Can you define clearly what it means to be a Prophet or an Apostle in the church today? Does the Christian Center have any Apostles or Prophets? Should today’s Prophets be held to any standard of accuracy? Because there have been many prophets giving words this past year or two in our country that have not come about, I am confused about how to determine if a prophet is really speaking for God. What has more weight? A prophet’s word or the Bible?
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church
5 key offices – People chosen by Christ, to function for the equipping of every church, maturing to the full and complete standard of Christ, growing in the unity of the faith, to the complete knowledge of Christ so we might become more like Him. As this occurs we will mature to the best understanding of our faith and His truth, so there will be no deception and we will all stand firm in our faith.
These are people who reflect Christ themselves, they are to be held to the highest standard, they must not be prideful or arrogant but follow Christ “knowing Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering” They must walk humbly before God as these are responsibilities directly to Christ and the leadership of the church.
A quick thought about each of these offices is; Apostles govern, Prophets guide, Evangelists gather, Pastors guard, and Teachers ground.
Apostles – this is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of the offices. Some churches teach that this role and that of the prophet have long since ceased. The challenge is, these offices are all needed to bring the Body of Christ to maturity.
The word for apostle in the Greek, apostolon, is the same word the Romans used for a man who was sent into an area after the Romans conquered to rebuild, place in order, set the leadership and government in place, resolve conflict and train everyone to do their jobs to create an environment that functions and grows.
No one starts out their calling as an Apostle they grow into it from other offices. He must first prove himself to be faithful over a period of years in preaching and teaching, then, eventually; he will stand in the office God has prepared for him.
There were more apostles (according to the Bible) than the original 11 here is a list:
List of New Testament apostles
Eleven are named in Acts 1:13, “Peter and John, and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. “ Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve, the one who betrayed Jesus, is not named in that list. That’s the original twelve. Then add Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot to become one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Acts 1:26). Or it could be Paul is considered to be this.
Paul – Acts 14:14 (see below) and many other references
Barnabas–Acts 14:14 “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting”
James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19 “The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother”
Apollos– 1 Corinthians 4:6-9 “Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. 7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? 8 You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you. 9 Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike”
Timothy and Silvanus– I Thessalonians 2:6 “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ” who is the “we” 1 Thessalonians 1:1 tells us “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
Epaphroditus–Philippians 2:25. While the King James Version translates the word as “messenger”, the Greek word (apostolon) is actually “apostle”. “And I thought [it] necessary Epaphroditus– my brother, and fellow- workman, and fellow- soldier, and your apostle and servant to my need– to send unto you”
Two unnamed apostles– 2 Corinthians 8:23. A brother of fame among the churches, and a brother tested–“As for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Again, the Greek word is “apostoloi” but is translated here as “messengers”.
Andronicus and Junia–Romans 16:7 “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Were these genuine apostles or were they, as some (Charles Ryrie and others) translate, “well-known to the apostles”? However, the greetings for the others at the end of this letter are different making these two special.
Finally, Hebrews 3:1 designates Jesus Christ the “Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” That makes 25 apostles in the New Testament!
The point is if there is simply one apostle who did not see Christ in the flesh then the definition of an apostle of being those who saw Christ in the flesh is wrong.
Keil and Delitzsch (dee-litsch), Matthew Henry, and in modern times, Jim Goll and Francis Frangipane define and Apostle this way.
“Apostle – A person given spiritual authority, character, gifts and abilities to reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and order”
Apostles have a burden to focus their church to solid biblical teaching, an example of which we can see in Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabas spent two years at Antioch, teaching and equipping them. Apostles have the desire to train and raise up church leaders who will come into full maturity in the church, to release them, it is part of their call to focus on the vision of the church to fulfill the plan of God through it
Apostles are about government, structure, building the Kingdom of God in power, authority and encouraging the rest of the offices, gifts and each person to become what they are called to be.
This is not something to flaunt in front of people it is a position of power and authority but also humility.
Prophets – Prophets reveal God’s heart to His people, giving guidance to individuals and the body, giving revelation, as well as often interpretation, application and timing.
Prophets of the New Testament
The most notable, though he left no writings, is John the Baptist, who was sent in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3); and of whom Jesus said, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist;” (Luke 7:28).
Other New Testament prophets include:
– Zacharias (the father of John the Baptist – Luke 1:67),
– Anna (Luke 2:36),
– Agabus (Acts 11:28),
– Several disciples in Antioch who were said to be “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1),
– Judas [not Iscariot] and Silas (Acts 15:32), a number of disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:6),
– Daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8, 9),
– An unknowable number of early church leaders (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11).
Prophets generally function in both foretelling which is speaking to future events and situations as well as forth-telling which is speaking the heart of God, through understanding His word and insight.
An active prophetic voice is important in the church for encouragement and also to prove the difference between the God we serve and idols is that our God still speaks today. The Canon of scripture is closed so the authority of the word is based on a more specific area; a person, church region not for all mankind for all time as the Bible has been written.
Are there Apostles and Prophets in this church? Based on these definitions, you tell me! Now to clarify, in my mind there are three levels of all the offices….it is easy to see in regard to the Prophet….Ephesians tells us there is the office, then 1 Corinthians 12 tells us there is the gift of prophecy, and then we see instances in both the old and new testament where people came under the influence of Prophets and began to prophesy, most prominently Saul 1 Samuel 19:23,24
At the very least God is raising up these offices in the church because they are necessary for church growth….not all who call themselves these title are these titles but God calls them
Part 2 of the question
Should today’s Prophets be held to any standard of accuracy? Because there have been many prophets giving words this past year or two in our country that have not come about, I am confused about how to determine if a prophet is really speaking for God. What has more weight? A prophet’s word or the Bible?
Let me start with the last part first….God’s word always has more weight. Every prophetic word should only honor and reflect what God has already said…no prophetic word ever supersedes God’s word.
Accountability – yes, if someone claims to speak for God, whether through forth telling (preaching/teaching) or foretelling (sharing future events) we are all accountable before the Lord and the people for what we say….if a prophets speaks a word, first we may need to give it time to see if it is fulfilled
Matthew 7:15 –20
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.
So we know there will be false prophets but how do we discern the truth between a true prophet or someone operating in the gifts of prophecy….I’m glad you asked
1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
And from the old Testament Deuteronomy 18:21,22
But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the LORD?’ 22 If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.
Apostles and Prophets are still for today if we are to trust God’s word according to Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12,14, and Romans 12 at least