Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
The prophetic gift we find early in scripture. In Genesis 20, Abraham asks Sarah to not tell Abimelech that they are married, because Abraham is afriad for his life, that the Philistine do not know God, and will kill him and take Sarah. She agrees. Abimelech sees her and sends for her. The moment she enters into his house two things happen: his other wives could not conceive (Gen. 20:18), and he becomes impotent, as a divine prevention from being sexually intimate with Sarah (Gen. 20:6). God comes to him in a dream, and declares him a dead man for having another man's wife (Gen. 20:3). Abimilech declares his innocence (Gen. 20:5b), recounting to God that he was told by Abahram that Sarah was his sister (Gen. 20:5a), and asking God if He will punish an innocent nation (Gen 20:4). God tells him to return Sarah, and to ask Abraham to pray for him, since Abraham is a prophet.
Let us consider somethings:
- It is clear that the Philistines knew God, knew that adultery would make them guilty
- It is clear that Abimelech is innocent.
- It is clear that God holds Abimelech responsible for a sin commited in innocence, and that the subsequent punishment for this sin is death.
- It is clear that Abraham and Sarah Both assumed the Philistines did NOT know God, and lied to save their own skin.
- It is clear that, in chapter 15, Abraham had a covenant with God which was a one-direction covenant: God made promises in blood, Abraham received them. Thus, since Abraham did not promise in blood, he is punishable for failure.
- It is clear that God does no hold Abrhama punishable
- Despite Abraham’s clear breach of integrity and ethics, God refers to him as a prophet to the philistines.
Why the inequality? This, to any normal reader, is a glaring injustice and favoritism. The reason is the difference in covenant. Abraham's, and by extension Sarah's covenant with God was based on grace, not human effort. Thus they are not held responsible. They are called to social ethics, but God is patient with them, since they never promised to be able to do anything for God.
Their descendants, when offered a chance to reratify the one-directional grace-based Abrahamic covenant with God (Exo. 19:3-6), choose instead a works-based covenant (Exo. 19:8; 24:3; 4-7; emphasis on "we will do"). This is legalism, and by being sprinkled by the blood in the covenantal signing, the nation of israel is esponsible on pain of death to perform riighteousnly. When they fail, they are punitively judged, and have prophets sent to them to point out their moral and ethical failures, calling them back to their word signed in blood to God.
When considering the ancient world, the Bible is clear that God had a relationship with other nations:
- The Amorites were on probation (Gen. 15:16, 18-21)
- the Egyptians (Gen 12:17-20; 15:13-14)
- the Philistines (Gen. 20; 26:6-11)
- the cities of the plain, with Melchizedek as their priest (Gen. 14:17-24; Chapter 19)
- the nations around Israel are judged (Amos 1-2)
- God declares he has performed multiple Exoduses (Amos 9:7)
- Paul declare God has given all nations their appointed times, and the boundaries within which they are to exists (Acts 17:26)
The list could go on. In each case, God sent a prophet to the people to bring them back to righteousness, with punishments for failure following every single nation mentioned in scripture. Why these harsh punishments? Why is Abimelech held accountable unto death for a sin he didnt know he commited, the commital of which was instigated by the lie of another? It is because the Philistines, like all other nations, during their time with God opted for, or morphed into, a work-based covenantal relationship with God, where they well-intendingly promised to be righteous to God. As such, they are judged corporately as a nation. Thus, failure to perform rightsouenss, even when ignorant, was punishable by death of all (compare Gen. 20:4 and Joshua 7) , since "the wages of sin is death".
I submit therefore that a prophet’s function is to call a wayward legalistic and humanistic people back to their works-based covenant, back to the morals, ethics, and justice they assured God they were capable of doing and being. When failure or unwillingness to comply is presented, whether be the entire nation or by a single person (Gen. 20:4; Joshua 7), the prophet becomes a harbinger/messenger of divine judgment. It would seem that, for the common man, seeing the prophet was not a wonderful thing (1 Samuel 16:4).
Point: Prophets, which we find predominantly in the Old Testament, minister to and among any people whose covenantal orientation toward God is one based on human performance of morals, ethics, and justice. The prophet’s function is the reiterate the covenants they made, calling them back to their word, or be either the mouthpiece or the hand of God in judgment.
While prophets dwindle, but do not disappear, in the New Testament there is a message shift, and a new messenger is created. The Apostlic ministry begins.
Act 1:6-8 "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghostis come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
The beginning of the apostolic ministry is a correction in expectations. The apostles are starting from the wrong premise: the restoring of the earthly kingdom to their specific nation and ethnicity. They are starting prophetically. Their’s is a social justice request. However, Rome is unjust, oppressive, extortive, immoral, and cruel. Jesus corrects them. Jesus correct their expectation by telling them that it is not for them to know "the times and seasons". This phrase is first used in Daniel 2:21, where Daniel is praising God for revealing to him Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream and its interpretation. Daniel says of God...
Dan 2:21 "...he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him."
Notice there pairing:
- Changing times and seasons
- removing kings and setting up kings
- giving wisdom to the wise and understanding to them that know understanding
- revealing deep and secret things
- knowing what is in darkness and light dwells with him
Consider this: God knows the dark and mysterious reasons for why he changes times and removes kings, and he reveals this to the wise. God shines the light on other kings, appointing their season to rule, and give understanding as to the reason why to those who know understanding.
Acts 17:26 says "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation"
God has appointed the time period for each kingdom, and their geographical location. If this location is expanded, God knows why.
Jesus in Acts 1 is telling the desciples that the time (Chronos) allotted to a kingdom/people, and the season (Kairos, the occasion, the spring/summer/fall/winter of a kingdom/nation/ethnos probation) is in the God the Father's power alone. They are not to concern themselves with the setting up and overthrowing of kingdoms.
What they were to be was witnesses for him, beginning in Jerusalem, and extended to the entire globe. Witness is Martus, from where we get the word martyr. Jesus is clear that they will not experience justice. His believers are to be his martus, a record written in blood of the value of his kingdom to come, and of the evil of the wicked. This agrees with some previous statements jesus made:
Mat 24:9-14,21,33 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come....For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Consider the notion of false prophets: is it simply if they speak against the gosepl? Or if they prophecy and it does not come true? If the prophet is specifically sent to those works-covenant peoples, to call them back to their promise to God, if the prophet is seen in the Old Testament as speaking to the rising and fall of nations (and if this is not the function of the apostle), then would not a false prophet be a prophet who speaks such a nationalistic, ethnocentric prosperity gospel contingent upon a modification of behavior? These may sound the same but they are not. The Gosepl is strictly fulfilled in the New Testament, under the new covenant. The prophet did not call people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but pointed them to the gospel as a future experience which they could participate in by faith, through the sacrificial system. Since we live in the age of the apostle, under the new covenant, would not a false prophet be someone who preaches that God and gospel is on the side of an people group, or that nation, forgetting that all peoples and all nations are inherently evil, and in need of salvation? (The doctrine of discovery and the theory of manifest destiny seem apropos here).
Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
What is interesting about the apostolic ministry is its lack of singular ethno-national focus: it is not to specific ethnic groups or nations. It is to whomever will listen. Additionally, the apostle has nothing to say about social justice, or even corporate evil. The Apostle preaches the good news of Jesus' incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return, what all that means for the individual, offering the individual the Holy Spirit who will lead and guide one in morals and ethics: righteousness with God and righteousness with fellow man.
The apostle has nothing to say about public policy, the apostolic church had nothing to say about social justice as it relates to laws and governmental politics. They were aware of social injustice, and so far as was in their power they lived to behave socially ethical, moral and responsible.
The apostle preaches the kingdom of God being present, but still in the future. Within this dichotomy the apostle informs the believer to expect privation, suffering, persecution, injustice. The apostle’s job is not to reform the status quo, but to call out a people whose lives are to be made in stark contrast to the established order: who live a nobler ethos, more righteous morals, whose justice is merciful, who live by love, relate by forgiveness, and care by sacrificing.
Considering Ellen G. White.
Ellen G. White in considered the authority for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She is considered the prophetic voice. Her writings are called the Spirit of Prophecy (a claim which I consider theological hyperbole). Did Ellen G. White consider herself a prophet?
"I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord's messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus...
"Why have I not claimed to be a prophet?--Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies. . . .my work has covered so many lines that I cannot call myself other than a messenger, sent to bear a message from the Lord to His people, and to take up work in any line that He points out." Review and Herald, July 26, 1906, reprinted in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 31-35
"I did not claim to be a prophetess. ... I have never assumed that title. My work includes much more than this name signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages for His people" (Letter 55, 1905; quoted in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 35, 36).
I would like to consider a few points based on her self-perspectives and the Bible:
- EGW considered herself more than a church pastor, evidenced by the authority she exercised in rebuke and exhortation, as she also considered herself more than a prophet.
- The highest credential the SDA church has ever had is pastoral ordination credentials
- Ephesians and Corinthians are both clear that, if there is a hierarchy, apostle and prophet outrank pastor-teacher, even as pastor-teacher outranks tongues and interpretation of such.
- Eph 4:11 And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers
- 1Co 12:28 And God set some in the church, firstly, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers, then works of power, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of languages.
Therefore, based on the her own words that her work includes much more than this name (prophet) signifies, and based on the lists of Ephesians and 1 Corinthians, if there is a hierarchy to the gifts, apostle outranks prophet...Ellen White is an apostle.
The SDA church, acknowledging the gifts God had given Ellen White, had to credential her with something. However, they did not create a credential for her based on her gifting. They simply made her "one of the guys", giving her pastoral grdentials. In order for her to be credentialed like "one of the guys", her gifts needed to be at least 2 grades (more than a prophet) higher than her peers.
It is alleged by some that she didn't "accept" the formal pastoral ordination. I suspect she realized that the church and culture to which she belonged didn't have one equal to her anointing and calling. Ellen White was credentialed by God, and that credential was the Holy Ghost. Her anointing and ministry (preaching, teaching, counseling, writing, etc.) far surpassed that of her ministerial peers, and so they had to at least make her "one of the guys". Any credentialing done should have been according to gifting, yet the church simply credentialed her as an ordained minister, the same as her ministerial peers, while we currently "commission" women, a "lesser" credential than their male peers. So they recognized her gifts (more than a prophet), they simply didn't credential her accordingly (equal with a pastor), because if her gifts outrank the president’s and pastors (an ordained pastor), she becomes the ordaining authority in the church. If credentialing is to be hierarchied (ordination over commissioning), then it should be based on gifting (more than prophetic over pastoral).
What’s more, we have used Ellen White prophetically (legalistically), instead of apostolic-ly. We have used her in relationship to rules, regulations, church policy, compliance, in engaging in our interest in Daniel and Revelation and other doctrinally distinctions, and for debate. However, a careful reading of her writings reveals that she prophetic and apostolic. Her support of rightouensss by faith in Jesus as a fundamental, as well as her most significant books being about Jesus, testify to this truth. That we tend to focus one of her writings, the Great Controversy, is demonstrative not of her myopathy to legalism, but ours.
Summary: There is a fundamental difference between the ministry of prophets and apostles. The Old Testament is the age of the prophet. The Prophets function was to call a rebellious, self-righteous, Old Covenant oriented people (tribe, nation, etc.) back to the works based covenant they had made with God. This covenant was based on law and obligation placed upon humans to conform to the law, with blessings for conformity and curses for failure. The prophet was therefore considered many times a harbinger of bad news (1 Samuel 16:4; 1 Kings 22:7-8). The prophet is often sent to kings, who act as head and mouthpiece of a nation, to rebuke, chastise, etc. ( 1 Samuel 13:11-14; 1 Samuel 15; 1 Samuel 17:1; 18:17-18) The New Testament is the age of the apostle. The solely interested in the death and resurrection of Jesus, in the formation of the church as the human focal point of ethics and morals is degredated world. Apostles have nothing to say to to the political institutions, to legislation, etc. They do not seek to infiltrated, influence, or manipulate them at all. Apostles speak to the lost and the weak.
There are prophets in the New Testament, even in the book of Revelation. Their function is always to speak truth to power. The prophet simply points people back to their failures under the works based covenant, tells them of God’s displeasure and judgment, and calls them to fulfill their obligation They do not have an empowering function. Prophets speak to the pagan. The prophet calls one to pefect legalism. Apostles seeks to save the pagan, by preaching the grace of Jesus. Empowerment is the preview of the apostle under the new covenant, with the advent of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The apostle calls one out of legalism, not to perfected legalism.