The Spirit Of Prophecy In The Pulpit: Reconsidering Preaching As A Form Of Prophecy. -- By: Benjamin B. Phillips

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 16:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: The Spirit Of Prophecy In The Pulpit: Reconsidering Preaching As A Form Of Prophecy.
Author: Benjamin B. Phillips


The Spirit Of Prophecy In The Pulpit: Reconsidering Preaching As A Form Of Prophecy.

Benjamin B. Phillips

Benjamin B. Phillips is director, Darrington Extension; associate dean, Havard School for Theological Studies; and associate professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. [email protected]

Note: A version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Denver, Colorado, on November 13, 2018.

In 1606, William Perkins published the first book in the English language on the subject of preaching, The Art of Prophesying.1 The title of this small volume continues to strike a tender spot among students of preaching, who are all too ready to acknowledge their need of the Spirit’s help as they embark on their preaching career but are understandably reluctant to take up the mantle of “prophet” in the pulpit. Yet what may be too-easily dismissed as a needless conflation of two “obviously” distinct things obscures the close connection between prophecy and preaching that Christian preachers and theologians have articulated and the arguments that support those claims.

This paper will sketch a brief history of the “preaching as prophecy” view through representative patristic, medieval, reformation, and modern writers to show the prevalence of this view in the Christian tradition and will analyze some of the key arguments made therein. This, in turn, will lead to a consideration of the best arguments articulated by contemporary theologians in favor of distinguishing prophecy and preaching. Finally, the paper will turn to a brief, systematic comparison of the work the Spirit in prophecy and preaching in order to articulate more clearly the similarities and differences between the two.

While we must agree with contemporary scholarship in its conclusion that preaching and prophecy are not precisely the same thing, both current biblical-theological scholarship and historical perspectives require us to affirm significant continuity between them. Prophecy and preaching bear a relationship that is best described as analogous. In short, we may conclude that the Spirit of prophecy still speaks through the preaching of the word of God.

Preaching As Prophecy: Brief Sketch Of A Christian Tradition

The view that preaching is, or at least is the post-apostolic version of, the New Testament gift of prophecy has been widely held among Christian theologians and preachers down through history, claiming among its adherents Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Matthew Henry, and Joh...

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