1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 82
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|The word “prophecy” is prophetes. It comes from two words, the word pro, which means toward or forth, and also the word phemi, which means to tell, to tell forth. It has three ways that you can translate it and all three ways are found especially in the early church.|
1 Corinthians 12:9-10
To Each His Own – Part 5
I have begun to realize this is going to be a long series, “To Each His Own, Part 5.” We won’t get past one word, or one little phrase, the gift of prophecy. He says, “And to another [allos, connecting it], the gift of prophecy.” Really, he just says, “To another, prophecy.” The gift there I guess would be implied. Now to deal with this we first of all, I think, have to make a connection between the extraordinary gift of prophecy and the extraordinary office of the prophet. If we can’t make that connection, then I think we are going to be very confused as we look at prophecy.
Does prophecy mean the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as it means in Romans 12:6? You see, we have got to make some decisions here as to what prophecy means in this context. The word “prophecy” is prophetes. It comes from two words, the word pro, which means toward or forth, and also the word phemi, which means to tell, to tell forth. It has three ways that you can translate it and all three ways are found especially in the early church. One, to forthtell, to tell forth, to declare what has already been told. That is the Word of God, to preach the Word of God, and we know that even today.
But the second way you look at that word is when you see that it means to have an instantaneous revelation. In the early church we see this from time to time. They did not have anything but the Gospels and very few of the epistles. They had the Old Testament, but they did not have the complete Word of God as we do today. Therefore, they would have a prophet who would stand up and have an instantaneous revelation from God. It would be a warning to the people, an instruction to the people or perhaps a means of understanding something to the people. That is the second way it can be taken.
The third way it can be translated means to foretell the future. Now, out of the three definitions that I just gave you, we have got to decide which ones fit the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12:10. You say, “What am I talking about? You are sounding like someone in high office who is using words to twist them and mean what they want them to mean.” No, in scripture context rules. You know that, I know that.
I have read books on spiritual gifts all my life. They add up the ones in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, throw in hospitality in 1 Peter and say there are either 19 to 21 gifts. Now personally I have disagreed with that from day one. You’ve got to let each context that speaks of gifts speak for itself. You’ve got to discern what Paul is doing in Romans 12. You’ve got to discern what Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 12. And when you start doing that, then the word “prophecy” comes in to play. We are talking about extraordinary gifts right now. Are we talking about the ordinary preaching of the Word of God? Certainly we will see that is implicit. They did do those things, but are we not talking about the extraordinary when it is elevated into a realm like these others have been. If we are, and I think we are, then we have to realize that those kinds of things as a pattern have ended.
There are two things out of the three definitions I gave you that are extraordinary. One being when somebody has an overwhelming instantaneous revelation from God as to whatever truth or whatever he must share with the body of Christ. Two, when he foretells the future. And to me, those are the two you’ve got to look at in 1 Corinthians 12:10, because we are in the category of the extraordinary gifts of God.
Now listen, we know what a robot is in the context of America. A robot is a machine that looks somewhat like a person that is sometimes even animated by voice control, and is controlled by somebody else. You know what a robot is. But you take that same word, take it out of the context of America and put it in the context of South Africa, and it is a stop light. It is the strangest thing I have ever heard in my life. You better stop at that robot. Robot? I didn’t see any robot. Stop light. Oh, stop light. You take the word “bonnet” in America and it means a hat that you wear. You put it in the context of South Africa, it is the hood of the car. You take the word “boot” in America and it is what you wear on your feet, but in South Africa it is the trunk of the car.
That illustration is going to fall and become very weak when you try to apply it to scripture, but what I am trying to say to you is, what Paul is saying in Romans 12 and what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 12 are two different things. You need to understand what he is driving at in this little section of gifts here that are the extraordinary gifts that God gives. We must be very careful how we handle this word “prophecy” in verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 12. I want to be honest with you, I have never in my life looked at it in this depth. I am just grateful for how God leads in those kinds of things. I needed to see this in a different way. I hope that you will see it in a different way.
What we have to do is make a connection. We have to make a connection with the extraordinary gift of prophecy to the extraordinary office of the prophet. Now, do you know that there are three extraordinary offices in the New Testament that we do not have today? One, the apostle; two, the evangelist—now, careful, careful. We still have evangelists; that is alright. I am talking about the office of evangelist—and the third thing is the office of the prophet. Those were the three offices of the New Testament. They were extraordinary offices because the people who had them and held them did extraordinary things. You have to connect the extraordinary gifts with the extraordinary offices that God assigned to different men in the early New Testament and even in the Gospels.
Now, the list of the extraordinary offices that were given back then are found in Ephesians 4:11 and in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Let’s look at Ephesians 4:11 first, because we are going to come back to 1 Corinthians 12. Notice what Paul does. It’s just like we have studied, it is not a bit different. He puts the ordinary right beside the extraordinary. There are some gifts here that he mentions that are not the extraordinary offices of the church. But there are some gifts he mentions that are.
He says in verse 11 of Ephesians 4, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor and teacher.” Some people put it as pastor-teacher, and some people put it as pastors and teachers. Regardless of how you put it, there is that one list where they are all grouped together.
If you will look at 1 Corinthians 12:28, we find it listed one more time. This is a very similar list, although 1 Corinthians 12 leaves out the evangelist. It is only mentioned in Ephesians 4. First Corinthians 12:28 reads, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets,” notice the order is always the same in those two, and then “third teachers.” Now Paul again includes those pastors, teachers, the ordinary, but right alongside the extraordinary.
We have to be able to lift out the extraordinary that are not in the church today, but were in the early church. Some even functioned when Jesus was on this earth. That will be the office of the apostle, the evangelist and the prophet. Each of these three extraordinary offices required four things that no other gift does. First of all, it required an extraordinary calling. I believe in the ordinary calling, but these offices required an extraordinary calling. Secondly, it required an extraordinary power enabling them to act as they needed to act. And  it required an extraordinary gift or gifts for the exercise of this power. And  it required an extraordinary work in the effect that it had on others because the effects were overwhelmingly different than the ordinary effects that you see in the gifts that God has given.
All of these offices were for instruction and for the fashioning of the early, infant New Testament church. As we pointed earlier, it is for these extraordinary offices that God gave extraordinary gifts. When you look for a pattern in verses 9 and 10 anywhere else, you will only find it in those appointed men in these three offices that Jesus Christ Himself appointed. Let’s look at them.
First of all, there were the apostles. That is the first one on each list, the apostles. The apostles were those whom the Lord Jesus Christ Himself commissioned to extend the ministry that He had on this earth while He was alive. They continued to extend it after He died, resurrected and ascended back to the Father.
Now what was the Lord Jesus Christ’s work? What was His focus? We know He came to die on the cross. We know that Gentiles were included in this, even back to Abraham’s day and in the covenant God made with Abraham. But what was the focus of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ while He was here on this earth? Look in Romans 15:8 and we will begin to get a glimpse of what the focus was of the Lord Jesus when He was here on this earth. In Romans 15 Paul is identifying the very purpose for which the Lord Jesus came.
In Romans 15:8 he says, “For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision.” Now you know who that is? That is the nation of Israel, the circumcision; not the Gentiles but the circumcision. Then he goes on, “on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers.” You see, Christ’s whole focus when He came was to Israel, not to the Gentile world. What He was going to do on the cross would include the Gentile world, but His focus was the nation of Israel.
As a matter of fact, He spoke to the twelve He had commissioned to extend His work in Matthew 10:5-6. Look over there. Now I want you to see it very clearly now that the focus was Israel while He was still living on this earth, before He died and before He resurrected and ascended to the Father. Verse 6 is very key here. In verse 5 it identifies who He is talking to, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” That little term “rather” marked the single focus of the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry. He didn’t come to minister to Gentiles when He was on this earth. He came to preach the gospel. He came to reveal to the Jews He was their Yeshua, their Messiah, that He had in fact come.
Everything He did was according to the law. Even in the feasts, when He walked, everything He did was to show the Jews He was the fulfillment. He was the substance of all the shadow that they had seen for so many years.
This purpose of Jesus while He was here on this earth and the purpose He engrained into His disciples became so much in their heads that when the apostle Paul began to preach (he was in Antioch of Pisidia) he went into a synagogue and said to a group of Jews that were there, “It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first.”
During the time that Christ was on this earth, He gave these apostles, these twelve, extraordinary gifts to qualify them as they continued to extend His extraordinary work. But He also gave them the authority to use them. It wasn’t them, it was the power that God gave them. Look in Luke 9:1. They had the authority to do that. This was consistent to the ministry, the purpose of the apostle, that Jesus Christ Himself had commissioned.
In Luke 9:1 it says, “And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons, and to heal diseases.” Now that word “authority” in the New American Standard is a good translation. It is the word exousia. It means the right and the might. But I want you to see something. In giving this extraordinary power to this extraordinary office, connecting the two together, He limited that while He was here on this earth to the nation of Israel. Even in Acts 1:4, after He had commissioned them to go into all the parts of the world, He made a statement to them before He went back to the Father. He says, “In gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem.” You have an extraordinary office. You have an extraordinary power, but you have a limitation on that. It is for Israel right now. I’ll open the doors and tell you when it is going to be any different later on.
In His last words to them in Matthew 28:19-20 He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Extraordinary gifts accompanied the extraordinary office of the apostle while Jesus was on this earth. They also accompanied them after He had ascended back to His Father.
Now this is the key. He continued to extend them, as we have seen with the apostles. The nation of Israel was on God’s heart and He hoped it would make them jealous as the Gentiles were overwhelmed by the miraculous, extraordinary things these apostles were able to do. When their commission extended to all the world, this took some adjustment on the disciples’ part. They were focused on Israel, and then all of a sudden all the nations were opened up to them.
In Acts 10 and 11 they had an argument between the apostles as to which came first. Are we supposed to go the Gentiles or are we supposed to go the Jew? It was a real confusing time as to which was which. In fact, Paul himself in Ephesians 3 while in prison in Rome, when he was writing of the great joy of our salvation, began to almost stumble when he says, “But it is a mystery to me.” This converted Jew was saying in prison, when he wrote to these converted Gentiles, “It is still a mystery to me how the Gentiles [who were dogs in the New Testament] have been engrafted into this covenant. It is a mystery to me because it was difficult to make that transition.”
But those apostles still had in that extraordinary office the extraordinary gifts that were connected with them. Now I want to tell you something, there is no apostolic succession to these twelve. There is no apostolic succession. Now obviously, Paul was one born out of due season, but I am talking about the people who penned the New Testament. We have no apostles in that form, in that sense, to this day. God appointed them for a time. God appointed them for a purpose and God ended it. Why did He do that? Because He is God, that is why. He answers to no man and He cares less about our opinion. He ended it. Even though there were apostles later on, they were in no ways like the apostles Jesus Christ commissioned to extend His ministry, not only while He was here but even after He was gone to be with the Father.
In Galatians 1:1 Paul says, “Paul, an apostle, not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” In other words, man does not have anything to say in this. Man can only look at scripture and understand from scripture that they were there and that God ended it for a purpose and His purposes are His own. These apostles were those whom God sent and God chose. They had a temporary office, but it was an extraordinarily temporary office. And connected with that extraordinary office were the extraordinary gifts that God allowed to go along, to identify who they were and to give them authenticity so the people could hear the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second group we have got to look at are the evangelists. This is another temporary office. Now don’t confuse the evangelists of today with the office of the evangelist in scripture. Be careful. We are talking about offices now. We are not talking about ministries. Many, many evangelists are around us and God calls many people that way, but not like He called these evangelists. It begins when Jesus sent out the seventy. Look over in Luke 10:1 where seventy were sent out to preach the gospel and to pave the way in the cities to where Christ Himself was going to go.
In Luke 10:1 we read, “Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.” They were sent out as evangelists to preach the message, the gospel, to herald the message that Christ had given to them, and they had extraordinary power to do that.
If you will look down in verse 9 of that same chapter in Luke, it says that they had the power to heal. It says, “and to heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
They had the power to cast out demons in verse 17 of the same chapter: “And the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’” And in verse 19, they had the power to tread over scorpions and over serpents. It says, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.”
But, just as the Lord had evangelists during His day to continue to extend His ministry, He had twelve apostles. These evangelists, by the way, were accountable to the apostles. They were subordinate to them. They were not on the same plane. But He also had evangelists that He sent out who were accompanied by signs and extraordinary works that God would do in and through them.
These evangelists were not only sent out during His day, but they were also appointed after He had gone back to be with the Father. Ephesians 4:11 is the only place we see them as a group, the only place. Philip is called an evangelist. Timothy is encouraged to do the work of an evangelist, but that is about all we know about this group of special people, not only before the cross, but after the cross. We don’t know their number. And there is one specific thing you must see in scripture, there are no qualifications. If God still had these men around, He would have qualifications so the church would know exactly who to appoint and who not to appoint. There are not qualifications for these evangelists, but it is apparent that their call was extraordinary. It was like the extraordinary call of the apostle; we have the extraordinary call of the evangelist.
Whether an apostle or an evangelist, all of these were preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I said earlier, these evangelists were not on the same plane as the apostles. They had to line up under them. It was Paul who determined how long and what Titus would do on the island of Crete. Titus completely answered to the apostle Paul. They had that authority whereas the evangelist did not have that kind of an authority. The work of these extraordinary evangelists in the New Testament was to preach the gospel to all people wherever you can find them.
In Acts 8:5, Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ. In 2 Timothy, Paul charged Timothy to do the work of an evangelist and in the same breath said, “Preach the gospel in season and out of season.” Preach the Word in season and out of season. So these were preachers of the word of God. These were people who went into areas that would affect the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What made them stand out from others who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ were the extraordinary gifts you have to connect with them. That is what puts them into a class all by themselves, like the apostles. God did extraordinary things through these evangelists.
So we have the apostles. Subordinate to them were the evangelists. But when you come back up to the same level of authority, you also have the prophets. They were on the same level of the apostles. We wonder why the word prophet is mentioned second in both lists, because he is talking about not just the Old Testament prophets; that is assumed. But he is also talking about the New Testament prophets.
Now what in the world was a New Testament prophet? What was the office of a New Testament prophet? There were two things he was noted for. First of all, they would receive extraordinary revelations from God that would either inform, as I said earlier, or warn or instruct. Let me give you an instance of that.
Turn to Acts 13:1. When they were fasting and praying God in an extraordinary way showed them something that was so clear that it launched the first missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. Verse 1 says, “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
There was a revelation that hit these men in the office of prophet, and it said to them, “You set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” They had an understanding of that and it so benefited the body of Christ that it completely initiated the mission journeys of the apostle Paul.
But these men could do something else. In the extraordinary way, they had the ability to foretell what was going to happen in the future. I am really glad that we don’t have those guys around anymore. Sometimes I don’t know if I want to know what is going to happen in the future. Agabus was one of these prophets. In the book of Acts, for instance, he predicted the famine that was going to happen in Jerusalem. It says, “And one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.” Now watch this. This is what proved him to be a prophet, just like in the Old Testament. It says, “And this took place in the reign of Claudius.” This is what instigated the offering they took up for the suffering people in the area where the famine took place.
We have people today saying the gift of prophecy is still around. And we have people today saying you can learn that gift of prophecy and you don’t have to be right all the time. I say, “Hogwash!!!” The word of God says if you ever miss it, then you are not a prophet and you are a liar standing before somebody. You better get that straight in your mind, folks. The Old Testament didn’t change when it came to the New Testament. A prophet who heard from God said it and it happened. They had that in the New Testament church. Incredible.
As a matter of fact, look over in Acts 21:10. There is still Agabus. I am just using him, there were others. He prophesied that Paul would be put in bonds in Jerusalem. Paul knew where God was leading him, and he warned him. He said in Acts 21:10, “And as we were staying there for some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Did that happen to Paul? Absolutely. Did Paul go to Jerusalem because the people wanted him to? No, they wanted him to stay. He went because he felt led there. But when he got there, he was accused falsely and spent almost five years in prison based on a false accusation. As a result, we have four of the greatest epistles he wrote in the New Testament. But Agabus came beforehand and predicted what would happen to him.
The work of these prophets was extraordinary. It wasn’t your ordinary work. No, it was extraordinary and they were endowed with extraordinary gifts. There is no mention of their ordination just like it wasn’t with the evangelists or the apostles. There is no mention of their qualifications. The only qualification we find of an apostle is he had to be a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and commissioned by Him, but as far as character and other things, no mention of it. And there is no mention of that in the evangelists or the prophets in the New Testament church.
Now you tell me, has God made a mistake? Does it say that you want to continue to have these men but there are no qualifications for them, so nobody can be accountable to anything in the word of God? I think not. They are not here anymore. They served their purpose and the extraordinary gifts that were attached and connected to them were only a pattern to them. Can God still do those things today? He can do anything He wants to do. But you don’t build your faith on anything like that anymore. If He does it, He does it and you stand back in awe, but you don’t go looking for it, because the times He chooses to do any of this is so rare that you wouldn’t have much to look forward in the Christian life.
Well, since Ephesians is a commentary on itself, who then are the apostles and prophets? Remember, they are on the same level. Evangelists were subordinate to them. Who were the apostles and prophets? Who are we talking about? Are we talking about people today? Ephesians 2:22 says that our faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. He relegates them, along with the evangelists, to the early foundation of the church. That is where they were. Not only were they present when Jesus was around, but they were present after He ascended and resurrected. These are those who were fashioning and teaching and preaching to that early infant New Testament church.
Now listen to me. For these gifts to exist today, something very scary would have to be true. If these gifts are existing today, as they existed when Jesus Christ appointed them in the New Testament, then they would have the ability to add to scripture and to take away from scripture. These were the ones who gave us the New Testament that we study, the New Testament that forms the basis of who we are in the church of the 20th Century. Now folks, that is scary when you think of people several years ago who got into a room and commissioned themselves apostles in this day, in the same sense, with the same authority and with the same, they say, extraordinary gifts. I’ll tell you what, friend, if I ever stand up here and tell you something like that, somebody have the courage in this place to take a gun and put me away. I have lost my mind. Man, listen to me, we are under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks to us through His Word as revealed by His Holy Spirit understandably and He communicates to our heart. And the way we live daily is dead to self, attached to Him, letting Him be and do what He and He alone chooses to be and chooses to do.
They don’t exist today. I believe with all of my heart that they do not exist today. I believe with all of my heart that they do not exist today. Neither the apostles not the evangelists nor the prophets in the sense of the extraordinary office to which they were relegated back in the early church. We do have evangelists. We do have people who have that sense of prophetic gifts, I guess you would say, but not in any way like what I am talking about right here. No, sir, they are not offices in the church of Jesus Christ today.
I am sure somebody is sitting there and saying, “Okay, if they are not offices in the church today, then what are the offices in the church today?” I am so glad you asked me that. There are two. The instructions as to the character of the men are well defined. The first office is the office of elder, whether we like it or not. That is a word that some people choke over. The qualifications of an elder is found in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus. I want to tell you this, elders and pastors and bishops or overseers, are all the same people. You say, “How do you know? I came out of a denomination where the pastors are over here, and they had a bishop and they had an elder over here. How come you make them one person?” I didn’t make them one person. Peter himself showed us that they are one person.
Look in 1 Peter 5:1. They are the same people. By the way, they are always in the plural. I remember back when we chose to go to the offices that God says ought to be in the church years ago. Some people said, “I don’t want to do that. That is Presbyterian.” Well, I hate to tell you but the word elder comes from the word presbuteros. Just because they got their name from that doesn’t mean that denies what scripture says. It took us forever to get over that hump. You say, “I don’t want to be Presbyterian. Call it something else.” Well, why would you want to call it anything other than what God calls it? Anyway, we had a lot of fun with that.
Verse 1 of chapter 5 says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” By the way, that is one of the few times you will see elder in the singular in the New Testament. I think John called himself an elder. There is a verse over in, I believe, in Timothy, that says, “Do not receive an accusation on an elder except by two or three witnesses.” But every place else it is in the plural, every place else. “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.” That is the word presbuteros. That is the office.
Then he talks about the work, “shepherd the flock.” Now some people have their own opinion as what it means to shepherd the flock. The shepherd did three things; they guided the flock, they grazed the flock and they guarded the flock. They guide, graze, and guard. How do you do that? With the Word of God. The one thing that identifies the elders from the deacons is that they have to be able to handle the Word of God. Remember the word “teachers, pastors” that we saw a while ago? That is the ordinary. We are not talking about that. These are the ordinary offices that God has given that He does miraculous things through.
So we have shepherd the flock of God. Poimaino is the word for pastor. Then he says, “exercising oversight,” episkopeo. That is the word you get bishop or overseer from. So they are all the same people. One talks about the office, one talks about the responsibility, and one talks about how that is practically done. There are specific qualifications for them. Are they qualifications for the prophet? No. Are they qualifications for the apostle? No! Are there qualifications for evangelists? No. But there are qualifications for the elders. And secondly, the deacons.
The word “deacon” was never translated, it was transliterated. It is also used in 1 Timothy 3 concerning the qualifications. The church that translated the New Testament into English had a high office of power that was relegated to a deacon, so the translator said, “Hmm, translate the word. I will get my head translated. I think I will just transliterate it.” So they made a word out of a word. They made the word “deacon” out of the word diakonos. All it means and all it has ever meant was a servant. Hey, do you need another glass of tea? You spilled something, can I wipe it up for you? It is never a position of honor. It is a position of service.
Do you know how many churches today are absolutely under a prison hold and a lock by a group of deacons who think of themselves as the power structure of that church? Do you realize how upside down that is to the scripture? They absolutely are not the ones who stand out front, that is your elders. But your deacons come alongside and assist them. You see the model in Acts 6 when the apostles said, “We will give ourselves to the word and to prayer. You take care of the menial things. You become arms to take care of the work of the ministry.”
So there are offices today, but you can’t find the apostles, you can’t find the prophet, you can’t find the evangelist in the sense of the extraordinary gifts associated with them and the extraordinary offices that they had in the New Testament.
You say, “I have learned a lot about the church structure, but what in the world are you talking about? What has this got to do with the gift of prophecy?” It has everything to do with it. To me, you’ve got to connect the gift of prophecy in verse 10 with the office of prophet in verse 28. The extraordinary office of prophet must have an extraordinary gift of prophecy. Is there a prophecy that doesn’t speak of that? Absolutely.
Look over in Romans 12:6. In the context here, you don’t have any of this stuff of foretelling the future. You don’t have any of this stuff of speaking an instantaneous message to somebody. As a matter of fact, what you do have is the telling forth of the word of God. A different context and I believe a different meaning to the word prophecy. That is why I have always said you can’t just lump all these gifts together and say they are the same thing everywhere. Context rules.
Romans 12:6 reads, “And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly.” That is interesting. In 1 Corinthians 12 it is in the present passive, here it is in the aorist. It is a little different. Then he says, “if prophecy, according to the proportion of,” and it says, “his faith.” I don’t find that in my text. What I find is “the faith.” It is not the faith of him, it is just the faith. That to me changes the whole picture. It is not the person’s faith we are talking about. It is talking about the word of God, the faith, when the definite article refers to what we believe from A to Z.
So, in other words, a person here can’t be just foretelling unless it is already foretold in the word of God. All he can be doing is declaring forth the word of God. That is why I see the gift of prophecy in Romans 12:6 as being distinctly different than what he is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12 in the manifestation that was confusing the whole Corinthian church. One is relegated to an office, an extraordinary office. And here is the gift, the miraculous ordinary, of people who are gifted, to be able to expound the word of God, to tell forth the word of God.
You say, “I am still a little confused. Are you telling me that there are no evangelist today?” Now, I don’t want to get into that. I have said we have evangelists today, but we don’t have the extraordinary office of the evangelist today. We don’t have the extraordinary office of the prophet today and we don’t have the extraordinary office of the apostle. How do we know? Because there is no consistency anywhere in scripture from that point on after these men were taken off the scene. What we do have are the offices of elder and the offices of deacon, clearly defined as to what their character ought to be and what their function ought to be. That is what we have in the church of Jesus Christ today.
So what is the gift of prophecy? What is it? I will go on record and just have to take the flack. I don’t believe it is the same as what we see in other places. I think it is relegated to a specific group here that God chooses to do it right now and then takes it away. It is not something you can call up. It is not something that can happen just because you are living surrendered. It is just when God chooses to do what He chooses to do. This is relegated to the extraordinary offices of the New Testament, not only in the gospels but in the early church.
“Well,” you say, “thank you. You have just ruined everything that I have thought for the last 22 years.” Well, all I can say is, I have never been the authority yet. The word of God is the authority, not me, not what I have written, not what I’ve said, but what is in the word of God. What I am trying to share with you is take a new approach at it and just look at it from a different glimpse. You might see it quite different.