3 REASONS CHARISMATICS ARE WRONG ABOUT NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY

In his new commentary on 1 Corinthians, Tom Schreiner argues that Paul uses the word prophecy to reference “communicating revelation from God in a spontaneous utterance.”

He explains that Wayne Grudem “argues that New Testament prophecy is fallible, unlike Old Testament prophecy, so it may be mixed with error (errors may crop up in the transmission of what God revealed).”

Grudem believes New Testament prophecy may err for three reasons

(1) their prophecies are judged (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:20–21);

(2) some prophecies are disobeyed (Acts 21:4); and

(3) Agabus’s prophecy was in error (Acts 21:11), in that the Jews did not bind Paul and hand him over to the Romans.

Schreiner concludes:

Grudem’s reading is intriguing but fails to convince;

it is more plausible to say that New Testament prophecy like Old Testament prophecy is infallible . . .

He offers three reasons for this conclusion:

First, the judging of prophecies does not indicate that prophets could err, for in the Old Testament the only way to determine whether someone was a true prophet was by assessing prophecies. If the prophecies were mistaken, the person was not a true prophet (see Deut. 18:21–22; 1 Sam. 3:19–20).

Second, Agabus was not mistaken in Acts 21:11, since when Paul recounts the story of his arrest in Acts 28:17 he appeals to the very word Agabus used (paradidomi) to describe Paul being handed over to the Romans.

We have further evidence that Agabus spoke as a prophet of the Lord, like the Old Testament prophets.

He used prophetic symbolism in binding his own hands and feet, imitating the kind of prophetic symbolism we find in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 20:1–6; Jer. 13:1–11; Ezek. 4:1–5:17). In addition, the words of Ababus reflect a prophetic formula, “The Holy Spirit says” (Acts 21:11). The word tade (lit. “these things”) is used over and over in the Old Testament to introduce the word of the Lord (cf. also Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14).

Third, in Acts 21:4 the prophecy was Spirit-inspired and accurate (Paul would suffer), but the inference drawn from the prophecy (Paul should not go to Jerusalem) is mistaken.

For these reasons, Schreiner concludes:

[T]he prophetic gift in the New Testament is of the same nature as the gift in the Old Testament.

God communicates, typically spontaneously, revelations by his prophets which are authoritative and completely true.

Thomas R. Schreiner, 1 Corinthians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic; London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2018), 259–61 (emphasis added above).

The New Testament does not explicitly teach that the miraculous sign-gifts cease; rather, it is an inference made by cessationists. Likewise, the New Testament does not explicitly teach that the nature of prophecy changes from one testament to another; again, it is an inference made by continuationists.

When discussing debates like this, we often neglect the question of the “burden of proof.” John Frame once commented on this with regard to the paedbaptist vs. credobaptist debate, pointing out that according to paedobaptists, “We can assume continuity with the Old Testament principle of administering the sign of the covenant to children, unless the New Testament evidence directs us otherwise.” As a Baptist, I agree with him—Baptists hold the burden of proof here. (I just happen to think the burden can be met.)

Similarly, it seems to me that continuationists bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that prophecy changes from one testament to the other. Grudem seeks to meet the burden, and Schreiner seeks to show why their case is not convincing.

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