Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Does It Prophet?

I thought I was finished talking about leadership gifts in particular, and ministry gifts in general, but an interesting post over the weekend has brought me back to the well--this time to speak about prophets and prophecy.

God has demonstrated throughout history a desire and willingness to inspire people with his Spirit. From Adam in the Garden, to the Israelites in Sinai, to the prophets of the Old Testament, to the affirmations of Paul, the scriptures confirm God's desire to inspire his people with his Spirit. Only the separation of humankind from God due to sin frustrated that desire through the ages. As a result, only a few well-chosen people were inspired by that revelatory Spirit.

Until sin was dealt with broadly through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ God's liberality of Spirit had to "wait". Since Christ has expunged sin and reconciled to God all who put their trust in him, God's desire to inspire can be pursued all inclusively (even if only in part). Ultimately, God's desire to inspire will be fulfilled at the end of time when the redeemed will share that revelatory Spirit fully. Then it will be said of us that we know [him] even as we are known [by him].

The prophets of the Old Testament had a job, but only for a season. Some of them had great and memorable gifts, some were attended by signs and wonders, and others were less notable in these regards. All of them spoke for God to a people that could not and did not want to hear from God themselves. They were relatively rare amidst the community of faith. 

As impressive a lot as they were, none of them had the experience of the Spirit that anyone in Christ's kingdom does. They were selected by God for their labor as a necessary part of bringing things to that ripe moment when Christ would appear, and then they would no longer be needed. There are things that Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel (among others) prophesied that have not yet come to pass, so their work continues in a certain respect. When Jesus said they prophesied until John, he did not mean that their words suddenly fell to the ground, but that the function they served ceased (as did the law's).

The prophets of the New Testament have a different job, but only until Jesus comes back. Some have more noticeable gifts than do others, some even become church leaders. Moses' inspired longing is answered among them, for even though there are only some in the church that are actually prophets, all of God's people can prophesy. Prophets no longer speak exclusively for God to people who can't and don't hear from him themselves, now they speak that which others can confirm and everyone can affirm.

New Testament prophets are not meant to be rare, for their service is needed in the meeting of the saints. It is best to have a bevy of them for the purpose of weighing what is prophesied. To squelch this needed gift, or to make it so difficult to operate in as to effectively bar it, is just shooting ourselves in the feet. Quenching the Spirit by despising this gift can truly be said to prophet nothing!