Ephesians 4:7-16; Spiritual gifts – the prophets.

Class Outline:

Sunday October 31, 2021

Prophets: this gift was receiving truth by direct revelation from God.


1CO 12:28

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.


We don’t have a whole lot of biblical data on this gift, but what we do have further emphasizes how vital the word of God is to every believer and every assembly.


The NT prophets taught doctrine to the people.


ACT 15:30-32

So, when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message [literally: “many words”].


The prophets also gained revelation of the future.


ACT 21:10-11

And as we were staying there for some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"


Because the narrative of the event would call into question some of the details of Agabus’ prophecy (Romans bound him, not the Jews), some conclude that this kind of fallible prophecy is still a gift today. I disagree with what seems to me to be an argument from an already determined position of being correct, i.e., that the gift of prophecy is still in effect in the church. I share this just in case you encounter someone who claims this. It may be that they are not thinking of prophecy in the OT way of predicting the future accurately, but as Grudem believes:


“This is exactly the kind of fallible prophecy that would fit the definition of NT congregational prophecy … - reporting in one’s own words something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.” [Grudem] I disagree with this conclusion.


Paul classes prophets as second in importance in the list of spiritual gifts. It was temporary to the apostolic age.


Prophecy therefore was very important in the infancy of the church, as other passages also indicate. It is quite possible that the apostles possessed it.


“The NT prophet partook of some of the characteristics of the OT prophet. Both spoke for God; both warned of judgment upon sin; both delivered their message as from God; both dealt with contemporaneous events as well as predicted events of the future. The OT prophet, however, often had the character of a national leader, reformer, or patriot, and delivered his message normally to Israel. The NT prophet has no national characteristics; his message is individual and personal; it revealed the will of God which otherwise might have been unknown, meeting the need which later was to be filled by the written New Testament.” [Walvoord, The Holy Spirit]


At the beginning of the church, there was a tremendous transition from what was believed by the Jews to what constituted the Christian faith. This issue is clearly seen in the Jerusalem council in Act 15. Circumcision, dietary laws, cultural norms that influenced morality, and observation of the Law of Moses, were all issues that would have been extremely difficult to resolve had it not been for the intervention of God’s revelation through the church prophets.


The Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers conjoined with their spiritual gifts to push the transition from OT to NT forward.


There are thousands of Jewish believers, many Gentile believers that are on pace to outnumber the Jews. The Gentiles are from many backgrounds. The Jews are split between the more liberal Hellenistic Jews and the more traditional Hebrews. And all of these coming together in different parts of the world without a standard Bible in print. How are they going to come together? It is no wonder that Paul would write: “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (PHI 2:2).


Because something is difficult to do, obviously doesn’t disqualify God from doing it.


All of the apostles had to understand that in the body of Christ there was “no Jew or Gentile.”


ACT 10:19-20

And while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 "But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself."


Reporting the event to the church leaders in Jerusalem, the apostle understood that it was the Holy Spirit who sent him.


ACT 11:12

“And the Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings.”


Paul and Barnabas were also sent to Gentiles by the instigation of the Holy Spirit.


ACT 13:2-3

And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.


The gift may have been fairly frequent.


ACT 13:1

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.


The message from the prophets was under the authority of the written word, whatever was recorded to that point.


1CO 14:37-38

If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.


Obviously, if the word is the Lord’s commandment, the prophets, and all, are under it.


What this tells us is that they would be replaced by the written word. It also tells us what they were communicating. They were receiving, directly from God, the truths that would eventually be written down and included in the all Scripture that was God-breathed. Once the Scripture was complete, there was no longer a need for the prophets.


Understanding the purpose of the early church prophets should give us an even greater appreciation and love for the written word.


If there were a hundred prophets in our church, together they wouldn’t be as important as that Bible that is in front of you.


We can’t imagine that they stated word for word what the writers of the NT would pen, but they would speak the same truth as God revealed it to them. This helps us to see that we are not to make an idol out of the text itself. Though the word is God, it is the truths from the glory of God in the word to the glory of God in you and me. For example, when a situation requires love, we don’t simply regurgitate 1CO 13:4-8, or some memorized definition. We come to know what love is as the word of God reveals it and we do what love would have us doing when it is needed. Paul wrote:


JAM 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.