Monday, October 20, 2014

The Office of “Prophet” in the 21st Century Church

The Business of Christian Education XC
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:11-14

            One important ministerial office that God gives to his church is the office of “prophet.”  Prophet has always been known as the bringer of God’s word.  Prophet is the messenger.  Often prophets bring warnings and judgments to God’s people as instructed by the Lord.  The Old Testament is filled with God’s prophets who carry on God’s judgments and warnings for his people.  But when prophets bring warnings and judgments, their life is at stake.  People do not like warning or judgment.  They do not like “bad” messages.”  People desire “good” messages.  They desire messages that will make them happy.  So when God’s prophets bring messages of warning or judgment, people will often treat them very badly.  But God never stops sending his prophets.  Even in the
New Testament era, God continues to send his prophets to his people.  In Ephesians 4:11-14 we find out that God gives prophets in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” until God‘s church attains “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” so that God’s church “may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  These purposes are in the mind of God.  So he raised prophets.  And he sends them to his people.  He gives them his words to be spoken to his people.

            The task of prophets does not become easier in the 21st century.  The resistance, rejection, and persecution remain the same.  All the prophets of the Old Testament were persecuted even until the last OT prophet: John the Baptist, as was the New Testament prophet: Jesus Christ.  The office of prophet is not deleted after Jesus.  But God sends some more.  Because the world is a dangerous place for his faithful people.  In Matthew 10:16-23 Jesus says:

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

God’s faithful are sent as sheep among wolves.  Ravenous wolves continually seek to destroy God’s sheep.  In the midst of the dangerous world, there are wolves who pose like sheep.  And many times God’s faithful do not know which is which.  These fake sheep cunningly trap the true sheep and brainwash them to conform to the life pattern of wolves.  God’s prophets are sent to prevent that from happening.

            The apostle Paul points out that God’s prophets are tasked, together with his apostles, his evangelists, his shepherds and teachers, to get God’s saints into maturity.  Spiritual maturity becomes the main goal.  Because when a saint is mature, he is no longer a child.  A child is impressionable, easy to be confused by apparently convincing arguments.  But a mature man knows which one is fake and which one is true.  A mature man can differentiate which one is the wolf in the sheep skin, and which one is a real sheep.  A mature man knows which teaching is right and which one is wrong.  A mature man knows which one is false prophet and which one is the true prophet.  But children are easily tossed by cunning arguments and deceitful schemes.  Therefore, God’s people must not remain children.  They must grow into maturity.  They must achieve adulthood.  The mark of adulthood is when they attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, which is attaining to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  This means that the true knowledge of the Son of God must be taught.  It must be proclaimed.  And just like when Jesus himself was on earth received rejection, God’s prophets too will receive rejection when proclaiming and teaching the true knowledge of the Son of God.

            The devil desires to confuse the people of God.  Especially those who are not mature yet.  One strategy that he always uses is to shut down God’s prophets in many ways.  The most recent innovation is by employing two big words: “Love” and “Tolerance.”  In employing these two big words, the devil creates his own definition of love and tolerance.  Sadly the world is buying it.  Even more sad is that many people of God are also buying it.  Love is put at the forefront, and its meaning is “no confrontation” or what faithful people of God know as “fake peace.” This definition of love as cunningly devised by the devil is the kind of love without truth.  The discussion of truth is dismissed right at the beginning.  The devil employs the postmodernism philosophy to achieve his goal.  That now there is no absolute truth.  Everything is relative.  Truth is relative to the perspective of each individual.  And therefore all debates to seek the truth have been twisted into disputes over preferences.  God’s “prophets” have been sent to the 21st century to warn his simple people of this deception.  This deception is extremely dangerous.  It seeks to destroy the very foundation of our faith and knowledge of the Son of God.  Truth is the target.  Equipped with the weapon of postmodernism, and the manipulated categories of love and tolerance, truth is under heavy attack.  If there is no absolute truth, then the proclamation of the gospel will be just one alternative to life.  For in the postmodern mind, everything is about one’s preference.  The seat of power is given to human choice.  This philosophy follows Jean Paul Sartre’s famous focus on choice as the main value of the meaning of being human.  Since there is no absolute truth, then seeking the truth is irrelevant.  What is meaningful in this postmodernism worldview is only tolerance.  Everything is just about my own choice.  Their deceitful argument exploits an analogy of preference: whether I prefer to eat chocolate or strawberry flavored ice cream.  The world is moving toward that direction now.  And so many churches.

            God’s prophets are sent into the 21st century in order to battle this deception.  Absolute truth does and will always exist.  The better analogy is: whether 1+1=2 or anything else.  In this search for truth, the definition of love cannot follow the devil’s one.  Let me illustrate the better understanding of love.  Imagine we have a child who is beginning to study math.  We come to the point when we are teaching our child that 1+1=2.  But he/she refuses.  He/she keeps answering that 1+1=5.  Now, out of love, will you let your child continue with 1+1=5?  Postmodernism philosophy says yes, for it is just a matter of preference.  There is no absolute truth.  If you follow postmodernism, then by their law you have to tolerate your child’s answer.  In which case, 1+1 can be anything.  When they go to school and be tested, the teachers may not say that their answer is wrong.  For it is just a matter of preference.  Is it not?  But, let me ask you, which sane parents will let their children continue with 1+1=5?  Isn’t it because you love them so very much that you have to correct them of their mistake?  Love then must not be detached from truth.  Postmodernism is wrong.  The devil is exploiting it in order to destroy us.  The truth about God’s existence is absolute.  The truth about God creating the world is absolute.  The truth about God creating man in his own image is absolute.  The truth about the Fall of man is absolute.  The truth about the Redemption of God’s people is absolute.  The truth about Jesus Christ being the Son of God is absolute.  If we embrace “no absolute truth” then all that we believe in means nothing.  Faith is just a waste of time.  For there is nothing absolute then.  What’s surprising is that then even postmodernism can’t sustain its own foundational philosophy.  Because the concept that there is no absolute truth too is not absolute.  For nothing is absolute.  Don’t you see that postmodernism is a lie, is fake, is absolutely wrong?

            In the name of tolerance.  In the name of “peace.”  In the name of “get along” the world is forcing God’s church to be quiet about proclaiming the absolute truth.  For in the name of “love” and “tolerance” proclaiming the absolute truth is not loving and thus being intolerant.  The task of God’s prophets in the 21st century is heavy.  As our predecessors, we too will be rejected and persecuted.  Beginning from Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on, even Jesus Christ himself who is the greatest prophet of all, all are rejected and persecuted.  But we can’t run away.  We can’t let ourselves be conformed into the pattern of this world.  We must persist.  We insist.  We are bringing God’s message.  We are face to face with false prophets/false teachers – those ravenous wolves whose sole purpose is to destroy God’s faithful people, the sheep of his pasture.  Our task is to defend the faithful, to protect them from falsehood, to teach them the absolute truth so they may become mature, to lead them to attain the measure of the full stature of Christ.  We do all that by bringing the word of God himself.  For his word is truth (John 17:17).

            And the reality is we are called Christian.  All God’s faithful and true people are Christians.  Christian means little Christ.  Our life, our thought, our heat, must resemble that of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ is King, Prophet, and Priest.  And so his followers inherit these three offices as well.  This challenge is great.  God’s saints need to stand firm on the truth.  So desire the maturity in Christ.  Do not dwell in the deception.  Do not be caught up in the philosophies of this world.  They are employed by the devil to confuse you.  They are employed by the devil to get you away from God.  Trust the true prophets.  Do not listen to the false prophets.  Trust the true teachers sent by God who speak his word.  Do not trust the false teachers who only perpetuate the philosophy of this world.  One day our God himself will judge us.  He will ask each and every one of us and every single person who ever live on earth: “Whose words are you listening?  What are you doing to my prophets?  What have you done to my servants?”  In that day, our work will be revealed.  There is no place to hide.  No one may deny.  The faithful, the true prophets, the true teachers, the real sheep will be commended and enter eternal life.  The wicked, the fake, the false prophets, the false teachers, the wolves will all be thrown into eternal fire of hell.  Which one are you?  Make up your mind!

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