The spiritual gift of prophecy is a controversial one in the Church, because the words “prophecy” and “prophet” make many believers uncomfortable, since contemporary Christians are of the notion that none of that occurs anymore. And, in all fairness, who can blame them? We don’t necessarily see people in camel hair and leather belts preaching in the streets, do we? Except, this isn’t what the New Testament gift of prophecy looks like. So let’s see what the Word has to say about this.
When the Church was still in its foundational stages, before the New Testament was written and God’s revelation was complete, the Lord Jesus chose some to be apostles and prophets to lay the foundation (Ephesians 2:5). The prophets were those who made God’s will known to His people, and brought new revelation from Him to guide the Church. The revelations that came from prophets were authoritative, and were taken as the words of God. Today, the Church is no longer in its foundational stage, and has the complete, finished Word of God, which means it no longer needs people to receive new revelation or truth from the Lord. So, does this mean the gift of prophecy has ceased? Some people say yes. However, the role of the gift and the way it’s described in Scripture say otherwise.
In 1 Corinthians 14:3, Paul says that prophecy is for encouraging, edifying and comforting others. So we see that prophesying has more to it than just bringing new, Bible-level revelation from God, but it’s also about bringing a personal word from God to His people to strengthen, encourage and comfort them. You might have experienced this at some point yourself, where someone you don’t know (or know very well) tells you something that God placed on their heart that they couldn’t have known on their own. Many people do, but don’t refer to it as prophecy, even though that’s exactly what Scripture calls it. It can also be used for God to speak through His people in order to show them what direction He wants them to go in. 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 says that while love will endure forever, gifts like prophecy and knowledge and tongues will cease when the Lord returns. He hasn’t returned yet, I think. So, even though it’s function has shifted due to the foundation of the Church already being established, the gift of prophecy is still very much alive and well, and to be desired in the Body (1 Cor. 14:1)
Someone with the gift of prophecy today is someone who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and can hear His voice more clearly than most. Believers with this gift have a passion for revealing God’s heart to His children, and love to pray and commune with Him. Of course, all prophetic words are to be tested and weighed against Scripture, and by other spiritually mature believers. A prophetic word will always be in agreement with what God has already revealed to us in His Word, and be for the purpose of building up and encouraging, sometimes correcting or rebuking as well. But always in love.