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Lesson 3: Spiritual Gifts and Prophecy *

Introduction: Have you ever considered that "prophecy" is a spiritual gift much like teaching? We see all types of teachers, from poor to great. Do only great teachers and great prophets have the spiritual gift? Or, is the gift something given in different amounts? Sometimes a person with a great gift knows it and wants to do things their way. Is that how the church should operate? If the Holy Spirit is speaking to them, shouldn't we follow? How can we even tell the difference between spiritual gifts and natural gifts that might not be so spiritual? Let's dive into our lesson and see what we can learn about spiritual gifts and prophecy!

  1. Gifts For The Church

    1. Read Ephesians 4:11-13. As you look at these verses, what seems to be the goal for each believer? (Three goals are mentioned: a)Unity in faith; b)Unity in the knowledge of Jesus; and, c) Maturity.)

      1. How do believers get to this goal? (We are instructed for "works of service.")

        1. Does that seem odd - that teaching us how to work increases our faith, knowledge and maturity?

      2. What is the goal for the church? ("The body of Christ may be built up.")

      3. If the first goal is unity, if the goal is to build the church, why would different people be given different gifts?

        1. Would different gifts foster competition and jealousy? (That seems to be the way of the world.)

    2. Read Romans 12:3-5. What operational model does God give us for our church? (The parts of the human body. He says the unity of the church comes from each member using his gifts in cooperation with everyone else.)

      1. What mental attitude is key to making this work? (Not to have an exaggerated view of your own gift.)

    3. Read Romans 12:6. How are our gifts determined? (Not by us. They are "gifts" and they come by God's grace.)

      1. Let's be honest here. Do most of the leaders you see have natural gifts instead of spiritual gifts? That is, are the leaders in your church also leaders in their place of work?

        1. Is this an important distinction? (Who gave us our natural gifts? God! How many deserved to be born smart? Musically talented? Gifted in speaking? All of our gifts, whether natural or spiritual, come from God and are given by grace. Thus, there should be no pride connected with the gift - just a sense of obligation.)

  2. Gift of Prophecy

    1. Let's assume that you do not seem to have been born with too many natural or spiritual gifts. Can you get more spiritual gifts by asking? (Read 1 Corinthians 14:1. We are told to "eagerly desire" spiritual gifts. If we could not obtain them (or obtain more), there would be no reason to desire them.)

    2. Notice that the gift of prophecy is a gift of high importance. What is the prophetic gift? If we are supposed to desire it, how do we know when we get it? Is it telling the future? (What we have seen in the last two lessons is that a human relays a story or a message from God. The message could be anything - including a statement about the future.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 14:2-4. How does this help us to understand the gift of prophecy? (It seems to be a very broad gift. The prophet gives messages to strengthen, encourage and comfort the church.)

      1. Does this sound like a preacher to you? (If your church leader is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then this is an exercise of the gift of prophecy.)

    4. Let's explore this more by looking again at Romans 12:6 where it says that if you have the gift of prophesying, you should use it "in proportion to [your] faith." What does that mean?

      1. Would it mean that you could be a partial or "sometimes" prophet because of limited faith?

      2. Would a "low faith" prophet have low quality prophecies? A "high faith" prophet have gold standard prophecies? (We learned last week in our discussion of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, that there are different quality levels of prophets. That quality level reflected the level of their walk with God.)

    5. Look again at Romans 12:3. This is a warning against conceit, but it also seems to indicate that our spiritual gift(s) grow with our faith. Does this support the idea of a "partial" prophet or "low faith" prophet? (Yes. Acting in accord with our level of faith keeps us from being conceited. If we are growing as a prophet, we need to refrain from claiming to have more than we are given. Listeners need to understand that growth will come.)

  3. False Prophets and False Gifts

    1. If we are right to understand the Bible as allowing for "low faith" prophets, how can we trust them? How can we distinguish a low faith true prophet from a false prophet or false gift? Do false prophets and counterfeit gifts even exist?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. Does this suggest that a "spirit" can speak to us that is not the Holy Spirit? (Yes.)

      1. What is the test for determining who is speaking through the prophet? (It seems to be a pretty low test - whether the prophet uplifts Jesus. If they uplift Jesus, then they are reflecting the Spirit of God.)

      2. Does this mean that you can be a "low faith" part-time prophet, with sometimes jumbled, but nevertheless "pro-Jesus" statements and still be a true prophet?

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-12. Is there another way to determine true from false prophets and gifts? (Notice that verse 10 tells us that distinguishing "between spirits" is itself a spiritual gift.)

      1. What does that suggest we should do when we are uncertain about the origin of a prophecy or gift? (Make our own judgment based on whether it promotes the cause of Christ and find someone in the church who has a gift for distinguishing spirits.)

    4. There is a debate in the Christian church over whether the gift of tongues, other than speaking in a foreign language, is a counterfeit gift. Let's decide this by simply looking at the Bible. Read Acts 2:1-4. Is this the gift of tongues? (Yes.)

      1. Read Acts 2:5-8. Was this gift of tongues the ability to speak in a foreign language? (This is clearly speaking in foreign languages.)

      2. Would this gift build up the church? (Of course. It helped many people to understand the disciples' gospel message.)

    5. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 again. Is this gift of tongues speaking in a foreign language?

      1. If it is speaking in a foreign language, why would you need a spiritual gift to interpret?

        1. Why interpret at all? If you are speaking to a group, and not all speak the same language, if the gift of tongues is speaking so that each person would understand his language, no interpreter would be needed, right?

    6. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1. Which foreign language is the tongue of angels? Would this be Italian? French? Spanish? Portuguese?

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-2. What language does God speak? Was this the language spoken at Pentecost in Acts 2? (It cannot be the Acts 2 gift because it says "no one [but God] understands.")

      1. What does it mean to "utter mysteries" with your spirit?

    8. Read 1 Corinthians 14:3-5. Is this gift of tongues understood by others? (No. This gift "edifies" the person, not others.)

      1. If I started speaking Italian with no Italians around, would that edify me?

    9. Read 1 Corinthians 14:13-15. What does it mean to pray in the spirit and not the mind?

      1. If you spoke a foreign language, would that bypass your mind? (No. Just because your speaking comes out in some other language does not mean your brain is not working to communicate a certain message.)

    10. We previously learned that spiritual gifts are intended to build up the members of the church and the church in general. How could an "unknown" tongue, that is not understood by others, and not really understood by the person, build up church members? (Read again 1 Corinthians 14:2-4 and 1 Corinthians 14:14-15. I do not know how to understand these verses other than to mean that there is some sort of prayer language between our spirit and God. This gift is for the personal benefit of the believer.)

    11. Friend, will you ask God to give you faith and spiritual gifts so that you can bless the church?

  4. Next week: The Gift of Prophecy and God's Remnant.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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