Recently, I heard a sermon that encapsulated teaching I absorbed most of my life. The sermon focused on the seven gifts named in Romans 12:3-8.
As the preacher listed the seven gifts and described them briefly, he gave this two-word definition of prophecy: “speaking out.” Though he presented the other six gifts in a positive light, he painted prophecy as a gift to avoid, if at all possible. “We need prophets in the church. But we don’t need many of them,” he joked. How many times had I heard this gift presented in a similar way? In this view, the more spiritual the prophet, the more harsh, negative and judgmental his words.
“A woman can have the gift of prophecy,” the preacher said. “But a woman with the gift of prophecy has to be very careful. Very careful. What she hears from God, she is generally not supposed to speak but to take into her prayer closet.”
What?! God gives women the gift of speaking out – and forbids them to speak out?
This preacher didn’t add the other “given” that every woman under the sound of his voice understood: If a woman with a gift of prophecy does speak out, she must speak only to women.
If your gift is prophecying
One night after hearing that sermon, I sat in the overstuffed chair in our family room, crying out to God. For years, he had been stripping me of beliefs and practices that are religious, but not true. In particular, he had stripped away numerous false beliefs about my identity in him. That night I pleaded, “Lord, you’ve rid me of so many false beliefs that kept me from being who you created me to be. So what is true? Who am I? Who have you made me to be?”
The next day, God pointed me to Arthur Burk’s teachings on the seven gifts in Romans 12. What Bill Gothard called “motivational gifts,” Burk calls “redemptive gifts.”
Listening to Burk’s teaching on CD about the gift of prophecy, I laughed and wept and shouted and applauded – and received what God had put inside me all along.
Any of the gifts can be exercised in the flesh (and thus become more negative than positive). Any gift becomes life-giving only as we surrender to Jesus as Lord, yield fully to Holy Spirit and spend time with our Father in prayer and the Word.
From the spirit, prophets cry, “Look to Jesus! He holds keys! Take them! They’ll free you to live – to know God intimately, to follow him fully, to be who he created you to be!”
In Scripture, we read of several women prophets – including Moses’ sister Miriam (Ex. 15:20-21), the judge Deborah (Judges 4-5), Huldah (2 Ki. 22:14-20; 2 Chron. 34:22-30), Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3) and in the New Testament, Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9). Surely, each of these women spent time in the prayer closet. As they listened to God, he told them what to say, when to say it and to whom. To obey him, they had to speak. They had to speak to people. Further, in every instance where Scripture records a woman prophet’s words, God commissioned her to speak to men or to an audience that included men and women.
Beware the NIV rendering of Romans 12:6: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it …” Translators arbitrarily inserted the word man. In the Greek, it does not appear anywhere in this passage. Rather, you who know Jesus as Lord, regardless your gender, “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy.”
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Look inside What About Women