Faithlife Sermons

Spiritual Gifts: Apostles and Prophets

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1,377 views
Notes
Transcript
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →
God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets ().
Message # 42 | | April 30, 2017
God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets ().

Introduction

In 1853 John Howie wrote a book titled, The Scots Worthies. In it he unfolded many stories of great Christian heroes in Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries. One of those short biographies is about John Welch and includes two brief accounts that I would like to share.
From 1590 until 1606 John Welch ministered in the Scottish town of Ayr. During his time in Ayr, the Lord’s Day was being profaned by a gentlemen about eight miles away. The man was having gatherings at his house on Sundays and they were playing football and “other pastimes.” Welch wrote to him on a number of occasions but to no avail. “Welch came one day to his gate, and called him out to tell him, that he had a message from God to him.” Because the man had slighted the advice Welch had offered, Welch declared that the “Lord would cast him out of his house,” and no following generations would live there. Even though the man was financially secure at the time, he ended up falling into rough times and had to sell his estate. As he handed over possession of the home, “he told his wife and children that he had found Welch a true prophet.”[1]
As to the second and potentially more dramatic story, John Welch was still in Ayr during an outbreak of the plague. At the time the town of Ayr was free of infection, but much of the country around was infected. As a result, the town placed guards and sentinels at the ports. One day, two traveling merchants “each with a pack of cloth upon horseback, came to the town, desiring entrance, that they might sell their goods.” They presented a pass from the magistrate of the town from which they had just come, and that town was as well free of infection. The guards were still concerned so they called the magistrates who would not make any decision without first getting Welch’s advice. Welch was called and his opinion asked. He objected “and, putting off his hat, with his eyes raised towards heaven for a short space, though he uttered no audible words, continued in a praying posture. Having broken silence, he then told the magistrates they would do well to [dismiss] these travellers, affirming with great [emphatic declaration], that the plague was in their packs.” They were commanded to leave, and so they went about sixteen miles away to the town of Cumnock where they sold their goods. In Cumnock spread an infection so bad that it is said that “the living were hardly able to bury the dead.”[2]
Throughout Welch’s ministry, he accurately prophesied over and over again. For those of us who struggle with the idea of prophecy being present in the modern church, what should we do with a story like that. Is this what Paul was referring to in ?
Let’s consider this on a more personal note. Have you ever personally had a moment of providential insight that seemed to be from God? Premonition? Have you ever been prodded by the Spirit to speak to someone about God’s word? Has anyone ever started a conversation with you by saying, “God told me”? How are we to process what some might call prophecy? If we don’t call it prophecy, what should we call it? Is this what is being referred to in ?
To answer these questions, we are going to have to work through the next few chapters, but we are going to start by processing the first two gifts to the church mentioned in , “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets.”

First, Apostles

Basic meaning of apostle. The Greek term for apostle refers to a messenger or one who is sent. This definition is simple and with such a general meaning could refer to anyone who has been sent on any kind of special mission. Therefore, it is true that apostle can extend beyond the Twelve and Paul in the same way that “Lord” can extend beyond Jesus and “elders” and “deacons” can extend beyond those roles within the church. The early church had to use terms and vocabulary that was within their own culture.[3] The word for deacon carries the simple idea of service. Therefore, anytime someone in the church is serving, they are in essence “deaconing.” Yet, the church has established a specific role for deacon that is distinct from the action of serving. The same is true of apostle. Anyone can be a messenger or sent on an assignment, but not everyone can fill the office of apostle. Therefore, the meaning of apostle is connected to the importance and authority of the one who sent them and the importance of the task to which they were sent.
The twelve apostles. For most Christians, the concept of apostle likely brings to mind the Twelve disciples. We are told in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” Matthew immediately goes on to list “the names of the twelve apostles” (). Luke similarly writes, “And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles” ( ESV).[4]
Jesus’ establishment of twelve apostles was so established that when Judas abandoned his “office,” he had to be replaced. After returning from Christ’s ascension on the Mount of Olives, the eleven remaining disciples returned to the upper room and put forward two men to fill Judas’ position, “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias . . . And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (, ESV).
Paul, the apostle. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to” Paul (). Paul was as well considered an apostle, although he had to defend this role on a number of occasions. The fact that Paul regularly had to defend his apostleship seems to indicate that there was a very specific group of people that had been deemed “The Apostles.” If they meant apostle as a general messenger they would not have questioned Paul’s apostolic authority. The “Twelve” seemed to be clearly established as “The Apostles” and Paul found it necessary to defend his association with this very exclusive group. He writes to the Corinthian church, in his second letter, “Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles” ( ESV). And again, “I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing” ( ESV).
It is this group that is the foundation for the church. In , Paul writes, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” In similar fashion he writes in Ephesians, referring to the church, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” ( ESV). And a couple of chapter later he informs us that God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” ( ESV).
Others considered apostles. And yet, the term apostle is given to many others in 1 Corinthians. Paul writes about how Christ appeared to Peter and then to the twelve, to more than 500 brothers, to James, and then to all the apostles (). Apparently there were individuals who were considered apostles (to some degree) other than “The Twelve Apostles” and Paul. Barnabas is referred to as an apostle in . In Galatians, Paul writes of when he went to Jerusalem and “saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother” ( ESV).[5] Paul refers to Epaphroditus as “your messenger (apostolon) and minister to my need” () and to Titus as part of a group of “messengers (apostoloi) of the churches” ().[6]
Therefore, a distinction must be made between the gift of apostleship and the office of apostle. It is the office of apostle on which the church was founded. Those apostles are limited to the Twelve Apostles and Paul. There were others that were occasionally referred to as apostles that had the gift of apostleship but did not fill the “office” of apostle.
Apostles Today. While there are people today who have been sent by God to spread the gospel, it is best to not refer to them as “apostles” due to both the confusion it would inevitably cause and the lessening of the unique authority the original group of apostles possessed. The term “missionaries” would be better to use in referring to those who have been called by God and can with confidence say as Paul does, “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” ( ESV).
Back to 1 Corinthians. and are referring to The Twelve Apostles and Paul. They are the foundation of the church. This role is no longer present within the church. This fact is reinforced by Paul’s use of the word “first.” While “first” could refer to order of importance, it more likely refers to chronology. In fact, if Paul’s intent was to establish order of importance he would not likely have placed prophecy in front of teaching. Instead, he is referring to the chronological order in which they appear in church history.

Second, Prophets

Old Testament Prophecy. Before we assess either the New Testament prophet or the spiritual gift of prophecy, we need to quickly offer an overview of the Old Testament prophet. (1) OT prophets were messengers, sent by God, to communicate to people the very words of God. Primarily, prophets were sent to Israel to call them out of their disobedience and impending judgment and call them to repentance.
Secondly, the words of an Old Testament prophet were the very words of God. They were not their own. You may recall when God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh, Moses is concerned about what he will say. God tells him, “go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” ( ESV). Balaam tells Balak, “Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak” ( ESV). The prophet Jeremiah tells the story of when the Lord called him into ministry. He writes, “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” ( ESV).
Thirdly, because the words of a true prophet were the very words of God, disobedience to those words was equivalent to direct disobedience of God. As well, a prophet was not to be challenged or questioned. (4) Therefore, and this point is important to the comparison of New Testament prophets, we see no instances in the Old Testament where a true prophets words are evaluated, sifted, or tested. They were accepted as from God. They may not have been followed. They may have been ignored. But, there was not discussion on whether or not they were from God. (5) As well, in a manner that appears different than the New Testament prophet, if any one prophecy ever did not come true, that prophet was to be considered a false prophet.
New Testament Apostle similar to Old Testament Prophet. In a moment we will offer a more thorough description of the New Testament prophet and prophecy, but before we do, take note of the similarities between the NT Apostle and the OT Prophet. While there may still be some distinctions, there are quite a few similarities.
NT apostles were messengers sent by Christ to communicate truth to His church.
NT apostles share the call to write Scripture. Jesus promises them that they will be enabled by the power of the Spirit to write Scripture (). Paul refers to his writings when he wrote, “For I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ( ESV).
The words of the NT apostles should be considered as coming from God.
2 Peter 3:2 ESV
that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
4. Lying to the apostles was equivalent to lying to the Holy Spirit and to God (Peter with Ananias and Sapphira in ).
4. Lying to the apostles was equivalent to lying to the Holy Spirit and to God (Peter with Ananias and Sapphira in ).
2 Peter 3:2 ESV
that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
ESV).
New Testament Prophecy. While the Apostles were as well likely prophets, other NT prophets didn’t seem to possess the same authoritative position as did the Apostles.
4. Lying to the apostles was equivalent to lying to the Holy Spirit and to God (Peter with Ananias and Sapphira in ).
New Testament Prophecy. While the Apostles were as well likely prophets, other NT prophets didn’t seem to possess the same authoritative position as did the Apostles.
1. NT prophets were messengers sent by Christ to communicate truth to His church, but their messages didn’t seem to carry the same authority as Apostles or OT prophets. In just a few more chapters, Paul is going to direct the Corinthians to weigh prophecies. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” ( ESV).
2. It appears that the NT Scriptures were written by the Apostles – or those closely connected to an apostle – and not by the NT prophets.
3. Absolute obedience is the appropriate response to OT prophets and the Scriptures of the NT Apostles, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with a NT prophecy. For instance, when Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, he stops in Tyre, “And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” ( ESV). Paul goes anyway being prompted by the Spirit.
CARSON. Perhaps, as Grudem suggests, these prophets had received some revelation about the apostle’s impending sufferings, and interpreted them to mean Paul should not go. Whatever the case, the prophecy, so far as Paul was concerned, needed evaluating, and, in the form he received it from them, rejecting.[7]
4. A NT prophet may misunderstand details or share them wrongly and not be considered a false prophet. An example of a prophecy that did not unfold as told is that of Agabus in Acts. Agabus said that Jews would bind Paul and hand him over to the Gentiles (). Technically, the Romans bound Paul, and instead of the Jews handing him over, they actually tried to kill him resulting in the Romans stepping in to save him.
5. We are to test NT prophecies. At least twice Paul directs different churches to weigh or test a prophecy. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” ( ESV). “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” ( ESV). There is no indication in the OT that a prophecy was to be tested. It was simply to be accepted and obeyed. This seems to indicate that a NT prophecy carried different weight than an OT prophecy.
6. If NT prophets had the same authority as Apostles, then why weren’t the NT prophets positioned in a place of authority after the deaths of the Apostles? This seems to indicate that the role of prophecy in the NT had lesser significance or authority than did the OT prophet or the NT Apostle.[8]
7. Joel and Moses looked forward to a different prophetic day. While this reality may not prove that a NT prophecy is less authoritative than an Old, it does seem to indicate that there was the expectation that there would be a day in the future where prophecy was different or at least more abundant.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. ( ESV).
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” ( ESV).
Meaning of prophet in first century. These seven points parallel the manner in which the first century reader would have understood the word, prophet. Both the first century Greek and Jewish understanding for the word prophet had lost the gravity of authority and could refer to someone who spoke for God but could also refer to something less significant which carried much less divine authority. In first century Jewish thought, the idea of prophecy may have referred to anything from prophesying the future to a dream to a scriptural verse coming to mind. An example of this is when Paul refers to “One of the Cretans” as a prophet who said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beast, lazy gluttons” (). As well, when Jesus is blindfolded and mocked during his trial, the men holding him said, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” ().
GRUDEM. Because of this wide range of meanings, one thing is clear: The word "prophet" would not automatically suggest "one who speaks with absolute divine authority" or "one who speaks the very words of God." That was not the sense of the word in its everyday use in the Greek-speaking world.[9]

Application

The implications of this study are immense. They are both theological and practical. We will be considering shortly whether or not there are prophets and prophecy today. The next chapter in 1 Corinthians indicates that prophecy is going to come to an end. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” ( ESV). If we conclude that that “perfect” thing is the Scriptures, then we can conclude that prophecy is no longer for today. We don’t have to pursue it as chapter 14 will twice direct us. In fact, we can almost disregard all of chapter 14 because it talks about tongues and prophecy which will have passed away if the perfect is Scripture. On the other hand, if we determine that the perfect is referring to the second coming of Christ or something else, such as the mature church, then we will have to wrestle with the possibility that prophecy still is for today. Not only would it be for today, but it would be something that we should be pursuing.
Potential dangers. I’m not going to answer that question today, but I am going to offer a few cautions. (1) Holding too tightly to a prophecy as given by God when it clearly conflicts with scripture. To many times I have been told by believers that God told them to do something that clearly conflicts with Scripture. Their confidence in a sinful decision comes from being convinced that God told them to do it. He never directs us contrary to His Word. (2) Depending more on prophecy than on scripture. If we were to determine there is a form of prophecy for today, we still could never conclude that those prophecies take any precedence over Scripture. It is a very real danger for those who embrace prophecy to reject Scriptures and instead rely on what they deem to be a prophetic word.
When a prophecy is understood to be from the Lord, how can we reject it? What if I were to tell you that God told me that you are to go to Turkey to serve as a missionary. Let’s take this a step further. You have no desire or inclination to go. How might you process that? If you don’t go you may feel like you are disobeying something the Lord has led you to do. If you do go, you are unhappy because you never wanted to go and question whether or not your going was ever really from the Lord.
Often a high view of preaching results in a lower view of prophecy. The reverse is as well true. A high view of prophecy results in a low view of preaching.
Important statements concerning prophecy. (1) indicates that there is a time when prophecy will cease. (2) Both , indicate that we are to pursue the spiritual gifts especially prophecy. (3) Prophecy is to be done with the purpose of building up, encouragement, and consolation. (4) Prophecy is distinct from teaching. Women could speak a prophecy but ought not to teach. (5)

Additional Quotes

POYTHRESS. In cases involving nondiscursive processes, there was no long-distance call. Thus, the reasoning goes, the person in question must have received the information directly from God. Hence the information must be directly inspired and carry full divine authority. This last conclusion creates the most painful difficulty. For if the conclusion is true, the information received appears to compete with the authority of the Bible. Cessationists feel that they must rule out this type of process completely in order to protect the sufficiency and exclusivity of Biblical authority. Noncessationists, by contrast, feel pressure to submit to such information uncritically, contrary to the fallible character of modern sources.[10]
POYTHRESS. There are lessons here both for charismatics and for noncharismatics. Some charismatics need to become more explicit about the fallible, mixed character of nondiscursive gifts. They need to learn to value discursive gifts. Instead they have up till now indirectly said "I don't need you" () to discursive gifts because, supposedly, these gifts are less spiritual than nondiscursive gifts. Conversely, some noncharismatics need to learn to value nondiscursive gifts. Instead they have subtly to say, "I don't need you." Their basis, supposedly, is that nondiscursive gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture. What they have actually shown is merely that inspired nondiscursive gifts ceased with the completion of the canon.[11]
POYTHRESS. Sermonic contexts we are comfortable with using texts analogically. Isaiah’s vision in , unique though it is, becomes a basis for lessons about the calling of ministers of the Word. Peter’s sermon in becomes a model for modern sermons.[12]
BAXTER. Quest. CLX. May we not look that God should yet give us more revelations of his will, than there are already made in Scripture? . . . 1. That it is certain that God will make no other covenant, testament, or universal law, for the government of mankind or the church, as a rule of duty and of judgment. . . . 2. It is certain that God will make no new scripture or inspired word as an infallible, universal rule for the exposition of the word already written. 3. It is certain that God will give all his servants in their several measures, the help and illumination of his Spirit, for the understanding and applying of the gospel. 4. It is possible that God may make new revelations to particular persons about their particular duties, events, or matters of fact . . . 5. Though such revelation and prophecy be possible, there is no certainty of it in general, nor any probability of it to any one individual person, much less a promise. And therefore to expect it, or pray for it, is but a presumptuous tempting of God. . . . 7. Therefore also all sober Christians must take heed of rash believing every prophet or pretended spirit[13]
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION. The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.[14]
[1] John Howie, The Scots Worthies; Containing a Brief Historical Account of the Most Eminent Noblemen, Gentlemen, Ministers, and Others (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 297.
[2] Ibid., 299.
[2] Ibid., 299.
[3] Carson, Showing the Spirit, 89–90.
[3] Carson, Showing the Spirit, 89–90.
[4] And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. ( ESV). On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. ( ESV).
[4] And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. ( ESV). On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. ( ESV).
[5] It is possible that Andronicus and Junia were as well apostles (), but there is too much uncertainty within the verse to be definitive and it is not pertinent to this particular point. We see the uncertainty in different versions. For instance the ESV tells us that “they are well known to the apostles” whereas the NAS refers to them as “outstanding among the apostles.”
[5] It is possible that Andronicus and Junia were as well apostles (), but there is too much uncertainty within the verse to be definitive and it is not pertinent to this particular point. We see the uncertainty in different versions. For instance the ESV tells us that “they are well known to the apostles” whereas the NAS refers to them as “outstanding among the apostles.”
[6] In these last two instances, it is possible that the idea of messenger, not the formal role of apostle, is intended. This potential is displayed in the fact that most translations translate the word apostolon as messenger.
[6] In these last two instances, it is possible that the idea of messenger, not the formal role of apostle, is intended. This potential is displayed in the fact that most translations translate the word apostolon as messenger.
[7] Carson, Showing the Spirit.
[7] Carson, Showing the Spirit.
[8] Ibid., 96. “The New Testament does not see prophets as the solution to the problem of apostolic succession. . . . why, once the apostles had died, were the prophets not presented as the church’s bastion against false teaching, its source of light and information in the face of uncertainty?”
[8] Ibid., 96. “The New Testament does not see prophets as the solution to the problem of apostolic succession. . . . why, once the apostles had died, were the prophets not presented as the church’s bastion against false teaching, its source of light and information in the face of uncertainty?”
[9] Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Revised edition (Crossway, 2000) Kindle Locations 305-306. David Farnell wrote “Does the New Testament Teach Two Prophetic Gifts?” and offers arguments against Grudem’s view. While I likely lean towards Farnell’s view, I don’t think he was very convincing in his argumentation. While he effectively argued against Grudem, he didn’t offer a perspective that would explain what does seem to be apparent distinctions between OT prophets and New. Farnell did write many journal articles on prophecy in both Bibliotheca Sacra and The Masters Theological Journal and may have offered this perspective in another one of them.
[9] Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Revised edition (Crossway, 2000) Kindle Locations 305-306. David Farnell wrote “Does the New Testament Teach Two Prophetic Gifts?” and offers arguments against Grudem’s view. While I likely lean towards Farnell’s view, I don’t think he was very convincing in his argumentation. While he effectively argued against Grudem, he didn’t offer a perspective that would explain what does seem to be apparent distinctions between OT prophets and New. Farnell did write many journal articles on prophecy in both Bibliotheca Sacra and The Masters Theological Journal and may have offered this perspective in another one of them.
[10] Vern S Poythress, “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39, no. 1 (March 1996): 86.
[10] Vern S Poythress, “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39, no. 1 (March 1996): 86.
[11] Ibid., 92.
[11] Ibid., 92.
[12] Ibid., 78–79.
[12] Ibid., 78–79.
[13] Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Complete 4 Volume), Kindle (Transcript, 2014) Kindle Locations 41437-41467.
[13] Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Complete 4 Volume), Kindle (Transcript, 2014) Kindle Locations 41437-41467.
[14] Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition, Logos (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 20–21.
[14] Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition, Logos (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 20–21.
Related Media
Related Sermons