Now we get into the more contentious ground of the APEPT. So often when we study the scripture and fall into disagreements or find false teaching making its way through the Body of Christ, we can easily become concerned or worried, even fearful, about the impact of these things. When fear or worry rise up the only wise recourse is to consult the Lord; to pray and search the scripture.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (NIV)
It’s the Lord we want to listen to, not men and not the doctrines of men. And Jesus knows us, knows our needs, our hope for understanding; He knows we need wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
So, encouraged by these scriptures, I’m willing to explore the APEPT concept of prophets, because I know that God will generously give me wisdom and Jesus my good shepherd knows me; He will lead me and I will follow. And He knows every Christian who reads this and will lead them too; He will not let me lead them astray. Seek His wisdom and listen to His voice and anything you think comes from my mere human understanding, please feel free to throw that away without hesitation.
At this time in history most of us have no exposure to prophets of God, except through reading about them in the Bible. What is clear is that God speaks to prophets. He gives them visions and words, directly from Him. How this works though is not always obvious. Isaiah and Ezekiel saw astonishing visions of heavenly things, which they described in detail. Daniel and John the apostle had angels appear to them, to give them messages. Other prophets tell us only that “the Word of the Lord” came to them and they wrote it down or declared it.
For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
Think about that statement for a moment – we know from scripture that we humans don’t know everything that God has done, or is doing (see for example the end of John’s gospel John 21:25). So, telling others what they know can’t be the whole of the function of a prophet, since God tells them everything He’s doing, but not everything God has done is written down or revealed to humanity at large.
I think it’s important to remember that when Old Testament authors speak of prophets, they actually frequently refer to prophets and seers; seers are see-ers, literally people who see. In Christian terms, God reveals things to such people and they see. They are God’s chosen witnesses, able to testify of the truth of God’s actions, because he told them and showed them, before events occurred.
I said in my first article, that APEPT gifts were gifts God gives to the body through a person. I think that prophets and seers violate this rule somewhat, because God gives some aspects of prophecy to some folks just for Himself. He tells and shows the prophets and seers, so that they can bear witness of His glory, something humanity has struggled to do correctly since the first rebellion in the garden of Eden. Sometimes He sends prophets to others to tell what they witnessed, but they bear witness to Him first, whether the rest of us hear about it or not.
New Testament Prophets
Paul the apostle encourages all Christians to desire the gift of prophecy. And in Paul’s day the scripture tells us that there were still prophets about, giving words from God (e.g. Acts 21:9-11). We also have one full New Testament book of prophecy, the Revelation to the Apostle John. Is there any more hotly contested book in the scripture? Even today, some claim that its events are imminent and others claim that they have already happened. Many try to decipher the imagery and others dismiss it as impenetrable.
The variety of responses to Revelation is a good metaphor for the church’s response to prophets. But whether we embrace the idea of prophets or reject it, there are two facts that are extremely important in understanding prophets now, because of the event that splits history completely in half; the resurrection of Jesus.
The first important fact is that the coming of the Holy Spirit means, in at least one sense, every believer has the capacity to prophesy. As Peter quotes the prophet Joel:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2: 16 & 17; Joel 2:28
New Covenant, New High Priest
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple that separated the Holiest Holy place from the rest of the world was torn in two (Matt 27:51). This isn’t just a metaphor. Now our high priest, Jesus, brings us directly into the holiest place – the presence of the Living God – by the grace of His blood sacrificed for us. There is no more separation between God’s people and himself.
But even if all of us have the Holy Spirit within us and are able to prophesy, God can and does, still set apart witnesses to His glory. Certainly that’s what the New Testament authors tell us.
The second reason that prophets under the New Covenant don’t seem used by God the way they were in the Old, is that God introduced a role with His new covenant that was even more potent than that of prophet – the apostle. Old Testament prophets like Moses and Elijah, did more than just speak; they performed miracles and confronted evil spirituality directly. They were elite, frontline soldiers in the clash between God’s spiritual kingdom and the Prince of this world. The pagan false gods and sorcerers of Egypt, of the Moabites and the Philistines and all the others, were confronted by prophets – people chosen by God, who had already sat long with Him personally; not just His word or godly teaching, but with God personally, witnesses of His glory.
Apostles take over this role in the New Covenant, having sat with Jesus personally.
Coming Soon: Apostles of the Lord
Next article I’ll deal with the gift of apostles. It’s the one of which I have the least first-hand experience, in that I have never met a single living apostle. I mentioned in previous articles examples of APEPT gifts I feel I have personally experienced – that is to say, I feel I have met believers gifted as evangelists, pastors and teachers. In my walk with the Lord I have met, or heard speak, a couple of folks who have been proclaimed as prophets, men and women. Not proclaimed by God so much, as by humans.
But I’ve only met one man who showed signs that testified that he could be a genuine prophet, as opposed to just someone who prophesied and got it right sometimes; and he never gave himself the title of prophet or called himself by it. Neither did anyone else, to my knowledge.
We People Get it Wrong, but Our Trust is in the Lord
As I’ve said before, and concerning this gift, I give the warning as strenuously as I can: APEPT gifts are NOT titles. They are NOT badges of honour. They are tools that God provides to some workers, for them to do the work He directs.
Many have misunderstood the role of this APEPT gift in our modern church. Some have been too willing to hand out prophet titles and prophet ID cards. Time and again, not understanding the true purpose of prophecy, this leads Christians into error; sometimes, into gross sin.
Others, rightly concerned by the excesses that have come with so many modern “prophets”, have erred in the other direction, denying the existence of any prophets. They claim that prophecy is gone from the Body of Christ, despite the clear scriptural evidence to the contrary.
So, knowing that God will give us wisdom without reproach when we ask, let us all be willing to ask and grow in wisdom. Paul urges us to all earnestly desire to prophesy (1Cor 14: 39). What I have shared with you is my understanding. I do not seek to change anyone’s mind, nor to recruit others to think as I do. I only offer what I believe is true. May it bless you.
Previous APEPT Articles: