Some people say that the gift of the prophet ended with the completion of the Scriptures. If we are talking about that aspect of the prophets that gave us new revelation, we would be right. Since the Scriptures are now complete we need no more revelations from the prophets. On the other hand, if we are talking about that part of the ministry of the prophet which involved the warning of God’s people when they started drifting from God’s precepts, we need prophets now as much as ever, maybe even more.
It is interesting that there is only one gift that is listed on every list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, and that is the gift of prophecy. This includes the list of ministers given to the New Testament church in Ephesians 4:11.
In this article I want to take a look at the prophet, first the Old Testament prophets, and secondly prophets in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament prophets were called of God when the people of Israel departed from God’s precepts, or as we are more prone to say, when they backslid. They came with a message of warning which often contained new revelation from God. Remember, they did not have the completed Scriptures from which to preach.
These men were uncompromising when it came to the Word of God. Their whole lives were built around “Thus saith the Lord.” It is true that they were also very much human and would sometimes get depressed and doubt. Even the great Elijah had a problem in this area in 2 Kings 19:1-3 and following. The prophet Jonah ran from God when he didn’t want to see Nineveh spared from God’s judgment.
In spite of all of the prophets human weaknesses and failings, they preached the message of God without compromise. They cared enough about the people to tell them the truth even when it was painful for the people and for themselves.
Many times the prophets saw the task they were called to do as a burden (see Nahum 1:1, Habakkuk 1:1, Zechariah 9:2, 12:1, and others). The mission of a prophet was a weighty mission with serious consequences.
When the people obeyed the words of the prophet God withdrew His judgment. When they did not, the judgment came as predicted by the prophet.
It seems that before the completion of the Scriptures the New Testament prophets still received direct warnings from God for God’s people. After the Scriptures were completed there was no need for these direct warnings from God because we can search the Scriptures to find all we need to live lives pleasing to God.
It should be obvious to all that we still have need of those who will lift up their voices in warning toward God’s people. A look at professing Christendom should make it clear that most of those who call themselves Christians have departed from the precepts of God. An even closer look will show that we all need to hear the voice of a prophet, if not because we have backslid, then to keep us from doing so in this time when it is hard to stand true to God’s Word.
The negative view of criticism in our modern world is second only to the negative view of judging. To criticize is to examine and judge with attention to beauties and faults. Both judging and criticizing have a positive aspect as well as the negative aspect. When we are following God’s precepts criticism can only lift us up. When we have departed from God’s precepts criticism and make us angry or cause us to get back on track. Leading God’s people back to His word is the proper goal of criticism.
I don’t know about you, my readers, but as for myself, if I have departed from the teachings of God’s Word I want someone to point it out so I can get right with God again. I might not like criticism, and I might fuss and fume a bit, but I will always take it seriously and look to see if I need to correct something. As a matter of fact, I go through this a lot when I listen to the preaching of God’s Word.
God gifts different men differently. What they see when they look at people is different also. A true pastor sees the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those for whom he is responsible before God. The true evangelist sees the needs of the souls of lost men and women. The prophet sees things a little differently. He sees people in their relationship to the precepts of God. He sees where they deviate in doctrine or in practice. He sees the dangers that lie ahead for departure form the Word of God in the smallest things. His burden is that people bring glory to God by following the teachings of God’s Word.
The feelings that a pastor has when he sees one of the sheep God has placed under him suffering, and the feelings an evangelist has when he sees someone who needs Christ, are similar to the feelings a prophet has when he sees the precepts of God violated. It is very painful for the prophet when he sees error in doctrine or practice.
Jeremiah 20:7-9 probably gives the best description of how a prophet feels. Often his message is rejected by the majority. He is convinced that God has called him to preach his message so the people can and will repent and return to God. When they don’t he feels as if God has deceived him. He feels that he is being laughed at (in derision) and mocked. This was not what he expected as a spokesman for God to God’s people. If it were the enemies of God he would understand, but God’s people, who would have thought.
The prophet often does not want to do what he is called to do. Jonah is a prime example of this. Since he is a prophet of God, he cannot stop no matter how much he wants to. God will put such a burning desire with in the prophet that he cannot keep quiet about the error around him. If he resists too much, he may be swallowed by a great fish 🙂 or something.
When a pastor does his job of feeding and nurturing the sheep people say he is a great man, and he is. When an evangelist preaches great soul-winning messages and people are drawn to Christ his is praised as a great man, and he is. When a prophet preaches a great message of warning that is placed on his heart by God people will say, “You will have to forgive him, he can’t help himself, his is a prophet.” I know because I have had this said about me many times.
God has given prophets to the New Testament church (Ephesians 4:11). It is time that we quit calling them dividers, nit pickers, or other, even worse, names. It is time we realize that God has given them to us for our benefit and His glory.
Like pastors and evangelists, prophets are not infallible. We are always to be like those of Berea and check things out by the Scriptures. We have little trouble understanding the when a pastor preaches the Word of God to his flock they are to listen. We love to have evangelists come so we can bring lost people to hear, and hopefully get saved. Why is it that we so often dismiss the prophet as a crank?
The mission of a New Testament prophet is no less a weighty mission with serious consequences than that of the Old Testament prophet.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved