Wayne Grudem: On Prophecy

Argument:  NT “prophets” are not equivalent to OT “prophets.”  This is so because the latter could claim divine infallibility and are always compared with NT apostles.

    1. Old Testament Prophets: Speaking God’s Very Words
      1. The Prophets are Messengers of God
      2. The Prophets Words ar Words of God
      3. The Absolute Divine Authority of Prophetic Words
        1. To disbelieve or disobey a prophet is to disbelieve and disobey God.
        2. The words of a prophet are beyond challenge (Grudem 24).
      4. Application for Today
    2. New Testament Apostles
      Argument: there is “little if any evidence for a group of prophets in the NT churches who could speak with God’s very words and who had the ability to write books of Scripture” (27)

      1. The NT apostles are messengers of Christ.  
        1. OT prophets are covenant messengers; NT apostles are ministers of the New Covenant.
      2. New Testament Apostles are connected with Old Testament Prophets
        1. The book of Hebrews contrasts Jesus with the OT prophets and calls him an “apostles” (Heb. 3:1).
        2. 2 Pet. 3:2 connects the holy prophets through the apostles.
      3. The Apostles Words are Words of God
      4. Paul distinguishes himself, an apostle, from those who are prophets.
        1. Anyone who disobeyed Paul disobeyed a command from the Lord, yet we do not see this kind of authority given to NT prophets.
      5. The NT uses the language of prophets as someone who can predict the future but not have divine authority (Titus 1:12; Luke 22:64; John 4.19).
    3. New Testament Prophets at Corinth
      Thesis: Speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind.

      1. Prophecies need to be sifted (14.29).
      2. Some prophecies were intentionally neglected (14.30).  Contrast this with Jehoikam’s disregard for Jeremiah’s prophecy.  God gave him a death sentence for neglecting it. If NT prophecies were on the same field as OT, then we should make sure that all of this “potential canon” is gathered for the church.  Yet Paul is making sure that isn’t happening. Some prophets won’t even be able to speak (Grudem 63).
      3. “Revelation” doesn’t always imply divine authority.  We have a tendency to important later historical theology into NT concepts.  Revelation doesn’t mean binding communication from God. It means to “unveil” or “reveal.”
        1. God’s wrath is apokalypto against all unrighteousness.  When men would later talk about this, were their words “Bible?”
        2. In Eph. 1.17 we are to pray for a spirit of apokalypsis.  Does that mean what I speak under that is now canon?
      4. NT prophets have less authority than apostles, so they can’t be the same (14.37-38).

New Testament Prophets in the Rest of the NT

      1. Agabus (Acts 11.28).
      2. Acts 13.2.  There are numerous passages where the Lord speaks to someone and it isn’t prophecy: Acts 8.29; 10.19; 18.9; 15.28; 16.6-7; 16.9; 20.23; 23.9.  The common denominator in these passages is a subjective element.
      3. Agabus, again. 21.4.  “Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go.”  Yet Paul specifically disobeys this warning. And Agabus’s prophecy isn’t entirely accurate.  It was the Romans who bound Paul, not the Jews. The Jews didn’t deliver Paul over to the Gentiles.  Rather, the Romans saved Paul from the Jews! This means that Agabus got the gist of it right, but was wrong on the details.  
      4. Philip’s daughters.  Acts 21.9.

The Source of Prophecies

      1. 1 Cor. 14.30.  Must be based on a revelation from God.
        1. The revelation comes spontaneously (96).
        2. The revelation comes to an individual.
        3. The revelation is from god.
      2. The revelation gives insight to God’s perspective.
        1. They are able to see facts in light of God’s perspective.
      3. Prophets don’t know everything (1 Cor. 13.8-13).
        1. We prophecy in part because we are looking into a dim mirror.
        2. A mirror suggests incompleteness and indirectness.
        3. There are “dim” aspects, which is why Agabus was true, though he got a few facts wrong.

Duration of Prophecy

    1. I think we can all agree that “the perfect has come” in 1 Cor. 13 doesn’t refer to the closing of the canon.  For one, it’s circular reasoning. Secondly, when the perfect comes you will “know perfectly,” which isn’t true today.
    2. But what about prophecy is a sign-gift?  This is probably the most sophisticated response from cessationists.  But we respond:
      1. Almost everything in Acts is connected with the Apostles and is probably sign-ificant (see what I did?).    In that case, preaching the gospel is a sign-gift and doesn’t happen today, but that’s silly.
      2. Not all miracles in the NT were done by apostles.  James 5:14-15 expected healing to occur at the hands of the elders.  Further, “in the absence of the Apostle Paul, [it is Christ] who “works miracles among the Galatian churches” (205).
      3. Thirdly, Philip and Stephen weren’t apostles, yet they did miracles.

Review

Like all of Wayne Grudem’s books, this one is carefully argued and written with a warm, easy style. The thesis itself is only 228 pages.  The rest of the book is appendices containing responses, specific exegesis, and reprinted articles.

Grudem explains how the Old Testament used the cognate “prophet” and contrasts that with its usages in Koine Greek.  His thesis is the terms aren’t the same and when the latter is applied in the early NT church, they don’t act the same.  In the OT the words of a prophet are beyond challenge (Grudem 24), yet in the NT we are told to sift prophecies. In the OT, to disobey a prophet was death, yet Paul specifically disobeyed the prophecies not to go to Jerusalem.

Paul distinguishes himself, an apostle, from those who are prophets. Anyone who disobeyed Paul disobeyed a command from the Lord, yet we do not see this kind of authority given to NT prophets. The NT uses the language of prophets as someone who can predict the future but not have divine authority (Titus 1:12; Luke 22:64; John 4.19). This is the strongest section of the book. It’s hard to see how you can argue with Grudem at this point.  If NT prophet is connected with “apostle,” then Paul’s writings are incoherent.

“But what about Scripture?” The most common response is that any new prophecy is a revelation from God, and any time there is a revelation from God, it is on the level of codified Scripture.  Grudem slowly, yet with inexorable exactitude, destroys this argument. Here is a trick: every time you see the word revelation (apocalypto or any of its cognates) in the NT, substitute it with “codified Scripture.”  You will see what I am talking about.

Thesis: Speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind. Prophecies need to be sifted (14.29). Some prophecies were intentionally neglected (14.30).  Contrast this with Jehoikam’s disregard for Jeremiah’s prophecy. God gave him a death sentence for neglecting it. If NT prophecies were on the same field as OT, then we should make sure that all of this “potential canon” is gathered for the church.  Yet Paul is making sure that isn’t happening. Some prophets won’t even be able to speak (Grudem 63).

“Revelation” doesn’t always imply divine authority.  We have a tendency to important later historical theology into NT concepts.  Revelation doesn’t mean binding communication from God. It means to “unveil” or “reveal.”  That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean “Bible.” God’s wrath is apokalypto against all unrighteousness.  When men would later talk about this, were their words “Bible?” In Eph. 1.17 we are to pray for a spirit of apokalypsis.  Does that mean what I speak under that is now canon? NT prophets have less authority than apostles, so they can’t be the same (14.37-38).

Duration of Prophecy

I think we can all agree that “the perfect has come” in 1 Cor. 13 doesn’t refer to the closing of the canon.  For one, it’s circular reasoning. Secondly, when the perfect comes you will “know perfectly,” which isn’t true today.

But what about prophecy is a sign-gift?  This is probably the most sophisticated response from cessationists.  But we respond: Almost everything in Acts is connected with the Apostles and is probably sign-ificant (see what I did?).    In that case, preaching the gospel is a sign-gift and doesn’t happen today, but that’s silly. Not all miracles in the NT were done by apostles.  James 5:14-15 expected healing to occur at the hands of the elders. Further, “in the absence of the Apostle Paul, [it is Christ] who “works miracles among the Galatian churches” (205). Thirdly, Philip and Stephen weren’t apostles, yet they did miracles.

There is also a long, careful discussion of Eph. 2:20, which includes an interaction with Gaffin.  This is one of those landmark books. If a cessationist book doesn’t interact with Grudem’s exegesis in this book (e.g., Strange Fire), you can throw it away.  It’s scholarship is out of date.

 

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One thought on “Wayne Grudem: On Prophecy

  1. Pingback: Carson: Showing the Spirit | Factory of the Soul

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