This is going to be a fairly short post, as there’s not much to be said. Jesus pretty much says it all.
Starting in Matthew 24, with the Olivet Discourse (Jesus’s sermon on what to expect in the end times),
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
24 “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Mat. 24:9, 10, 24, 25, NIV, emphasis mine)
Then, when Jesus is addressing the Ephesian church in Revelation 2, he says this,
” I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” (Rev. 2:2, NIV, emphasis mine)
The implication of these passages is that there must be real prophets and apostles also floating around – how else could there be imitations?
A couple of questions then for those who claim that these five-fold ministry positions have disappeared from the earth:
- If these offices no longer exist, why would Jesus commend the church for testing and finding false prophets and apostles? If they no longer exist, there’s no need to test. You can just throw them out upon arrival.
- If these offices do indeed exist, as I argue that they must (or there would be no need for Jesus’s admonitions), what does this mean for you? Are you willing to search the Scriptures with an open heart and mind? When you run into someone who claims to hold one of these offices, will you be ready to receive proof for (or against) their calling?
- What would be a good test for someone claiming to be an apostle or a prophet?
Let the Bible provide your answers! Jesus tells us what to look for:
” 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matt. 7:15-20, NIV)
And, a little more about fruit:
33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:33-37, NIV)
Fruit does not show up right away. You have to watch for it…wait for it. Don’t set your heart and your faith and put all of your trust in some man or woman you’ve only just met. Test. Pray. Seek. Wait. Pray more. Evaluate. Are you seeing the fruit of a righteous life? Do you see people being brought into the Kingdom of God and then being discipled so that the Kingdom of God is being reproduced in that person/people?
If (s)he messes up (because every one of us does mess up!), how does (s)he react or respond? Blame shifting or knee-hitting? Does that person become divisive or repent, allowing “love to cover over” and heal, ultimately leading to unity in the Body and a greater degree of God’s glory being manifested?
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing. (Psalm 146:3,4, NIV)
Ultimately, we are all accountable to God. Each and every one of us will someday have to answer for our actions. We cannot, on that day, point the finger at a leader or a fellow follower and blame him or her for our lack of action.
Okay, okay…so this was a bit longer than intended. I trust you’ll forgive me? ;D
Have another perspective? By all means, please share.