Scripture encourages us to seek this gift yet today.

One key difference between many evangelicals and charismatic believers is their attitude toward the gift of prophecy. In charismatic worship, it is not unusual for one or more persons to deliver “a word from the Lord.” Some evangelicals believe Scripture has ruled out that possibility. Others feel uneasy or just plain skeptical when face to face with someone who claims to speak on God’s behalf.

In the following essay, condensed from the forthcoming CT book Tough Questions Christians Ask, exegete Wayne Grudem examines what the New Testament says about the gift of prophecy and offers biblical counsel for its use in both charismatic and noncharismatic churches.

Can evangelical Christians use the gift of prophecy in their churches today? What is this spiritual gift, and how does it function? And if we do allow for its use, how can we guard against abuse and preserve the unique authority of Scripture in our lives?

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 to mind.” Once we understand prophecy this way, we can allow our churches room to enjoy one of the Holy Spirit’s most edifying gifts.

Less Authority Then Scripture

How did the New Testament church regard the gift of prophecy? Did it have more or less authority than Scripture or apostolic teaching? Let us compare what the two testaments say about prophecy.

Old Testament prophets had an amazing responsibility—to speak and write words that had absolute divine authority. They could say, “Thus says the Lord,” and what followed ...

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