Johanneke Kroesbergen-Kamp’s research (2016) among students at Justo Mwale University suggests that members of the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Southern Africa are asking numerous questions related to prophecy and prophets: What is prophesying? What are prophets? Can we have prophets today? Are prophets dangerous, or are they specially gifted and worthy of elevated status? Is God still speaking in the same way that he spoke to the biblical prophets? What would the existence of prophets and prophecy mean for the relevance of the Bible? How does prophesying relate to preaching?
This essay attempts to allow Scripture to answer these questions which are being asked in Southern Africa, instead of allowing the prevailing Pentecostal atmosphere, or even our Reformed heritage of Justo Mwale University, to dictate and define the terms. This approach requires that we identify where the Bible speaks of prophesying and prophets, that we ask of the biblical texts these same questions about prophecy, that we do exegesis with literary and historical sensitivity, and that we reflect theologically on how the biblical passages might answer these questions arising from our context. This essay will concentrate on 1 Corinthians 14, asking what evidence we find therein for answers. I have selected 1 Corinthians 14, in the literary framework of chapters 12-14 as a whole, in order to focus the essay and because it is the chapter in the New Testament which deals with prophets and prophesying in the most depth and detail.
The essay will argue that 1 Corinthians 14 guides us to be cautious about prophets but to appreciate and welcome prophesying as a gift from God to edify the church today. 1 Corinthians 12-14 provides direction which, if maintained, can ensure that the gift of prophecy is used to strengthen the church instead of causing harm. My findings suggest that the older, more established churches should embrace certain aspects of a Pentecostal approach to the prophetic gift, even while also advocating measures that place limitations on and give greater direction to prophesying. This essay also urges Pentecostal churches to consider how Paul’s words affirm certain strengths of the Reformed tradition. The hope is to offer a mature response to Scripture and to what is happening with regard to prophecy in Southern Africa today, for the sake of the wisdom and unity of the churches.
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