Some Instruction Concerning Revelation Gifts

Paul offered some instruction regarding the “revelation gifts” in regard to their manifestation through prophets:

And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1 Cor. 14:29-33).

Just as there were members of the body in Corinth who apparently were frequently used in the gift of the interpretation of tongues who were known as “interpreters,” so there were those who were frequently used in the gifts of prophecy and revelation who were considered “prophets.” These would not be prophets in the same class as Old Testament prophets or even someone like Agabus in the New Testament (see Acts. 11:28; 21:10). Rather, their ministries would have been limited to their local church bodies.

Although there might be more than three such prophets present at a church gathering, again Paul placed limitations, specifically limiting prophetic ministry to “two or three prophets.” This again suggests that when the Spirit was giving spiritual gifts in a gathering, more than one person might yield to receiving those gifts. If this is not so, Paul’s instruction could result in the Spirit giving gifts that would never be enjoyed by the body, as he limited how many prophets could speak.

If there were more than three prophets present, the others, although restrained from speaking, could help by judging what was said. This also would indicate their ability to discern what the Spirit was saying and possibly imply that they could have yielded to the Spirit themselves to be used in the very gifts that were manifested through the other prophets. Otherwise they could have only judged prophecies and revelations in a general way, by making certain they were in agreement with revelation God has already given (such as in Scripture), something any mature believer could do.

Paul stated that these prophets could all prophesy sequentially (see 1 Cor. 14:31) and that “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32), indicating that each prophet could restrain himself from interrupting another, even when given a prophecy or revelation from the Spirit to share with the congregation. This shows that the Spirit might give gifts at the same time to several prophets present in a gathering, but each prophet could and should control when his revelations or prophecies were shared with the body.

This is also true concerning any utterance gift that might be manifested through any believer. If a person receives a message in tongues or prophecy from the Lord, he can hold it until the proper time in the gathering. It would be wrong to interrupt someone else’s prophecy or teaching to give your prophecy.

When Paul stated, “you can all prophesy one by one” (1 Cor. 14:31), remember that he was speaking in the context of prophets who had received prophecies. Some have unfortunately taken Paul’s words out of context, saying that every believer can prophesy at every gathering of the body. The gift of prophecy is given as the Spirit wills.

Today, as much as ever, the church needs the Holy Spirit’s help, power, presence and gifts. Paul instructed the Corinthian believers to “desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1). This indicates that our level of desire has something to do with the manifestation of the Spirit’s gifts, otherwise Paul would not have given such instructions. The disciple-making minister, desiring to be used by God for His glory, will indeed earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and will teach his disciples to do the same.