Despise Not Prophesying

Pithy Pastoral Reminders of a Profound Theologian #5 of 7
Base on exhortation delivered at PCC prayer meeting on 21 Dec 2005

“Despise not Prophesying” (1 Thessalonians 5:20).

We have been considering what appears to be some by the way pastoral exhortation of the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. It appears that Paul was ending his letter to the Thessalonians. The main purpose of his letter has been accomplished. Now, there is some space left on the parchment. Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, inserts a few quick instructions with few words.

Paul is not merely filling up the space. These are important things which he wants the Thessalonians to know.

These are things which we must be reminded too. We have already considered verse 16—“Rejoice evermore”, verse 17—“Pray without ceasing”, verse 18—“In every thing give thanks…”; and verse 19—“Quench not the Spirit.”

In this article, the Lord helping us, we want to consider briefly, the 5th instruction: “Despise not prophesying.”

To understand what the apostle Paul means by this instruction, we need to consider what is prophesying and what is it to despise prophesying.

1. What is Prophesying?

In Old Testament days, prophets were empowered by the Spirit to speak God’s word which they often received by special revelation.

The prophets were famous for foretelling the future. But really, the greater part of their ministry comprises preaching to the people. And their sermons were often an exposition of the Law of God or an application of the Law to the people in their time and situation.

What about in New Testament days? I believe that in NT days, they did pretty much the same thing. They preached the Word of God to the people. Initially, their text was the whole of the Old Testament.

During the transitional period before the New Testament was completed. God did give some of the prophets extraordinary revelations, as well as the ability to interpret the Old Testament with divine authority. The apostles had the gift of prophecy in this sense.

But when the New Testament was completed, the supernatural gifts of tongues and supernatural prophetic insights were withdrawn.

But the work of prophesying continued. Today, prophesying is equivalent to the preaching of the word. The prophets of today are preachers. Our text is the Old and the New Testament. We no longer can fore-tell, but we forth-tell.

Therefore, today, despise not prophesying would be to despise not preaching.

2. What is it to Despise

What is it to despise preaching? To despise is to count as contemptible, to make of no account, or to esteem lightly.

To despise preaching is therefore to have a very low regard to preaching.

During the days of the Reformation, there were some Anabaptists who considered those who still read the Bible or listen to preaching to be immature and unspiritual. They believed that only if you despise the ministry of man, will you attain unto the Spirit. So they despise the reading, but especially the preaching of the word.

Today very few will say these things. Very few will claim that a despiser of preaching is spiritual.

But today we have another problem. We all have the Bible. And we can read the Bible by ourselves. The result is that some believe that they do not need to listen to preaching. Some would listen to a sermon with the mindset that there is nothing new. It is the same thing over and over again. Yea some would even think that they know better than preachers.

Ask them if they despise preaching, they will say no. But their actions and comments prove that they do.

One may be perpetually late when it comes to the means.

Another comes only for the minimum number of services—a sermon a week keeps the devil at bay. It is enough to be present at one sermon a week.

Yet another may come, but sleep through the sermon. It is not a physiological problem for he can keep awake when attending a sales pitch, but when it comes to prophesying, it is just too mundane.

Yet another young man I know, would bring a book and read his book while the sermon is being preached. Yet another would attend worship only as a duty.

Do not these despise prophesying? I think the answer is obvious.

But the more important question is: Do you despise prophesying?

Listen to the eloquent counsel of one of the greatest preachers in Christendom, Pastor Matthew Henry:

 [Preaching] is the ordinance of God, appointed of him for our furtherance and increase in knowledge and grace, in holiness and comfort. We must not despise preaching, though it be plain, and not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, and though we be told no more than what we knew before. It is useful, and many times needful, to have our minds stirred up, our affections and resolutions excited, to those things that we knew before to be our interest and our duty.

Beloved, let us not despise preaching.


Oh may the Lord grant us that we may repent of despising prophesying. And not only so, may the Lord grant us that we may love the preaching of His Word and hold it in high regard so that we would pray for the preachers; and strive to make use of every opportunity where we can listen to the word preached. Amen.

—JJ Lim