Question from a Site Viewer
Please explain to me the prophets and apostles we have today. Are some false? How can you tell?
Thank you for your question concerning apostles and prophets. The word apostle simply means “sent one.” Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. He was sent from God. And in the general sense, we who follow Jesus are also sent ones (John 20:21). However, in the Bible, the word “apostle” is generally used in a more restrictive sense, that of those who saw Jesus and were specially called by Him. Thus, the twelve apostles were chosen by Christ for a special work (Matthew 10:1-4) and He sent them out (Matthew 10:5). They all saw Jesus and were taught directly by Him. When the apostle Paul defends his own apostleship, it is on the basis that he had seen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1). Later, he says that he was the last to have done so (1 Corinthians 15:8-9).
Accordingly, when Scripture speaks of the apostles, generally it is referencing those who had seen the physical Christ, and were specifically called by Him and sent out to do His work. It is in this sense that we find that the church is built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). It is in this sense that we are called to remember the words that were spoken by the apostles (Jude 17). It is in this sense that Peter reminds us of the words of the apostles (2 Peter 3:1-2). And, as John tells us, ultimately, there are only twelve people who are the apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). It is these twelve that we generally reference when we speak about apostles.
Prophets, in contrast to apostles, are proclaimers of God’s word. Sometimes they tell the future. But always they are calling people back to God. That is the role of the prophet. Thus, when one reads through the Old Testament prophets, one sees a consistent message warning people of the future coming judgment and later hope, and calling people to repent and turn to God. Those who are called in a special sense to proclaim God’s word were the prophets.
We are told in Ephesians 4:11 that Christ gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. We are told in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that God first appointed apostles in the church, then prophets, then teachers and then miracle workers. Then He gave gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. He then encouraged the Corinthians to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1) and said that if we prophesy, then we build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:3-4).
Based on these and other Scriptures, my personal view is that there are no apostles today in the special sense of that term. There is no one today who saw the physical Christ. The apostles were a limited group of people who God chose to establish the church. They became the foundation. They wrote or directly influenced the writing of the books we hold as Scripture. No one today, in my view, holds that same office. But we all are sent and so in a general sense every believer may be an apostle. However, if everyone is one, then the term really loses the meaning that Scripture gives to it. For this reason, I am in favor of restricting the use of the term “apostle” to those so referenced by the term in Scripture.
As for prophets, I hold out the possibility that there may be true prophets today, but I cannot say that I personally know of any. I know many who have called themselves prophets, but their lives have not backed up their words. Jesus taught us that by their fruit we can know who is false and who is true (Matthew 7:15-20). And the fruit Jesus wants us to be looking for is not the miracles (see Matthew 7:21-23), but the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who evidence love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control are those who are filled by the Spirit and walking with God. Those who evidence contention, strife, division, impatience, and seek to rule over other people are not God’s prophets.
Thanks for writing. I trust that you will grow deeper and deeper in love with Jesus Christ; that daily He will be more precious to you than anything else, and that you will seek Him in His word.
a fellow servant,
What is an Apostle?