11 When he had come to us,
he took Paul’s belt,
bound his own hands and feet,
and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”
While Paul and his companions were staying with Philip and his four prophet daughters, Agabus, called a certain prophet, came to Paul and warned him that he would be bound in Jerusalem by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles.
This passage made me think about warnings we perceive are from God, and made me question if the office of a Prophet still exist today in the same way as it did in the early church.
Have you ever sensed future trials?
My wife was just discharged from the hospital Monday December 9th, 2013 from a myelogram procedure that went all wrong. She was in the hospital almost a week. Then she was in bed at home for 4 days. Finally she can stand up on both feet. She is still walking with a walker, but now I feel much more hopeful that she will make full recovery.
A few weeks in advance, I was thinking about how horrible it would be to be confined to a bed. This thought of mine carried on in my mind for several days. Then the day before her procedure, I was out walking in the woods at lunch for some exercise. My mind turned toward my wife’s procedure the next day. I just didn’t feel good about it, and I called her with my cell phone. I told her I think that procedure is really close to your spine, and I don’t feel good about it. But she had been annoyed by a chronic pain up to this point, so she decided to go through with the procedure.
Now looking back, possibly the feelings I had were warnings. But could I say to my wife what Agabus told Paul, “thus says the Holy Spirit”? No way. I did not have that kind of revelation to feel 100 percent sure that there was going to be a problem in her future.
What is a New Testament Prophet?
The New Testament Prophet appears to be a gift, a position or an office in the early church. Below are passages that mention this gift and position. Joel foretold that when the Spirit of God was poured out that sons and daughters would prophesy, which seems to be the case with Philip’s four daughters that were mentioned in the last passage in Acts 21.
16 “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
1 Corinthians 12
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
What does the New Testament say about Prophets?
We can glean more information from the passages below and from our passage in Acts 21 to determine what the New Testament says about Prophets in the early church.
1) In the case of Agabus as shown in the passage in Acts 21, we know that God revealed specific future events through the Prophets as warnings.
2) The below passage tells us that their prophecies were only in part.
1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
3) A Prophet spoke not only of future events, but they also spoke words to edify, exhort, and comfort. Paul says below that this is a gift that is to be desired.
1 Cor 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
4). Below a Prophet’s gifts include convincing, convicting, and revealing strongholds in others. 1 Cor 14:24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
When Jesus exposed the sin of the woman at the well she perceived he was a prophet. This shows the supernatural gift of knowing what is going on in another’s life and heart.
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
5) Those with the gift of prophecy judged what the other prophets said. Paul doesn’t say what they were to do with a false prophet, but based on the Old Testament, I don’t think the prophet would be trusted any longer. 1 Cor 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. Deut 18:20 But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.
6) Because the Prophets prophesied in part, it appears they filled in the gaps with each other in their church meetings. Additionally, the purpose of the prophecies were that all may learn and be encouraged by their words. 1 Cor 14:30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
7) Last, the New Testament says prophesies will fail or eventually no longer be needed. Surely this will be the case when Christ returns, but have prophecies already ceased today??? 1 Cor 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
So does the gift and office of a Prophet still exist today?
Yes and No.
Obviously a Bible preacher or teacher today can expound the scriptures and edify, exhort, comfort, convince, convict, and encourage others in a general sense today. But what about the 1st century gift of foretelling the future or supernaturally knowing what’s going on in a persons life that they had never met before? Through my life experiences, I do not see that today’s prophets are like the prophets that I read about in the New Testament. I have never met one that is willing to say for sure that their word about the future is “thus says the Holy Spirit”. Also, I don’t see several prophets in a church that have the gift that can judge if each others prophecies are true. I don’t see prophets today knowing for sure the sin in another’s heart. So I think in this supernatural sense, the office of a prophet has ceased just as the office of an Apostle has ceased.
Today’s prophets lack not only Holy Spirit authority about foretelling the future but they also lack details. Their message is so general, it just doesn’t provide enough specifics. One person told me that they had a word for me, that I would do great things. Well I appreciate the encouragement, but that is different than Agabus’ detailed prophecy regarding Paul. He said, the man who owns this belt, meaning Paul as the object of the prophecy. He said, the Jews would be involved in the capture. He said the capture would happen in Jerusalem. He said Paul would be bound. He said Paul would be delivered to the Gentiles. Although the prophecy was not a complete play by play, it was much greater detail than many of the vague so called prophecies of today.
However, I will not put God in a box. He can still do a supernatural revelation today regarding someone’s future. He can still work through others and in our dreams. So all I am saying is it doesn’t appear to me that the gift and office of Prophet is normative today as it appears to have been in the first century church.