The following is part of a discussion (not debate) between two friends, Sam Storms and C. Michael Patton, about the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Sam is a Charismatic. Michael is not. If you have come in late, you can access the entire series here.


Thanks much for detailing your argument in such a way. I know this is something you have to do often for people like me, so I pray this conversation is not redundant. While I am desperately committed to this remaining a discussion and not a debate, this is the first response in the series where I find we have significant points of disagreement. I pray you will bear with me while I respond. And please know that while my response will cover some major points of disagreement, I do love you and hold you in the highest regard, seeing you as a great mentor in my life.

Let’s begin with your Charles Spurgeon quote. It is very interesting and often used among charismatics. First, let me say this. My current position of “soft cessationist,” or more simply, “non-charismatic,” is not a position against prophecy. I know that some people are. Some believe that any prophecy given today puts the “closing” of the canon of Scripture in jeopardy. But as I expressed before, this argument is not strong. I have read a lot of Spurgeon. As a matter of fact, after my wife and I got married, we would read a sermon of Spurgeon every night. I am not kidding – every night! When I told a mentor/professor about this, he responded, “As a newlywed couple, can’t you find something better to do at night?!” Wisdom or folly? Who knows. But back to my point: In all my reading of Spurgeon, I would not dare to say he was a charismatic (and I know you would not either), even if he had a prophetic experience here and there. Why? Because, as we defined at the beginning, the key points we are arguing are that God wants gifts such as prophecy to be 1) continuing, 2) normative, and 3) actively sought out. Having some divine revelation a few times does not qualify as evidence of any of the three, in my opinion. Although I am open to correction here, I think the following quote, from a sermon called “Receiving the Holy Ghost” (#1790 Vol 30, Year 1884, pg. 386, Acts 19:2), evidences that Spurgeon was at least a soft cessationist. (This probably is better placed in our coming discussion about the history of the charismatic gifts, but since you brought Spurgeon into the discussion, I think this is proper):

You know, dear friends, when the Holy Spirit was given in the earliest ages, He showed His presence by certain miraculous signs. Some of those who received the Holy Spirit spake with tongues, others began to prophesy, and a third class received the gifts of healing. I am sure that if these powers were given now you would all be anxious to possess them. You would want to be healing or to be speaking in tongues, or to be working miracles by which you would benefit your fellow men and glorify God. Now be it never forgotten that those works of the Holy Spirit which are permanent must assuredly be of greater value than those which were transitory. We cannot suppose that the Holy Ghost brought forth the best wine at first and that His operations gradually deteriorated. It is a rule of the kingdom to keep the best wine to the last; and therefore, I conclude that you and I are not left to partake of the dregs, but that those gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which are departed from us.

As well, when I look at Spurgeon’s first revelation, frankly, it seems to take a rather legalistic cultural bent.  He condemned a man for having his shop open on Sunday? To me this is not unlike the people who claim to have near death experiences and go meet God in heaven. Their description of heaven – streets of gold, gates of pearls, wings on people, etc. – are not biblical (in my opinion). Most of what they describe is nothing more than a representation of the unbiblical folk theology of their culture. I could be wrong here, but I tend to think Spurgeon’s culture believed that leaving your place of business open on Sunday was a terrible sin. However, Paul said let no one judge a person with regard to the Sabbath (Col. 2:6).

Concerning your third point, we agree in a very important way. You distinguish between prophecy and teaching God’s word. Many people will combine the two, believing they are essentially the same. Prophecy, as I said in my post, is supernatural and direct divine revelation that comes by various means.

You make a point to say prophecy is a “report” of divine revelation. I am fine with that – to a point. Where I can’t follow you right now is where you allow for the short-circuiting between the revelation and the report. You say, “prophecy is occasionally fallible.” That is a hard thing to wrestle with. Part of me says you are right. It is fallible. That is why God instructs us, in both the Old and New Testaments, to test the prophets (Deut 13:1-3; Deut 18:20-22; 1 Cor 14:32). Where I can’t follow you is when you say that a prophet can be wrong (i.e., deliver a false prophecy), yet this not be seen as sinful or destructive to the community of God. This is God’s word we are dealing with. Sam, you are in no way frivolous with God’s word. I know you well enough to see this. However, I don’t see how encouraging the church to embrace claims to divine revelation (contingent or not), which may or may not be from God, can be seen as anything other than frivolous. I can’t get over the idea that adopting this acceptance of failed prophecy is a dangerous carefree lack of seriousness concerning those who speak on behalf of the Creator of the universe.

In order to justify your position that one can have divine revelation (tentative or not) yet be fallible in its report, you give three steps that prophecy takes when it is given by God: 1) revelation, 2) interpretation of the revelation by a fallible person, and 3) application. Then you say something that I take as quite outstanding: “The problem is that you might misinterpret or misapply what God has disclosed. The fact that God has spoken perfectly doesn’t mean that you have heard perfectly.” Therefore you say, “[T]he gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation.”

You must know where I am going to go with this, right?

This is the age-old debate about where inspiration lies. Speaking of the Scriptures, the reformers of the past and Evangelicals of today have fought hard for the final and absolute authority of the Scriptures. Our more liberal friends have sought to “save” Christianity by releasing the Bible of its status of being true in everything it teaches (inerrancy). Why? Because they feel that the Bible is hit or miss with regard to its accuracy in prophecy, history, and science. How do they do this? By doing the same thing you are suggesting. They create a short-circuit between divine revelation and human communication. They argue that because people are fallible, we should expect the Bible to contain characteristics of fallible man. The problem with this view is that it takes a very deistic view of God. In other words, God hands over the truth of the Scriptures to fallible men, then takes a hands-off approach to the communication of his revelation. Therefore, that which is true in the Scriptures is from God. That which is false is from man. God is relegated to being a cheerleader in heaven, hoping that man interprets and communicates his revelation clearly.

Now you, like me, do not take this liberal approach to Scripture. We believe that God is involved in both the giving and the recording of his revelation. Why? Because he is God. He is not going to go through the trouble to communicate his word, yet not care so much about whether it gets recorded correctly. Therefore we believe the very words of Scripture, every jot and tittle (Matt. 5:18). We even believe that the verb tenses recorded in Scripture are a perfect infallible representation of God (Matt 22:31-32). So when God communicates, he makes sure his communication gets to his people intact.

However, as ironic as it is to say, you seem to take an approach to prophecy that leans in the direction of deism. You do the same thing to divine revelation that those who are more liberal do to the Scriptures. You seem to short-circuit the revelatory process by relegating God to the heavens as a cheerleader. He gives his revelation to a person and then backs off, hoping it gets communicated correctly, but offering no guarantee that it will. I don’t even know how to respond to this idea that prophecy may or may not be true. This is kosher? If I applied this to Scripture I would not even bother reading it, much less obeying it. It is the same thing with this idea of a faulty prophet. “Here is a prophecy for you that I think might be from God. Caution: It may or may not be true. There is an asteroid coming to Edmond, OK that will destroy everything. Get all your possessions and move.” What do I do with that? I guess we can just hope that the prophecies people give are not so substantial. However, as we see in the New Testament, sometimes this is the type of prophecy given (Acts 11:28). Abagus prophesied about a great famine. What if the famine did not come? “Oh, sorry folks. I know you picked up your family, sold your business, loaded up your donkey and moved to Rome, but it’s okay. We sometimes get these things wrong. My bad.”

You seem to recognize this problem but quickly dismiss it by comparing prophecy to teaching God’s word. You say that someone can interpret and teach God’s word and be wrong, therefore a prophet can do the same: “The gift of prophecy,” you say,  “may result in fallible prophecy just like the gift of teaching may result in fallible teaching.” However, I don’t see the relationship as tightly as you do. Certainly a teacher must be very careful. But a teacher is not claiming new divine revelation. The people know (or should) that the person teaching is fallible. But the key difference is that the teacher of the Bible is drawing from the same already-accepted-for-two-thousand-years-of-church-history revelation – the Bible. The prophet is claiming new revelation. The teacher is not. In teaching, the people have access to the same revelation the teacher does. In prophecy, the people have to just trust that what has been received and communicated is true. To make your parallel work, you would have to say that the teacher opens his sermon or lesson with this: “Today I am teaching from the Bible. God told me last night how to interpret this passage.” Therefore, the parallel idea of receiving divine revelation is intact. I do understand there are teachers who say things like this. They may say, “I was going to preach such and such a sermon, but last night God told me to teach this.” But I always encourage people to stay away from such language. The congregation or students should always be reminded that the teacher is fallible since he or she has not received divine revelation.

I agree very much with your statement that prophecy is for up-building and encouragement. Who wouldn’t? It is there in the text (1 Cor. 14:3). However, I wonder whether you see this as a new use of prophecy that was introduced in the New Testament. I don’t think I could go there. Whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament, people perish due to a lack of vision (Prov. 29:18; and this is not a vision of man, it is prophetic vision). To receive a word from the Lord, whether corporately or individually, is always encouraging. The prophets, whether from the Old Testament or New Testament, are the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). You say this:

I’ve often spoken with believers who, in spite of what they knew theologically to be true, felt as if God had forgotten them. Their prayers seemed never to be heard, much less answered. Then, often quite without warning, they received a prophetic word from a total stranger that could be known only by God himself, and their faith is bolstered and their spirit consoled.

I, personally, would love to hear from the Lord. I would love to hear a word about my mother or my dad. Just to hear the Lord say, “I know you’re suffering. Be strong and courageous,” would be a tremendous encouragement. I would probably begin to weep a great deal if I really believed it was from him. However, I must resist such encouragement for, as I said in my piece about prophecy, anyone can come and say that to me. As much as I would like to just believe it was from the Lord, the word of the Lord is too precious, no matter how uplifting the claim, to believe without any demonstration that the prophet had really heard from the Lord. Look to the prophets in the Old Testament who brought false words of encouragement to the people.

Jer 23:16-17
Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, “No disaster shall come upon you.”

These were nice, warm, encouraging prophecies that the people were eating up. However, they were false. They did not test the prophets and ended up disillusioned and in much trouble. I find this to be the case often with modern prophets who have messages of well-wishing and, “No disaster shall come upon you.” It is easy for our emotions to bait us into skipping any test due to the comfort the message brings. All of this to say I agree that prophecy is for encouragement, but the ability of a prophecy to encourage is not the test of its veracity.

Concerning your comments about those who say that if prophecy is continuing today then the canon is in jeopardy, you know that I agree with you; this is not a good argument. Certainly there were, both in Old Testament and New Testament times, prophecies that were given and received that never made the “canon cut.” The canon is not simply an agglomeration of everything God has ever said, but a definite and intentional record of salvation history. So, if the gift of prophecy is continuing today, there is no need for a argument that the canon is still open.

However, you do seem to make a distinction that I am not ready to follow you in. You say about prophecies that did not make the “canon cut”: “If such words, each and every one of them, were the very ‘Word of God’ and thus equal to Scripture in authority, what happened to them? Why were the NT authors so lacking in concern for whether or not other Christians heard them and obeyed them?” Here you are beginning to make a distinction between the level of authority of Scripture and the level of authority of modern or New Testament prophecies. You are making an argument that both are prophecy from God, but one (i.e. Scripture) is more authoritative. I don’t understand your argument, which is primarily based on 1 Thess 5:19-22. To test the prophets, as I see it, would not be to filter out the good from the bad in the sense that Paul believed legitimate prophets or prophecy can contain truth mixed with error, but to test to see if they are legitimate prophets by following the steps already laid out in Deut 18 and Deut 13. We test the prophets because we are protective of God’s name. Therefore, no prophet or prophecy gets a free pass until the prophet or prophecy is tested. It he or she fails the test, this is a serious matter, as they have misrepresented the word of the Lord. I don’t think it is a, “Good try. You will do better next time,” type of thing.

Implied with all of this (and part of the case you are building) is this idea that New Testament prophecy (and, hence, modern prophecy) is of a lower, less-important status than it was in the Old Testament. Simply put, how can God’s word be less important than God’s word? How can true prophecy be less important than true prophecy? That would be like saying the Gospel of John is more authoritative than the Gospel of Matthew. I would agree if you merely argued that some of God’s revelation through prophecy is less relevant than other revelation, but this is not your argument.

You claim that some prophecy (i.e., God’s word) is less authoritative than other prophecy (i.e., God’s word). To further build your case, you say,

“[R]elated to the above is 1 Corinthians 14:37-38, where Paul writes: ‘If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.’ Paul is clearly claiming a divine authority for his words that he is just as obviously denying to the Corinthians.”

I don’t see that at all. He is simply saying that prophecy must always submit to previously-established prophecy or already-established prophets. In other words, when the word of God has already been established (orthodoxy), further claims to speak on behalf of God must be established first by agreement with (or submission to) that which is already established. This is simply one of the two tests of a prophet that I spoke of from Deut 13:1-4. I certainly don’t see this as saying God’s word can be less authoritative than God’s word. It is about establishing something as God’s word.

Concerning Paul’s interaction with Christians in Tyre as described in Acts 21, this is indeed confusing, though I have much trouble coming to the resolution that you propose. You see two things: 1) Paul disobeyed the prophecy of the people who “through the Spirit” (Acts 21:4) were telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem since he would be arrested, and 2) that Agabus’ prophecy was not  completely correct.

Concerning the first: your contention is that there was an actual prophecy given to Paul not to go to Jerusalem, yet Paul’s interaction with the Spirit, knowing he had to go to Jerusalem, took precedence over the prophecy of the people of Tyre (Acts 21:13-14). In short, the people prophesied that Paul should not go to Jerusalem and Paul prophesied that he should. I agree that this passage is problematic. But I don’t think it can carry the load that you place on its back. Essentially, you are saying that a legitimate prophecy can be more authoritative than another legitimate prophecy. God can disagree with God. I find it much better to agree with Richard Longenecker, who says that “through the spirit” should be taken as their revelation concerning God’s plan for Paul and “his new friends’ natural desire to dissuade him” (Acts, Expositors Bible Commentary, 516). This seems to be clarified in Acts 21:10-12 when Paul goes to Caesarea. Agabus gave the prophecy of Paul’s upcoming imprisonment. After this the people began to urge him not to go: “When we heard this (Agabus’ prophecy), we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12). I would think it is better to see these as the same type of urgings given after they knew, “through the Spirit,” that Paul was to be arrested. I will admit that this is not the natural reading of Acts 21:4, but it does work and keeps us from having a rather awkward situation where God’s word contradicts God’s word.

Concerning the second: you believe that Agabus’ prophecy was “truth mixed with error” due to the fact that he said the Jews would bind Paul in Jerusalem, when in fact it was the Romans who bound him. Since Agabus was wrong and suffered no penalty, so you believe that we can be wrong and not suffer penalty. First, let me say again, this is a tremendous burden to place on such an obscure text. I think we need to follow St. Augustine’s principle of hermeneutics: never build doctrine from obscure texts. From this text you build a case that God is not quite as protective of his word as he used to be. Though in the Old Testament there was restriction after restriction concerning those who claimed to speak on God’s behalf, though God expressed this warning in one of the ten commandments (the third), now he is more tolerant of misrepresentation. Is it now less dangerous to misrepresent God? In the Church age, is it less likely to be abused? I don’t see it. In fact, I don’t think Agabus was wrong. Yes, he said that the Jews would bind Paul. Yes, it was actually the Romans that did it. However, by extension of culpability, it was the Jews that handed Paul over by instigating his arrest (Acts 21:27-32). All one has to do to see how this works is to look at Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2. Peter holds the Jews responsible for Christ’s crucifixion, even though it was the Romans who actually crucified Christ: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36; emphasis mine). Was Peter also wrong here? This was not a prophecy, but a historic account that Peter witnessed. Yet he uses the same type of language. Therefore, there is no reason to say that Agabus was wrong, much less build a theology which says that modern prophets can be wrong and it is not that serious.

In conclusion, I agree with your desire for God’s word. I long for it. We are greatly blessed to have it in the Bible. To have a prophet would be another blessing. Ironically, this issue is not a deal-breaker for whether or not prophecy has continued. However, it is very important to the modern Evangelical charismatic movement. From what I can tell in my studies (and I am open to being corrected), there are not many (if any) theologians of the past who have seen this distinction, believing that the New Testament prophets can be expected to fail. It seems this all started with Grudem’s dissertation The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament in 1982. Just as Richard Dawkins said about evolution, “Evolution made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” (which I disagree with), it would seem that Wayne Grudem made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled charismatic. It would seem that you need biblical permission for the gift of prophecy to be fallible, simply because in real life that is what you and I experience. I just don’t know how to respond to a fallible prophecy – how can it have any authority. I would imagine the track record of Christian prophets could conceivably be the same as the track record of non-Christian prophets and palm readers. Anyone can get some things right here and there. But the difference in our message and our God is that he reveals himself conclusively. Because he is truly God, his messengers will be perfect. If they are not, they are not from him.

In Isaiah 40-48, God’s mocking polemic to the nation of Israel who were following after other gods was that he was the only God who predicted the future and did so accurately.

Isa 44:77
And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place.

If you are right, this polemic is no longer valid. Isn’t this too much of a theological shift for your arguments to bear?


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    32 replies to "Why I Am/Not Charismatic: The Gift of Prophecy Response – C Michael Patton"

    • Dan Phillips

      Seemed like a pretty good point a year ago, too. Always worth reiterating!

    • MShep2

      Great post, Michael. Your comparison between the doctrine of inspiration and prophetic revelation is very apt. And, you really hit the nail on the head when you say, “it would seem that Wayne Grudem made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled charismatic.” Theology and experience must go together in some way, but experience MUST NOT drive Theology. The point is, is it a prophecy from God or not? If it is it will be true; if not, it is not from God.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “Seemed like a pretty good point a year ago, too. Always worth reiterating!”

      Wow. Clicked on the link and read the following title:

      Charismatics and Qu’ran-burning/not-burning Terry Jones

      A post worth reading and considering.

    • Richard Klaus

      I’m not sure your characterization of Sam’s view of prophecy is cogent. You accuse him of the following: “you seem to take a deistic liberal approach to prophecy.” You right notice that liberal approaches to the Bible compromise inerrancy but I’m not convinced you accurately explain why. You wrote:

      “Since, they argue, people are fallible, we should expect the Bible to contain characteristics of fallible man. The problem with this view is that it takes a very deistic view of God. In other words, God hands over the truth of the Scriptures to fallible men, then takes a hands off approach to the communication of the revelation. Therefore, that which is true in the Scriptures is from God. That which is false is from man. God is relegated to being a cheerleader in heaven hoping that man interpretes and communicates his revelation clearly.”

      My understanding of more liberal approaches to Scripture is not the dynamic you mentioned but, rather, a faulty notion of “accommodation” where God accommodates himself by speaking within the cultural constraints of the time in which he is speaking (included within that is all the errors of that time). This is what I understood to be the Rogers/McKim proposal and what is being done by Peter Enns over at BioLogos ( see the following essay by Ardel Caneday in response to this “accommodationist” tendency ). If this is the case then the conceptual connection you seek to draw between Sam and “deistic liberal” approaches to Scripture seems a bit overblown. Liberals don’t think God is giving a perfect revelation but humans are corrupting the transmission. They believe that God is actually communicating error to begin with due to an act of accommodation.

    • Richard Klaus

      Regarding the quoting of Spurgeon…
      This is done NOT to show that Spurgeon was a “charismatic” (hard, soft, or otherwise). It is brought forward to show that even within the confines of one who holds to a cessationist position that are practices that wonderfully approximate and even illustrate the kind of practice that responsible continuationists are seeking to endorse. Moreover, Sam has responded to Richard Gaffin on precisely this point in the Four Views book (p. 319) mentioned repeatedly. Let’s say that Spurgeon was wrong on the Sabbath issue. We now have an example of Spurgeon calling out a man for repentance based on specific knowledge of the man’s situation, the man repents and comes to the Lord and this is mixed with a theological error. This comes close to typifying the kind of event that the Grudem/Storms model is speaking of. It also shows how a fallible source of knowledge can be used for great good.

    • Ed Kratz

      Richard, the accomodationalist view is a bit tricky. Everyone believes in accommodation to some degree (i.e. phenomenological language, euphemism, Greek and Hebrew language, parable, etc.) Certainly, one can take this more and more liberal.

      When I speak of the more liberal approach described above, I am talking about the “partial inspiration” or “infalliblist” view when I characterize Sam’s position on prophecy. They believe that Scripture is truth mixed with error. Now, I would not necessarily characterize every one who believes this way as liberal, but certainly more liberal than the traditional view on the authority and integrity of Scripture. My point is that Sam would disagree with this view of Scripture believing that when God communicates he guarantees that the final product is fully truthful, down to the jot and tittle.

    • Ed Kratz

      Concerning Spurgeon: Again, I don’t necessarily deny his revelations. I told my kids yesterday that God may sometimes give them unique understanding or guidance. Though, as I told them, I have never experienced such. But we need to look for it. As I said, this does not speak to the idea of the “normative”, much less “continuing” and “seeking” criteria that Sam and I hashed out for so long at the beginning of this series.

      If Spurgeon was wrong (legalistic?) in calling the man out and the man came to God, I might be tempted to say that God worked in spite of his failings.

    • Richard Klaus

      I agree with almost everything in your comment (#7). Yes, accommodation is tricky. My main point, which I may not have gotten to very well, is that I don’t see liberals saying that God perfectly reveals himself and then the human component is what brings falsity into the equation. They usually argue their point on a different basis–namely a certain conception of accommodation. I agree that a conservative approach (of which I number myself) holds that the final product of Scripture if fully truthful. Sam’s view of prophecy is different (as he has stated in detail). I don’t think that even given his view of prophecy that it is fair to stigmatize it with the language of a “deistic liberal approach to prophecy.” I thought this bordered on being rhetorically reckless–but that’s just me.

    • Ed Kratz


      Those are good comment and a good rebuke. I do think that the rhetoric is a bit harsh and unhelpful. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

    • MShep2

      Perhaps, “an approach to prophecy that leans towards deism” would have been better?

    • Ed Kratz

      Though it is against blog “edict”, I have changed according to MShep2’s suggestions and soften some of the other harshness.

      Sam, forgive me for being harsh in my language. You know even though I may not follow you here, I am a follower of Sam Storms. My harshness did not represent myself or this ministry well as one of our main goals is to present an irenic approach to theology.

    • Phil McCheddar

      I think Agabus’ prediction that the Jews would bind Paul in Jerusalem is accurate because it was the Jews who intentionally engineered it, even though strictly speaking it was Roman soldiers who did the physical binding. This is an example of the way all people normally speak. We do not use language as if we are lawyers drafting watertight contracts, working within a precise code of legal terminology to ensure that each phrase is literally, pedantically, and technically true. Normal human language does not function like a software algorithm that calculates clearly defined results. Even Jesus spoke in ordinary language, not in Boolean expressions. Ordinary language is approximate and contingent, but not exact or absolute.

      Examples in Scripture are many.

      Jesus and His disciples went to the Judean countryside, where He spent time with them and baptized. (John 3:22)
      When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), . . . . (John 4:1-2)

      Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. (Acts 13:28-29)
      It was Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus who took Jesus’ body down from the cross. They were not part of the same faction that Paul was referring to in his first 3 uses of the pronoun ‘they’ in verse 28, yet Paul also refers to Joseph and Nicodemus as ‘they’. Paul streamlined the truth in order to provide a concise general summary of the events without getting bogged down in tiny details that weren’t relevant to his main point. Thus Paul’s statement was true in a broad, overall sense, though not quite accurate technically.

      Jesus said: “Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision —not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers —and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.” (John 7:22)
      Jesus literally said that Moses introduced circumcision. The parenthetical statement about it not being Moses but the fathers was probably a gloss by John for the benefit of his readers. John had no qualms about quoting Jesus making a technically inaccurate statement because Jesus himself and his original hearers knew it wasn’t actually Moses, and yet Jesus’ statement was true in a virtual sense because Moses was the archetype mediator of all Old Testament law.

      Luke’s version of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant (7:1-10) says the centurion did not meet Jesus personally but sent messengers to him. However, Matthew’s version (8:5-13) implies that the centurion went to Jesus and spoke to him face to face. I suggest what happened was that the centurion never met Jesus personally but sent messengers (as described by Luke.) However, this aspect of the story was irrelevant to Matthew’s purpose so he conflated his narrative of the events to avoid unnecessary clutter.

    • Ed Kratz


      While I appreciate the nod :), I don’t want any scores. I don’t want this to seem like a debate at all. Therefore, I am removing the post.

    • Ed Kratz


      Those are some great examples!

    • Jugulum


      Thus Paul’s statement was true in a broad, overall sense, though not quite accurate technically.

      This is where the distinction between precision and accuracy (common in scientific analysis) is helpful.

      I would say that Paul’s statement is accurate, but imprecise. Like saying there are 20 people in the room, when the precise figure is 22.

    • david carlson

      Jugulum is correct

      The bible is always accurate – but often not so precise.

    • Jim Zeirke

      Michael, I really appreciate your post. Your statement: “I just don’t know how to respond to a fallible prophecy – how can it have any authority. I would imagine the track record of Christian prophets could conceivably be the same as the track record of non-Christian prophets and palm readers. Anyone can get some things right here and there.” perfectly states my problem with modern prophecy. Why would the Almighty King of Heaven and Earth, the God who wants to get an important message to someone, then allow that message to get befuddled and then He simply not care? I just don’t see God telling His Heavenly Host: “Well, I gave it my best shot. I was hoping that he’d get it right.” No. If God thought that He needed to transmit a message to an individual, it seems to me that He’d be pretty darn picky about it getting to its intended target uncluttered and exactly as He intended. But what Sam seems to argue for is a perfect God transmitting a message to someone and then simply not caring whether it ges through or not. And I again must ask: If modern prophecy is for the edification an encouragement of the body, how can that be accomplished via people who may or may not be prophets who may or may not have received a revelation from God, may or may not interpret it correctly, and may or may not report it correctly? also, if the Bible is, as Sam states, sufficient, and if prophecy is judged by the Word (as Sam states), then why do we need prophecy? Isn’t it only telling us what is already in the Bible? If anything wouldn’t God just reveal to us via inspiration or illuminating text? In other words, wouldn’t real prophecy be someone telling you that the answer is in, say, John 3:16?

    • John Metz

      I have often wanted to join this conversation more than I have but have realized that to do so would take more time that I can allow. Just a few comments:

      There is no doubt that there were prophets in both the Old and New Testament. On this the record is clear. The most common understanding is that a prophet foretold events. However, even the O.T. books of prophecy are not mainly foretelling but speaking for God. The Old Testament way was, “Thus saith the Lord…” or by the Spirit that came upon the prophet. That kind of prophesy requires that the prophet pass the test–does his prophecy come to pass. The N.T. way is very different; it is by the indwelling, living Holy Spirit, its subject matter is quite different, and its purpose is for building the church.

      While a case can be made for foretelling prophecy in the New Testament (there are incidents), that is not the emphasis of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 (especially 14). Here, the prophesying in the church meetings could be carried out by all (14:26, 31), not just the miraculously gifted, and it takes the nature of speaking for God or speaking forth God, not prediction. This is for the building up of the church, the subject of Paul’s writing.

      What I am hearing in this discussion more resembles prophecy in the O.T. sense. If we who love our Lord are not speaking (or writing) for God or speaking forth God for building up the believers in the church life, what are we doing? Peter says in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, as speaking oracles of God; if anyone ministers, as ministering out of the strength which God supplies; that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.” This is N.T. prophesying.

      Approaching prophesying this way eliminates some of the problems of this discussion. It is not new, infallible scripture that is being spoken but common (I hesitate to use that word because to speak this way is anything but common) words out of our enjoyment of Christ, the Word, and the Spirit. This is practical and effectual.

      This is probably not an adequate post as it leaves out too much. This subject and the discussion of it between the two of you is interesting and opens up a very needed area for consideration. Thanks for being willing to walk in this minefield!

    • Jugulum


      I’m not sure you’ve read Michael & Sam’s posts very carefully–you may have skimmed. Sam is arguing, like you, that NT prophecy is different. Michael is explaining why he finds those arguments lacking. He’s not assuming that NT prophecy is exactly like OT prophecy–he’s arguing it, and he’s addressing some of the very arguments you brought up.

      You said that the content is different. Michael discussed that idea in the paragraph that starts, “I agree very much with your statement that prophecy is for up-building and encouragement.” I agree with what he says. I don’t think you’ve identified anything the New Testament that tells us that the content of prophecy has substantially changed. (Also, while I agree that prophecy is more than prediction, I don’t see how 1 Cor 14:3-4 doesn’t apply to predictive prophecy as well as to other kinds of prophecy.)

      On 1 Cor 14:26,31: I think you’re extracting more than Paul intended. Verse 26 doesn’t imply that everyone will have a revelation–it says everyone will have something. And in light of what Paul had already said in 12:29 and 14:29: Yes, we can each go one-by-one, but he doesn’t expect everyone to have a revelation. Of course anyone can prophesy–if God gives them a revelation.

      If you say, “Ah, but 12:29 and 14:29 are about an office of prophet”, I’ll say that I think you’re importing a distinction that Paul didn’t make. Paul doesn’t develop any concept of a distinction between “a prophet” and “someone prophesying”. More importantly, 14:31 starts with “for”, not “but”. Verse 31 elaborates on the verses before it, it doesn’t make an exception. (Note: I’m not saying it’s unreasonable to think that God might give a prophecy through any church member, even if they don’t usually prophesy. I’m saying we don’t have any good reason to think that Paul was using “prophet” as a technical term for “frequent/recognized prophesier”, distinct from an average church member prophesying in 14:31.)

      Moving on: You applied the word “prophecy” to 1 Peter 4:11. If Peter is talking about giving new oracles, then no one disagrees that this would be prophecy. If he’s talking about speaking the oracles God had already given, then why do you label this as prophecy instead of preaching/teaching (like Heb 5:12)?

    • Jugulum

      I’d like to share a prayer that I recently composed and sent to my church mailing list. I wasn’t sure if it was on-topic enough, so I ran it by CMP, and he OKed it. I hope it will be edifying.

      I’m part of a charismatic church, so while I’ve been examining these issues over the last 5 years, I’ve had a lot of occasion to think about how I can pray about these things, and unite with my church, and submit in good conscience to my pastors–even where I remain unsure or in disagreement.

      The following prayer comes from what God has told us about the purpose of spiritual gifts, and the purpose of prophecy in particular. It comes from the best of what I know people are seeking, when they seek prophecy, and it comes from the best of the concerns or hesitations that people have about prophecy.

    • Jugulum

      Father, give us good desires. Teach us to understand your will, and grow in us a hunger for all the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the body of Christ. Help us to understand the beauty in Christ, and in the work you have called each of us to. May each of us find joy and peaceful contentment, even as we seek to know you better and walk more with you and be more like Christ and be more full of your Spirit every moment. May we never be jealous of the gifts you give someone else, jealous of the ways you work through others. May we be truly thankful for all that you have given us, thankful for the particular ways you work through each of us, and thankful for all the quiet, humble, hidden ways we have been blessed by others.

      When we seek the power of the Spirit, may we be motivated by nothing else but humble love and the desire to serve. May we value what you are already doing in our lives, and may we never despise parts of your work because it isn’t flashy or impressive enough. May we treasure the work you are already doing in every local body of believers, even as we seek to grow. May we treasure your written Word, and how you use it to thoroughly equip us for every good work, even as we seek the work of your Spirit that Scripture promises.

      May we understand that spiritual gifts are simply ways that your Spirit works through each of us to love and serve and edify each other. May we never grow weary of loving each other well, and may we find every way to love each other.

      Help us to know what to ask for. Teach us to know your Word better–give us more vision for your promises, and may we pray into them. Give us the things we don’t know how to ask for, and grow us in the ways that we don’t even understand enough to expect. Grow us in the wisdom and understanding that your Spirit gave us in Scripture. As we read, may your Spirit open our hearts and minds to see, and to find joy and passion and wisdom.

      In every situation, in every moment, give us the words we need to accomplish your purposes. May our hearts and minds be saturated with Scripture, full of the Spirit. May all of our words be full of your thoughts, and your heart. May we bring to the world the good news of Jesus’ work on our behalf, the blessings we inherit in Christ. Give us what we need to comfort and encourage and build each other up.

      If there is ever anything you want us to say, give us what we need to say it, and may we never say more or less than what you want. May we never claim more authority than we should. Give wisdom & discernment to the people we speak to, and give us wisdom & discernment when people speak to us. Equip us all in every way to know what comes from you, and give us wisdom about how to test. May your Word sing to us, transforming us and blessing us.

      In the name of your son, Jesus, because of all the blessings we inherit in him, through his gracious work on the cross,

    • John Metz

      I was trying to base what I said on the entire discussion including what both participants said over the length of the discussion. It was not aimed at Michael but was a general observation that the discussion had gone in this direction. I am not sure that Sam and I are saying the same thing either as I do not approach the subject from a charismatic point of view.

      By content, I mean the substance of the prophecy and there is no intention to bring in anything of extra-biblical revelation. The comment was made in contrast to “thus saith the Lord,” the kind of thing that I think gets some into deep waters. I think I made it clear that, in my view, speaking from the enjoyment of Christ, the Word, and the Spirit was the content of prophecy.

      I did not make comments about the “office of a prophet” relative to 1 Corinthians 12 & 14. Assuming that I might make that argument has no basis.

      Yes, I do believe that each one should have something to contribute to the church meeting and not necessarily a prophecy in a limited sense. It could be a hymn, etc. Do you engage in this kind of church-life, one that matches 1 Cor. 14? To me, this subject is not a matter of theory, but of practice and vitality. Where is there a model of this?

      Peter was not so much talking about what we should speak but how we should speak; he was not talking about giving “new oracles” and neither am I. I don’t think he was using oracles in the way you assert. I label what Peter described as prophecy because it is so labeled elsewhere in the N.T. and, in substance, that is what Peter is talking about.

      Further, according to the context of 1 Cor. 12 & 14, prophecy, in a proper sense, includes teaching and other types of ministry as in “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”

    • Jugulum


      I did misunderstand you; my apologies. (Though on the “office of a prophet” part, note that I labeled it as a guess; I didn’t assume.) I thought you were proposing something basically the same as Sam Storms.

      I’m afraid I’m still not clear what you are saying. Can you clarify what “speaking from the enjoyment of Christ, the Word, and the Spirit” means?

      Your answer to that question might help with my next question, too, but I’m going to go ahead and ask it, in case it helps you know how to clarify.

      After your second comment, I’m still not clear–what is your basis for saying that the nature of prophecy has changed?

      Are you depending on 1 Cor 14:3, “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”? Are you saying that any time we speak spiritual, Christ-centered truth for someone’s upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation, that we’re prophesying? If that’s what you mean, I disagree. Paul’s language doesn’t define prophecy–it describes something prophecy does. (It’s like saying “The one who fixes a car helps people get where they’re trying to go,” which doesn’t mean that you’re fixing a car any time you help someone get where they’re trying to go.)

      That seems to be the way you’re reasoning, when you say this:

      Further, according to the context of 1 Cor. 12 & 14, prophecy, in a proper sense, includes teaching and other types of ministry as in “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”

      That has the same problem. Paul didn’t say that any time you teach or encourage someone, you are prophesying. He said that any time you prophesy, you teach and encourage.

      Verse 31 doesn’t imply that everything in verse 26 is prophecy.

    • Recovering


      Fair enough. I was just hoping that Sam would deal more with the issue of fallible directive prophecy – If the senior pastor is one of the ones doing the prophesying, and there are 3-day (all day) long individual (in turn) prophetic meetings yearly, and you’re encouraged to look over and pray over your prophecies whenever you are facing a major decision, as in my experience, its all fine and good to say that the prophecies should be judged, but the practical result is that they are treated as God’s plan for your life. I have seen maybe 1 in a thousand judged to be incorrect, and I was once on their leadership team, so I saw most that went on. I was hoping Sam would say something about how best to approach these experiences, especially as regards to prophecy being fallible, as they are shared by at least tens of thousands of people (which I am personally aware of) or hundreds of thousands.

      Sorry for the score – I was trying to communicate the above, but I guess my frustration was showing through more than my message.

    • Jim Zeirke

      Jugulum, I like your prayer and could easily find myself praying it in a cessationist church. The only thing that I could add would be this:

      Father, in the spirit of unity in the Body of Christ, I pray that You out of Your great love and purpose would richly bless Your churches that for whatever reason see the use of Your Gifts of the Holy Spirit different from the way that I see them. Let that point unite us as Your children rather than divide us. Let each of us take delight in how we serve You with our Gifts. Let the Cross, rather than the Gifts, be what unites us. And let Your Holy and inerrant Word speak to all of us. Let the joy of Salvation from the penalty that our sinfulness deserve be something that all of Your churches can share in celebrating Your incredible and unfathomable Love for us who serve you.

    • John Metz

      Sorry, I have been out-of-pocket for a day.

      I would think that speaking out of the enjoyment of Christ, out of the enjoyment of the Word of God, and out of the enjoyment of the Holy Spirit would be a matter that would need little explanation to a fellow Christian. If one is a person who does enjoy the presence and person of our living Lord Jesus Christ, that one will have much to speak.

      The prophesying I speak of does not emphasize the miraculous (although I do not deny that aspect). However, this kind of prophesying can be done by “all,” not just the specially gifted. It is a matter of enjoyment and growth in life, a gift of grace. It is very different from the OT as I pointed out previously. In the OT the prophets prophesied as the Spirit came upon them outwardly for power. The example of Saul among the prophets is interesting in this aspect. In 1 Cor. 14 Paul, speaking of prophesying, said that the spirits of the prophets (those prophesying in the church meetings, theoretically all the participants) are subject to the prophets–quite different from the OT. In the NT it is a matter of life, enjoyment, and enlightenment. It is the inward working, the indwelling, of the Spirit more that the outward empowering of the Spirit (again, I do not neglect that the outward empowering is also a part of the NT). This distinction should be clear to you.

      This is the central matter that differs from both the charismatic and reformed approaches.

      Your question tend to bring in ideas and assumptions that I did not make. I do not believe I said that all teaching is prophesying; I simply quoted a verse that said that when there is prophesying there is teaching and encouragement.

      At the same time, you avoided key questions I ask of you. For instance, how do you practice the truths revealed in 1 Cor. 12-14? Do you have a model of this kind of meeting? The kind of church life we are able practice depends, to some extent, on how we are able to practice what is in these verses. Paul’s whole burden in these chapters is the practice of the church life verses the abuse of these things and the confusion brought in by the Corinthians. He was concerned with what most benefited the whole church in Corinth.

      Dear brother, this is not an exercise in theory but a matter of practice.

    • Clint Wichert


      First I’d like to say that I just found your website and podcast this week, and have really been challenged by this series, particularly as discussed in the podcast. It has been a blessing to me as I wrestle with my own beliefs within “the spectrum between cessationist and continuationist.” One thing came to mind during the discussion/disagreement concerning Sam Storm’s explanation of his view on the shifting weight and purpose of prophesy in the New Testament. A similar parallel could be drawn with the idea of priesthood. In the Old Testament, there was a heavy emphasis placed on the ritualistic holiness of the priesthood. Most Protestants would argue that the death of Christ, symbolized by the tearing of the veil in the temple, signified a deflation of the holiness imparted to the physical temple. In my understanding, this led to a new covenant where the every believer is now the temple (1 cor 6:19) and member of the royal priesthood (1 pet 2:9). I may be wrong, but I doubt many confessing Evangelical Protestants would argue these points. Yet believers abuse the temple and their role as priests on a regular basis (myself included). I also doubt that many would argue the calling of Old Testament prophet be “more highly esteemed” than the calling placed on priests or the holiness imparted the old testament temple. (e.g. marrying practicing prostitutes, being rebuked by donkeys, being swallowed by fish, etc. )

      My point (if I have one:) is that the role or “office” of priest changed significantly between the old and new testament. Gone were the ritualistic requirements of the old testament law. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, every believer now has access to God. Is the shift in the role or “office” of prophesy conveyed by Sam Storm so different? Does not every believer now have access to the gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit? Is not very believer free from the burdens of law (including stoning) which has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ? Does the potential for abuse or misuse negate the need for prophesy for the edification of the church?

      These are just some thoughts I had while listening. I am hopeful that this will provide some fuel for the next podcast, and I’m really looking forward to your continued delving into these and other issues. I’m particularly looking forward to the discussion on speaking in tongues, and how many charismatic churches get around the interpretation piece.

      In Christ,

      P.S. Please go easy on me, I’m a theological lightweight!

    • IWTT

      Being that I am not in a level of “intellegence” as you two in this discussion I would like to take a much more simplier stand.

      I have found it quoted three times in scripture that God/Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I believe that this must also be applied to His word. The word doesn’t change and N.T. will confirm O.T. and visa versa. Or as stated by others, “..let scripture interpret scripture!”

      2Ti 3:15 …and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

      Are not these early sacred writing that Paul speaks of in his letter to Timothy, regarding O.T. scriptures? Does this not mean then that what is written, even about false prophets and false prophecies, holds true for today and especially for those in the early church and that they O.T. and N.T. go hand in hand for our instructions?

      If so, then there CANNOT be false or fallible prophecies. They are either true and correct and from God, or they are “from the angel who presents himself as an angel of light (satan) or they are of the flesh.

      It seems to me to be pretty simple. If prophecies are for today and not as some translations offer, that prophecy is infallible preaching, then they HAVE TO BE infallible. It was expected to be by God because they are His very Words and MUST BE infallible.

    • Aaron Walton

      I do not know if anyone is reading these comments anymore, but I have something I would like to share.

      I did not understand the fallibility of prophets and felt uneasy about it. However, God gave me the interpretation to a dream.

      I fear greatly that I might read into the dream more than God gave the interpretation for. Or, reading the interpretation further than what God explicitly said. I can see exactly how this can happen with prophets and yet how this can be perfectly legitimate.

    • Henry

      Phil @#13 great examples.

      CMP, I think your take on the prophecy of Paul imprisonment and the Agabus prophecy is very good and that Sam is probably reading the text a bit more woodenly than it is intended, as Phil’s excellent examples make clear. And I say all this as a continuationist.

    • Richard Klaus

      Here is a good short paper detailing out various modern theological proposals as to what NT prophecy is and how it functions.

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