This web site is full of reference to prophets and prophetic ministry. For some the terminology is new or a confused one. Much heartache has been felt in the church in the past over some of the issues addressed on this site.
If there ever was a day when the call for prophetic reformation is needed it is now.
The term ‘prophetic’ is used by some in the church to refer either to the fulfillment of end-time events or the speaking forth of revelatory messages.
The New Testament church is to be a prophetic servant community, not only in these areas but in a much broader and multi-dimensional way. To be prophetic is not simply something ‘charismatics’ do, but it is essential to the very nature and mission of the entire body of Christ on earth.
Prophetic ministry can be so very rich in God’s blessing strengthening, encouraging and building the church. Some of the heart ache has been felt by those who have stepped out in faith to bring encouragement and blessing to the church, but have been greeted with suspicion and distrust.
This page of the web site is a good starting point for beginning to appraise a reforming approach to the prophetic ministry.
So what do we mean when we mention ‘the prophets?’
The teaching of the New Testament prophets and apostles laid the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20) and certain aspects of their work related to that unique task have been fully realised while other aspects of prophetic ministry in the life of the local church still continue.
At this juncture it has to be said that the role of the Prophets with regard to the canon of scripture is sufficient and totally complete. There is nothing that can be contributed by prophetic ministry in this day and age that can be added to the Scriptures. John Groves’ insight is very helpful here;
“In whatever format it comes, we need to be clear that today’s Prophesy is to edify individuals and churches. It is not to lay down doctrinal foundations of the church as that is only done by scripture. Also it seems to be a ministry primarily to the people of God the Church. They as a people are to be Prophetic in word and deed to the world proclaiming the kingdom of God by words, works and wonders.”
John Gill makes this difficult to read, but important contribution regarding the interpretation of Ephesians 2:20;
“The prophets of the Old Testament, and the apostles of the New, who agree in laying ministerially the one and only foundation, Jesus Christ; for not the persons of the apostles and prophets, nor their doctrines merely, are here meant; but Christ who is contained in them, and who is the foundation on which the church, and all true believers are built: he is the foundation of the covenant of grace, of all the blessings and promises of it, of faith and hope, of peace, joy, and comfort, of salvation and eternal happiness; on this foundation the saints are built by Father, Son, and Spirit, as the efficient causes, and by the ministers of the Gospel as instruments: these lie in the same common quarry with the rest of mankind, and are singled out from thence by efficacious grace; they are broken and hewn by the word and ministers of it, as means; and are ministerially laid on Christ the foundation, and are built up thereon in faith and holiness; yea, private Christians are useful this way to build up one another”.
The canonical prophets, whose books make up over a quarter of the Old Testament, were called by God to be channels of revelation. They were men of God who stood in His council (Jer 23:22), knew His mind, and were able to declare it. God the Holy Spirit, spoke in them and through them.
Gordon Fee, the eminent Bible Scholar says that Eph. 2.v.20
“Many interpreters in an earlier day were prone to see here a reference to the OT prophets, but absolutely nothing favours such a view and everything is against it.”
Did you feel the theological mind set tremble a little there?! So what questions does that raise?
I am again grateful to my esteemed friend, John Groves for his input at this point;
“The present day role of the prophet and apostle is one where they have a role in ensuring that biblical foundations are built on. They challenge, exhort, encourage in the realm of NT values and principles. There is a here and now application of truth. In fact this is not so different from OT prophets who were “covenant enforcement agents” i.e. they were calling Israel back to God’s Covenant and it’s challenges, obligations and promises. They did that in each generation and political situation of Israel’s history over several centuries.
Apostles and Prophets today are involved in laying foundations in churches, foundations in new situations built on old biblical truths. They are also involved in calling people back to the principles of our covenant, the New Covenant. In doing this they bring “now” words to comfort, strengthen, exhort, challenge etc. These words all need to be tested against the backdrop of our NT”.
The role of prophets in the New Testament was different to the canonical prophets, but not different in some ways to the ministry of prophets who brought warning, challenge or encouragement such as Gad, Nathan, Samuel, Elijah and their contemporaries. The ministry of Agabus is examined elsewhere on this site as is the role of prophets and prophecy in our own day and age.
Some of the visitors to this web site are (wrongly) persuaded that the gifts of the Spirit and the role of prophecy ceased with the closing days of the New Testament, but there are evidences throughout history of a different story, we will respond to this issue later.
You might like these: