject modern-day “prophets” when they speak forth “prophecies” that are wacko, stupid, weird, and off the wall.

So why would the Thessalonians have been tempted to despise prophecies? Can we answer that question without resorting to radically redefining the gift of prophecy? Is there a plausible answer to that question that doesn’t require us to impose a radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments? I believe there is. As I wrote in Strange Fire:

Because false prophets were prevalent in Old Testament Israel (Deut. 13:3; Isa. 30:10; Jer. 5:31; 14:14–16; 23:32–22; Ezek. 13:2–9; 22:28; Mic. 3:11), God’s people needed to be able to identify and confront them. That same reality applied to New Testament believers as well, which is why Paul instructed the Thessalonians to test prophetic utterances carefully. . . .  

The presence of false prophets in the first-century church is a fact that is clearly attested in the New Testament (Matt. 7:15; 24:11; 2 Tim. 4:3–4; 2 Peter 2:1–3; 1 John 4:1; Jude 4). Commands to test prophecy must be understood against that backdrop. Believers were commanded to discern between those who were true spokesmen for God and those who were dangerous counterfeits. The Thessalonians, in particular, needed to be wary of false prophets. Paul’s two epistles to them indicate that some within their congregation had already been misled—both with regard to Paul’s personal character (1 Thess. 2:1–12) and the eschatological future of the church (1 Thess. 4:13–5:11). Much of Paul’s instruction was in response to the erroneous teaching that was wreaking havoc within the Thessalonian church. Perhaps that is why some of the Thessalonians were tempted to despise all prophetic utterances, including those that were true.[8]

Whatever you might conclude about the interpretation I’ve offered of 1 Thessalonians 5, it is, at the very least, more preferable than the continuationist interpretation, which requires Christians to radically redefine the gift of prophecy without a single explicit comment from any New Testament author.

Conclusion

Since this post is long enough already, I’ll stop here and ask you to stay tuned for my response to John Piper’s interpretations of 1 Corinthians 11:4–5 and 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. If I didn’t write another word to interact with his interpretations, I hope what I’ve written is enough to help you think carefully about some continuationist assumptions you may have come to accept or embrace uncritically. It’s my prayer that you’ll find the continued interaction helpful and illuminating as you rightly divide the Word of Truth and work out your salvation before God with fear and trembling.


[2] In the case of revelatory dreams, which required interpretation (e.g., Gen. 40:8–13), even the interpretation was a matter of revelation, since “interpretations belong to God” (Gen. 40:8b). The one who claimed to be an interpreter of dreams was required to report the revelation he received from the Lord accurately and without error.

[4] Samuel E. Waldron, To Be Continued? Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today? (Greenville, SC: Calvary Press Publishing, 2005), p. 65.

[5] Supporters of Grudem’s hypothesis of a two-tier gift of NT prophecy—that is, that there are both apostolic-level and congregational-level gifts of prophecy—might object that these references refer only to apostolic-level prophecy. However, the passages listed include the examples of Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9–11) and Agabus (Acts 11:27–28), whom Grudem himself regards as a congregational-level fallible prophet.

[6] Waldron, To Be Continued?, p. 66.

[8] MacArthur, Strange Fire, p. 125.


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#1  Posted by Matthew Andrychuk  |  Wednesday, March 12, 2014at 10:12 PM

Even though I have been angry with MacArthur in the past, I am very comforted that someone is willing to make a clear interpretation of the bible. It keeps one in safety. The claim of the gift of Prophecy is abused, especially on social media websites.

The problems with so-called gifts of prophecy are the YouTube heretics. Type in the name "WARNINGTHEPEOPLE", "finalcall007" and "Robert Lyte." All of these YouTubers, have about 25,000 followers because, they tell people to stop going to church, the bible is written by men and not inspired, and only those who are sinlessly perfect go to heaven. This is all revealed to these special people in dreams and revelation, which no one can understand except them. Anyone can claim to have a prophetic word, but the YouTube heretics are examples of abusive pretenders.

#2  Posted by Je Ko  |  Wednesday, March 12, 2014at 10:46 PM

Thank you for the article. Seems like Piper is down-low desperate to associate with the Bible and zeitgeist. In order to make some level of sense (in his head or to convince his hearers), he is REQUIRED to redefine the vocabularies used in the Scripture. I wonder exactly to what epistemological extent he trusts the Scripture to be true. Without believing/understanding/loyally trust the perspicuity of the Scripture, how is anyone able to believe the content of the Scripture to be infallible? In addition, in order to "test the spirits" that are not infallible "as the Scripture", one would have to use his/her common-sense/logic to assess the truthfulness/validity of the content of the "prophecy." This means he also presupposes that saints/people have some magical ability to discern transcendent yet extra-Biblical statements that claims to be true, without relying on the Scripture, if not blatantly claiming that human logic and common-sense are above the word of God.

#3  Posted by George Canady  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 7:26 AM

Why single out Piper or suggest him as leading people to softer form of "another gospel"?

#4  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 8:57 AM

Je (#2) I think you have hit on a critical point here, and one that is highlighted when John MacArthur says, "That is something so unlike nearly every other aspect of John Piper’s ministry." The fact that we would perceive a certain pattern of sound Biblical faithfulness in almost every other area of what John Piper has to say, and then in this one thing it appears the methodology and reasoning for how he arrived at the conclusion he arrived at is radically different from his established character and reputation, we are forced to ask ourselves why that should be.

I think this highlights the dangers and the extent to which "self" can creep into the picture. When Jesus says that we are to deny ourselves, he's not talking about living the life of an aesthetic. It's the "self", the "natural man", the "sinful nature", "that which remains" that we are to recognize and deny. This type of situation illustrates exactly how devious and ingrained that can be in even the best of us. Paul put it this way: "Therefore, it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me." I know I'm guilty of failing this.

#5  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 8:59 AM

George, since MacArthur and Piper are friends, and Piper affirmed his views on modern prophecy in response to the Strange Fire conference, it is only appropriate to both correct misunderstandings that were communicated to Piper and also offer a biblical answer to Piper's interpretation.

However, I'm not sure where you get that anyone is suggesting that Piper is "leading people to a softer form of another gospel." Nothing of that nature has been said in these posts.

#6  Posted by George Canady  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 9:44 AM

Thank you Mr. Powell for posting and responding to my comment. I have been aware for sometime that John MacArthur and John Piper are friends for many years. It dose however, seem odd that we have to be reminded of that so much lately. I guess I remember Phil Johnson's warning a few years ago for his people to keep an eye on Piper and how the tone of that inference seems to have leaked into this discussion over the last few months. This dose not resemble a two way discussion between friends to me. It seems like one trying to draw the other into an open debate. Is that what is going on? It seems if we are to have a fair evaluation of Pipers positions on this, he would need to be there to answer point for point his "confusion" on the subjects. It seems John Piper is aware of John MacArthur's positions, but just disagrees with some. In fact, I myself mostly agree with MacArthur's positions. I am grateful for access to the biblical integrity of the long fruitful ministries of both of these men. But there is one who is right and that makes one wrong. Where does that leave us who want to know what God says. This is a good thing that God is doing through John MacArthur and I think we all will be glad he was willing to take the incredible heat over this highly volatile issue. I say these things with fear of God. I pray I have not angered Him. I am familiar with his strong correction. But then I have heard MacArthur repeat: " I stay in hot water, it keeps me clean."

#7  Posted by Manuel Jr. Reyes  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 12:11 PM

Coming from the continuationist position, it had been too difficult to contend with Ptr. JMac's exegesis of the Scripture. It just dawned on me and our Bible Study group that we altogether share with Ptr. John's views. It took years for that to transpire. Though unfathomable it seems, I guess it is difficult to jettison to the narrower group; nevertheless the Holy Spirit bestows the necessary illumination; not Ptr. John nor any erudite theologian.

About the topic, if utterances of prophecies of prophets in the first century are to be scrutinized, the infallibility of prophecies is necessarily important, moreso on par inerrant with the OT revelations. Otherwise, where would the early church's true North be, and who says where? If the Lord Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit will make them remember His words decades to come, then it was not difficult for Him to impart truth to the first century Christians. Prophetical veracity is important so as to conclude that the Bible is inerrant.

My suggestion, it is still safer to swim near the shore of Biblical interpretations in order to avoid spiritual mutilations away to the deep blue sea.

#8  Posted by Daniel Reynaldo Pobi-41337  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 12:57 PM

So, aren´t Paul's and John's commandments, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 and 1 John 4:1, for today's church? Did they pass way with cannon and apostolic era closing as miraclous gifts did? In my opinion, if there are not prophet nor prophecy in church today, it wouldn't make sense to instruct us to examine or test prophecy or prophets, because all are false by default today. God bless you!

#9  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 1:01 PM

Daniel Reynaldo Pobi (#8),

It might help if you read this article again. It seems your question is answered clearly.

#10  Posted by Daniel Reynaldo Pobi-41337  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 1:43 PM

Thanks, Gabriel. That's the point....i see the article assumes those instructions are invalid for today.

Best regards in Christ!

#11  Posted by Arthur Roderick  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 1:57 PM

Thank God for men like John Mac Arthur.i,ve learned so much from his study bible and sermons as well as his bible study's.

He,s like a older brother to me and I pray God keeps using him to reach a wretch like me.

Artie

#12  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 2:13 PM

Daniel Reynaldo Pobi (#10),

I don't think it's right to say the article "assumes" those instructions aren't for today. Rather, there is a clear attempt to demonstrate (I think persuasively) that the gift of prophecy has not continued. Once that conclusion is established through clear biblical study (exegesis), then we move from "what the Bible means" to "what it means for today" (application/implication).

In other words, since the gift was active in the first century, those commands were directly applicable to the original readers. But since the gift of prophecy has ceased, the implications of those commands differ for us. In light of the differing circumstances, how we apply those particular commands differs as well.

This happens all over the Bible, for example, applying the passages written to slaves and masters, or giving someone your cloak when they ask for your tunic. There was a clear meaning and application for them which is different for us. The truth and principles remain the same, but the look different at various times and places.

#13  Posted by Nicola Steenkamp  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 2:39 PM

Wonder if Piper is opening the door to ""Come Home Catholics""? Its a big thing happening at the moment & the cessationist-continuationist line right up with what takes place in beliefs of Catholicism.

#14  Posted by Thiago Gambaro  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 2:42 PM

Dr. John MacArthur, excellent exposure yet Need to remember the letter from John Newton on the controversy...

#15  Posted by Link Hudson  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 3:06 PM

I actually find myself in the rare position of agreeing with much of what John MacArthur writes on a subject related to gifts of the Spirit, something very rare indeed.

My big question, though, is whether John MacArthur is basically recanting some of his previous statements. Previously, he has said something along the lines that he prophesies whenever he goes into the pulpit. That's a bolder statement than many Charismatic preachers would make. Given his article here, John MacArthur should either recant of his previous use of the word 'prophecy' and 'prophesying' to describe his own preaching, declare that he has a revelatory gift, or get out the stones to stone himself (metaphorically perhaps).

I think the continuationist Reformed folks who don't want to call modern prophecy 'infallible' partly do that because of an extra-Biblical 'doctrinal of scripture.' Like other Reformed folks, they've been reading, writing, and signing doctrinal statements that say that only the Bible is 'infallible.' These statements aren't in the Bible, and aren't from the Bible, but like the Creeds get treated like scripture by those who claim to be 'sola scriptura.'

Also, from the perspective of the individual hearing a prophecy, you don't treat it as infallible because you have to test it to know whether it is from God. The issue here isn't whether a true prophecy is 'infallible' but whether prophecies you receive should be tested or treated as infallible. I think they are getting hung up on the wrong word, 'infallible.' The prophecies of the Bible don't need to be tested for validity. Prophecies nowadays do (just as many of the Biblical prophecies would have to have been tested when they were given.)

Another thing to point out is the Torah establishes that God can cancel something He says in response to intercession. He told Moses he was going to wipe out the nation and make of him an even greater nation. Moses interceded and God relented. God can also cancel decrees about a city or nation if it repents or turns to evil, as He told Jeremiah. God not destroying Nineveh was not Jonah's fault. Nineveh repented and God relented. We can't hold the prophet at fault in such cases. This doesn't fit well with the thinking of Calvinists who deterministic in their thinking and think that everything, not just the salvation of the saints and certain other key details, is predestined. If the Bible tells us something is predestined, we can know that it is predestined. But if it doesn't, we should not presume.

#16  Posted by Link Hudson  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 3:31 PM

I'd like to respond to footnote 2, which asserts that interpreters of dreams were required to report revelation from God accurate and without error.

I'll agree that there can be inspired interpreters who receive revelation like Joseph and Daniel. But that does not mean that anyone who interprets a dream who does so with error is a false prophet. There is sharing revelation and there is sharing opinions, or in a church setting, teaching.

Like it or not, cessationists also interpret dreams and visions. Can we really say that anyone who interprets one of Daniel's dreams or visions while interpreting the Bible must claim infallible prophetic revelation?

#17  Posted by Daniel Reynaldo Pobi-41337  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 3:34 PM

Thanks, Gabriel. I means, then, that the article, doesn´t assume, but confirm my inference on what MacArthur teaches related to it.

Again, that's the point...how do i apply, today, those passages related to prophets and prophecies , considering your argument and based on the examples you mentioned, about which you said that there are "meaning and application for them which is different for us." Which is, then, the application of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 and 1 John 4:1, for church today, being that prophets and prophecies are invalid for us nowadays?

Blessings!

#18  Posted by Anthony Griffin  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 3:48 PM

What is amazes me is the fact that Dr. Macarthur, who is a solid theologian, lays out an argument with biblical proof and clarity, and people read the blog and other writings from Dr. Macarthur, and yet still dont get it. Just to be blunt and truthful, why, George #6, do you comment at all in this post if you already know the answer after asking the question or question Dr. Macarthur sounding like there is some kind of agenda behind it all. There is an agenda and that is the truth being conveyed. Actually you seem to be trying to be argumentative rather than productive. Or better yet argumentative for argument sake. And to say that about brother Phil Johnson in your posting is also deceptive as well. Why dont you just tell how you really feel rather than in veiled statements. It is not honest at all in my opinion. Please, in the future, just shoot straight. Because you might get the response you are looking for much better.

Thank you Grace to You for being obedient to spread only the truth. The Lord used Dr. Macarthur and Phil Johnson and this awesome ministry to snatch me out of the fire of the charismatic movement and I am eternally grateful. Thank you Father for opening my eyes to the truth.

And I hope I did not offend you George for being honest. If I did, I apologize. Its just hard for me having come away from so much heresy as a direct result of Grace to You.

From a thankful and willing Grace Partner.

#20  Posted by Thiago Gambaro  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 4:00 PM

"Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation." (by John Newton)

"Consider Your Opponent: As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write." (On Controversy by John Newton)

"Consider the Public: By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million." (On Controversy by John Newton)

"Consider Yourself: ...This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?" (On Controversy by John Newton)

By: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/oncontroversy/

#21  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 4:30 PM

Gabriel,

Would you consider someone who is proclaiming scripture to be prophesying? Since one of the definitions (Strong’s 4395) is to speak forth, this makes sense to me. If this is an option then is there a distinction between the “gift” of prophecy and someone who prophesies? Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

#22  Posted by Bryan Leed  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 4:48 PM

I feel like everybody is suddenly upset over misunderstanding each other. John Piper seems to say speaking in tongues and prophesying today may not be infallible, yet Piper maintains that the word of God, The Bible, is infallible, no mistakes in the Bible. Then others seem upset because they think Piper said the Bible is iffy because Bible writers were said to be prophesying as they wrote the Bible books, so then because the act of modern prophesying is iffy; that means Bible writers are iffy, that means Piper is lessening the reliability of The Bible -- yet Piper did NOT say The Bible writers are iffy. Piper just said that people trying to prophesy TODAY do not have the same infallibility that the Bible commands. Whew! I will listen more carefully and re-read Piper, MacArthur, Grudem, et al, if this controversy gets any deeper or lasts too long. Please, lets not argue beyond what each person actually did intend to say. The Bible is infallible, the Bible has no mistakes; but none of us are infallible today, otherwise pride will come certainly. We must not battle other Christians in the gray areas, (this topic is not bigger than the topic observing the Sabbath or not observing it). So, let us be at peace with each other until battle lines are necessary to defend the infallible word of God.

#24  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 6:12 PM

"What is amazes me is the fact that Dr. Macarthur, who is a solid theologian, lays out an argument with biblical proof and clarity, and people read the blog and other writings from Dr. Macarthur, and yet still dont get it."

Jesus spoke clearly about why he came, what he was going to do, and how we was going to do it, and most of the people in his time on earth didn't get it. Why expect the same from someone less than Jesus?

#25  Posted by John Deckert  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 9:40 PM

My wife and I have been going through Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology" in our sunday school. The questions were put together by John Piper's Church. We have been impressed and have learned much. We typically study 5 hours for each week. I recently read an article by Gary Gilley which presented several quotes by Wayne Grudem in which Grudem was appealing to cessationists to reconsider their stance. My jaw dropped when I read his defense of modern prophets and prophesies. It was like reading another theologian. If Grudem had approached the "doctrines of grace"/"Calvinism" in a similar matter in "Systematic Theology" his book would have been useless. I see a troubling inconsistency.

#26  Posted by George Canady  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014at 10:44 PM

Hey Anthony #18, Thanks for reading my thoughts and if anyone is thin skinned enough to be offended here, this is not the place to comment. These guys know their stuff. I have commented a lot on this subject but I doubt that my two cent is worth two cent compared to most who read this blog. I am a simple man with little education and I am surprised that anyone would respond to me at all. I have family caught up in the worst of this stuff so learning the approach as well as the facts are important to me. I started studied scripture about15 years ago and the last 5 with John MacArthur as one primary source of help. You make the point that MacArthur is a solid theologian, and I agree, But then you seem to assert , since this post is response to Piper, that Piper is not. And that is what Phil Johnson said a few years ago.

#28  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 4:49 AM

#16 Link Hudson

The Holy Spirit must in no way be treated and compared to this kind of mentality, where you see Gods true prophets interpretation of a specific dream, to that kind of pagan ”oracles”, that will give you a lie and what you desire to hear for a chicken or a lot of money.

Gods revelation have serious consequences, and we read it in form of blessings or doom for kings and nations.

#30  Posted by Daniel Reynaldo Pobi-41337  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 8:22 AM

Should not be surprised that a man of theological stature of JM , err in their cosideration about it. We who went cessationists for several years and even decades , precisely influenced by the assumptions and arguments presented in books like MacArthur Charismatic Chaos now refurbished with Strange Fire , then realize that their arguments against the continuation of the miraculous gifts , not have the strength or weight proclaiming scriptural , thanks to men like Grudem , Piper and Storms with doctrinal writings and statements on the subject, we can also say about JM what he says about Piper :

"This .... Indicates the kind of interpretive overparsing used to arrive at a direct interpretation. Unlike That is something so nearly every other aspect of John Piper's ministry " .. the same thing we could think of many ex - cessationists of the main arguments of JM regarding the topic of the miraculous gifts , including those used in this article to contradict Piper and Grudem on the nature of the gift of prophecy in the NT.

So, don´t we get surprised that JM and his heavy doctrinal weight in most doctrines he sustained and proclaimed for the glory of God a and His people welfare, had been so biblically light in his treatment of this topic of miraclous trough the years. Thanks God for men like JM, Piper, Grudem, Storms, Lawson and many others who "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3--indeed, a text beloved by cessationists :-) )

God bless you all!

#31  Posted by Natan T  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 9:00 AM

MacArthurs many words suggest that he is still uncertain about this issue. If you look at the whole issue carefully, what macarthur says is true in terms of infallible, inerrant and enduring prophecy. That is simply the word of God. We know that the Bible is unfailing, because Gods word abides, endures, or stands forever ( Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25). However, we have to know that there are also prophecies given by the Holy Spirit which are passing (only until the perfect comes). 1 Corinthians 13: 10. There are a lot of prophets and prophetess in the Bible, through whom God spoke, but the words were not canonized into the Bible.

So then how should we look at this passing prophecy that Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:10 talked about? That's when Thessalonians 5:19-21 comes into play. We can never test or question the Bible (infallible prophecy), but we can test the passing prophecy through the Bible.

Therefore, if we know that there is a passing prophecy, we know that there is a gift of prophecy, and that gift of prophecy will continue until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we no longer need any gifts because we will be perfect even as He is perfect.

I hope it answers all confusions.

May God bless his church. Amen

#32  Posted by Norman Grant  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 9:07 AM

I just had one question. Why do you think it is that so many pastors and preachers are so reserved when it comes to calling out false prophets and teachers today. Especially as it relates to television evangelists?

#33  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 9:19 AM

Ben Enders (#21),

That's a good question that's not easy to answer. All words have a range of meanings, and the way to determine a word's meaning is not just by the dictionary, but by how that word is being used in relationship to the words around it.

Here's how I would answer your question. Preaching can be prophetic in the sense that true preaching is proclaiming the prophetic Word. Most of the preaching in pulpits today is not prophetic in any sense of the word. But when the Word of God is faithfully exposited and the meaning of Scripture is accurately conveyed, preaching can be considered prophetic, that is, prophecy-like. But it is not prophetic in the technical sense of a person having received a message otherwise unknowable directly from the Lord. Certainly the prophets were preachers in that they were heralds of God's Word, but it is unlikely all of their preaching was prophecy in the technical sense (referring to their preaching not recorded in Scripture).

Prophecy is both fore-telling and forth-telling. When you read the Old and New Testament prophets, it is mostly forth-telling, and from time to time some fore-telling. In other words, the messages from the Lord are more often about present realities than future realities. Usually they are in the form of warnings in light of the behavior of God's people. But a prophet didn't tell people things they could know on their own. The prophet was God's spokesman, conveying messages no one would otherwise know (e.g. Ezekiel 13:1-7).

Biblical prophecy as forth-telling is not a man exhorting people, it is God exhorting people through a man. Preaching as forth-telling is like prophecy insofar as it is accurately conveying God's exhortations (Scripture) to people.

Hope that helps!

#35  Posted by Mark Costik  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 10:24 AM

Huh??? lol... I'm so confused. How about a dumbed down version of what is going on here?

I listened to the audio of John Piper and I don't even know what he was talking about. The Holy Spirit does all the answering I need. You see some idiot talking in tongues and you know he's full of bologna. You listen to John Piper trying to make an answer work when it doesn't work, you know he's full of bologna. John Piper was always out there in my humble opinion but whatever...

#38  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 11:39 AM

#20 Thiago Gambaro

This is one of the best posts I have seen. Let us keep in step with the Spirit, not provoking one another.

#39  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 11:48 AM

Natan T (#31),

I'm not sure how you're reading any lack of certainty, equivocation, or confusion into what John is writing. Perhaps you missed the opening post in this series, Biblical Prophecy and Modern Confusion, in which John explains why he's compelled to address this issue. As for the 1 Corinthians 13 passage you cited, John has a post coming next week in which he specifically addresses that passage and the ways it has been misinterpreted and misused. I hope you'll stay tuned for that.

#40  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 12:23 PM

Norman (#32),

I'm not sure we ought to speculate on why (insert a famous pastor's name here) hasn't spoken out against false prophets, phony faith healers, and heretical televangelists. I don't want to poke imaginary holes in the reputations of godly men just because they're not speaking out the way I would like them to--I'm sure you don't want to do that, either.

What I can tell you is that we have heard from several people--especially people with at least some connection to the charismatic movement--who have defended their silence in a variety of interesting ways. Some claim that the repeated admonitions in Scripture to call out false teachers apply only within the context of the local church (which makes me wonder why they were so quick to criticize John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference if all that matters to them is what is going on within their own local churches, but that's for another post).

Others claim that they have been longtime critics of the excesses and abuses in their movement, although that criticism is often broad and toothless, and falls far short of actually calling anyone to account for their false teaching.

And still others claim they simply want to keep their ministries positive, and that faithfully preaching the truth is the only antidote required to combat the false teaching and theology that has run amok throughout the movement. And we can see how successful that has been.

My prayer is that many pastors and church leaders will see the example of John MacArthur and others at Strange Fire and be encouraged to speak up themselves.

#41  Posted by Raymond Kolman  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 12:58 PM

I love Piper, Carson, and Grudem. Thank you Pastor John you really helped me on this issue.

#42  Posted by George Canady  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 1:46 PM

Mr. Johnson #40. I am curios of how one, or who would, measure the compliance to your suggestion to "be encouraged to speak up themselves"? It seems like Piper and Co. do not meet some standard here.

#43  Posted by David Smith  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 1:46 PM

Norman Grant #32

I want to offer a suggestion in addition to Jeremiah's (#40).

Moderate charismatics and pentecostals are reluctant to speak out against televangelists, false prophets, false teachers, etc, because they would be criticising themselves.

Firstly, because the continuationist doctrines are shared by both moderates and extremists. If a moderate took issue with an extremist, they would be criticising someone who shared the same beliefs.

Secondly, because everyone is interlinked. Pentecostalism began at Azusa Street, and the charismatic movement began because pentecostals made inroads into the denominations. There will always be common factors connecting people.

Here's some examples:

(1) Some people would regard Jack Hayford as a relatively moderate pentecostal. They might similarly regard Benny Hinn as a false teacher. But Hayford conducted Benny Hinn's remarriage. If you speak out against Hinn, Hayford goes down as well.

(2) When Todd Bentley was at the Lakeland Revival, he was doing the same things that happen in virtually all charismatic / pentecostal churches. Yes, it was up several gears and done to extremes, but was essentially the same. Moderates couldn't speak out against it without receiving collateral damage.

I regard the whole pentecostal / charismatic movement as a house of cards. If you take out one bit, everything comes crashing down. That's why there's a reluctance by insiders to speak out.

#44  Posted by Bob Scott  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 2:25 PM

I love Piper as a faithful man of God. His ministry has blessed me and many of my dear Christian friends over the years.

There comes a time when we all need reproof and correction (2Tim 3:16) from the Word of God. I thank God that MacArthur has always pointed the church toward Jesus and always loving enough to speak the Truth when it is not popular. This is one of those times when one pillar in the church of Jesus Christ comes boldly but lovingly to another pillar (Piper) to issue correction. This is always done for the purity and holiness of the church, and for the restoration of the erring brother.

Piper and MacArthur have known each other and have been brothers in Christ for many years. I pray that MacArthur's response to Piper will be received with humility just as it was given and that the body of Christ will benefit and God will be glorified through the exchange.

Who knows maybe one day MacArthur will be in need of correction from the Word of God and will be humble enough to receive such correction. Pray for both of these pillars, and that God would be honored and glorified in all of this.

#46  Posted by David N  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 4:28 PM

Here is what John Mac proved:

1. Prophecy as a declaration of God's inerrant word has ceased.

He did not, and cannot, prove that it is or was God's intention for the "gift of prophecy" mentioned in the NT, to cease after the death of the original Apostles.

The fact that it does not exist in that same form is not a case for the expressed intent of God's word. It is quite possible that the church has failed in this regard.

And John Mac is making the unstated assumption that all prophecy is part of the Bible. His argument would preclude any prophecy from occurring that did not eventually end up in the canon of scripture.

Revelation 19:10 explains what the point of prophecy is:

"...for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"

How can that key tool that God has always chosen to use simply vanish as His express intent?

#47  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 5:16 PM

"Mr. Johnson #40. I am curios of how one, or who would, measure the compliance to your suggestion to "be encouraged to speak up themselves"? It seems like Piper and Co. do not meet some standard here. "

I think that's one point that John MacArthur is trying to scream. "Piper and Co.", since they affirm the continuationist view based on a dubious interpretation of Scripture, by default lend credence to others to whom they should not lend credence. Even though John Piper himself is of tremendously sound doctrine in other matters, their refusal to conform themselves to sound doctrine in this matter gives fuel to those who share the same doctrinal stance in this matter because of its prevalence and abuse.

The standard you suggest that Piper doesn't meet is not some ad hoc standard. It's a scriptural standard. John MacArthur says it best in an earlier article:

"Those warnings are summarized in the word translated beware in Matthew 7:15. It is not a call simply to notice or sense something, but to be on guard against it because it is so harmful. The word conveys the idea of holding the mind away. False prophets are more than wrong; they are dangerous, and we should not expose our minds to them. They pervert thinking and poison the soul. False prophets are spiritual beasts and are immeasurably more deadly than the physical ones. Both Peter and Jude call them “unreasoning animals” (2 Peter 2:12; cf. Jude 10)."

John Piper doesn't help others to "hold the mind away" from those who are actually swindlers by his acceptance of the continuationist position. Rather, he helps point people to them. The point that MacArthur is trying to make is that we know Piper would never consciously support that, but what Piper has got to realize is that he de facto DOES support it because of his failure to "rightly divide the word of truth" in this matter.

#48  Posted by Dennis Best Ii  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 6:54 PM

Of course Phil would warn his listeners to keep an eye on Mr. Piper; he continues to purvey something that is not biblically sound. I am concerned about what other errors Mr. Piper might drift into as well. And it is heartbreaking to see this in a man whose theological sandals I am not worthy to loose.

#49  Posted by Anthony Griffin  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 8:22 PM

#26 George

Actually I am in the same boat with you george. I was first made aware about Dr. Macarthur in bible college in 1983. I have spent 34 years in intensive study and biblical exegesis and I feel as though I am not even beginning to scratch the surface as compared to most people on this blog. I too am a simple man. In the years of study I have spent ALL of it whittling down who I listen too and who I trust. I have been burned and deceived by many. Those I trusted were wishy washy like I feel Piper is and has been. It is clear, by evidence, that Piper has straddled the fence on very important issues of theology which is precisely why I dont even listen too him anymore. He was once in my small list I whittled down. It grieves my spirit that he takes his stand on the fence on such an important subject and I have mentioned to those I know to be careful when listening to him, and for good reason.

I admire Dr. Macarthur for his stance and for telling it like it is no matter what. As for Phil Johnson, well he was right to warn others but I was not aware he said that a few years back. You see this issue Dr. Macarthur defends and guys like Piper straddle the fence on, cause so many to be confused who dont REALLY study the scriptures because they trust wishy washy men like Piper to help them understand what Piper doesnt even understand himself. It frustrates me so much to see this as I see so much biblical ignorance in the body of Christ even in my own fellowship. Just two nights ago in our churck life group a long standing member didnt even understand what the doctrine of justification was or what it meant. But you know he sure knew alot about contemplative prayer, and how to teach others how to speak in tongues and other nonsense! This is a solid evangelical church! When I teach I find many who do not even understand the basics of the Christian faith. So it is a very very serious thing for a person like Piper who many respect and trust, take a stance like he did. I applaud men like Macarthur and Phil Johnson because they take a stand and teach the truth with evidence for our continuationist brothers who want evidence.

I still hope I did not offend you. And I am sorry I sounded harsh. I read what you have to say because you make good and valid points to consider even though I might not always agree.

#50  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, March 14, 2014at 9:09 PM

David N (#46):

Four quick points:

First, I'm grateful to hear you feel John MacArthur makes a strong and persuasive case on the ending of infallible prophecy.

Second, the trouble with your assertion is you're assuming the "gift of prophecy" is something other than infallible prophecy. In these posts, MacArthur is demonstrating that is not the case. You'll need to 1) demonstrate how MacArthur's interpretation of the relevant passages is invalid, or 2) provide clear exegetical proof that the NT creates a new kind of prophecy of a different (lesser) kind.

Third, John nowhere states that all prophecy is included in Scripture, or its corollary, that no prophecy existed outside what Scripture records. In fact, in arguing that 1 Thess 5 and other related passages refer to infallible prophecy, he is assuming that much prophecy occurred which was not recorded in Scripture.

Fourth, Revelation 19:10 does not relate to the issue at hand. You're right in that the purpose of prophecy (in a general sense) is to reveal Christ. But because the prophetic Word is encapsulated in Scripture, the "gift" of prophecy itself does not need to continue. After the prophet Malachi, Israel had their Scriptures for four hundred years without a prophet. After John wrote Revelation, we've had about 1900 years without a prophet. The testimony of Jesus in the prophetic word is perpetuated in Scripture. In Revelation 11 we read that the two witnesses will prophecy (speaking infallibly) once again, but the implication is that will be an extremely unusual event, not just two more in a long line of prophets or long history of prophecy.

#51  Posted by David N  |  Saturday, March 15, 2014at 7:41 AM

#50 Gabriel

Your gratitude shouldn't be so quick in coming. Gratitude over my agreement that the church is absent the amazing gifts that God gave it is misdirected. This whole debate should cause remorse and pain in the hearts of Believers who continue in a world where people suffer and are wracked with the pain and consequence of sin. To be able to set the captives free as the Apostles and our Lord did would be amazing. And aren't we called to be imitators of Christ? And doesn't the word say that if we speak it should be as the "utterances" of God. Misapplication and misappropriation of God's will has happened throughout history and the church. Modernists always fail to see their inherently limited perspective and presume understanding of all things. Understanding of this topic is limited and all involved should approach God's word with that in mind.

And you are simply mistaken about Revelation 19:10. That verse describes the entire purpose of prophecy and God's intent here on earth, that is: the revelation of Jesus Christ!

All else is nonsense!

#54  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Saturday, March 15, 2014at 12:54 PM

#51 David

"To be able to set the captives free as the Apostles and our Lord did would be amazing"

And that amazing thing, is what Jesus once and for all has done for those who belong to Him. Romans 6

#55  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Saturday, March 15, 2014at 1:22 PM

#51 David N

Read Romans 6. That amazing thing is what Jesus did once and for all for me.

#56  Posted by David N  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014at 7:04 AM

#54 Rudi

Yes, we (believers) all know that to be true.

#57  Posted by Jerry Testa  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014at 8:19 AM

Excellently put... thank you.

#58  Posted by Rick White  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014at 10:48 AM

#51 David N,

So what specifically does the modern gift of prophecy reveal to us about Jesus Christ that is not already in scripture? And, if it isn't in scripture, what do we use to compare it to in order to determine whether it's true or accurate? Are we to just take the so called prophet's word for it? That sounds like a real slippery slope to me.

#59  Posted by Craig Furlong  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014at 11:18 AM

Do you truly believe God and His word? Well here it is:

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God

Matt 4:4

for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name

Ps 138:2

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil

Heb 5:14

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book

Rev 22:18

God is righteous and true, and makes no mistakes.

Man...not so much (fallen, sinful, depraved).

So thank you, John MacArthur, for all your faithful teaching and exposition...

And thank God the Father for giving His Holy Spirit to those who believe in / receive His Son, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

#60  Posted by David LaPointe  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014at 3:52 PM

I have been under the belief that since we have the words of the new testament that the gifts and miracles and signs and wonders were passed...I was in pentecost churches from the time I was born again...Have just come away from them for six months or so...What made me decide to walk away is that they are to far to the left as far as I can see...Looking at the beliefs that they have and everything else that they are doing, from checking it out with the word of god I had to admit that God is right and they are wrong...What really capped everything off for me was watching some of the seminar from the website...Wouldn't it make sense that now that we have God's word there is no longer any need for prophecy?

#62  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 7:38 AM

Really, does MacArthur agree or get along with anyone? If you want my opinion, the Reformed appear to be less charitable and seemed obsessed with undressing the scripture instead of applying it. We all know how smart you are, now why not put all that superior knowledge of yours to use instead of lambasting a brother? Do you really think that you all are never without error? Please. Side note: I don't expect this to make past the mod because anything less then gushy affirmations of MacArthur never do and on the off chance one slips through, the MacArthurites attack like rabid dogs...

#63  Posted by George Canady  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 8:29 AM

#47 #48 #49 Thank you guys for commenting on my thoughts as I work out my salvation. I am rereading The Justification of God (second edition) by John Piper. In his introduction, I came across his thoughts with regard to people who disagree with him in how one interprets scripture: "..... , I have tried at every crucial point to make the alternative interpretations clear by interacting with competent exegetes and theologians who see things differently than I do. I hope that I have not misrepresented anyone's view, for that would not only be discourteous, but would also weaken my own case."

Here are my main questions as I grapple to understand. Do I have this same charitable attitude as I make my case to people like John Piper for my position? Am I relying on the Holy Spirit's power, not just with the facts but approach also? It seems to me that both are necessary biblical components in the process of conviction.

I have a stake in this historic conversation also. I want to learn not just the facts. I want to learn the most effective way to present them. I have failed so many times and my heart is broken over the hurt I have caused.

#64  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 9:17 AM

Keith Stokes (#62),

It is possible to disagree without being a rabid dog? I hope so.

You might have a point if:

1. There weren't a great many people commenting on this and related blog posts in affirmation.

2. There weren't many disagreeing with MacArthur engaged in lengthy discussions on this blog.

3. There weren't thousands of people are the Strange Fire Conference, mostly in agreement.

4. John MacArthur was the only speaker at the conference.

5. There haven't been many affirmations of the cessationist position by many pastors and theologians around the world, and agreement on the extremes by charismatics.

6. Cessationism (at least conceptually) wasn't the historic position of the church, and of many denominations today.

But as it stands, I'm not sure what leads you to your conclusions, which make it sound like cessationism is something MacArthur invented.

#65  Posted by David LaPointe  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 10:31 AM

well I surly didn't mean that pentacostals are not brothers in the Lord. I just don't agree with their doctrine...I just never took a good hard look before...

Anyway, just a quick comment!

Have a great day!

#66  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 11:08 AM

#62 Keith Stokes

"the MacArthurites attack like rabid dogs..."

I suggest that you use some sound arguments for your case instead of ad hominem attacks.

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.” Jude 8

The debate is a valid and very serious issue.

2 Peter 2 and Jude, does not consider a lying false prophet, a brother. On the contrary. They belong to the devil. And their destruction will not sleep.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” Jude 17

That’s why the warnings are so serious.

#67  Posted by John Cox  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 11:22 AM

So...

The question I would ask is when did "Continuation" change from the simple statement that Spiritual Gifts continue in a true, biblical sense.... No more, no less.

I don't believe it ever did formally... I would find it very hard to believe that someone would be willing to formally indoctrinate a position that Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain was OK... that it was OK to formally Declare the Name of the Lord on something that was not...

Now... in reality - of course, they aren't going to phrase it quite like that... It's going to be hidden under deceptive phrases and subtle craftsmanship, to hide the Lie in friendly phrasings... and distract the question at hand - the repercussion of that sort of action in those sort of words.... Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain....

We cannot agree with ANY other position OTHER than God has given clear direction as to how to evaluate Prophecy AND all other "Fruits of the Spirit"..... and we should follow it... Faithful obedience.

The thing is, we have to be careful to prayerfully examine EACH time, rather than just dismissing all out of hand... There's a clear danger - as in Matt 12:24-32 of Attributing the true works of the Lord to Man or the Devil.... and there is a clear danger of that as well.

We all need to remember that while only God can judge the Heart - we ARE called to be "Fruit Inspectors"..... and we need to take this task VERY seriously.

Thanks again John for the thoughtful blog post.

#68  Posted by Link Hudson  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 11:28 AM

I do not consider anyone who proclaims scripture to be prophesying. Was Satan prophesying when he quoted from the Psalms to tempt Christ.

I do not consider all who proclaim scripture accurately to be prophets. In the New Testament, prophecy and teaching are different gifts. Wouldn't you expect a true teacher to teach scripture? Yet, Ephesians 4:11 treats prophets and pastors and teachers as two categories. I Corinthians 12 ranks prophets above teachers. If they are the same thing, why does Paul treat them as two separate categories. Romans 12 tells us that we have gifts DIFFERING according to the grace given to us, and begins his list with prophecy and teaching. So apparently, these gifts differ.

A prophet is one who speaks (or pretends to speak) or communicate under inspiration of a god or God. Even the one who wrote, "in him we live and breathe and have our being" and "all Cretans are liars" (believed to be the same man) was considered by the Greeks to have spoken by inspiration. Hebrew and Christian prophets speak under inspiration as well, words directly from God. (Though some 'navi' pretended to do so or were deceived or self-deceived , and would be called false prophets in the New Testament.)

Consider what Peter says of prophets, 'but holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Genuine prophesying has to do with communicating under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives the words to speak that are to be spoken. It is not merely a matter of explaining past revelation, but of speaking what God is revealing at the time. I Corinthians 14 says to let the prophets speak two or three and let the other judge. And if a REVELATION come to one sitting by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy....

Nor should we consider that prophesying consists of merely speaking before others, based on the meaning of the component parts of the Greek word (but not the Hebrew it is used to translate.) To understand the meaning of a word in a language, you look at USAGE. If you paint a dove black, it may be a black bird, but it isn't a blackbird. A blackbird is not just any black bird. I could go break some ice with a stick, but that doesn't mean when people are talking about icebreakers, they are talking about me. When we read about 'toenail' in English, that doesn't mean someone stepped on a nail and it got stuck in their toe. We know what words mean by their usage.

So if there is no use of the Greek words translated prophet, prophesy, and prophecy that merely refer to speaking before crowds, we should not assume the word means this. And if one goes with the interpretation of the Greek words, speaking beforehand, we also need to consider usage, and that the words may be used in the language in a context that does not refer to predicting the future.

#69  Posted by James Iii  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 2:08 PM

Having benefited greatly from both of these pastors, I find myself torn on this issue. I remember one example John Piper gave of "prophetic" was that he told his congregation something to the effect that maybe you work in that office building across the street and need to start a bible study. A woman came up to him after the service and said she works in that very building and has been praying about starting a bible study.

If this is not "prophetic" then what would you call it? Is it fair to say we have times where the Holy Spirit leads and guides our words and thoughts?

#70  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, March 17, 2014at 4:14 PM

James Iii (#69),

In the absence of any clear biblical category, I would call that a remarkable providence. I'm certain as John was preaching he had no sense that this was a special word from the Lord. He was likely trying to think of an illustration/application, and that immediately came to mind (by reason of geographical proximity). That someone in that building was praying about that is remarkable.

It's not just a coincidence, because nothing in the Universe "just happens." God can ordain words to be said, prayers to be prayed and the intersection of the two without calling it "prophecy".

#71  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Tuesday, March 18, 2014at 3:19 AM

#68 Link Hudson

Matthew 7:21-23

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’"

Performing miracles? And it was not from the Lord as claimed?

How would you discern that? The only way to do that, is to inspect the claim, to see if it is true.

That is what we are told to do.

And if it is false, then you have a brother that needs rebuke, repentance and restoration or in the chain of Church discipline, to be expelled from fellowship and treated as an unbeliever.

In the end, you have to chose between true or false.

#72  Posted by Link Hudson  |  Thursday, March 20, 2014at 5:16 AM

In response to JMs article, the part about whether we should seek spiritual gifts or pray for them.

If there were a Christian who prayed for years about a small unreached area of Africa, interceeding for the salvation of the unreached people group, and desiring to go there as a missionary, what would you tell him? Would you say it is wrong for him to pray to be a missionary to that part of Africa, that if it were God's sovereign will, He would make it happen, and therefore he should not pray to be a missionary?

How is that different from telling someone who has a great desire to win souls not to pray to be gifted as an evangelist? How is that different from telling someone with a great desire to minister in healing not to pray to be used in the gift of healing?

The Bible says to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you desires of your heart. Whether that means He puts the desires in you, or He gives you the types of things you'll desire if you delight in Him, doesn't it make sense that God can grant us spiritual gifts we desire and pray for?

Doesn't it make sense that many disciples pray to be used in gifts and ministries because it's what God made them to do, and their desires are lining up with future ministry God has for them? Praying for spiritual gifts is not in opposition to the teaching the the Spirit gives gifts as He wills.

Hebrews 2 shows us that God granted signs, wonders, and miracles according to His own will. Yet Acts 4 shows the apostles praying for healing, signs, and wonders. Were the apostels sinning?

Jesus told His disciples when they prayed, to pray for what they desired. Paul says to desire spiritual gifts, especially that they may prophesy. If we are to pray our desires and we are to desire to prophesy, it makes sense to pray to operate in the gift.

I

t makes little sense to say he's rebuking them for desiring prophecy in light of Paul's long exhortation about the benefits of prophecy, especially compared to uninterpreted tongues, that follows.

And quite clearly, I Corinthians 14:13 instructs the one who speaks in a tongues to pray that he might interpret. This is very much in line with the idea that Paul is instructing the Corinthians to desire spiritual gifts.

#73  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Thursday, March 20, 2014at 7:54 AM

#72 Link Hudson

If you would care for your own eternal destiny first, please backup a step, and take a very deep look at what our Lord is saying:

"I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

If you would honestly deal with this question?

First of all, are you able to point out one single miracle, in the true sense of the word, since apostolic era?

If there are none, then why send evildoers, who don't know Jesus to Africa to do false miracles?

They have the Gospel already, why give them another?

#74  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Thursday, March 20, 2014at 10:27 AM

#72 Link Hudson

"So love is indispensable in the use of the gifts. In fact, the gifts without love are useless. The Corinthians actually prized the showy gifts. Go back to verse 31, and I want to remind you of that, 12:31. It says in the NAS, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts.” That sounds like an imperative. Actually in the Greek language, the form of the verb in the indicative is the same as it is in the imperative, which means you have to let the context determine for you whether it’s a command or a statement of fact. I think this is a statement of fact and it should read this way, “But you are earnestly desiring the showy gifts. You are earnestly desiring the showy gifts.” They had perverted them and counterfeited them to such a degree that people could actually stand up purportedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit, according to chapter 12 verse 3, and curse Christ. It would be under demonic influence if they did that. They could be that false where they were actually energized by Satan. “You are earnestly desiring the showy gifts...then verse 31 says...but I show you a still more excellent way, a far more excellent way and that is the way of love. Instead of parading proudly your display of supposed Spirit gifts, you should be characterized by love.”"

source: "http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-405/" about 1 Corinthians 13:8-13