Tim asked a question about prophecy
... which I "answered" in the negative ... and he hasn't gotten back to me on that yet.
Tim said, "Prophesy is regarded higher then Hope and Faith and Charity" -(which isn't what Paul said at all but) ... Paul DID go into some length about the importance of prophecy though.
So I thought I'd address this topic here because this IS, after all ... a Bible study forum!
In the day, when Paul was writing or dictating the epistles ... there were no chapter or verse denominations. He simply sent a LETTER to the people he was addressing. The chapter/verse breaks were added later ... and often they correctly break down segments of thought ... and/but sometimes they don't so well either. In this case, we need to tie the chapters together to get his full flow of thought ... regarding gifts and skills.
In 1 Cor. 12:27 Paul starts talking about gifts (from God) and how God has placed people in the church, utilizing the gifts he's given them for their office. He finishes that thought briefly to divert into something else -charity- and then goes back to talking about skills. In Chapter 14:1, Paul addresses the skill of prophecy.
Now I say "skill" because Paul previously spoke about the GIFT of prophecy ... but in 14:1 Paul is not talking about a gift anymore but rather ... a developed skill.
[1 Cor. 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.]
This word "rather" is important because it makes a distinction AWAY from gifts and charity ... to something else: a DEVELOPED SKILL to prophesy. He then goes on to describe how prophesying will concretely benefit the church far more than the other gifts. (Again ... prophecy can be a gift but it is also a developed skill ... and that's what I want to address with this post).
I first got alerted to this difference back in the 1970's while listening to a very favorite Minister of mine -Dr. Harold Mitton at First Baptist Church in Calgary. He was giving a sermon (or more like a talk) ... on the growing trend of "charismatic" movement within mainline churches. Being a Baptist with deep Baptist traditions ... he didn't like what he was seeing. So he spoke about prophecy and what that word really means. I've never forgotten his exposition and today I think he was mostly dead on right.
Dr. Mitton explained that the definition of the word "prophecy" is FORTH-TELLING and not FORETELLING (as we so often perceive that word to mean today). At the time I thought he was fudging it a bit but looking at the Greek breakdown of that word ... it becomes clearer to me that he was correct. I'll show the breakdown below ...
4395 profhteuw propheteuo prof-ate-yoo-o
[4396 profhthv prophetes prof-ay-tace
from a compound of 4253 and 5346; TDNT-6:781,952; n m
AV-prophet 149; 149
1) in Greek writings, an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things
2) one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation ]
Notice the word INSPIRATION. This is not something that pops into your head after doing a lot of chanting, singing, speaking in tongues etc. It's the result of solid PERCEPTION and recognition.
And then, let's follow (4253) and (5346) to get a more comprehensive understanding...
[4253 pro pro pro
a primary preposition; TDNT-6:683,935; prep
AV-before 44, above 2, above ... ago 1, or ever 1; 48
1) before ]
[5346 fhmi phemi fay-mee
properly, the same as the base of 5457 and 5316; ; v
AV-say 57, affirm 1; 58
1) to make known ones thoughts, to declare
2) to say ]
... and now combine them ...
Pro means "before" and "above" (the normal) ... and phemi means to express the thoughts in one's own words.
So ... understanding the GREEK expression in its fullest meaning ... gives us a far better comprehension of what Paul was talking about when he said, "desire spiritual gifts but RATHER
... that ye may prophesy." He was talking about developing skill in fine perception, differentiation and then integration ... of information.
Just to give you a good example of what a prophet would be in this capacity ... think of someone like Alex Jones ... whose "predictions" have come true from years of his own digging and putting stuff together. He may have an initial gift for doing this stuff -and he has a LOT of inspiration to do it- but ... he is no clairvoyant or fortune teller. He's not foretelling the future; he is merely FORTH-telling what is being planned and what is going to happen if people don't wake up and start DOING something to stop all of the ensuing madness.
And THAT kind of dedication to skill ... is what Paul was telling his people, was THE MOST important of all "gifts". Be charitable above all things and/but be SMART and WISE and share your knowledge with others so that they'll get some direction for their activities.
What I find so fascinating about the NTestament is it's extreme focus on LOGOS.
Logos means logic.
These people were NOT -as modern Christians seem to believe- ... crazy mindless fruitcakes who did little more than speak in tongues and sing endlessly and wait for thoughts to pop into their heads as directions from God and wait for God to answer prayers and take care of them. They were ACTIVISTS.
The NTestament is all ABOUT logic and intellectual development ... to OUTSMART the oppressors and find a way out of the oppression.
So if writings in the NTestament don't make sense -need to be "put on the shelf for now" (after 2000 years of Biblical study with still no satisfactory answer) ... you're on the WRONG TRACK in your perception.
They didn't write their stuff to be shrouded in mystery; they were very direct. If they spoke in riddles, it was only to hide their message from their oppressors but THEY knew damned well what they were saying ... and it made SENSE.