Paul's concept of prophecy differs somewhat from the traditional Jewish idea. For Paul, prophecy was not public but was to be done for believers. Prophets were normal members of his churches rather solitary figures who spoke truth to power. They were gifted, to be sure, but their prophecies were sometimes imperfect. There is no sense in Paul's writings that prophecy served to effect major course corrections or provide key teachings in the church. That was the function of apostles, of whom Paul was perhaps the most influential example.
Paul taught that prophecy is for the church, not outsiders.
prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. (1
Paul may be thinking here that the church is the "new Israel," so prophets should direct their message only to the church. However in the Hebrew Bible, prophets directed their messages outside the boundaries of the people of God. Jonah famously prophesied to the Ninevites to good effect, and numerous other prophets issued oracles against various enemy nations. Elijah directly confronted Ahab, and other prophets prophesied in the courts of both good and bad kings. Thus we can say that Paul's concept of prophecy seems to have been less public than traditional Jewish prophecy, and he did not conceive of Christian prophecy as speaking "truth to power" as OT prophets did. (However, it should be noted that that Paul's statement about "outsiders" was addressed to the particular situation at Corinth, where he was concerned that visitors to the church would be disturbed by prophetic utterances. We may also wonder if Paul's own public preaching at various synagogues and public squares might be considered a form of prophecy in his view.)
Prophecy was a gift of the Spirit, but but prophets were normal church members
Another difference is that for Paul, prophets were apparently not extraordinary people as in Jewish tradition. At Corinth, there were so many of them that Paul felt the need to suggest they take turns and not interrupt one another.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh
carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is
sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy
in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits
of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a
God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s
people. (1 Cor: 14:29-33)
It is true that in early Israelite prophecy there were bands of prophets, so we cannot say for certain that prophecy was exactly rare in those times. The Bible also reports that one hundred prophets were hidden them from Jezebel (1 Kings 18:4). But at the Corinth, which boasted a relatively small Christian church, there appear to have been many prophets. These prophets gave their messages in small meetings in private homes, not large public buildings. Their words were not recorded as in the Hebrew Bible. No prophet in Paul's churches wrote books of prophecy akin to those of Isaiah, Ezekiel or Jeremiah, or even the minor prophets. The only example of written Christian prophecy that we have is that of John of Patmos in the Book of Revelation, which was unknown to Paul.
In terms of the "skill" involved here, Paul characterized prophecy as gift of the spirit. Like all such gifts its purpose was to edify the church as the Body of Christ in conjunction with other "members" such as apostles, teachers, administrators, healers, miracle workers, administrators, etc. But prophets did predict the future. We can presume they also performed other prophetic functions such as admonishing the church, bringing messages of comfort, warnings, teaching and judgment. We do not have clear examples from Paul's own writings, but Christian prophets do appear in Acts, where some of these functions are described.
Prophecy in Paul's understanding was imperfect
We can also derive some insight about Paul's ideas about prophecy by his statement in 1 Cor. 13:
...as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will
cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is
imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes,
the imperfect will pass away.
Paul seems to have believed that even imperfect prophecies were still Christian prophecy. A true prophecy would be known in time, buy is fruits. This is not completely dissimilar to Jewish prophecy, as we learn from Deuteronomy:
when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not
come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not
spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be
afraid of him. (18:22)
To summarize: For Paul, prophecy was not extraordinary. Prophecies were common occurrences in church meetings. The prophetic gift was ranked lower than that of the apostles but higher than teachers. Its purpose was to minister to the church for its edification, rather than to speak out publicly to correct the behavior of kings, public officials, cities or nations. Paul's churches left no written record of their individual prophets' ministries or oracles. According to Paul, Christian prophecies, though often inspired by the spirit, were sometimes "imperfect" and would "pass away." We can conclude that when Paul spoke of prophecy, he had in mind a less lasting and absolute type of prophecy than was recorded in the OT reports of the prophets' ministries, as well as the OT books of prophecy.