The debate on whether the office of the prophet is still relevant, still lingers and many, especially in the Church, are still in the aqua of confusion. Many today are still being called prophet and many call themselves prophets claiming to hear some form of voice from God or having some sort of word or the other for “the church”. We have been left in the place of limbo as we struggle to want to hear the prophet so that we can hear God speak to us through him/her.
In harmony with the Old Testament, the Prophet prophesies the mind of God. When God wanted to provide information to His people, He communicated through the Prophet. Examples abound of people like Samuel, who was the last judge that ruled Israel; he was also a prophet who God used in sending His word to His people. Elijah when he was sent to Ahab to proclaim that there would not be rain until a word comes through the prophet again. Elisha was also another prophet who was used by God to convey His message to the Israelites. There are others like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel amongst others, who were representative of the message and the mind of God. In those days one couldn’t dispute the voice of the prophet because before time, all that the prophets had prophesied came to pass.
There came a change in dispensation. Jesus was initiated as the Son of God and there was a sudden cease of prophets in the gospel books as we read in the pages of scripture, when Jesus declares Himself as the Word of God incarnate. He also declared Himself as the bread of life; He says things like ‘the words I speak to you are spirit and they are life’. Through out the gospel books we do not hear of one prophet or the other prophesying in those days. Most of the statements about the prophets mentioned in this book were those of the Old Testament referring to their prophecies.
Jesus at the tail end of His ministry beckoned unto His disciples and told them that another dispensation was about to start and His was going to come to an end. ‘It is best for you that I go’, He said because the Holy Spirit has to come for the start of another dispensation. Jesus has to conclude His dispensation or administration by dying and getting buried, then the resurrection, which will jet propel the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The third person of the trinity took over in the new dispensation (Dispensation of Grace), initiated on the day of Pentecost. The Bible stipulates that as Christ ascended to heaven, He gave gifts to men. Some were Prophets, some were Apostles, some Pastor/Teachers and some Evangelists. We saw the totality of the display of these gifts in the book of Acts and one particularly draws attention. This is the prophet Agabus. It was said of him that all he prophesied came to pass especially when there was going to be famine throughout the world in the days of Claudius Caesar. It was recorded that the prophecy came to fruition and preparations were made by the disciples to send relief to the disciples that were in need…Acts 11: 28-30.
Please note that the reason why we have these gifts was because the mystical body called the Church was going to be formed and there ought to be ways of administration so that things can be done decently and in order. So we would read later on in the sacred book that the foundations of the church has been built on that of the Apostles and Prophets and there is no other foundation which can be laid for the church again except it’s for something else. This means that what is left is for us as ministers of the gospel to build on the foundation that has already being laid. Does this mean there would be a fading out of the offices of the Prophets and the Apostles? Let’s read on.
Paul was travelling to Jerusalem. They had arrived at Ptolemais and his entourage decides to continue in their journey to Caesarea leaving Paul behind. As he waited there for some days, prophet Agabus appeared from Judea again prophesying against the journey. Obviously this prophet had a record of prophesying and he never failed in his prophecies. He got to where Paul was and he took Paul’s girdle or belt in today’s language and with the belt he bound his own hands and feet and prophesied saying “thus says the Holy Spirit: the Jews at Jerusalem shall bind like this the man who owns this belt, and they shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles”.
It was Paul’s belt, they exclaimed and immediately there was a plea coupled with weeping asking Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Everything that was prophesied by Agabus was that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. Paul did not budge rather he felt the people around him got hysterical at what the prophet said. They were making it hard for Paul as they wept; rather he told them that they were looking at the whole issue and predicament from the human perception. He made them realize that the issue in Jerusalem was not about what they will do to him, his arrest or even him being murdered, but in what his master (Jesus) does through obedience to his Word.
He arrived Jerusalem and was able to explain to the disciples at the headquarters (Peter, James and John) about what God had been doing through him with his ministry to the Gentiles. They were also eager to tell Paul of their ordeal and how they had heard that Paul told the non-Jews that they didn’t need to be circumcised and that people, especially the Jews were not happy with Paul. They also highlighted their worry of what could possibly happen when the Jews finally find out that Paul was in Jerusalem. There would be pandemonium.
Finally he was rounded up by the Jews and arrested. He was allowed to speak and make a defense for himself, which he did. He told the story of how God had apprehended him and given him an assignment for the Gentiles. He came into a barrage as men around him slapped and hit him so many times. One would say that it looked like Agabus was right up till this point. Some would say he should have listened to the prophecy, while some will see him as stubborn and hard headed.
He was beaten but was not killed and at night while he was incarcerated, God appeared to him, stood beside Him and told him “take courage, Paul, for as you have testified and borne faithful witness concerning me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome”. Wow, Paul would be encouraged by this that he was right in the center of God’s will for his life; not only would he thank God for the encouragement, he would also thank God that he didn’t respond to the sentiments by the brethren when Agabus prophesied. Obviously Paul was right to go to Jerusalem because it was the will of God for him to be a witness for Him in that town.
Soon after, the Church was formed and the Apostles and Prophets faded out and left the building of the Church upon the foundation already laid to the Pastor/Teachers and evangelists. We would soon be left with the Bible which is the word of God, should incase we want to know the mind of God: signifying the end to the era of the “thus saith the Lord” and moving unto the learning of the Scriptures taught by the remaining offices (Pastor/Teacher and Evangelist).
The voice of God therefore ought to be heard and taught through the pages of the scriptures because there came an end to the same way(s) that God spoke in the Old Testament. The children of Israel didn’t have Bibles like we do today so God had to send prophets to them. Today, if we want/need to hear His Word, we can only do ourselves a lot of good when we hear Him as taught by the skilled Pastor/Teacher, who knows and has been trained to understand and teach the Word of God.
Peter, in his second epistle, tied this up when he warned that as there were false prophets in those days, people should be very cautious that in this dispensation, there would also be false teachers among us in the church, who will smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting us against each other – biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back. He further said that these false Teachers have put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong. He equated the prophet in the Old Testament to the teacher in the New Testament.
I have little poise in those people who speak of having received direct revelationsfrom the Lord, as though He appeared otherwise than by and through the sacred scriptures. His word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh exposé to you or me is quite needless – C H Spurgeon
Beware of people who claim to hear God’s voice they are false!