“If I have the gift of prophecy . . . but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Love motivated God to communicate with fallen humanity. That must be your motivation too.
The word prophecy as used in 1 Corinthians 13:2 is the ability to publicly proclaim God’s truth accurately and authoritatively. It’s a greater gift than tongues because tongues were given as a sign to unbelieving Israel in the first century (1 Cor. 14:21-22), whereas prophecy instructs and edifies believers throughout the centuries. Paul said, “one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation [and] edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:3-4).
Prophecy has two aspects: revelation and reiteration. When an Old or New Testament prophet received new information directly from God, that was revelation. Whenever that information was repeated through preaching or teaching, it was reiteration. For example, the sermons of Peter and Paul combine new revelation with a reiteration of Old Testament truth. That’s a common element in New Testament preaching.
With the close of the New Testament canon, direct revelation from God ceased. All preaching and teaching today is reiteration. New Testament prophets policed one another to ensure that every prophecy was truly from God (1 Cor. 14:32). Today, Scripture itself is the standard by which we test someone’s message. As the prophet Isaiah said, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no [light]” (Isa. 8:20).
Paul is saying 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have the ability to speak direct revelation from God, or to reiterate divine truth forcefully and dramatically, but lack love, my ministry is meaningless.” In its broadest sense, that principle applies to every believer because we all are proclaimers of God’s Word. You might not teach a class or preach a sermon, but whenever you tell someone about Christ or share a biblical principle, you’re reiterating divine truth. That’s why you must always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Then the Holy Spirit can empower your words to minister to others.
Suggestions for Prayer Ask God to help you guard your words so that everything you say will be clothed in His love.
For Further Study Read Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22.
- What tests did Moses give for determining false prophets?
- What punishment did false prophets receive?