The Role of the Prophet in the New Testament Church by Rev. Mark J. Dibois, Ph.D. Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies http://ficotw.org/school.html
There are many today in numerous churches and denominations that are of the firm opinion that the office of Prophet is an office which no longer exists in the body of Christ.
The foundation of such an argument is based in the notion that Prophets should be prescient, and are therefore solely needed to predict the future. Since all the future events that effect the body of Christ have been clearly delineated with the completion of John’s book of Revelations; it would seem that the role of the Prophet is obsolete. In spite of all this , a careful examination of the scriptures indicates that the office of Prophet is alive and well in the body of Christ today.
No exposition of the office of Prophet would be complete without a thorough examination of the actual name "Prophet" in the original language of the Bible.
The Hebrew word for Prophet is the word nabi from a root meaning "to bubble forth, as from a fountain," hence "to utter". This Hebrew word is the first and the most generally used for a prophet.
This word is first explained in Numbers 12:6-8
Nu 12:6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
In this particular passage the Prophet is seen as a seer behind the vision of God. Thus a spokesman for God.
Simply put a prophet is "one who speaks for God". This is clearly seen in the following verses:
Jer 1:9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Isa 51:16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.
Here we see that both Jeremiah and Isaiah were Prophets and as such were anointed to speak what God spoke.
Prophets were immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men :
De 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
In this sense we can deduce that the entire Word of God is a prophetic work since it was written by men who received its content from God.
Fortelling the future was not a necessary part of being a Prophet. In fact; prescient declarations were the exception, and not the rule.
In general the greatest role of the Prophet was in the correction of the church( or nation of Israel) and the proclamation of moral truths which are connected to the character of God, and the foundation of His government in the church.
In New Testament times the Prophetical office was continued.
Jesus was referred to as a Prophet:
Lu 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
Lu 24:18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
Joh 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Joh 4:44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
It is interesting to note that little is depicted about the role of the role of the “New testament prophet”. This can also be said of the other offices in the body of Christ. It is therefore no stretch to assume that the role of the Prophet is essentially unchanged from its function and duty in the Old Testament.
If we carry over from Old Testament to New Testament, the role of the Prophet is :
a.) to Speak for God
b.) to exhort and direct the body of Christ.
c. ) It is also clear that this office is considered high in its order of importance:
1Co 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.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
d.) When a Prophet speaks in an open congregation his words are to be judged.
1Co 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
e. ) There must be distinction made between one who speaks out under the unction of the gift of prophecy and one who is a Prophet. The Prophet is an office. The individual in that office will almost certainly operate in the gift of Prophecy as well as other revelation gifts (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discernment of spirits) but should not be limited to this. Elijah for example operated in the gift of miracles.
f. ) Prophets are not necessarily preachers. It has been assumed by many that any one who preaches is a prophet. While that is certainly possible, it is not a rule.
g. ) Prophets are also in control of their gifts and are able to function decently and in order ( this principle applies to all gifts and their use)
1Co 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
h. ) The office of Prophet and the gift of prophecy is not exclusive to men:
Ac 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
Jg 4:4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
i.) The New Testament Prophet is also used to tell individuals of future events and to admonish those persons or individuals with regard to those events.
Ac 21:10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
In conclusion it may be revealed that the office of Prophet is very much a part of the New Testament Church. His or Her role is one of aiding the various members in hearing from God and placing them in the correct path of God’s will. There are some New Testament Prophets that use their gifts to predict the course of various members of Christ’s body as well as predicting the course of some individuals. Prophets operate primarily in the revelation gifts. They are maintainers of order in themselves and Body at large. The Prophets offices is as essential today as it was in the days of Elijah or Jeremiah.
copyright 2000 Rev. Mark J. Dibois Used by permission.