Questions About Prophets and Apostles

In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

Being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they came down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
-Acts 13:1-4

And God has placed these in the church:

first apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, next miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping,
managing, various kinds of languages.
-1 Corinthians 12:28

A question about prophets:

A lady was complaining about prophets.  She said that the church she attends, has a lot of so called prophets.  She wonders about false prophecies and words about nice cars and jewelry.  The advice of many people, to her, is to run away from this church.  Some people said that the prosperity gospel churches or teachings are heretical and that prophetic ministry today should always be 'non-profit'.

When we have a problem with someone, it is best to go directly to them.  When you are bumped, you might say, "ouch", and then, "please stop bumping me", directly to the person that bumped you.  Assertiveness training is one of the top needs of Christians in churches today, and this is an illustration of that need.

When a situation comes about, of a person giving you a prophetic word, that you don't want; in other words, you do not want to hear it; you have the right to say "no".  And if this church is called something like, "God's People Church: Prophetic Ministry Center", they are already telling you what they like to do.  And the question is, "what are you doing there?"

Should prophets prophecy offerings or give a word saying that you should give them money?  Probably not.  But I do not have a specific verse for that.

Giving should always be free will, and never under any coercion.  And prophesying for you to give to me is out of line with the spirit of Christ, is what I would say.

Do all prophetic people, ministries, need to be 'non-profit' or '501c3's'?  No.

Should all prophetic or so-called prophetic words be true or accurate, and if they are not, is the person a false prophet?  No.  I believe that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of prophetic words given today are inaccurate or false.

New Testament prophets are not the same as OT prophets.  NT prophecies are mainly encouragements and not predictions.  Many prophetically gifted people also flow in a gift called 'word of knowledge'.  And there is yet another similar but different gift called 'word of wisdom'.

Some prophets have all three or just the one.  And the gifting of prophecy, mentioned in 1 Corinthians, is different than the gift of prophet mentioned in Romans 12.  And the office of prophet in Ephesians 4 is also different than the former two.

Some prophets can teach and some can not.  Some teachers are not pastors.  And some pastors are prophetic but can not teach.  Many evangelists can not teach, but some are healers.

A Romans 12 prophet may or may not give personal prophecies and an Ephesians 4 prophet's ministry is to equip or train all Christians to be prophetic people.

How can I say that about 90% of prophecies are false, but still believe that prophetic ministry is real and is for today?  Because the NT says to:

  1. Desire to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1)
  2. Not to despise prophecies (1 Thess. 5:20)
How can churches manage this issue of false prophecies without quenching the Holy Spirit's work through people?  Train people that have the gift or desire to prophesy, to not ever say, "Thus says the Lord", but instead to be very humble and say things like:

  • "I don't know if I am getting this right but..."
  • "See if this word I think I have for you fits..."
  • "I don't know what this means, but I see (or hear)..."
Know that God may give pure and true revelation, but we get the interpretation or the application wrong.  There are three components to a prophecy:

  • Revelation (real or not real)
  • Interpretation (what this mean?)
  • Application (what should I do?)
Some of that 90% of false prophecies are real revelations with faulty interpretations or applications.

A question about God restoring apostolic authority and killing people:

You can look around and find people who say that God is restoring apostles to the church today.  One of the many questions that might come up about this has to do with the story of Peter's dealings with the couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who lied and died in Acts 5.

I recently heard Greg Boyd talk about this (link).  In a nutshell, this is what I heard Greg say, and I agree with him:

  • It was the devil that gave cause to their sin
  • Elijah did call down fire and killed the messengers in 1 Kings 1
    • He had the authority to do it
    • But God did not approve
  • When James and John wanted to call down fire, Jesus disapproved
    • "You know not what spirit you are of" (Luke 9:54)
  • Satan was the one who inspired the sin of Ananias & Sapphira
    • Satan is the father of lies
    • Satan is about killing and destroying
  • Did Peter kill the couple?
    • Maybe: please listen to what Greg says
  • Was killing disobedient ones what Jesus taught Peter?
    • No
  • If Peter used his authority to kill the couple, was it ok?
    • No
    • Peter may have been like Elijah 
      • Or like James and John (Lk. 9:54)
I started with Acts 13, where it mentions teachers and prophets (not apostles) who the Holy Spirit moves through, to commission or send two guys on a missionary journey.  It is interesting to note that sending is something the church does collectively to teams and couples or duos.

It is also interesting to note that people don't make you an apostle, but God does.  Acts 13 and 14 might illustrate that we call you apostolic after you have done apostolic ministry.  Paul may have been called from his mother's womb to be an apostle of Jesus, but he and Barnabas were not recognized as such until after they really did the stuff.

 In the next chapter (14:14), Barnabas and Paul are called apostles, and also Paul becomes Paul, instead of Saul.  What is interesting is that at the beginning of  their missionary journey, in Acts 13, they have a nasty encounter with a sorcerer, wherein Paul makes a declaration of physical blindness over the guy and he does go blind.

How is this ok or different than the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5?  This story (Acts 13) is a story of a power encounter with a person who has become an agent of the Devil and is blocking the proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 5, it is a church discipline matter of lying.

Bottom line:  I take the position that Acts 5 is descriptive, but not prescriptive.  Jesus gives us counsel on if we should kill people who reject the gospel: No.

If God killed Ananias and Sapphira, then that is God's decision and I don't think we can applaud, because scripture says not to (Prov. 24:17), and I would not even say that A & S were Peter's enemy.

But I don't think the text says God killed them, nor that Peter killed them.  It is a mistake to think that Acts 5 teaches that apostles are God's agents to kill people in or around the church.  This is a terrible and mistaken teaching.

The devil was there in their lives and inspired their sins.  And the devil always brings killing and destruction.  Sinners must take responsibility, while not blaming the devil; but the devil does inspire or tempt people to sin.

But the power encounter in Acts 13 is different.  Satan is also behind it.  But this is a clearly non-believer, who is blocking the reception of the gospel message.  

The big note is that God decides to do this to him, and Barnabas and Paul are God's instruments.  That seems to be how Luke presents the story.  Paul gave the hard word to the sorcerer, while filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the first case, Satan tempted the couple to sin and they did.  Somehow, in their case, death came, linked to their sins.

In the second case of the sorcerer, the man was an instrument of deception and lies and was used by the devil to block the preaching and reception of the gospel.  God, the Holy Spirit, decided to do something about him and his deeds, and used Paul, in what we call a power encounter.  And the reason for this was to bring glory to God, by having the gospel preached, and many people became followers of Christ.