Prophets in the Epistles
1 Corinthians 12:27-31, ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.’
*This listing is not one of hierarchy but instead of sequence. Apostles are the chief foundation layers in planting churches and establishing doctrine, from there the prophet comes to bring revelation alongside the apostle’s insight into Scripture. Finally, the teacher comes to fully establish the revelation in the written word of God and create principled doctrine.
*Prophets are appointed by God not men, and not everyone is called to the office.
1 Corinthians 14:29-33, ‘Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.’
*Prophets are presented in plural in Corinth, they each may speak, but other prophets are to weigh what is said.
*Prophets are not out of control or unable to hold their word, but instead are given control over their spirit to not bring confusion or chaos with the prophetic ministry.
*Prophets are graced to judge prophetic words, everyone can prophesy, but prophets also judge.
Ephesians 2:18-22, ‘For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.’
*The household of God is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
*Prophets are called to lay the foundation of Jesus Christ, and the truth of our reconciliation to God through Him.
Ephesians 3:4-6, ‘When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’
*The Mystery of the Gospel, the inclusion of all people was first revealed to the apostles and prophets.
*Prophets are called to bring revelation into this mystery and what the inclusion of all people into Christ means for the Church. They are reconcilers and those who help to make known the deep mystery of our life as hidden in, crucified with, and glorified through Him.
Ephesians 4:11-16, ‘And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’
*Prophets are gifts given by Jesus Christ. The gift of prophecy is given by the Holy Spirit to and individual, but in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 Paul makes it clear that the office of a prophet is given by God to the Church not an individual.
*Prophets are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
*Prophets are called to build up the body of Christ to bring it into maturity.
*Prophets are called to speak the truth in love to help the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Prophets in Acts
Acts 11:27-30, ‘Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.’
*Here a group of prophets (traveling together in company) came to Antioch and declared through Agabus that famine was about to come.
*Prophets are graced to see what is coming in the natural, and to allow the people of God to be prepared for hard and difficult times by the word of the Lord.
Acts 13:1-3, ‘Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.’
*Here prophets and teachers are serving (together in company) and the Holy Spirit speaks to the group to set apart Barnabas and Saul.
*Prophets are graced to call out and establish in presbytery those with 5-fold callings on their life.
Acts 15:30-35, ‘So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.’
*Judas and Silas (prophets traveling in company) are sent with the letter to Antioch to let them know of the Apostles and elders’ decisions concerning the Gentiles.
*Prophets are graced to encourage congregations of believers and to strengthen those who are in the household of faith.
Acts 21:8-14, ‘On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
*Here Agabus appears again at the house of Philip the evangelist (who was once a deacon in Acts 6) whose four daughters are operating in the gift of prophecy and comes in as a prophet to minister an individual word to Paul.
*First, in the four narrative examples we have of prophets this is the only time a prophet is traveling alone. Second, it is also the only time a word for an individual is given as the primary recorded ministry. Third, it is the only example in Scripture of those operating in the gift alongside someone operating in the office. Luke does not call Philip’s daughter’s prophetesses, and he was aware of the term as he associates it with Anna in Luke 2. Fourth, even though Agabus travels alone he is in the midst of an evangelist and an apostle during his ministry.
*Prophets are graced to minister words of direction to individuals.
Functions of a NT Prophet
1) Being appointed by God to aid the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12)
2) Prophets are graced to judge prophecy (1 Cor. 14)
3) Prophets are graced to lay the foundation of the household of God (Ephesians 2
4) Prophets are graced to reveal the mystery of the Gospel in Christ (Ephesians 3)
5) Prophets are graced to equip, build up, and speak the truth in love to bring maturity to the Church (Ephesians 4)
6) Prophets are graced to see into the future and give the Church warning of things that may come in the natural (Acts 11)
7) Prophets are graced to call and establish in presbytery those who have 5-fold callings on their life (Acts 13)
8) Prophets are graced to encourage and strengthen congregations (Acts 15)
9) Prophets are graced to minister words of directions to individuals (Acts 21)
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