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Apostles and Prophets:  Do we have them today? 

Gary Googe May 31

Obviously, there are people who think we do.  Does this coincide with what the Scriptures tell us? Again, it appears that there are those who think it does.  Let’s begin our study of this with some of the Scriptures people use to back up their beliefs about this.

Ephesians 4:11-12

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Then we are told why these gifts were given.

12 For the perfecting [KATARTISMOS = preparing fully] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [Emphasis added]

Isn’t Ephesians a book written by our apostle, the apostle Paul? Certainly, that would settle the matter in the minds of some because he is said to be our apostle, the apostle to the Gentiles.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I [Paul] am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify [DOXAZO = glorify] mine office: [Emphasis added]

Paul understood that he had a special work in making God’s will known about a lot of things for the timeframe in which we live today.  But were these special gifts to be permanent or could they have been only for a time? What about all those other special spiritual gifts that were operative at that time? What about the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, and miracles? Didn’t the apostle Paul and others exercise ALL these gifts? They surely did! So, what are we to believe about this? To answer this question correctly, we must first determine the purpose of these gifts.  Why were they given in the first place? Let’s now look at Ephesians 4:12 again but along with more of that passage.

 Ephesians 4:12-15

12For the perfecting of the saints [bringing them to a complete understanding of God’s policies for us today], for the work of the ministry [being of service to others], for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ:

13Till we all come in the unity of the faith [the things believed], and of the knowledge of the Son of God [knowing Christ in His heavenly ministry to us], unto a perfect man [a complete body], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ [becoming like Christ in our thinking]:

14That we henceforth be no more children [immature], tossed to and fro [being unstable in our beliefs], and carried about with every wind of doctrine [being vulnerable to false teaching], by the sleight [deception] of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [Emphasis added]

There are other passages that tell us practically the same thing about these various spiritual gifts that were provided. 

I Corinthians 12:4-7

4 Now there are diversities of gifts [CHARISMA—a form of the word CHARIS which means grace—these are gifts of grace, not earned or deserved], but the same Spirit.

5 And there are differences of administrations [various ways they function], but the same Lord.

6 And there are diversities of operations [the ways these gifts affect different people], but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. [Emphasis added]

It is argued by some that all these spiritual gifts are necessary for the church which is the Body of Christ to function properly today.  Is that true? It is very important that we realize something about the first verse we noted in this study.  Let’s look at it again.

 Ephesians 4:11

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [Emphasis added]

That word gave is in the past tense.  He’s pointing out that this was something God had given in the past.  That means these gifts were no longer operational at the time Paul wrote those words.  Paul wrote Ephesians toward the end of the Acts period when he was under house arrest.

Acts 28:30

30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house [in Ephesus], and received all that came in unto him,

The temporary nature of all these spiritual gifts is stated in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 13:10-12

10 But when that which is perfect [TELEIOS = something having reached its end or conclusion] is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 

Here he’s speaking of the completion of the revelation recorded to be a part of Scriptures—the Bible.  All the spiritual gifts were needed until the revelation of Scripture, particularly Paul’s writings, was complete.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

He’s speaking of these gifts as things God had provided in the infancy or the childhood period of time in which these things were first given.

12 For now [early on] we see through a glass, darkly [the revelation was still not complete]; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know [those truths that were to be revealed] even as also I am known. [Emphasis added]

At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians and the Ephesian letter, God was not “giving” [present tense] those gifts any longer but rather He “gave” [past tense] those gifts earlier in Paul’s ministry.  Spiritual gifts were no longer being given to new believers even as they’re not given to them today.  Once the written Word of God was completed at the end of the timeframe of the Acts period [Acts 28], there was no longer a need for the spiritual gifts program.  Even though this passage is often misunderstood, please note again how clear the Scripture is about this.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

8 Charity never faileth [PIPTO = loses its usefulness]: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail [be done away with]; whether there be tongues [the miraculous ability to speak foreign languages without having had any training in them], they shall cease; whether there be knowledge [gaining knowledge by special revelation], it shall vanish away.

Regarding the gift of tongues, please see my article about it— Tongues:  Do people “speak in tongues” today?

9 For we know in part [God’s revelation for us was still incomplete], and we prophesy in part [the teaching they proclaimed was still incomplete].

10 But when that which is perfect [TELEIOS = something having reached its end or conclusion] [TELEIOS is also in the neuter gender meaning he’s speaking of an object, not a person] is come [speaking of all that God intends to reveal to us in Scripture], then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Again, he’s speaking of these gifts as things God provided in the childhood or infancy period of our age.

12 For now[when he was writing this] we see through a glass, darkly [the revelation was still not complete]; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity [AGAGE = love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity. [Emphasis added]

All the spiritual gifts were temporary, not just some of them.  They were only necessary until the full revelation of the Scriptures was put in place.  Knowing “in part” eventually resulted in the full revelation of Scripture we have now in the 66 books of the Bible.  All too often there’s the belief that all the spiritual gifts were to last indefinitely or until Christ returns to set up His kingdom.  But such is nothing but speculation.  The Scriptures do not tell us that.  What they do tell us is that when complete revelation had been provided, these things would be brought to a halt because they would no longer be needed.  Again, we have this passage that tells us this.

Ephesians 4:14

14That we henceforth be no more children [immature], tossed to and fro [being unstable in our beliefs], and carried about with every wind of doctrine [being vulnerable to false teaching], by the sleight [deception] of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [Emphasis added]

Again, we now have in the 66 books of the Bible all the revelation we need.  We just need to get on with studying it “rightly divided” so we’re fully equipped to be productive believers and useful in our service to God.

2 Timothy 2:15

15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

It is important that we occupy our time with making good use of this foundation of revelation that’s been provided.

Ephesians 2:20-22

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. [Emphasis added]

These apostles and prophets are not the twelve apostles and those prophets that came right after Christ’s ascension [Ephesians 4:7-11 cf. Romans 16:26; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 14:37; Ephesians 3:5].  The foundation these men laid is done, it is not an ongoing development.  The “apostles and prophets” mentioned here were all later associated with Paul and his ministry.  Paul was the chief apostle and the primary prophet.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I [Paul] am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify [DOXAZO = to make great] mine office: [Emphasis added]

Please see my article about Paul and his special ministry to us today—Paul:  What’s so special about his teaching? 

 Acts 13:1-2

1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [Emphasis added]

These men, these “prophets and teachers” all taught the revelation that was first committed to the apostle Paul.  The Holy Spirit then used his preaching, teaching, and writing to educate those other apostles and prophets.  Then they communicated it to the other saints.

Ephesians 3:1-6

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me  [Paul] to you-ward:

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: [Emphasis added]

The “prophets” in the Body of Christ identified and copied Scripture that would then be passed on to others.

Romans 16:26

26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [literally—the prophetic Scriptures—the word “prophets” is an adjective, not a noun in the original Greek text], according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: [Emphasis added]

In all their teaching these prophets and others had Jesus Christ as their source for the information they provided.

1 Corinthians 14:37

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I [Paul] write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [Emphasis added]

The apostle Paul speaks of himself as the architect, the founder of all this teaching that pertains to us today as members of the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added]

 The secondary apostles and prophets associated with Paul and other members of the Body of Christ bolstered and spread what God began with Paul’s ministry. Their ministries continue even today but notwith new [present-day] apostles and prophets.  We have no apostles and prophets today! That is something of the past, not the present.  The ministry of these people in the past is perpetuated through the complete revelation we have in Scripture, the 66 books of the Bible.  Now that we have the complete revelation of God’s Word there is no longer a need for what these people provided.  What the apostle Paul wrote brought Scripture to completion.

Colossians 1:25

25 Whereof I [Paul] am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [PLEROO = to fill up or complete that which was lacking] the word of God; [Emphasis added]

It was the apostle Paul who brought all divine revelation to completion, not the apostle John in his writing of the book of Revelation or anyone else.  Here in verse twenty-five, we have the record of Scripture that tells us that.  This sets forth the same principle we saw earlier in this study in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13.  What God had hidden since eternity past was here divulged in the apostle Paul’s writings.

Ephesians 1:8-9

8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [Emphasis added]

With all the revelation of information God committed to the apostle Paul, we now know the “mystery” [or secret] of God’s eternal purpose. We have no need for modern-day apostles and prophets, people supposedly giving us new words or messages of revelation from God.  The foundation was laid through the apostle Paul and his writings.  There’s nothing else God has to reveal to us today.

When someone claims to be an “apostle” or a “prophet” today, he or she is claiming they have something to add to the Scriptures. They are then denying the sufficiency of the 66 books of the Bible God has provided. These people are never to be believed.  What we’ve been given is everything God wants us to have.  Our objective now should always be to focus on studying it and learning it with a view toward applying it.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God [THEOPNEUSTOS = God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect [ARTIOS = made complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]

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