In Defense Of Prophetic Application Of Scripture
Beyond Author Intent
Paul says “Be imitators of me” and prays for us to have “the spirit of wisdom and revelation.” As such, he exemplifies how it is perfectly legitimate for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth not previously revealed through Scripture, as well as for the Spirit to make prophetic applications to Scripture beyond, though never contrary to, the context of the original intent in order to support the extended revelation.
The answer to preventing abuse of this reality is not to shut it down and deny its legitimate operation, but rather to “test the spirits.” The Spirit is the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of truth. He has been given to guide us into all truth. This means He is sufficient to the task to mediate and prove true vs. false applications (i.e., revelationism) of prophetic extension of scripture. Cessationism is never the answer to revelationism.
The word of God is a living reality, not a static communication confined to the page of scripture. Acts says that the “word of God grew and multiplied.” This was not a reference to more scripture being written, but to the indwelling word of Christ expanding from spirit to spirit as it was communicated by the believers to the non believers. It also applies to the comprehension of the believers of what God was saying and doing.
The book of Acts demonstrates a huge learning curve in the understanding of God’s ways even on the part of the apostles, witnessed through the unspeakable conflict of Paul’s’ conversion and charge to bring and apply the gospel to the Gentiles, using supra-contextual applications of the Law to advance his teaching.
One may rightly ask, “then what is there to stop a cult leader such as a Joseph Smith from advancing revelation claiming to be equal in authority to scripture as Paul did?”
Fair question. The answer is that the relative authority of any word of God to another is demonstrated by accompanying hitherto unseen signs attesting to its validity.
For instance, Jesus offered His unspeakable never before seen works in the Spirit to prove the legitimacy of His claims to speak for God in ways that transcended the plain meaning of the Law even to the point of nullifying it. As the blind man said to the Pharisees, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. I only know that once I was blind, but now I see.”
Paul appealed likewise to power signs for the confirmation of the validity of his novel message:
I Cor. 2:4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God…. 4:18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. I Thess 1:5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction ; Just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
[Interestingly, Paul follows this defense of the transcendence of his words based in demonstrative power by conferring that same authority upon the Thessalonians: I Thess 1:6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.]
The point then is that, apart from a dispensational class demonstration of power accompanying a purported transcensional Spirit application of scripture that would actually alter the chemistry of previous scripture, no one can make a claim of such revelational authority based on revelation alone. No cult leader then or since the first apostles has ever offered such demonstration for validating their conflictory revelation.
Moreover, it should be noted that this same truth applies all the more to private interpretations of scripture (aka, “theologies”) that make no claim to being revelational, but which nevertheless seek to alter the entire dispensational chemistry of the New Testament as it would have been understood by the first hearers. This includes teachings such as Cessationism, Preterism and Christian Universalism (Ultimate Reconciliation)—all of which advance claims regarding the activity of God, the fulfillment of prophecy and the state of final reality that plainly violate the tense and context of the mind of the first apostles.
Nevertheless, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation has been given to every generation of the church to prophetically expand upon the meaning of the foundational scriptures beyond the original context of author intent, and, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 is expected to be the case.
In this sense the living word of God is as the constructing of a house, beginning with a foundation, and adding floors and stories as time progresses. All superstructure must be tested for consonance with the foundation, but cannot be denied as if the foundation is all there is to be built.
The superstructural expansion of the word of God upon the foundation of the first apostles is to continue unto the coming of the Lord, at which time a new dispensation of the nature and transmission of the Word of God will occur backed by never before seen power demonstration.
Against this background, the following scriptures exemplify Paul’s appeal to transcensional prophetic application of scripture to be imitated by those having the same Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Note the context and then Paul's application (underlined)
Rom. 7:2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress ; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Rom. 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED." 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (Gal. 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.)
Rom. 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows : "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN ?' (that is, to bring Christ down ), 7 or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." 8 But what does it say ? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart "-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching
[the argument for extra biblical revelation]
I Cor. 1:7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood ; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVEHIM." 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
In every one of these passages, Paul expounds on Old Testament scriptures outside and without reference to the immediate plain context of author intent in which they were given. He prophetically applies the law of adultery to dying to the law to marry Christ. He changes the plain meaning of God’s promise of a seed through Isaac to that of Christ and believers. He further takes passages out of context in Isaiah to apply them to the gospel and the giving of present tense revelation to God’s people. Others not included in this list include Paul’s prophetic application of the law of not muzzling an ox to paying God’s ministers for their labor, and his allegorizing the story of Hagar and Ishmael to refer to casting off of the law and of the flesh.
Here we have plain proof positive from Scripture that such extra-contextual applications are legitimate bases for expounding not just general spiritual truth beyond the content and context of scripture, but spiritual truth that is foundational to the entire New Covenant itself.
If this is legitimized in the foundation of the New Covenant scripture, how much more legitimate is it to expound truth in the succeeding generations that form the superstructure built upon that foundation?