We had a good discussion yesterday at Training Wednesday on contemporary prophecy which was followed, interestingly, by a session from Stuart Houghton on two 19th century quasi-prophetic movements: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. One of the themes that came out was the use of ‘prophecy’ as an instrument of fear, power and authority. But when we looked at the New Testament we found that prophecy, though highly valued for its ability to edify and encourage, was not particularly about authority or position (1 Cor. 11:2-16; 14:3).
A wise old professor when I was at college, Max Turner, used to remind us that Paul’s theology of the Spirit is marked as much by the Cross as the Resurrection, as much by inability as by ability, as much by lack as by fullness, as much by the Not Yet as by the Already.
Although he personally would sometimes pray in tongues in private, Prof Max would disagree with the neo-Pentecostal emphasis on tongues as a powerful form of speech. He saw it more as childlike babbling, groaning, an inability to properly express ourselves. Similarly prophecy, to the extent that it may genuinely continue in this age, is not a power to exert or evidence of spiritual maturity but rather an expression of our childishness and mark of our not yet having arrived.
“As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a chid, I spoke like a chid, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:8-12)
Come Lord Jesus.
And until then, let’s heed Peter’s words to pay more attention to the one sure light in the darkness that can get us safely home – the Spirit-breathed Scriptures.