DoctrineIs the New Testament Pastor a Prophet? by Scott Bushey
There was a recent discussion at our Thursday evening bible study in regards to prophesy. One of the charges was, that even though the gift itself, i.e. revelation has ceased, the characteristic, i.e proclamation, is still valid in that the present day preacher does that every Lord’s day. Think of a dissection of sorts, not only in characteristic but of even who the gift applies to.
After doing some research, it is evident that there are different strains of cessationism. Some hold to a fuller understanding of the gifts available in our age and others believe that some of the characteristics of the gifts remain. For instance, Wayne Grudem, John Piper.
My argument against these men is that tied to the term ‘prophecy’, are the characteristics that come with the title; nowhere in the New Testament do we ever see the gift of prophecy apart from revelation. Neither do we see it aligned with teaching or preaching as synonymous; nor do we see any indication that one could have just a portion of the gift.
God’s word tells us that prophecy was a gift for the church at large; not just the pastor and that is an important distinction to note. If the gift of prophecy is still in play, then it cannot be secluded to just the pastor as that would be problematic in light of the way God had given that gift in the first place. If you are to say, “It is not the gift per se but just a portion of the gift, i.e. teaching, expounding, defining, etc.” Thinking along these lines has repercussion; it may do an injustice to the office of teaching elder as we are intermingling gifts, i.e gift of teaching and gift of prophesy and we don’t see that anywhere in scripture where there is no distinction; Could a pastor during the specific time period when these gifts were still operational have both gifts? I would assume yes. However, in this age, the distinction fights against the idea. Teaching elders would then have the gift of delivering proclamations specific to the gift of prophesy and proclamations specific to the gift of teaching. How does one differentiate?
The Gift of teaching:
The gifting included the gift of explaining what God’s word said to the people of God. Prophesy and teaching cannot be the same gifts as scripture doesn’t refer to them in that light.
Look at how 1 Corinthians refers to the gift:
1Cor. 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
1Cor. 14:6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?
1Cor. 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let hall things be done for edification.
To say that the present day elder has the gift of prophesy and teaching, and it being that it is primarily for the teaching elder only (in regard to prophesy), expounding on the word of God, is stretching it as again, it was never just for an elder to begin with, but all peoples of God. To say that teaching and prophesy are that close in distinctives cannot be correct as God’s word doesn’t tell us that. Why would the gift of teaching need help from the gift of expounding via the characteristic of the prophetic gift? Well, you might reply, ‘It is not that it needs help, it is an augmenting of the teacher’s gift of teaching.’ How can you differentiate between the gifts-how would God’s people differentiate? How does God’s word differentiate the differences? They don’t, as I have said and shown. Well, you again might reply, “Why do we need to differentiate?” It’s a level of confusion. Thats my issue; God is not meant to be confusing in most instances (babel) and when it comes to His people, especially when we are talking of His faithful leadership, I would contend to say that He never intends to confuse.
The greek words are clear:
4396. προφήτης prophetes; from a comp. of 4253 and 5346; a prophet (an interpreter or forth-teller of the divine will): —prophet(59), Prophet(4), prophet’s(1), prophets(80).
1320. διδάσκαλος didaskalos; from 1321; an instructor: —teacher(10), Teacher(41), teachers(8).
1321. διδάσκω didasko; a redupl., caus. form of δάω (to learn); to teach: —instructed(2), preaches(1), taught(13), teach(33), teaches(5), teaching(43).
1322. διδαχή didache; from 1321; doctrine, teaching: —instruction(2), teaching(27), teachings(1).
The following material and quotes help explain:
Look what continuationist, John Piper says:
“Present day prophesy is not “infallible, Scripture-level, authoritative speaking,” but rather “something that God spontaneously brings to mind in the moment, and—because we are fallible in the way we perceive it, and the way we think about it, and the way we speak it—it does not carry that same level of infallible, Scripture-level authority.”
Why would God decree this gift for his people if it has no authority or validity? It cannot be seen as any more than babbling, then. I compare this with our present day Media. Who believes the media anymore? Really. Everyone knows that the media is nothing more than spin doctors and is chronically plagued with partisan views. In light of simple logic, I have no idea how Piper can keep a straight face while making this comment. Essentially, what he is saying is that if I speak in relation to any subject and it is encouraging in any way to God’s people, it does not need to have any relationship to God’s word at all, but that doesn’t mean that it is void of God nor invaluable to the body of Christ! I don’t quite follow this line of thinking…..
Look at what John MacArthur says of this Piper quote:
“John’s view is also Wayne Grudem’s view, and represents a radical departure from the historic position of the Christian church. More to the point, it is a direct contradiction of 2 Peter 1:21: “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” What God gave to His prophets was not diminished one iota by human fallibility.”
In the recent Strange Fire Conference at Grace Community Church, Steve Lawson specifically addressed Calvin and what he had to say in his day in regards to the Anabaptists and Libertines:
In his commentary on Acts 21:9 Calvin states his understanding of first century prophecy. He says it should last for but a short time, “lest the faithful should always wait for some farther thing, or lest that curious wits might have occasion given to seek or invent some new thing every now and then.” He states that God took away new revelation in order to testify that the end of revelation was present in Christ. The fullness of what God wants us to know has now been given to us. The faith once for all delivered to the saints.
In his commentary on Romans 12:6 he states what he understands prophecy to be after the first century: the understanding and clear communication of what has already been revealed. He says the same in his commentary of Hebrews 1:1-2. The word God gave in Christ was the final conclusion. Believing in further revelation implies that the revelation in Christ wasn’t enough.
Institutes 1.9.3 – Word and Spirit belong inseparably together. If you take anything away from Calvin, take this. “For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God’s face, shines; and that we may in turn embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived when we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word.”
Institutes 2.15.2 – “This, however, remains certain: the perfect doctrine he has brought has made an end to all prophecies. All those, then, who, not content with the gospel, patch it with something extraneous to it, detract from Christ’s authority.”
IMO, if you use the term ‘prophesy’ in relation to anything in our age, it must be understood in light of what God’s word says; it is not an ambiguous term and has a direct relationship on revelation that the church needed prior to the canonization.
Tim Challies goes on to say, ‘I want to end this in a very simple way. What would Calvin say to this present generation? The answer is what he said to his own generation:
1) The exclusivity of biblical authority. There is only one stream of revelation or there are two streams. Catholics wanted two streams on one side, the charismatics wanted two streams on the other side. And Calvin said No, there is only one stream of revelation after the first century, the written word of God. Sola Scriptura.
2) The priority of biblical preaching. Calvin understood that when you look to more than one stream of revelation, you diminish the pulpit. Having one stream—the word of God—necessitates biblical preaching. Having other streams only downplays and marginalizes biblical preaching.
3) The unity of Spirit and Word. Calvin was convinced that only one stream of revelation joins together the Spirit and the Word in their tightest bond. Two streams drives a wedge between the two. The Spirit is at work only where the written word of God is being preached, shared, taught, read, etc.
Calvin towers over church history as the most substantial theologian who has been given to the church. We would do well to hear from him.
I will let him have the final word. “Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God… Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God” (Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians).’
You see no mention of prophecy. In that, I don’t believe Calvin was making the statements you posed in your email outside of a description on the 1st century church.
What is a prophet and what are the characteristics of the office?
“1. THE SCRIPTURAL IDEA OF A PROPHET.
a. The terms used in Scripture. The Old Testament uses three words to designate a prophet, namely, nabhi, ro’eh, and chozeh. The radical meaning of the word nabhi is uncertain, but it is evident from such passages as Ex. 7:1 and Deut. 18:18 that the word designates one who comes with a message from God to the people. The words ro’eh and chozeh stress the fact that the prophet is one who receives revelations from God, particularly in the form of visions. These words are used interchangeably. Other designations are “man of God”, “messenger of the Lord”, and “watchman”. These appellatives indicate that the prophets are in the special service of the Lord, and watch for the spiritual interests of the people. In the New Testament the word prophetes is used, which is composed of pro andphemi. The preposition is not temporal in this case. Consequently, the word prophemi does not mean “to speak beforehand”, but “to speak forth”. The prophet is one who speaks forth from God. From these names, taken together, we gather that a prophet is one who sees things, that is, who receives revelations, who is in the service of God, particularly as a messenger, and who speaks in His name.
b. The two elements combined in the idea. The classical passages, Ex. 7:1 and Deut. 18:18 indicate that there are two elements in the prophetic function, the one passive, and the other active, the one receptive, and the other productive. The prophet receives divine revelations in dreams, visions, or verbal communications; and passes these on to the people, either orally, or visibly in prophetical actions, Num. 12:6-8; Isa. 6; Jer. 1:4-10; Ezek. 3:1-4,17.
Of these two elements the passive is the most important, because it controls the active element. Without receiving, the prophet cannot give, and he cannot give more than he receives. But the active is also an integral element. One who receives a revelation is not yet necessarily a prophet. Think of Abimelech, Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar, who all received revelations. What constitutes one a prophet, is the divine calling, the instruction, to communicate the divine revelation to others.
c. The duty of the prophets. It was the duty of the prophets to reveal the will of God to the people. This might be done in the form of instruction, admonition and exhortation, glorious promises, or stern rebukes. They were the ministerial monitors of the people, the interpreters of the law, especially in its moral and spiritual aspects. It was their duty to protest against mere formalism, to stress moral duty, to urge the necessity of spiritual service, and to promote the interests of truth and righteousness. If the people departed from the path of duty, they had to call them back to the law and to the testimony, and to announce the coming terror of the Lord upon the wicked. But their work was also intimately related to the promise, the gracious promises of God for the future. It was their privilege to picture the glorious things which God had in store for His people. It is also evident from Scripture that the true prophets of Israel typified the great coming prophet of the future, Deut. 18:15, cf. Acts 3:22-24, and that He was already functioning through them in the days of the Old Testament, I Pet. 1:11”
4392. πρόφασις prophasis; from 4314 and 5316; a pretense: —appearance’s sake(2), excuse(1), pretense(3), pretext(1).
4393. προφέρω prophero; from 4314 and 5342; to bring forth: —brings forth(2).
4394. προφητεία propheteia; from 4395; prophecy: — prophecies(1), prophecy(15), prophesying(1), prophetic utterance(1), prophetic utterances(1).
4395. προφητεύω propheteuo; from 4396; to foretell, tell forth, prophesy: —prophesied(5), prophesies(3), prophesy(16), prophesying(3), prophetesses(1).
4396. προφήτης prophetes; from a comp. of 4253 and 5346; a prophet (an interpreter or forth-teller of the divine will): —prophet(59), Prophet(4), prophet’s(1), prophets(80).
4397. προφητικός prophetikos; from 4396; prophetic: —prophetic(1), prophets(1)
4398. προφῆτις prophetis; fem. of 4396; a prophetess: —prophetess(2).
4399. προφθάνω prophthano; from 4253 and 5348; to anticipate: —spoke first(m)(1).
4400. προχειρίζω procheirizo; from a comp. of 4253 and 5495; to put into the hand, to take into one’s hand, hence to determine: —appoint(1), appointed(2).
4401. προχειροτονέω procheirotoneo; from 4253 and 5500; to appoint beforehand: —chosen beforehand(1).
The Greek word or any of it’s cognates are never used outside of the idea that it was a foretelling.
Fred Zaspel writes in regards to the Greek rendering:
The verb “prophesy” means “to speak before” (from Greek pro, before, and phemi, to speak). The gift includes both the idea of foretelling and forthtelling, predicting the future and preaching. A prophet was God’s mouthpiece: he spoke for God and gave His message. Sometimes that message was regarding the future. Other times it concerned the present, even the past, or simply doctrinal truth, but it was always God’s message spoken forth.
Zaspel goes on to say:
Some controversy arises at this point. Today’s renewed interest and investigation of the spiritual gifts has seen many non-charismatics redefine the gift of prophecy. The Charismatics, of course, readily admit the revelatory nature of this gift and claim its operation today. Some modern non-charismatics have defined the gift in another way, resulting in an interpretation which allows the gift of prophecy today but not in its revelatory sense. They say that the gift of prophecy means only the ability to speak forth for God, to preach; it is not necessarily, they say, a revelatory gift, but the ability to preach the truth of God’s Word with great power and insight.
The issue can be stated in the form of two questions: 1) Is it Scripturally allowable to limit the gift to only forthtelling (as opposed to predictive prophecy)? and, 2) Is there in that forthtelling nothing revelatory? That is, is it merely the ability to expound previously revealed truth?
This was the issue last evening……
“First of all, it must be recognized that one who prophesies is a prophet. This would seem obvious enough, but there are those who seek to support this idea of non-revelatory prophecy by making sharp distinction between these two — a prophet being the one with the revelatory gifts and the one who prophesies being merely the preacher of previously revealed truth. This distinction is both gratuitous and impossible to demonstrate exegetically. One who teaches is a teacher. One who preaches is a preacher. And one who prophesies is a prophet. There is simply no evidence of any distinction between a prophet and one with the gift of prophecy.”
I will at this point introduce Ephesians 4:11:
Eph. 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Paul clearly shows the difference here. Some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, some teachers. All the Greek words here are different. To intermingle the gifts, one into another is faulty and is chaotic. Since the gift of prophesy has ceased, there is no longer a need for the prophetic gift or prophet.
One prominent pastor writes on this passage:
“In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul says, “God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” That statement adds weight not only to the idea of divine calling but also to the chronological significance (“first, … second, … third”) in the giving of these gifted men to the church.
The first two classes of gifted men, apostles and prophets, were given three basic responsibilities:
(1) to lay the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20); (2) to receive and declare the revelation of God’s Word (Acts 11:28; 21:10–11; Eph. 3:5); and (3) to give confirmation of that Word through “signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12; cf. Acts 8:6–7; Heb. 2:3–4).”
Do we need signs, wonders and miracles still as a confirmation? If you say yes, in what way? This is a sticky wicket in that it tells the body of Christ that it is God’s word, plus these things; it is prophecy and God’s word; and as I have said, what could a prophet bring to the table in regard to information that we already have?
In this age, as Hebrews 1 tells us:
Heb. 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
As well, when one exegetes 1 Cor 14 properly, it can be seen that the gift of prophecy is not restrained to office holders. It was for the people, the local church members that were gifted accordingly. Hence, if it is still valid, it is not solely the title associated with the local pastor as he preaches, but to the lay people as well whenever they speak of the things of God. All, when they are speaking God’s word, are uttering prophecy.
1Cor. 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
24 But if all prophesy…..
The gift was available to all peoples in the local church.
James Reisling notes on 1 Corinthians 14:26, “The use of apokalupsis instead [of prophetia] suggests that Paul wanted to stress the nature of prophecy as revelation against teaching… Prophecy receives its content through revelation, teaching from tradition.”
“Furthermore, it must be recognized that the only passage in the New Testament which treats the subject of prophets and prophecy in an exhaustive manner is I Corinthians 14 (in its context, beginning with I Corinthians 12). In this passage as well, the revelatory character of the gift is clearly present. In I Corinthians 12:28 prophets are ranked as more important than teachers. In I Corinthians 13:2 the gift of prophecy is explained as “understanding all mysteries and all knowledge.” A “mystery,” in New Testament terminology, is a secret, something unknowable apart from direct revelation. The underlying assumption is that the gift involved special revelation.
I Corinthians 14:1 states the theme of the entire chapter — the superiority of prophecy to tongues. Verse 3 mentions prophecy but not in a definitive way; it only states the results of the proper exercise of the gift, namely, edification. In other words, verse 3 explains exactly why prophecy is superior to tongues. The following verses expand that argument: prophecy is intelligible speech, and tongues is not; hence, prophecy is superior. And in that sense prophecy is associated with other intelligible speaking gifts, such as teaching (verses 6, 9).
In the following section of chapter 14 prophecy and tongues are associated in this very respect — that they are both revelatory in nature (verses 26-30; cf., verse 2). Finally, verses 29 and 30 clearly demand that the gift of prophecy being exercised in the church of Corinth was revelatory; it plainly states that the prophecy was something “revealed.”
Is God still revealing? Yes, through His word alone; there is no longer a need for this gift as the totality of God’s message to God’s people has been canonized. What we have is sufficient for the man of God. We need no new revelation. What the pastor brings is just that; he proclaims what is in the Bible. It is not revelatory. Well you might say, “Scott, isn’t the book of revelation revelatory?” yes it is, but it is canonized revelation. When our pastor speaks of these things that are revelatory, it is not new revelation nor additional. In that sense, it cannot be said that what he brings is prophetic.
1 Cor 13:8 shows that the gift has ceased:
1Cor. 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
The Greek words used in both instances in verse 8 show that the gifts are finished.
In the opening portion, ‘love never fails’ is rendered:
GK G1738 | S G1601 ἐκπίπτω ekpiptō 10x
to fall off or from, Acts 12:7; 27:32; met. to fall from, forfeit, lose, Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 3:17; to be cast ashore, Acts 27:17, 26, 29; to fall to the ground, be fruitless, ineffectual, Rom. 9:6; to cease, come to an end, Jas. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:24* → fail; fall; fall away.
This shows the perpetuity of love.
In regards to the next section, ‘prophecies, they will fail’. This is not the same Greek word for ‘fail’
GK G2934 | S G2673 καταργέω katargeō 27x
to render useless or unproductive, occupy unprofitable, Lk. 13:7; to render powerless, Rom. 6:6; to make empty and unmeaning, Rom. 4:14; to render null, to abrogate, cancel, Rom. 3:3, 31; Eph. 2:15; to bring to an end, 1 Cor. 2:6; 13:8; 15:24, 26; 2 Cor. 3:7; to destroy, annihilate, 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 2:14; to free from, dissever from, Rom. 7:2, 6; Gal. 5:4 → destroy; nullify; release.
and in the next portion, ‘tongues, they will cease’
GK G4264 | S G3973 παύω pauō 15x
to cause to pause or cease, restrain, prohibit, 1 Pet. 3:10; mid. perf. πέπαυται, to cease, stop, leave off, desist, refrain, 1 Pet. 4:1 → finish; stop.
Zaspel concludes with:
“Several factors demand that the gift of prophecy is no longer given to the church.
1) The most obvious reason that the gift is no longer given is that there is no need for it today. God has given a complete revelation which is altogether sufficient in all matters of faith and practice. The prophets met a unique need of that first century church, before this revelation was available. The church today does not need any prophets to give new revelation, only teachers and preachers to expose it to the Revelation already given.
2) No revelation is being given today (cf., chapter 13). No one today can add a verse to Scripture; no one today is receiving new truth.
3) The prophets were the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), which is now complete (cf., chapter 13).
4) I Corinthians 13:8-13 specifically predicts their demise with the completed canon of Scripture. With a complete Scripture, the other prophecies are useless.
Prophecy was an important gift to the church and met a unique need in the early church, but it is no longer needed or given. Its “partial” messages (I Corinthians 13:9) have been replaced by the complete Revelation. The church today stands, then, at a great advantage without it.”
1 Cor 13:10
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
The Greek words here help us in coming to a conclusion:
GK G3538 | S G3313 μέρος meros 42x
a part, portion, division, of a whole, Lk. 11:36; 15:12; Acts 5:2; Eph. 4:16; a piece, fragment, Lk. 24:42; Jn. 19:23; a party, faction, Acts 23:9; allotted portion, lot, destiny, Mt. 24:51; Lk. 12:46; a calling, craft, Acts 19:27; a partner’s portion, partnership, fellowship, Jn. 13:8; pl. μέρη, a local quarter, district, region, Mt. 2:22; 16:13; Acts 19:1; Eph. 4:9; side of a ship, Jn. 21:6; ἐν μέρει, in respect, 2 Cor. 3:10; 9:3; Col. 2:16; 1 Pet. 4:16; μέρος τι, partly, in some part, 1 Cor. 11:18; ἀνὰ μέρος, alternately, one after another, 1 Cor. 14:27; ἀπὸ μέρους, partly, in some part or measure, 2 Cor. 1:14; ἐκ μέρους, individually, 1 Cor. 12:27; partly, imperfectly, 1 Cor. 13:9; κατὰ μέρος, particularly, in detail, Heb. 9:5 → place; region; share.
GK G5455 | S G5046 τέλειος teleios 19x
brought to completion; fully accomplished, fully developed, Jas. 1:4a; fully realized, thorough, 1 Jn. 4:18; complete, entire, as opposed to what is partial and limited, 1 Cor. 13:10; full grown of ripe age, 1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 5:14; fully accomplished in Christian enlightenment, 1 Cor. 2:6; Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:28; perfect in some point of character, without shortcoming in respect of a certain standard, Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Col. 4:12; Jas. 1:4b; 3:2; perfect, consummate, Rom. 12:2; Jas. 1:17, 25; compar. of higher excellence and efficiency, Heb. 9:11* → end; mature; perfect.
We see that there will come a time when prophecies will be done a way with; when the perfect has arrived, right? ‘Fully developed., completed, etc. In my opinion, this is the canonized word of God.