The ministry of the Apostle and Prophet embedded in the spirit of Christ is infused within some parts of His Body even in this 21st century. The parts of His body bearing these gifts are obviously mortal men. They are not angels. There is much for which they can be despised for by those who intently want to do so.
However, the apostles’ ministry has enjoyed some measure of acceptance among other parts of Christ’s body bearing His other ministries and spiritual gifts but it has not been so for the prophets’ ministry and prophtic gift.
In this article, I intend to show how this is the case for the prophets ministry and prophetic gift, the main difference between the prophet and the prophetic gift and finally, exhort you the reader and the Church that God is encouraging a change in this attitude by hastening His workings of love, mercy and grace in the midst of the bride of His beloved Son.
The case for the Prophets’ Ministry and Gift
Firstly, without arguments the prophet and prophetic have been beaten down in the assemblies of God’s people over an immense period of time. It will be needless I think to recount in specific details how it has happened over the years. I have made mention of it that we may repent and stop it carrying-on. That said, it would be unwise not to mention that justifiably, some of the beating down that happened, is happening and will happen is necessary because many who claimed, are claiming and will claim to be Prophets and prophetic were, are and will be mere liars. So, their mouths needed, need and will need to be stopped.
The main difference between the Prophet and the Prophetic gift
It is important to state that the spirit of Christ at work in the prophet(s) is the same spirit at work in the prophetic person(s). The major difference between the two that I have understood through study of the Bible and my experience is this:
Prophets have a prior knowledge of what they have to say. The knowledge is not from what some humans told them, not from analyzing a situation and not from stumbling upon some governmental “white papers”. The knowledge is given to them by God speaking to them like man to man, via visions, dreams, trances, angels and the study of His word (Torah/Bible). Whatever God has said to them by any of these means is crystal clear to them and they say it boldly with gracious faith. All of these means can happen to them instantaneously in the midst of a given situation. Though God reveal things to them by these powerful means, it is still within their control to speak or not to speak. So, though they appear driven by His power and zeal, they are not men out of control. Therefore, it is said, “the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophet” 1 Corinthians 14:32NLT.
The prophetic gift
Unlike the prophet(s), the prophetic person(s) is or are mostly without prior knowledge of what they say. They can address a situation through utterance (not prophesying) and or action(s) in their own lives or others without even knowing they did. It is mainly impromptu.
The truth that the churches are heading nowhere without the operation of Christ’s ministry of apostles and prophets is obvious beyond doubt. The abandonment of these two ministries and the prophetic gift means refusing Christ to reign in His church purchased with His blood. It is a grievous sin! The churches of God are paying dearly for it as we see the devils right in our noses. I am not saying the devils will not try to operate in the assemblies or church but, they shouldn’t operate with the gatherings or church at the very least. For this benefit to come to us we need to grow in honoring Christ’s spirit that laid and is still laying our foundation and building the church Ephesians 2:20.
There are no grounds for competition within the ministry gifts or between the ministry gifts and the spiritual gifts. For clarity and emphasis, by ministry gifts, I mean those referenced in Ephesians 4:11.
The reason for the ministry gifts is firstly, to lay a firm foundation of Christ in the heart of the Church. Secondly, it is to take the gospel to those without God in this world. In the same vein, by spiritual gifts, I mean the different manifestations of Christ’s spirit operating in and from different parts of His body to edify the bride at the different places she gathers.
So, in every sense and way Christ’s ministry and gifts operate in the different parts of His body for one purpose and one purpose alone which is for the bride to exalt the bridegroom (Christ) by adorning herself with Him and glorify God by submitting to the Holy Spirit. This is why, paraphrased “where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name (have Christ in them), they are honored by His presence in their midst (not in them but in their midst)”. Therefore, the importance of community is this: Christ in them evidenced by His presence amongst them.
The logic: The evidence of Christ’s presence is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Without His presence amongst them, there is no evidence He is in them.
Where there is self (selfish ambition), the person present is full of all manner of evil. Who will that be? Satan. Therefore, He evidences his presence by the manifestation of his evils Galatians 5:19-21.
Whose presence is at work in our gatherings? We know how to find out now by discerning the manifesting presence.
Christ will keep coming to His fiancée (church) through the apostles and apostolic and the prophets and prophetic till the marriage supper (consummation). This keeps the body of Christ alert, exhorted, comforted and admonished.
The five gifts in Eph 4:11 and those in 1 Cor 12:8-10 & 28 is the person of Christ. 1 Cor 12:4-5 authenticated it by saying, “But the same Spirit”–that is, “the same Lord”. Those who bear the gifts are not the gifts. In verse 7 of 1 Cor 12, the gifts are described as a manifestation of the Spirit (Christ’ life) that bless His body.
The names apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist and shepherd are descriptive of how the grace of Christ is dense and shaped in the bearers. It’s like saying, “we have Christ but, we’re not Him”.
Rev 21:14 brings a depth of clarity on this meditation. Note what it says, “The foundations of the wall of the city had “names” of the twelve Apostles”. The people bearing the apostleship gift had their own names which were different from the word apostle (an operation of CHRIST IN them). In Rev 21:19-20, we’re given the names of the twelve people bearing the “apostleship of the Lamb” but surprisingly, the names differed from their names in the gospels. They were now called different precious stones. Why?
Well, among other reasons, the gifts are meant to refine and polish the bearers and others Rom 1:5-6—and, in revelation, He (the gift) accomplished the purpose in those that had the gifts.
The difference between the five equipping ministry and the rest of the spiritual gifts lies with their density, functioning and objective as opposed to the personality and influence of the persons bearing the gifts (not titles).
When we read in Acts that apostles, prophets and teachers were sent by the Church to minister—serve (more specifically equip) other saints assembling in different locations, it is simply saying that the grace of God recognized in those brothers will help in the other locations. Not that their personalities, influence, strategy, eloquence, skill etc. were needed. When the 21st century Church wakes up to this truth, we will stop seeing the bearers of the gifts as special or extraordinary. It is the gifts (Christ) that is extraordinarily flowing out from the vessels (gift bearers) like water flows out from a tap.
When we stop our misconceptions about the bearers of these gifts then, we will stop our wrong thinking that the gifts have ceased. These gifts is Christ operating through the Holy Spirit in weak mortals 2 Cor 4:7. By accepting these gifts, we accept for Christ to EQUIP His body as God has ordained. God will equip His body in no other way! It is the same Spirit of Christ that manifested as apostolic, prophetic, teaching, shepherd, evangelist and the other gifts in the lives of believers in the early Church that is still in the Church today. Christ (the gifts) has not ceased!
The philosophy of educated folks with huge influence that sneaked into the gathering of God’s people in the past centuries created misunderstanding of the gifts. Those folks were bent on exerting their influence on the churches to determine how the gathering of saints should operate. They assumed they understood man’s problem and evolving cultural needs better than Christ. They viewed Christ’s commands as archaic. Hence, propound that the churches should move and adapt to the decaying world rather than keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
The promotion that we should gyrate in the spirit but ignore to walk in and with the Holy Spirit is preposterous.
The world system which the churches has practised for a long time as wrongly proposed to her during the course of her history has become the norm in our 21st century church life. Now, God is sweeping away the refuge of lies that has held the churches in spiritual slavery. But, the grand children of those who propounded those evil theologies are throwing their carnal weight (called influence) to intimidate the vessels God is flowing through to ground Babylon (iniquitous religious strong empire). None dare to fight against her with carnal weapons Mark 3:27, Luke 11:22, 2 Cor 10:4.
It is no surprise! Jesus and His disciples suffered the same fate in the hands of the godless spiritual leaders of their day.
If you believe you’re gifted with any of the equipping ministries, then ask yourself this question: Have I genuinely recognized that the gift is Christ’s operation in me, therefore, I am not the gift? If your answer is yes, then ask yourself why you still insist on wearing His operation in you as your designation, title e.g., Pastor—, Evangelist—, Prophet— teacher.
Other stylish names exist e.g., Founder, primate, presiding bishop, general overseer, Reverend, His holiness, Executive/Senior/Junior Pastor (Pastor-Teacher or Preaching Pastor) and more subtle ones like lead elder (first among equals), mentor, life coach etc.
Mainly, the reason Christ is being resisted from operating in His dimensions of apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist and shepherd among His people is the way the persons He wants to work through have claimed entitlement to His operations (gifts). It’s their vision—they are the visionaries! These people as part of His body are not letting His body to see Christ. All that is being seen is, “Teacher— Apostle— Prophet— Evangelist — Pastor so and so, with all of their personalities or influence (created through crafty religious politicking).
Their influence is not giving the Holy Spirit a chance to reveal Christ to and lead God’s people. This accounts for the shallowness and immaturity of majority of us Christians. After many years and decades of being born again, we remain babies who must wear Christian badges, titles, belong to “a happening” denomination and use the bible for fencing to convince the world we’re of Christ. Selah!
Maybe, it’s the bible language that is confusing those with these gifts (which calls to question if they truly have it). For example, in 1 Cor 9:1-2, Paul said, “Am I not an apostle”. Some hold to that and say, “You see Paul called himself an apostle”. Yes! But, he was referring to the fact the gift of apostleship operated in his life. Again, he said, “If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you,” but please note, he finishes that sentence by saying, “the mark of my apostleship is seen in you”. The end of the sentence clarified what Paul was actually saying to them. He was saying the fact that Christ operated in him as an apostle was established by the foundation Christ has built in them through flowing out from him (Paul).
Let’s keep reminding ourselves that every Christian has the Spirit of Christ. That means, all, do have all of the gifts in Him. But, Christ chooses in the dimension He wants to serve through us. We all do not serve from the standpoint of all of the gifts 1 Cor 12:29-30.
It is important to mention that, both the equipping gifts and the other gifts can’t be trained for—that is why they are gifts. While, by laying on of hands, one believer can pass on the spiritual gift(s) to another believer, the equipping gifts of Eph 4:11 can’t. Today, we have many Christians with Eph 4:11 gifts but, the misconceptions about these gifts in the churches is hindering their recognition and benefit to us all.
Sober Reflection for those who believe they have Eph 4:11gifts:
Those who were mentioned in the scriptures as having equipping gifts had a growing lifestyle (In holiness, righteousness, patience, prayers, mercy, endurance, boldness, humility, suffering, power, wisdom, love, knowledge of Christ and grace—etc) even in the face of fiercest battles or troubles. It’s the mark of Christ! When they were pressed beyond their measure, they did not crumble—rather, they grew stronger! Saleh! They knew the demarcation between the Spirit and themselves. They knew how to rely increasingly on the grace (power) of the Holy Spirit for the renewing of their inner self (soul) while their “flesh” (the outer man) was wasting away daily 2 Cor 4:16, Rom 12:1-2.
Those truly with the equipping gifts (known as the fivefold ministry), win Satan and his cohorts through the nature of God worked in them. Their much study of the scriptures, fasting and prayers is to this end—that Christ might increase in them and also, be formed in those they serve! 1 Tim 4:16.
There’s a difference between having discernment and having the gift of discernment of spirits. The understanding of their difference is getting narrower in the Church today. Yet, the importance of keeping them wide apart and praying God to bless the church with both is needed now more than ever before.
A simple definition of discernment is, to have the ability to distinguish between things—knowing the difference between a male and a female (so we don’t marry a man thinking he is a woman and vice versa), a plane and a helicopter, an ocean and a creek, facial expressions, economies etc. To this extent, every human has discernment though, at varying levels especially when the distinction required gets more technical e.g., the ecology of an ocean compared to a creek or reading humans beyond facial expressions.
So, the more complex and technical a thing is required to be discerned, the more the depth of knowledge required to accomplish the task of discerning. Besides the intuitive knowledge all humans are born with which is limited, education plays an important role to condense and deepen our knowledge in specific fields e.g., while we may have a basic understanding from biology about the human body, medical doctors know far better.
Discernment for God’s people
Consistent heart involvement in reading the bible educates us to know or discern between good and evil ordinarily. This leads us to loving, praying and reverencing God and helps us to obey God in the things He instructs. It teaches us to love others and do right by them and to receive love from them as they do right by us. To this extent, all Christians know right from wrong.
Over time, consistent fellowship with the Holy Spirit, study of the scriptures and both pleasant and unpleasant practical experiences within and outside of the community of the faith, we acquire discernment at the level of our individual walk with God.
In Acts 17, the Berean Christians exercised discernment by checking the scriptures after Paul and Silas (Apostles) taught them the word of God. They understood that the word of God is light and it exposes lies and darkness. Every child of God is commanded to study consistently and meditate always on God’s word because it reveals God’s will for man. It renews the mind and a renewed mind is en-graced to do God’s good and perfect will which is the essence of all discernment.
This kind of discernment that comes from a relationship with Christ, study of His word and fellowship with the saints is used for one’s benefit and for others. A person with spiritual discernment gains protection and blessings for him or herself and others.
How does it benefit others?
By sharing the same insight with others—this is possible because Christ speaks to His sheep and speaks through them by the power of the Holy Spirit Heb 3:13.
Negative sources of discernment
Many people undertake studies and practical training to acquire dark knowledge within and outside religious circles to enable them gain discernment. The fields mostly used to gain this dark knowledge are rooted in ESP (extrasensory perception).
Those who subject themselves to these studies and its practical exercises acquire skills which can enable them discern or read people beyond the surface and so know how to predict them and possibly gain mastery over them for whatever purpose! More often than not, it’s used primarily for gaining power and control and only secondarily for material gain. The point I’m making is this; most of the people who get involved in this craft, are not so much money hungry as much as they’re hungry to have control of souls to rule. Discernment is a big thing with rulership or leadership. Those seeking discernment from sources other than God understand the preciousness of the soul and know that to have one soul under them is to advance over that soul as its god, master or guru. The god or master status can be nicknamed any circular or religious title depending on the purpose of the persons involved. Those in the business world take on the title suited for them and those in religious empires take on religious titles and mix their theology with HPM (human potential movement) teachings or its latest versions.
To achieve their objective, they can sacrifice and endure anything knowing that whatever they lose in the short term can be gained even much more if they chose to be materialist after souls are under their control. It’s for this reason, that some become super rich through fooling and exploiting others or their congregations without any application of force. Still, others will even chose to be modest but have multitudes all over the world follow and worship them as their guru. For those sitting over religious people, their words carry more weight than even God’s word in the bible to their subjects. They become the source for authenticating the truth of God’s word and not the word itself. Regrettable disaster!
Though there are limitations to this type of discernment, I just want to state its two major limitations which are:
It deals primarily at the mind level (the soul realm). It works by influencing people’s minds. This is why both the people who practice it and those it is practiced on get demonized.
It can’t discern the mind of God.
The Gift of Discernment of spirits
The difference between the gift of discerning spirits and having discernment is like the distant between continents. Majorly, it does not just deal with the mind realm and its motive but detects the kind of spirit in operation. It bypasses whether the motive is good or bad. This is an important point to note. A deceived person may have good intentions but is controlled by satanic spirits. It’s for this reason God has gifted some in His body with the gift of discernment of spirits which travels deep into a thing or being to discover if the propelling spirit is of God or the devil. People who have this gift can be uneducated because it has nothing to do with intellect.
The scripture warns believers to discern the body of Christ. In other words, we’re to recognize Christ’s Spirit in the midst of the gathering of saints and reverence His presence by sincerely loving and honouring one another. This includes esteeming God’s word above ourselves and subjecting everyone’s teaching and service to a healthy scrutiny through God’s word.
Having this gift does not make the bearer a Prophet. However, a Prophet not just a prophetic person carries this gift. All those with ministry gifts have it— especially Apostles and Prophets for the sake of their foundational work in God’s great house (Church) in the earth. While Simon had a bitter spirit and bond in iniquity which separated his heart from Jesus and denied him any portion with Christ though a believer, he was active in evangelism with Philip the Evangelist till, an apostolic team arrived to strengthen the gathering of the saints who were seeing new believers added to them. Please see Acts 8:9-25. Jesus knew when Satan entered Judas though he was participating in breaking of bread John 13:27. Also, Jesus knew when Satan spoke through Peter though Peter had good intentions Matt 16:23. By discernment, Peter knew that Ananias heart was overtaken by Satan—not that he made a slip of tongue Acts 5:3.
Possessing this gift doesn’t mean one can’t be tricked by people with wrong motives. Paul had this gift yet he suffered in the hands of false brothers 2 Cor 11:26.
Its focus is discerning which spirit is at work and not reading people’s minds or motives. Having a wrong motive is not always a sign of the presence of an evil spirit. For example, many zealous Christians want to eradicate poverty from the world. So, they work harder and smarter to make lots of money for charitable purposes than they devote themselves for intimacy with God. If the example startles you, it means you need to study and meditate on the scripture more and devote yourself to a lifestyle of prayer.
Today, we’re fighting the deceiving spirits the early Church fought with an added tilt. While, one of the major focuses of the early church was to withstand those who wanted to take the church back to Judaism, ours is the infiltration of occult teachings by many false teachers with loads of doctrines to mislead the undiscerning. With so many occult words becoming increasingly acceptable for Christian leaders to use, the lines are vanishing fast.
The depth of the mixture of truth and error is showing that the end is nearer than any other prophetic sign I know in the bible. They have succeeded in misleading many vibrant and good intentioned Christians who have the trust of God’s people. Therefore, the danger has become even more wide spread and harder to detect. In time past, a Christian has to deliberately go out of his or her way to be able to join occult organizations but now, one can easily imbibe occult teachings and even practice it while in a supposedly decent Christian community. Think of yoga, the different forms of transcendental meditation, crowd or mind control techniques blatantly used in the Church today.
In the early Church, those who exercised their spiritual gifts and those with the five-fold ministries, especially the Apostles and Prophets fought against these dangers with all they had—but in our time, there has been a lot of failing to do this. As a result, diviners and sorcerers are now ministering in the camp and are even highly respected as they do so!! Acts 16:16, 8:9-21 and 5:3, 1 Tim 1:19-20. Voo doo doctors are springing up in the gatherings of saints all over the world. They have abandoned their dressing styles by which they are usually known and are now dressed in clean suits or stylish modern jeans and T-shirts with leather bibles in their hands. It would have been marvelous if they had also dropped the spirit of their trade but no, they haven’t—they don’t have the Spirit of Christ.
There are many young and vibrant men and women (26-50 years old) in the church now who have imbibed occult teachings and are perfecting blending it with Christian doctrines. These are leadership minded folks who’ll do anything to sustain their ambition. Now and in no distant time, they are causing and will yet cause the church such problems as never before. There is much need now to stop the mouth of some people in the church. The leaders who have nurtured these people should have been stopped decades but it didn’t happen. No one wants to be seen as a trouble maker. No one wants to lose their reputation. Most people want acceptance, great following and to accomplish some great things for God—all at the expense of God’s pleasure. A pleasure God sacrificed His only Son to purchase.
We’re in need of not only discernment but also the gift of discernment of spirits.
If you have the gift of discernment of spirits (not the gift of suspicion), may the Lord our God strengthen you to speak out in the community of saints where God has set you Isaiah 62.
Exposing the false spirits that have come into the church gatherings and warning and sharply rebuking those who may have unknowingly been ensnared is within the context of the word edify. And those who’ve understood their error but are bent on travelling that route must be handed over to Satan by the church that they may be ashamed and repent—turning again sincerely to the Spirit of the Lord of glory, Christ Jesus.
2 Tim 3:16, tells us that the word of God is the substance of discernment and edifying as His Spirit through His sheep use the instrumentality of teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training in righteousness (participation in divine nature or character). The prompt application of these instruments of God is crucial for the assemblies of God’s people to abide in the mind of Christ (have one mind) Rom 15:5, enjoy unity of the spirit Eph 4:3 and its attendant benefits Ps 133:1-3.