We’re learning what it means to be a “church prophet.” Those are Christians who have the gift of prophecy as explained in Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians and Romans. In previous studies we’ve seen that church prophets have an important part to play in evangelism, edification, exhortation, comfort and profit in local churches. Is there anything else? Yes, there is much more church prophets can and should do for the Church, the Body of Christ.
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Acts 13:1
Let’s begin with the ministry of teaching. The church at Antioch in Syria was the first “mixed” church of Gentiles and Jews. We learn from Acts 11:19-21 that after the persecution that arose over Stephen some of the believers traveled to Antioch, preached “the Lord Jesus” to Hellenists and “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” We’re told those men were from “Cyprus and Cyrene.” Cyprus is an island located west of the Syrian coast. Cyrene was located farther west on the coast of northwest Africa in what is now the country of Libya.
Five men served the Antioch church as “prophets and teachers.” They were Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul (Paul). Barnabas, Manaen and Paul were Jews from Judea. Simeon, which is a Jewish name, was also called Niger, which translates as “black.” He may have been of African descent. We are told that Lucius was from Cyrene, which was in northwest Africa. Though they were Jews, the Spirit of God led them to preach the Lord Jesus to Gentiles as well as Jews.
This is an interesting group; different nationalities and backgrounds, but called together by the same Holy Spirit to start the great work of reaching Gentiles for Christ. They were gifted as both prophets (prophetai) and teachers (didaskaloi). Teaching was a primary role of these men. The words for “teaching” (Greek – didache and didaskalia) mean “doctrine, instruction, that which is taught.” These five men were responsible to God to teach the many people who were coming to Christ in Antioch. What they taught these new believers is what we call “Church doctrine.” Doctrine, the teaching of the Church, is the foundational instruction for all believers to this day and that is what Paul, Barnabas and the other “teaching prophets” did in Antioch, in addition to evangelism, edification, exhortation, comfort, and profiting for all. That was in contrast to other Jewish believers, also from Jerusalem, who preached the word “to no one but the Jews only.” (Acts 11:19)
It’s obvious from these words that God was doing something different in Antioch. It was so surprising to Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that they sent Barnabas to go as far as Antioch to see what was going on. When Barnabas saw that Gentiles and Jews were believing Christ and worshiping together, he encouraged them to continue with the Lord and traveled to Tarsus to find Saul (Paul). When Barnabas found Saul he brought him to Antioch and they “taught a great many people.” Interestingly, it was in Antioch after Saul began teaching at the church that “the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:22-26)
I cannot emphasize enough the role of TEACHING in the prophetic ministry – not just because it’s what the Bible tells us to do – but because that is specifically what is NOT being done in the Church today. I am appalled at how little Christians know about God’s Word; especially the Word of God rightly divided, in context. I am distressed at what Christian leaders have done to public worship services that are supposed to be a time of prophecy, revelation, knowledge and teaching (1 Corinthians 14:6). They’ve turned it into a side show filled with noise and distractions (1 Corinthians 14:7-8). No wonder Paul wrote the Corinthians to get their act together and behave in church meetings in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:26-40). What we have going on today in hundreds of thousands of churches around the world is truly a disgrace to the Name of Christ. What’s the cure? Doctrine! Teaching! Instruction! Paul made it clear in his last letters that teaching correct doctrine, rightly divided, would be paramount to the spiritual health of individual believers and individual churches.
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” 1 Timothy 1:3-4
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” 1 Timothy 2:11-13
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:1-2
“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” 1 Timothy 4:6-11
“Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.” 1 Timothy 6:1-2
“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Paul also made it clear that teaching prophets are to make sure that faithful and gifted people in their churches become committed to these same principles of ministry and pass along that commitment to other “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
“For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Titus 1:10-16
It is with great sadness that I tell you the many warnings of the Apostle Paul are true in a great many churches today. We live in a time when hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of preachers and teachers around the world are claiming that their words are from God, when in fact their words are not from God at all. They are fables, lies, and outright distortions of the Truth. How have many in the Church responded to these lies? They eat it up. They love it because “they have itching ears.” They “heap up for themselves teachers” who give them what they want – a show – which is nothing more than a sham. They “turn their ears away from the truth” and are “turned aside to fables.” What’s the honest prophet-teacher to do about this terrible thing in the Church today? “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
This is no time to let our guard down or give up. This is the time to preach the Word and convince, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. This is the time of the church prophet.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus 2:11-15
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”