Part Three - For the Life of the World: Chapter 7 - Prophet
The Church is prophet, priest and king to the world. Today we look at being prophetic.
I wrote in the last post that:
Prophets told forth the future and told forth God’s purposes in specific contexts so as to bring people to repentance and faith. They kept the people’s past with God before the people and ministered hope about the future.
Just as there is a priesthood of believers, so is there a prophethood of believers. Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28) that all God’s people would begin to prophecy. We have God's Word to instruct us. Prophecy is not a personal attribute or innate ability – it is a gift of the Spirit and the empowering presence of God. Through the work of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in each believer’s life, there is no longer a need for “a prophet” to be God’s intermediary. Each member of the body of Christ is capable of prophetic utterances and witness. The role of leaders is to equip and educate individual believers in the Word so that they may be able to preach and equip others as well. Unfortunately, what we have is an inversion of the New Testament vision. Quoting missiologist Roland Allen, Stevens writes:
“It would be better to teach a few men to call upon the name of the Lord for themselves than to fill a church with people who have given up idolatry, slavishly and unintelligently, and have acquired a habit of thinking that it is the duty of converts to sit and be taught to hear prayers read for them in the church by a paid mission agent.” Who could have designed a system, as surely happened, by which people can hear two sermons a Sunday for the whole of their lives and not be able to open up the Bible to others publicly? (171)
Stevens suggests that an authentic prophethood of believers would have the following traits:
First, every believer is called and equipped by God to bear witness to the gospel and to bring God’s Word to the world. A person does not need the ‘gift’ of preaching to be a witness.
Second, the prophethood of all believers means that each Christian should be ready to bring God’s Word ‘in season’ (when prepared and expected) and ‘out of season’ (when the opportunity comes unexpectedly and inconveniently, 2 Tim. 4:2)
Finally, the primary equipment of believers for the ministry of prophecy is continuous inundation with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) …The Holy Spirit is not given to the gifted, confident and ambitious but to the poverty stricken. (172)
Finally, Stevens says the Church is not just a collection of individual preacher/prophets. Corporately the Church lives out a prophetic function. By alleviation of suffering, promoting justice, and exhibiting godly stewardship, we speak forth God’s truth into the world as a corporate entity. While we each engage in prophetic work we are not prophets in the Old Testament sense of being individuals set apart from the rest of the body for a unique task. Our prophecy flows out our interconnectedness to Christ, the prophet, through the power of the Holy Spirit.