Healings and Prophecies

Recently I received a message from a brother in Christ asking the following: 1) Should we desire the spiritual gift of healing? 2) How should we deal with prophecies? Below is the response I provided from looking carefully at what Paul said about Spiritual Gifts.

1) Should we desire the spiritual gift of healing?

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 1 Cor 14:1
It’s pretty clear here that we should desire gifts of the Spirit. However, the catch here is that we should “follow the way of love.” In the context of 1 Corinthians this is referring to dealing with other church members with love. This is evident in the way that Paul describes in chapter 13 that love should be above any exercised spiritual gift. This implies that our desiring the gifts of the spirit should be driven by a desire to build up the church (1 Cor 12:7). If our actions are not building up the church, then we should evaluate our motives for desiring the gifts of the spirit.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Cor 12:11
After mentioning the gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 12:8-10), Paul sums it up by stating that all of these gifts are the work of the same Spirit. This means there is no distinction between a “healing” performed by someone and a “prophecy” delivered by someone. Moreover, the gifts are the work of the Spirit, not the work of the person displaying the gift. We should never confuse the gift of the spirit as something that we are doing, or even a result of something that we have (ie. how much faith we have). God “distributes… just as he determines.” There is a reason why someone is healed while someone dies of sickness even though someone prays for them for years. Only God knows that because he is the distributor of the gift of healing, or any spiritual gift.

2) How should we deal with prophecies?

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. 1 Cor 14:5

There is definitely a strong emphasis that Paul makes about seeking the gift of prophesy more than the gift of speaking in tongues. But again, take note that the goal is “so that the church may be edified.” The word “edify” means to “build up” which links with the theme that we just discussed in the previous question. Again, what is our motive for seeking the gift of prophecy? Is it to draw attention to ourselves to impress others with a supposedly “grand revelation from God”? Or is it to build up the church by pointing them to the revelation given by God in the complete, inerrant word of God, and ultimately enabling the church to give glory to God? The latter should be our aim in seeking the gifts of the spirit.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 1 Cor 14:29

We see here the model of how prophecy should be delivered. Particularly, a limited number of prophets should speak while the others “weigh carefully what is said.” In this passage “weigh carefully” could also be translated “judge” or “thoroughly investigate.” That is, judge to make sure that what is being said is in line with the theology of the word of God. No words spoken by a person should ever have precedence over what the Bible teaches. If something that is said is inconsistent with the Bible, then the prophecy spoken could possibly labeled a heresy. Of course, for us to be able to do this we need to know the word of God. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15

Lastly, I always keep the following verses in mind when dealing with spiritual gifts:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. 1 Thess 5:21

Spiritual gifts are great things, but they are only good when sought with the right intention. That’s why we need not reject them right away but test first, then keep the good ones and reject the bad ones.