I posted an article a few weeks back about the nature of revelation. Though the word usually gets distorted in terms of eschatological understanding or with the gifts of the Spirit, the word simply means an unveiling or an uncovering. It’s like pulling back the curtains to introduce the characters and scene of a play. All of a sudden you get ‘the picture’.
I believe Paul brings it down ‘out of the clouds’ when he shares these words with the Corinthian church:
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV)
Paul expected that each person of the body of Christ could be utilised in all these things mentioned above, and more of course. Not all at the same time in every gathering. Such would be overwhelming. And that is what Paul strongly challenged the Corinthians to stop doing. But these gifts of God’s Spirit were available to the whole body.
Why? These things must be done for strengthening the church, building it up (e.g. 1 Cor 14:26).
So, currently I’m leading our house group through a book entitled Becoming A True Spiritual Community. It’s by one of my favourite authors, Larry Crabb.
Now, here is the thing to note: I’m pretty sure Larry Crabb would not identify himself as a charismatic, Pentecostal, nor Third-Wave. I don’t say this in a derogatory way. It’s just that, after reading about six of his books over the past years, I don’t think he would classify himself in that way. And that’s fine.
But, he is definitely a man who wants to hear from the Spirit, tune his ear to the voice of God. It comes through in many of his books. He mainly writes about how the church can better walk out our call to emulate the relational nature of the Trinity. He has a passion to see the whole body of Christ moving towards maturity in spiritual friendships. And, in doing so, he is always bringing in the element of listening to the Spirit when it comes to faithfully relating to and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All this to say: Larry Crabb is not identifiable as charismatic. But he is identifiable as one who wants to hear from God.
And as I was re-reading through chapter 7 of the afore mentioned book, I found a beautiful story of the gift of prophecy, or we might call it a word of knowledge. In all, it’s a present-day example of God’s Spirit bringing revelation, or uncovering truth, for the building up of the body. Now begins the short account:
The seminar was fifteen minutes from beginning. We had been worshiping God in music for three quarters of an hour. It was now 7:45 on a Friday evening, and I would start speaking at 8.00.
I stopped singing to listen to something rising within me. It was a prayer.
“Lord,” I heard myself say, “if this message about connecting and a new level of community is from You, I must know. If I’ve made it up to give myself something to think about as I grow older, I want to scrap it.
“But if it is really from You, I want to know it with a certainty I cannot deny. And…” – I hesitated; the next thought forming in my mind seemed pushy – “I’d like to know this weekend.”
I prayed the prayer inaudibly. No one heard me but God.
Nearly everyone else in that large auditorium was standing to worship. I knew that I would be on my feet for the next two hours, so I was sitting. The chair to my immediate right on the front row was empty.
A few moments after I finished my prayer, a man I didn’t know slid onto it.
“May I have a word with you?” he asked.
I nodded quizzically, with a slight edge to my nod. After all, I was praying and about to address a large group for two hours. I thought he was a bit rude.
He told me his name, then said, “I am on the pastoral staff of this church. We’ve never met, but since the day we invited you to our church, the Lord has laid you on my heart. I feel strongly impressed to say something to you. I intended to wait till after the seminar but I feel I must tell you now. I’ll only be a minute.”
I nodded again, this time with no edge.
“I sensed that you want confirmation from God that your new direction in ministry is from Him, and that you want it this weekend. I believe God has called you to what you’re doing and He wants me to tell you that this weekend you’ll know.”
A few more words and he slipped away.
End of account.
In other church contexts, this could have been prefaced with, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ It could have been done with a louder voice, running to the microphone so all could hear, etc. But it was simple, real and revelatory.
Actually, if you really read the account, you notice it was very directive. But yet it wasn’t too pushy.
But, in the end, this revelation, this prophecy, maybe this word of knowledge, accomplished it’s purpose as laid forth in Scripture: it was for the common good (1 Cor 12:7) and it strengthened a member of the body (1 Cor 14:26).
Larry Crabb was praying a prayer and God looked upon him with grace and confirmed His direction through another member of Christ’s body.
This is real, this is edifying, this is strengthening.
God revealing His heart. A member of Christ’s body being willing to listen, receive from Him and then share that edifying revelation with Larry.
That’s an everyday example of prophecy.
Thanks for sharing this story. So often I hear folks that do not believe any of this happens today insist that there is simply no need for it anymore. I just can’t see it that way myself.
I saw your post on P&P and decided to take a look. As I mentioned over there, I have a very conservative theological background. Ph.D. in Theology from Bob Jones Univ and I taught in a Bible college in Arizona for 9 years. After struggling with doubts for several years, my faith evaporated sometime during the year 1996. It was not an easy thing to handle psychologically. It was also difficult practically as I was ill prepared to find a decent job in the “real world.” Nevertheless, it has all worked out well. I have a blog entitled Why I De-Converted from Evangelical Christianity.
There was another guy on the staff of the college and church who had a M.Div. from Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He also had some doubts or concerns about the lack of reality in conservative evangelical circles. He left and joined the Vineyard movement. We correspond some and he is convinced that he has found the “genuine article.” I am not so convinced. As I mentioned on the other site, I would be much more impressed if I heard verifiable reports today of miracles like we read about in the book of Acts. For example, an adult walking and leaping who had never walked before (Acts 3) or a person who was dead being raised (Dorcas in Acts 9). What I have heard about in pentecostal, charismatic or vineyard churches doesn’t sound the same.
Larry Crabb’s work has been very beneficial to me. Inside Out is a classic. I’ve always appreciated how he is friendly to charismatics, regardless of what his own position is.
I think the kind of revelation of “prophecy” you are talking about here happens all the time. Even my hard Reformed friends describe this sort of thing all the time as being the holy spirit at work. The difference being, they are loth to describe it with these particular words, lest they be associated with the wrong crowd.
Thanks all for the comments. It is great interaction.
I know we have ‘spoken’ over at P & P. I understand the difficulties involved. I know there are people claiming things where they never really happened, or over-embellishment, or misuse and abuse.
You’ll always find me saying that misuse and abuse should not lead us to no use, but rather biblical and healthy use. I know lot’s of things abused by both Christians and non-Christians. But I will not abandon what I believe is both biblical and have seen in my life. I know I cannot convince you. God is the one who is good at revealing truth, his truth. So I will leave it to him. But I cannot deny what I believe the Bible teaches and what I have seen God do.
I also wonder if it was hard to have attended Bob Jones. It seems it is a tough place to be ‘free in Christ’ (in the real biblical sense). Things that are too restrictive and legalistic can burden us. I am convinced Jesus didn’t want us so tied down.
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