Summary: Although all different kinds of nonsensical things are taught under the guise of prophecy, God can still lead us to say something to someone else.

Freedom and Restriction in the Church

(I Thessalonians 5:19-20)

1. A few months ago, I read a fascinating book titled "Cultures and Organizations."

2. It evaluated different nations on tha basis of things like power distance or future vs. short term orientation.

3. One big difference between cultures is the level of comfort people feel with uncertainty.

4. Although this is true on a national level, there is also a difference between individuals in every society.

5. How comfortable are you with the uncertain, the open ended?

6. Do you find security by amassing rules and organizing things, or can you be comfortable with the uncertain?

7. When it comes to Bible interpretation, some of us are more comfortable with the unclear or uncertain. Others believe everything is clear and easily categorized.

8. The English are a more laid back people. Whether or not the UK actually has a constitution is a matter of debate. The Germans and French, on the other hand, find security through lots of red tape and rules, even if the rules are not followed.

9. Many church conflicts are based on the differences and tensions we feel because of our comfort levels with the uncertain; some of us are open to a live and let live attitude, while others prefer a strict control and predictability. Most of us are probably in between the two.

10. Our comfort or discomfort with the uncertain greatly affects our ability to interpret Scripture. If we cannot handle the uncertain, we make everything fit into a nice package.

11. Feel free to disagree with me today as I address the controversial subject of prophecy.

Main Idea: Although all different kinds of nonsensical things are taught under the guise of prophecy, God can still lead us to say something to someone else.

The New Testament suggests a balance between freedom and responsibility, between being open to God and being gullible.

I. Freedom: Do not EXTINGUISH the Spirit by treating all PROPHECIES with Contempt

The connection between the indwelling Holy Spirit, the gifts He gives us, and the idea of a flame is seen in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

The opposite of "fanning into flame" is extinguishing….

We extinguish the Spirit by not allowing people to minister, to participate, to have their gifts and talents utilized…and prophecy seems to be the issue at hand

A. Our only INFALLIBLE authority is the Word of God

There were many words the Old Testament prophets did not record -- some prophets left no written message at all; we only have some of Jesus words….

Truth is not the same as inspiration, and inspiration is not the same a Scripture… all Scripture IS inspired, but that is not to say the other words Jesus spoke, for example, were uninspired, just not Scripture

B. The Old Testament PROPHET (Deut. 18:22)

1. Human authority was in the PROPHET

--prophets even sometimes penned Scripture

2. The prophet himself was true or false

C. The NEW Testament Prophet

1. Human authority was in the APOSTLES

The Apostles or their associates are the ones who wrote the Scripture

2. The prophecies themselves are DISCERNED as true or false

3. New Testament Prophecy is a WEAKER concept than Old Testament

John Piper compares the gift of teaching to the gift of prophecy: "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?

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