Redefining prophecy: are there two kinds of prophecies?

By Ninos A Hadjirousou


When I was still somewhat in the charismatic movement but also questioning its claims of the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit (tongues, prophecy and healing) (it was in a church that was much charismatic but also interested in New Calvinism), I was interested to listen to what theological intellects had to say regarding prophecy: men like John Piper and Wayne Grudem. These men were more exegetical then other teacher in the charismatic continuationist movement. Yet what was interesting, is that these well respected evangelical theologians were not only confusing to me, but also troubling because of their doctrinal position on this matter. What is there position? They would affirm the position called continuationism. That is to say, that they agree with the orthodox teaching of the faith yet do believe that the gifts of the Spirit (Prophecy and tongues and healing) have not ceased, but they are still in operation today. They claim that they would find their roots tracing back to the reformation, yet they hold to this view of the gifts continuing which makes things a little strange. Most, if I can say nearly all reformers were cessationist’s!


I remember watching a clip of John Piper explaining the new kind of definitions of prophecy. New kind? What was that all about?


John Piper’s reaction to the Strange Fire conference, which was a conference preaching against Charismatic doctrines such as WOF, Third Wave and it’s abuses of the Spiritual Gifts, led by John Macarthur back in 2013, caused many to react against the conference and it’s speakers. Piper said according to


I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”


The article adds ‘As explained in the post, Piper not only advocates obedience to those New Testament passages, but he himself pursues such spiritual gifts, specifically prophecy, which means for him preaching “under an anointing” from God: This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”[1]


He added that there are two kinds of prophecies, which means there are two kinds of prophets. On the podcast Ask Pastor John ep. 215 he said that prophecy today is not:


infallible, Scripture-level, authoritative speaking,” but rather “something that God spontaneously brings to mind in the moment, and—because we are fallible in the way we perceive it, and the way we think about it, and the way we speak it—it does not carry that same level of infallible, Scripture-level authority”.


Dr.Wayne Grudem also affirms this position:


An examination of the New Testament teaching on this gift will show that it should be defined not as ‘predicting the future’, or ‘proclaiming a word from the Lord,’ or ‘powerful preaching’ but rather as ‘telling something that God has spontaneously brought into mind’.” [2]


What’s interesting is that both Piper and Grudem don’t believe that there are modern day prophets and apostles today, which would mean that this includes that there are no prophecies or miracles workers either biblically speaking. Yet, as logical and as rational this is, they don’t seem to agree with that conclusion either. In fact, they believe that prophecy does exist, but it has been downgraded into a less authoritative version. What do they mean by that?

Well, prophecy, they say, it is not so authoritarian anymore, it is not infallible, but fallible. They say that we have a second rank lower NT prophets and Apostles today. We may call these men or women, a lower ‘A’ (little apostles).


A lower case ‘apostle’ then is one who does not speak infallible divine revelations, one who does not do a complete and supernatural miracle, who does not predict the future accurately, but simply gives godly advice and encourages others on what God maybe be saying to that person’s life. This is what they call modern day ‘prophecy’.

And the Scriptures that they use to support their teaching, is 1 Thessalonian 5:20-22, Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 14:1, Act’s 21:10-11.

Now in the early years of my Christian life, i found John Piper as a very helpful bible teacher in my understanding of suffering, the cost of following Christ and believing in the Sovereignty of God. I have also respect and heard good things about Grundem too. However, though these brothers in Christ are excellent these areas, as much as i respect them, in the case of the charismatic movement, their belief in the doctrine of continuation-ism, they are in error.

This is what we will discuss and uncover in the next articles. Examine if what they claim agrees with Scripture (Acts 17:11).

[1]


[2] Dr.W.Grudem, Why Christians Can still prophecy, 1988, Christianity Today, p.29


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