“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
“But” sets forth a dramatic contrast between those who prophesy to people who can understand the message and those who speak in foreign languages people cannot understand. Listeners who hear “prophesies” understand what the speaker says. There will be three benefits from prophecy:
he who prophesies speaks
The essential function of prophecies is forth-telling rather than foretelling. Prophecy addresses itself to men, not God. It is the exposition of the Word of God and exposes the mind of God to the mind of men. A culture with very low literacy, especially needed prophecy. Also, very few of the New Testament books were written by the time Paul wrote First Corinthians.
Edification carries the metaphorical idea of erecting a building. The Greek word comes from two words: to build and house. The first benefit is that edification builds people spiritually into maturity. The idea is growing in the appropriation of principles of the Word to experience.
The second benefit of prophecy is that it exhorts, motivates to strengthen. The word carries the idea of a person called alongside to help another. Exhortation includes the ideas of bracing, pleading, challenging, rebuking, and consoling. Prophecy steps on toes occasionally.
and comfort to men.
The third benefit of prophecy is the consolation of sadness. This is the only incidence of the Greek word in the New Testament. A person who consoles others empathizes with their situation. Prophecy puts itself in the place of others to deal with their situation properly. Comfort includes such ideas as bracing, reassuring, encouraging, and strengthening.
God designed Bible exposition for the well-being of others.
Prophecy is interested in the spiritual well-being of others. It ministers to need. Sometimes sympathy (as over against empathy) makes people worse. Some people do not want help because all they want from others is to feel sorry for them. True help comes from getting God’s viewpoint on life and living accordingly.
Ac 20:32, So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.