Miraculous Spiritual Gift Of Prophecy


Spoken gifts

Gifts which had to do with the spoken word.

a. Preaching and Teaching, Prophecy, ‘pro fetes’, to speak forth.

b. The ability to distinguish between spirits. Possibly relating to exorcism.

c. The ability to speak other languages. Languages which had not been learned. Acts 2:1-11.

d. The ability to interpret the languages used. 1 Corinthians 12:10.

I think we also saw that, at that time and in those circumstances, these were not merely extravagant demonstrations of miraculous power, but gifts which were eminently practical, the purpose being to edify, and build up the entire church. 1 Corinthians 14:12.

Since that was the Spirit’s purpose in bestowing the gifts, it wasn’t necessary that every member of the church should possess them, nor were members regarded as second-class Christians if they didn’t possess gifts. The closing verses of 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 proves this, ‘Do all speak with tongues? Do all possess the gift of healing? Do all interpret?’

The implied answer to these questions is no!

a. Prophecy

‘Prophecy’, ‘propheteia’ is the gift of interpreting the will of the gods, in the New Testament, the gift of expounding Scripture, of speaking and preaching. A ‘propheteuo’ is one who speaks and preaches under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Later Paul will reveal the importance of prophecy over tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:5.

Gifts of prophecy, including the ability to foretell future events, were the endowment of certain Christians in the apostolic age and there would appear to have been two orders of these, the higher including those mentioned under 1 Corinthians 12:8, and others whose ability concerned the prediction of events such as those prophesied by Agabus Acts 11:28 / Acts 21:11.

But not always ‘prediction,’ but elevated and inspired discourse, the power of preaching to edification. 1 Corinthians 14:12.

What does l Thessalonians 5:19-22 mean, when it says, ‘Do not despise prophesying’? ‘Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

When one encounters a problem passage, it is important to consider the context. In practice, this means looking at the verses which go before, and those, which follow. That is always sound advice, and it is advice worth following as we consider the question before us. The previous verse, verse 19 says, ‘do not quench the Spirit.’

Now, the Spirit is referred to be unquestionably the Holy Spirit. Notice that in this verse the present imperative tense is used, which means that we have here a statement which relates to something which the believers in Thessalonica had evidently been doing and were continuing to do up to that moment.

An ‘imperative’ is a command or an instruction, so the sense of this verse is literally, ‘Do not continue to quench the Spirit’. This tells us that the Thessalonians were giving offence to the Holy Spirit. They were disregarding and perhaps even repressing, a particular manifestation of the Spirit.

We see from the next verse that the specific gift involved was the gift of prophecy because the word which is translated ‘prophesying’s’, ‘propheteia’, occurs on only two other occasions, 1 Corinthians 14:6 / 1 Corinthians 14:22, where Paul discusses the exercise of spiritual gifts.

The church at Thessalonica, therefore, is told, in effect, ‘Do not continue what you have been doing, quenching, or suppressing, this manifestation of the Spirit’.

Certainly, at the very least, they were discouraging the exercise of the prophetic gift.

The apostolic command in verse 19 is followed by the verse, at which we are now looking, verse 20, ‘And do not despise prophesying’. Here, again, this is a present imperative, and it means, ‘Do not continue to despise prophesying’.

You will notice that there is a significant difference between the Authorized Version and many modem versions in the way in which verses 19-20 are rendered.

In the A.V., we find two short sentences, ‘Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying’s.’ But in modern versions, the Revised Standard Version, for example, the two verses are separated only by a comma, so that they read as one sentence, ‘Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying.’

The implication is that, to despise ‘prophesying’ was to quench the Spirit. Clearly, then, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, regarded the exercise of that particular gift, the gift of prophecy, as of very real importance to the spiritual growth and wellbeing of the infant church in Thessalonica.

Now, this letter was written during the second missionary journey, and is, therefore reliably regarded as one of the earliest of the apostolic letters, it was written from Corinth, where Paul arrived about 50 AD, after leaving Thessalonica, and where he stayed for 18 months. Acts 18:11. We arrive at this date because we know that the proconsul Gallio, which is mentioned in the next verse, verse 12, took up his position in Corinth about that time.

The letter was probably written about 51 or 52 AD. It is even likely, although not stated, that it was Paul himself who imparted spiritual gifts to the Thessalonian church as he had at Corinth during the year and a half he remained in that city.

On the matter of spiritual gifts in the infant church, we learn that Paul informed the Ephesian believers that prophets were among the Lord’s gifts to the church. Ephesians 4:11.

Earlier in the same letter, he had stated that apostles and prophets had laid the foundation on which the church is built, that foundation being Christ Himself, Ephesians 2:20. He followed this, in Ephesians 3:5, with the assertion that the Spirit used apostles and prophets as instruments for the revelation of truth.

Although we don’t believe that there are such inspired men alive today, it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to understand that in those days, apostles and prophets fulfilled an essential role in the revelation of the truth and the establishment of the church.

Bear in mind that the New Testament had not then been compiled. Indeed, as I have already implied, many of the books, which comprise our present New Testament, had not even been written. Therefore, instead of being able to study written instruction and teaching, we find that prophecy, ‘oral,’ that is spoken instruction, was the means by which the early Christians were taught.

Bear in mind, also, that the word ‘prophesying’ doesn’t mean that a new revelation was presented every time the prophet opened his mouth!

The word ‘profetes’ means ‘to speak forth’, and covers preaching and teaching generally. And, if you examine the Old Testament books, you will find that many of the writers never fore-told future events, but simply delivered a message on God’s behalf.

In fact, in the Old Testament, ‘a prophet’.

1. Delivered a message from God.

2. Interpreted current events, he explained what was happening at that moment. And very often, the explanation the prophet gave, was very different from what the people thought!

3. And sometimes was able to tell the people what God was going to do.

In the New Testament, the exercise of the gift of prophecy simply meant that men were led by the Holy Spirit to speak in order that the church might be strengthened and built up.

Now it is clear from 1 Thessalonians 5:20, that some of the Thessalonian Christians had been inclined to undervalue this particular gift because the word ‘despise’ means ‘set at nought’. So Paul is urging them, not to ‘set at nought’ these Spirit-led teachers, or the messages they delivered.

However, he also issues this warning, ‘Test everything’. In other words, ‘Be on your guard, and hold fast what is good’, 1 Thessalonians 5:21

I stress again, that this instruction, to pay attention to the prophets, was valid as long as the spiritual gifts, which included apostles and prophets, remained. But when they were removed, the specific sense of these words ceased to apply.

Yet there is a sense in which they contain a message for us today. ‘Prophesying’ means ‘speaking forth’. And prophecy, in the general sense of the word, is that which is preached. It is preaching and teaching. There is no one today who possesses ‘the gift of prophecy’, about which Paul writes. Be on your guard, and do not trust those who claim to predict future events.

Remember that almost 2000 years ago, Paul said that prophecies would fail, the word means ‘cease’. The gift of tongues, which was the ability of people to speak in languages they had not learned, would cease, and the gift of miraculous knowledge would end. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.

We have no inspired, Spirit-led messengers, no apostles and prophets such as those who served the infant church. But we do have those who preach and teach that which the Holy Spirit has preserved for us and presented to us in the Word.

We have inherited the rich blessing of ‘all things that pertain to life and godliness’, in the New Testament Scriptures. We have the recorded words of ‘holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit.’ 2 Peter 1:3 / 2 Peter 1:21.

It is as imperative today as it ever was, that we who love the Lord should not undervalue, despise the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

We should never forget that the Lord Himself told His apostles.

‘He who listens to you, listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me’. Luke 10:16

I wonder how anyone can claim to accept the authority of Christ, whilst rejecting the writings of the apostles whom He authorized to speak on His behalf.

And so as a quick recap, we need to remember to keep this in the context of its date, when the writer is writing they were still in the age of miraculous revelations from God. We know miracles, wonders and signs had a purpose and were to confirm the preached Word, Mark 16:20 / Hebrews 2:4.

We also know what these miracles, signs and wonders were given for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and finally, we also know when the miraculous would cease, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 / Ephesians 4:7-16.

It was the Holy Spirit who was the one who empowered those who prophesied for the purpose of giving God’s revelation to men and so to despise prophecies, would be to quench the work of the Holy Spirit, and so remove one’s self from the life-giving revelation of God. Ephesians 4:30.

Today, if we turn our back on the result of the Spirit’s work, ‘the word of God’, we can, in a sense, quench the Spirit. God’s Word was made known through His Holy Spirit, John 16:13, in Old Testament times, God did this through prophets, 1 Peter 1:10-11 / 2 Peter 1:20+21 and in New Testament times, God did this through the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ. John 16:13 / John 14:26.

Throughout history, mankind has always had problems accepting God’s Word, even God’s own people Israel struggled with this, Hosea 4:1. Romans 1:18-23 reminds us that even the Gentiles had problems accepting God’s Word.

And so what the writer is telling the Thessalonian church is, don’t refuse to listen and obey what the Holy Spirit was making known to them through revelations at that time. He’s reminding them not to despise prophecies, in other words, don’t belittle the prophecies which were being made through the prophets, and don’t refuse to accept what God was revealing through them.

But and this is important, they cannot simply just accept any ‘new’ revelation, they have to test them, and the reason they had to test them was because they had to recognise that not every claim to be from God was true.

John reminds us in 1 John 4:1 that were are ‘not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits.’


Because ‘many false prophets have come into the world’. And so today especially within the charismatic churches, we need to test what people say when they claim they have a ‘new’ revelation from God, or that God is still performing miraculous, signs and wonders through them.

Today we need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, they received the word with great readiness but they also searched the Scriptures daily to find out for themselves as to whether what Paul was teaching was true or not.

We should accept everything which is in harmony with the Scriptures and its teaching, and reject everything which is not. 1 John 4:6 / Acts 2:42. We are to hold on to everything that is good and reject everything which is evil. Amos 5:15 / Psalm 97:10 / Romans 12:9.

The word ‘reject’ is sometimes rendered ‘abstain’, the Greek word for ‘abstain’ is the word, ‘apechomai’ and it literally means to run in the opposite direction.

Are we actively running away from evil or running towards it?