Sunday, 27 June 2010

Spiritual gifts and decision-making

Grudem distinguishes between canonical Old Testament prophecies like those we read in Isaiah, which are introduced with phrases like this is what the Sovereign Lord says …, and New Testament prophecy as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (which must be weighed). He describes New Testament prophecy as ‘the spontaneous, powerful working of the Holy Spirit, bringing things to mind when the church is gathered for worship, giving “edification, encouragement, and comfort” which speaks directly to the needs of the moment and causes people to realize that “truly God is among you” (1 Cor. 14:25).’

If we take the prophecy of Acts 21:4 as an example of New Testament prophecy we can see how this gift may impact our decision-making. Carson cites this as an example of prophecy that is viewed as being genuinely from God ‘yet having something less than the authority status of an Old Testament prophecy.’ Certain disciples through the Spirit urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.  However Paul disobeys their word and goes. Bruce says that it ‘should not be concluded that his determination to go was disobedience to the guidance of the Spirit of God; it was under the constraint of that Spirit that he was bound for Jerusalem with such determination (19:21; 20:22).’ Grudem suggests that the Christians at Tyre had some kind of “revelation” or indication from God about the suffering that Paul would face at Jerusalem, and incorrectly interpreted this to mean that Paul should not go.

Sam Storms counsels that ‘one should avoid looking to or depending on the gift of prophecy for making routine decisions in life. God does not intend for the gift of prophecy to be used as the usual way we make decisions regarding his will.’ Certainly if someone shares a word of prophecy with us when we are in a time of decision making we must take into account that prophecy has to be weighed and can be incorrectly understood. We should remember these same principles should when receiving the interpretation of a tongue, ‘a word of knowledge’ or ‘a word of wisdom.’ When receiving such a message we should apply ‘sanctified common sense’ and seek the advice of a number of people. We should not allow ourselves be dictated to by a forceful personality who claims to have a ‘word from the Lord.’

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