Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010. When we read the Old Testament prophets, it is a natural question to ask what is the state of prophecy today? Are there similar people today, who serve as prophets? What does the New Testament say? What is the practice in our churches and communities? What are the experiences which we do?
First, the New Testament knows prophecy. In the New Testament times there were people who knew about God's word for the future and about God's thoughts with respect to churches and community. Examples are given in the book of acts and by the revelation of John, which is a prophetic book as a whole. In the list of spiritual gifts in Ephesians the gift of prophecy is explicitly named. Paul and the other apostles considered prophecy as a integral part of the activity of a healthy church.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4: 11-13)
In our current churches, prophecy is treated quite differently. The classical churches such as the orthodox or catholic churches, and with them many Lutheran state churches in Europe, do not practice any prophecy explicitly. In their services or church life the key role is played by a pastor, who is often full-time employee. The pastor carries out most of the spiritual duties in the church, he preaches and he leads the services. Evangelists, apostles, prophets, teachers are not necessarily named, though the pastor also exercises some teaching usually.
But there is not even a hint in the new testament that the spiritual gifts which are described there are completely lost today. We can be sure that the Lord gives spiritual gifts today, in a way adequate to our faith and our needs. He will also give the gift of prophecy to some of us, who believe in Jesus. He will call some to work as evangelists, spreading and explaining the message about Jesus and his key role for human life. There will be apostles, who are sent to build churches and to guide the community of christians. There are teachers, with the gift to lead people deeper into faith, and there are pastors, who can guide and support people on their way of faith.
The gift of prophecy today will be different from the prophecy of the Old Testament and from the New Testament prophetic work. The Old Testament prophets led the people of Israel in a time when the son of God had not been there. They prepared God's salvation work. The New Testament prophets were there when the story of Jesus happened, when God changed heaven and earth. Their role was to guide the early Christians, to establish a the gospel in its original version. The church is built on the apostles and prophets. Today, we have much more, we do not need prophecy as it was carried out 3000 or 2000 years ago. We still need God to guide and lead us in modern time, modern philosophy and modern society. This task is enormous, and God's guidance will reach us through the work of many people, leaders and writers, pastors and ordinary church members, with todays prophets among them. [R.W.E.P., jesusnetwork.eu]