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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Modern Day Prophets

“When Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied--together there were about twelve of them”
Today’s reading from Acts 19 differentiates Christian baptism from (John's baptism of) mere repentance. The key is the work of the Holy Spirit which produces two fruits: speaking in tongues and prophesying.
We need to ponder how these two fruits of baptism present in our lives [I suggest reading 1 Corinthians 14.] Aside from Pentecostal churches and the ocassional charismatic in Catholic of mainline circles, praying in tongues is disparaged among many Christians and feared by others. Time does not permit a defense of this prayer form here and now. It is enough to say that if it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in baptism then we should all consider it worthwhile...

Paul says that he wishes we all spoke in tongues, but he recognizes the limits of such prayer, which is an unknown communication in the spiritual realm. For this reason he says “even more I want you to prophesy.” This is because prophecy ‘builds people up’, ‘gives them sound counsel’ and ‘provides them with comfort’. Note the three descriptors of prophecy. This differs from popular usage where the word prophet means “someone who predicts the future,” sort of a religious version of those “psychics prognosticating for the National Enquirer.”

However that is not what the prophets of Israel do. Nor is it what we baptized Christians will do. We are confused about the true nature of prophecy and have allowed the gift to lie fallow and unused.
A look at Israel’s prophets reveals a group of men enamored with God who speak His word to the His people. Abraham Heschel’s book is one of the most important books I have ever read. (The Prophets Volume 1&2). There he makes a statement which provides crystal clarity for our own vocation as baptized Christians. “…prophets see the world from the point of view of God.”
As children of God we share in God’s nature by the Holy Spirit. we literally care about what God cares about (though our flesh is at war with this). In Jesus we know the mind and heart of God. We understand His concerns. We are authorized to speak on His behalf.
To prophesy is to proclaim justice, compassion, mercy and wrath. It is to hate sin and evil and condemn. It is to love even the sinner, longing to heal human brokenness wherever it is. The prophet is on fire with a vision of God’s Kingdom which provides for the health, wealth and dignity of all persons; while demanding love and obedience from all. The prophet is upset by even the smallest sins because, like God, he understands the horrible effects of sin.

Christian baptism designates us as ambassadors chosen to tell the world that sin produces wrath and death. This message is the “future-telling” of a prophet. “If you continue on this path you will die. If you fail to turn away from sin, turn around and return to your God, if you continue to live outside of covenant then you will suffer the consequences.”

So (in the ancient past) the predictions of Assyrian and Babylonian exile were made and so they came to pass. Yet, such 'predictions' (better to see them as warnings) are spelling out the consequences of breaking covenant. A message of those who know God, listen to God and love His truth has insight into the future results of present activities, just like we can warn a friend that drinking can cost one's job or flirting can destroy one's marriage.

There are, however, also more hopeful insights into the future. A prophet knows that God is King. He rules in covenant mercy. He has vowed to be the One who rescues His people and redeems His children. And so, the prophet knows, that better days are coming when God will make all things new. We announce reconciliation and renewal with confidence! We proclaim the Kingdom...

This is prophecy. It is God-given task to speak for God (literal meaning of pro--phecy is to bring to light). We share God’s will with others. We confidently announce the message of our God. We can declare with certitude that those who reject God and disobey will perish; those who trust, love and obey Him will live abundantly.
We can declare that God has made His choice and demands that we make ours. He has chosen us to be His own: holy, just and righteous. The choice is now ours.
All of us are prophets by virtue of baptism. We know God. We know His will. We are sent to proclaim that message to His creation. Today. Every day. This is what the first Christians did when they were baptized. It is what the Holy Spirit would have us do as well.


  1. It seems perfectly reasonable to me. If we are to "...see the world from the point of view of God.” and announce it to the world, we should have whatever tongues are necessary, in all kinds of weather.

  2. I agree we should manifest the very divine nature of God the Father with the help of the Holy Spirit. He helps us to walk as His Son Jesus walks and demonstrates the nature works of the Father. Speaking His word and bringing life to all.