Many years ago I was part of the teaching faculty of a bible college in Anchorage, Alaska. Attending the church and its bible college were three nice young men, soldiers from the nearby Army base. They were new in the Lord, having been saved for about 4 years total combined. Sad to say, and predictably, they fell quickly into deception by not adhering to God’s Word, the Bible. They wrongly, anti-biblically concluded that they could move beyond needing the Bible and could just hear directly from the Spirit of God, without relying on the Scriptures. This is a grave error, as the Scripture just below shows:
Needless to say, these 3 young men, without the “light” of the Scriptures as their foundation, rapidly fell into some serious errors — for example, “Ultimate Reconciliation,” the heresy that declares that everybody eventually gets saved, either in this life or after they die. Shortly after this, they embraced the teachings of an older man in a nearby city who was teaching that they were already in their immortal, glorified bodies. This too, of course, was entirely contrary to biblical truth. The error of that false teaching was evident when that older man died!
Please don’t misunderstand. I am absolutely a believer that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are still given by Jesus to His Church today. All five! Just as Jesus foretold that there would be false prophets, there are likewise true prophets throughout the Church Age (and true examples of all the 5-fold ministries). I have written on these subjects here:
As I mentioned above, in the recent 2018 USA midterm election we witnessed a catastrophic failure of some alleged prophetic words. Self-proclaimed “prophets” foretold a red tsunami and a major Republican electoral victory. They missed it badly! Almost nobody will hold them accountable! And this is a grave problem. If history repeats itself, various inaccurate “prophets” will continue to crank out predictive words, many of which will continue to fail, and very few people will hold them accountable.
Some years ago I used to read the predictions of a prophetic group that posted many sweeping prophecies on their website. Those predictive prophecies were eventually taken off the website after so many had failed. These things bring much discredit to the Church and to the genuine ministry of true New Testament, local-church-based prophets. Let’s now examine a few biblical points about the genuine New Testament prophet.
There were prophets [plural] “in the church.” They were not lone wolf ministries accountable to no one. Notice also that God had provided a fine balance — prophets and teachers. True prophets will help keep fresh Holy Spirit input alive in the local church. Teachers will provide a healthy balance to that, ensuring that all is grounded upon the unchangeable, eternally reliable written Word of God. It cannot be overemphasized that prophets do not function as a “check” on God’s Word. No, it is vice versa. The eternal Word of God, the Bible, is the foundation upon which all ministries, including that of the prophet, must be based. As the prophet Isaiah declared (8:20), “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Note carefully, the prophets at Antioch were “in the church.” As with the other fivefold ministries, the local church is the proper ministry home of the prophet. We can see several examples of this in the New Testament. The prophet Agabus seems to have been a part of the Jerusalem church, from which home church he went forth on occasion and ministered elsewhere also (Acts 11:27-28 and Acts 21:10-11). The Corinthian church had plural prophets in the church (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). The New Testament prophet, like any minister of the Gospel, may on occasion travel to minister. But he himself will be rooted in a local church as part of its leadership team, along with the elders and other fivefold ministers.
There were true prophets in the Old Testament. There are still true prophets in this New Testament era. Since He “ascended on high” back to heaven (Ephesians 4:7), Jesus Christ has continued (vs. 11) to give “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” All five ministries are gifts from Jesus to His Church. The prophets may on occasion give significant predictive words — for example, the prophet Agabus correctly predicting a great famine (Acts 11:28). But mostly the prophets minister in the churches and bring prophetic “words” of edification, exhortation, and comfort, that others may learn and be comforted (1 Corinthians 14:3, 29-32).
Let something be clarified here. One is not a prophet simply because he has the gift of prophecy. Acts 21:8-11 tells of the apostle Paul staying at the house of the Phillip the evangelist, “who had four unmarried daughters who prophesied,” who “had the gift of prophecy” [Amplified Bible] (vs. 9). But when God wanted to deliver a major predictive word to Paul, he did not use those already present who had the gift of prophecy. Instead, God reached down to the Jerusalem church and brought in the prophet Agabus for this purpose.
A prophet is not only one of the Ephesians 4:11 fivefold ministries, he is also one of the two foundational ministries among those five, that is, apostles and prophets — “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20). A true New Testament prophet (likewise the apostle) will have a stature and Christian maturity in his life which other Christians (even evangelists, pastors, and teachers!) can draw upon for their own growth and ministry success.
In closing, my hope in this message has been twofold: (1) to caution my fellow believers not to accept every one claiming to be a prophet as truly being such. This, of course, applies to all ministries; there are the true and the false. Be discerning! And (2) the Scriptures clearly teach the validity of God-called apostles and prophets, as well as evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are given by Jesus for the entire Church Age. Jesus gave us sound wisdom concerning whom to receive: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20, KJV). That includes the character of their lives and — in our discussion of the true and false prophets — the fruit, the outcome, the failure or success of their prophecies.
May God bless you personally and bring you into the influence of godly spiritual leaders, whose goal is to honor God and His Son Jesus, to adhere to God’s Word the Bible, and to be a blessing to you.
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©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.