New Testament Prophecy – Understanding 1 Corinthians 14

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1 Corinthians 14 prophecy

Prophecy is no joke. The words of a prophet are meant to birth repentance in the hearts of wicked nations, foretell the future and inspire hope in the hearts of the righteous followers of Yahweh. Unfortunately, we have strayed far from a scriptural definition of prophecy.

The following quote summarizes what most people believe about prophecy.

The very essence of the prophetic gift is more about encouragement than rebuke and causing others to see into their future. This promotes THANKSGIVING for what it’s shown. Some exhortation or rebuke or warning is sometimes part of the prophetic but mostly, it’s encouragement! [1]

Those responsible for perpetuating this heretical mindset will have to answer to God when they stand before Him on that Great and Awesome Day, for leading an entire generation astray.

Right now, false prophets and teachers reason in their minds that there is a difference between the Old Testament Prophets and New Testament prophets, but there is no proof of that in His Word. In fact, the Bible says quite the opposite.

Before going forward, please read Appendix A: “How to Tell the Difference Between Old Testament and New Testament Prophets” It will provide more of a backdrop to what I am writing about in this article.

The False Prophet “Proof Text”

Most of the modern day false prophets will parrot each other, using the following verse as their proof text for their definition of New Testament Prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:3
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

If we were to isolate this Scripture, as many often do, and apply our current understanding of the words “edification,” “exhortation” and “comfort,” this would be great news! We would come to the simple conclusion that prophecy should be gentle and appealing to our emotions. However, if you take in the context of the surrounding Scripture AND the literal translation of the words, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s dig deeper into Scripture and find out what the modern day false prophets refuse to acknowledge, and are terrified that you will find out.

The Purpose of Prophecy

1 Corinthians 14:1
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual [gifts], but especially that you may prophesy.”

Here we see the importance of prophecy. We’re supposed to pursue it above EVERY spiritual gift. This underscores how vital it is to get our understanding of prophecy right. Why is this so important? Because it has to do with the building up of the body of Christ – His church (ekklesia) – His called out ones. He wants us to succeed in His mission for us here on earth before He comes. We’ll dig deeper into this as we progress further into this study.

1 Corinthians 14:3
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

Let’s not overlook this Scripture about prophecy, as it does offer a definition of what prophets are to accomplish in their prophesying to men. However, it is not meant to paint prophecy as a nice little spiritual gift that gives you a warm feeling all over your body when you hear it, as the false prophets would have you believe. You will find that the false prophet’s “proof text” will actually condemn the very ones who misapply it.

What follows is a deeper look into the terms “edification,” “exhortation” and “comfort,” but before we go there, we need to understand that these terms cannot be correctly defined with our current Western mindset. Although God doesn’t mind blessing His children with material “things” and letting us “feel” His love, His primary concern is our eternal destination, and whether or not we are walking toward that destination. As a result, our temporal comforts will always take a back seat to His eternal purpose for our lives.

Edification (Oikodome)

  • prophetic-prophet – (the act of) building, building up
  • metaph. edifying, edification a. the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness
  • a building (i.e. the thing built, edifice)

When we see the Strong’s definition [oikodome – G3619] of “edification,” we see that it has to do with the act of “building up”, strengthening, fortifying, and making stronger.[2] The Old Testament Prophets tied the act of “prophesying” to building a wall.

Ezekiel 13:4-5
O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the LORD.

A prophet’s role is to strengthen the believers so that when the day of battle comes (and it will come), they are able to stand. Now tell me what will strengthen a saint more – unscriptural prophecy that is easy on the ears and soothing to the emotions, or a prophecy that brings people to their knees in repentance? Read further and find out.

Ezekiel 13:6-9
They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, “Thus says the LORD!” But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, “The LORD says,” but I have not spoken. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord GOD. “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

Why will all of the above come upon these false prophets?

Ezekiel 13:10-12
Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace – and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar – say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?'”

A false prophet will not warn you, he will seduce you. How will he seduce you? By saying “soft things” to you to lull you to sleep. The sad thing is the sheep want it that way.

Isaiah 30:9-10
That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.

Being disciplined as a child is almost NEVER pleasant, but it strengthens a person’s character and shapes his/her personality. The same is true for prophecy. But the mature welcome rebuke.

Proverbs 9:8
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

Exhortation (Paraklesis)

  • a calling near, summons, (esp. for help)
  • importation, supplication, entreaty
  • exhortation, admonition, encouragement
  • consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
    • thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
  • persuasive discourse, stirring address
    • instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

As you can see, “exhortation” [paraklesis – G3874] can include a combination of both “admonition” and “encouragement,” but I want to focus on the first definition – “a calling near.”[3] This is the primary definition and, I believe, the intended one.

Look at how the prophets “exhorted” in the Old Testament (again, read Appendix A if you haven’t, for my reasoning behind this). They were constantly calling Israel back to God, begging the nation to repent of their sins so that God’s comfort could come.

Still not convinced? OK, fine, let’s look at a New Testament exhortation from Peter.

Acts 2:38-40
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.

Do you see how exhortation did not change between the Old Testament and New Testament? Repentance and consecration (“Be saved from this perverse generation.”) were vital components, just as they were in the Old Testament.

Most modern day prophets want to use the term “exhort” to mean “spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” There’s nothing wrong with “spurring one another on,” but tell me, when you’re exhorting in your prophesying, what is more important? To call someone nearer to God, or to preach “be nice?” Again, teaching each other to be nice isn’t wrong, but that’s a teacher’s job; we’re talking about prophesying.

Comfort (Paramythia)

  • any address, whether made for the purpose of persuading, or of arousing and stimulating, or of calming and
  • consoling
  • consolation, comfort [4]

I can hear some of you saying “A-HA! We got him now!” Look back, I never said that comfort [paramythia – G3889] didn’t have a part in prophesying. But again, we need to be using the Old Testament prophets for our model. God filled close to 1/3 of the Bible (give or take) with messages from the prophets, and it wasn’t to show you how prophecy “used to be.”

When did the prophets speak of the comfort of God?

It was always after Israel repented and returned to God! Make no mistake about it – God wants to show you favor (grace) and God wants to love on you, but it just won’t happen without a consecration to His purposes.

So What Does Prophecy Look Like?

With those 3 terms (edification, exhortation, comfort) firmly under our belts, we can see from the remainder of 1 Corinthians 14 how this fits together.

Although it seems like exhortation and comfort are secondary in importance to edification (they are no longer mentioned in Paul’s discourse on prophesying), you should be able to see how they all work together to build up the believers and keep them on the pathway to their eternal destination. Having said that, we need to see that edification is the focus for the rest of the chapter.

1 Corinthians 14:4-5
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

Here again, Paul talks about the importance of the edification of the church while prophesying. He also talks about it in verse 12.

1 Corinthians 14:12
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.

Remember when I wrote earlier about prophecies causing repentance and how it was like building up the walls of Israel (God’s people)? Are you still convinced that there is a difference between Old and New Testament prophets? Well, let’s take a look at yet another New Testament example of biblical prophecy.

First, let me clarify something.

1 Corinthians 14:22
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.

We can see here that prophecy is only for believers. Many in the prophetic movement want to go out and prophesy over unbelievers. According to this New Testament Scripture, you shouldn’t do that. Perhaps it’s because of the confusion surrounding terms used in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 14:24-25
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever [apistos – G571] or an uninformed person [idiotes – G2399] comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on [his] face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

The word “unbeliever” is the Greek word “apistos,” which actually means one who is unfaithful, faithless and not to be trusted.[5] “Unlearned”, however, is the Greek word “idiotes.”[6] This term needs to be taken in context, as there are a few definitions, but is most likely someone who may be a believer, but doesn’t know much in regards to the faith.

These two people are prime candidates for prophecy as they, more than likely, need to be warned and have a lot of sin to repent of. Verse 25 backs it up because we see that they are being convinced by all (more than one), they are being convicted by all, and their hearts are being revealed to all.

This flies in the face of the definition of modern-day prophets and modern-day prophecy, but it is the Word of God. I know this may be a wakeup call for some, and some of you may think it harsh, judgmental and heavy, but I’m not going to be found in opposition to God when He returns. We really need to get this right. Perhaps if we employ more scriptural edification, exhortation and comfort, the church can move forward and we can hasten the coming of our King.

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21 replies on “New Testament Prophecy – Understanding 1 Corinthians 14”

  1. I was recently asked to start mentoring under several individuals that have a prophetic prayer ministry in our church. I was invited because of the gift given me by the Holy Spirit of recalling scripture in it proper contact and usage being applicable to specific circumstances. The very first thing I was told when I attended the hour-long ministry before our Sunday morning service was that I needed to have everything I was led to say screened before telling it to the person(s) we would be prophesying to. I was told that we didn’t want to cause harm or sound judgmental in our prophetic messages. The article written sounds just like what I was told to do ~ make ’em feel good. I am gregarious and forthright with the Word of God and while I often pray that someone else delivers the message, if no one does I will stand and be obedient to what God’s Spirit brings to mind. At this moment I question my involvement in such a ministry especially after after Ezk 13: 6-9. Thank you so very much. God’s timing on this one.

    1. Praise God Thomas! It looks like God is showing you direction! Stick with the Word, my friend …. don’t be afraid of their faces … set your face like flint … Immovable! We’re supposed to have GODLY mentors, people that pattern themselves after the Word, NOT the Fear or the Whim of Man. Be strong!

    2. Hold on a second…all that these ministry leaders are trying to do is to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) HOWEVER, unfortunately their testing standards are not biblical, but rather are based upon pleasing the hearts of men. Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire, do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

      The act of “screening” is certainly biblical, but the screening must test for the Spirit in any prophetic message before it is given rather than testing to see if it would offend the receiver of the prophesy.

      Testing a message in the Spirit also weeds out the “prophetic” nuts who claim to have heard from God. Take Harold Camping, for example. Did anyone ever screen his doomsday prophecy? Apparently not, and the result of it was many people either selling all of their possessions or committing suicide. This may be somewhat of an extreme case, and I’m definitely not saying that you would ever prophesy something like that. You’d be surprised, though, as to what people would proclaim as God’s spoken truth.

      But then we come to your case, where your leaders toss out any prophesy that mentions repentance because that sort of nonsense certainly couldn’t have come from the mouth of God. Sarcasm implied. It is impossible to discern God-spoken prophecy from the human mind because the key is the Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus says to his disciples: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” And that’s who is supposed to conduct the screening–the Spirit. Well that’s my input on it. God bless.

      1. I’m not sure about … “It is impossible to discern God-spoken prophecy from the human mind because the key is the Spirit.”

        You can always compare the prophecy with the Word. If it doesn’t line up, it doesn’t come from God. You don’t necessarily need the Spirit to see that.

        If I was to say …. “I prophesy that the world is going to come together in peace and harmony!” …. you could immediately toss that out as false, because it goes against the Word. You wouldn’t really need the Spirit to discern that, you would just need to remember what the Word says. Other than that, you’re right on!

        1. I made a mistake, RM. I thought that you were responding to the article, not Thomas Smith’s comment. Nonetheless, I think (hope) that the response was applicable.

          If I read Thomas’ situation right, these leaders really do seem to be wanting to reinforce their power base, and keep any possible “corrective” words silenced. At least, that has been the pattern I’ve noticed in the Body of Christ.

          I totally support someone being mentored by an individual who has a proven track record in following the Word, but only if the mentor is encouraging the “mentored” to speak the Word of God fearlessly and “without mixture”. Hope this makes more sense?

        2. Yeah, of course, every prophecy must line up with the Word. What I meant by “It is impossible to discern…” was that a person who knows neither the Word, much less the Spirit, might do something drastic in response to a false prophecy due to that lack of knowledge of the Truth or gift of discernment.

          And yes I agree that there is an unfortunate habit of promoting sin by stifling rebuke in some churches. However, in Thomas’s case, the prophetic group leaders are probably responsible for anything that happens as a result of a prophetic word, whether the effect is encouraging and life-changing or absolutely disastrous. From what Thomas says, the leaders are being much too cautious in filtering prophesies and have restricted the full view of God’s love through rebuke, or maybe have even stopped the strange-sounding things that God reveals. Which is a sad thing indeed.

    3. A very good study subject is the “true prophet” in terms of being able to create a reality (true prophecy) – Bilaam (Balam/Baalam in English translations). Historically bilaam was a highly recognized “prophet.”

      He was decreed evil but he was a true prophet and that is why his words were controlled by Father. Today the Blessings he proclaimed over Israel are core to Judaism’s beliefs in the Moshiach (Messiah).

      I have found that people who don’t honor Father can have the gift of “prophecy” and they know how or are able to access the spirit realm and proclaim an encouragement about a present situation or Wisdom about a future situation. I had the experience of having a “pastor” preach a word that still helps me regarding The LORD’s care for a close relative. Yet, I also saw demons on the same “pastor” who was blatant in his abuse of the sheep. It was troubling and one day, I said LORD that is enough. I did not return to that place but heard that they lost their place to have worship services etc. a few months later.

      Matthew 7 does not tell us that the “mighty works” the rejected ministers did in The Name of The LORD did not bless the person who was at the receiving end of those works.

  2. Great word! Comfort doesn’t cause you to grow, but to stay in the same place and rot. If we won’t follow the example of Jesus and the prophets whats the point?? We should take the bible for what it is and not keep making excuses about what it means “symbolically”.

    Remember how history repeated itself in the bible, no one liked or agreed with the prophets until they were dead. Then they’d say things like “well that was Elijah, not you” or “that was Moses, not you or me”… Let’s not be one of those people who went down on the wrong side of history. 🙂

  3. Excellent study Mr. Kleint. As you’ve shown well when you dig into the Word this false teaching that “Old Testament” and “New Testament” prophets are different falls apart. On the other hand, considering how many of the leaders of these modern “prophetic” groups have been caught in “improprieties”, I doubt they want a REAL prophet around. Keep it up, we need more up to this standard of teaching. digrieze

    1. Thank you Digrieze! A true prophet is usually despised by the ones he is prophesying to – at least that is the pattern in the Word. If a prophet is accepted by men, that is a HUGE red flag to me.

  4. Kevin, I read through at least part of your 7 part story about the Elijah list and I believe it was in part 1 you mention going to a conference where a Larry Randolph was one of the prophets. My wife was given one of his books to read which is titled; “User Friendly Prophecy.” I thought that was a strange way to describe prophecy. It’s something like software? You can use it? Well, yes you can use that gift but I thought that was a strange way to put it. Also it puzzled me that he claimed that he “loves Jesus with all his heart.” Does that strike you as being almost arrogant? Have you ever read any of the great men of God make that claim. I believe the closer you get to Jesus the more aware you are of your incompleteness but the more grateful that in Him you are complete.

    Just some thoughts to share with you.

    In Christ our Saviour,
    Woody Bailey

    1. The phrase “I love Jesus with all my heart” is usually spoken through passion or the emotion of the moment. I’ve said it many times, but looking back, I think I just meant that I loved Him the best that I knew how. You’re right though, as you grow in your Walk with God, you realize (in increasing measure) just how far you have go to Truly “love Him with all your heart”. Maybe we should keep a tighter reign on our words, eh?

      I’d encourage you to read the whole “Working for the Elijah List” story though!

  5. You are one of the few Christians who preach that the law has not been abolished and I agree with you (because Matthew 5 17-20 is quite easy to understand). Yet I find it difficult to see which ones of the 613 commandments to observe as animal sacrifices have obviously ceased with Christ’s death. Also I have met many Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians wearing tassels. I don’t want to cherry pick the Bible I just want to know the truth. Could you please help me and tell me what commandments to follow?

    1. In a nutshell, I would say “obey any commands you CAN follow.” We’ve been trained to look at the number “613” and think “Wow! That’s a ton of commands!” but the U.S. has imposed literally thousands upon us and we don’t bat an eye at it. Of the 613 commands, only a portion of them apply to any individual person. Some apply to women, some apply to priests, some apply to leadership, etc. Once you take out the ones that don’t apply to you, the number of commands to follow is pretty small. The point of contention for most is that they hit upon certain areas that people don’t like to give up… diet, Sabbath and holidays — those are areas people (especially christians) don’t like to give up. I hope this helps.

    1. Bill Hamon is a total false prophet. In fact, he is a mentor to many of the false prophets out today, including Steve Shultz of the Elijah List. For more info, have your wife read my “Prophetic Masquerade” series for free (or you can buy the book, if you prefer). There’s enough Scripture to firmly back up my claims. All the best!

      Book: https://www.honorofkings.org/biblical-false-prophet/
      Read Free online: https://www.honorofkings.org/prophetic-masquerade-introduction/

      1. The people should be taught how to increase their LIFE and Strength in The LORD so that they will be able to discern what is true and what is false. It is the same spirit of control of the people by a few “higher than the laity” that seeks to monitor everything that is delivered to the people (“their underlings”). They don’t teach the people that Their Father will teach them as His Children and encourage them to seek Him.

        The “control of the laity” principle which has its “christian roots” in roman catholicism sees the people as their flock that they are responsible for. The ONLY Person responsible for people is The LORD. Those who minister in His Name follow Him and have no business controlling others and taking personal responsibility to see that the “prophecies” delivered line up with what they believe or accept by a democratic vote. What if the Will of Father is to have a wrong “prophecy” delivered so that He can teach someone something? We should follow Him and the greatest reality is when His Sons can speak to Him and check with Him what He thinks about things!

        The Word is Awesome because it is as a Vessel of YEHOVAH. In Judaism – the Divar HaShem. It is also awesome to be able to ask, “Father what do you think of such and such…” and hear Him answer.

        Let us encourage ourselves and others to become The Stronger “Word” by feeding on His Word- The LORD said that man shall live by every Word that proceeds from The Mouth of The LORD – see Matthew 4:4. Each person as spirit beings are a word – depending on whether he or she chooses LIFE or death. The greater the number of people who choose LIFE in a place and exhibit the Fruits of LIFE the greater the Presence of Father and What He Is in that community or place.

    2. A true prophet is not always despised. It depends on the heart of those who are receiving the Word or to who it is addressed. Consider Jonah – he was not rejected or despised. The response of the people of Nineveh was humility and they changed a negative result.

      There are people who recognize True Prophets and will come to them believing The LORD will give them guidance. The LORD’s Wisdom in manifestation can be a Great Blessing to such folk.

      1. Touche’ … perhaps I should have clarified that a true prophet will always be despised among an unrepentant people – which includes the majority, who long to have their itching ears scratched. Yeshua himself said “Woe when men speak well of you, for so did the people to the false prophets.” — this is a major clue as to where today’s “prophets” stand.

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