HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN
What Is a New Testament Prophet?
A prophet is a ministry gift given by God to the Church. No one can make himself a prophet or call himself to be a prophet. God alone calls and set prophets in the Church. There is an anointing on that office and the spiritual equipment of the Holy Spirit which enable a person to fulfill that function to the Body of Christ.
However, some folks get off-course doctrinally by thinking that a prophet's only function is to prophesy to people. That is only a small part of his ministry.
First and Foremost — A Preacher or Teacher of the Word
Actually, a prophet's primary purpose and main ministry is to preach or teach the Word, or to be both a teacher and a preacher of the Word. Prophesying is not the main thrust of the prophet's ministry.
Even the prophets of the Old Testament were first preachers. They were constantly preaching to the people and calling them to repentance, because much of the time the Israelites were backslidden and out of God's will. So the prophets spoke to the people in behalf of God by prophetic inspiration.
Of course, you understand that under the New Testament, prophets aren't the only preachers or teachers of the Word. The foremost ministry of any of the ministry gifts is to preach or to teach.
We see this in Jesus' ministry, who stood in all five of the ministry offices. Notice why Jesus said the Holy Spirit was given to Him: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath ANOINTED ME to PREACH THE GOSPEL ..." (Luke 4:18). One of the reasons Jesus was anointed was to preach.
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, TEACHING in their synagogues, and PREACHING the gospel of the kingdom, and HEALING every sickness and every disease among the people.
Even as a prophet, Jesus' ministry consisted, first, of teaching. Second, preaching. And third, healing. Anyone who is called to the fivefold ministry — apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher — is first called to preach or to teach the gospel.
To "preach" means to proclaim or to tell. To "teach" means to expound or to explain. Therefore, the ministry gifts are preachers or teachers because they either proclaim or explain the gospel in one respect or another. Their main function is to preach or teach the Word of God because that matures the saints and equips them for service.
Is the prophet supposed to prophesy? Yes, but that is not his main ministry. Study Jesus' prophetic ministry in the gospels. We do see spiritual gifts operating
through Him, of course.
For example, He had a word of knowledge for the woman at the well (John 4:18). Jesus used the word of knowledge to convict a sinner of a need for a Savior. And we see the gift of working of miracles (John 2:3-11), and gifts of healings in operation in His ministry (Mark 5:25-34).
As a prophet, Jesus saw and knew things supernaturally (Luke 5:22; John 1:47). However, in His prophetic ministry, Jesus didn't go around prophesying to everyone He met.
But the Bible tells us what Jesus did do. He “…. went about all the cities and villages, TEACHING …. and PREACHING THE GOSPEL of the kingdom ….” (Matt. 9:35).
Paul was also a prophet. Study his prophetic ministry. Paul was a foundational prophet because he wrote a large part of the New Testament, and it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:3). But even as a prophet of that rank, Paul did not go around prophesying to everyone he met.
Even though Paul was an apostle and a prophet, he considered himself first a preacher of the gospel.
1 TIMOTHY 2:7
Whereunto I am ordained a PREACHER, and an APOSTLE, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a TEACHER of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
2 TIMOTHY 1:11
Whereunto I am appointed a PREACHER, and an APOSTLE, and a TEACHER of the Gentiles.
In these cases where Paul mentions his ministry, he puts his preaching ministry first.
So a prophet can either be a preacher or a teacher, or both a preacher and a teacher of the gospel. Some folks only operate in the preaching ministry of the prophet; others operate only in the teaching ministry of the prophet. And some people operate in both the preaching and the teaching ministry of the prophet.
Paul operated in both the preaching and the teaching ministry of the prophet (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).
On the other hand, John the Baptist, for example, who was also a prophet, operated in the preaching ministry of the prophet (Matt. 3:1). We know John was a prophet because Jesus called him a prophet: "... Among those that are born of women there is not a greater PROPHET than John the Baptist..." (Luke 7:28).
As a prophet, John preached repentance, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere he went, he proclaimed the message of God to the people to repent and turn to God (Matt. 3:2). Repentance was his prophetic message to the people.
The prophet not only preaches the Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he can also teach the Word by inspiration too……
Of course, the prophet also has gifts of the Spirit which operate through him and equip him to stand in that office.
And we know from Paul's ministry that a person can stand in more than one office, as he is called and equipped by God. Paul stood in the offices of the apostle, prophet, and teacher.
But the point I'm trying to make is that teaching and preaching the Word is the major part of a prophet's ministry, not giving out personal messages.
You can readily see where some folks have missed it today. Many people have strange notions about what a New Testament prophet is. They build spiritual air castles or false ideas of what they think the prophet ought to be, which don't have any basis in Scripture.
Many think the prophet ought to go around giving out personal messages all the time, leading and guiding people by that office……
For example, years ago I knew a number of couples who got married because some so-called prophet prophesied to them, telling them they should marry. Every single one of those marriages failed because they looked to a so-called prophet to guide them instead of the Holy Spirit residing within. Don't marry someone just because some so-called prophet prophesies to you……
People are in danger when they go around trying to regulate other people's lives from the prophet's office……
When any so-called prophet starts prophesying about money — watch out! They aren't doing it by the Spirit of God. Sooner or later they will get into trouble because that isn't scriptural. You can't find that in the Bible……
A prophet who bases his ministry on personal prophecy instead of on preaching or teaching the Word will get into error and wreak havoc in the Body of Christ.
Prophets Speak From The Inspiration of the Moment
One of the elements of the prophet's ministry is divinely inspired speaking, or speaking under the unction and power of the Holy Spirit on the inspiration of the moment. This is true of both Old Testament and New Testament prophets.
Actually, preaching can carry an element of prophecy if it's by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is inspired utterance in a known tongue. Preaching can be inspired utterance in a known tongue too. However, not all preaching is prophesying.
The prophet often speaks by inspiration. In that sense, his preaching can be prophesying in its simple form — inspired utterance to edify, exhort, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3).
The prophet prepares himself, but not quite like the other ministry gifts prepare themselves. Yes, he prepares himself in the Word. But he prepares himself more by praying and seeking God.
Actually, it's a preparation of the heart because the prophet has to prophesy according to the proportion of his faith (Rom. 12:6). Therefore, his faith has to be kept strong by spending much time with the Lord and in His Word. Then he speaks more from inspiration, under the prophetic unction, not from something he necessarily knows mentally.
Some evangelists are really operating in a measure in the prophet's office when their preaching is inspirational and given on the spur of the moment. To "prophesy" means to speak for another, and evangelists very often speak for God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, many people we call evangelists are really exhorters. Exhorters are gifted in exhorting people to be saved and to walk with God. Romans 12:8 mentions exhorting as a ministry, but it is not a ministry gift…..
However, even though the evangelist may operate in a measure in the prophetic office if he preaches by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophet's ministry also differs significantly from the evangelist's ministry.
For one thing, the evangelist knows what he is going to preach about. He preaches Christ and Him crucified. The evangelist brings forth the message of salvation and he stays right with that message. The teacher usually knows what he is going to teach about, too, and stays right with his message.
But the prophet may not know what his subject is until he gets up to speak…..
The other ministry gifts, such as the pastor or teacher, can also speak by revelation from a sudden impulse of the moment. But speaking by the revelation of the moment with little or no forethought occurs more consistently and with greater frequency with the prophet. He speaks from the light of a sudden revelation at the moment. However, his subject is always the Word of God.
Of course, even the layman can speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because Paul said, ". . . ye may all prophesy one by one . . ." (1 Cor. 14:31). Paul was evidently referring to a believers' meeting in this passage, where all the believers participated and brought forth a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) by the simple gift of prophecy.
Laymen can speak under inspiration by the simple gift of prophecy, which is inspired utterance for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). But speaking by the simple gift of prophecy doesn't make them prophets. Paul asked the question, “… are all prophets?” (1 Cor. 12:29). Of course all people are not prophets…….
A prophet can't get up to preach or teach inspirational unless he has spent much time in preparation before the Lord. God can't pull the Word out of his spirit if a prophet hasn't spent time putting the Word into his spirit.
The Prophetic Office in Demonstration In Preaching and Teaching
As I said, many people have misunderstood the office of the prophet because they expect the prophet to always be prophesying over people. That is a minor part of the prophet's ministry……
For example, I get to preaching sometimes and say things spontaneously that I didn't know I was going to say, but I'm ministering to people prophetically in my message. The prophet's ministry is in operation, but folks miss it because they are waiting for the spectacular and they miss the supernatural.
The prophet can minister prophetically to the needs of the people in his messages because he is more sensitive to spiritual things and to the spiritual needs of the congregation. In this way, he is more sensitive to people's spiritual needs at the moment than either the evangelist or the teacher. He knows what the Holy Ghost wants to say and do in the people's midst……
The Role of Music in the Prophetic Office
Music inspired by the Holy Spirit can often enhance the prophetic anointing. In the Old Testament, music played a crucial part in the prophet's ministry (2 Kings 3:15). When the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord moved upon the prophet. The hand of the Lord is the Holy Ghost.
Music can sometimes spiritually enhance the anointing that comes upon the prophet to minister prophetically. On the other hand, if he doesn't have the right music, it can hinder him. Some music is more spiritually inspiring than other music…….
The New Testament Prophet Is a Seer
Another element of the prophetic ministry is that the prophet is a seer. A seer is one who sees into the realm of the spirit through the gift of discerning of spirits. You see, a vision is a manifestation of the gift of discerning of spirits in operation.
The gift of discerning of spirits may also be accompanied by a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge. But the vision itself is the discerning of spirits in operation because it allows the prophet to see and hear in the realm of the spirit.
Many prophets in the Old Testament and the New Testament were seers. They had revelation gifts of the Spirit operating in their ministry on a more consistent basis.
The revelation gifts which qualify a prophet to stand in that office are the word of knowledge and/or the word of wisdom and the gift of discerning of spirits, plus prophecy……..
Anyone could have a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom, or discerning of spirits operate in his life occasionally. But the prophet has the revelation gifts operating in his life on a more consistent basis……
Prophets in our day may have something revealed to them, but it is not something which adds doctrinal foundation to the Bible. It will only build upon the foundation that has already been laid.
So a true New Testament prophet is first and foremost a preacher or teacher of the Word. Second, he preaches or teaches by inspired utterance. Third, he has revelation gifts plus prophecy operating consistently in his life and ministry. Fourth, he is a seer; he sees into the realm of the Spirit as the Holy Spirit wills. These scriptural qualifications constitute the office of the New Testament prophet.
TODAY, AS SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN LAID DOWN, INCLUDING THE PROPHETIC WORD FROM THE LORD, I WOULD SAY A PROPHET IN THE CHURCH IS ALSO ONE WHO CAN FULLY UNDERSTAND GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD AS GIVEN IN THE SCRIPTURES OF THE LORD’S HOLY BIBLE. BUT THAT SAID, WE NEED TO KEEP IN MIND THAT A PROPHET TODAY IS MAINLY AS JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST WERE—— PREACHERS AND TEACHERS OF THE WORD OF GOD; PROPHETIC UNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S WORD COMING THIRD IN THEIR FUNCTION, BUT THEY DO UNDERSTAND CORRECTLY THE PROPHECIES OF GOD IN THE BIBLE.