The Gift Of Prophecy
By Kenneth E. Hagin
As you know, we’ve been studying the gifts of the Spirit over this past year. The Apostle Paul said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant (1 Cor. 12:1). That’s the reason we’ve been studying them–we don’t want to be ignorant about them. The more we study them, the more we’ll know about them, and the greater blessing they’ll be to us! So let’s begin this final lesson by reading our “golden text.”
1 CORINTHIANS 12:7-11
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another PROPHECY; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally, as he will.
In November, we began our discussion of the “vocal” or “inspirational” gifts by studying divers kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. This month, we will conclude our study of the spiritual gifts by examining the last of the inspirational gifts — the gift of prophecy. Now let’s take a look at what Paul said about prophecy in First Corinthians 14.
1 CORINTHIANS 14:1,39
1 . . . desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy ….
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy ….
We’re told to desire spiritual gifts, but especially that we may prophesy. That doesn’t mean that we are not to desire the other gifts, but we are to especially desire to prophesy. Paul was writing by the inspiration of the Spirit of God to the Church at Corinth, and it still applies to the Church everywhere. We are to desire spiritual gifts, but rather that we may prophesy.
The Hebrew word for “prophesy” means to flow forth. It also carries with it the thought: to bubble forth like a fountain, to let drop, to lift up, to tumble forth, and to spring forth. The Greek word translated “prophesy” means to speak for another. So when we prophesy, we speak for God as His spokespersons.
The gift of prophecy is really the most important of the gifts of inspiration or utterance, because it takes the other two–tongues and interpretation–to equal this one gift. First Corinthians 14:5 says, “. . . greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret ….” This verse implies that to speak with tongues and interpret the tongues is equivalent to prophecy. So in that sense, prophecy is really the most important of the inspirational gifts.
Prophecy is supernatural utterance in a known tongue. Divers kinds of tongues is supernatural utterance in an unknown tongue. And the interpretation of tongues is a supernatural showing forth of that which has been said in an unknown tongue.
Very often the simple gift of prophecy is confused with preaching. Some people think that “to prophesy” means to preach. All inspired utterance is prophecy in some form or another, but specifically speaking, the spiritual gift of prophecy isn’t preaching. “To preach” means to proclaim, to announce, to cry, or to tell. The scriptural purpose of the gift of prophecy is different from the purpose of preaching.
The Bible didn’t say that men would be saved by prophesying, but by preaching (1 Cor. 1:21). The supernatural gifts of the Spirit are manifested to arrest people’s attention, not to save them. Even on the Day of Pentecost when folks were speaking in tongues, no one got saved until after Peter preached to them (Acts 2:14-41).
Sometimes there is an element of prophecy in preaching when a person is anointed by the Spirit and is inspired to say things that come from his spirit rather than his head. But that’s only one phase of the operation of the gift of prophecy.
For example, I’ve heard folks say, “I was witnessing to someone about the Lord, and I said things to them that were in the Word but that were beyond my own thinking. My mind I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just inspired by the Holy Spirit to say it.” That’s a part of the operation of this gift of l prophecy, because prophecy goes beyond speaking by your own I reasoning or thinking–it is inspired utterance.
The simple gift of prophecy is also confused with the prophetic office, but the gift of prophecy and the prophet’s ministry are very different.
1 CORINTHIANS 14:3
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to EDIFICATION, and EXHORTATION, and COMFORT.
Well, you can readily see that in the simple gift of prophecy, there is no revelation. The simple gift of prophecy is given for edification, exhortation, and comfort. In the office of the prophet, however, you will often find revelation coming forth, even through prophecy.
It’s interesting to note the difference between prophecy in the Old and New Testaments. Prophecy in the Old Testament was essentially foretelling, but prophecy in the New Testament shifts strongly to forth telling.
In First Corinthians 14:39, Paul told the whole Church at Corinth to covet to prophesy. Yet in First Corinthians 12:28, Paul said that all are not prophets. Paul wasn’t telling them to covet that they might be prophets.
If prophesying made a person a prophet, then Paul would be contradicting himself. In other words, the fact that the simple gift of prophecy operates through a person doesn’t make him a prophet. For example, a rich man has money. Now nearly all of us have some money, but that doesn’t make us rich. By the same token, a prophet would, of course, prophesy, but a person who prophesies wouldn’t necessarily be a prophet just because he prophesies.
Also, a prophet would have more of the gifts of the Spirit in operation than just the gift of prophecy. He would have the “revelation gifts” operating along with the gift of prophecy for the simple reason that Paul says in First Corinthians 14:29 and 30, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be REVEALED
to another [that is, another prophet] that sitteth try, let the first hold his peace.”
Here Paul is talking about revelation: “If any thing be REVEALED . . .” (v. 30). You see, the prophet would have other revelation gifts operating in his ministry, as well as the gift of prophecy. Actually, to constitute standing in the office of the prophet, a person needs to have at least two of the revelation gifts operating on a continual basis in his life and ministry, plus us the gift of prophecy.
In other words, for a person to stand in the office of the prophet, he would need to be called to the fivefold ministry as a preacher or teacher of the Word (Eph. 4:11,12) and have two of the three revelation gifts–the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, or the discerning of spirits–plus prophecy operating consistently in his ministry.
Therefore, we shouldn’t confuse the office of the prophet with the simple gift of prophecy that we are all told to covet in First Corinthians 14:39. We can all have the gift of prophecy because God wouldn’t tell us to covet something that wasn’t available to us, nor to desire something we couldn’t, have. We can all prophesy, but we can’t all be prophets (1 Cor. 12:28). And although we can all prophesy, we must realize that prophecy through the office of the prophet carries more authority than the simple gift of prophecy operating through e laity.
The misuse of the gift of prophecy can cause confusion among believers. If folks would use prophecy as the Scripture teaches, it would be a great blessing to the Body of Christ. But some people hear a minister who operates in the prophet’s ministry bring forth revelation, and they think they can do that too. So they try to bring forth some foretelling instead of just forth telling, and then they get into
One woman told me: “Brother Hagin, I attend a prayer group where about all they do is lay hands on one another and prophesy. But if anything has ever come to pass, I don’t know it. They laid hands on me and prophesied that my mother was going to die, but she didn’t. Then they prophesied that my husband was going to leave me, but he hasn’t. They have prophesied a lot of other things, too–none of which has ever happened.”
These people were misusing whatever gift they may have had. But if people would just stay with the simple gift of prophecy, “speaking unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort,” they would be fine.
Now there are those who stand in the prophet’s ministry who sometimes minister along the line of foretelling. There are others who operate in other gifts of the Spirit, such as the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge, which may also come forth in prophecy.
We need to be careful in this area, because many people think the gift of prophecy is prediction. The simple gift of prophecy is not prediction, but it is speaking unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort.
When it comes to the gifts of the Spirit, you don’t have them when you are born into this world. You must first be born into the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5:17), and then you must receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Then the Holy Spirit divides the gifts of the Spirit to every man severally as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11).
It’s amazing how many people have followed incorrect teaching along this line. But there is no use in backing off from the real thing because of the counterfeit. No, that’s all the more the reason we need to allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the genuine gifts of the Spirit through us and show people from the Word of God what is genuine. Acts chapter 13 gives us a clue about the kind of atmosphere in which the Holy Ghost moves or manifests Himself
1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul [Paul].
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid the* hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
As the men ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost manifested Himself. Then Barnabas and Paul were sent forth by the Holy Ghost as apostles or missionaries to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2).
Each of the five men listed in Acts 13:1, including Barnabas and Saul, was a prophet, a teacher, or both a prophet and a teacher. I’m firmly convinced that the Holy Ghost said something through one of the prophets, because it is through this ministry gift, the office of the prophet-those who are especially equipped with certain revelation and utterance gifts–that the Holy Ghost normally speaks. Otherwise, He leads by an inward witness.
But Acts 13:2 doesn’t say that the Holy Ghost just witnessed to the disciples’ spirits about separating Barnabas and Saul unto the ministry. It says the Holy Ghost said something: “. . . the Holy Ghost SAID, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have them.”
You see, Barnabas and Saul had already received the call from God to the ministry. The Holy Spirit was merely confirming that call through a prophet.
Let me stress that we need to be very careful about personal prophecies. Lives have been ruined and many unfortunate things have happened through the misuse of personal prophecies.
God uses me to minister this way sometimes, and I am always very careful. Over the years, I have seen so much error in the area of personal prophecy that it almost makes me want to draw back from the genuine prophetic ministry. I have to watch myself in order not to pull back too far and not yield to the Spirit of God to be used in this way.
The gift of prophecy is used to speak to people supernaturally–to edify the Church: “. . . he that prophesieth edifieth the church” (1 Cor. 14:4). This gift is also given to edify the Church through exhortation (1 Cor. 14:3). The Greek word “exhort” means to call nearer to God. This verse also says the gift of prophecy is given to comfort the hearers. Yet much of what some people call “prophecy” never comforts anyone; rather, it discomforts them.
You might find, however, that the revelation given forth in a prophet’s ministry may sometimes be discomforting because it sometimes brings with it correction or conviction of sin. But the simple gift of prophecy only ministers edification, exhortation, and comfort.
For example, once while teaching a Faith Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona, I discerned an evil spirit in a fellow sitting near the front of the church. I knew by revelation from the Spirit of God that the man had a wrong spirit and would try to disrupt the service.
I did my best to keep from pausing in my sermon long enough to give him a chance to cut in. When he saw that no opportunity was going to be given him, he just leapt to his feet, threw up his hands, and started shouting at the top of his voice. His so-called prophecy told the whole crowd that they were wrong.
That wasn’t a manifestation of the gift of prophecy, because “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3). That’s the purpose of this gift. What that man said did everything except what the scriptural use of the gift of prophecy should do. Instead of edifying the people, he tore them down. Instead of calling them nearer to God, he drove them away. Instead of comforting them, he discomforted them.
Realizing that he might be mentally unbalanced, I tried to bear with him somewhat, remembering the following passage of Scripture:
1 THESSALONIANS 6:14-21
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Paul had to give these instructions because the Church at Thessalonica had so much misuse of the gift of prophecy that these folks almost despised it. And you can see why they would with things happening like the example I just gave. Therefore, Paul, writing by the Spirit of God, had to instruct them, “Despise not prophesyings” in the
same section of Scripture where he wrote, “. . . comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (vv. 20,14).
Well, I didn’t want to publicly embarrass someone who might be feeble minded, so I didn’t say anything. Yet, sometimes I think we should say something. If we let things slide that aren’t really of the Spirit, we leave the impression that we don’t know the difference between the real and the false, and other folks could be misled.
After the service, someone told me, “That fellow is really unruly. He’s been put out of every Full Gospel church in the city because he always does the same thing.”
Well, the man came back the next night. I knew that he was going to try to interfere again, so I spoke as hard and as fast as I could, but he interrupted me anyway. When he finished, I told the congregation that I didn’t accept what was said because it wasn’t scriptural. I didn’t talk directly to him because I didn’t want to hurt him any more than I had to (v. 14).
Now let me say this: The gift of prophecy, like divers kinds of tongues, has to do with more than just public utterances. Prophecy can also be used in one’s private prayer life.
For example, in the Book of Psalms, prophecy was used in prayer and praise to God. In fact, the entire Book of Psalms was given by the spirit of prophecy. The Psalms were Israel’s prayer and songbook. Some of the psalms are prayers that were given by inspired utterance.
Many times while praying, a person can speak in tongues and then speak out things by the Spirit of God. Speaking with tongues is the door to the supernatural.
Jesus didn’t say that only a few disciples should speak with tongues, He said that all believers should: “. . . these signs shall follow them that believe . . . they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). And God wants every Spirit-filled believer to do more than speak with tongues. He wants us to be able to interpret what we pray in tongues, as the Spirit leads: “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13).
God also wants us to prophesy in order to bring comfort and encouragement to the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:1,39). Through this gift of prophecy we can speak supernaturally, not only to men and for our own benefit, but we can also speak supernaturally unto God (Eph. 5:19).
Prophesying in your personal prayer life begins with speaking in other tongues. As you pray in other tongues, your spirit is in direct contact with God, yet you are communicating with Him in a tongue that is unknown to you.
Very often, praying in other tongues is a springboard to go into prophecy in prayer. Sometimes I pray with my understanding–which may not necessarily be inspired utterance at all. I may just be praying as well as I know how to about a situation in my own native language. (Of course, one can also pray in his own language in the Spirit; that is, inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit.)
Then as I pray about a situation a while in tongues, many times I move over into prophecy–inspired utterance. Praying with prophecy can carry with it more authoritative anointing because you can actually be praying out the word of wisdom in prayer through the vehicle of prophecy. Praying out the word of wisdom through prophecy lifts you up above where you were before and many times reveals to you a part of the plan of God–a “word” of wisdom.
The Bible encourages believers to use prophecy in their prayer lives: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). This is one way to minister to the Lord.
Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not songs that are sung out of a songbook. A psalm is a spiritual poem or an ode. It can be recited or chanted or sung. The hymn or the spiritual song are, of course, sung. One who is given more to singing would probably sing the psalms and hymns given to him by the inspiration of the Spirit.
I’m not a singer. So when I get psalms, particularly during times of stress or strain or when I’m going through a crisis, I just recite them. Sometimes I’ll speak in psalms all night long to myself and to the Lord, one right after the other.
Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are given spontaneously by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. They are a demonstration or manifestation of the gift of prophecy–or its equivalent, tongues and interpretation.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
The believers of the Early Church went to church because they had something, not just to get something (1 Cor. 14:26). Why did they have a psalm they could share with one another? They had been speaking in psalms to the Lord; they had been edifying themselves at home!”
When we read the Book of Psalms, it blesses us and encourages us because the psalms are inspired by the Holy Spirit. There is revelation in some of them concerning the coming of Christ, things pertaining to the Church, and the future. But many of the psalms were given to David, for example, when he was going through a test or trial in his life.
King Saul sought to kill David. Once while hiding in a cave, David received a psalm by the spirit of prophecy. It was given to him personally to encourage him. It encouraged him then, and it can encourage us too, when we are facing tests and trials in life.
Now you can begin to see why Paul told the members of the Church at Corinth, and Christians everywhere, to covet to prophesy, for in this way we can talk to God supernaturally and to ourselves in a known language. There is a fellowship in the Spirit that comes through using prophecy in prayer that is beyond what we’ve previously experienced.
God’s Word teaches that all Spirit filled believers should not only speak with tongues when they are initially filled with the Spirit, but they should continue to speak with tongues as a continual experience after they are filled with the Spirit. All Spirit-filled believers should be speaking to themselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Begin to covet to prophesy because the Bible encourages believers to do so. First Corinthians 12:31 says, “… covet earnestly the best gifts….” As you do, you will be able to speak supernaturally to the Body of Christ God’s words of edification, exhortation, and comfort. You will also be able to speak supernaturally through the gift of prophecy in your private prayer life, edifying yourself and worshipping God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs!
The Above Material Was Published By The Word Of Faith Magazine, December 1998, Pager 5-7, 9. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.