Ephesians 4 11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I have always stood against the teaching idea that Apostles and Prophets were no longer a functioning part of the Body of Christ. The proponents of this thinking do not have a case to be made based upon Scripture. Prophets are still functioning today and have a critical role to play in these last days. Let me explain.
Prophets have always performed what I call ‘course correction’ for God’s people. They reminded leaders of how they had strayed away from God’s laws and commandments, and this is still true today. However, there is a tendency of modern-day prophets to accent on ‘direction and events’ rather than on the call to warn against the wrong emphasis in ministry. When the true nature of the prophet’s gifts was in operation, the emphasis would primarily be on holiness and on the abusive nature of leadership.
What would the prophet say about the prosperity gospel? Abuse of God’s resources and the sin of coveting. Pride and abuse of Scripture to twist the truth about prosperity.
What would the prophet say about modern preaching? The prophets of the Old Testament would question if the leaders of their day really knew the Lord, based upon the emphasis of what they taught.
Jeremiah 2:8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal following worthless idols.
That is just a sample of how the prophetic should work. The prophet is more of a quality control person who challenges leaders about wrong thinking and actions.
The prophet Nathan and King David is an example of a prophet’s job of course correction for power. Who is going to address the abuse of power? That is the primary function of the prophet. David Wilkerson was a good example of a modern-day prophet who was not afraid to address the sinfulness and abuses of leaders who accepted cultural norms as standards for the church. He often spoke about how the church was asleep and drifting into a backslidden state away from God. Some thought his message was too negative and narrow for the modern church, but he was functioning in the role of the prophet and warning about the dangers of compromise.
The word compromise is one of the main words a prophet would address. In the modern church emphasis, the prophet would challenge the compromised use of God’s promises at the expense of God’s warnings. Promises draw crowds … warnings are judgmental and drive people away. However, by not balancing the promises and warnings of God’s Word, it is a compromise to the truth. There are more warnings in Scripture than there are promises, and this is illustrated in Deuteronomy Chapter 28, where the curses outnumber the promises 3 to 1.
If modern preaching only focuses on the positive attributes of God, we are only getting half the story. Modern teaching’s emphasis in many Christian circles generally avoids topics like hell, eternal judgment, and prophecy because these themes are too controversial to address. The emphasis is on comfort, joy, and emotional satisfaction when you leave church because you certainly don’t want to offend anyone with a message of truth that challenges the lifestyles of people sitting in church on a Sunday morning. That style or kind of preaching does not build churches. The prophet would pose the question … are you sacrificing God’s truth for a marketing objective of growing a church? Isn’t the growth a good indication that we are doing evangelism and winning the lost? It might mean that, or could it mean you have been able to attract people to a positive message. A positive message could mean you are avoiding the harder questions of repentance, sacrifice, holiness, forgiveness, restitution, and the meaning of discipleship.
The role of the prophet is to bring into focus the emphasis and bring the course correction if that emphasis is ignoring the truth of God’s Word. So, why would God remove that function from the body of Christ, especially in the last days when deception will run wild?
I won’t address Apostles here as much, but this gift is about being sent to establish a witness in areas that do not have a witness. Modern missionaries are a good example of what it means to be establishing churches throughout a land that is without them. It is true that the early Apostles’ lives and ministry contributed to the canonization of the New Testament and that may no longer be necessary today, but the function of one who is sent has never ceased.
So, I would be careful to accept the teaching that Apostles and Prophets have ceased to exist in the church today.
One last thought.
Prophets accent on comparing the character of the ministry practiced in the church today and the character found in God’s Word.
The Prophetic today will focus on the course correction of:
• Flirting with sin
• Spiritual abuse
• Truth correction
• Ministry emphasis
• First love issues
• Spiritual Apathy
• Backslidden issues
• Sacrifice and submission
• Obedience at all costs
• Doctrinal error
• Unforgiveness and repentance
This is just a short list, but I think you get the picture. Some of the gifts will overlap, of course. Pastors, for example, are often functioning as prophets as they direct a congregation.
So, my conclusion: Prophets are a necessary function in the body of Christ today, and none of their work has to do with predicting the future, which has been done already by God’s Word. Let’s leave it there for today.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler