The Christian church in Canada has its share of academic men who can exegete the Hebrew and Greek in providing a proper sound exposition of God’s word on Sunday morning, but something is missing – the prophet.

In Ephesians chapter four, we read how the church has specific offices. He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors, and some as teachers (Eph 4:11). Granted, we have preachers who are sound teachers, but unfortunately, we also have some pastors who are disasters. They operate in a pseudo spirit that appears to be Christian on the outside but full of worldliness on the inside. This is why we need the prophet. The word prophet, in its usage in Ephesians 4:11, means someone who speaks on behalf of or interprets what the word is saying. This can often come in the form of rebuke. Souter’s Greek Lexicon puts it this way “a man specially endowed to tell forth (declare) the will of God in speech.”[1].

Now what is interesting about a prophet is that they usually are the ones who go against the modern current of the age. They are the ones speaking out, calling on men, women and the church to repent, but are also often rejected by what we could call the modern, structured – organized religion of Christianity. There are some reasons for modern prophets being rejected, just as prophets of old were rejected. Mostly their message did not line up, their delivery was not typical, and their character was a little odd. Think of the [short] list for a moment. Isaiah, walked around in a loin cloth prophesying (Is 20:1-4), Jeremiah in his underwear (Jer 13) or yoke bars (Jer 27-28). What about Hosea marrying a prostitute (Hos 1:3) or Ezekiel eating a scroll (Ezk 3:1-2)? In the New Testament, there was a prophet, whom we will spend time looking at, and his name is John (the baptizer).

John was a preacher preaching his message in the wilderness (Matthew 3:1). What was his message? Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’ ”[2]

He was speaking a message on behalf of God. He was a prophet, declaring the word of the Lord to the people (Luke 3:1-20). Now, was John an educated man, like the Pharisees or the Sadducees? Did he come with seminary degrees upon his wall and garments that impress? No, he did not meet the religious expectations. 

John had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.[3] What an appearance! A man looking like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). The clothes of the Pharisees were beautiful to look at, and the clothes of the prophet were nothing outstanding to behold. A detailed description of this man is found in Mark 1 as well. Again, what was the message John preached? Repent. He directed the people to God. What was his main message? Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness? Not at all. The message John preached was unlike what the established, organized religion adopted or accepted. Read this account in Matthew 3:7-12,

However, when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God can raise up children to Abraham. “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”[4]

Why such strong words towards these Pharisees and Sadducees? Calvin points it out correctly,  “he saw that their hypocrisy, and swelling pride, rendered them liable to be more severely censured than the common people.”[5] There is more to the context in which you are encouraged to study, but calling a group “brood of vipers” is serious. To charge a group of having venom (vipers), that of the accuser – calling out these men to have qualities of Satan should not be overlooked. To keep it short, we learn another thing about John. He was arrested for rebuking Herod over an unlawful relationship and eventually he was beheaded (Matt 14:1-12).

John was not accepted. Most prophets are not accepted. Stephen makes this declaration clearly,

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;[6]

In the hall of faith passage, we learn how many (including prophets) were martyrs. They were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, and put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (Heb 11:37).[7]

We can see then that the prophet will not be the most liked, educated, polished and not always the best orator – but they do have a heart for God. They are burdened with the things that grieve the Holy Spirit. When they see God’s people wandering into idolatry and spiritual infidelity, they must speak up. Leonard Ravenhill, author of Why Revival Tarries and Revival God’s Way, said, “The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church, grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.” These are the men (prophets) that will be dismissed by most in evangelicalism. Perhaps men who fear such prophets will attack their delivery or degrees, but the message they carry must be heard.

Some will be attracted to the prophet. They want to know more and are drawn but in no way are prepared to align or support the prophet as he is too dangerous and may cause ripples with the wide acceptance of large crowds. Others will desire to silence the prophet. In our day and age, there will be no beheading, but most certainly, those who fear the message will attempt to cancel and attack such a man. Regardless, prayer is needed that God sends us more John’s. Men who thunder the message of the Gospel forward with boldness and holy fire in their hearts. Men who call the Christians to repentance, to forsake their idols in high places and return to Christ. Prayer for pruning to take place and are ready, willing and able to storm the gates of hell with their prayers and obedience.

But a word of caution. A prophet is never a self-proclaimed person. They are not the ones who promote their ministry, desiring fame or fortune. They are lonely men, and are aquinted with solitude. Most importantly, they speak God’s word. They are not fortune tellers or people who will reveal unknown mysteries about future events. Canon of Scripture is closed – but in this, they will speak with a Holy unction, and there will be movement. Why? When a man of God preaches with a prophet’s message, there will be a revival or a riot – but there is no sitting still.

In His Grace,

Pastor Steve

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[1] Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), 222.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 3:2–3.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 3:4.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 3:7–12.

[5] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 186.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 7:51–52.

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Heb 11:37.

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