Are Apostles And Prophets For Today?

Everywhere from Facebook to television we are seeing a surge in those that wish to call themselves either apostles or prophets. Many simply say that God has called them to either of these particular offices while others are prayed for and by way of a ceremony, christened the title. If anyone disagrees or challenges them their followers immediately declare, from the verse, that one should not “speak against God’s anointed.” In addition to invoking that passage others will also cite the verse which says that God doesn’t change and is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

God most certainly declares that we are not to speak against His anointed but this does not exclude the notion of confronting false teaching nor false teachers (Eph. 5:11). Also, God’s “anointed” are not merely those that were apostles or prophets. The particular verse in Psalms 105:15, in context, was speaking of Israel’s Kings. Specifically, this had reference to David’s actions in which he refused to harm Saul while an opportunity arose in 1 Samuel 16:13-16.

In responding to the claim that God doesn’t change, I would certainly agree. God is eternally the same in respect to His nature and character but that doesn’t mean that the manner in which God speaks to us doesn’t change. Take, for instance, this verse from Hebrews:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

These verses makes it clear that God spoke to us in “many ways” but today speaks to us by His Son. This does not contradict God’s immutability and speaks rather to the different ways in which God communicates to us.

Another particular place in Scripture that is typically used in support of the position that apostles and prophets are for today is from Ephesians here:

“And he 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, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:11-16

The argument that some make from this verse is that God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers, UNTIL we all attain to the unity of the faith. We are not unified today, therefore, all these offices are still necessary. What one must realize before pulling directly from these verses alone is that Paul qualified two particular offices in just two chapters previously. In Ephesians 2 Paul says something remarkable about the offices of “apostles” and “prophets” here:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” – Eph. 2:19-22

Paul says that first, Christ is the cornerstone in whom the whole structure is built and being joined together. He also says that God’s household is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets. He does not mention the other offices as being foundational that are mentioned later in chapter 4. One can easily conclude that these two particular offices were foundational for a reason. They were to be laid and to be laid once. How many times do you lay a foundation while you continue to build upon it? Furthermore, notice the connection of the foundation with the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. One would never assume that Jesus Christ and His work, having been fulfilled, is to be continued today. In Hebrews 9:28 it says, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” We would no more conclude that Christ is coming again to die on the cross than we should conclude that the foundation of the apostles and prophets is to be laid a second time. Those two particular offices were foundational in the same way the work of Jesus Christ was the “cornerstone” of that foundation. Now we are left with the other offices (evangelists, pastors, and teachers) to build upon this work until we have come unto the unity of the faith.

Another point to be made here is regarding the terms “apostles” and “prophets.” Apostles, from the Greek, is “apostolos” and means to be sent or commissioned. In a general sense, we all have been “commissioned” by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:19), however. The twelve disciples were specifically commissioned and were empowered to do special miracles to authenticate their message starting in Jerusalem. When it came to replacing Judas, a very strict criteria was laid out in Acts:

“Beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.” Acts 1:22-23

Notice that only two men were put forward given this criteria. How many would meet this strict criteria today?

Regarding “prophets,” or “prophetes” in the Greek, this means one who is “foretelling” and one who is an inspired speaker. We would all, in a general sense, be one in proclaiming forth the Gospel. This is not to be confused with one that, in the specific sense, was receiving direct revelation from God while the Scriptures were still being penned. The differences here are in one who is “proclaiming forth” the Word of God and one who was “foretelling” that which God was directly revealing to those whom He willed in during the apostolic age. Once the canon of the Scriptures were complete, so also this “direct” revelation. We now have everything we need for life and godliness found in God’s divine power as well the Scriptures for “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scriptures are more than sufficient for us today. Let us remember that God is still building His Church which the gates of hell do not prevail against but that He is building it upon the foundation which the original apostles and prophets laid and upon the chief cornerstone, which is Jesus Christ and upon His perfect and complete work that was done in His birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Scriptures to consider:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11

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