The three Utterance Gifts of the Spirit are:
- Interpretation of Tongues
Definition of the Gift of Prophecy
In the Old Testament, the main Hebrew word for “prophesy” is naba (5012), and is defined as: “to speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse).”
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “prophesy” is propheteuo (4395) and is defined as: “(from 4396); to foretell events, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office, poet.”
Therefore, to prophesy is to speak under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to speak forth the mind and counsel of God. Speaking a prophecy could be given via a simple discourse, singing or poetical. The Holy Spirit loves music and poetry.
Prophesying and Preaching
Prophesying and preaching are similar but not identical. Preaching may contain prophecy, but there is a difference between the two. Both of them involve speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Preaching is exhorting and declaring the Word, and includes teaching.
There is one Aramaic word which is translated as “prophesying”, and is defined as “inspired teaching” (Strong’s #5017 – nebuwah). That word is found in Ezra 6:14a, which says, “And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.” This verse implies that Haggai and Zechariah were both prophets and inspired teachers of the law. The three gifts of prophecy, preaching and teaching overlap.
There is a difference between teaching and preaching:
The Hebrew (Old Testament) word lamad (Strong’s #3925), translated as “teach” or “teaching” means to goad, to instruct, to learn, to become skillful or an expert at something.
The Hebrew word yarah (Strong’s #3384), translated as “teach” or “teaching” means to flow as water (i.e. rain); to lay or throw an arrow (i.e. to shoot at a target); to point out (as by aiming the finger); to teach.
The Greek (New Testament) word matheteuo (Strong’s #3100), translated as “teach” means to become a pupil; to disciple; to enroll as a scholar; a learner; to instruct.
The Greek word katecheo (Strong’s #2727), translated as “teach” means to sound down into the ears, i.e. (by implication) to indoctrinate (catechize).
Teaching is building a foundation of “precept upon precept, line upon line”. Isaiah 28:10 says, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”
The Hebrew word basar (Strong’s #1319), translated as “preach” means to be fresh, i.e. full (rosy, cheerful); to announce glad news; to bear, bring, carry, preach, and tell good tidings; a messenger; to publish; to show forth.
The Hebrew word qeriyah (Strong’s #7150), translated as “preaching” or “preach” means making a proclamation, pronounce, publish, to call forth.
The Greek word kerusso (Strong’s #2784), translated as “preach” or “preacher” means to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the Gospel); to proclaim, to publish.
The Greek word euaggelizo (Strong’s #2097), translated as “preach” means to announce good news (evangelize), especially the Gospel; to declare, bring or show glad tidings; preach the Gospel.
Prophecy is valid for our day and age.
1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-29 shows us that prophecy is one of the Gifts of the Spirit and the Lord wants us to exercise our gifts. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 we are told to not despise prophecies or quench the Spirit.
We are now living in the Kingdom Age (which started with the early New Testament church). The Gifts of the Spirit did not die out with the apostles. It just was not as heard of or written about for centuries following the early apostles. And people did not have Bibles back then like we have today. The Catholic Church ruled the religious world for centuries. There was a mixture of Christianity and idolatry in the Church. This truth of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit was revived with the Pentecostal and Charismatic outpourings in the last few centuries. People got a hold of what the Word teaches and ran with it.
Salvation by grace and faith alone through Jesus Christ was also not taught in the Church for centuries following the early apostles, but that doesn’t mean this truth died out. This truth was revived, with much persecution, by Martin Luther. During the centuries, water baptism by immersion was unheard of, but that doesn’t mean that that truth died out. It was revived by the Anabaptists, with much persecution.
There is a difference between the written prophecies of the Bible and prophecy that is spoken today.
Written Bible prophecy is a higher level of prophecy. It was given by God as the authoritative Word of God. Today, prophecies are to be judged by the Word.
In the Old Testament only a handful of people were filled with the Holy Spirit, such as prophets, priests, seers and godly kings. The majority of the people had to seek out a prophet to get a word from the Lord about a matter. However, since the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers. We can now hear from the Lord for ourselves.
In the New Testament era, we are not to seek out prophets for direction and guidance in our lives. But rather, prophets usually CONFIRM what the Holy Spirit has already revealed to us. Whatever a prophet says should bear witness in your spirit.
2 Corinthians 13:1 says, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
There are five primary purposes for prophecy in the local church.
- Edification – building up, erecting the church of God.
- Exhortation – encouragement, advice and earnest warning.
- Comfort – God speaking in great personal concern, tenderness and care; God drawing close to us.
- Convict and Convince – to speak to our own conscience or spirit and gently persuade us to change our ways.
- Instruction and Learning – God’s way of communicating to His people about practical life matters.
There are various ways that a prophecy may come to an individual.
- Spontaneous utterances
- By an angel
- By Jesus Christ Himself appearing visibly in a vision to the prophet
There are at least five ways that a prophecy may be expressed by someone.
- Speaking or verbalizing
- Demonstrative actions (for example, in Acts 21:11 the prophet Agabus took Paul’s belt and bound his own hands and feet and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles to be imprisoned and eventually executed.)
- Writing prophecy down
- Through song or musical instruments
- Through liturgical dance
Should prophecy be judged?
The answer is YES.
1 Corinthians 14:29-33 says, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
1 John 4:1-3 says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
1 Corinthians 13:9 says, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.”
Who is to judge prophecy?
- Every believer who has the Holy Spirit indwelling them.
- Elders of the local assembly.
- Those with the Gift of discerning of spirits.
- Other prophets.
There are at least five criteria by which prophecy is to be judged.
- By the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”)
- By witness of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27 “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”)
- By confession of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1-3,6 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” Verse 6: “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”)
- By its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.”)
Galations 5:22-26 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
- By fulfillment of the prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:21-22 “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”)
This can be a sticky issue because there is responsibility on the part of the recipient of the prophecy to obey a directive, or take action, or do something on their part, for the prophetic word to come to pass. Also, the recipient has to have faith and speak words of faith for the promise to come to pass. Doubting and unbelief can nullify a prophetic word.
Also, there is the issue of timing. God has an appointed season and timing for bringing prophetic words to pass in our lives. Some words come to pass within a short time, while other words may take many years to be fulfilled.
There is a difference between the gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet.
Not everyone who prophesies is a prophet or prophetess. The prophet is a part of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-16.
“And He Himself gave some to be 1) apostles, some 2) prophets, some 3) evangelists, and some 4) pastors and 5) teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
The five-fold leadership equips (trains, teaches) the Body of Christ to do the work of the ministry.
God appoints individuals to these offices as He sees fit.
To be in the office of the prophet, an individual must be appointed by God to be in that leadership position, and be publicly acknowledged by man. The prophet should willingly submit to church or apostolic leadership (not be a lone ranger). The prophet must be a mature seasoned Christian (not in natural age but spiritually speaking). They must demonstrate good fruit (the fruit of the Spirit). They should have a good track record of prophecies they have spoken coming to pass. They should only speak what the Holy Spirit tells them to speak, not adding anything to it or taking anything away. The prophetic words they give are more weighty and authoritative than just simple prophecy. For example, they prophesy over nations and declare God’s purposes in the earth. When prophesying over individuals, they prophesy with detailed precision.
Also, they must operate in at least four of the Gifts of the Spirit:
- Gift of Prophecy
- Word of Knowledge
- Word of Wisdom
- Discerning of spirits
A prophet should have the Gift of Discerning of spirits to be able to see into the spirit realm to recognize angelic activity from demonic activity, to recognize truth from error, to recognize what is from God and what is from the enemy or what is just flesh.
A prophet has to have the gift of the Word of Knowledge to see things of the past, present and future. And then have the gift of the Word of Wisdom to give people direction as to what to do in a given situation.
Those who have the Gift of Prophecy speak under the influence of the Holy Spirit to one or more persons to give edification, exhortation and comfort.
When the Spirit of Prophecy is flowing in a meeting, anyone can prophesy when that anointing is present, even if they don’t have the Gift of Prophecy. An example is when King Saul began to prophesy when he came into the company of the prophets, and he was a changed man (1 Samuel 9:27 – 10:6).
There are some things that will contaminate prophecies being spoken.
- Root of bitterness (which defiles many – Hebrews 12:5).
- Negative, critical attitudes
- Independent spirit
- Unyielding spirit
- Controlling spirit
- Anger displayed
There are some practical points of wisdom for those who prophesy in the Church:
- It is important to use good etiquette in your voice tone and mannerisms when prophesying. You should avoid yelling, screaming or other extremes in your voice or manner. You should avoid using harsh words or whipping the people. You should avoid scolding and lecturing.
- The timing of giving a prophetic word is important. You should be sensitive to the timing of the Holy Spirit and of those around you. Not all the prophets should speak in a given service (Paul said just two or three should speak in turns, and the other prophets should judge the words being spoken – 1 Corinthians 14:29-32).
- It is important for the prophecy to flow with the general theme of the service. If the word is on a totally different track, then wait until another time to share it.
- Avoid prophesying your pet doctrines or emphasis.
- Avoid giving out personal counsel to a need you are aware of.
- We are now living in the New Testament era. Prophetic words given today should be seasoned with grace to bring edification, exhortation and comfort to the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:3). A prophetic word should not be one of doom and gloom, or of whipping someone, or prophesying negative things to someone.
Even if the word involves warning, foretelling or prediction of something negative, the other part of that word should be redemptive, giving hope to the individual that if they choose to do this or that, that it can be averted. For example, in the Old Testament God sent prophets to warn the people that if they continued in idolatry that they would be taken into captivity. However, if they repented and walked in obedience to the Lord, it could be avoided. They didn’t listen and finally did end up being taken into exile in Babylon, but the positive part is that God said it would only last for 70 years and then they would return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.
Gift of Diverse Kinds of Tongues
The Gift of Tongues is the God-given supernatural ability to speak in languages that you do not know. It could be any ancient or current earthly language, or a language spoken in heaven. Most often it is speaking an earthly language you have never learned.
The Gift of Tongues is for giving a public prophecy to the Church in an unknown language, and then either interpreting it yourself afterwards or someone with the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues interpreting the prophetic word.
The Gift of Tongues could also be in operation to an audience of one or more in a setting outside of the local church. Sometimes God uses people with this gift to speak a word from the Lord to someone who speaks a different language to minister to that person and/or lead them to Christ.
On the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, when the Galileans were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak eloquently and fluently in the languages represented of the thousands of Jews present for the Feast of Pentecost. They were declaring the wonderful works of God.
It was a sign and a wonder, because the Galileans were considered to be uneducated, crude in their speech, and rough around the edges. But when the Holy Spirit baptized them, they spoke as if they were highly educated and fluent in many languages. As a result, 3,000 people were saved the first day and the early church was birthed.
The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues is the supernatural ability to interpret what was spoken, or prophesied, in an unknown tongue into the language of the hearers so that all may understand.
There are three purposes for Tongues and Interpretation in the assembly.
- A sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).
- He who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation and comfort to believers (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). When a person gives a public prophecy in an unknown language, then that prophetic word should be interpreted by either the person who has the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues or by the person who gave the prophetic word in tongues.
- Lift congregation into praise or prayer (1 Corinthians 14:13-15 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the Spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the Spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”)
In what ways are Tongues a sign to unbelievers?
- Evidence of the supernatural
- Sense of the supernatural
- Witness of hearing a foreign language they may know
Not everyone has the Gift of Tongues or Interpretation of Tongues. However, all believers can speak or pray in tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:4-31 teaches that we all have our own gifts given to us by God, and we form one body.
The Gift of Tongues is for the edification of the Church. The Gift of Tongues is giving a public prophecy, or declaration, in a language you do not know, and then either you or someone with the gift of Interpretation of Tongues interpreting the word. Or as in the case in Acts 2, the Galileans spoke in the languages of the nations of Jews present for the Feast of Pentecost (and no interpreter was necessary … the Jews understood what the Galileans were saying). The Galileans were declaring the wonderful works of God.
Speaking or praying in tongues is for your own self-edification for your own personal prayer life.
I go into detail about the difference between speaking in tongues and the Gift of Tongues in another post. It’s very important to know this.
Pt. 5 – Speaking in Tongues vs. Gift of Tongues
There is a difference between “interpretation” and “translation”, as it relates to the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues.
To interpret is to explain, expound or unfold. To translate is to convert from one language to another.
When interpreting a message in tongues, the interpreter does not translate the language into the language of the hearers, but rather explains, expounds and unfolds what was said in tongues.
Who is to interpret tongues in the assembly?
The one to whom this Gift has been given to. If there is no interpreter, the one who has the Gift of Tongues should pray that he/she may interpret the prophecy they just gave so that all may be edified.
In previous posts, I went into great detail about speaking in tongues. To learn more, please click here:
Pt. 3 – The Significance of Galileans Speaking in Tongues
Pt. 4 – Tongues: Q & A
Pt. 5 – Speaking in Tongues vs. Gift of Tongues
Pt. 6 – Benefits of Tongues by Dr. Leroy Thompson