Many Christians are “intrigued” when they hear the word “prophesying“, especially since this word, which is used quite a lot in the Bible in a good way, has been spoiled during time. What does it mean to prophesy? You can say that there’s an Old Testament sense of prophesying and a New Testament significance of this word. In the Old Testament there are many books of the prophets, where people spoke from God and many times “predicted / fortold” the future to the people. But if you study these books of the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, etc, you will notice that not ALL that they said was with the sense of foretelling the future events – most of what they said was just conveying God’s message and God’s heart to His people! So in the Old Testament sense, to prophesy is to speak for God, even to speak God’s heart forth, and many times it included foretelling future events or things. When we come to the New Testament we see clearly that prophesying is not mainly foretelling but rather speaking for God, speaking God forth, and ministering God and Christ into people. Here’s what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:3-5:
3. But he who prophesies speaks building up and encouragement and consolation to men.
4. He who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but he who prophesies builds up the church.
5. I desire that you all speak in tongues, but especially that you would aprophesy; and greater is he who prophesies than he who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, that the church may receive building up.
Here we see clearly that to prophesy means not to predict the future but to speak something of Christ into people for the building up of the church. To prophesy in the sense of 1 Corinthians 14 is to speak for God and Christ and to speak forth God and Christ, which is to minister and dispense God and Christ into people. There’s a difference between ministering and dispensing – you can minister something but “nothing gets into people”, but when you dispense food as a cherishing mother does with her child, the food is being imparted into the people! We want to be those who not just minister Christ but also dispense Christ into others for the building up of the church! We need to learn to do this – learn to speak forth God and Christ to dispense God and Christ into others! On God’s side there’s His Economy(oikonomia); on our side there’s the stewardship – according to Eph. 3:2 we have been entrusted with the stewardship of grace, to minister and dispense Christ into people! Paul was such a good pattern in this – in all his epistles he ministered and dispensed Christ! The Lord’s ministry in life today is the same – we as ministers and servants of the Lord need to be filled with Christ and with the Word of God so that what we speak would be for building up!
And one more thing, in 1 Cor. 14:24 Paul also says,
But if all prophesy and some unbeliever or unlearned person enters, he is convicted by all, he is examined by all;
The normal result of our prophesying in the meetings of the church is that when the unbeliever enter, though previously he thought he is clear and right with God, now he sees he need to have peace with God and he’s convicted, examined, and made clear! Our speaking Christ in the meetings of the church brings in the Lord’s presence among us and builds us up(in the Body of Christ, in the church life), encourages us(in our work), and consoles us(in our daily life)! We all have experienced this to some degree – you come to the meeting and when all the saints speak from their enjoyment of Christ, God is ministered and dispensed into you – and your situation is made clear! You are being examined and exposed, and you repent before the Lord and have peace with God! Other times, you may be consoled in your soul regarding a specific situation, or you’re encouraged to go on with the Lord and in the area the Lord has burdened you to do for Him. What a wonderful and excellent way to build up the Body of Christ – our prophesying! [enjoyment from the book, The Practice of Prophesying, by brother W. Lee]
Lord, we want to take this most excellent way to build up the church! Save us from taking any other way, Lord, than the way ordained by You – speaking for God and speaking God forth! Fill us, Lord, every day! Fill us with the Word and with Your life! We want to speak for You and with You for the saints to enjoy You and receive You! Make us ministers of Christ and dispensers of Christ into people! We are here for the building up of the church!