The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Part 2/2

II. Paul’s Teaching on Prophecy in 1 Corinthians pdf
1. Context
While Paul has made many references to the gift of prophecy elsewhere, it was in 1 Cor. 12-14 that he addressed the issue more clearly and exhaustively. The church at Corinth offered Paul the unique opportunity to address the gift of prophecy as a practical and pastoral issue. Being located in a cosmopolitan city where permissiveness and sexual liberty was rife, it was only too easy for the decadence of the world to creep into the church. Hence, the church was plague with party strife, theological disputes and immorality. In the one-up-manship atmosphere, it comes as no surprise that the congregation was giving a greater value to the more overt and sensational gifts of the Spirit. This was in fact due to a distorted view of true spirituality. “They imagines that the more the influence of the Divine Spirit deprived a man of his self-consciousness and threw him into an ecstasy, the more powerful was that influence and the more sublime the state to which it raised the man; whereas the more the inspired person retained his self-possession, the less did his inspiration partake of a Divine character.”/50/  It is clear then that despite its great endowment of spiritual gifts, the church was without love and unity.

Paul’s approach to the problem at Corinth is an excellent model of solving a pastoral crisis. He identified the interest of the congregation and while he accepted their right emphasis, he nevertheless corrected their errors by leading them to where they should be. As Longenecker observes, “In dealing with those who were over-emphasizing and misusing the pneumatic element in Christianity, Paul meets them on their own ground. Thus he agrees that the gift of tongues is a genuine supernatural ‘charisma’ and that his own revelatory visions possess real validity…Evidently Paul was an ecstatic. But the fact that he mentions these experiences nowhere so fully as he does in the Corinthian letters indicates that in that correspondence he has a definite purpose in referring to his own prophetic ecstasies… In order to win his ecstatically minded addressees, his approach is that of an ecstatic to ecstatic.”/51/  In particular, he sought to impart a correct understanding of the purpose of spiritual gifts.

a. Their common origin
While the Corinthians were eagerly competing with each other in publicly displaying their gifts Paul reminded them that for all their varieties, the gifts are in fact the manifestations of the same Spirit. They are indeed given to all/52/  as the Holy Spirit apportions/53/  (1 Cor 12:11). Contrary to their misconception, these gifts are experiences of grace and not the reward of spiritual merits or attainments. In Dunn’s words, “the exercise of charismata does not presuppose or depend on a ‘state of grace’, nor on the charismatic’s having reached a certain degree of sanctification; charisma is something given, something unachieved, uncontrived. Nor again does the manifestation of charismata make the believer more holy. There is no immediate causal connection between charisma and sanctification (hagiasmos).”/54/  Perhaps Paul hoped that this realization would eliminate all feelings of pride, rivalry and superiority among the Corinthians.

b. A common purpose
Paul also reminded the Corinthians that the real purpose of the gifts is never that they might be the sole possession of an individual. It is to bring benefit to all, for the common good./55/  Again, this view would remedy the root problem of the Corinthians – their self-centredness and individualism must give way to genuine communal responsibility towards the community of believers. Furthermore, to illustrate and reinforce his argument, Paul took the gift that they valued most (tongues) and demonstrated why prophecy, for all its similarity with tongues (both are ecstatically induced by the Spirit and are verbal), is the superior gift because it brings about greater edification.

2. The phenomenon of prophecy discussed
a. A revelation
It should be clear that for Paul, prophecy is nothing less than inspired speech. It is a charisma of the Spirit and must not be confused with skill, aptitude nor talents. Prophecy occurs only as long as the Holy Spirit is speaking through the human agent. Prophecy is not learned, nor is it a declaration from prior mental preparation. It is a spontaneous utterance, a revelation (apocalypses)./56/  It is the unveiling of information, supernatural secrets that would otherwise be unknown to human subjects. Indeed, prophecy and revelation are near synonymous in 14:26-32. In the final analysis, God is the subject of prophecy.

A necessary corollary to the above is that the office of a prophet is not humanly conferred. It is not a human institution but the sovereign distribution and gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, 1 Cor. 12:28 states that it is God alone who appoints prophets. As such, Paul does not exhort the Corinthians to seek to become prophets but rather, that they desire to prophesy.

b. Consciousness retained
The prophet is a man who retains his full self-awareness, in contrast to the frenzied ecstatics in pagan religions. This is especially clear in 1 Cor. 14:29-33 where we see that by his ability to stop his prophesying to allow another to speak, the first prophet was surely in control of his faculties. By the same token, the second prophet could wait for his turn and restrain from bursting out uncontrollably into prophecy./57/  Surely it is only because a prophet retains a full consciousness of himself and his surrounding (i.e., taking cues from others) that Paul could reasonably expect orderliness in the meeting. How else could they take their turn?

c. An inspired speech in the congregation
Prophecy is an inspired speech to be proclaimed by word of mouth in the midst of a congregation. Again we see the focus of the New Testament on the edification of the community rather than the individual in isolation. Here, prophecy is also to be distinguished from the written prophecy in the Apocalypse and the symbolic actions of the book of Acts or the Old Testament prophets.

3. The function of prophecy
Prophecy is important for Paul because it builds up the congregation.
a. The exercise of prophecy brings edification (oikodome), also ‘upbuilding, strengthening’. This metaphor which views the church as a house or temple in the process of being built is a common motif in Paul’s writings. Paul in fact identifies himself as a founder and builder of the churches (Rom 15:20; 1 Cor. 3:9f; 2 Cor. 10:8; 12:19; 13:10; Eph. 2:21). Likewise, he is always exhorting believers to contribute their utmost in building up one another (Rom. 14:17ff; 15:2f; 1 Cor. 10:24; Eph. 4:29; Phil. 2:4; 1 Thess. 5:11). This is achieved through acts of love (1 Cor. 8:1), a self-denial (Rom 15:2), giving consideration to others (Rom 14:19), the proper exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:26)/58/ and even church discipline (2 Cor 10:8; 13:9). Prophecy then in Paul’s view is superior  to glossolalia because it builds up the whole church, as the comparison below clearly shows:


Chapter 14 Glossolalia Prophecy
i. v2 No one understands (it is unintelligible) It imparts messages to men
ii. v2 In the spirit the speaker speaks mysteries (mysterion) Speaks to men for their edification exhortation and consolation
iii. v14 Emphasis – there is a lack of understanding, even to the speaker. The mind (nous) is unfruitful. Joins the pneuma and the nous
iv. v2 Edifies one man Edifies the entire church
v. vv22-24 Inadequate as an evangelistic agency – a sign misunderstood A message that leads to conviction and repentance


Notes to the above table:

i. “Prophecy was the power of seeing and making known the nature and will of God, a gift of insight for building up men’s characters, quickening their wills, and encouraging their spirits.” (Robertson &Plummer, p. 306). “Mysterion in the N.T commonly means ‘truth about God, once hidden, but now revealed’… Mysteries must be revealed to be profitable; but in the case of Tongues without an interpreter there was no revelation and therefore no advantage to the hearers.” Ibid, p. 306

ii. Dunn, p.233: “Prophecy communicates at the level if the mind; it does not absolve the believer or the believing community from reasoning about their faith; on the contrary, where prophecy is active the community is compelled to think about its faith and life even more.” This is certainly a great contrast from mantic prophecy in the giving of Greek oracles. Conzelmann, p.237: “The ‘spirit’ is subordinated to a rational theological judgment,

iii. It is not denied that the exercise of tongues builds up the speaker. Eautoi is a dative of advantage. “But as Chrysostom says, What a difference between one person and the Church!” c.f. Robertson & Plummer, p.307.

iv. How do tongues and prophecy serve as signs (eis semeion)? Barrett (p.323) has it to “serve as a sign” while Moule (IB, p.70) taking the eis in the final and consecutive sense (with a view towards, resulting in), translates eis semeion as “intended as a sign”. Also Robertson & Plummer, p.317.
We note first of all that in the LXX, semeion often means “an indication of God’s attitude” (e.g. Gen 9:12-14). Likewise, in the NT semeion can mean “an indication of God’s approval and blessing” (Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 15:12; Lk. 2:34; Gen 2:11; 4:54; 9:16; cf. Barnabas 4:14; 1 Clement 51:5) or “an indication of God’s disapproval and a warning of judgment” (Lk. 11:30; 21:11, 25: Acts 2:19; perhaps Mt. 12:39; 16:4; cf. 1 Clement 11:2). Also see Grudem’s discussion, pp. 193-196).

In this case then, tongues are a sign of judgment because they expose the unbelievers by their unrepentant reaction (just as they rejected Christ’s parables, cf. Mk 4:11-12), so Robertson & Plummer, p.317 and Barrett, p.323. On the other hand, prophecy serves as a sign of grace because its convicting power and working of faith is a sign of the gracious presence of God in the congregation (1 Cor. 14:22).

In prophecy the unbeliever is convicted (elenchetai), judged (anakrinetai), and his heart is laid bare (1 Cor. 14:25). Hering, p.152, suggests that this seems to involve thought reading but Barrett, p.326, points out that “The moral truth of Christianity, proclaimed in inspired speech, including no doubt the testimony of those who had been fornicators idolaters and the like, but had been washed, sanctified, and justified (6:9ff), the prophetic word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12) are sufficient to convict a sinner.” E. Schweizer also finds here a litmus test of authentic worship, namely, the impression it leaves on the ‘outsider’ or casual visitor as well as the value it promotes in helping believers and catechumens./59/

b. Prophecy builds up by paraklesis and by paramuthia. The former term means either comfort for the sorrowful (Lk. 2:52; 6:24; 2 Cor. 1:3-7; 1 Tit. 4:13; Heb. 12:5) or encouragement to the discouraged (Rom. 15:4, 5; 2 Cor 7:4, 13: Philem. 7). The latter term is translated consolation (so 1 Cor. 14:3; cf. John 11, 31 where Jesus consoled Mary and Martha, and 1 Thess. 5:14 where Paul urged, “comfort the feebleminded” Anthony Thiselton aptly captures the full dimensions of prophetic ministry when he sees prophecy “combines pastoral insight into the needs of persons, communities, and situations with the ability to address these  with  a God-given utterance or longer discourse (whether unprompted or prepared with judgment, decision, and rational reflection) leading to challenge or comfort, judgment, or consolation, but ultimately building the addressees.”/60/

We see then that prophecy brings to the whole man, to spirit, mind and heart. Through its ministry believers are called to and equipped or service (1 Tim 1:18; 4:14). Through it the church is prepared for the future (1 Thess 4:15-18). It is no wonder that Paul wanted it to be sought above all the other gifts – 1 Cor14:1, “Seek earnestly (zeloute) the spiritual gifts. Especially (hina)/61/  that you may prophesy”. But contrary to the Corinthians’ spirit, its greatness rests on its service. In Barrett’s words (p.316), “He (the prophet) is greater because he is a better servant” (Mk 10:43).

4. Nevertheless, prophecy is imperfect (ek merous)
a. It is only a portion of what God has for His people. When the perfect comes, prophecy will pass away (1 Cor 13:8-10). There are several views on the meaning of to teleion. Some, like Warfield, argue that the power of working miracles (in this case including prophecy) was not extended beyond the disciples upon whom the Apostles conferred it by the imposition of their hands./62/  Others like Merrill Unger identify the ‘perfect’ with the canon of Scriptures./63/  These positions fail in the face of 1 Cor. 13:9 in that since knowledge is not rendered superfluous, by the same token the same may be said of tongues and prophecy. The better explanation then is to view to teleion as referring to the parousia, the consummation of this age./64/  Prophecy, while imperfect, is a useful provision from God for this age.

b. Prophecy is imperfect because it is channeled through fallible human agents. The prophet has only a glimpse of the subject revealed (ek merous,/65/  ‘in part’), and the prophet himself may face difficulty in fully understanding the revelation given him (en ainigmati, ‘in an indirect image as in a mirror,’ 1 Cor. 13:12). Much less then is he able to communicate perfectly such sublime spiritual experience that he has encountered.

5. The need for regulation
In view of the imperfections of prophecy Paul was insistent that the use of the gift must be properly regulated.
a. Firstly, the number of prophetic utterances must be limited (1 Cor. 14:29) to two or three./66/  Ciampa & Rosner interestingly remark, “Paul does not say “if someone prophecies,” but two or three prophets should speak. While tongues are not to be forbidden, prophecy is essential. Paul wants two or three prophets to speak and establishes guidelines that would keep a congregation from ever experiencing more tongue-speaking sessions than prophet sessions.”/67/  Paul feels that the congregation will benefit more if it limits the number of prophecies in order that it may have more time to evaluate, test and act on the prophecy should its authenticity by accepted./68/

b. Secondly, with respect to order, the prophecies must be given in turns and the opportunity to prophesy is to be passed on willingly. When another prophet gives indication that he has received a new revelation the prophet then speaking must end his prophecy (sigato /69/ – let him be silent). This regulation is given in recognition of the possible intrusion of the human element into the prophecy. The limitation of time would minimize the possibility of human distortion and ensure that there will be no single prophet dominating the session. It is a procedure that demands the mutual submission of members of a congregation to one another.

c. Thirdly, women are also given the opportunity to prophesy (1 Cor. 11:5). It would appear that because prophesying is only a reporting of what God has revealed and does not necessitate the assumption of authoritative position that Paul allows this practice. On the other hand, he forbids the participation of women in 1 Cor. 14:34 because the latter context involved the evaluating of prophecies, an activity which involves the authoritative instructions and determination of doctrines./70/

d. Fourthly, prophecy is to be evaluated. This is the great difference between NT prophecy and OT prophecy. In the latter case, the prophets are to be tested but in the former case, the congregation is to evaluate the speech or message of the prophet./71/  Unlike recognized prophets of the Old Testament or Christ’s apostles in the New Testament, prophets in the New Testament did not enjoy an absolute and unquestioned authority.

Once a prophet was tested and approved in the Old Testament, God’s people were morally bound to obey him. To disobey such a prophet was to oppose God… By contrast, New Testament prophets are to have their oracles carefully weighed (14:29; so also 1 Thess. 5:19–21). The word diakrinō suggests that the prophecy be evaluated, not simply accepted as totally true or totally false. “The presupposition is that any one New Testament prophetic oracle is expected to be mixed in quality, and the wheat must be separated from the chaff./72/

This observations then should allay the reluctance of the congregation to test all prophecies (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19-21) even if it is couched in the very words of the Lord. Carson emphasizes, “There is an important corollary to this testing. If this was the common practice in churches regulated by Paul, it follows that a prophet who treated his or her prophecy as so immediate and direct and untarnished a product of divine inspiration that it should be questioned by no true believer, would not only be stepping outside the Pauline restrictions but would, presumably, ultimately fall under the suspicions of the church.”/73/

Paul’s command in 1 Cor. 14:29. ‘kai alloi diakrinetosan’ (RSV, ‘let the others weigh what is said’) raises two related issued:

i. Who are ‘the others’ (hoi alloi)?
One popular view is that Paul is referring to ‘the other prophets’/74/  but this view is contradicted by what Paul’s instructions are elsewhere. For example, 1 Cor. 12:3 gives a test which any member could apply. The testing in 1 Thess. 5:21 also involved the whole congregation (so also 1 John 4:1-6 and Acts 17:11). Furthermore, if Paul had meant to say “Let the rest of the prophets judge,” he would have used hoi loipoi (‘the rest of the prophets)./75/  Finally, if prophecy comes with divine authority and with the expectation of the response of the whole church, it would be inconceivable that the testing procedure demanding vital decisions would leave both the congregation and its leaders in the cold. We do not deny that it is natural that the more mature and spiritually discerning members will play a more prominent role but certainly, this does not necessitate the above restriction.

What is the meaning of diakrino or diakriseis pneumaton (also 1 Cor 12:10)?
ii. Dunn/76/ has argued that “in this context diakrisis pneumaton is best understood as an evaluation, an investigation, a testing, a weighing of the prophetic utterance by the rest (of the assembly or the prophets) to determine both its source as to its inspiration and its significance for the assembly.” This view is, however, vulnerable to the following objections: Firstly, as Barrett in his commentary on 1Corinthians, p.274, points out, “It is impossible to find a consistent rendering of the word distinguish (diakrinein), because Paul did not use it consistently” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10 meaning distinguishing between spirits; 1 Cor. 11:29 meaning discerning; 1 Cor. 6:5 meaning to give legal judgment; Tim. 14:1 meaning disputes over opinions). The word is also used differently on other occasions e.g. in the exorcisms by Jesus and in Acts 13:8; 16:16-18. In view of the wider semantic range of the word it might be perhaps better to adopt the definition by Robertson and Plummer/77/  i.e., “The gift of discerning in various cases (hence the plural) whether extraordinary spiritual manifestations were from above or not.” Gordon Fee, seeking to place the word in the immediate context concludes, “that Paul is referring to the same phenomenon as in 14:29, but is using the language of “spirits” to refer to the prophetic utterances that need to be “differentiated” by the others in the community who also have the Spirit and can so discern what is truly of the Spirit.”/78/

To summarize, testing of prophecy and distinguishing the spirits is necessary as “claims to prophecy must be weighed and tested” since “[w]hile the speaker believes that such utterances of discourses come from the Holy Spirit, mistakes can be made, and…believers, including ministers or prophets, remain humanly fallible.”/79/

In passing, we would like to consider the suggestion that an interpreted tongue (hermeneia glosson) is equivalent to prophecy./80/  This suggestion seems very plausible in view of the fact that both gifts are verbal, ecstatically induced by the Spirit and both may be exercised in the congregation to edify the believers. However, there seems to be several difficulties confronting the suggestion. Firstly, it is not justified to conclude the exact equivalence of the gifts on the basis of the same effect of edification because after all, all gifts do edify. Secondly, the contents of the two gifts seem to be different, i.e., in glossolalia the speaker directs his prayer and thanksgivings towards God (1 Cor. 14:2, 14, 16-17) but in prophecy, a message from God to the church is involved. It is significant that Paul never described the content of an interpreted tongue as oikodome, paraklesis, or paramythia, but simply described it as a mystery now being revealed for the edification of the church. Dunn, too, has asked the question, “why is this somewhat cumbersome two-stage gift necessary? If the Spirit wishes to edify the assembly, why tongues at all?”/81/

6. Criteria for the testing of prophecy
Granted that the authority to evaluate prophecy lies with the whole community, wherein is the source of that authority and by what criteria should the community evaluate and regulate the gift? The answer lies in the nature of the church itself. The church is the local expression of the body of Christ. It is as a whole ‘taught by God’ (1 Thess. 4:9), the members all being indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). As such, they are men of the Spirit (pneumatika) and participants in the fellowship of the Spirit (koinonia). In short, the church itself is a charismatic and prophetic community. Again, it is reasonable to expect that when the Holy Spirit speaks through a prophet, He at the same time prepares the congregation to recognize the message. In short, the power to evaluate prophecy is itself a gift of the Spirit. Only with this in mind do we proceed to consider the criteria below.

a. The test of kerygmatic tradition (Scriptures)
The ground rule for all Christian teaching is that prophecy must always be subordinate to the apostolic writings (1 Cor. 14:37-38), with its central confession that “Jesus is Lord (Kurios)”/82/  (1 Cor. 12:3). If a prophecy is found to be in accord with scriptures it is to be accepted, but if it is found to be contrary to scriptures it must then be rejected. True spirituality is not measured by the degree of ecstasy but by its loyalty to the revealed teaching of the Spirit in scriptures, and by its promotion of Christian obedience. Paul is here following the example of the Old Testament (Deut. 18:2f; 13:2-6) in insisting that it is the content and not the manner which is the criterion./83/

b. The test of love
Given the centrality of love (agape) in 1 Cor. 13, it is natural that for Paul the crucial test of prophecy and indeed any charismatic phenomena, is love. Without this love (expressed in action), even the highest religious experiences is without Christian significance and spiritual profit. As 1 Cor. 13:1-4 makes it clear, it is possible to experience much charisma without love. On the other hand, when charisma is expressed in gracious, humble love, it will not fail to edify the community. The proof of the spiritual man is not so much charismatic experiences as love./84/

c. The test of oikodome (upbuilding)
Prophecy, like all gifts of the Spirit, is given to afford opportunities for service (diakoniai). It is given for the common good. When a true gift is properly exercised it will build up the congregation in unity and love. Conversely, a false gift will bring adverse effects on the congregation, such as disunity, hurts between the members and even the stumbling of the hearts of outsiders.

It should be emphasized that the above tests do not constitute a fool-proof safeguard against false prophecy. It is not a mere legalistic and rational procedure carried out with impeccable logic. In the final analysis, it is only he (or the congregation) who has the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:29) who will be spiritually enabled to judge the divine origin and the authenticity of any given utterances. As Dunn (p.297) said, “The test of kerygmatic tradition could most easily degenerate into a set rule of faith; but at this stage confessions were more into the nature of slogans than dogmas, slogans which are needed to be interpreted afresh in different situations. And the tests of love and oikodome are criteria which by their nature could not be used in an arbitrary or casual or legalistic way. In other words, the application of such criteria in assessing charismata would have itself to be charismatic – that is, carried through in conscious dependence on the grace of God and the inspiration of the Spirit.”

III. Conclusion
Prophecy for Paul, then is a gift to be highly valued and sought by the church. Its proper employment will bring much profit to the church but it is a treasure which must be carefully guarded for it is only too easy to abuse it. The church must not evade nor to put aside any gift because of the responsibility that accompanies it, nor because her attempts to attain higher spiritual maturity promises only a greater intensity of spiritual conflict (with the forces of evil). She must in faith and courage take the step of obedience to recover and to exercise all the gifts endowed upon her, including the gift of prophecy. In particular, it is assured that the gift of prophecy, when properly exercised, will bring about edification not because the congregation has been exalted but that the church will be ushered in all her vulnerability, into the very presence of God, who seeks that men worship Him in spirit and in truth.



50. Godet, 2:174-175
51. Richard Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty, pp. 243-244.
52. Note panta (all) to en kai to auto (The one and the same Spirit); and idia ekastoi (to each one individually) points both to equality and individuality (see Turner, Syntax, p. 191) in the experiences of the Holy Spirit.
53. Diareseis means allotment (DBAG), distributions (Conzelmann. P.207, Barrett, p. 283) and not varieties. Boulomai may refer to decisions of the will after previous deliberations have been made (BDAG, s.v. ‘boulomai’).
54. James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, p.254
55. pros to simpheron: BDAG, for (someone’s) advantage. Robertson & Plummer, p. 264, “with a view to advantage” i.e., “the profit of all. Moule, IB, p.53, “The pros + accusative normally means ‘according to’; but in transferred senses, it means ‘tending towards, leading to, concerning, against, in view of’”.
56. Apokalypto is used twenty-six times in the New Testament, apokalypsis eighteen times, and in all cases, the terms refer to an activity of God, Christ or the Holy Spirit. See BDAG, s.v. ‘apokalysis’.
57. v.32 is a maxim or proverb as indicated by the omission of the article in all three places. So Robertson & Plummer, p.323. This view is supported by hypotassestai, a gnomic present. Friedrich, p.851: “They cannot influence the revelation itself. This comes from God with no cooperation on their part. But the proclamation of what is revealed to them is according to their own will and it does not have to follow at once. Revelation does not cause a cleavage of personality which makes man an involuntary instrument.”
58. Notice how Paul in 1 Cor. 14:39 advised the Corinthians to “earnestly desire to prophesy and do not forbid the speaking in tongues”. But as Robertson & Plummer, p. 328 remarks, “A vast difference; the one gift to be greatly longed for, the other only not forbidden.”
59. R.P. Martin, p.73 and E. Schweizer Church Order in the New Testament, (SCM, 1961) pp.101-103.
60. Anthony Thiselton, p. 964.
61. Hina, an independent wish or exhortation, can in the NT be used absolutely with the sense of an imperative e.g. Eph. 5:33; 2 Cor. 8:7; Mk 5:23 (Zerwick, ss.415).
62. B.B. Warfield: Counterfeit Miracles (Banner of Truth, 1918) p.23.
63. Merrill Unger: New Testament Teaching on Tongues (Grand Rapids, 1973) p.82. Also F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit at Work Today (Moody, 1973) pp. 42-43.
64. Robertson & Plummer, p.297; Godet, p.2.250; Bruce, p.128; Hering p.141, Barrett, p.305, Conzelmann, p.226. Barrett, p.306, however, argues that to teleion connotes totality (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20) – “in particular the whole truth of God. This totality is love; in comparison with it, other things (true and valuable in themselves) may be left behind like the ways and achievements of childhood.”  See succinct argument that to teleion is “related to the parousia” in Carson, pp. 69-72.
65. Meros means ‘part’ in contrast with the whole. See also 2 Cor. 11:14; 2:5; Rom 11:25. Conzelmann sees its meaning as ‘fragmentary’ in Hellenistic Greek (p.226).
66. duo   treis really means approximately for a small number rather than an exact count (BDAG. s.v. ‘duo’) ‘One by one’ here does not mean everybody but those to whom the spirit of prophecy comes.
67. Ciampa & Rosner, p. 714.
68. Gordon Fee, however, suggests that the instruction is “intended to limit the number of speakers in sequence, not the number of prophecies at any given service.” He adds that control or order is possible as “way. It is indeed the Spirit who speaks, but he speaks through the controlled instrumentality of the believer’s own mind and tongue. In this regard it is no different from the inspired utterances of the OT prophets, which were spoken at the appropriate times and settings. 1 Corinthians, p. 692.
69. The Apostle does not say sigesato, ‘let him at once be silent’, but sigato, which need not mean that.
70. This is the view of James Hurley: Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Zond. 1981) and W. Grudem, Ibid, pp.239-255.
71. The view that the prophecies, not the prophets are to be judged is pointed out by Grudem (p.105), Best, p.240, Hill, p.119. The RSV captures it very well in the translation “Let the others weigh what is said”. Ciampa & Rosner rejects the view that the evaluation involves interpretation of prophecies, citing BDGA on “weighing” as “to evaluate by paying careful attention to, evaluate, judge” or, more specifically in this case, to “pass judgment on” them. Acts p. 715.
72. Carson, pp. 94–95. Carson also points out that, “There are instances of prophecies in Acts that are viewed as genuinely from God yet having something less than the authority status of an Old Testament prophecy. Perhaps most startling is Acts 21:4 where certain disciples “by means of the Spirit”—almost certainly a signal of prophecy, see 11:28—tell Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Paul goes anyway, persuaded that he is being prompted by the Spirit to visit the city.” Ibid. p. 97.
73. Carson, p. 121.
74. So Grosheide, p. 338, Hodge, p.169, Lenski, p.611, Robertson & Plummer, p.322.
75. See Godet vol.2, p.303. Carson agrees with Godet, Showing the Spirit, p. 120.
Ibid, p.234. For a more detailed discussion see Grudem, pp. 60-62; Aune, pp.219-222; Barrett, 1 Corinthians, p.328. Carson, p. 120 agrees with Godet.
76. Dunn, p.234.
77. Robertson & Plummer, p.267. Other writers who adopt the wider meaning are Groishede, p.287, Lenski, p.503f, Bittlinger, p.46
78. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 597.
79. Thiselton, p. 975.
80. So, Bittlinger,
81. Dunn, p.248. It is interesting to note the conclusions that glossolalia has no discernible linguistic structures or forms. How glossolalia therefore is ‘translated’ into coherent language for the congregation remains a mystery. Kildahl also points out how different individuals recognized as having the gift of interpretation have come out with different messages from the same glossolalic statement. Cf. W.J. Samarin, Tongues of Men and Angels (Macmillan, 1972) ch.4 & 5 and J.P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (Hodder & Stoughton, 1972). Conzelmann, p.234, on the other hand writes, “(tongues) must be meaningful, must be logical in itself. For it can be translated into normal language.” Carson agrees with many scientific studies which show there is no evidence of tongues exhibiting linguistic structure, but following a cue given by Vern Poythress, allows for the possibility that tongues could be coded language. Tongues are then cognitive and as such may convey some informational content. See Showing the Spirit, pp. 79-88.
82. This is more than just a verbal confession as R.P. Martin writes, “As Christians invoke this name, they place their lives under the unshared control of the exalted Lord, and by ‘confession’ they expressed their willing obedience to his power and direction in their lives.” The Spirit and the Congregation (Eerdmans, 1984) p.10.
83. Dunn, p.320. “Only that power which reproduces the image of Jesus Christ is to be recognized as the power of God.”
84. It is interesting to note that Didache (11:8, 11): “But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord. From his behaviour, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known… But no prophet who has been tried (dedokimasmenos) and is genuine (alethinos) though he enact a worldly mystery of the Church, if he teach not others to do what he does himself, shall be judged by you (ou kristhestai eph hymon): for he has judgment with God, for so also did the prophets of old” (Loeb 1:327).


BDAG Bauer, Walter, Danker, F.W., Arndt, W.F., & Gingrich, F.W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3 ed. (Uni. Of Chicago 2000).

BDF Blass-DeBrunner. Ed. R.W. Funk. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament. (Uni. Of Chicago, 1961).

EBC The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

IB Moule, C.F.D. An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek. (CUP, 1959).

TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, Trans, G. Bromiley (9 vols., ET Grand Rapids, 1964-74).



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