I’m not sure I agree with this view, but I appreciate the attempt to be biblically robust and discerning in the practice of his view of prophecy:
Below is a class syllabus section on Prophecy in a class I took under Sam:
The best way to approach this controversial gift is by asking a series of twelve questions:
First: What is prophecy?
Wayne Grudem provides us with a simple definition: Prophecy is the speaking forth in merely human words a revelation that God has brought spontaneously to mind.
Second: Is it permissible to pursue prophecy?
See 1 Cor. 14:1, 12, 39. Thus it is not merely permissible, it is mandatory!
Third: Can anyone prophesy?
See 1 Cor. 14:5, 24, 31 (cf. Acts 2:17). It would appear that whereas the potential exists for anyone in the body of Christ to prophesy, not everyone necessarily will.
Fourth: What kind of information does God disclose in prophecy?
See 1 Cor. 14:25 (disclosing the “secrets” of the heart). The experience of Charles Spurgeon (1834-92) may well be an example of prophecy, even though he probably wouldn’t have labeled it as such.
“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, ‘Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul’” (The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon [Curts & Jennings, 1899], Vol. II:226-27).
Spurgeon then adds this comment:
“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, ‘The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door’” (ibid.).
Fifth: Where does prophecy come from?
See 1 Cor. 14:30. All prophecy is based on a “revelation” from God. Prophecy is not based on a hunch, a supposition, an inference, an educated guess, or even on sanctified wisdom. Prophecy is not based on personal insight, intuition, or illumination. Prophecy is the human report of a divine revelation. This is what distinguishes prophecy from teaching. Teaching is always based on a text of Scripture. Prophecy is always based on a spontaneous revelation.
Sixth: Is NT prophecy “fallible” or “infallible”?
Prophecy consists of three distinct parts: Revelation, Interpretation, and Application.
Seventh: If prophecy can be fallible, how is it still profitable?
Consider the analogy with the gift of teaching . . .
Eighth: In what form does the revelation come?
Ninth: Is there such a thing as ‘ecstatic experience’ when exercising the gift of prophecy?
Much depends on one’s definition of ecstasy. It may mean that a person experiences a sense of mental detachment wherein she becomes unaware of her surroundings and, in varying degrees, oblivious to sight or sound. This may or may not entail complete loss of consciousness. Others define ecstasy as something akin to divine seizure in which the Holy Spirit overrides and usurps control of one’s faculties of thought and speech. Paul doesn’t teach that ecstasy is a part of the prophetic experience. Several factors support this conclusion.
- Paul assumes the person prophesying is capable of recognizing from some form of signal that someone else had received a revelation and was ready to speak (v. 30). Clearly, then, she was not oblivious to her surroundings.
- The person prophesying is also expected to cease speaking upon recognition that another has received a revelation (“let the first keep silent”). The prophet could both speak and keep silent at will. Also, the second prophet didn’t burst into speech but somehow indicated to the first, then waited until she had stopped.
- Paul says that all who prophesied could do so in turn, “one by one” (v. 31), indicating the sensible and voluntary control of their faculties.
- In 1 Cor. 14:32 Paul says that “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” He is referring to the many different manifestations of the one Holy Spirit through the spirit of each individual prophet (see also 14:12,14-16). This means the Holy Spirit will never force or compel a prophet to speak, but subjects his work to the wisdom of each individual. The Spirit voluntarily submits in this one respect for the sake of order.
- The case of tongues is in many respects parallel. The tongues-speaker could speak or be silent at will and was expected to follow a prescribed “order of service” in the exercise of the gift (vv. 27-28), something out of the question if he/she were in any sense mentally disengaged from events in the meeting.
Tenth: Does Paul allow women to prophesy?
See Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5. What, then, is the meaning of 1 Cor. 14:34-35?
Among the seemingly countless competing interpretations, the one I find persuasive is that Paul is prohibiting women from participating in the public passing of judgment upon or the evaluation of the prophets (14:29). Consider the following evidence.
Eleventh: Why would Paul allow women to prophesy in public but not evaluate the prophecies of others?
Evidently Paul believed the public evaluation or judgment of prophecy constituted an exercise of authority that he restricts to men (1 Tim. 2:11ff.).
Twelfth: What is the purpose of most prophetic utterances?
Edification (or “upbuilding”) (1 Cor. 14:3)
- Encouragement (1 Cor. 14:3)
- Consolation (1 Cor. 14:3)
- Conviction (1 Cor. 14:24-25)
- Instruction (1 Cor. 14:31)
- Direction (Acts 13:1-3; Acts 16)
- Warning and Confirmation (Acts 21:4, 10-14)
- Impartation (1 Tim. 4:14)