Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Prophecy and History
Some of that seems a little redundant to me. If your gift is serving, teaching, or exhorting, those are the things you ought to do. By the way, to exhort means “to urge, advise, or caution urgently; admonish urgently”, according to the dictionary. When most Protestants, like me, think of preaching, we are thinking of exhorting. That gives us some insight into what Paul was thinking when he talked about prophecy.
Someone who has the gift of prophecy – and, unlike Dispensationalists, I think that gift is still operational – gets understanding or information or insight in some way other than reading it from a book or from experience or some other natural means.
I am not a prophet, and I don’t have a prophetic gift, but I did have this happen one time as I have related in the past. The one instance that I can point to and say with certainty was a very minor thing, simply telling someone that he was going to receive some books he wanted from an unexpected source. It was almost astrological in its vagueness and non-specificity, but I was as convinced of the reality of it as if the giver himself had called me and told me what he was going to do.
I can see where exercising a gift of prophecy would require faith, first in recognizing that the insight was a reflection of reality and not imagination, and, second, in acting or telling someone else to act in accordance with it.
I think a lot of what has advanced the human race in the last couple of millennia has been as a result of the gift of prophecy. Insights and inspiration come from somewhere. Those who believe in naturalistic explanations for everything will argue that inspiration is simply a happy coincidence resulting from re-combinations of existing information. Thus Shakespeare really is no different than a million monkeys typing; he’s just a lot easier to housebreak.
There are times when what I would call natural inspiration happens, when we extrapolate from the known or pull in something from another realm of experience to apply to the situation before us in a new way. We might call that wisdom, but sometimes wisdom surprises me, and the same Apostle who spoke of the gift of prophecy here, speaks of the gift of wisdom in another passage (1 Corinthians 12:8). If we have the gift of wisdom, we know that not all have it, and it is not as easy as some might think to tell from where it comes.
What is fairly clear is the purpose of our various gifts: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). When we look back over the course of history, we can see where humanity’s direction has changed, sometimes overtly and dramatically, sometimes subtly but no less substantially, by inspiration and by faith. We live and enjoy the conveniences of modern life and our relative peace, prosperity, and security, I believe, by those manifestations of the Spirit given for the benefit of all.
I suppose, then, we should not find it all that strange that the antichrist spirit of the world often seeks to gain control of what is beneficial, seeks to take credit for all the good that is done, or, failing in those endeavors, seeks to discredit and even eradicate a conduit of that inspiration.
I wonder if all of this might be related to why so many of the world’s Nobel Laureates have been Jewish. I also wonder if it would help explain why Anti-Semitism seems to be so popular from time to time.