The Spiritual Gift of Teaching and The Great Commission…

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“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .the one who teaches, in his teaching.” Romans 12: 6-8.

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28

“He who descended is the One who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 10-12

The last spiritual gift listed in Ephesians 4 is teaching; the Greek word for teacher is didaskalos or instructor. The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 is followed by the phrase “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Go and make disciples, baptize them and “teach” them.

Pastor Billy Graham* writes that “one of the greatest needs in the Church at the present is for more teachers of the Bible” [186].

Why would he make such a statement? Clearly a Christian can read the Bible on their own but can that person explain the Bible like a spirit-led teacher can? No. The spiritual gift of teaching can be developed but it is not something that can be acquired or learned with a college degree.

In my life, I can think of two people who have taught me so much about the Bible; neither of them have a seminary degree. Although one can strive to improve their teaching, a person with a Ph.D. but without the gift of teaching will not be able to instruct about the Bible as one without a degree but who has the spiritual gift of teaching.
Ok, what are the characteristics of a Christian with this spiritual gift; what makes them special? One thing is the ability to make complex concepts simple and understandable. Another characteristic is compassion for God’s Word and compassion for the student who thirsts for God’s Word. Too often, teachers get “inflated” self-perceptions and they expound on their subject matter, with the attitude that their words are so important that students should cherish every crumb they offer. People with the spiritual gift of teaching cherish their knowledge of God’s Word and cherish anyone who hungers for more knowledge about His Word. The person with the spiritual gift of teaching has an inquisitive mind, always trying to learn more about our Lord. The new information is for their growth and for sharing with others. They learn in order to share. The person with the gift for teaching takes teaching seriously, asking God to lead them through the Holy Spirit and they respond to His leading, knowing that God will give them what they need to instruct when the time comes.

Guess what?

He does give them what they need when the time comes…

Not all Christians are concerned with their spiritual growth but all Christians should be. I am going to refer to John Wesley** and his concept of “sanctifying grace.” Wesley felt that too many Christians focus on salvation as the peak event of their lives. After salvation it is over, their faith is static. Wesley explains that salvation is only the beginning as we begin our Christian lives and experience God’s gracious presence in transforming us into the people He intends us to be. It is through God’s sanctifying grace that we grow and mature in our ability to try to live the life Jesus lived.
This is where the teacher can enter into the picture as so many Christians have questions that teachers can address. Teachers have teaching methods that can reach out to hungry Christians and teachers can utilize inspiring explanations that can take a young, immature Christian to a deeper, more mature relationship with Jesus Christ.
Wesley said we’re to press on, with God’s help, along the path of sanctification toward perfection, not being satisfied with salvation alone. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. He understood sanctifying grace as the continual process of being made more perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin.***

Billy Graham refers to 2 Timothy 2:2 as a way to explain the impact of the gifted Bible teacher. “The things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This is the basic formula for building up the Church. Paul taught Timothy, Timothy shared what he knew with faithful men, and these faithful men would then teach others. The process goes on and on with the spreading of more knowledge until the Church is spread to the entire world. Graham is so humble when he says my “Mass crusades, in which I believe and to which I have committed my life, will never finish the Great Commission, but one-by-one ministry will.”

If Christians could develop the desire for God, turn to His Word [the Bible], and feel emboldened to share His Word through spirit-led teaching, that could do the job.
Let’s revise Graham’s statement. “[I] will never finish the Great Commission but [teachers with the spiritual gift of teaching] will.”

I think Pastor Graham would approve of the revision…

*from his book The Holy Spirit
**founder of the United Methodist Church
***based on the UMC.org website

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The Spiritual Gift of Teaching…

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It may seem like I am veering off the path today but I want to write on the role of the teacher in one’s life. Of course, when Billy Graham uses the term teacher, he is referring to an individual with the spiritual gift of instructing others in Bible knowledge and knowledge about a life in Christ. This calling is important because Christians need help in their growth as they try to apply God’s word into their thinking and conduct.

But I want to get personal; many know that I am an adult Sunday school teacher, a job I do not take lightly, a job that instructs me so much as I prepare to instruct others.
I love teaching adults but it is more than that: I love teaching.

As I reflect back on my life, I can see that I was destined to teach because I loved and respected teachers from the first days I went to school.

Certain memories stand out in my life. I know it sounds very “nerdy” but I used to get excited about going to school, using books, using paper and pencils and pens. I loved the excitement of learning new things and looked forward to being in the classroom. My father was a teacher, his sister was a teacher, my cousin was a teacher, my wife was a teacher…indeed all my life I have been surrounded by teachers.

When in seventh grade, I had a teacher who was a master of the English language. Mrs. Anna Belle Sherer made all her students “diagram sentences” and I learned to love the English sentence. I got great joy out of seeing patterns in language and solving the mystery of finding the subject and the verb and mapping out the other elements of sentence structure. Her diagramming gave me a sense of power over words.

In college, I had two teachers who impacted my life so much, special teachers. Mr. Ben Jones was an intro to literature teacher who made me ponder the meaning of literature, digging deeper into the meaning of the words. He helped me understand the literary elements of theme, plot, symbolism, characterization. He even inspired me to try to write my own stories. When I dropped out of college and considered never going back, he took the time to write me a personal letter. That important piece of writing got me back to college and on track to finish my degree. He knew I belonged there and when he took the time to write to me, I knew I needed to complete what I started. His words were powerful.

Dr. William McMahon was a man who had “rough edges.” To use an expression, he would “suffer no fools” in his classroom. He taught advanced composition, a class open only to English majors. His reading assignments were so hard that I had headaches trying to understand the material. He loved making us analyze philosophers from many cultures. We read the Greeks, far eastern philosophers and contemporary German philosophers. Reading the material was hard enough but commenting on it was intimidating to say the least. I got a B out of Dr. McMahon’s class but it was so hard that a C would have been acceptable. To this day, I know what sentence style means, manipulation of the balanced sentence, the loose sentence and the periodic sentence and what that can mean for one’s writing. He had an English punctuation system that made perfect sense to me and informed me on how to use punctuation not only for correctness but also for effect.

I began school in 1957. Folks that is a long time ago. I loved school so much that I completed several degrees in English and speech communication. I was told by my darling wife that I loved school too much and after my terminal speech communication degree, she said “any more school and I divorce you.”

I understood.

I had to be an independent learner from 1991 on and at that time in my life I was really far from being a Christian with a personal relationship with Christ. I was afloat with little direction in my life until 1998 when in the midst of one of the greatest crises in my life, I found Jesus Christ.

I have had many great teachers in my life. I can go back in my mind to 1964 and see the diminutive Mrs. Sherer in front of the classroom, explaining participles, gerunds, infinitives. I can see Ben Jones encouraging his students to open their minds to literature that seemed so closed. We began to see it, understand it and love it. I have Dr. McMahon in my mind, standing in front of his sparse classroom, intimidating us all with his weighty discussions, demanding that we produce good work. Pulling us all up to a higher level, going higher than we ever imagined we could go.

Could those types of people teach the Bible? Could those types of people be Sunday school teachers? Could they be seminary professors?

Of course they could. They weren’t my Bible teachers but they were excellent teachers, inspiring teachers.

What those teachers did for me was light the fire of curiosity that still burns within me. I have been inspired by Bible teachers since 1998. I wanted to know as much about God as I could learn and I still want to know Him more. Some of my instructors have been in the Sunday school classroom, some in Bible studies but some have been my teachers one-to-one. Some people’s lives have been instructional, as I have watched them deal with issues that would cause ordinary people to crumble, but they walked through the fire with humility, grace and loving understanding.

I am humbled to be a teacher. I take my role seriously. As a Christian, I need help in my growth as I try to apply God’s word into my thinking and conduct. I do this through learning and I do this through teaching.

My aunt, who was a school psychologist and a rector in the Episcopal Church, graced my life with many pieces of writing. One of the clippings she gave me was a “Graduate’s Prayer.” The last two lines of the prayer are addressed directly to God and they fit so well into this post. I have to end on them: “And may I ever be aware in everything I do / That knowledge comes from learning / And wisdom comes from You.”

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The Puzzle Piece…

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New pastor…

First day in front of a new congregation…

I remember her message because she used a visual aid. It was a little different. No colorful PowerPoint. No poster board. No eye-catching prop. She just left the pulpit and walked among the congregation handing out jig-saw puzzle pieces.

Every person in the congregation got a puzzle piece that day and that fit her message. We all need to do our part to make a church work and everyone is like a puzzle piece. When things work well, all the pieces fit together to make a wonderful picture.

Billy Graham* lists pastoring as a spiritual gift. He calls pastors “good shepherds” designating that title for the ordained clergy in the local church. Technically pastors may be assistant shepherds, since Jesus is referred to in John 10:11 as “the Good Shepherd” and in Hebrews 13: 20 as “the great Shepherd of the sheep.” Pastors have the gifts of “counseling, guiding, warning and guarding the flock” [Graham, 185].

Pastors do so much. I have so much respect for them that I rankle when I hear someone say that “preaching” is a cushy job. All pastors do is work on Sunday.

The fact of the matter is that responsive, effective pastors have such difficult jobs. They never know what is going to happen any day or any hour of the week. Like the rest of us, they may plan to be somewhere or they may plan to do something but often plans are shelved for the needs of their congregants. While pastors are the leaders of a church, they have many other duties aside from giving sermons.

Spiritual leadership to the members of a church is not a job that one should take lightly. Duties include preparing weekly sermons, preaching and conducting worship services. It’s the pastor’s responsibility to interpret Biblical Scripture for the congregation, sometimes in front of the congregation, sometimes in small groups and sometimes on a one-to-one basis. In addition, providing care and counseling to church members is important because people need assistance in crisis situations. Pastors are called to officiate at special services, such as confirmations, baptisms, weddings and funerals. I had a friend whose dad was a pastor and he could not recall a vacation that was not cut short by a quick return home for a church member’s funeral. Effective pastors add to their list of duties hospital visits for the sick or in-home visits for those unable to attend worship. Pastors collaborate with choir leaders to integrate music into church services. One can easily see that regular job hours are impossible. Additional job responsibilities include assisting in church financial matters, overseeing management of all areas of the congregation’s ministry, supporting, overseeing and evaluating staff, holding regular staff meetings to coordinate ministries and even ensuring church facilities are functioning.  The list goes on and on…

Back to those puzzle pieces…

Anyone can see that the job of the pastor is almost impossible. If a person has the spiritual gift of pastoring, it indeed is a gift from God, because there is too much to do and only one person to do it.

Another thing that irritates me is the church member who sees something that needs to be done and won’t even attempt to work on it. They just throw the concern to the pastor with the attitude “that’s why we pay them the big bucks!”

I am not sure we can ever pay an effective pastor what they deserve.

Graham says it best when he says pastors need help from congregations. The pastor may be ordained but others in the church may have pastoral gifts of some use. Youth directors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study teachers, ministry leaders, choir directors can all have pastoral gifts that can not only fit well within the church but can also “assist” the pastor in carrying out the mission of the church. “I believe that thousands of Christians through the world who will never become pastors of churches do have the gift of the pastor that can be used to assist the clergy in their work….Many pastors of churches are overworked and could use a little help” [Graham, 186].

Gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and pastoring a church is one of those gifts, but most in the church don’t think they can be a pastor. Well partially they are right, if the sole criteria is a seminary degree, but can a member of a church help clergy within the church? Yes they can and if they have gifts of pastoring and refuse to use them, Graham says “failure to do so is to grieve the Holy Spirit.”

Those puzzle pieces…do you think my pastor intended for us to think that our role in the church is to come to a one hour worship service one day per week? Many people do have that thought; they tell themselves I have attended church this Sunday and I have done my “God work” for a week.

Or did she mean that we should take our spiritual gifts and use them for the church, for the Glory of God? I think she was asking for our help.

Be that puzzle piece, use your gifts and make the church better because you chose to do more than attend for one hour. If you have the spiritual gift of pastoring, don’t hold back. God will put you in situations where you can be used. He will help you use your gift and guess what?

Your pastor will probably appreciate your work

*from Billy Graham  The Holy Spirit

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“The Unknown Evangelist”

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28: 19,20].

Who was Jesus referring to? This statement is a command with what is called an understood “you”. When someone says go, they are really saying “you go.” Who is the you? Is He addressing the eleven disciples? Some think so.

Some may think He is addressing evangelists, like Billy Graham, people who can take the message of His death, burial and resurrection to many people who have a hunger for The Word, people who can spread the message of salvation to large numbers of seekers.

Others think He is addressing everyone in the Christian community. If He is addressing the Christian community, guess what?

He is speaking to you and He is speaking to me.

Billy Graham would agree. He writes “Evangelism is not limited to professional evangelists, those whose lives are wholly spent in this calling. The gift of evangelism is also given to lay people….every Christian who is not called to the vocation of evangelism is still called to do the work of an evangelist” [Graham*, 183].

Wow, this is a daunting task, a task that many Christians may shrink from. Many of us fear talking to others about God but if we take literally the statement Jesus made in Mark 1:17 “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” we are supposed to be fishers of men.  The truthful question we have is “am I bold enough to lead someone to Christ? Can I be a fisher of men?”

Years ago, I got a little book entitled Sharing Your Faith. I actually used it as a reference for some teaching I did in an adult Sunday school class. It is simple and encouraging, just what most of us need if we are charged with doing “the work of the evangelist.”

First of all, the authors** think that most of the work of evangelism is done one-on-one, with the Christian talking personally to someone else. They refer to this as “sharing a gift.” Think about all the gifts that you get in a lifetime. Some people get some pretty awesome gifts but no gift compares to the single greatest gift in the world, given to you by the God of the universe—the gift of salvation.

Now let’s be honest. I need salvation. I am a sinner, but I believe God and He has given me that gift.

Bickel and Jantz write that salvation is not a secret. Most gifts after they are given are not secrets. Gifts have benefits and salvation surely has its benefits. A gift suggests a personal connection between giver and receiver and when you accept your gift, the connection with God is established. Here is the kicker; when you receive a gift, you naturally want to share it with others.

When I share my faith with someone, it is nothing more than telling someone else the story of what God has done for me. That’s it.

People make this so complicated. We worry about what people will say or do. We think they may reject us or even ridicule us. Some think sharing will offend others.
Christians also think they have to convince, convict and convert a seeker but that is not the case. That work is not done by us. That is done for us by The Holy Spirit. Graham says the work on the mind, heart and will of the seeker is beyond our ability. Bickel and Jantz are even more clear: “you can relax, because God doesn’t expect us to do any of that. We couldn’t convince, convict, and convert anyone, even if we tried. Only God can do these things” [ 21].

Our sharing does need to be backed up with a Spirit-filled, fruit-producing life. Without that our sharing can be a waste of time. Messages about salvation are not believed if your behavior does not jive with your message [ie.talking the talk and walking the walk]. Like our sharing, God will provide what we need to live that life with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He provides the strength to live a life producing fruit, just like He provides the words you will say to the seeker at the moment of sharing.

Graham comments on this important work: “I urge all Christians do the work of an evangelist—wither they go into full-time evangelism or not! I believe we have no option. It is a command from our Lord Jesus Christ” [184].

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”…

He is referring to you and He is referring to me…

*from The Holy Spirit
**Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

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The Evangelist…

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The spiritual gift of evangelism.

I would imagine that one of the world’s greatest evangelists would have a hard time being humble discussing the spiritual gift that he had. The Reverend Billy Graham had the spiritual gift of evangelism to an extreme. As of 2008, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. One special televised broadcast in 1996 alone may have reached a television audience of as many as 2.5 billion people worldwide. Because of his crusades, Graham preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.*

Yet in his book The Holy Spirit, he barely mentions his own personal gift from God, preferring to discuss evangelism in general. First of all, he says he did not “save” anyone; that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, he says his work did not convict sinners, build righteousness in believers or judge listeners in his audiences; that also is the Spirit’s work. He writes “the evangelist can invite men to receive Christ, and exhort them. But the effectual work is done by the Spirit as He works on the mind, hearts and wills of the unsaved. We are to take care of the possible and trust God for the impossible.”

The word evangelist comes from the Greek word meaning “one who announces good news” and Graham surely did that. He says that the term evangelist is only used three times in the New Testament, once when Luke called Philip an evangelist, once when Paul said that God gave evangelists to the church and once when Paul urged Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.** But the term certainly applies to him.

An evangelist’s message almost necessarily concerns the content of God’s word. He is a deliverer of a message, rather than a pastor who often teaches spiritual lessons and provides spiritual leadership to members of a church. A pastor’s duties include preparing weekly sermons, preaching and conducting worship services and interpreting Biblical Scripture for the congregation. In contrast, the evangelist centers his comments on “the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His coming again and the need for all men everywhere to repent and believe” [Graham, 181]. The evangelist has a short-term relationship with his audience. Of course, the pastor does not.

The evangelist may speak to the mind and may speak to the heart. Getting a group of people to think and feel are important factors in any presentation. The Greek philosopher Aristotle [who lived three hundred fifty years before Christ], taught speakers that logos [thinking] and pathos [feeling] were essential elements in getting a person to change. Indeed the most effective evangelists do both, hoping the Holy Spirit will guide the listener to make a change and dedicate their life to Christ. With this is mind, Graham says the real work of the evangelist is to “speak to the will” of man [181].

The work of the evangelist is often unappreciated. Graham cites John Wesley, the so-called “founder” of Methodism. Wesley traveled all over England trying to deliver an evangelistic message of reform for the Anglican Church, yet he was rejected by his church, despite the fact that he was an Anglican priest. Nevertheless he dedicated his life to spreading the Word. One of his biographers, Stephen Tomkins writes that “[Wesley] rode 250,000 miles, gave away 30,000 pounds … and preached more than 40,000 sermons…” For any reader who has no knowledge of Wesley, he lived in the 18th century and almost all of his travel was on horseback and to preach that many sermons in a lifetime he had to preach two or three times each day. Indeed, he did that throughout his life, never achieving positive recognition from his own church.  That is the definition of “unappreciated”.

Graham says that any popular evangelist is a special target of Satan; the higher the visibility, the easier the target. Some who have evangelistic gifts refuse to use those gifts due to negative labels that can be attached to their work. Many think of the evangelist as “nonintellectual,” someone who only preys on peoples’ emotions. It is common knowledge that some [but not all] evangelists have grown their ministry to the point that it becomes very commercial.  Many hold that up to negative judgement.   Too many evangelists can be too concerned with their statistics. [Graham recounts a story of a local paper that misreported the numbers of one of his crusades; claiming one thousand people were saved and Graham knew the number was less than five hundred]. His crusades desired honesty and accuracy and too many news organizations used improper terminology and exaggerated numbers. They felt they had to keep accurate statistics and report accurate statistics.  Graham was never obsessed with statistics, even though others were.

Graham’s power as a Christian evangelist is the stuff of legends. He literally preached to thousands and his largest crowd was in 1973 in Seoul, South Korea. It boggles the mind to realize this man preached to 3.2 million people in this crusade.

I head a story one time that amazed me about Graham and I have seen it borne out in the lives of other talented Christians. Graham knew he was capable of using his gift and he made the commitment to do so, but he also knew he was capable of the great human problem of pride. As he started to have larger and larger crowds and his influence began to grow, he deflected the praise he received. “It is not me; it is God” is something I have heard from the most devout Christians I have encountered. These people all know that their gifts are directly from The Lord and they humbly acknowledge that, giving God the glory. The story is that Graham had that attitude and even hired a man to sit beside him at his crusades. After Graham returned to his seat after delivering his sermon, the man told him this:

“It is not you; it is God!”

The Reverend Billy Graham, a man who had the spiritual gift of evangelism.

*Wikipedia “Billy Graham”
**Acts 21:8 , Ephesians 4:11 and 2 Timothy 4:5 respectively

 

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Two Good Things, I am Thinking…

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Public expounder…

Sounds rather dramatic doesn’t it? I envision a pastor in front of a church speaking prophetic words over individual people in the congregation. I have experienced modern day prophets doing just that.

Do all Christians believe this is possible?

Some don’t. I have to be honest. Billy Graham himself writes “the gift of prophecy in the first sense, that of foretelling or predictive prophecy, no longer exists to the extent it did in first century Christianity.” He goes further: “God no longer directly reveals ‘new truth’; there is now a back cover to the Bible. The canon of Scripture is closed.”
Even though I comment on Graham’s book I would be remiss if I did not present a balanced view of modern prophecy. Many do believe that God gives people messages to deliver to other people. God does reveal truth to someone in a supernatural way and that enables that person to deliver that message to others. Whether it is a “word from the Lord” or a supposed prophecy, our response should be the same. Compare what is said to what the Word of God says. If it contradicts the Bible, throw it out. If it agrees with the Bible, pray for wisdom and discernment as to how to apply the message. That is good advice for Christians who believe that prophecy is alive and well today.

But for others who wonder if prophecy exists, is there another sense of the word prophet that is relevant for today’s world?

Graham says there is.

The prophetic office he speaks of is edification, instruction, consolation and exhortation, all gifts of pastors in local congregations. The role of the prophet can now be exercised by ministers who preach God’s word for the edification of their congregations.

Let’s be clear, many in congregations who declare they are Christians are not students of God’s word. Literally the only Bible they hear is what is read by the pastor in Sunday worship service. The Bible can be a daunting book, filled with difficult words, challenging images and unclear concepts. People have a hard time diving right into the Bible and getting any valuable message from it, especially if they are not regular students, with effective study aids and a habitual desire for God’s truth. Most Christians need someone with a deep understanding to explain the word of God to them.

And here is where Billy Graham opens the door to the supernatural gift of modern-day prophecy. The Holy Spirit can “illumine” the minds of those called to explain the Word of God, giving them a gift that is impossible for ordinary church members to have. Graham says that the illumination is not new doctrine but God does give new directions. “I am willing to grant that possibility, with the understanding that it does not involve new revelation but something the Holy Spirit would do that would be dynamically related to the written Word of God” [Graham, 178].

He reports listening to a tape of a pastor who was reputed to have prophetic words. His followers admitted he had charisma, but they also reported his ability to explain Biblical truth in an extremely clear way. Upon listening to the tape, Graham writes “I found that almost everything he said was biblically based….He gave biblical truth in a dramatic way, applying it to our world.”

Not everyone has the level of Bible knowledge of a Billy Graham. They don’t have the gift of discernment, which is necessary for ascertaining truth from falsehood.

Here is where we as Christians have a challenge. “Every Christian should be rooted in the Bible, and he should know what the Bible teaches.” Granted, some Christians like Graham may have the gift of discernment in greater measure but most of us don’t. The only way to develop any discernment about prophetic exhortation is to open our Bibles on a regular basis, purchase some highly respected study aids and develop a habitual hunger for God’s Truth as written in His Word.

With this in place, we can really benefit from the prophetic words of our ministers. They can only deepen our understanding if they have the prophetic gift of edification, instruction, consolation and exhortation. We know what they say is in line with the Bible, because we have some knowledge of our Bibles.

Their words are growing our faith and we are actively trying to grow it ourselves.

Getting help and helping ourselves.

Two good things, I am thinking.

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The Gift of Prophecy…

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“Your word is full of fulfilled prophecy. You told things before they happened so that when they did, people would believe” [John 14: 29].

After discussing the gift of apostleship in the previous post, let’s look at other spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians 4 by the Apostle Paul.

One such gift is the gift of prophecy.

Like apostleship, the gift of prophecy is open to debate in today’s church, some believing that the gift exists; others thinking that evidence of prophecy is probably rare. Billy Graham says he is aware of “rare instances” in which Christians believe they have been given foreknowledge about future events. For example, he cites an 18th century missionary who prophesied that a ship loaded with food would arrive and it did just before people in a settlement were about to die from starvation. Many feel that was true prophecy.

He does not say “no” to prophecy today. He just says that examples of contemporary prophecy are “not ordinary and frequent.”

The word “prophecy” comes from the Greek word meaning “public expounder.” He explains that in apostolic times the gift of prophecy had two parts. In this post, I will concentrate on the first of two meanings of the word prophet.

In apostolic times [meaning between 30 AD and 100 AD, the ministry of Jesus and His immediate followers] prophecy meant “one concerned [with] the communication of words from God to men, through the prophet.” Note how Graham comments on this prophetic gift. “The gift of prophecy in the first sense, that of foretelling or predictive prophecy, no longer exists to the extent it did in first century Christianity.” I would ask you to concentrate your attention on the phrase “to the extent.” He is not saying that the gift does not exist, but it does not exist as much as it did in the past.

I would be remiss if I did not explain that the gift of “public expounder” had an accompanying gift that is given to the receivers of the “expounding.” God gives the gift of discernment to the receivers of the prophecy. Why is that important you might ask? The reason for the need for discernment arises from the existence of false prophets. Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18). The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing [the Bible]. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine. Graham states “The very fact that a prophet spoke by revelation virtually assured the existence of false prophets, too, as we note from both Old and New Testaments.” New Testament Christians were told not to despise prophecy but were told to test all things.

Scripture plainly teaches that discernment is a gift that will be useful as we approach the end of the age [the final days when Christ comes and we see the commencement of the next dispensation. It is the period that precedes the second coming of the Son of Man as the Righteous Judge]. At that time, many false prophets will appear, many of them will be “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Their purpose is to fool God’s own people. The Apostle Paul was concerned about the Corinthians because they seemed to have little discernment, welcoming anyone as the prophet of Christ. He writes “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough . . . such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:4, 13].

It goes without saying that it would be best if every Christian were discerning, but that is probably expecting too much. Graham says “every Christian should be rooted in the Bible, and he should know what the Bible teaches” [180]. Sadly, many Christians today own a Bible but they rarely open it, much less study it.

Graham closes his comments on prophecy this way: “The requirement (or test) of the true prophet (the foreteller) in the Scriptures was that he be 100 percent accurate. Not 50 percent. Not 75 percent. Not even 99 percent. But 100 percent accurate.

High standards indeed, but maybe appropriate for a spiritual gift that can influence so many Christian believers.

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