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Did the gift of prophecy vanish away since the word of God was inscripturated?

 

Billy Graham insists the gift of prophecy no longer exists.

In  apostle times the gift of prophecy had two parts. One concerned the communication of words of God to men through the prophet. This was a supernatural gift. According to 1 Corinthians 14:3, the second part of the prophetic office was the edification, instruction, consolation, and exhortation of the believers in local congregations. The prophet, who was usually an itinerant, took precedence over local minister. But as time went on the gift of prophecy was exercised by local ministers who preached the Word of God for the edification of their parish members. (Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, p.176-7.)

     Billy Graham’s claims are mixed with right and unbiblical elements.

1 Cor. 14:3-4   But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (NKJ)

     The prophet who receives the gift of prophecy of the Spirit speaks to men for their strengthening, edification, exhortation, encouragement, and comfort. So every one who prophesies edifies the church through the gift of prophecy. Thus, it is affirmed that Billy Graham’s note, “In apostolic times the gift of prophecy had two parts,” is quite erroneous.
 
2 Pet. 1:20-21  knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (NKJ)

     The phrase “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, or holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” implies that the prophet who received the gift of prophecy given by God the Spirit spoke from God the Spirit to men. The phrase “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man” implies that prophecy has its origin in the will of God. In the text, it can be found that all Scripture was written by holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Tim. 3:16-17  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJ)

     The phrase “All Scripture was written by holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit” means the same as “All Scripture was given by inspiration of God.” All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 1 Cor. 14:3-4 teaches that the one who receives the gift of prophecy speaks to men for their strengthening, edification, exhortation, encouragement, and comfort. Everyone who prophesies by the power of the Holy Spirit edifies the church through that gift. The written prophecy of Scripture and all the Word of God preached by ministers are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness, strengthening, edification, exhortation, encouragement, and comfort. Here, it could be said that the role of the prophet seems to be the same as that of minister. Thus, Graham insists, “the prophet, who was usually an itinerant, took precedence over local minister. But as time went on the gift of prophecy was exercised by local ministers who preached the word of God for the edification of their parish members.” This is thoroughly unbiblical since it is from a misinterpretation. The preacher proclaims the word of God just as the prophet does. So it could be said that the role of the prophet seems to be the same as that of the minister.
     The prophet speaks directly from God to men through the gift of prophecy of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the minister preaches the written word of God written by the prophet who received the gift of prophecy of the Holy Spirit to men. Thus, the minister can be called only a delivery person, messenger, translator and interpreter of the written word of God and the written prophecy of the Scripture written by the prophet. So the minister can by no means be called the prophet who speaks directly from God. The minister preaches only the written word of God for the edification of men and church. But the prophet speaks directly from God for the edification of men. The prophet speaks directly from God to men. Instead, the minister preaches only from the Scripture written by the prophet. A minister who received the gift of prophecy can be called a prophet. The comment, “as time went on the gift of prophecy was exercised by local ministers who preached the word of God for  the  edification of men,” is quite unscriptural. Billy Graham continues:

The gift of prophecy in the first sense, that of foretelling or predictive prophecy, no longer exists to the extent it did in first century Christianity. God no longer directly reveals “new truth”; there is now a back cover to the Bible. The canon of Scripture is closed. (Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, p.177.)

     This note is a mixture of right and erroneous elements. The note, “God no longer directly reveals ‘new truth’; there is now a back cover to the Bible. The canon of Scripture is closed,” is obviously biblical. But the note, “the gift of prophecy in the first sense, that of foretelling or predictive prophecy, no longer exists to the extent it did in first century Christianity,” is thoroughly inaccurate. Here, Billy Graham’s argument is erroneous because his definition of the gift of the pro- phecy refers only to the writing of the Scripture.
     In Christian theological society there is agreement on the definition Graham gives. But Billy Graham and many other scholars fail to understand the difference between the prophecy for the writing of the Scripture and edifying prophecy. The prophecy for the writing of the Scripture no longer exists because the canon of the Scripture is completed and closed. But the prophecy for the edification of men will exist until Christ’s second coming. If this doctrine is not accepted as biblical, it is impossible to comprehend the following passages.

1 Cor. 14:1-4   Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy...But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (NIV)
 
     The apostle Paul commands, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy since the prophecy is for the edification of the church.” This prophecy is not for the writing of the Scripture but for the edification of the church. If the gift of NT prophecy has vanished, the command in 1 Cor. 14:1 should be applied only to the first century Christian. This makes no sense at all. The command, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy,” must be applied until the second coming of Christ. The prophecy for the writing of the Scripture no longer exists since the canon of the Scripture is completed and closed. But the prophecy of 1 Cor. 14:1-4 for the edification of men existed in OT days, in the first century, now exists and must exist until the second coming of Jesus.

1 Cor. 14:24-25  But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (NIV)

     The prophecy in 1 Cor. 14:24-25 is not for the writing of the Scripture but for the edification of men and church. The phrase, “So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” implies that an unbeliever will become a believer through the prophets of the church. The phrase, “the secrets of his heart will be laid bare by the prophets in the church,” means that the prophets can know the secrets of someone’s heart through the gift of prophecy given by the Holy Spirit. Here, it is affirmed that Billy Graham’s claim, “The gift of prophecy in the first sense, that of foretelling or predictive prophecy, no longer exists to the extent it did in first century Christianity,” and John F. MacArthur’s claim, “the gifts of healing have vanished away and once the word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts including the gift of prophecy were no longer needed and they ceased,” are thoroughly incorrect and unbiblical. The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 12 are needed until the second coming of Christ because they are for edifying men and the church.

1 Cor. 14:26   What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, every one has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interprettation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (NIV)  

     The apostle Paul sent the words in 1 Cor. 14:26 to all the church. Paul said that whenever the members of the church come together, everyone had a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Can we infer by this passage that whenever the members of the present church come together, everyone is to have only a hymn and a word of instruction, but no revelation, no tongue or interpretation? Does this make sense? Is it biblical? The answer is “No.” The command “Let all things be done for edification” must be exercised by every church from the first century until the second coming of Christ. All these things, hymn, teaching, tongue, revelation and interpretation, are needed for edifying men and strengthening of the church until the second coming of Christ.

Acts 21:8-9   On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. (NKJ)

     The text says that Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied. The promise, “God will pour out the gift of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17), was also fulfilled in Philip’s four daughters. The gift of prophecy given to his four daughters was not for the writing of the Scripture but for edifying others as we read in 1 Cor. 14:1-4 and 14:24-26.

Acts 2:17-18   And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (KJV)

     The KJV translates the text, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” This is correct since the Greek text has the preposition “apo (from),” as noted already. It should be inferred, “I will pour out the gift of my Spirit upon all flesh (Author),” because the term “prophecy” in the text is the gift of the Spirit. Acts 2:17-18 says that sons and daughters and God’s servants and handmaidens will prophesy. This prophesying is not for the writing of the Scripture but for the edification of men according to 1 Cor. 14. If prophecy in the Scripture were only for the writing of the Scripture in Apostolic times, the word “in the last days” in Acts 2:17 makes no sense. This must be applied until the second coming of Christ.

Heb. 9:26  He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (NKJ)

     The text says, “but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin.” The word “in the last days” in Acts 2:17 means the same as “at the end of the ages.” God will pour out the gift of His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days (Author). Thus, the gift of prophecy has not vanished away but is continually needed for the edification of men and the church until the second coming of Christ.

1 Cor. 14:29-32  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (NKJ)

     “You can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged,” implies that this prophecy is not for the writing of the Scripture but for the edification of men and the church according to 1 Cor. 14:1-4 and 14:24-25. Here, we know that the prophets in 1 Cor. 14:29-32 are not false prophets but biblical prophets who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit because the apostle Paul said, “You can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” The phrase, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge...And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” implies that the prophets were to judge whether another prophet spoke falsely or truly. There are those who can prophesy falsely. If the prophets were always right, no judgment would be needed. But the judgment was needed because their prophecies were sometimes false. What does “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” mean? Rom. 8:15-16 must be examined to understand it.   

Rom. 8:15-16   For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (NIV)

     Every unbeliever received a spirit who makes him a slave, that is, an evil spirit (a demon). So every unbeliever is controlled by a demon that lives with his spirit. It is the same to say that the spirit of an unbeliever is controlled by an evil spirit (a demon). The text says that believers have received the Spirit of sonship, by whom they cry, “Abba, Father.” “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” implies that every child of God is controlled by the Spirit who is with his spirit. It means that the Spirit now controls every Christian’s spirit.

Matt. 16:16-23   Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (NKJ)

     Peter was already a born-again Christian before the event of Matt. 16:16-23. He had already received the Spirit through receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord. And the Spirit had already lived with his spirit. But before the moment or at the moment of talking with Christ, Satan entered into him and controlled his spirit, so his spirit was controlled by Satan. Thus, Jesus said to him, “You are Satan.” Peter really was not Satan, but Satan so controlled him, he became Satan. So Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me.” Satan gave Peter a thought that disregarded the things of God, but reasoned according to the flesh. It can be established as a doctrine that if any believer is not mindful of the things of God but reasons only according to the flesh, Satan can enter and try to control his spirit. Jesus knew Peter’s spirit was controlled (influenced) by Satan. It can be said that Peter’s spirit was subject to Satan, that is, Peter was subject to Satan, or to the word of Satan because he was mindful of the things of men. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Sometimes, a believer may not be mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. Then, Satan will control him. Likewise, sometimes a prophet may reason only as a natural man. At that point he can be controlled by Satan. He might prophesy falsely since Satan controls his spirit. Therefore, his prophecy must be subject to the review of others. 1 Cor. 14:29 reads, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” If a prophet could never speak falsely, he would not need to be judged by the others. If the prophets were always controlled by the Holy Spirit, they would never speak falsely. But sometimes a prophet might be controlled or influenced by Satan.

Luke 22:31-32  Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (NIV)

     The text says that if any believer, including a prophet, does not keep his faith, he may be defeated and controlled by Satan at any time.

1 Pet. 5:8   Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)

     The text says that if any believer, including a prophet, is not self-controlled and alert, he might be devoured and controlled by the devil.

Jer. 29:8-9   Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. (NIV)

     Acts 2:17-18 says that your sons and daughters, both men and women, old men will receive the poured out gift of the Spirit and they will prophesy through visions and dreams (Author). But Jer. 29:8-9 says, “Do not listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.” The reason God commands this is that sometimes visions, dreams and prophecies may be false. Satan always seeks to deceive. The phrase, “They prophesy falsely to you in My name” verifies the existence of OT prophets who prophesied falsely. In conclusion, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge...and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:29-32) implies that prophets might speak falsely.

Robert Gromacki comments on the cessation and noncessation of the gifts of the Spirit.

Donald Gee claimed, “There is nothing in Scripture, reason or experience to make us believe that gifts are not for today–everyone of them.” These advocates present several arguments in support of their position. Paul claimed that the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge would end when “that which is perfect has come” (1 Cor. 13:10). They identify “perfect” with the second coming of Christ, the Millennium, or the eternal state. They claim that the gifts will function until we see Christ “face to face” (13:12). The Bible, however, never equates “perfect” with the return of Christ. Noncessationists argue that since God gave gifts to believers to function as members in the body of Christ, present-day body-members must also be gifted. Advocates claim that the gifts disappeared from church history because Christians failed to seek them by faith. Believers either lacked faith to obtain them or they did not believe the gifts were available to them. However, spiritual gifts are not given in response to prayer or faith. They are sovereignly given by the Spirit “distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). Proponents of view “God can do today what He did in the early church” often point to Hebrews 13:8 for support of their position: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Of course, it is true that Jesus Christ is unchangeable in His divine personhood, for His essence and character are immutable. However, this passage says nothing about spiritual gifts.
Cessationists, including myself, believe that some spiritual gifts ceased to function during the first century, the time when the apostles ministered and the New Testament was written. Some of those gifts were revelatory gifts–gifts exercised when God revealed truth that became the normative basis of faith and practice. Those revelatory gifts included the gifts of apostle, prophet, wisdom, and knowledge. No Bible verse predicted that the revelatory and sign gifts would end in the first century. Yet, at the same time, there is no verse that predicted they would continue to function beyond the apostolic period to the return of Christ. If such a verse existed, then the controversy would have never erupted. In his discussion of spiritual gifts Paul did make this prediction: “Love never fails, but whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away” (1 Cor. 13:8). The verse predicts the end of three gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, but it does not give the time when they would end. The coming of “that which is perfect” causes the gifts of prophecy and knowledge to end (13:9-10). “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, the imperfect will disappear.” Noncessationists believe that “the perfect” refers to the return of Christ, so they say the sign gifts continue until that future event. Cessationists, on the other hand, interpret this prediction in two ways. Some believe the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will end when Christ returns, but tongues will cease before that event. Others, including myself, believe that “the perfect” refers to the completion of the foundation of the church, centered in the completion of the writing of the New Testament. The gifts of prophecy and knowledge ended with the writing of the Book of Revelation, whereas the gift of tongues ceased earlier, probably with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Robert Gromacki, The Holy Spirit, p.520-4.)

     Robert Gromacki’s arguments are mixed with biblical and unbiblical elements. The note, “Noncessationists believe that ‘the perfect’ in 1 Cor. 13:9-10 refers to the return of Christ, so they say the sign gifts continue until that future event,” is biblical. In the note, “Cessationists, on the other hand, interpret this prediction in two ways. Some believe the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will end when Christ returns, but tongues will cease before that event,” the note “tongues will cease before that event” is quite unbiblical.
     1 Cor. 14:26 says, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” All of these must be used for the strengthening and edifications of Christians and the church until Jesus’ second coming. 1 Cor. 14:1-4 says, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiri- tual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy...But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” If the Cessationists’ argument is accepted, how can the phrase, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church,” be understood?
     If the Cessationists’ argument “the gift of tongues and prophecy ceased in the first century” is accepted, the words, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself and he who prophesies edifies the church,” must be applied to only the first century Christians and churches. But it is quite wrong and unbiblical. The note, “The gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge ended with the writing of the book of Revelation,” is quite erroneous. The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit continually must be exercised until Jesus’ second coming.