Acts 2 presents a paradigm shift in the way the body of Christ will function forever. The paradigm shift for the people of God would mirror that of the Messiah, Jesus Himself. And that is very important in Luke’s account of early church history as found in Acts. What happened in Acts parallels what happened to Jesus in Luke’s presentation in his Gospel.
As one theologian notes:
In the structure of Luke-Acts, the Pentecost narrative stands in the same relationship to the Acts as the infancy-inauguration narratives do to the Gospel. In the Gospel of Luke these narratives not only introduce the motifs which define the mission of Jesus, but they also show that Jesus will execute His mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. In a similar manner, the Pentecost narrative introduces both the future mission of the disciples and the complementary empowering of the Spirit. (Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, p49)
And so, in Acts 2, we find the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:5:
for John baptised with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
It is this paradigm shift event of Pentecost which thrusts forward the walking out of the thesis statement of Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
The Spirit poured out means just this – an empowered people! When they were baptised with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) or filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) or clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), it gave them the power to be witnesses. Simply put, they could not have been the witnesses Jesus intended had they not been empowered, baptised, filled and clothed with the Spirit of God. We might have a theology that allows otherwise. But that theology fails knowing the reality of what Luke teaches us in Acts 1 and 2.
Thus, with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the first followers of Christ were not given a ministry of maintaining the status quo. Far from it! They were given power to be His witnesses!
As I said in a recent post, what if Acts 1:8 had said this:
But you will receive the ability to maintain the status quo when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Good grief, I am glad it does not say that. Though we so easily fall into the trap of carrying out such a ministry. Oh, so easily. I know. I’ve been there.
But rather the Spirit was sent and given as a gift to empower God’s people so that they might continue the works of Jesus as witnesses in all the earth. That was my major point in this recent article. This would allow for the whole Christ to be known in the whole earth.
Not only were all of God’s people an empowered community, but they were also a prophetic community.
What do I mean by this phrase – prophetic community? Well, let me break it down a little more.
First off, the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, that is, all God’s people irrespective of gender or age. That, in and of itself, was quite a paradigm shift to the general nature of the old covenant, though we had little intimations that this would one day be a reality in the new covenant. That is why we read these words in Acts 2:17-18:
17 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
The Spirit given to all groups and all types of people. And what is the fruit of the outpouring of the Spirit of God? Go back and read these two verses. They shall prophesy! That is what these two verses emphasise as the by-product of the Spirit coming on all of God’s people.
And this makes quite a lot of sense when we realise that Jesus was the great prophet. Yes, more than a prophet. But still a prophet nonetheless, and a prophet par excellence. And He sent the Spirit to continue His exact same ministry in the earth today. The Spirit is the Spirit of prophecy, if anything else. And this is the same Spirit that indwells and empowers all of God’s people. Thus, we have a prophetic community.
Yes, I believe God gifts specific people as prophets and with prophetic gifts. But there is a sense in which the whole body of Christ carries a prophetic measure. And this measure should affect all areas of life, not just when we are used in the gift of prophecy. This affects right across every action, every word, every mindset, every thought, every attitude. Our whole lives are to be a prophetic pointer towards Christ.
Still, when we read 1 Corinthians 14, it seems in particular that prophecy, along with tongues, are the two most readily available gifts to the body of Christ. And tongues can function like prophecy when there is an interpretation of the public message in tongues (see 1 Corinthians 14:5). But we see Paul’s passion for the prophetic body of Christ with these words:
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
This was a statement to the church at Corinth. Not just a special group of prophets. Roger Stronstad articulately expresses this amazing reality in another of his books, The Prophethood of All Believers:
Jesus completed his redemptive ministry by giving orders to his disciples by the Holy Spirit about their imminent Spirit-baptism and empowering (Acts 1.2, 5, 8). Having ascended to heaven he then poured out the Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.33). He thereby transferred the anointing and empowering Spirit from himself to them, just as the Lord had earlier transferred the Spirit from Moses to the 70 elders, from Saul to David, and from Elijah to Elisha. By this act of transferring the Spirit to his disciples, Jesus, the Spirit-anointed prophet, makes his disciples a community of Spirit-baptized prophets. This fulfils an ancient oracle of the prophet Joel about a future age of restoration and blessing when the entire nation or community of God’s people, irrespective of age, gender or social status, would have the Spirit poured out upon them. Thus, on the day of Pentecost Jesus inaugurated the prophethood of all believers. (p71)
And, so, with the pouring out of the Spirit on God’s people, we also have the prophetic community. We cannot get away from our nature as Spirit-indwelt and Spirit-empowered people. We are a community of prophets. These are the things I preached this past Sunday at Cornerstone. If you are interested, you can listen to the message by clicking on the audio icon below. Or you can download from our podcast site or iTunes.
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Howe can the church be a “community of prophets” when Paul clearly teaches three things that deny it.
First, not all Christians prophesy (1 Cor. 12:29). If not all Christians prophesy, then how can the church be a “community of prophets?”
Second, “prophecy” has a specific meaning in Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 14) that is to be honored, for it comes from God and infallibly communicates His will. Even Scripture itself is called prophecy in many places (e.g. 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Rev. 1:3). We are not to make prophecy mean less than what God declares it is in order to make up an “amazing reality.” To claim that the indwelling of the Spirit, which is given to all believers, is equivalent to the gift of prophecy, which is not, is both dangerous to Christians, becasue it is misleading and unscriptural.
Third, prophecy was the 2nd leading gift in the church, just behind apostleship (1 Cor. 12:28). If the church is a community of prophets, then all are leaders since prophecy leads the church. Yet Paul clearly commanded the Thessalonians to honor their leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13) and the author of Hebrews told the Christians to obey their leaders (13:17). If all are a community of prophets, and thereby leaders, who is to obey whom?
What you call an “amazing reality” is in reality vapor. Even if you interpretation of Acts 217 is correct (which I doubt), it doesn’t claim all will prophesy: just “sons and daughters.”
BTW, have your sons or daughters prophesied lately?
Ted, short comment now, but maybe more later – I only wish you had read the tenor and thesis of my article. You failed to also consider Peter’s quotation of Joel in Acts 2:17-18.
Thanks again for stopping by To Be Continued. Here is a more detailed response to your comment. I am not asking you to agree with everything I say, as I don’t expect such to happen knowing we come from different perspectives. But I give this as more of a detailed explanation of the tenor and thesis of my article, sharing more of my heart behind what I believe is very clear in the tenor of NT Scripture.
I think there are a couple of things to distinguish here. 1) We must recognise a difference between a specific ministry gifting to particular people in the body of Christ and then how the Spirit of God can utilise anyone in the body of Christ in a particular ministry and gift. I am mainly a teacher-shepherd. But I have been utilised in prophecy before, as well as other ministries and giftings. It happens regularly across the body. 2) 1 Cor 12:29 says not all are prophets, but it does not say that not all can prophesy. I believe there is a difference to distinguish here, as I shall share more in this comment.
Another example is that there are specific evangelists that are given to help equip the body of Christ (i.e. Eph 4:11-13). Yet, the whole body of Christ is an evangelistic community because we are all ‘bearers of good news’, for that is what an evangelist is. Not all are teachers specifically, but all are called to be people who rightly divide the word of truth and to know the things of Christ. Etc, etc, for these ministries of Christ.
I don’t deny that prophecy is completely faithful (or infallible) to communicate the will and purposes of God into a situation.
Yes, Scripture is specifically prophecy in specific places. But not all of it is specifically prophecy. Please don’t think I am speaking against the Scripture. Let me explain more. Scripture is both of these: 1) it has specific prophecy right through it in so many places, 2) but it also has a prophetic edge across all of it. So though some of Scripture is wisdom sayings or song or history, it all has a prophetic edge. I believe that is an example pointer to the reality of the body of Christ. The body has specific prophets and people gifted with the gift of prophecy. But the whole body of Christ carries a prophetic edge and ministry in their lives, words, actions, attitudes, etc. And I do believe the Spirit of prophecy (for that was the major Jewish terminology of the Spirit in Luke’s day, who wrote Acts) can enable any of God’s people to prophesy. That is what is behind the reality of Peter quoting Joel’s words. And I believe this reality is also found in the words of Paul in 1 Cor 14.
I didn’t equate the two. I said one (prophecy) was the fruit of the other (the indwelling and empowering Spirit coming upon all God’s people). Again, read the fruit of what Acts 2:17-18 teaches about the Spirit being upon all God’s people. It is that we would prophesy.
Again, I think you are merging the ministry gift of prophet and the utterance of prophecy. There are specific prophets, and those gifted in prophecy, but there is the prophetic body of Christ in which the Spirit of prophecy is pleased to use any of His people, even people like me who are not prophets. This is why I believe the Scripture teaches 3 measures of prophecy, though I haven’t gone in to it too much just yet on the blog here. Maybe I should. Those 3 measures:
1) Prophets (Eph 4:11-13; 1 Cor 12:29) – These people are gifted in prophecy, but they also carry a specific ministry of equipping the body of Christ, and that would be mainly in equipping the body to be a prophetic people. That is the gist of Eph 4:11-13 – they equip the body of Christ. What would they best equip the body in? Their own ministry, that of being prophetic.
2) Gift of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10) – These people are used regularly in prophecy, but might not have a measure of equipping the saints in prophecy. I know quite a few people like this. Of course, the lines bleed easily between these first 2 measures.
3) All can prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 14:1) – The Spirit of prophecy enables all of God’s people to hear God and communicate what He is speaking.
Finally, consider this. Christ is the great prophet, priest and king, right? It is interesting how the whole body of Christ functions in a priestly ministry as the royal priesthood mentioned in 1 Pet 2:9-10. It’s awesome, the reality of the priesthood of all believers. Not only that, but the whole body of Christ functions in a kingly, royal ministry. Again, we are a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9-10) and Rev 1:6 says God has made us a kingdom and Rev 5:10 also says we are a kingdom. We are told that we are even now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). We carry both a priestly and kingly ministry as a whole body.
So, then, would we not also join in the prophetic ministry of the Christ? We are kings and priests as a company of believers. Are we not also a company of prophets?
Christ fully embodied what it meant to be God’s true prophet. The Spirit was sent to continue that same exact ministry, for He is the true Spirit of prophecy as any Jew would have known in the first century. And this Spirit of prophecy indwells the people of God enabling the full body to be the prophetic body. Thus, the prophethood of all believers. Truly a great ministry!
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You know what I don’t get – I mean, I really don’t…..
Is why guys like yourself, continuationists, truly regenerated, truly inheritors of God’s fabulous kingdom, think you are building up the gifts and their present day use when you actually denigrate them to the point of triviality.
We are in the New Covenant. We have a better Mediator, Jesus Christ. We have better promises, a better covenant, a better everything!
But whoa, when it comes to prophecy, for example, continuationists go reverse. Prophecy used to be direct communication from God in the O.T.. It was 100% accurate, testable, and completely binding. It demanded obedience. To not obey it was to disobey God. It was never trivial, or non-authoritative.
But today, claims the continuationist, prophecy contains human error, it is non-authoritative, and non-binding on people, making it trivial and pedestrian. Yet you guys genuinely think you are in line with the N.T. that always speaks of “better, better, better…”
So this is what you are doing in this post. According to you and your friend, the whole church is a “company of prophets.” No longer is that intense gift of prophecy carrying binding authority, as we always see in the New Testament. No, we all do it, and we all collectively have a “prophetic edge.” Wow. That sounds edgy. Now define that edge biblically? Problem is of course, God never speaks of a prophetic “edge.” It’s a made up term to suit you.
Look. You arrived at this position because it matches your theology, not because you saw it in Scripture. God never calls the church a “company of prophets,” so for you to claim it is is to go beyond His words. You worked your way to this idea by listening to a beloved friend work his way there by a process of analogy.
The analogy is simple. Just like all Christians are called to be evangelistic, and yet there are specially gifted people who are evangelists, so too with the gift of prophecy. All Christians are called to be prophetic, but there are some who are actually prophets.
The analogy ignores the Scripture, which shows only those with the gift of prophesy doing prophecy (1 Cor. 14). Yes, the church is to pursue prophecy (14:1), but this pursuing the full use of this authoritative gift in their assembly. The analogy also ignores the plain fact that evangelism and prophecy are different – so different in fact that the analogy doesn’t work. Evangelism never reveals hidden truth from God – it proclaims what is already revealed. Prophecy, on the other hand, declares that which is revelatory and known only to God (1 Cor. 14:6).
If you want to build up your people, as a pastor, use Scripture, not man-made analogies. They will burn at the judgment seat of Christ in the future and mis-lead people in the present. Is the church also a “company of apostles?” That too was a gift (1 Cor. 12:28). Is the church a “company of teachers? Sure, why not. But in so doing those gifts will become virtually meaningless, just as has been done here with “prophecy.”.
In defending prophecy as a continuing gift, you have dumbed it down to make it something far, far less than what it is described in Scripture. It is now non-revelatory. It is non-authoritative, and thus trivial. It is so, so much less than prophecy actually is in the O.T. and the N.T.
In teaching this, you believe you are actually teaching the body of Christ on how great the gift is, and how great it is to be a N.T. Christian: “You are in a company of prophets!” But in order to get there, you have to make prophecy something “far less” in an age of “much better.” Your “prophecy” is way less than the O.T prophecy, and way less than the N.T.
As I said, I don’t get it.
Yes, and things shift and change as we move from old covenant to new covenant. It’s the nature of moving from old to new. We continue to learn from the old, but the new is the fuller light. The old intimated at this reality of a prophetic company of believers (i.e. Num 11:29; Joel 2:28-29) and we have moved into this reality in the new covenant (i.e. Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 14:1, 5).
If your full understanding of prophecy comes from the OT, then I believe it will fall short, since the new covenant is superior to the old. We have to read the OT through the lens of Christ and the new covenant. It sheds greater light on the shadows, types and intimations of the old covenant.
Is prophecy always binding? Revelation can come forth, but the situation calls for wisdom in how to respond to the revelation and/or prophecy. Check out Acts 21:1-14. And I think most continuationists will recognise how modern day prophecy is not to be on the same standing as Scripture, but should be measured by Scripture.
Did I say prophecy contains human error? Did I say it is non-authoritative? Even in the NT it can be very authoritative. Check out 1 Tim 1:18-19. And those prophecies didn’t even make it into the canon.
I don’t speak for Marv. We both are continuationists, but approach some things differently, as you saw with our interaction on tongues.
Do we always see it as ‘binding’? Again, check out Acts 21:1-14. And consider a specific prophecy to a specific person or group of people. I don’t expect the entire body of Christ to walk out what God is speaking to one particular person or group of people. Sometimes the revelation that comes forth is very relevant and illuminating to the far-reaching body of Christ. But not always (as in this case of the prophecies to Timothy in 1 Tim 1:18-19 and the Corinthians prophecies).
Does Scripture utilise the word Trinity? Does Scripture talk about the hypostatic union in those particular words? Does the Scripture talk about the ‘priesthood of all believers’ in that specific wording? Does the Scripture talk about the ‘royalty of all believers’ in that specific wording? But all of those are there within the text. Why not this third arm of the ministry Christ, the prophetic ministry?
I used the word ‘edge’ as a 21st century word. I could have said ‘prophetic flavour’, ‘prophetic focus’, ‘prophetic leaning’, etc. I am simply using my language to communicate what I see in Scripture.
No one taught me this in a specific sense. Yes, I have heard great friends and others teach on prophecy and prophets. I know people who are prophets and function in the gift of prophecy frequently. But I would say I came to it via my own study of the Scripture – mainly seeing that Christ is the great prophet, the Spirit came to continue the exact same ministry, and he has called his people to be the full Christ in the full world which includes the prophetic ministry. This is what the prophetic company is centred in – the reality of who Christ is. Because that is what the priestly and kingly ministry is centred in – Christ.
It does not ignore Scripture, since I have centred it in Christ and referred to Scriptures in both the OT pointing to this and the NT speaking of the reality.
Just because the fruit/result of the two gifts – prophecy and evangelism – are different does not make the analogy any less insignificant. I could have compared any two gifts. There are some gifted in shepherding, but we all carry a sense of caring ministry. There are some gifted in teaching, but we are all called to rightly divide the word of truth. The analogy, thus, does not fail because the fruit and outworking of the two gifts differ. I was not comparing their fruit, but the nature of the gifts.
Again, I did refer to Scripture and looked to centre all of this in Christ, since we have a Christ-centred faith. And we are His body. I suppose His body as a whole is to function as their Messiah. So I have looked to found this in God’s word.
And please try and refrain from possible disrespectful statements.
The specific gifts do not lose their meaning, but they are expanded beyond the specific and embraces the reality of the whole body of Christ. Again, Christ only expects His body – as a company of believers – to reflect all of His ministries. What an absolute fantastic reality that what was only available to a few is now available to the full body of Christ because they are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. I do not negate the Spirit using specific people in specific ministries. You and I have specific ministry gifts. But the whole body of Christ will, at times, be empowered to walk out these gifts as situations call for them and the Spirit sees fit (1 Cor 12:11).
I hope you at least will respect my perspective on these ministry gifts of Christ.
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