Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

How to Prophesy for the Building Up of the Church

First Corinthians is one of the unique books in the New Testament that actually shows us the practices of  the early church, and how the church was practically built up.  Such a building up was not mainly by one person’s speaking but by all the believers’ speaking.

First Corinthians 14:3-4 says, “But he who prophesies speaks building up, encouragement and consolation to men…he who prophesies builds up the church.”

In verse 31, Paul continues saying, “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”

These words spoken to the church in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago reveal a crucial practice of  the first century church—prophesying by all the believers as members of the Body of Christ.  In this post we’ll consider how we can all prophesy for the building up of the church as Christ’s organic Body.

First, we need to see what it means to prophesy in the way of 1 Corinthians 14.

I believe that most Christians, including myself, have thought that prophesying was mainly to foretell or predict the future.  It is due to this misconception that we excused ourselves considering that we do not have such a miraculous gift. However, foretelling is only a small part of prophesying and is not even included in 1 Corinthians 14.

How can I say this so boldly? Look at verse 3 quoted above.  If someone prophesies by predicting that a great earthquake will hit their city at some future date—will that cause the believers to be built up,  encouraged, or consoled?  No. Rather, it would trouble them and scare them.

What then is the prophesying that encourages the believers? Such prophesying, as revealed in 1 Corinthians 14, is to speak for Christ, to speak forth Christ, and to minister or dispense Christ into people. It is this kind of prophesying that is desperately needed for the building up of the church of God today.

This kind of prophesying can be compared to the service of a steward or stewardess serving food and beverages to the passengers on a flight or a mother dispensing nourishing milk and food into her baby. God committed Paul with such a “stewardship” of God’s grace as pattern to us all (Eph. 3:2; 1 Tim. 1:16).

Now consider—if a good number of believers, one after another, would prophesy from their learning of God’s word with their daily enjoyment of Christ something that really enlightened or supplied them that week. Then all the listeners would learn from them and be encouraged by them to love and pursue the Lord more. What a wonderful meeting that would  be!

So how can the believers prophesy in the way of  1 Corinthians 14?   

First, we need to see, as presented above, that the prophesying encouraged by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 is not something miraculous.  It is our speaking for Christ and speaking forth Christ as an issue of our daily enjoyment and learning in God’s word.

Second, we need to see that this kind of prophesying is for ALL the believers and desperately needed for the building up of the church as Christ’s organic Body (1 Cor. 14:31; Eph. 4:16).

Third, we need to see that every believer based on their divine birth (John 3:6) has the innate capacity to prophesy—a capacity that needs to be developed into an ability by their learning and practice (1 Cor. 14:31).

Fourth, every believer needs to see that they have the obligation to prophesy in order for the church to be built up (1 Cor. 14:26).

Fifth, we need to have a change in our attitude such that we receive Paul’s charge to pursue, desire earnestly, and seek  to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 12, 39a). We seek to prophesy by learning in the Word of God, in the growth of life,  and in our contact with God.

Sixth, we need to acquire the basic constituents for a prophecy by gaining personal knowledge of the Scriptures and personal experience of the divine life. This means we need to daily read, feed on, and study the Bible. We also need to experience Christ in our daily life.

Seventh, we should practice to compose a prophecy each week: 1) by enjoying the Lord in a few verses from the Word every morning (Jer. 15:16), 2) writing down the notes of our spiritual inspirations and enlightenments (Psa. 45:1-2) (I also like to share them on Twitter or Facebook), 3) putting all  our notes together from that week and composing a short prophesy of 2-3 minutes (honestly, most people won’t listen to more than 2-3 minutes anyway), and 4) practice speaking our prophecy to a few others.

Eighth, we need to exercise our spirit of faith to speak (2 Cor. 4:13) what we have received from the Lord in proper church meetings that are for the function of all the members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:23-25).

Here’s a short prayer to pray about learning this practice of prophesying for the Lord for the building up of the church:

“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us that you desire to build up Your church by the prophesying of all the members of Your one Body. Lord, we desire to be such “Body-building” members who dispense Christ to others for their learning, encouragement and consolation.  Thank you that by our divine birth we do have this prophesying capacity.  May we learn to live such a prophesying-life by enjoying and speaking your Word to others and by experiencing You in every detail of our lives.  Lord, show us how we may  enter into the practice of prophesying for the building up of  Your church.”

This post was inspired by two books: The Practice of Prophesying and The Practice of the Church Life According to the God-ordained Way, both by Witness Lee. To help you to enter into a richer practice of prophesying, I would also recommend my practice of reading  the Holy Bible, Recovery Version with the footnotes and the companion exposition Life-study of the Bible. Most of these books can be read  online at ministrybooks.org. You can get your  free copy of the New Testament, Recovery Version from Bibles forAmerica at bfa.org.


About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

11 Replies

  1. 李 菲 麗

    Amen and Amen! This is rhema! I am just listening to the messages released by our brothers during a local perfecting conference in the church in Irvine–“Prophesying for the Building Up of the Church as the Organic Body of Christ.” http://churchinirvine.org/Members/index.php?p=3680%5D O Lord Jesus, may all what I have listened, read be not for my knowledge, but be experience subjectively and practice in reality!

  2. Thanks for the encouraging comment. I enjoyed those messages very much as well. I believe every member of Christ’s Body needs to see the vision concerning how we should build up the church by prophesying and then desire earnestly, seek and learn to prophesy according to the revelation in 1 Corinthians 14.

  3. Great post! I appreciate that we as believers have both the ability and the obligation to prophesy, and that through our pursuing of this matter we can actually participate in building the church. Paul’s word to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 14 is certainly applicable to us today.

    1. Tom Smith

      Thanks for the encouraging comment.Yes, we have the divine life with its speaking ability, so we can all prophesy. We are also debtors to God’s salvation, so we surely have the obligation to prophesy. I’m especially impressed that by prophesying we can practically participate in the building up of the organic Body of Christ. That’s because prophesying in the way of 1 Cor. 14 dispenses Christ into people. Then the Christ we all gain causes us to grow and the growth of Christ in His members becomes the growth of the Body. The growth of the Body results in the building up of the Body (Eph. 4:16). What a privilege and what a responsibility!

  4. Jefferson Lao

    Praise the Lord that we can all prophesy one by one. May we all desire earnestly to prophesy for the building up of the Body of Christ.

    1. Tom Smith

      Thanks for the encouraging reply. May the vision that prophesyng builds up the Body of Christ cause us to pursue, desire earnest and seek to prophesy. May we seek to prophesy by learning in the Word, in the growth in life, and in our contact with the Lord such that our prophesying really dispenses Christ into people to meet the timely meed.

  5. Don

    Tom, one of your headings asks, “So how can the believers prophesy in the way of 1 Corinthians 14?” To me a part of the answer is to remember that chapter 14 follows chapters 1-13. For example, calling on the name of the Lord in 1 Cor. 1:2; appreciating Christ as our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption in 1:30; watering others in 3:6; partaking of Christ as our passover in 5:7-8; pursuing Christ in 9:24-27; coming under His headship in 11:2-16; and drinking the one Spirit in 12:13 are all important pieces of our Christian life and help us prophesy.

    1. Tom Smith

      Great observation! I’m convinced that what the Lord is after is a “prophesying life.” To just speak a prophecy each week could be an hypocrisy, a performance if we don’t gain Christ and enjoy Him all week long. Yes, calling on the Lord, appreciating Christ in so many aspects and watering others with our daily enjoyment Christ should all become the ingredients for “cooking a delicious dish” to feed God’s people by our prophesying. I’m reminded that the children of Israel were charged to bring their top portion of the produce of the good land to offer to Him and share with His people at the feasts in Jerusalem. May all of our experiences of Christ become such ingredients for our prophesying for the building up of the church.

  6. ruth

    Those who claim to prophesy for ‘god’ are no different than psychics who claim they can see into your future. Complete and utter nonsense! It is incomprehensible to me that people in today’s modern age can be so naive and gullible.

    1. Tom Smith

      Looking at the present situation, from which you’re basing your conclusions, I tend to agree with you.

      But, the prophesying that you are condemning is not the kind of prophesying that this post is referring to. The post is not speaking of foretelling the future in some miraculous way. It is referring to a very normal speaking of a group of the believers in Christ, mutually sharing their enjoyment of Christ from their daily fellowship with the Lord in prayer and study of His Word. It is this kind of “prophesying” that causes all the believers to learn and be encouraged and that builds up the Body of Christ. Such a practice was strongly encouraged by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14. If you would better understand this particular meaning of prophesying in its context, I would encourage you to read this passage with the help of the footnotes in the online Recovery Version.

  7. agyei-manu elvis

    Total truth, pertaining to prophesy

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