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Paul's Warning To Avoid False Prophets

John Collins08/13/2012

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives instructions for the way of a true prophet after Christ's death and resurrection.  These instructions were quite different from the Old Testament prophets who gave oracles of warning before judgement, for the Atonement had been fulfilled.

Paul's first instruction was simple:  Pursue Love.  

Prophets according to Paul are not pronouncing judgement, they are God's instruments for edifying the Body of Christ.  Prophecy, according to Paul, was to be an edification rather than warning of impending destruction.

Paul said that we should earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.  He said that the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue was a good spiritual gift, but that gift was speaking to God and not man, for no man can understand it.  He utters mysteries in the Spirit.

On the other hand, Paul said that prophecy was not speaking mysteries.  New Testament prophecy was building up the church.  This gift of prophecy was for all, and Paul wished that they all could increase in faith until they could prophecy.  The gift was for every believer, not just one lone oracle as in the days of the Old Testament.

Paul said that speaking in unknown tongues was a sign given to those who did not believe in Christ.  Pagan worlds would receive blessing from the gift of tongues, because it was a clearly supernatural sign.  

Prophecy, however, was a gift for the Body of Christ.  Those who believed in Jesus Christ would be edified by prophecy.  Paul said that if an unbeliever came into the church, and is convicted, he would fall on his face to worship God and declare that God was among the people when the prophecy was given.

New Testament prophecy was not without regulation.  Jesus had warned of the false prophets that would come, and Paul gave a solemn warning to all.

When one prophesies alone, he is not prophesying according to God's plan.  Just as those who spoke in tongues must have two or three involved, prophecy could not be alone. 

Paul said that prophecy should be given by two or three prophets.  While one spoke his prophecy, the others were to remain silent.  When the first was finished, the second spoke his prophecy, and on unto the third.  Paul said that they should prophesy one by one, so that all could learn and be encouraged by the spiritual gift from God.  

The prophets were also to confirm the prophecy of one another.  The spirits of the prophets were subject to the prophets, meaning that if one spoke a prophecy that was not from God, the others could immediately discern the evil spirit that had come among them.  Paul said, "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace."

Finally, Paul gave instructions for the entire congregation.  If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, he must adhere to these rules, and if he did not adhere to these rules, he was not to be recognized.  Paul said that these things should be done orderly according to these rules.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves:  Do we seek after God's gift of prophecy?  As a spiritual gift, it is given to all in order to edify the Body of Christ.  Do we seek after edification?

Do we adhere to these rules given for the prophets?  Do we listen to great evangelists who claim to prophesy as the teach, when prophecy was to be done within their own church?  Do we listen to them when they prophecy without two other prophets to confirm that the prophecy came from God?  By not doing so, could we fall into the trap Jesus warned about a false prophet?