Prophecy is a multipurpose gift; God can use it to accomplish a number of His Kingdom purposes
Recently I came across an interesting statement by missionary Rolland Baker. He pointed out that the gift of prophecy can do much to help the cause of missions; it can open the hearts of unbelievers, call people into missions, and direct people in ministry.
He is absolutely correct! Baker’s observation has inspired the writing of this brief article. Prophecy is a multipurpose gift; God can use it to accomplish a number of His Kingdom purposes. In the remainder of this article I will provide scriptural support for some of the various functions of the New Testament gift of prophecy.
The apostle Paul tells us what the purposes of the spiritual gift of prophecy are. In 1 Corinthians 14:3 he says that prophecy is to strengthen, encourage, and comfort. It is a gift that can be of great benefit to Christians. Sometimes it ministers to a whole body of believers, such as the local congregation of a church, or those gathered together in a Christian conference, at other times it may be used to minister to an individual.
However, in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 we learn that prophecy can also minister to unbelievers. This is due to the revelatory nature of prophecy. The divine insight that comes through the gift cuts straight to the heart of the unbeliever.
The one delivering the prophetic word may not be aware of the full impact that their message is having. However, what is said is enough to convince the unbeliever that God is really present in the meeting that they are attending (1 Corinthians 14:25).
This is because the prophecy directly addresses their current circumstances; God is “reading their mail.” This kind of encounter has the power to change an unbeliever into a believer.
In 1 Timothy we find two texts that indicate that Timothy received prophetic words (1:18; 4:14). We are not given the details of what was said to him in these prophecies but we can understand something of how they ministered to him.
Let’s look at 1Timothy 4:14 first. In this verse, Paul says that Timothy received a gift when the elders laid hands on him. We are not told specifically what that gift was but it was almost certainly for him to use in ministry; he was being equipped for service.
Timothy was made aware that he had this gift when the prophetic word was delivered to him. Knowing that he had been gifted by God in this particular way would surely give him greater confidence to step out and use this gift.
The prophecies mentioned in 1Timothy 1:18 had the power to strengthen Timothy during times of challenge in ministry. Please note that there was more than one prophecy, the text says prophecies (plural). In fact, Paul was reminding Timothy of these prophetic words during a difficult time of ministry in order to encourage him.
Timothy was at that time ministering in the troubled church in Ephesus which was having some difficulties with false teachers and false teaching. Prophetic words can do much to sustain, strengthen, and encourage believers to fulfill their God-given callings.
I believe Acts 13 also contains an important text regarding the gift of prophecy. During a gathering of some of the leaders of the church in Antioch, specifically the teachers and prophets, the Holy Spirit spoke. We are not told exactly how the Spirit spoke but a number of commentators believe that it was through the gift of prophecy.
In this case we are told what was said, the word was directed to two men in the meeting; Saul, whom we better know as Paul, and Barnabas. The Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2 NIV). This word proved to be the impetus to sent Paul and Barnabas off on what we call their first missionary journey.
There is tremendous power in prophetic words. This brief article gives us just a small picture of what the gift of prophecy can accomplish. In view of this we do well to follow Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to desire spiritual gifts, in particular the gift of prophecy.
Any Christian can potentially be used in this gift (1 Corinthians 14:31), the Holy Spirit desires to speak through the people of God. May we seek the gift and may the Lord increase its use in our gatherings because it can do much to strengthen and further His kingdom purposes.
 Rolland Baker, “Prophecy & Missions,” Supernatural Missions: The Impact of the Supernatural On World Missions. compiler Randy Clark, (Mechanicsburg, PA: Global Awakening, 2012), 173.
John P. Lathrop - United States
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.