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Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible, Part 3, by Wayne A. Grudem

This pattern was then imitated by Jesus’ 70 disciples, for they said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). Paul also followed this pattern when he spoke directly to the demon in the soothsaying girl at Philippi, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”—as a result, we read that “at that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18, NIV). So the question should not be, What seems safe to us? but rather, What example and pattern does the New Testament give to us? True safety would seem to be in following the pattern given us in God’s Word.

16. If we say that people can give prophecies today, doesn’t this mean people can, in effect, add to the words of Scripture? And isn’t this wrong, since the Bible is complete?

No, the gift of prophecy today is not adding words to Scripture. This is because words spoken in prophecies today have less authority than Scripture, and must always be tested by Scripture. We can see this from examining the teaching of the New Testament itself on this gift. We can begin with Paul’s teaching on prophecy in the congregation:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent. For you can all prophecy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged (1 Corinthians 14:29-31; cf. vv. 24-25).

Following this Scripture, we can define the gift of prophecy as follows:

Prophecy is reporting something that God spontaneously brings to mind.

This is because Paul talks about a “revelation” being made to someone—what we would call something God spontaneously brings to mind. Based on the “revelation,” the person gives a “prophecy” to the congregation—what we might call a report of something God had just brought to mind.

But does this kind of prophecy equal “the word of God?” Certainly not in the sense we usually use the phrase “the word of God,” namely, to refer to the words of the Bible, which have absolute divine authority and can never by wrong. Instead, errors can be made in prophecies that are spoken. That is why Paul says, “Let the others weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29) and “Do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). He could not have said these things if prophecies were the very words of God in the sense Scripture is the very words of God. Therefore, prophecies must have had much less authority than Scripture.

Paul knew that prophetically gifted people at Corinth were not speaking the very words of God because he said, “Did the word of God come forth from you?” (1 Corinthians 14:36, literal translation), implying the answer, no. In Acts 21:4, we read of the disciples at Tyre, “Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” This seems to be a reference to prophecy directed toward Paul, but Paul disobeyed it! He never would have done this if the prophecy contained God’s very words. Then in Acts 21:10-11, Agabus prophesied that the Jews at Jerusalem would “bind [Paul] and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles,” a prediction that was nearly correct but not quite. The Romans bound Paul (v. 33), and the Jews, rather than delivering him voluntarily, tried to kill him and he had to be rescued by force (v. 32). The prediction was not far off, but it was an inaccuracy in detail that would have called into question the validity of any Old Testament prophet.

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Category: Pneuma Review, Spirit, Summer 2000

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009).

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