Thursday, November 10, 2005

Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts - Prophecy and King Saul

The topic of Spiritual gifts has been hotly debated by serious an in-depth thinkers for many decades now. Therefore, to give a proper treatment to the subject and to develop a proper and balanced view would take a book. I would like to simply offer a few posts to, as is my normal method, supply balance.

If you would like to do further study on the subject Rob Wilkerson at Miscellanies on the Gospel has the post of the week on the subject. Rob has complied a massive list of links to other reformed and continualist writers. Adrian and John agree Rob has done quite a service to the discussion at his blog.

Saul and Prophecy in the Body of Christ
In 1 Samuel 10:5-11, the story picks up with Samuel speaking to Saul:
5"... you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying.
6"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.
7"It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you.
8"And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do."
9Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.
10 When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.
11It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"

The first thing to notice is the construction of the phrase "the Spirit will come upon you mightily and you will prophesy". This construction is similar if not exactly the same as in Acts 2. Peter says quoting Joel 2, "the Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh....(and Peter adds) and they shall prophesy". The experience that the 120 in the upper room had is the same as Saul and at his anointing for his ministry. The changing that took place was not with respect to holiness and sanctification (as the Wesley thought) but with respect to boldness and courage. This courage seems to be the exact transformation that happened to the apostles and Peter on Pentecost.

What type of Prophecy is this?
Now here is a great lesson from this passage. First, Saul's prophecies are not canonical utterances. I doubt that Saul was foretelling anything in this instance of prophecy. Instead it is far more natural to read that Saul was "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" (Acts 2:11). Furthermore, this prophesying did not make Saul a prophet. Saul's fearlessness was very temporary and his love of God was indeed temporary. When the New Testament is speaking of prophesying in the body by the people, the New Testament is referring to this experience of the Spirit falling mightily on an individual or a group and the people speaking boldly the mighty deeds of God. This wider definition of the nature of prophecy answers the cessationist dilemma regarding all prophecy being canonical and infallible. The cessationist narrow definition of prophecy simply is not supported by scripture regardless of how logical such a position seems. This opens the discussion to how a person grows in a gifting and how we need to disciple in people in spiritual gifts. This will be the topic of my post tomorrow.

New Testament and Old Testament Prophecy Actually the Same
The above discussion regarding the “type” of prophecy this is can actually leads to confusion. Saul prophesied when the Spirit came upon him and it was likely extremely rare in his life. But, if Saul's calling was as a prophet, like David, this experience and skill would have matured. The difference between the prophecy of Isaiah and Saul is not one of being categorically different but is absolutely different in terms of value, weight, and maturity of the gifting.

The example of David on the other hand shows that the spiritual maturity and calling of the individual relates to the maturity and value of the gift.

The Bible and New Testament Prophecy
If maturity of gifts could lead to a more valuable and increasingly edifying ministry of prophecy, then could a prophet like Isaiah be revealed in the current dispensation of the church age? The answer to this is "NO!!!". Why? Because Isaiah was prophesying a new dispensation and Hebrews clearly declares that Christ has ushered in the final word. For this reason, this age we are in is called "the last days". I have dealt with this topic thoroughly in my critic of the Kansas City prophetic movement which I believe is heretical from a doctrinal perspective.

Continualist not Charismatic
I personal am not a charismatic but a continualist. I do not believe the current practices and doctrine of the Pentecostalism or charismatics is helpful. I have seen incredibly harmful practices and doctrinal positions in these groups. For further details on this subject please see my critic of the "KC Prophets".

God Bless,

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