Is All Prophecy Equal to Scripture? Part 2

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In this series I wanted to resurrect the assumption that prophecy in the NT is equal to Scripture.  I used to believe that.  I don't anymore.  It's a basic axiom of a teaching called cessationism.  I don't agree with it anymore, and for two good reasons: 

exegesis of the Scripture,
and experience of the Spirit.

I ended up turning to a charismatic understanding of Christian theology through basic Bible study.  When I approached the Bible afresh I started by reading with childlike faith, seeking to understand God as a child would a Father.  To be sure, it has to go a little deeper than that, if for no other reason than that I am separated by what was written in the Bible by a minimum of 2,000 years.  So some research and study into the history, background, cultures, language, etc. is very helpful.  All those things are summed up in a fancy word scholars and theologians call "exegesis."  

However, when it came to the issue of prophecy in the New Testament church, little exegesis was needed.  Why?  Because a simple survey of prophets and prophecy in the Old and New Testaments builds a solid foundation.  When I began to read the Scriptures afresh in this way, I found that many of my personal beliefs and arguments about cessationism began to dissolve and eventually collapse.  One of the most important arguments I held dearly was my belief that prophecy in the New Testament church today cannot exist any longer because the canon of Scripture is closed.  I referred to this in Part 1 of this series.

Problem is, this is not a legitimate belief for two reasons.  I'm dealing with the first reason in this post today.

1.  Not all prophecy that has ever been given was written in the Bible

The first is quite simple, and again is something almost every Christian would agree with.  Not all prophecy that has ever occurred was written in the Bible.  There is a large amount of prophecy that is referred to in the Scriptures, but was not recorded in Scriptures.  Here's a sampling.  
According to my count, there were about 133 prophets named in the Bible.
  • In addition, the Bible mentions other groups who were also prophets: the 70 elders of Israel, the 100+ prophets saved by Obadiah, the 50+ prophets sons who came from Jericho, the 100+ prophet's sons at Gilgal, and 288 sons of Aseph, Heman, and Jeduthun. Where are their prophecies? 
  • There were also nine other unnamed and and unnumbered prophets throughout the Bible.  Where are their prophecies?
  • There were various schools of prophets (1 Samuel 10:11; 19:19-20; 2 Kings 2:3, 5; 4:38; 6:1; Amos 7:14). Where are their prophecies?
  • There were 7,000 prophets that have not bowed the knee to Baal in Elijah's day (1 Kings 19:18).  Where are their prophecies?
  • The prophets at the church in Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul (Acts 13:1).  We have some of what Saul (Paul) prophesied, in his thirteen NT letters.  But where are the prophecies of the other men who were named?
  • There were other prophets from Antioch, some unnamed, but another named Agabus, who were prophets and came to Jerusalem to help (Acts 11:27).  We have one of Agabus' prophecies.  But where are his other prophecies, as well as the prophecies of his friends from Antioch?
  • Judas and Silas were also prophets (Acts 15:32).  Where are their prophecies?
  • The Ephesian men whom Paul laid hands on prophesied (Acts 19:6). Where are their prophecies?
  • Philip had four unmarried daughters who were prophetesses. Where are their prophecies?
  • The Thessalonians were experiencing prophecy, according to 1 Thessalonians 5.  Where are their prophecies?
  • The Corinthian church is believed to have had the most incredible display of spiritual gifts in the New Testament.  Paul wanted them to prophecy to more than they spoke in tongues.  Assuming they did, where are they recorded?
  • Jesus prophesied more than anyone!  But the last chapter of John tells us that if everything was written down that Jesus did, all the books in the world couldn't contain it.  Within all of the unwritten content would include the other things Jesus said.  Sorry if this is a shock to you, but Jesus said a whole lot more than what's in red in our New Testaments!  And if everything Jesus ever said was considered prophecy (which it probably was since He was God Himself and since the Spirit was leading Him), then we have an innumerable amount of prophecy that never got written down.
I think it's safe to say on this first point that...

not everything that is
spoken prophetically
is necessarily canonical,
simply because it wasn't
recorded in the canon.  

Therefore, based on this first fact, we can safely conclude that just because it's prophetic doesn't mean it should be included in the Bible. So there's no reason for a cessationist to continue making this claim, as I used to.  The facts, when read plainly, clearly say otherwise.  It's even safe to say that most of the prophecy that was given by prophets was not recorded in Scripture.  If it were, our Bible would be ten thousand volumes long, probably.

Now, to be sure of something important, since most of this non-canonical prophecy was never recorded in the canon, we don't necessarily know what all that prophecy was about, do we? Perhaps not.  However, there are enough reflections of the varying content and quality of prophecy that would prove there is a difference in canonical prophecy and non-canonical prophecy.

After a fresh reading of the Scriptures, it became clear to me that while we don't have the actual content of non-canonical prophecies made by all those many named and unnamed prophets, we do have an idea of the kind of stuff they prophesied about.  This brings me to the second reason why not all prophecy is not equal to the canon of Scripture.  Stay tuned for this in Part 3.


About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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