Prophecy and the "Office" of Prophet
In the comments to my previous post, Ray and Libbie have both brought up the question about the "office" of prophet, and whether or not it has vanished. The most obvious problem with this question, though, is that (as far as I can see in my study) prophet is never mentioned in Scripture with relation to being an office. However, for the sake of discussion, let's run with the definition that Ray and Libbie have given in the comments: one is recognized FUNCTIONALLY and OFFICIALLY as a prophet; in other words -- not one who has had a prophetic utterance, but one who is fully functioning 24/7 in that role.
Obviously, we do see this concept in the Old Testament with prophets such as Samuel, Elijah, etc. In those days, someone could say, "Where is the prophet of God?" and people would refer them to these men. These are men who spoke the words of God to the nation of Israel (and occasionally to other nations, as well). If you wanted to know what God was saying, you asked the prophet.
Now, in understanding what has happened to that "office", we need to first look at the origin of the prophet. I think this will help us understand how to relate to prophecy in the New Testament, and what the purpose of prophecy is.
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He called all of the Israelites to the mountain. He wanted them to hear Him speaking to Moses and His desire was that the entire nation would be a kingdom of priests. However, the people became frightened and told Moses they did not want to hear the voice of God. Rather, they asked Moses to listen for them and tell them what God had said.
It is out of this request from Israel that the voice of God became one step removed from the people. (At least, this is what I see out of the passages there. Any other ideas are welcome.) In a previous post, I contrasted the Old Testament prophets with Jesus. This is where Hebrews 1:1,2 comes in to our discussion. We see Jesus as, to put it one way, the culmination of this "office" of Prophet by removing the "barrier". (Hebrews also deals with the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus to the OT priesthood, not just the ministry of prophet.) God no longer restricted His communication to us as being through another mere human being. He spoke directly to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. And we now, according to Peter, have become the "kingdom of priests" that God originally desired in Israel.
Now, as I've mentioned in the earlier posts in this series, we obviously have prophecy being mentioned in the New Testament church, so what is this prophecy, and what is its purpose? For this, we turn to 1 Corinthians 14. Paul states in verses 3 and 4 that prophecy exists in the church to encourage, edify, comfort, and strengthen the church. Here, we see that it is not an issue of God speaking to us through a particular 24/7 "prophet", but is something that all believers can pursue as a means of edifying the church.We can easily complicate this concept of prophecy by trying too hard to understand it in Old Testament terms only. I believe that as believers come together, the Spirit speaks through various people to encourage and strengthen the church. This could be a matter of reminding others of what they already know, or shedding new light on a Scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is consistent with Paul's instructions. It is, as Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 2:16, part of us together as a body of believers being of "one mind" and having the "mind of Christ."
So what does it means to weigh the prophecies? Paul indicates that other prophets are, presumably, to judge whether or not the words spoken really are the words of God to the body. It is ironic to me that the Greek word used for "weigh" here is more often used in the New Testament (such as in James 1:6) in the sense of "to doubt"! So, perhaps what Paul is saying here is to be very discerning in accepting what is spoken, not just buying it all wholesale.
The prophecy is to be given with an understanding that others will weigh it, and it also seems implied to me that a consensus must emerge among others gifted in prophecy as to the "rightness" or "wrongness" of the prophecy spoken. Without that consensus, the word likely should be set aside or ignored.
I think one very critical point to note here is the plurality of both prophets speaking and prophets weighing. At no point is this to be one person claiming to have a word from God and not being open to that word being evaluated by others.
At this time, I think it is important to once again pause and allow comments. I probably will try to wrap up these thoughts in one more post, unless the questions are sufficient to require more than one additional post.
Let me conclude with this thought, though: We must learn as believers to trust the Holy Spirit. By that, I mean that we need to trust that we do have the ability as a body of believers to stay on track with the Holy Spirit if we are not all individualistically trying to control the flow of knowledge.
This seems to really have bearing today in our modern concept of one pastor being the teacher without dialogue taking place during the teaching. No one person in the body of Christ has a monopoly on the mind of Christ! And none of us should ever be so presumptuous as to think that we are exempt from correction by others.
Having said that, I am now ready to receive your criticisms and disagreements with what I've spoken here!
Until next time,