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Prophets – to equip the saints for the work of ministry

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 in discipleship, edification, spiritual gifts | 8 comments

Prophets – to equip the saints for the work of ministry

As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that apostles can equip the saints for the work of ministry.

So, in this post, I’m going to consider the second gifted group in the list: How do prophets equip believers for the work of serving others?

As with apostles (and any other follower of Jesus Christ), prophets can equip and build up the church in many different ways. But, what characteristic about prophets being prophets (i.e., their spiritual gifting) helps them equip believers for serving others?

While several people are identified as prophets in the New Testament, the authors do not define exactly what the term “prophet” means or specifically what “prophets” do. Paul probably tells us the most about prophets in 1 Corinthians 14, especially 1 Corinthians 14:26-32. In those passages we learn that 1) prophets can prepare something ahead of time to share with the church (i.e., “each one has…”), 2) prophecy has something to do with revelation, 3) revelation from God can be impromptu, 4) the Spirit does not force the prophets to speak and at times it’s even good for the prophets NOT to speak (even if the Spirit has revealed something to the prophet), 5) prophets should expect what they say to be judged and considered by others (i.e., they should not think of themselves as always hearing God correctly).

The main aspect of being a prophet that I take from this is that the prophet hears what God is revealing – either directly or through others and either over a period of time or instantaneously.

The prophet, then, can equip the saints to serve others by helping them learn to hear from God and then to trust and to respond to what he’s telling them. Certainly, this would help other prophets, especially less mature prophets or new believers. However, at the same time, it would be beneficial to those who do not have the spiritual gift of prophecy as well, since all can hear from God and all can prophesy.

In that passage above in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul specifically points out that all have the ability to hear revelations from God and to prophesy, even those who do not have the spiritual gift of prophecy:

For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:31 ESV)

In the same way, prophets especially should recognize that everything is not necessarily a revelation from God. Thus, they should welcome the discernment of others toward their own prophecies, and can teach others how to be discerning and how to respond graciously to the discernment of others.

As a prophet, have you ever equipped the saints to hear from God and to respond correctly to discernment? Has a prophet ever equipped you in these ways?

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Series: To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry

  1. Introduction
  2. Apostles
  3. Prophets
  4. Evangelists
  5. Shepherds and Teachers
  6. Others (Conclusion)

8 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-9-2013

    Oh, Alan, I love this. When you add, “The prophet, then, can equip the saints to serve others by helping them learn to hear from God and then to trust and to respond to what he’s telling them” there is one more aspect.

    The prophet, who has learned to “expect what they say to be judged and considered by others (i.e., they should not think of themselves as always hearing God correctly), would also, by example and by precept, teach us to also hold what we hear from God as open to help in understanding from others. Prophets do sometimes stand on what they have heard and dismiss community objections (I’m thinking of the many times prophets were right and the people wrong), but they normally would be receptive to insights from others on what they have heard.

    So must we. Generally, be open to the help from the community on our own insights and hearing from God, but not so attuned to the community’s perspective that peer pressure can supercede God’s voice if push comes to shove.

  2. 1-9-2013

    I guess I meant more simply to say that we all must learn to be subject to one another, but subject to His voice above all on occasion.

  3. 1-9-2013

    I think more than anything else about prophets is that they are real encouragers. They don’t really establish what God is saying as much as they confirm it. They give you the courage to move through the doubt and uncertainty and move on in faith.

    When revelation is flowing to a group it’s a powerful thing and one of my favorite times of any part of any gathering. When this really gets going – revelation goes from one person to the next like a loose football (you’re never quite sure who it’s going to bounce to next).

    It’s so impotant to raise your hand when it bounces to you and interrupt the one talking – and say – “Hey I have something now”. (Many of us have the long-winded thing – but revelation is often concise and is easily damaged by too much interpretation).

    When everyone walks away saying “surely God is among us” – now that’s something I really like alot.

    Prophets have the ability to really get that going.

  4. 1-9-2013

    Alan,
    My internet usage is very sporadic these days, so I will not respond promptly if you happen to say something to me here.

    I appreciate your post! I agree too with the previous comment that said that prophetic people are encouragers.

    I am amazed at how the prophetic people I know are able to call out giftings in other believers. And, at times this is just the nudge that is needed to turn a person in the right direction for using their own gifts.

    We are gathering with a group now that is very strong in this area and has many prophetically gifted people. It is such a blessing. These folks seem to have just the right word for strengthening me at just the right time. And, in turn, I am able to do this for others on occasion as well.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.
    Bethany Woods

  5. 1-9-2013

    Art,

    Thanks for the feedback. I like the way you put this: “[W]e all must learn to be subject to one another, but subject to His voice above all on occasion.” I think that prophets can help us with this.

    Jerry,

    Thanks for the comment about prophets and prophecy. How do you think this works with Paul’s description of prophets as “equipping the saints for the work of ministry”?

    Bethany,

    It’s great to hear from you again! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think this is a good example of what I was trying to describe in my post: “These folks seem to have just the right word for strengthening me at just the right time. And, in turn, I am able to do this for others on occasion as well.” The prophet(s) equipped you to serve others.

    -Alan

  6. 1-10-2013

    Alan:

    Even Saul can prophesy in the middle of the prophets. Equipping means you put people in situations where they learn to participate and exercise that gift – and you stand beside them and encourage them to do so. It’s a show and tell type of thing. The prophet stirs it up – and the others join in. Gifted prophetic people can function in that all night long – but they back off and invite others to participate. Others are “equipped” as they do it. Body building is all about exercise. Once you do it, you gain confidence in it, and you are able to function in that even when the prophet is not there.

    For most of us – it’s not like a faucet, it’s more like a hand pump. It needs to be primed before you get any water. The prophet imparts “how to” prime the pump.

  7. 1-10-2013

    The New Testament speaks only of the prophesying that it builds up the church. To prophesy doesn’t mean only to predict the future but to speak for God, speak forth God, and speak God into people. When the prophets spoke in the Old Testament they “spoke on behalf of God”, and now in the New Testament we speak by being one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).

    I have been in many meetings where young and old, no matter the cultural background or education, spoke the word of God as they enjoyed it and experienced it – and it was so edifying! This is why wherever I go to a meeting and actually every morning after my time with the Lord I have the habit of preparing something to share, to speak forth, for the building up.

    We are all learning and being perfected to speak Christ into others by being one spirit with the Lord! It is Christ who builds up the church (Matt. 16:18) and He does it through us, those who are being perfected to speak Him forth for the building up of the Body!

  8. 1-10-2013

    Jerry,

    Yes, Saul and Balaam are interesting examples of people who prophesied in the Old Testament (not to mention Balaam’s donkey…).

    Stefan,

    I agree that prophesy is not primarily related to predicting the future. I love the fact that you are always prepared to share something with others. I think that’s the way we should all seek to live. Then, we listen to God (and check our own motives) before we actually say anything.

    -Alan