Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Certain “Christian” groups boast of their modern-day “apostles” and “prophets”—Mormons and Charismatics are two major factions. They argue that unless all five offices are filled and active today—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)—the Church the Body of Christ cannot function properly. Thus, we will hear men (and even women!) today calling themselves “apostles” and “prophets.” Is this proper? Is it Scriptural? We will look at Bible verses and let them speak.

Ephesians 4:11-13 says: “[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:….”

Notice verse 11—“he [Jesus Christ of verse 7] gave.” Paul wrote Ephesians at the end of the Acts period, when was under house arrest (see Acts 28:30-31). At the time of Ephesians, God was not “giving” (present tense) those gifts but rather He “gave” (past tense) those gifts. Those spiritual gifts were no longer being given to new people. The men who had those gifts were growing fewer and fewer because the gifts were no longer being given. There was something taking the place of these gifted men. Once the written Word of God was completed shortly after the Acts period, there was no more need for the limited-knowledge spiritual gifts program.

First Corinthians 13:8-13 says the following: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, 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. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; 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, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

The spiritual gifts were temporary, only necessary until the full revelation from God had been given to man. Knowing “in part” would result in “full knowledge.” Prophesying “in part” would be replaced by “full prophesying.” The partial would pass away, and the complete would come. All too often, there is the idea that spiritual gifts are to operate indefinitely, or until the Lord Jesus Christ returns. This is a theological speculation, and certainly not supported by Scripture. People stumble over the “that which is perfect is come” in verse 10. They contend that that “perfect” is Jesus “the perfect One” coming back to Earth. (An alternative view is that it is Christians dying and going to Heaven.) Both views are lacking because they do violence to the Scripture, reading things into the verses that the verses simply do not say.

There is nothing in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 about the Lord coming back. There is nothing in that chapter about going to Heaven either. The last reference to Christ’s “coming” in 1 Corinthians is chapter 11, verse 23. There is no mention of dying and going to Heaven in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 at all. God wants us to grow up now; we should not wait for Heaven until we act and think like spiritually mature people!

Ephesians 4:14 says to this point: “That we henceforth [from now onward—not in Heaven!] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;….” How could God expect us not to be children now if we must wait until Heaven to grow up? See, as the verse indicates, that time of maturity has arrived—the “perfect” has already come. We have a completed revelation from God in the written 66 Books of the Holy Bible! Will we read it and think like mature adult children of God, or will we not read it and then plead ignorance of the very Book we claim to have?

It is important to notice what Ephesians 2:20-22 says about “apostles and prophets:” “[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.” These “apostles and prophets” are associated with Paul’s ministry (they are also referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Romans 16:26; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Ephesians 3:5). We know that these Apostles and Prophets are not the 12 Apostles and not the Old Testament Prophets because Ephesians 4:7-11 says Jesus Christ ordained these Apostles and Prophets after His ascension.

Ephesians 2:20 says that the Apostles and Prophets in the Body of Christ laid a foundation. This foundation does not need to be laid indefinitely any more than a physical foundation is to be installed indeterminately. A foundation is laid once, and then a structure is built on top of it. While the offices of the Apostles and Prophets were necessary to lay the foundation, the foundation has already been laid. The Apostles and Prophets in the Dispensation of Grace—headed by the chief “Apostle” and primary “Prophet” Paul/Saul (Acts 13:1-2; Romans 11:13)—preached and taught the special doctrine committed first to the Apostle Paul. The Lord Jesus Christ revealed the Dispensation of Grace directly to Paul, and then the Holy Spirit used Paul’s ministry (teaching, preaching, and writing) to educate those Apostles and Prophets. They then communicated it to the other saints of God.

Notice 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 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:….”

The “prophets” in the Body of Christ identified and copied Scripture. They wrote Scripture (Romans 16:26—“the scriptures of the prophets”). First Corinthians 14:37 says: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” The foundation for the Dispensation of Grace was preached and taught first and foremost by the Apostle Paul, just as he claimed by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapter 3: “[10] According to the grace [ministry] 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.” (More specifically, the “foundation” was “Jesus Christ… according to the revelation of the mystery,” or secret revealed by Christ first to Paul—Romans 16:25-26.)

The secondary Apostles and Prophets associated with the Body of Christ bolstered and spread what God began with Paul’s ministry. Their ministries continue even today—but not with new (modern-day) Apostles and Prophets. Rather, their ministries are perpetuated in the sense that we already discussed. Their ministries continue via the written, preserved Word of God, the words they once preached audibly and wrote down. Those ministries sustained the Body of Christ during the Acts period when there was no written and completed “New Testament” canon, but they have since given way to the written Word. They were influential in giving us the written Bible. Now that we have the written and preserved Bible, there is no more revelation needed from God. Modern-day apostles and prophets serve no purpose whatsoever because the ministries of the Apostles and Prophets of the A.D. first century are perpetuated through the written, preserved Word of God.

Notice in Colossians 1:24-28 what Paul’s apostleship and ministry were designed to accomplish: “[24] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: [25] Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; [26] Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: [27] To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: [28] Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:”

Verse 25 says Paul was “made a minister” in order to “fulfil the word of God.” Notice the word “fulfil,” as in “complete.” The doctrine, “dispensation,” or body of truth; that the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ gave to Paul was to bring God’s revelation to a completion. That is the same idea presented in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (which we looked at earlier in this study). The “mystery” (secret) dispensation—the “Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2) exposes God’s secret will. What God kept hidden in Himself since eternity past, is now divulged in the Apostle Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

The Bible says in Ephesians 1:8-10: “[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: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” With the doctrine God committed to the Apostle Paul, we now know the secret of God’s eternal purpose. We have no need for modern-day apostles and prophets, people supposedly giving us “new” words from God, “new” insight from God. The foundation has already been laid, and there is nothing else for God to reveal to us. Friends, either we believe the Bible to be the final authority, or we disbelieve it. Either we believe Paul’s ministry and revelation bring God’s Word to a completion, or we do not.

By the way, I find it interesting that those who claim to be “prophets,” people supposedly “speaking for God” today, actually disregard a verse that exposes false prophets. First Corinthians 14:37 says: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” How many of today’s “prophets” pay any attention to the special commandments of the Lord written by the Apostle Paul in Romans through Philemon? None! Even if they were “prophets,” they would be, by the verse’s standards, false prophets! The test for knowing who is speaking on behalf of God today is to see if he or she recognizes Pauline revelation (not mixing Law and Grace, not mixing Israel with the Body of Christ, not mixing prophecy and mystery, not mixing time past with but now or the ages to come, not mixing Heaven and Earth, et cetera.)

When someone claims to be an “apostle” or a “prophet” today, he or she is claiming to be adding to the Scriptures. They deny the sufficiency of the 66 Books of the Bible. They claim that their words (sermons, books, et cetera) are equal in authority to the Holy Bible. Heresy! They are no different from the Roman Catholic Church that claims to determine what the Bible “is,” what the Bible “says,” and what the Bible “means.” Yes, they are no different from those who argue that the Apocrypha belong in the Bible canon. The Holy Scriptures are already written, they have been preserved for us as the King James Bible (in the English-speaking world), and they are enough to tell us everything that God wants us to know and equip us to do everything God wants us to do.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: “[16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Do we believe those verses?

Also see:
» Who are the “prophets” in Romans 16:26?
» What is the difference between a “disciple” and an “apostle?”
» Was Paul a false prophet?