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NT Prophecy differes from OT Prophecy…John Piper

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A friend forwarded me this article by John Piper this morning.  He does a great job of explaining the difference between prophecy in the OT and NT… something so few people seem to understand today.

 

NT Prophecy differs from OT Prophecy…..John Piper

John Piper contends along the same lines as Wayne Grudem that NT prophecy was of a different character than OT prophecy. I appreciate how Piper acknowledges and concedes why people would have a hang-up over such a declaration. He also argues that the NT gift of teaching is fallible and a good analogy of how NT prophecy works:

Spirit-Prompted yet No Intrinsic, Divine Authority
Now ask yourself this question: Did Joel and Peter and Luke think that all the men and women—old and young, menservants and maidservants—would become prophets in the same sense that Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophets, that is, people who spoke with verbal inspiration and with the very authority of God and who could write infallible Scripture? Is the prophesying of Acts 2:17 that sort of prophecy? Or is there a difference?

 
I believe there is a difference. I don’t think the gift of prophecy today has the authority of the Old Testament prophets or the authority of Jesus and the apostles. Or, to put it more positively, this sort of prophecy is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and yet does not carry intrinsic, divine authority.

 
One of the reasons that this kind of prophecy is so hard to get a handle on today is that most of us do not have categories in our thinking for a Spirit-prompted statement that doesn’t have intrinsic, divine authority. That sounds like a contradiction. We stumble over a kind of speech that is prompted and sustained by the Holy Spirit and yet is fallible. But I am going to try to show this morning and this evening that this is what the gift of prophecy is in the New Testament and today. It is a Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained utterance that does not carry intrinsic, divine authority and may be mixed with error.  Now if that makes the gift of prophecy seem insignificant and unedifying, consider the analogy of the gift of teaching.

 
The Analogy of the Gift of Teaching
Would you not say that, when the spiritual gift of teaching is being exercised, teaching is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and is rooted in an infallible, divine revelation, namely, the Bible? The gift of teaching is the Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained act of explaining biblical truth for the edification of the church. And all of us would say it is tremendously valuable in the life of the church. But would any of us say that the speech of a teacher, when he is exercising the gift of teaching, is infallible? No. Would we say it has divine authority? Only in a very secondary sense would we say so. Not in itself, not intrinsically, but in its source, Bible.

 
Why is it that a gift that is Spirit-prompted and Spirit-sustained and rooted in an infallible revelation (the Bible) is nevertheless fallible, mixed with imperfection, and only has secondary, derivative authority? The answer is this: A teacher’s perception of biblical truth is fallible; his analysis of biblical truth is fallible; his explanation of biblical truth is fallible. There is no guarantee that the link between an infallible Bible and the church will be an infallible link. The gift of teaching does not guarantee infallible teaching. And yet, even though the gift of teaching is fallible and even though it lacks intrinsic, divine authority, we know it is of immense value to the church. We are all edified and built up by gifted teachers. God is in it. He does use it. It is a spiritual gift.
Now compare this to the gift of prophecy. It is prompted by the Spirit and sustained by the Spirit and based on a revelation from God. God reveals something to the mind of the prophet (in some way beyond ordinary sense perception), and since God never makes a mistake, we know that his revelation is true. It has no error in it. But the gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation. The prophet may perceive the revelation imperfectly, he may understand it imperfectly, and he may deliver it imperfectly. That’s why Paul says we see in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). The gift of prophecy results in fallible prophecy just like the gift of teaching results in fallible teaching. So I would ask, “If teaching can be good for the edification of the church, could not prophecy be good for edifying as well, just as Paul says it is (1 Corinthians 14:3, 12, 26)—even though both of them are fallible, mixed with human imperfection, and in need of testing?

 
Creating a New Category in Our Thinking
The point of what I have been saying is this: we need to create a category in our thinking for a kind of speech that is Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained, revelation-rooted, and yet in need of testing and sifting. We need another category of prophet besides the one of true prophet, on the one hand, who spoke with infallible, verbal inspiration (the prophetic biblical authors and Jesus and the apostles), and false prophet, on the other hand, who is condemned in Deuteronomy 13:3; 18:20 (cf. Jeremiah 23:16). The teaching that we find in the Bible about prophecy is simply not exhausted by these two categories. We need a third category for the “spiritual gift of prophecy”—Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained, revelation-rooted, but mixed with human imperfection and fallibility and therefore in need of sifting.

 
I say sifting because in 1 Thessalonians 5:19–22 that is what happens. It is not the prophet who is being tested as true or false. It is the prophecies that are being sifted for what is good and bad. “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good, abstain from every form of evil.” This is not an either/or situation where you either have a true, infallible prophet or a false, presumptuous prophet. It is a situation in which some of the prophecy is good and some is not.

Paul says that if we despise it because of this imperfection, we quench the Spirit. I hope you want to avoid that with all your heart. How shall we do that? There is so much more to say. I will pick it up here tonight, give additional reasons, and practical implications. May the Lord himself teach us even this afternoon.

Written by Sean Scott

January 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. New Testament prophecy is greater in the sense that it is built upon the New Testament foundation, a living, breathing relationship with God through the blood of His Son, Jesus, and the INDWELLING power of the Holy Spirit.

    We are those who have seen the kingdom of God:

    “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3).

    The Old Testament was simply a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ,” (Galatians 3:24): and since Pentecost, there has been a change in the law (Romans 8:2; Hebrews 7:12), which is infinitely preferable to the Old Testament experience!

    Certainly, Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles were used, exclusively, as vessels through which to first pen and communicate God’s testimony concerning Himself, the Holy Scriptures: and today, no man may add to or detract from these words.

    No question.

    I don’t really know any Christians who don’t understand this.

    Under both testaments, it was the Spirit that authorized.

    But now, under the New Testament experience, it is the indwelling power of the Spirit that confirms! Moreover, it is the indwelling power of the Spirit that informs [reveals], grants knowledge for application, and provides wisdom based upon our past obedience.

    The fact that believers are fallible [see in part and know in part] does not suggest that New Testament prophecy is any bit behind that of the Old: our character and ability does not confirm the Spirit’s message; the Spirit confirms the Spirit.

    Today, is the power of the gospel confirmed by the one who speaks it; does the gospel gain its power from the speaker? Of course not.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is THE POWER OF GOD unto salvation.

    Paul gave thanks that it was preached, even when it was preached in ENVY or STRIFE or CONTENTIOUSLY [out of a wrong motivation], as its power to bloom in the hearts of men lies in the seed (Christ). Listen to his words, which are just as applicable today as then:

    “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice,” (Philippians 1:18).

    Our words have power to the extent that we come into agreement with God. He upholds truth, as revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ.

    The fact that the canon of scripture is complete does not necessarily imply that 1) New Testament prophecy cannot be as accurate or 2) New Testament prophecy cannot be as powerful.

    We also need to remember that the prophetic unction provides information today that Old Testament prophecies do not (although this unction is always consistent with God’s character and nature, as revealed throughout scripture).

    For example, practical directions concerning life decisions is sometimes communicated through other believers who are under the prophetic unction [as confirmation from God].

    Remember, the secrets of the unbeliever’s hearts are made known to believers today through the prophetic unction [word of knowledge, given so that the unbeliever may know God is real and turn to Him); the word of wisdom is for this time (1 Corinthians 12:8).

    In no way is New Testament prophecy in any way deficient to Old Testament prophecy [for the two agree].

    But yes, the canon is complete; and believers are fallible.

    P.S. Who are the great men of God in my life? None that are well known to others throughout Christianity. They go by names like this: Ian, Scott, Terry, Steve, and so forth.

    I like to hear what God is saying to them, as it comes out of them, according to their God-given personality and spiritual understanding.

    Peace

    Mark and Vicki Finger

    January 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

  2. “P.S. Who are the great men of God in my life? None that are well known to others throughout Christianity. They go by names like this: Ian, Scott, Terry, Steve, and so forth.”

    Mark – can you explain this comment here?

    Thanks – Jim

    fleebabylon

    January 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

  3. The great people of God in my life are those who I know and am known by–who share the fellowship of sufferings–and of joys.

    Mark

    February 2, 2011 at 1:28 am

  4. For sure Mark – me too! God bless you.

    Jim

    fleebabylon

    February 2, 2011 at 10:02 pm

  5. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge. If anything be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
    (1Co 14:29-31)

    They put great stock on prophesy/prophesying. Today that emphasis is not there, it is more on pre-planned soeakers, with pre-planned messages.

    ( i can understand why people would go for the preplanned stuff, if there is no gift of prophecy in operation in the church)

    A flow of revelation, to all believers, at all times (not just in meetings) is not generally experienced today, and when it is, there is often not the boldness, liberty and faith to express that revelation, as the there was in the early church.

    ian vincent

    February 10, 2011 at 11:30 pm

  6. […] John Piper: “Now compare this to the gift of prophecy. It is prompted by the Spirit and sustained by the Spirit and based on a revelation from God. God reveals something to the mind of the prophet (in some way beyond ordinary sense perception), and since God never makes a mistake, we know that his revelation is true. It has no error in it. But the gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation. The prophet may perceive the revelation imperfectly, he may understand it imperfectly, and he may deliver it imperfectly.   . . . The gift of prophecy results in fallible prophecy” (“NT Prophecy differs from OT Prophecy,” online at: https://preachingjesus.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/nt-prophecy-differes-from-ot-prophecy-john-piper/) […]

  7. […] John Piper: “Now compare this to the gift of prophecy. It is prompted by the Spirit and sustained by the Spirit and based on a revelation from God. God reveals something to the mind of the prophet (in some way beyond ordinary sense perception), and since God never makes a mistake, we know that his revelation is true. It has no error in it. But the gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation. The prophet may perceive the revelation imperfectly, he may understand it imperfectly, and he may deliver it imperfectly.   . . . The gift of prophecy results in fallible prophecy” (“NT Prophecy differs from OT Prophecy,” online at:https://preachingjesus.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/nt-prophecy-differes-from-ot-prophecy-john-piper/) […]

  8. […] resulta en una profecía falible.” (“NT Prophecy differs from OT Prophecy,” online at: https://preachingjesus.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/nt-prophecy-differes-from-ot-prophecy-john-piper/ […]


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