“Your gifts make you valuable, but not necessarily famous.” ~ Fred Hartzler, “Nehemiah” sermon (2010)
1 Corinthians 12:28:
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
The office of the Prophet. Today, this is the gifting many seem to want and many claim to occupy. In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone who God spoke to directly. They were the messengers of God. Because of the words they spoke, they were often feared and respected.
With everyone being so enamored with the prophetic calling, few inquire about their true role in the church today. Most allegedly hear from God concerning mostly blessings and on occasion, instruction. So let’s go to the Word and examine the role of the Prophet.
Prophets of the Old Testament
Here we will highlight just a few of the most popular Old Testament prophets. Prophets played a major role as God’s mouthpiece. If there was a message to be delivered, God used a prophet.
Believe it or not, Abraham was the first prophet of the Old Testament (Genesis 20:7). Next was Aaron (Exodus 7:1). But we will look at some other notable prophets.
- Samuel was a young servant to the prophet Eli when he was called by God to serve. He was born of the prayers of his mother, Hannah when she was yet barren. He was also a Judge. (1 Samuel 1-28)
- Elijah the Tishbite came out of Gilead to become a major figure in scripture. He was sent as God’s messenger to Ahab, King of Israel. (1 Kings 17:1)
- Isaiah, son of Amos, also became a major figure. He wrote a book of scripture named after him. He was sent to Hezekiah, King of Judah and Israel. He also wrote major prophecies concerning Jesus.
There are others that can be mentioned, for instance, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, and Malachi. What were the messages of these prophets?
Prophetic messages of the Old Testament
The job of the prophet was mainly singular in purpose. There were the watchmen on the wall. They helped keep or correct the course of the nation toward righteousness.
They cried out against unrighteousness. No one was spared. For that reason, they appeared primarily when the people were going astray. When the people had a right relationship with God, the prophets were either absent or served as Judges. When needed, they spoke words of encouragement and hope to strengthen the people and keep the work of God moving forward.
They did not show up only to speak blessings. In fact, they rarely brought good tidings. Why? The people were continually turning to the gods and practices of the Gentile nations. They were being corrected so much, they were rarely ever worthy of blessings!
Prophets were not prophesying constantly! Their calling is specific and powerful, too vital to be trivialized. Also, God did not speak new blessings all the time as the blessings already promised in the law for obedience were sufficient. If an additional blessing was spoken, it was more of an enticement for Israel to return to righteousness!
Prophets of the New Testament
There are few prophets in the gospels and New Testament. But the few that are noted are major.
- John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. His coming was prophesied by Isaiah. John preached repentance and the coming of the Messiah. Because he was the forerunner of Christ, He was called the greatest of all the prophets. (Luke 7:28)
- Agabus spoke in the early church by the Holy Spirit of a world-wide famine. History proved it happened. (Acts 11:28, 21:10)
- John the Apostle received the Revelation of Jesus from God the Father on the island of Patmos. He was imprisoned there after surviving being boiled in oil because of the gospel. It is also said he was forced to drink poison and was unharmed (Mark 16:18).
Characteristics of a Prophet
Let’s look at a few things most prophets had in common.
- They were often loners or had few friends. (Romans 11:3)
- They were often unpopular. No doubt because they spoke the un-welcomed truth. (2 Chronicles 18:7, Jeremiah 1:10)
- They showed up mainly to warn the people when they turned to evil. (Jeremiah 1:16-19)
- They were preachers of truth as well as messengers. (Mark 1:2)
- They never prophesied for a fee or an offering! Some people brought them gifts for different reasons. They weren’t asked to do so. It was a gesture, mainly out of respect. Sometimes it was because of their life of solitude and they people knew the gift would bless them! (Deuteronomy 16:17:19, Micah 3:11, Ezekiel 22:25-28)
- They did not prophesy material blessings as a matter of course.
- True prophets often had it rough! Because of their message, they were often hated and God used them as examples of the sins of the people. (Hosea 1:2-11, Ezekiel 4:1-17)
Prophetic gifts in the Church
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
God still has a specific call for those who are call by Him to be prophets under grace.
“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”
Prophets today have the greater charge of revealing the mysteries of Christ! The Apostles began the work while establishing the New Testament Church. Now the prophets are to continue the work of expounding the Word to the believers by the Holy Spirit.
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:”
Prophets should know and understand the mysteries of the gospel. Even the major prophetic books: Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation must be opened to the saints. While the Holy Spirit can give understanding to anyone he chooses, those with a prophetic calling are often selected.
Prophets have a code of conduct
1 Corinthians 14:29-33:
“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
As you can see, prophecy works similarly to speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit will give the message to more than one (1 Corinthians 14:27). He will provide a witness so that the hearers can believe. And they will take turns speaking. Those who prophesied alone were given a special dispensation. But even the words of John the Baptist and the Apostle John were witnessed by the words of the Old Testament prophets!
False Prophets in Today’s Churches
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits…”
Sadly, this is not what we see today. Many self-made prophets damage the reputation of the Church and fleece the flock with false hope. Watch them! They do things to be seen of men. They offer hope in exchange for gifts. Sometimes they request certain amounts that almost always have a ‘special’ numerical significance. This is similar to the occult practice of numerology.
God never told a prophet to ask for a special financial offering. They say “The Lord instructed me to ask or tell you give a $$$ seed or offering”. And it is supposed to release your blessing or destroy the yoke of the devil or something like that.
Unfortunately, people in need of real help fall for this. They give money they need or go in debt by charging a large offering to a credit card. They are told not to think about it, just obey God because “delayed obedience is disobedience”.
“The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.”
“And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.”
Know them by their fruit
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
Today’s prophets coerce and promote themselves by misuse of God’s Word. Have you heard statements like this?
2 Chronicles 20:20:
“…Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”
The truth is, we will prosper if we obey God’s Word. Period! That is why God sends the prophet in the first place, to get that message across to the people!
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
This was not referring to the vision God may give to a prophet. Where people are blind to the truth, they perish. That’s why the law (God’s Word) is mentioned next in the verse.
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
And His secrets are available to all who desire to know them, without being subject to someone special and without charge because it is given to us by the Holy Spirit! However, we are constantly being reminded that we need to listen to those who call themselves a prophet. As if without them, we will miss the move or “seasons” of God’s visitations and likely perish.
Prophets Key Role in Today’s Church
Godly prophets lived their lives seeking after the things of God. They desired nothing for themselves except God reward for their obedience. The attention seekers make themselves obvious. They tell us what we want to hear so they can get what they want. But Paul said this:
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
Prophets today are to do the same as before. They are watchmen on the wall. They are to cry out when the people go astray. They should preach truth and thus edify the Body of Christ.
A tough one for sure! I hope it was helpful. If so, please like and share it with others. Thank you for visiting!