Prophets, Prophesying, And Prophecy

In Ephesians 4:11-13, we read Paul’s basic teaching concerning what some call the “five-fold leadership ministry” in the church:

“And He [God] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The words “prophet” here is used in the sense of an office of leadership. It is, therefore, a “full time position” (in the Lord — whether it is paid or not is another story!). This is not a wavering “gift” which goes in and out. Rather, it is more a responsibility and a calling than it is a gift. Nevertheless, of course, those who are called to this office must be adequately gifted to be able to perform it – so there is gifting involved.

It is obvious that not all people are called to be prophets, in the same way that not all are called to be apostles, or evangelists, or pastors or teachers. These, then, are full-time callings in the truest sense of the words. Contrast these four or five offices with the various gifts that God gives to his people, and the various responsibilities that we are all called to assume on, what I will call, a “continual part-time” basis.

While we are not all called to be full-time evangelists, yet we are all called to evangelize in our own “way” (whether going door to door, standing in the market place, sharing with our neighbour over coffee, or whatnot). While we are not all called to be apostles, yet we are all “sent” by God to do whatever he calls us to do (which is what “apostle” means — one who is sent). While we are not all called to be pastors and teachers, yet we are all called to teach and lead others, in some manner, at some point along the way (hopefully, for all of these, at continuous points along the way — hence, on a “continual part-time” basis.).

The point, then, is that I’m making a clear distinction between the office of prophet, apostle, evangelist, etc, and the various ministry functions that we are each called to perform, which share some of the same responsibilities as these offices. They are not the same.

Like Ezekiel, God says to his prophet, when he is ready to be used, “Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads” (Ezekiel 3:8). God then, fortifies the prophet with the strength needed for the task. The prophet moves in his gifting all the time. He is born for it. It is his mandate. He is “especially gifted” and “graced” by God to be able to do the thing that God has called him to do. Like Jeremiah, he is “born for it” and “separated by God” for it (Jeremiah 1:5). Like Elijah, he will accomplish his mission, and when that mission is done, he will be taken away! (2 Kings 2:11).

God says to the prophet, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw out, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). The prophet has “fire in his bones” and everything in him says, concerning his task, “mission critical,” all the time. Indeed, he cannot rest — and God will give him no rest, either — until he does exactly what God tells him to do (Jeremiah 20:9). After all, he has been chosen for the task. Will God then give the job to someone else? Like Jonah, God would rather teach his prophet a lesson than discard him. While it is true that God would “rather teach his prophet a lesson,” if he hardens his heart so as to become truly “heardened in his way and rebellious”, he is danger of losing his life (1 Kings 13:26). Hence, the prophet, like all “teachers” and people in authority, is judged more strictly by God (James 3:1).

May it never be underestimated, God loves his prophets, and he will only use those who love those whom he has sent them to. Hence, in the cases of Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, etc. these men truly loved those whom they were sent to (the nation of Israel), Hence, again, God was able to “judge” the nation of Israel through these prophets, because they were clean vessels.