We're continuing our series on the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here is an idea of where we are going:
Also, I have here, a synopsis of last week's message on Apostles. This week, we will be looking at the ministry of the Prophet. Now before we continue, I want to make something clear: never think of these ministries as levels. Nothing in the scriptures suggests that these ministries are on levels of power or spiritual depth. The one who lays the foundation is not more important than the one who finishes the house. Neither is the one who finishes the house more important than the one who sells it. Most importantly, remember that the house being built belongs to God.
First, we must be clear on this: a person who prophesies is not necessarily a prophet, just as a person who teaches is not necessarily a teacher, and a person who shepherds and disciples is not necessarily a pastor. We must not overlook the vitality of being appointed and affirmed by God, through the people He has sent to you for accountability. Otherwise, any online search can take you to a website that can make you a "prophet" or a "pastor." Such sites can give you an ordination certificate, today. But,they cannot give the affirmation and commisioning before God they way an Elder will give to one who is faithful. Seeing this, an ordination certificate does not make a person a minister in the church of God. Faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:2), biblical qualifications (Titus 1:5-9), and the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6), does.
Now, on to Prophets! A prophet (prophetes, Gr.) is a person who speaks under divine influence and inspiration. This includes the telling of future events, exhorting, reproving, and even threatening of individuals or nations as the ambassador of God, and the interpreter of His will to men (Zodiates, Spiros, (1992) The complete word study dictionary new testament, 1992, AMG). They speak the thoughts of God while retaining their own consciousness and self-possession.
Such people are especially sensitive to evil. They are men and women who conquer callousness, to change the inner man, and revolutionize history. He speaks of God's motives, desires and emotions. Yes, he or she not only has a message, but a greatly affected heart. They weep. They yell. They "cry aloud and spare not." They are more than mouthpieces. They are partner; and associate with God. They are people who associate with the feelings of God -- a sympathy with the divine pathos.
Here is the primry concern of the Prophet: And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).
From this verse, we can see specific things this prophetess did:
1. She worshipped, fasted and prayed, constantly.
2. She spoke of Jesus
Then, there are prophets like Daniel and Jeremiah who also prayed and interceeded for their nation (Daniel 9). See especially how Daniel prayed in chapter 9, saying in verses 5 to 13, "we have sinned," and to "us belongs shame." not "they" have sinned. Being a godly man, he stood in the gap for the nation. In the same way, New Testament prophets must stand in the gap. The primary discipline of a prophet is to intercede for those to whom God sends him or her. That's the day job of a prophet, just as the day job of an apostle is to suffer on behalf of the cause of Christ, and His church.
Finally, prophets give stern warning. Agabus was one such prophet, who foretold a famine in the Roman world (Acts 11:28). This same prophet also warned Paul of the sufferings he would face (Acts 21:10). Another prophet, John the Beloved penned the Revelation as God showed him things that have been, things that are, and things to come (Revelation 1:19). Prophets do indeed predict, but they also speak of NOW. They speak of the spiritual climate of this very day. They feel the emotions of God, even His grief and anguish for His church, as well as the world.
Apostles are the "Sent One's." The word "apostolos" means "one sent forth with orders." Keep in mind that as with all of the ministry gifts, the apostles, according to Ephesians 4:12 are ones who have been set in the church for a very specific reasons:
The church need apostles, to this day. I believe the reason why many have not embraced the idea of modern-day apostles is because they do not fully understand the calling and charge of apostles. But, these are individuals who are called to establish churches by overseeing the appointment of elders. Still, there is much more to being an apostle than that, alone. But first, let's look at what a "church" is. In the NT, there is the church (Acts 2:47, Ephesians 1:23, Ephesian 5:32), and then there are the individual churches (Acts 16:5, 2 Corinthians 11:28, Revelation 2:7, 2 Corinthians 8:18-19). Further, there are ministries within each of the churches (1 Corinthians 12:5, Romans 11:13, 2 Timothy 4:5, Acts 21:9).
So, the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head. Within the Church are individual churches. These are separate organizations that work under Christ, and governed by Elders – they are not just gatherings. Within those churches are believers who have ministries. These are not necessarily organizations, but services offered by the Spirit through individuals who God has gifted. Still, it is biblically supported for believers to organize and publicize a ministry (see Romans 11:13) that is unique to the gifting and grace upon their life (Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:5, Colossians 4:17). Apostles are one such ministry, and they are called for a special and holy service.
Here are the marks of an apostle:
First, if you are to be an apostle, you have to be sent to establish churches in unreached areas, and appoint elders (Acts 13:2-3): "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off."
You are not allowed to make yourself an apostle (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). You are appointed by people of prayer and fasting, yourself, and then sent. Being a REALLY good preacher does not make a person an apostle. Having revelation from scripture does not make a person an apostle. Being a best-selling author does not make you an apostle. Finally, having a large, influential church and denomination does not make a person an apostle. An apostle is "one sent" to an unreached region to establish churches and appoint elders for those churches. Apostles are the tip of the spear. They go first. They lay the foundation for the presence of the body of Christ in a region or people group.
Secondly, according to 2 Corinthians 12:12, an apostle moves in signs and wonders: "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. An unreached people group must see the power of Christ manifest. They must experience the power and glory of the Living God through these "Sent Ones." In defending the monostry of the apostle to his critics, Paul said he would test them, not by their words, but their power: "Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).
Thirdly (and possibly most importantly), apostles suffer. If you are an apostle and you do not suffer for the church, then I believe you are a false apostle. I would ask any one who claims apostleship, "Where are your scars?" "For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things (1 Corinthians 4:10-13). Apostles do not go unscathed. Every apostle in the Bible suffered, but it was not just for suffering's sake. They suffered for the church. THey suffered for the cause of Christ. They did not only go through emotional anguish. They were physically beaten, imprisoned, and tortured. Many of their familes paid the ultimate price. Still, they labored for a prize that this earth cannot give. Modern Apostles do not have a lesser qualification.
Keep in mind that as we study the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit, be prayerful as you find yourself in each of the callings we discuss. We are not learning about these things as a scholastic endeavor, but as a discovery -- an unveiling of the calling upon your life.
Ice...then, subzero temperatures, then snow. Ugh...I would have never guessed that Oklahoma weather would get this crazy! Since being here for the past 20+ years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen temperatures drop as low as they have in the past week! Still, even though we didn’t gather, I am so happy to announce that our involvement in the solution for MANY families was great. This past week, we were able to provide meals, supplies and assistance in housing for families in transition, those experiencing homelessness, and woman who are in crisis. As a church, we were able to keep many people safe, and out of the cold. Still, we are not done yet. Tonight, I’ll be picking up some winter gear kits for those who are currently sheltered, so they can be better prepared for the rest of this season. We’ve also reached out to some addiction recovery organizations to see if we can find some permanent options for those who are now in temporary housing. We’re moving forward in a big way to help those who are unable to help themselves.
We have also made it official: Deliver Hope Uganda is a part of the First Love Fellowship family. As a satellite ministry, DHU is pouring into the lives of children by providing food, shelter, education, and discipleship to 88 children. Please remember them in your prayers. I’ll be sending out some names and pictures to you soon. To answer the question: Yes, a small church can make a HUGE difference in the lives of hundreds and even thousands. What’s important is not how many gather, but how many lives are impacted by the few that gather. If you are activated in your calling and gifting, then you, alone, can rock this city! So, please stay prayerful, and be prepared to walk in those spiritual gifts.
Speaking of spiritual gifts – were still diving into them! This week, we will begin to look at the ministry gifts. Please refer to the post I sent out earlier this month on the Ministry Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Read it and be prepared to discuss the church in relation to the office of the Apostle, tomorrow night. This is a hugely important issue, as it seems that everyone is an apostle these days. We’re going to discover what a modern-day apostle actually is – and trust me, you don’t know many (if any at all).
Finally…I missed you all. I look forward to tomorrow night. Let’s prepare to receive the Word, fellowship, break bread, and pray. The days ahead are going to be interesting, and we want to make sure we are spiritually prepared to face them. Let’s humble ourselves and not assume that we are ready. Come to church. It’s no small thing to gather as the family of God. We’re going to need each other more as the days go by.
IMPORTANT: Remember to read the post I sent out containing the narrative called, The Riverbank
The Riverbank Narrative
Thousands of people, led by five people are at the bank of a wide river. Based on their respective gifts, they have to lead the crowd across to a large island:
Apostle jumps in first, but swims alone because if anyone can do it, he can do it. He faces poisonous snakes and alligators, and almost dies, trying to get across. Miraculously, he makes it, and then swims back, warning the others not to go his dangerous route because they are inexperienced. After he eats and gathers more supplies, he goes back across the river, facing the same danger. Now, being a great swimmer and communicator, he decides to build a rest house. It’s pretty bad. He begins to lay a good foundation, but the roof is unfinished, the walls are not painted, and there is no HVAC, electricity, or indoor plumbing. The house is barely good enough to provide shelter. Of course, he thinks it’s perfect for everyone.
Prophet swims the same route as Apostle. She is an excellent swimmer as well, and upon arrival, sees the shoddy house Apostle built. Rather than rest inside, she stays at the shore, calling the others to swim across, now! She warns them to hurry because a huge storm is coming -- the biggest storm, ever! To prepare for the multitude, she kills all the alligators, but cannot kill the snakes because they are hidden under the mud. After all of that work and preparation, hardly anyone comes. This brings her to depression, and she isolates herself in the forest for three days. Afterwards, she returns to help Apostle finish laying the foundation of the house for the few who swam across. Although she thought she could do it, she soon finds out that like Apostle, she’s not that good at finishing and maintaining a house. Because of this, she runs back to the forest in anger and depression. It’s starting to rain.
Evangelist eloquently convinces people from all over, to cross the dangerous river. No need for them to swim though. He collects money, and builds a state-of-the-art, covered bridge for everyone to cross. The more, the better. The people love it as he leads them across. Afterwards, he tells everyone that they should become bridge builders, as there is nothing in the world more important than to build bridges as he does. Every other method of crossing water is inadequate. Prophet stares at him from the forest, in frustrated disbelief, and then goes back into the forest. Evangelist then puts on a pair of alligator shoes made from discarded alligator skins (from the ones killed by Prophet), walks past the rest house, and goes inland to see what else is on the island.
Pastor is among the multitude crossing the bridge, and upon getting across, cannot believe the horrible condition of Apostle’s house. With no other choice, he personally remodels the house, hires a volunteer staff, and makes the house far better for everyone. The remodeled house saves thousands of lives by providing them rest, shelter, food, and instruction on how to manage their new life on this side of the river. In response, the people go happily into the house, sharing great stories of the amazing things done by…Evangelist! Pastor is frustrated because no one understands the burden of the work he has to do. Also, people are bringing snakes into the house! Furthermore, Apostle also keeps coming to the house to fix things that aren’t really broken. Pastor wishes he would just maintain the foundation because his meddling is going to tear the house apart. And, where…is…Prophet?
Teacher also crosses the bridge, and moves to the beautiful house. He works very closely with Pastor. He instructs everyone in the house on how to kill snakes. Everyone loves the lesson, but they brush the snakes aside so they can continue to maintain the house, just as Pastor said. Soon, the storm comes (the one predicted by Prophet), and the snakes that were hidden under the mud become exposed. Teacher calls the whole multitude to go out and kill the snakes! No one responds. Then, Pastor calls the whole multitude to go kill the snakes. Everyone responds positively, but there are no volunteers. They ask to stay behind, to bear the burden of managing the house. Pastor is satisfied with that answer. Teacher isn't. Nevertheless, Teacher and Pastor go to kill the rest of the snakes. Teacher spends a lot of time slowly separating them into groups, according to their breed, and kills them methodically. Pastor doesn’t have time for that, and flails violently at every snake he sees. He thinks teacher is too slow and immature to do this job well. Pastor is indeed effective, killing more snakes than Teacher, especially near the house. Upon killing the remaining few snakes, Teacher privately informs Pastor that he did not kill the snakes according to the instructions. Because Pastor did not group the snakes by breed, some of the remaining snakes can reproduce, causing more snakes in the future. Pastor feels horrible because he feels like he always makes mistakes due to his personal inadequacies and lack of support. He joins Prophet in the forest to cry. It’s still raining.
As both cry and lament in the forest, wondering why they ever had to cross that water, Prophet tells Pastor about an especially good swimmer among the multitude of people who crossed the bridge with Evangelist. He was good at killing snakes, and was one of Teacher’s best students. He spent most of his time maintaining the house. They find him and give him the name, Apostle. They then send him inland to another riverbank. Evangelist is waiting for him at the new riverbank with a new multitude of people. Apostle jumps in, first.
We have to avoid the idea of thinking we don't need these people because we have the Holy Spirit and our own relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 4 tells us why we have such people.
We’re on our last tract of the nine spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 – the utterance gifts. These are the gifts that SAY something. They are: tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy. Now before we continue, I want you to understand that these gifts are not essential for salvation For example, you can be a powerful accurate, godly believer without speaking in tongues. This is demonstrated in the life of Apollos in Acts 18:24-25: And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. Knowing only the baptism of John (as opposed to the Holy Spirit baptism, he had eloquence, great knowledge, fervency in spirit, and diligence – but no power. Because of this, Aquilla and Priscilla had to teach him the way of God more perfectly (v26).
Seeing this, there must be an additional impartation when we come to Christ! Apollos was not wrong. Neither was he bad. His understanding was just incomplete. In the next chapter, they ran across some disciples and asked the question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” (Acts 19:1-2). Their answer was that they had never even heard of the Holy Ghost! Again, they were not bad people. They simply didn’t know. Still, two things had to happen for them to know: teaching and impartation. When these two things happened (v4-6), they received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Right now at First Love Fellowship, we’re currently in the teaching phase.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is not just speaking in tongues. It is power to be a witness (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit brings credibility to the witness that Jesus is alive in His church. That credibility comes through the demonstration of the Spirit’s power in miracles, signs and wonders. Those signs include tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy.
Yes, it’s the praying that sounds like gibberish. Here’s what the Bible says: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:13-14). This gift of God enables the believer to pray in a language that is unknown to them. It is heavenly language or the “tongues of angels” described in 1 Corinthians 13:1. This is different from what happened in Acts 2, where they spoke in languages that were understood by those around. In this case, no man understands him, but in the spirit, he speaks mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:1). So, the purpose of speaking in tongues is to declare in prayer, the mysteries of God without the filter of our own understanding. Also, see Romans 8:26-27, where Paul is speaking of prayer with, “…groanings which cannot be uttered” from those who “do not know what (they) should pray for as they ought.”
Interpretation of Tongues
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? (1 Corinthians 14:13-16).
This gift is different from tongues, as it involves understanding. The gift of interpretation of tongues can be the Spirit-led speaking of a known language that can be understood by unconverted listeners. It can also be the Spirit-led interpretation of an unknown tongue by a person who is gifted in that area. Again, this is not the mere understanding of a language. It is the declaration of the will of God, based on the utterance given. A person can speak in tongues to God in prayer without interpretation. However, if a person is addressing those around them in a tongue, there needs to be an interpretation, or the person should stop addressing everyone in tongues, as it does not edify anyone unless there is an interpreter. Still, if there is an interpreter who can declare what the Lord is saying through the speaker, then the church can receive the gift. The person with this gift of interpretation of tongues will generally not speak unless a tongue goes forward.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5)
Did you see that? It says, “…he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless indeed he interprets.” This is why we cannot limit ourselves to speaking in tongues. The importance of praying the mysteries of God cannot be understated. In prayer and intercession, this is a vital gift of God. However, if the church is to be edified, utterance must be given to the hearers in a way that can be understood. The gift of prophecy is an utterance gift that edifies the church. It does not require a tongue to go forward. It is the Spirit-led declaration in a known language that brings edification, exhortation and comfort. Yes, those who prophesy should be doing so in a way that builds the church (if indeed, they are hearing from God). To prophesy is to speak forth in teaching, refuting, reprove, admonishing, and comforting by diving revelation. It is to “to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or praise of the divine counsels.”
When one is filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the demonstratable power of God so that the credibility of our witness can be established. In Acts 2, the gift of interpretation of tongues was given because that is what was needed at the time. The whole known world was there, and they needed to know that Jesus was alive in the church. Soon after, you begin to see healings because the need was there. After that, miracles, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom – it all depended on what God wanted to do at that moment to demonstrate the power of the risen Christ.
Bonus: Watch this video of a verifiable miracle. I know this woman. I used to carry her up the stairs of the bookstore at my former job in Queens, NY. She was paralyzed, but is now able to walk. When I knew her, her legs were shriveled. Today, she can walk normally.