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Can A Christian Prophesy Without Knowing It?

It seems the debates about spiritual gifts won’t be dying down anytime soon. John MacArthur recently caused quite a stir with his Strange Fire conference and the subsequent release of his book by the same title. By all accounts the conference and the book sweepingly condemned the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement (CTM).

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Admittedly there are many excesses and abuses within the movement. But many charismatic believers were highly offended. Sharing a love for the bible and sound theology, these Christians felt MacArthur was condemning an entire movement because of its abuses.

Among the many convictions of CTM is the abiding relevance of prophecy. Though the movement does not hold a monolithic view about what exactly prophecy is and how it works, CTM believes that prophecy is still a valuable gift for the modern day church.


Among conservatives who hold to the abiding relevance of prophecy is John Piper. And he has an interesting spin on the issue. He says that he prays for the gift of prophecy every time he preaches. For Piper this means asking God to supernaturally enable him to speak specific and timely words that are better than he knows. He uses the example of an instance when he was preaching and, making some spontaneous application, he said something like, “Maybe God is calling you to start a Bible study on the 43rd floor of such and such building.” After the service, a woman came up to him and informed him that she worked on the 43rd floor of that very building and had been feeling a strong conviction all week that she needed to start a Bible study.

In this instance, Piper spoke better than he knew. But he spoke directly and specifically to a member of his congregation. So is there any biblical warrant for such a view. I think so.


In John 11, after Jesus raises Lazarus, the religious leaders were plotting how to stop him. In the middle of their debates, the high priest named Caiaphas said, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Jn 11:49-50)

At this point John makes and editorial comment, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:51-52).

In other words, John is telling us that Caiaphas prophetically spoke better than he knew. And what is interesting is that Caiaphas intended on thing by his words while prophetically indicating another. He meant that it would be better for Jesus to die instead of the whole nation being crushed by Rome. But prophetically his words pointed toward the fact that Jesus would die in the place of the nation and “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”

Can you think of any other biblical examples of unwitting prophecy?

Can you think of any biblical reason to reject this view?

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