The Gifts God has Given to His Church, Part 7 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #231)
A series of homilies on Ephesians.
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages on Ephesians (as well as other passages of Scripture) specifically targeted at reviving families and encouraging and exhorting husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children to do what God has commanded them to do, for if the church is to be revived and the country is to be awakened, the family must be revived first.
TEXT: Ephesians 4:11-12:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
A.W. Tozer said, “I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “If you can’t stick in an hour with God down here, what are you going to do when you get to eternity? In God’s name, what are you going to do with a million years in God’s presence?”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “As a young man in his twenties, William J. Seymour had had enough of racial discrimination. He left the South and headed north to Indianapolis. For several years, he waited on tables in a prominent hotel. By the time he was thirty, he was living in Cincinnati. Early in life, Seymour had been drawn into the Holiness movement then sweeping through the South. In Indianapolis he attended the local Methodist Episcopal church, a church that emphasized the ministry of Christ indwelling the life of the believer. By the time he was thirty, he’d been “saved and sanctified” through the ministry of a revivalistic group called “the Evening Light Saints.””
Today, we are looking at the spiritual gift of being a “prophet” in the church. “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets…” The word prophet means: “one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration from God.” An extended definition continues: “In the religious assemblies of the Christians, prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate, their hearers.”
Several prophets (and prophetesses) are mentioned in the New Testament. Among them are: Anna, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, Zechariah, Ananias of Damascus, Barnabas, Lucius of Cyrene, Paul, Philip the Evangelist, Philip’s four daughters, and John the Revelator. Dr. Warren Wiersbe states that the office of the prophet was necessary for the early church because those believers did not have Bibles and the New Testament literature that circulated among the churches was not complete. Thus, God raised up prophets in the church to be His mouthpiece to believers. The prophets had understanding and knowledge of spiritual truths directly from God, and they were able to preach “thus saith the Lord.”
Ray Stedman said, “The gift of a prophet differs from that of an apostle: The apostle gives an authoritative declaration of the whole body of truth concerning Jesus Christ; but the prophet interprets that authoritative word and explains the truth so that it becomes very clear, vital, and compelling… They differ from teachers in that the prophet tends more to deal with the great sweeping principles of Scripture and reality, leaving the development of more specific areas to the teacher.”
The prophets of the New Testament era were necessary in order to provide instruction from God in light of the brave new era of grace that the church was a part of. Are there prophets today? No, not in the sense of the first generation saints. Here’s what the Bible Knowledge Commentary says about this matter, “New Testament prophets were gifts to the church to provide edification, exhortation, and comfort. They probably revealed God’s will to the church when the biblical canon was incomplete. Since the apostles and prophets were foundational, they did not exist after the first generation of believers.”
The Bible Exposition Commentary says, “Christians today do not get their spiritual knowledge immediately from the Holy Spirit, but mediately through the Spirit teaching the Word. With the Apostles, the prophets had a foundational ministry in the early church and they are not needed today.”
However, just like the gift of the apostle, people today can be used by God to deliver prophetic messages based upon the Word of God that rebuke the church about sin and not obeying the Great Commision and error in theology. For example, Martin Luther and John Wesley could be classified as prophets. They did not add to Scripture or provide any new revelation. But they reestablished the clear teaching of the word of God at times when it had become corrupted, neglected, or forgotten.
God may very well raise up prophets in that sense in our day when, not just the world, but the church too, has wandered far away from God.
George Wallace Briggs wrote:
God has spoken by His prophets,
Spoken His unchanging Word,
Each from age to age proclaiming
God, the one, the righteous Lord.
Amid the world’s despair and turmoil,
One firm anchor holding fast;
God is King, His throne eternal,
God the first, and God the last.