ARE PROPHETS AND APOSTLES FOR THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH TODAY? —1 CORINTHIANS 12:28: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets...”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) points to a number of Biblical Scriptures to contend that God leads the true Church through “Prophets” and “Apostles” just as He did in Biblical times. Thus, Christian churches that do not claim to be led by living “Prophets” and “Apostles” are ridiculed by Mormons as not having the fullness of authority that the LDS Church claims to possess today. Some of the most common Scriptures used by Mormons to support this belief are:
We agree with the Mormon claim that “prophets” and “apostles” are for the Christian church today, 2. but we differ from the LDS view of the roles that these individuals occupy within the church. In Mormonism, only one man is appointed to the position of “Prophet” in the LDS Church at one time, but in the New Testament church, we find multiple prophets existing at the same time.
While a Mormon Prophet is regarded as holding supreme authority over all other leaders within Mormonism, it was not so in the early church of the New Testament. The only Prophet of the Christian Church who holds supreme authority is Jesus Christ. All other prophets are open to criticism and scrutiny. In fact, we see an example of the New Testament Apostle Paul correcting and instructing the “prophets” in the church at Corinth regarding their practices in 1 Corinthians 14:24, 29-32. Such correction is unheard of in the LDS Church.
THE TEST OF A PROPHET:
Ultimately, each prophet is to be judged by the contemporary prophets of their day (1 Corinthians 14:29-32) and tested according to the truths of Scripture (Acts 17:11). For a “prophet” to pass this test of being a true prophet of God, he or she must present 100% accuracy in both doctrine and the proclamation of future events:
“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”—Deuteronomy 18:20-22
Not only have LDS “Prophets” failed the test of accuracy by prophesying future events that never came to pass, 3. they have failed the test of doctrine. When Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man,” 4. he clearly crossed the line into the category of a false prophet by proclaiming a “god” “other” than the true God of the Bible (John 4:24; Numbers 23:19).
THE FOUNDATION OF THE PROPHETS:
Ephesians chapter two verse twenty speaks of the foundational role that the apostles and prophets provided for the early Christian church. These prophets hold a special position as leaders of God’s people because they receive direct revelation from God and communicate it to His people. It is in this context of receiving God’s revelation that Amos 3:7 assured God’s people:
Since God revealed His “secret” through revelations and prophecies that were given throughout Biblical times, many of these revelations have been written in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. These writings form the prophetic foundation needed for the biblical Christian church of today to know and follow the will of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
While the Holy Spirit came upon various men of God in Old Testament times, they did not have the Holy Spirit of Christ dwelling in them like Christians do today. Therefore, followers of God in the Old Testament had to rely upon the revelations of Scripture and the prophecies of the prophets who lived in their day in order to know the will of God. While “God... spake in time past...by the prophets,” today He speaks “unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Thus, every Christian is able to receive direct revelation through a personal relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ!
HOW THE SUPREME PROPHET LEADS GOD’S CHURCH TODAY:
When Jesus Christ came, the position of supreme prophet was moved from a mortal human leader (then John the Baptist) to Jesus Christ who became the chief cornerstone and foundation of the church. (See 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20.) This is why Luke 16:16 states that “the prophets were until John...” The Prophets are said to have ended with John the Baptist because he prepared the way for the final Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. John was the “…voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3). As we, like John the Baptist, proclaim what Jesus did in atoning for the sins of mankind, “the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16).
All who have been adopted into God’s Kingdom no longer need a human “prophet” like Moses to stand and mediate God’s revelations to the church, because Jesus Christ is our only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). He provides direct revelation from God to each Christian believer through His Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that when He would leave earth, He would send His Holy Spirit to be with us forever (John 14:16-17; 16:7), to “teach” us “all things” (John 14:26;) and to guide us “into all truth” (John 16:13). Since we have the wonderful guidance of the Spirit of Christ, Christians do not need a mortal human leader serving as a supreme “prophet,” teaching the truth to God’s Church today.
All of the Old Testament prophets pointed forward to the coming of Christ. It is in this way that Scripture states that John was the last human prophet to lead God’s people. John pointed forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, while all New Testament “prophets” (after him) point back to Christ and His Kingdom.
Although Jesus fulfilled the role of supreme “prophet” of God’s people, human “prophets” continue to minister to the Christian church through gifts of prophecy and words of knowledge that are based in Scripture truth and bring about spiritual edification, exhortation and comfort.
FEMALE PROPHETS IN THE CHURCH:
Another distinction between the “prophets” of the Mormon Church and those of New Testament Christianity is the fact that females were included in the “prophets” who formed the foundation of the Church. While no female has ever been appointed to the position of “Prophet” in the Mormon Church, female prophets of God were used throughout the Old and New Testament times. Below are some of the many female prophets of God that were mentioned in the Scriptures:
These examples demonstrate that God does not discriminate between the genders in His distribution of prophetic roles within the Christian Church as we see the LDS Church of today doing.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES:
First Corinthians chapter twelve verse twenty-eight speaks of the order of authority that God gave “apostles” in that He set them “first” in the Church. This is fitting as the Greek word for “apostle” is ἀπόστολος (apostolos) and it means: “messenger, he that is sent.” 5. So, often the “first” leader of a new church was the apostle/missionary who founded it. In Acts, we see the Apostles Paul and Barnabas being “sent” forth as missionaries of the Gospel to start churches throughout the Gentile (non-Jewish) regions of the Roman empire, and the Apostles Peter, James and John being “sent” forth to be a missionaries to the Jewish people.
In addition to missionary activities, Apostles serve the Christian church through teaching and exhortation. This was certainly true of the Apostle Paul whose multiple letters to the churches constitutes a large majority of the New Testament Scripture. In the same way that the teachings of the “prophets” were required to agree 100% with teachings of Scripture, so it was with the New Testament Apostles. For example, the Apostle Paul’s teachings were held under the scrutiny of the Scriptures before the Christians of Berea accepted his doctrines as truth, and their studiousness in this matter was commended.
In summation, while we agree that “prophets” and “apostles” serve the Christian church of today in a limited fashion from what they did in the church of the New Testament era, we have noted several distinctions between the Mormon view of these offices and the Scriptural view and have summarized them in the following chart:
1. All Biblical Scriptures are quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.
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