The other day I was thinking about the spiritual, or charismatic, gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying.
It was because of something I read or watched. I can’t remember which it was, but the speaker was denigrating the gift of tongues as an extreme and even heretical thing to do (like MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” book & conference). In all likeliness it was something my senior pastor gave me to read/listen to, as he loves MacArther and similar guys.
But I realized that, for all the ranting against tongues from a certain segment of ultra-conservative Reformed Christians (who are still brothers and sisters in Christ), there seems to be very little spoken about or against prophecy today.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a whole lot of false prophets in the Church today, whether on TV or the internet, and their “prophecies” are easily seen as false because they don’t come to pass (blood moons, anyone?), though sadly they still deceive a great many people.
But beyond that, I wonder if the reason prophecy doesn’t get the same vehemence that tongues do is because all genuine Christ-followers at some point in their lives experience a “word from the Lord” or receive an intuition from Him or knowledge that they couldn’t’ve otherwise have had. And while they may not call it a “prophetic” word, they cannot deny that it came from God.
Secondarily (though possibly foremost in the minds of said cessationist Christians), maybe it’s because tongues are mysterious, and messy, and not controllable in the same way “words from God” are. And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we humans love control, order, and certainty.
While I do have a Pentecostal past, my own current denomination (Christian and Missionary Alliance) has a “seek not, forbid not” policy regarding these two charismatic gifts of the Spirit, but Paul himself is pretty clear when he says “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy... Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy” (1 Cor. 14: 1, 5). And there’s nothing in the biblical record or Church history that suggests that this imperative was not meant for all believers of all time, regardless of what some would like to wish.