Thesis:The exercise of the "grace-gifts", though rooted in grace, is directly tied to one's own spiritual growth.
Introduction:In our consideration of Romans 12:6 last week we noted that Paul referred to "grace" three times in the one verse as a way to make sure that no one attempts to take credit for the exercise of a grace-gift or its outcome. The emphasis is both significant and extremely important for one reason: men have an inordinate propensity to attempt to take credit for what God does because of the weakness of their understanding of the love of God. This shows up everywhere in the Gospel. It is the most fundamental reason God made salvation a matter of "grace". It is the reason that God will cast those into eternal destruction who refuse to yield to a Gospel of Grace that absolutely dismisses the works of men as having any part to play in their acceptance by God. It is the reason the visible Church is in its current condition.
This evening we are going to pursue an understanding of how "Grace" and "Faith" are involved in the exercise of the "grace-gifts" by looking into Paul's use of "prophecy".
I. The Issue of "Prophecy".
A. At the root of all understanding is the issue of "definition".
B. At the root of all definitions is the issue of "motivation".
C. At the root of legitimate "prophecy" is the Love of God as a real, other-seeking, communication of good.
D. With that root as a given, definition comes into play.
1. "Prophecy", by definition, is distinct from all of the other grace gifts which have to do with the communication of God's truth (note 1 Corinthians 14:6).
a. Many of the "definitions" put forth by men ignore this most basic reality.
b. Most of the false definitions of men reveal their own motivations.
1) When "prophecy" is defined, as some men do, as "spiritually powerful preaching", it only reveals those men's fixation on being "powerful" (consider the "spiritually ineffectual" preaching of Enoch and Noah).
2) When "prophecy" is defined, as some men do, as "authoritative proclamation", it only reveals those men's fixation on being in authority.
2. The "distinct" element in "prophecy" is the "revelation of secrets" (note 1 Corinthians 14:25).
a. As "revelation", prophecy is making Truth known.
b. As a "revelation of secrets", prophecy is making hidden Truth known.
II. The Function of "Prophecy".
A. In the beginnings...
1. "Prophets" existed in all of God's "beginnings" so that people could be told God's "secrets" so that they could relate to His Plan(s).
2. As long as God had some "secrets" that needed to be revealed, "prophets" existed.
B. In the latter stages...
1. It was typical of God to grow prophetically silent as time went by.
2. It was even "revealed" that "prophecy" ceases over time: 1 Corinthians 13:8.
III. The Limitations of "Prophecy".
A. In our text, Paul specifically says that the grace-gift of "prophecy" is tied directly to "the measure of faith" given to the particular "prophet".
1. This is illustrated by several means...
a. Even "apostleship" was "uneven" in its "distribution" (1 Corinthians 15:10 and 2 Corinthians 11:23-31).
b. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 13:9 that the ability to "prophesy" is tied to one's "level of knowledge".
c. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to "sift" the words of "prophets" for the "truth" (1 Thessalonians5:20).
2. This signals the importance of growth in three directions: knowledge, faith, and practice.
B. In our text, Paul's presuppositions are at least four.
1. Not everyone is going to be able to "prophesy" because God distributes abilities by "grace".
2. Not every prophet is going to be able to reveal secrets equally because the distribution is not only by "grace" it is according to a "proportion of faith".
3. No prophet will be able to maximize his/her gift apart from the definitive commitment of 12:1-2.
4. No prophet can refrain from the exercise of his/her gift without damage to the Body, nor can any prophet exercise his/her gift without helping the Body grow.
IV. The Compensations for the Cessation of Prophecy: Ephesians 4:11.