Paul returns to the subject of “spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (vs. 1). “He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (vs. 2). Thus the gift of prophecy “edifies the church.” This gift is so significant that Paul recognizes the high priority of the prophetic gift.
As Seventh-day Adventists we believe in the continuing of all of the spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy. We believe that in December 1844 God appointed another prophetic messenger, just as God had done at many other critical points throughout salvation history. God revealed to Ellen Harmon (later White) through divine revelation a message of encouragement. Believers were discouraged after Christ had not returned as they had anticipated on Oct. 22, 1844. So God used a young woman to encourage and “edify” God’s end-time people. In this first vision is the main theme for all of her prophetic ministry: God’s path is a narrow path that ultimately leads to Jesus. Once again the prophetic gift is meant to edify and help God’s church. For people who believe in the importance of all spiritual gifts, and in the light of the fact of its importance, it therefore should not be surprising that God would appoint a prophetic messenger to help guide God’s end time people to focus with a prophetic posture on Jesus.
Next, Paul talks about speaking in “tongues” (languages) that need interpretation (vs. 6-25). Once again all spiritual gifts, including the gift of “tongues” must lead to the “edification of the church” (vs. 12). The gift of tongues comes with the gift of interpretation and “understanding” (vs. 13, 15). In fact, a key word in this chapter associated closely with “tongues” is that of “understanding.” Such “understanding” therefore leads to Christian maturity (vs. 20).
In comparing and contrasting these two spiritual gifts (prophecy and tongues), Paul notes that the gift of speaking in different languages is intended for unbelievers, but the gift of prophecy is intended “for those who believe” (vs. 22). Regardless of the gift, order in the church must be maintained so that unbelievers do not accuse the believers of being “out of their mind?” (vs. 23). All spiritual gifts should lead to “edification” (vs. 26), and every speaker should take his turn to maintain order.
Paul reminds them that prophetic gifts should be subject to previous prophetic guidance. Simply put, we judge all new revelation by the already established Word of God. For us today, that means that Scripture is our ultimate authority.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies