Q. Can you help understand the roles of the old and new testament prophets? I have searched your site over and over, yet I am still not completely grasping the concepts. I ask this because recently my pastor has asked some of us who have the gift of prophecy to listen to the Holy Spirit and if He gives promptings, visions, dreams, etc about him and the church we are at liberty to share this with him and allow him (my pastor) to judge those and make a decision. However, in the group I am the only one who believes that the office of prophet is no longer used outside of Christ. (Hebrews 1:2)
I would really like your help in understanding the roles of the prophets of the old testament and the ones of the new and please clarify the five fold ministry gifts to me. I really appreciate your help.
A. In the Old Testament, God appointed prophets to speak for Him, and held them accountable for accuracy. According to my understanding of Hebrews 1:2 Jesus was the last of these prophets.
In the New Testament the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon some the gift of prophecy for the purpose of comforting, strengthening, and encouraging, as you’ve indicated. Those with the gift of prophecy can also “fill in the blanks” by relating God’s word to a local or even personal application. As an example you may receive a word of prophecy about how your local fellowship should apply the great commission in your community, or how an individual can most effectively minister to the body. However I believe that every such prophecy should be confirmed by the testimony of an independent witness.
The limiting factor today is that every word of prophecy has to conform to what the Bible has already said. In other words prophets can not proclaim that God is doing a “new thing” because God doesn’t do new things. He does what He has already promised to do. (By the way, you should tell your friends that if they want the same authority as Old Testament prophets then they have to accept the same consequences if they’re ever wrong, because that went with the Old Testament office. They can’t have it both ways.)
Regarding the five fold ministry, I’m not convinced that Paul intended for every congregation to have each of these “offices” present within its own membership. I see Ephesians 4:11-13 as a general statement applying the the body as a whole, not to individual congregations. Remember, he argued against “divisions” (1 Cor. 1:10-17) so it seems unlikely to me that he would then advocate each congregation or even each denomination being a stand alone body. As for their purpose, the Greek word he used for apostle describes an ambassador or commissioner. Likewise a prophet is a foreteller, an evangelist is a preacher, a pastor is a shepherd and a teacher is an instructor.