One of the least understood portions of Scripture in the Church today is 1 Corinthians 12 – 14. Thousands of books have been written and millions of sermons preached to explain every imaginable interpretation about what Paul meant when he wrote – “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” (1 Corinthians 12:1) Interesting that Paul wrote this specifically to address the ignorance in the church about spiritual matters (Greek – pneumatikon) and what has come from it is more ignorance in the Church about spiritual matters. I don’t think that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote it. He expected Christians to understand clearly his meaning and purpose.
Even though so much of this portion of 1 Corinthians addresses spiritual gifts (Greek – charismata), Paul first addresses the Corinthians’ ignorance about spiritual matters. The Church then and now is ignorant about many things pertaining to the spiritual world. Look at what Paul wrote next – “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:2-3) The Corinthian Christians were Gentiles who had believed in dumb (Greek – aphonos – voiceless) idols (Greek – eidola) before they believed in Christ. Even though the idols could not talk (being made of wood or metal), there was a spiritual language involved in the worship of those false gods. That language included saying Jesus was “accursed” (Greek – anathema) because of the opposition of pagan worshippers to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is not the spiritual language that comes from the Spirit of God. In fact, no one can say that Jesus is Lord (Greek – kurios) except by the Holy Spirit.
We live in such a material world (“me, me, it’s all about me”) that Christians often get caught up thinking about spiritual matters in the same way. Paul is diving into what was a huge problem in Corinth and is still a problem in churches around the world today. He was trying to clear up their ignorance about the spiritual world. Why? Because of how they viewed the spiritual world before they were saved. Paul reminded them that they had been “carried away” (Greek – apago) to worship voiceless idols. Those idols were likenesses or “phantoms” of the spiritual power they represented. Though the images were voiceless, there was certainly a spiritual voice behind the images – the voices of Satan and his demonic force. Their combined voices cursed Jesus and could not call Jesus their Lord because that came only through the Holy Spirit. Satan does not operate through the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Satan is evil, always and only.
Let’s not miss the main point of Paul’s main point. Christians are vitally attached to and immersed in the spiritual world. There are amazing powers in that world. There are important protocols in that world. There are languages in that world. We must “not” be ignorant about spiritual matters. Before Paul mentions any spiritual gift (charismata) by name (e.g. word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, prophecy), he makes clear to the Corinthians, and to us, that the Holy Spirit of God is the Spiritual Power behind the gifts. We are to speak His language and not the language of Satan and demons.
Now, on to the next part of our study about the spiritual gift of prophecy. We’ve already seen that church prophets are involved in evangelism, edification, exhortation, comfort, profit, and teaching. What else do prophets do? They uncover hidden things from the spiritual world.
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:26-33
The word “revelation” is the Greek word apokalupsin. Wait a minute! Isn’t that the word for “apocalypse?” Yes, it is. The world is generally ignorant about what an apocalypse is because of books and movies. The word is made up of two words – apo (from) and kalupto (to cover) – and means “an uncovering, unveiling.” People often think of the APOCALYPSE as an end-of-the-world event. It is true that the Book of Revelation (Apokalupsis) does address amazing future events that will impact the world as we know it, but the word apokalupsis is used in many other places in the Bible for other reasons.
When Joseph and Mary presented the baby Jesus to the Lord at the Temple, a just and devout man named Simeon took Jesus into his arms, blessed God, and spoke these prophetic words: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32). The word “revelation” is apokalupsin and certainly wasn’t used as an end-of-the-world reference. God’s salvation would be a spiritual light that would bring an “uncovering, unveiling” to the Gentiles.
The Apostle Paul used the word apokalupsin in Romans 16 when he wrote about the Gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ according to “the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations.” (Romans 16:25-26) Paul used the word apokalupsin again in 2 Corinthians 12 when he wrote about the many “visions and revelations” he had received from the Lord. Those were not end-of-the-world events, but “unveilings” of spiritual Truth for Paul to guide him in his ministry to the Gentiles.
So, when we talk about church prophets having an apokalupsis during a meeting of believers, we understand that it’s an “uncovering” that the Spirit of God gives to them. If you have ever seen a church prophet “uncover” a spiritual truth during a church meeting, it is wonderful. God is glorified. Christians are edified. Problems are solved. Issues are clarified. Who receives the glory? The church prophet? They better not. Only God can get the glory.
Even as Paul gave the Corinthians directions about the orderly process about speaking and interpreting tongues, so he gave church prophets directives about keeping order during an apokalupsis.
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:30-33
Two or three prophets are allowed to speak during a church meeting, even as other prophets judge (diakrinetosan – discern, determine) what is said. If the Spirit of God reveals a spiritual matter to another prophet, the first prophet is to keep silent. The purpose for prophesying is not to be heard but “that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” How wonderful it would be if that would be the heart and purpose of all who spoke in Christian churches around the world today. Unfortunately, many people speak primarily to be heard, seen and lauded, not so that people would learn and be encouraged.
If you have the spiritual gift of prophesy, you have a big responsibility. God has chosen to gift you with the ability to “uncover” things that are hidden. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit will reveal new Scripture that you should get published into every new Bible. There is nothing new to add to the Bible (Galatians 6:1-9; Revelation 22:18-19). What it does mean is God will give you special spiritual insight that will reveal His Truth in ways that will help saved and unsaved people understand spiritual things in ways they may have never seen before. What a blessing you can be to the Body of Christ!
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”