Is the Gift of Prophecy for Today? Part 1: The Current Debate about New Testament Prophecy -- By: F. David Farnell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:595 (Jul 1992)
Article: Is the Gift of Prophecy for Today? Part 1: The Current Debate about New Testament Prophecy
Author: F. David Farnell

Is the Gift of Prophecy for Today?
Part 1:
The Current Debate about New Testament Prophecy

F. David Farnell

Chairman, Department of Ministerial Studies
Southeastern Bible College, Birmingham, Alabama

Spiritual Gifts as a Center of Controversy

Controversy is no stranger to the Christian church. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, the first-century church was already embroiled in turmoil over the nature and practice of spiritual gifts. Misconceptions and abuse of the gifts were rampant in the Corinthian church. A three-man delegation (1 Cor 7:1; 16:17) asked Paul to clarify how gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge should be exercised (13:8). The outcome of the turbulence in Corinth is unknown, but the second century exhibited the same confusion in the Montanist heresy. The tumult has emerged in the 20th century in and around Pentecostalism, Neopentecostalism, and movements variously labeled “Charismatic,” “Vineyard,” and “Signs and Wonders.”

The gift of tongues (Acts 2:1–13; 1 Cor 14:2–28) has been the subject of debate for many years. Most recently, however, several books have dealt with the New Testament gift of prophecy. Since the nature and purpose of this gift had not been closely defined by either side of the controversy, this gift has provided a fertile topic as a new phase in the discussion of temporary and permanent spiritual gifts. Questions about the nature of this gift threaten to become, if they have not done so already, a major storm center in New Testament theology and church worship.

Among noncharismatics it has been relatively standard to regard the gift as foundational for the church and temporary in nature. These noncharismatics may be labeled “cessationists.” Exemplifying standard cessationist views, Ryrie writes,

The gift of prophecy included receiving a message directly from God through special revelation, being guided in declaring it to the people, and having it authenticated in some way by God Himself. The content of that message may have included telling the future (which is what we normally think of as prophesying), but it also included revelation from God concerning the present.
This too was a gift limited in its need and use, for it was needed during the writing of the New Testament and its usefulness ceased when the books were completed. God’s message then was contained in written form, and no new revelation was given in addition to the written ...

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