Sunday, July 24, 2016

Is the New Testament Prophet different from the Old Testament Prophet?

It is claimed by some that the New Testament prophet is different from the Old Testament Prophet. Is this true? Was there a change in the office of prophet?  Is this 'different kind of prophet' someone who is able to practice prophecy today in the Church?

Maybe you have heard the claim, “the Lord has told me …,“ “the Lord has given me a word…,” or, “the Lord has told me to tell you....” Maybe you have heard that someone in your church has a “prophetic or apostolic anointing.” 

Are there some in your church that prophesy over other members?  Maybe you have heard the claim that the OT prophet dealt with correction, warning and judgments, while the NT prophet deals with strengthening, encouragement, and comfort, but not correction.

Have you heard the teaching that the NT prophet does not correct?   They claim there is no need for correction since that is the Holy Spirit’s work that indwells us.  Maybe you have even heard the claim that the NT prophet can produce a false prophecy but still be a valid prophet! Maybe you have heard the claim that only the leadership of the local church has the authority to judge whether a prophet’s message is valid or not.         

This new concept of the Church prophet is said to have come about in the last century due to the work of God within His Church. This change in work of the prophet was found in the ancient church but died out and renewed with the Reformation and is present in its growing fullness in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches today.  This view of modern prophecy and the prophet are given as evident truth by its growth outside the Pentecostal Church is it moves into mainline Churches through the charismatic movement. Indeed, so pervasive is the prophecy movement today within Christendom that one could say it is now a mainline doctrine and can be found within every mainline denomination.     

What specifically does this movement teach?  This article will not discuss every aspect of the movement and its consequences for there are too many. Instead, this article will narrowly focus upon the basic questions: is the New Testament prophet present in the Church today and how does Scripture describe the office and function of the prophet in the dispensation of the Church.   

The Prophet of the OT
1.    Definition
The prophet in the Old Testament was a spokesman for God. The great OT scholar, Dr. Unger, defines a prophet as, “One who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). 

2.    Origin of the Prophetic Office
According to Dr. Paul Benware, “The divine origin of the prophetic office is affirmed by Jeremiah, who also reveals that it began with Moses (Jer. 7:25).  (Note that God spoke directly to men like Abraham, before Moses, but the prophetic office with its various functions began with Moses.) A primary passage in understanding the prophetic office is Deuteronomy 18:19-22. In this passage, Moses declared that God would raise up the prophetic institution and that someday a great Prophet would arise. This message was given as Israel prepared to enter the land of Canaan. The first thing Moses told the Israelites was that when they entered the land they were not to involve themselves in the Canaanite practices of witchcraft, spells, omens, spiritism, or similar observances. These wicked, superstitious rituals were not to be used to obtain direction or information. Instead, God would raise up a prophet (Deut. 18:18). ” (Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament, p. 188).

The prophet grew out of the mediatorial office – the go-between-man between God and man. Moses was the first official mediator between God and man. God spoke to Moses who in turn was to say to Israel: “Thus says the Lord God …”  This reflected a new relationship between God and Israel which was a result of their sin in the wilderness. Along with Moses’  mediatorial role, one finds the priesthood acting as mediator between God and man with regard to the nation’s worship and sacrifice.  Thus two official mediatorial offices were born: the prophet and the priest.

Before Moses and the book of Exodus, one finds individuals approached God as they built alters, sacrificed an animal, and talked to God directly. Yet it is the result of sin that separated man from a holy and just God. Fellowship was broken and a mediator was required between man and God. Moses, Aaron and Miriam become the sole mediators between God and man; Moses and Miriam the prophets, and Aaron the priest. After their death, the priesthood was established to function as mediators between God and man. With the corruption of the priesthood, God brought forth the prophet to act as a spokesman, that is, a mediator between God and man to bring Israel correction, direction, encouragement, future judgments, and blessings as He moved in history to accomplish His will and bring forth the true Shepard of Israel.        

3.    Fulfillment of the Prophetic Office
Naturally, this mediatorial office of prophet and priest has its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ for He is said to be the last mediator between God and man. Scripture says,

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,  6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,  7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle - I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying - a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Timothy 2:5-7)    


But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

Indeed, this mediatorial role was born out of the need to cover one’s sin in approaching a holy and just God. Scripture identifies the blood sacrifice as the mediatorial mechanism by which one approaches God after the fall of Genesis three. One approaches God after the fall with a blood sacrifice. This requirement changed with Moses during the exodus, as Moses became the spokesman for God and the office of prophet and priest was formally established. One cannot approach God alone with a sacrifice, instead, must bring the priest a sacrifice who in turn will offer it up - one more step removed from God. Since Jesus died as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, one approaches God today based on the blood of Christ, for He is the last mediator between God and man!

The office of prophet, like the office of priest has passed as with the Law. Jesus came to complete the Law and fulfill the legal requirements of the Law and to bring in a new covenant based upon His blood whereby all within His Church are priests and all within His Church are  prophets (a separate type of prophet who simply proclaims the Scriptures, not those identified as possessing the gift of prophecy). However, as of the completion of the Bible, the NT prophet does not receive direct communication from God, but through His written Word. As A. MacRae well observes,” In the NT, as in the OT, a prophet was one who received his message directly from God. As the Bible neared completion and the existence of God’s written Word in its entirety made direct communication no longer necessary, it became possible to use the term in the extended sense of one who receives his message from God through the written Word and then passes it on to God’s people for ‘up-building and encouragement and consolation’ (1 Cor. 14:3).” (The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible)

What about the NT prophet that is described as a major function in building the Church? How are we to understand Ephesians 2:20?

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Eph. 2:19-22)


27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.  28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.  (1 Cor. 12:27-28 NKJ)

Is this a contradiction? How is it that Jesus is the last mediator yet Scripture says the church is built upon prophets and apostles and they are even appointed by God in the body of Christ?  In the next article, this question will be examined in detail. What is the work of a NT prophet? Are there some in your church who claim they are a prophet receiving messages directly from God?