Monday, August 9, 2010

Prophesying Is Not The Same As Preaching

In my Church of God (Anderson) heritage it has been common to consider prophesying indistinguishable from preaching. Our best-known Greek scholar, the late Reverend Doctor Boyce W. Blackwelder, translated προφητεύω (literally "I prophesy") as "persuasive preaching" and such like. For example, in his Letters of Paul translation for 1 Corinthians 14.5:
Now I might wish that all of you could speak in foreign languages. But I much prefer you to be persuasive preachers.
There are problems with equating a prophecy with a sermon. Church of God heritage hymn writer D. Otis Teasley wrote in his 1901 work, The Holy Spirit and Other Spirits:
The gift of prophecy embraces two things: (1) The foretelling of future events. (2) The expounding of the Word of God. The gift of prophecy did not cease with the Old Testament prophets, but was carried over to the Holy Spirit dispensation.
While I disagree with his second definition I quote Teasley to show that he understood prophecy to be more than preaching. What is prophesying for?
On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.(1 Corinthians 14:3 ESV)
A prime example would be in the life of an approved and recognized early prophet, Agabus, who lived in the time of the Apostles. He predicted a famine to strike the Roman world and the capture of Paul:
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 ESV)
And the capture of Paul:
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:10-12 ESV)
Note careful what happened; Agabus was held in esteem and his word was trusted. In each case the church responded to his message by believing it and trying to act accordingly. Concerning Agabus Teasley wrote:
It is also clear that the New Testament prophets possessed the ability to foretell the future…We are not certain whether Agabus was a preacher or not; but he is supposed to have been one of the seventy disciples chosen by Jesus to go before Him into all the cities of the Jews.
William Dale Oldham, the first preacher of the Christian Brotherhood Hour, believed in prophetic dreams. In his autobiography, Giants Along My Path, he mentioned Church of God evangelist W. F. Chappel received them.
I have already told you of my complete confidence in Brother Chappel’s prayers. But may I add that he was the only one whose dreams ever received my full attention. When W.F. Chappel had what he termed a significant dream, I waited eagerly for his interpretation. Now, don’t laugh, for if you had known him, you would have paid attention, too.

One morning, shortly after our run-in with Pastor Monk, Brother Chappel told John and me he had dreamed an important dream the night before. “I dreamed that I was out there in the pulpit preaching a woman’s funeral.” (Of course all of us know that in the New Testament prophetic writings a woman represents the church.) “She was lying in the casket right in front of the pulpit,” Brother Chappel continued, “and a sizable audience was present. Suddenly, as I was speaking, this dead woman spoke. ‘Let me out of here,’ she said. I looked down at her and admonished, ‘Be quiet; don’t you see that I’m preaching your funeral?’ However, a minute or two later the woman sat up in her casket to say rather strongly, ‘Help me out of here.’ Her unusual attitude irked me, for it was spoiling the occasion. So, when she continued to interrupt, I went down out of the pulpit, put my hands on her shoulders and tried to press her back into the casket, whispering, ‘Sister, you’re dead. I am preaching your funeral.’ This really roused her and she said, ‘Now you listen to me, Brother Chappel, I am not dead. If I were dead would I be sitting up in this casket talking to you?’

“Well, that sounded reasonable enough, so instead of returning to the pulpit, I gave the good sister my hand and helped her out of the casket, whereupon, there was great rejoicing among all the people. You see, boys, in my preaching I have been trying to bury this church. Instead, the Lord wants me to cooperate with him in resurrecting it. I am changing the direction of my preaching, beginning tonight.”

As he did, attendance in our meetings immediately increased. Two or three mornings later Brother Chappel told of another dream which had come to him the preceding night. He said, “Boys, the break is coming. We are going to have a great revival. Last night I dreamed I was fishing, pulling them in as fast as I could bait the hook.” That night thirty-three persons bowed at the church altars to yield their lives to Christ. I pay little attention to my own dreams and probably wouldn’t think yours to be of any particular significance, but when Brother Chappel dreamed I gave heed to his interpretation.

Oldham, Dale. Giants Along My Path: My Fifty Years in Ministry. (ANDERSON, IN: Warner Press, n.d), 85-86.
A prophetical dream isn't preaching. But it's interesting!