The Ministry Gifts of Christ (Part 4 of 8)

Prophet

·      Imparts supernatural power and gifts for ministry.
·      Prophets and apostles are called to work together; their combined gifting’s joined together make a formidable team.
·      Leads in and teaches regarding prayer and intercession.
·      Works alongside Apostles to bring balance between vision and direction.
·      Is accountable to Jesus Christ and other Five-Fold Ministers in there sphere of influence.
·      Encourages, guides, corrects and rebukes the body of Christ through biblical teaching and receiving revelation from God.

Introduction: –

Definition

The Greek word for ‘prophet’ is “prophētēs” which means “one who speaks forth or openly a divine message” and is thesecond gift in the listing of Ministry Gifts.

A Prophet of God is one who speaks   forth His mind and counsel. In Christian terms, they are people through whom God guides His people by using them to: –

  • Communicate His word
  • Revelation
  • Vision
  • Direction
  • Will

In this Church age and as is the case with the other four it is to prepare believers for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up.

Throughout the New Testament Scriptures “Prophets” where known by the local body of believers these were recognised by the local Church as those whom God had anointed and were in themselves supplied as the respective Ministry Gift of Prophet by God for the maturing of the believers, for the work of the ministry and for strengthening of the Body of Christ.

An “Ephesians 4:11” Prophet will always be a member of a “Local Church” in which he / she functions as a part of that Local Body, but he / she will also serve the wider  Body of Christ  with a trans local ministry which communicates God’s words to His people. These words will always be contemporary, authentic, and consistent with God’s Word, relevant, direct, understandable, up-building and powerful. Beyond this, God’s Prophets are called to feel what God feels and to convey this to His people.

The Apostle Paul in “Ephesians 4: 11” immediately after Apostles mentions Prophets and as “David Petts” in his book “Body Builders” says this “strongly suggests that Paul considered Prophetic Ministry to be highly significant and it is clearly important that we understand what it is and how this gift should function in the Church today”.

The Ministry Gift of the Prophet in my opinion is not in evidence in the Church as it should be, nor, I believe, as the Lord wants it to be:-

  • Where are the Prophets who warn us of Destructive Weather or Economic Disaster?
  • Where are the Prophets who call out the Ministries in our Churches?
  • Where are the Prophets who advise our army and our government?
  • Where are the Prophets who give personal advice and direction so people will see that there is a God in heaven?

I recall a time in my youth at the age of 17years when a Prophet by the name of Tom Woods recognised in the Assemblies of God provided for me a Prophetic Revelation and Confirmation of my calling into Leadership Ministry in the Church and Ordination to the Five-fold Ministry.

Some people have said “The only reason people in the Old Testament had to go to Prophets was because they did not have Holy Spirit and could not go to God for themselves.”

Whilst there is an element of truth in that statement the overall thinking is in-correct. It is quite true that the Holy Spirit had not been outpoured as in the Day of Pentecost and only unique individuals experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon them such as David and other Kings. Nevertheless, they still sought information from Prophets. David and other Kings had Prophets in their courts, and it is very clear in looking at the life of David that he regularly asked Prophets for information even though he had Holy Spirit upon him on many occasions.

Sometimes, when a person is in a really difficult situation, it is difficult to calm down enough to hear the voice of the Lord. It is usually much easier for someone who is not as close to the situation to hear from the Lord.

Every Christian can hear from the Lord, that is an absolute fact, and indeed every Child of God should strive to do so. But we also need to pray and ask the Lord to continue to add Prophets to the Church so that we can have more of his words and wisdom as it applies to specific situations.

We as God’s People should also make space and encourage the Prophets to hear the call of the Lord and develop themselves in their ministries. We need to support them as they grow in their walk, encouraging them to be pure and holy so the word they hear will be pure and not compromised by the flesh.

It could be that we are afraid that bold Prophets would be dictators? Well! That is a very real but at the end of the day we, God’s Church and Christ’s Body, must be willing to seek first the Kingdom of God in order to have His Gift Ministries effectively at work in the Church.

I believe and conclude after my consideration of the Ministry Gifts that they are all vital to Church growth. In the case of the Prophet the Church (both Nationally and Locally) if they are absent the Church becomes a: –

  • Visionless Organisation which tends towards Creating and Maintaining Tradition
  • Which has Teaching that only recycles truth, but which is deaf to God’s voice today
  • Which has Pastoral Care which encourages introspection and group welfare rather than the fulfilling of God’s will
  • Which has an Evangelistic Strategy that is out of step with the world and its needs.

In “Amos 3:7”, God said, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the Prophets”. Yet, today, much happens without any Prophetic input at all.

It is clear that the role of the Old Testament Prophet and indeed the Prophet’s role prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is very different however, that is not to say we should not seek God to raise up men and women who will speak on a National basis. But, let’s remember the Old Testament Prophets spoke to God’s People as one Nation, todays Prophets speak to the People of God who are a Multi-national Church. Prophets speak to the Church now, because the Church is now the People of God.

In contrast to the manifestation of the Gift of Prophecy, the Gift Ministry of a Prophet is a specific calling of the Lord on a person’s life. Thus the call to be a Prophet is a job assignment, given to someone whether he wants it or not. The Old Testament scriptures make this very clear with two examples those of Isaiah and Amos.

Isaiah knew he was called from birth: – “…Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name Isaiah 49:1b”.

Amos describes the call of God upon his life: – “…I was neither a Prophet nor a Prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people IsraelAmos 7:14 and 15”.

Prophets are charged with being spokesmen for God just as they were in the Old Testament, and today they speak also for the Lord Jesus Christ. Once we understand that the ministry of a Prophet is the Lord’s doing, and that they are very important to the health and wellbeing of the Church, we should be very interested in recognising who they are and what we can do to help them in their job of being spokesmen so we can have the word of the Lord among us in a more powerful way.

Due to the receipt of the Gift of Prophecy, many people begin to think that Prophets are no longer necessary; however, nothing could be further from the truth. In addition, there are other scriptures in the Epistles that mention Prophets, such as“1 Corinthians 12:28” and “Titus 1:12”.  Also in the Book of Acts we discover confirmation of what the Epistles taught, and these reveal that Prophets were not only active but vitally important in the Church “Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32, 21:10”.

I would contend that the Lord would not have specifically placed men and women in the Church with the Ministry Gift of a Prophet if they did not perform a distinctly different role from that of the Gift of Prophecy.

On the Day of Pentecost, God began to unveil something He had hidden from mankind, the Administration of God’s Grace “Ephesians 3:2” says – For you must have heard how God gave me grace to become your minister, and how he allowed me to understand his secret by giving me a direct revelation. (What I have written briefly of this above will explain to you my knowledge of the mystery of Christ.) This secret was hidden to past generations of mankind, but it has now, by the spirit, been made plain to God’s consecrated messengers and prophets” “J. B. Phillips”. Today, in the Administration of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ seals with Holy Spirit every person who gets born again “Ephesians 1:13”. That means every Christian has the ability to hear from God and prophesy “Acts 2:17-18”.

What do Prophets do?

  • Prophets reveal what the future holds (when God knows that we need to know this). They should encourage the Church (Locally & Nationally) to live in a way that takes full advantage of this knowledge.
  • Prophets reveal what the future holds (when God knows that we need to know this). They should encourage the Church (Locally & Nationally) to live in a way that takes full advantage of this knowledge.
  • Prophets bring God’s own Vision to the Church. Contend for flexibility rather than rigidness and responsiveness rather than predictability.
  • Prophets sense what God wants for His people and then encourage (not by striving or enforcing, but by the empowering of the Holy Spirit), the right response from the people in order to achieve this. They should give the Church real purpose based on what God has revealed to them and show the Church how to realise this by the right strategy and forward planning. They help lift people from the level of the mediocre and ordinary to the level of great achievement and the extra-ordinary, simply by envisioning them.
  • Prophets build proper spiritual foundations (akin to the Apostle) into God’s Church. They want to show the Church what God really intends it to be. They want the Church to represent to the World the true nature of the Kingdom of God.
  • Prophets bring God’s guidance, and His direction, strengthening, comfort, instruction and encouragement. They should do all they can to prevent the Church becoming immersed in non-essential details and working in areas that are fruitless as far as God’s plans are concerned. They should keep the Church on course and inspire the Church by showing it how significant its actions are in the total purposes of God.
  • Prophets edify the Church and show it that it is not there for its own benefit, but to fulfil God’s  plans and purposes and to glorify Jesus Christ – “At that I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “No! I am your fellow-servant and fellow-servant with your brothers who are holding fast their witness to Jesus. Give your worship to God!” (This witness to Jesus inspires all prophecyRevelation 19:10” – “J.B. Phillips”.
  • Prophets bring God’s conviction, admonition and correction. They should encourage God’s order to be established in His church, and they should attempt to expose and uproot anything which threatens this.  They not only see the problems, but they also see the answers in God.
  • Prophets arouse God’s people from complacency and come against unresponsiveness which is still largely responsible for the failure of the Church to function supernaturally.
  • Prophets motivate God’s people to not only hear God’s word to His church, but to live in the good of it. They are quick to sense the movements of the Holy Spirit and stir the church to an appropriate response.
  • Prophets demonstrate in word and action the plans and purposes of God. This involves where appropriate explaining how God has worked throughout history, thus showing the Church the breadth of His plans.
  • Prophets help prevent the Church from becoming closed-minded and introspective. They show that God has seasons of activity and that He wants us to have a global perspective as well as a real concern for our own neighbourhood.
  • Prophets understand something of the signs of the times will be aware of world events and know to some extent how they fit into God’s plans.
  • Prophets bring specific, understandable words from God that can be applied to life and not generalised concepts which tend to ‘tickle’ the ear, but which make no difference to our Christian walk.
  • Prophets see the real issues needing to be resolved and understand, and what changes need to be made so that God’s will is enabled to be carried out. This means that they often ask awkward or difficult questions to get God’s people to see the truth and improve where they are at spiritually.
  • Prophets pull down false securities and challenge compromise and fear-based actions, because they want the church to function in the way God intends that it should. They, therefore, challenge assumptions, preconceptions, indecision and confusion and get the Church to think about what it is doing and why it is doing it.
  • Prophets should be (where appropriate) involved in leading the praise and worship in a Church, because they sense, more than any other ministry, the movement of the Holy Spirit and how to take people to the throne of God –David and the army commanders appointed the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to serve as prophets with lyres, harps, and cymbals”1 Chronicles 25:1” – “God’s Word Translation”

In regard to Prophets in today’s Church, the Book of Acts confirms what Ephesians and Corinthians state doctrinally, that the Lord selects and specifically calls some men and women to be Prophets.

The Book of Acts and the Church Epistles show clearly that the Lord still works through called Prophets. They are not“just another believer because every Christian can prophesy” as some have stated.

A clear way to understand the difference between the Gift of Prophecy and the Ministry Gift of the Prophet is to say: –

  • The “1 Corinthians 12” gifts are supernatural abilities given to individual Christians by the Holy Spirit.
  • The “Ephesians 4:11” gifts are people given to the Church by Christ.

What is The Ministry Gift of a Prophet?

A “Prophet” is one who has deep insight into spiritual things. Those with the Ministry Gift of Prophet have the ability to hear from God and relate it to others. In Scripture Prophets were those who would tell forth the Word of God.

  • The Ministry Gift of “Apostle” has more to do with works, actions and supernatural signs.
  • The Ministry Gift of “Prophet” has more to do with a message from God.
    • A Prophet is one who speaks for God and who unfolds the mind of God.

In the English language the word Prophet is normally utilised to indicate someone who tells the future. This idea is indicative of the Greek word prophētēs which is derived from two other Greek words “pro (which means before)” and“phemi (which means I speak)”.

Thus the word Prophet has two intrinsic meanings: –

o   Forth teller – One who proclaims God’s truth.

o   Foreteller – One who predicts the future.

Although, the ministry of a Prophet now is not so much a “foretelling” though it may include that, it is mainly a “telling forth” of the Word of the Lord. This “Ephesians 4” gift speaks predominantly a “now” word to the Church.

In respect of the Gift of Prophecy the Bible teaches that it is given for “edification, exhortation, and comfort”“1 Corinthians 14:3” in the same manner the Ministry Gift of Prophet as the Gift of Prophecy will reflect this same spirit.

The Prophets Judas and Silas are specifically mentioned as exhorting and confirming the disciples in Antioch “Acts 15:32”And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them”.

In the early Church before the New Testament itself was completed, Prophets spoke directly by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uttering the truths now recorded in the New Testament. They were men who unfolded what God taught and thus the Church was galvanised and motivated to fulfil the Great Commission. While the New Testament is now complete, no man, or Prophet can add too or subtract from God’s Word “Revelation 22:18-19” and the words they utter will confirm God’s Written Word.

As individuals I guess it is easier for us when the things we are trying to relate to and understand are in “little boxes”. In understanding the Ministry Gift of the Prophet likewise it would be easier to do so, but, unfortunately this is not possible.

The Prophet in essence speaks the message that God gives him to speak, and thus it can be as varied as God wants it to be. We could try to “put God in a box” and decide what a Prophetic message would look like, as if we could tell God what to say however, we would be doomed to failure.

Let me give to you a short listing of the variety we see in the Prophet’s Ministry in both Old & New Testaments:-

  • Tell what will happen in the future
  • 1 Samuel 10:1-6; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 24:2; Acts 11:28, 21:11
  • Speak of past events
  • Judges 6:7-10; 2 Samuel 12:7 and 8; Ezekiel 20:1-31; John 4:18
  • Strengthen
  • 2 Samuel 7:8-12; Haggai 2:1-5
  • Exhort
  • 2 Chronicles 15:1-7; Isaiah 35:1-4; Haggai 1:3-12
  • Comfort
  • 1 Samuel 9:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15-17; Jeremiah 45:1-5
  • Bless
  • Genesis 48:20; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:13
  • Exhort
  • 2 Chronicles 15:1-7; Isaiah 35:1-4; Haggai 1:3-12
  • Comfort
  • 1 Samuel 9:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15-17; Jeremiah 45:1-5
  • Bless
  • Genesis 48:20; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:13
  • Curse
  • Joshua 8:26, 9:22 and 23; 2 Kings 2:24; Jeremiah 48:10
  • Call out kings and ministries
  • 1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13; 1 Kings 11:29-39, 19:15-19; 2 Kings 9:1-13
  • Reprove (sometimes harshly)
  • 2 Samuel 12:1-14; Isaiah 22:15-25; Jeremiah 36:30 and 31; Malachi 2:3; Matthew 16:23, 23:12-36
  • Foretell death or disaster
  • 1 Samuel 2:27-36; 1 Kings 13:20-24, 22:17-37; Jeremiah 28:16, 29:21; Amos 7:14-17
  • Direct
  • Judges 4:4-6; 2 Kings 4:1-7, 5:10, 6:8-10; Jeremiah 32:13-15
  • Name (showing God’s opinion)
  • 2 Samuel 12:25; Jeremiah 20:3
  • Reveal character and what is in a person’s heart
  • Isaiah 9:9 and 17, 29:13, 48:4; Jeremiah 2:21, 5:23; Ezekiel 14:2-4; John 1:47
  • Interpret enigmas
  • Daniel 5:5-29
  • Reveal what is going on from a spiritual perspective
  • 1 Chronicles 5:20; Jeremiah 1:16; Ezekiel 5:11; Daniel 9:11; John 8:42-47
  • Have given prophecies to people about a third party
  • 1 Kings 14:7; 2 Kings 1:3
  • May deliver the message themselves, or through others
  • 2 Kings 5:10, 9:1
  • May interpret other people’s dreams
  • Genesis 40:8-22, 41:15-28; Daniel 2:1-45, 4:4-37 (or their own as in Daniel 7)
  • Might not get a revelation about a situation immediately
  • Jeremiah 28:5-17 (especially verse 11), 42:7
  • May be called upon by God to act out their Prophetic message
  • Jeremiah 19:1-13, 27:2, 43:8-13; Ezekiel 4:1-3, 9-17, 5:1-4, 12:1-11; Hosea 1:2; Acts 21:11
  • Reprove (sometimes harshly)
  • 2 Samuel 12:1-14; Isaiah 22:15-25; Jeremiah 36:30 and 31; Malachi 2:3; Matthew 16:23, 23:12-36
  • Foretell death or disaster
  • 1 Samuel 2:27-36; 1 Kings 13:20-24, 22:17-37; Jeremiah 28:16, 29:21; Amos 7:14-17
  • Direct
  • Judges 4:4-6; 2 Kings 4:1-7, 5:10, 6:8-10; Jeremiah 32:13-15
  • Name (showing God’s opinion)
  • 2 Samuel 12:25; Jeremiah 20:3
  • Reveal character and what is in a person’s heart
  • Isaiah 9:9 and 17, 29:13, 48:4; Jeremiah 2:21, 5:23; Ezekiel 14:2-4; John 1:47
  • Interpret enigmas
  • Daniel 5:5-29
  • Reveal what is going on from a spiritual perspective
  • 1 Chronicles 5:20; Jeremiah 1:16; Ezekiel 5:11; Daniel 9:11; John 8:42-47
  • Have given prophecies to people about a third party
  • 1 Kings 14:7; 2 Kings 1:3
  • May deliver the message themselves, or through others
  • 2 Kings 5:10, 9:1
  • May interpret other people’s dreams
  • Genesis 40:8-22, 41:15-28; Daniel 2:1-45, 4:4-37 (or their own as in Daniel 7)
  • Might not get a revelation about a situation immediately
  • Jeremiah 28:5-17 (especially verse 11), 42:7
  • May be called upon by God to act out their Prophetic message
  • Jeremiah 19:1-13, 27:2, 43:8-13; Ezekiel 4:1-3, 9-17, 5:1-4, 12:1-11; Hosea 1:2; Acts 21:11
  • May get revelation they do not understand
  • Numbers 12:6-8; Daniel 12:8; Zechariah 1:8 and 9
  • Can have messages for individuals
  • 1 Samuel 10:1-6, for groups: 2 Kings 3:12-19, or for entire nations: Amos 1:11-2:16

The reason I have given the list is to show clearly that Prophets speak what they hear from God or the Lord Jesus, and that can be as varied as God wants it to be. Of course, and I want to reiterate this Prophet is a Prophet of God, and thus will not contradict what God has said in His written Word.

To understand how Prophets operate in the Church, we must understand how they functioned in the Old Testament. The various Greek and Hebrew words that are translated “Prophet” or“seer” helps a lot in understanding both what a Prophet is and how God works with them.

By far the most common word translated “Prophet” in the Old Testament is nabiy”, which means “spokesman”. First and foremost, the Prophet is a “spokesman” a “Forth teller” for God. The Prophet must be able to hear the voice of God and bring God’s words to the World.

Another Hebrew word translated “Prophet” is “nataph” and shows that Prophets speak what they hear from God (or today from the Lord Jesus), and they do not speak on their own.

The Hebrew word nataph”, means “to drop, drip, or distil”. Its uses include rain distilling and dripping from the sky, words that “drop” out of someone’s mouth. Although Prophets are called upon to “drop” words where and when God demands, the more obvious thing we learn from nataph” is that God in reality drops His words upon the Prophet.

Strong’s Concordance says it means, “to speak by inspiration”. This means that the message the Prophet brings is not his own message, but the Lord’s words, and furthermore it implies that many times the Prophet may not know much of the message when he starts prophesying, but that the words “drop” upon him, i.e., he speaks them as he gets them from God, this in experience is also akin to the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy.

There are two more words that also assist us in our understanding of how God works in Prophets are both translated “seer”.

One is raah”, which means, “to see” (as with the eye), and the other is chozeh”, which means “one who has a vision” (from chazon, “vision”).

By virtue of the revelation they received from God, Prophets “saw” things that other people could not see. This was very apparent to the people around them, who used the term “seer” for the practical reason that they could see what was unseen by others. As God gave them revelation, a Prophet could “see” into the future “Daniel 2:29 – 45”, or into someone’s heart “Ezekiel 14: 1 – 5Some of the leaders of Israel approached me and sat down with me. God’s Message came to me: “Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them. Why should I even bother with their prayers? Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of God, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, God, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols” “The Message”

The word “seer” has another overtone as well. Although there are well documented times when God spoke audibly to Prophets, it seems the more common means of communication He used was visual revelation, even if the vision were in a dream. Although it would be ideal if every dream and visions were crystal clear and self-explanatory, that is not the case. The method and content of the visions and dreams of God are His business, and He has purposely chosen to be unclear in some of His communication.

The tendency of most people is to blame the Prophet for any unclear dream or revelation (and it is true that sin can cloud clear revelations from the Lord), this blame is often misplaced. God can be perfectly clear when He wants to be, as many Old and New Testament records attest.

One of the great services that the Old Testament Prophets was to help people who needed to know what to do about specific situations. “1 Samuel 9:9” shows that people regularly went to Prophets to get information they needed – “Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the Prophet of today used to be called a seer”.

The Bible has many examples of people going to a Prophet to seek the will of God, and He got very upset if they went to other spiritual sources. Divination, mediums, astrology, etc., were all forbidden. God wanted the people to seek Him, and that usually meant through the Prophets or priests. In the Old Testament, people knew that if the Lord had any guidance for them, they could get it by going to a Prophet.

Examples of people seeking prophecy for specific reasons include: –

  • Saul went to Samuel to find his lost animals.
  • 1 Samuel 9: 6
  • The people of Israel went to the Prophet to inquire of God.
  • 1 Samuel 9: 9
  • David had sought the will of God from Ahimelech the priest.
  • 1 Samuel 22: 15
  • David four times sought God’s will through Abiathar the priest.
  • 1 Samuel 23: 1-12
  • Saul sought information from Prophets, but there was no revelation.
  • 1 Samuel 28: 6
  • Jeroboam sent to Ahijah the Prophet to find out about his child.
  • 1 Kings 14: 1-3
  • Jehoshaphat sought a Prophet to find out if he should go to war.
  • 1 Kings 22: 4-28
  • Jehoshaphat sought the will of God from Elisha.
  • 2 Kings 3: 11
  • The widow sought the help of God from Elisha.
  • 2 Kings 4: 1-7
  • The Shunammite woman sought the help of Elijah for her dead son.
  • 2 Kings 4: 21-37
  • The maid wanted Naaman to visit the Prophet in Samaria.
  • 2 Kings 5: 3
  • Hazael sent to Elisha to see if he would recover from his sickness.
  • Kings 8:7 and 8
  • Hezekiah sent to Isaiah to find out about the Assyrian attack.
  • 2 Kings 19: 1-7
  • Josiah sent to Huldah the Prophetess to find out what to do.
  • 2 Kings 22: 11-20
  • Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to know if Jerusalem would be delivered.
  • Jeremiah 21: 1-14
  • Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to see if there was a word from the LORD.
  • Jeremiah 37: 17
  • Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah to ask him questions.
  • Jeremiah 38: 14-26

The New Testament (Pentecost Onwards) Prophets

The only clear example found in Scripture of a New Testament Prophet is that of Agabus (that is not to say there were no others) but more of his Ministry Gift outworking is known than any other. We therefore learn much from him.

The Bible has many references to the work of God’s Prophets. This is particularly the case in the Old Testament, but there  are also  New Testament examples, e.g. Agabus and  Company“Acts 11:27,28”, some  members of the Church at Antioch “Acts 13:1”, and Judas and Silas “Acts 15:32”. Prophets have more than just the gift of prophecy “Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10” which is given by the Holy Spirit on an occasional basis when needed, they have a life which is given over to presenting God’s Word to His church.

Agabus is mentioned twice both times in the Book of Acts and on both occasions it involves the Apostle Paul.

  1. In Acts 11:27”, we find him at Antioch foretelling “a great famine over all the world” which adds the historian, “came to pass in the days of Claudius” an important observation as we will see later. This visit of Agabus to Antioch took place in the winter of 43-44 AD, and was the means of urging the Antiochian Christians to send relief to the brethren in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
  2. In Acts 21: 7-14”, we find Agabus at Caesarea warning Paul who was returning from the third of his major missionary journeys, by a vivid symbolic action (after the manner of Old Testament prophets; see “Jeremiah: 13:1” or Ezekiel: 3; 4” of the imprisonment and suffering he would undergo if he proceeded to Jerusalem.

It should be noted:-

The Gift of the Prophet here takes the form of prediction not direction. The Prophet’s chief function is to reveal moral and spiritual truth, to “forth-tell” rather than to “fore-tell”; but the interpretation of God’s message sometimes took the form of predicting events.

In the portions of Scripture that we have relating to the ministry of Abagus we note that whilst he predicted those consequences that Paul would encounter (Acts 21 10-11) he did not provide direction; in fact, we see that Paul rejecting the advice of the disciples. Paul recognised what was the “Will of God” for his journey ahead; he also recognised that the disciples who had his best at heart had misinterpreted what God was doing.

Prophets and Infallibility

The Prophets who wrote the New Testament were infallible – “Holy men of God spoke as they were ‘moved’ (literally ‘propelled’) by the Holy Spirit” is what the Scriptures tell us – Today, however, God’s Word is Complete, Finished, Finalised and no one can add to it. We must therefore carefully consider what a Prophet today says, and if there is anything that is out of accord with God’s revealed Word, it is to be rejected.

“1 Thessalonians 5:20-21” teaches, “Despise not prophesying’s. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” and the Apostle Paul refers to this kind of examination in “1 Corinthians 14:29” when he says, “Let two or three Prophets speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” – The idea is of weighing carefully to see if what is said agrees with the written Word of God. Let me stress here also that the “Judging / Weighing” of what has been said should be with a generous spirit desiring to agree not to find fault. And this is equally applicable to the Gift of Prophecy.

Prophets are called by God to weigh carefully any prophecy given in the Church and to bring prophecy in an orderly God-glorifying fashion. God is not a God of disorder but of peace; and a prophet cannot say that God took over his spirit and forced him to prophesy, because the spirit of a prophet is subject to his own control. If something is done in a disorderly fashion, it is not something which has been initiated by God, but by the prophet himself “1 Corinthians 14: 29 -33, 40”.

Prophets and Maturity

It is a fact that in all forms of ministry there is a starting point and from that “experience, confidence and enablement” are involved. This is no different for the Ministry Gift of the Prophet or also those who minister in the Gift of Prophecy.

It is important for us to understand that even “Mature Prophets” can be wrong, or appear wrong, in what they say. For that reason, accountability to other Prophets and to the Body of Christ is very important.

The Prophetic Minister must have the courage to deliver God’s message but also recognise that he or she does not stand alone. The goal of the Prophet is not to tear down but to“recover and build up”. Building up the Body of Christ is a challenging goal that can be accomplished only by cooperation with, and accountability to, other believers in the Body of Christ.

Remember: “The Gift is not deficient, but the vessel used can be!”

In the Old Testament we see clearly that there was a “School of the Prophets” being around other Prophets helps a younger or less mature Prophet grow and understand the revelation he or she is receiving. As early as the time of Samuel, Prophets were companying together “1 Samuel 10:5”After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy” and Samuel is sometimes credited with starting what is called, “the school of the Prophets”.

In recognising that Prophets (as is the case with all the Ministry Gifts) there is a need to grow and mature in their walk with God helps us understand better how to relate to them

It is said that “with age comes wisdom” and there is an element of truth in that albeit there are some old fools that we meet from time to time. The Prophet must also develop the wisdom to deliver his message the way the Lord would have it delivered. This means that he must endeavour to have the heart of the Lord for people.

Prophetic utterances can have a huge impact on the one receiving the message, thus it is very important that the Prophet deliver the message with the same spirit as the Lord would if he were saying it personally. That does not mean that the message will always be gentle “…Get behind me, Satan…” was hardly gentle” “Luke 4: 8” , but it does mean that it will be delivered the way the Lord would have it delivered.

Prophets need continually to wait on God, to gain refreshment from Him and to re-establish their life’s priorities, because otherwise they can become hardened, critical and cynical. This is because the true Prophet embodies not only the message of God, but also how God feels about a situation. This can be very taxing to the Prophet, especially if people do not respond as God would have them respond. Most people do not really want to hear from God; they are more concerned with the trivial, temporal issues of life and they just want God to approve their plans. A Prophet needs to submit to and serve God’s people, but he needs to look to God for praise, affirmation and refreshment.

Another aspect of the on-going maturity we are considering is that because of the Prophets prominent position in the Body of Christ, and because it is easy to be influenced by the flesh, it is of utmost importance that Prophets maintain holy and obedient lifestyles.  A Prophet is to anchor his or her life in prayer.

The fallen nature of man is constantly bringing him downward. In the Old Testament a good proportion of the Prophet’s ministry was delivered in the form of reproof and correction. This can easily be seen by reading the Prophetic books and noting what the Prophets said. Things are no different now in the Administration of Grace than they were in the Old Testament. The sin nature of man exerts a strong influence, which is why there is so much reproof and correction even in the Church Epistles.

Prophets need to have an intimacy with God that goes beyond the normal Christian experience. This enables them to speak only what God wants them to and not what other people want to hear; it restrains them from speaking out something that they claim is from God, but which really sourced in themselves and has been given only because the prophet is under pressure to“deliver the goods”; it guards them against inputting wrong things into their lives, because all people become what they input and speak out what fills their hearts; and it stops them from participating in what they are speaking against.

The heavy nature of many Prophetic utterances is why revelation from God was often called a “burden” For example:-

  • “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi Malachi 1: 1”.
  • “The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite Nahum 1: 1”.
  • “The burden which Habakkuk the Prophet did see – Habakkuk 1: 1”.
  • “The burden of the word of the LORD … Zechariah 9:1”.

The NIV and many other more modern versions say “oracle” or some other similar translation, but “burden” is the proper translation.

The maturity of the Prophet will understand that the Lord often uses harsh words or striking images to create impact, perhaps like a figure of speech.

The ability to communicate with words is one thing that sets mankind apart from all other creatures. God is the Author of language, and no one has ever used language as precisely as God does in the Bible, including His use of figures of speech. When most people say, “a figure of speech,” they are speaking in general terms of something that is not true to fact. Mature Prophets do not assume that stark imagery is literally true, but nor do they discount that it may be.

Prophets can communicate their message from God by a variety of means including: speaking words, acting and singing. They can also receive their message from God by the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways including: actual words from God, getting a ‘sense’ of what God wants to communicate, pictures/visions, and interpreting the gift of tongues “2 Peter 1:20,21”.

The Prophet’s task is to discern the truth being conveyed, and then to communicate that truth as accurately and lovingly as possible. This communication may take a number of forms and will not always be accepted or understood.

A wise Prophet will seek the Lord for wisdom concerning the details, timing and wording for each situation.

He or she will if they are sensible also seek counsel of trusted advisors or more seasoned Prophets. This however, provides no guarantee that the message or the Prophet will not be criticised or disregarded.

It is sensible to recognise that just as Prophets get lauded and praised when their prophecies are a blessing, they are derided and persecuted when their prophecies are unexpected or unwanted. Prophets must accept this in order to forestall temptations of disobedience, self-pity, envy, bitterness, and hardheartedness, and to be able to see and hear clearly the revelation that the Lord wants communicated.

As is the case with every Child of God, so it is with the Prophet. He or She must develop their own relationship with the Lord Jesus so that the Lord can communicate to them in a way that they understand, even if others do not.

There will be times when it would be detrimental for the Prophet to repeat exactly what the Lord gives to him because the images would be misunderstood. Each Prophet must learn from experience how to correctly understand the messages and images he receives from the Lord, and then prophesy to others in a way that is helpful and appropriate.

There’s a passage in “James 5:10” that reveals that “Prophets” will be examples of suffering and patience. “Take, my brethren, the Prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience”. Suffering and Patience are both words that are indicative of time and with it maturity.

Prophetic Utterances – Why Are They at Time Unclear

Whilst it is very frustrating, it is also very clear that many Biblical records show that God is purposely unclear. “Numbers 12:6-8” for instance indicates that God spoke to Prophets in riddles, and yet He chose to speak with the Prophet Moses “face to face” i.e. clearly.

“Proverbs 25:2” tells us – “it is the glory of God to conceal things”. Likewise, the Bible has many accounts of God’s Prophets receiving visions and revelations they did not understand and at times were unintelligible.

Examples of this are: –

  1. Daniel did not understand the meaning of what he heard “Daniel 12:8And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
  2. Zechariah was shown a vision that he did not understand “Zechariah 1:8 and 9 One night I looked out and saw a man astride a red horse. He was in the shadows in a grove of birches. Behind him were more horses—a red, a chestnut, and a white. I said, “Sir, what are these horses doing here? What’s the meaning of this?” – “The Message”.
  3. Peter did not grasp what the Lord was communicating by the sheet full of unclean animals, argued with the Lord about it, and ended up “wondering about the meaning of the vision”“Acts 10:17”.

I am of the opinion that there are two primary reasons.

  • One is to generate a desire to enter more fully into a deeper and more intimate communication with Him. We should remember the reason why God gives revelation in the first place is because God loves us, wants to help and bless us, and wants a relationship with us. But He does not want to be thought of as “the Provider” only from whom we can get things and then go our own way.
    • He wants us to have a relationship with Him. Consider the illustration of a Mother and how she feels. She works hard to make a nice meal the family comes home and in minutes, in order that they can watch television or play a computer game leave without even saying “Thank you”. The Mother wants more from her Children than just to be thought of as “the cook and chief bottle washer” or “the provider”. So I believe it is with God. There is more to life than just providing for others. God wants our love and to have a relationship with us.
    • When there is unclear revelation, we are driven deeper and deeper into His heart as we seek understanding. We want to know what He meant, and that means we need to go to Him for the understanding.
  • Two is to generate a reason for us to work together. God is very desirous that His people work together, so He often gives out the “revelation jigsaw” in pieces, so people have to get together to see the whole picture.
    • We see this in the Prophetic books of the Bible. Much of the Biblical Text and Topics can be understood only by learning about them from several different books. In the same manner as “The New Testament is contained in the Old and the Old Testament can only be understood from the New”. God gave one revelation to the Prophet Jeremiah, another to Ezekiel, another to Daniel, e.t.c. and only when they are taken together does the jigsaw supply the whole picture.
    • This is still true today, God giving a message through one Prophet that is confirmed and developed by another Prophet. Similarly, one Prophet often has insights about the Prophetic revelation that another Prophet received, which sheds light on the original revelation.

A Word Of Warning

The Body of Christ needs Prophets and likewise Prophets cannot operate without or outside of the Body of Christ. The Prophet should at all times recognise that they are gifted to the Church in order that their ministry might serve that Body.

We are all deemed “equal” in God’s sight, He has no favourites (including the Prophet) and is not subject to partiality, and thus there is no room for arrogance, because they feel they have a superior gift from God than other people.

In fact, a Prophet who leads on his own will in all probability ends up with a small bunch of elitist followers who separate themselves from other Christians and who believe they have received more and deeper revelation from God than anybody else.

It is right to be eager to prophecy in fact in “1 Corinthians 14:39” we are told the following – Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy”, because the church needs to hear directly from God in this way, but it is wrong not to give the glory to God for something which is so obviously sourced and dependent on Him.

The Scriptures say that we only know and prophecy in part For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete”1 Corinthians 13:9” – “J.B. Phillips”, so it is wrong for a Prophet to feel that he has all the answers or that he does not need anybody else.

Jesus warns that it is going to be very costly to be one of His Prophets – Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city”Matthew 23:34”.

Jesus warned of false Prophets when He said, “Beware of false Prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Matthew 7:15-16”. Jesus says you will know them not by their gift, but by their fruit. It is not that the gift is deficient; the vessels in which the gifts are used can be imperfect or wanting.

Peter also points out how we must be on the watch for those who would try to come into our midst to bring false teachings and prove themselves to be false Prophets. He wrote, “But there were false Prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false Teachers among you, who privy shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction 2 Peter 2:1”.

The Apostle John also gives us a warning in “1 John 4:1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false Prophets are gone out into the world”.

The warnings in all of these passages are that we must be on the watch for those who come into our midst assuming the role of a Prophet of God, but, indeed, are false Prophets.

While we must be careful not to gullibly accept every word that is said to be from the Lord, there is, however, a place for the Ministry Gift of Prophet today.

Remember: “The Gift is not deficient, but the vessel used can be!”