“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”
-1 Corinthians 12:27-31 [53-57 A.D.]
“Therefore, take the first portions of the products of the winepress and threshing floor — cattle and sheep, too — and give them to the prophets, because the prophets are your chief priests. If you do not have any prophets, though, give to the poor.”
-The Instruction of the Twelve Apostles [70-110 A.D.]
(Note: this is the second part of a two-part post. The first part is here.)
A couple of days ago, I explored what “apostles” are. My conclusion: “apostles” are missionaries, have the highest of all callings, and are still around today. (And we should treat them better than we do!)
Today, I’d like to look at what “prophets” are. Are they just glorified weathermen, or is there something deeper going on? As an example, let’s take a look at Zechariah’s prophecy, when his son John was being named (it’s long; forgive me):
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
What can we see here? More than half of Zechariah’s prophecy is in the past tense! He wasn’t just predicting that John would be John the Baptist, the voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus; he was proclaiming God’s faithfulness, and the prediction was just one facet of that proclamation. Prophecy isn’t the mere prediction of future events; it’s proclaiming what God has done and what God will do, in order to make people love God more. Prophecy is a means; repentance is the end.
That’s why The Instruction of the Twelve Apostles (the earliest church guide we have) can assume that most congregations have a “prophet.” In fact, the vast majority of congregations today have at least one prophet, too. That’s because “prophets” are preachers. The proclamation of God’s word — regardless of whether it’s accompanied by the prediction of future events — is, by its very nature, prophecy.
And that’s why Paul calls prophecy the second greatest spiritual gift — because “the prophets[, who] are your chief priests” are responsible to proclaim God’s word to you and make you love God more. They have a heavy responsibility and deserve much respect because of it.