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by Irene McGough

Copyright ©2009 Irene McGough Disciples of Jesus Ministry

Prophecy is despised by many in today’s church. It has been surrounded by
misunderstanding, confusion, and fear. Yet in the Scriptures, prophecy is the most
important spiritual gift. Paul considers it vital to the building up of the church. Just what
is the role of prophecy for the church today?

Prophecy has been despised before. Moses, finally convinced that God wanted to
delegate his governing authority to a larger number, called seventy elders to a meeting at
the tabernacle. Two failed to show up. The Spirit of God fell on the sixty-eight who
attended. But the Spirit also came upon the two who remained in the camp and they
began to prophesy as well. The people wanted them to stop, uncomfortable at the direct
voice of God and jealous for Moses' uniqueness as God's prophet. They reported the
incident to Moses and demanded that he stop them. One can almost see Moses
amusement at this, and then giving thanks for the Spirit's presence in his life.

Num 11:29 But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's
people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"

Moses' dream began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit fell on the
infant church and prompted them to speak out in tongues the "the mighty wonder of
God." Peter, under the inspiration of the Spirit, spoke out quoting from Joel.

Act 2:16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Act 2:17 " 'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Act 2:18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.

Paul classifies tongues as a variety of the prophetic gift. The New Testament makes it
clear that the Spirit is a universal gift to the church, and that prophecy is the characteristic
gift of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul indicated that the gift of prophecy was for every
believer: "For you can all prophesy one by one..." (1 Corinthians 14:31; see also verses 5,

If we take Paul's letter to the Corinthians seriously, we need to come to the conclusion
that the gift of prophecy is indispensable to the church. When we try to build churches
without this gift being active, it is like trying to walk a thousand miles on crutches. The
church is crippled and struggling.

1Co 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to
help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of

1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
1Co 12:30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret?
1Co 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.

1Co 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of

1Co 14:39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in

Paul warned the church

1Th 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire;

1Th 5:20 do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1Th 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1Th 5:22 Avoid every kind of evil.

As God led me to study the gift of prophecy, I was convicted by the Apostle's command,
"Earnestly desire to prophesy"

ze loo
From G2205; to have warmth of feeling for or against: - affect, covet (earnestly), (have)
desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous (-ly affect).

Though we may wonder what is its purpose?

It is primary for building up the church, to build up the brethren.

Since love for the brethren is to be the motive for desiring the spiritual gifts (1
Corinthians 13)

The ways in which prophecy builds up the body are spelled out in detail in 1 Corinthians

1Co 14:3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening,
encouragement and comfort.
1Co 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the

Exhortation and assurance are two common purposes of prophecy. Paul contrasts tongues
(a Godward speaking) with prophecy (a manward message).
V3 - Strengthening, Edification
. G3619
οι κοδοµή
Feminine (abstraction) of a compound of G3624 and the base of G1430; architecture,
that is, (concretely) a structure; figuratively confirmation: - building, edify (-ication, -

V3 - Encouragement, Exhortation

parakle sis
From G3870; imploration, hortation, solace: - comfort, consolation, exhortation, intreaty.

Exhortation to obedience and service as well as encouragement and comfort from the
Spirit to those experiencing pain and trouble are one aspect of the Spirit's building up of
the church through prophecy.

1Co 14:19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others
than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Prophecy quite often deals with the future, while the word of knowledge is often a
present revelation of facts. Otherwise there is an interlinking and they are often
intertwined in use. Revelation or words of knowledge is the particular characteristic of
prophecy which sets it off from preaching and teaching. Indeed, one of the primary ways
the Spirit builds up the church is by means of prophecy's revelation.

1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
1Co 12:8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word
of knowledge through the same Spirit, 1Co 12:9 to another
faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
1Co 12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning
of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
1Co 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one
individually as He wills.

The word of knowledge or a prophetic word is supernatural revelation, by the Holy Spirit,
of certain facts in the mind of God. It is the God-given ability to receive from God, by
revelation, facts that is in the norm humanly impossible for us to know anything about.

A word is just part of a sentence so a "word" of knowledge is just a small fragment of

God's knowledge. He gives us as believers a “piece” of His knowledge regarding a
particular circumstance or situation.

God has all knowledge. He knows everything, but He does not reveal everything to us.
Revelation here is Him speaking to His people at the right time. If the Lord wants us to
know something, He will reveal it to us. We don't need to know everything.
Many of us have been given revelation that has been stored up in the memory banks of
our minds, but we never share it or use it to bring Him glory. When the Lord brings
revelation to us, we must ask Him what He wants us to do with it. Should we speak it
forth, or should we hold it in our hearts?
It’s not always wise to blurt out everything we know, the Lord may tell us not to do so.
We must be wise and use wisdom in all that we do and say.

We must also learn to walk in the knowledge that has already been given to us.
Knowledge will not benefit the kingdom of God unless we have wisdom to use the
knowledge according to His leading and direction.

1 Cor. 13:9 – For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

The Word of Knowledge and the Word of Wisdom often work together.

The Word of Knowledge brings revelation regarding the past and present.

Some purposes of the Word of Knowledge:

1. To lead souls to Christ.

In John 4:5-18, Jesus said, “Go call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered
and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no
husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your
husband; in that you spoke truly.”

Jesus used a word of knowledge when he spoke to the woman at the well. He spoke to
her about her present and past condition. The word of knowledge led her to believe on

2. To reveal sickness or to be used in healing ministry.

3. To build up faith in someone for healing or whatever ministry they have come forward
to receive.

4. To restore the believer back to fellowship with God.

5. To provide encouragement.

6. To reveal demon possession or oppression.

The Word of Knowledge can come in a dream or vision or interpretation.

Daniel 2 - Nebuchadnezzer had a dream. He didn’t know the meaning of the dream.
Daniel was called in to see if he had understanding of the dream. Daniel prayed to the
Lord and the interpretation of the dream was given to him.

Acts 10:9-20 Peter received a vision from God. The Lord spoke to him and said, "three
men are looking for you." Peter was not aware that anyone was at the door of his home.
The Lord spoke this information to him by a word of knowledge.

The Word of Knowledge can be used to find lost property.

1 Sam. 9:19,20 - Samuel told Saul that the donkeys that were lost had been found.

1 Sam. 10:21,22 - The Lord told the people where Saul was hiding.

Jesus Himself operated in the gift of the Word of Knowledge:

Luk 19:30 saying, "Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a
colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here.
Luk 19:31 And if anyone asks you, "Why are you loosing it?' thus you shall say to him,
"Because the Lord has need of it."'

Ananias receives a word of knowledge from the Lord.

Act 9:10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the
Lord said in a vision, "Ananias."
And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
Act 9:11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire
at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.
Act 9:12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his
hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."
Act 9:13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how
much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.

Act 9:14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your
Act 9:15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My
name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
Act 9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

There were supernatural manifestations in the Old Testament as well as in the New

2Ki 6:9 And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, "Beware that you do not
pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there."
2Ki 6:10 Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had
told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice.
2Ki 6:11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and
he called his servants and said to them, "Will you not show me which of us is for the king
of Israel?"
2Ki 6:12 And one of his servants said, "None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet
who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom."
The word of knowledge was given to warn a king of the enemy's plan of destruction. The
King of Syria was making war against Israel. The Lord spoke to His prophet Elisha and
revealed the enemies plans.

1Ki 19:18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed
to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him

The word of knowledge came to enlighten and encourage a discouraged servant. Queen
Jezebel was out to kill all the prophets of God including the prophet Elijah. She told
Elijah that she would have his head also. Elijah sat under a juniper tree and begged God
to let him die. He thought he was the only prophet left, but the Lord told him otherwise.
The Lord told Elijah, God told Elijah, "You aren't the only one left. I have 7,000 who
have not bowed their knee to Baal."

Word of Knowledge can reveal sin or corruption in the church:

Act 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
Act 5:2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and
brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Act 5:3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit
and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
Act 5:4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your
own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men
but to God."
Act 5:5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear
came upon all those who heard these things.

God revealed to Peter that Ananias and Saphira had lied.

We need to hearers of word from the Lord. We should ask the Lord to activate gifts of the
Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can bless others in the body of Christ. With His
knowledge, we can set the captives free. The word of knowledge should be speaking
words in due season that will bring life to those who hear it.

Joh 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Prophecy appears to be given through a specific individual, to a specific individual or

group of individuals, at a specific place, and within a specific time frame. Within that
context it may be said to have a specific message with specific value.

When we look at the prophets mentioned in the early church underlines this conclusion.
Agabus' two recorded prophecies were specific predictions, revelations.

Act 11:27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Act 11:28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a
severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the
reign of Claudius.)
Act 11:29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the
brothers living in Judea.
Act 11:30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Act 21:10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came
down from Judea.
Act 21:11 Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and
said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of
this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' "

In the Antioch church the Spirit spoke through a prophet to confirm Paul and Barnabas in
their missionary calling.

Act 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon
called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the
tetrarch) and Saul.
Act 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set
apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Act 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent
them off.

Grudem observes, "Prophecy, then, is superior to the other gifts because the revelation on
which it depends allows it to be suited to the specific needs of the moment, needs which
may only be known to God."

Scripture says

Pro 25:11 A word aptly spoken

is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Paul exhorts the Ephesians

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is
helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who

A specific revelation can be particularly powerful in bringing conviction of sin and of

God's presence to unbelievers or backsliders who are present in a church gathering.

1Co 14:22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy,
however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
1Co 14:23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and
some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you
are out of your mind?
1Co 14:24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while
everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be
judged by all,
1Co 14:25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship
God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

For the outsider, prophecy can be a powerful sign of God's presence among His people.

Problems within individuals in the body or with the body itself may also be highlighted
by the gift of prophecy.

James Dunn observes, "Prophecy prevents a man pretending to be other than he is--
prevents the believer hiding behind a mask of pretended righteousness, of apparent
spirituality. At any time the prophetic word may expose him for what he is."

So prophecy builds up the church by converting the unbeliever and purifying us, the

We cannot ignore the gift of prophecy. Nor can we allow its capacity for misuse and
misunderstanding prevent us from embracing it. Instead, we must diligently seek to curb
its abuses by the guidelines of Scripture and "test all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Bibliography where quotations are taken from.

James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975)

Strongs Dictionary

Wayne Arden Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12-14, unpublished Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1978 (now published as The Gift of Prophecy in 1
Corinthians [Washington, D.C: University Press of America, 1982, with different

Copyright ©2009 Irene McGough Disciples of Jesus Ministry