Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 16, 1957

The Divine Organization Of The Church -- No. IV.

C. G. Caldwell, Sr., Manchester, Tennessee

One great subject on which the majority of the religious world is seriously lacking in knowledge and understanding, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit As a result of this deficiency in knowledge, many false and superstitious ideas are entertained, particularly by the denominational world regarding the Holy Spirit and His work. It is my firm conviction that much of the error taught, and the false and conflicting ideas entertained regarding the subject, is due, in large measure, at least, to a lack of understanding and appreciation of the New Testament Prophets, and the work which was committed to them. This is a subject which has been much neglected, even among our own brethren. Mention the word "Prophets" to the average church member, and his mind instinctively turns to the Old Testament Seers (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) and few of them have any idea that such an office obtained in the early church, and even fewer could engage in an intelligent discussion of the duties and qualifications of those men of God who occupied this important position in the affairs of the early church.

The word "Prophet" comes from a Greek word which means "before, to say" or "to speak before." Basically then, it would refer to one who foretells the future. However, in both the Old and New Testament, a Prophet is one who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, speaks the words and thoughts of God, whether they relate to the past, present, or future.

In point of rank and dignity the New Testament Prophets were next to the apostles. This is evident from I Corinthians 12:28: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps governments, diversities of tongues."

The special business of the Prophets in the early church was: (1) To predict future events (Acts 11:27, 28 21:10, 11). (2) To reveal the counsels and purposes of God (Eph. 3:4, 5). In I Timothy 4:14 Paul admonished Timothy, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy" etc. This shows that it was God's purpose, made known most likely through some of the Prophets of Lystra, or Iconium, that Timothy should be invested with the spiritual gifts bestowed upon him. (3) To distinguish between the inspired Word of God and the uninspired teachings of men (I Corinthians 14:37; I John 2:20, 27). (4) To unfold the meaning of the scriptures, or the spoken Oracles of God (I Cor. 14:1-4). (5) To reveal the secrets of the human heart (I Corinthians 14:23-25). One of the leading characteristics of the Word of God, which was spoken by the Prophets is, it searches the heart and reveals its secrets (Heb. 4:12, 13). (6) To exhort, comfort, confirm, and edify the church (Acts 15:32; I Cor. 14:31).

From the foregoing observations it is evident the Prophets were a special group of individuals, vested with a distinctive measure of the Holy Spirit for the accomplishment of their specific duties. For God to have given (or to give) such measures of the Spirit to all converts to Christ would render ridiculous the God-ordained office of the New Testament Prophets and would constitute the New Testament one grand "Comedy of Errors."

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:11, 12).

The prophets of the New Testament acted and spoke under an extraordinary measure of the Holy Spirit, being moved by divine impulse and inspiration. Their service in the early church was intended to accompany and supplement that of the apostles. The Prophets were not like the evangelists, Elders and Deacons, and general members of the church, but in all cases they were chosen and qualified through the instrumentality of the Apostles. This is evident from Acts 8:14-17, "Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit." In Acts 19:6, 7 it is said, "And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve."

The Prophets were not selected from among persons of any particular age, rank, or even sex. In explaining the events that were occurring on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days smith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . . And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18). Compare also Acts 21:9 and I Cor. 11:5.

The prophetic office, like the apostolic, was only a temporary. one. No one living today could possibly possess the qualifications or discharge the special duties that belonged to them. This is deduced, not only from logical reasoning, but also from positive divine instruction. For this instruction, read I Cor. 13:8, 13.

From the foregoing, it becomes evident that the Prophets were an extraordinary class of ministers, chosen through the instrumentality of the Apostles for the purpose of assisting the Apostles in the work of establishing the church and preparing the saints for the work of the ministry; but were not intended to officiate either as Teachers or Rulers in any fully organized and well-instructed congregation. The sacred scriptures fully supply this need, and are now our only Apostles and Prophets upon the earth. They contain everything that is necessary in order to our edification and progress in the Christian life.


In addition to Christ, its founder and head, the Apostles and Prophets, the New Testament church also had Evangelists, sometimes called ministers and preachers. The word "Evangelist" according to its etymology, means simply a "proclaimer of good news." This, however, is its generic meaning and, in this sense, Christ Himself and every Apostle and Prophet was an evangelist. So is every faithful Christian. It is certainly the duty and privilege of every child of God to carry the good news of the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16: 15, 16) and make known the glad tidings of salvation in the name of a risen Lord.

"Minister" in the original simply means "servant" and generally it may be said that wherever it is found in either the Old or the New Testament, its original meaning is its primary one, service being the idea it is specifically meant to convey. This word is also generic in meaning. Christ said of Himself, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister." (Mark 10:45). Hence our Lord was a minister. Paul referred to himself as a minister (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23), yet it is clear he belonged to that group known as Apostles. The angels of God are sometimes called ministers (Heb. 1:14). Throughout his earthly ministry Christ urged that all His disciples (Christians) should be ministers (Matt. 20:26, etc.) Therefore, one cannot follow in the footsteps of Christ, and thus be a Christian, and yet not be a minister. Paul refers to Timothy, Apollos. Tychius, Epaphras, and John Mark as ministers, having reference primarily, of course, to the aspect of service which they performed.

The word "Preacher" is derived from the original word meaning "Proclaimer" (as a herald). Preaching is often described in the New Testament as a declaration or proclamation of "glad tidings." Strictly speaking, "proclamation" should be distinguished from "teaching" as in II Tim. 1:11. But in its more extended application "preaching" covers all instruction in religious matters of a homiletical character, and especially such as is associated with public worship. It can be seen, then, that this too is generic. Jonah, an Old Testament Prophet (Jonah 3:2); Noah, a deliverer of God's message (II Pet. 2:5); Christ (Matt. 4:17); Paul, an Apostle (I Tim. 2:7), are all referred to as preachers. They all proclaimed that which God would have the people know.

In Eph. 4:11 Paul distinguished a certain group or class of ministers or preachers and called them "Evangelists." He employed this word in a definite and specific sense, and used it in connection with, and in contrast to, positions held by others in the church. There may or may not have been a logical reason for his calling this class of Christians "evangelists" instead of "ministers" or "preachers", but since he did so by Inspiration we may, with absolute safety, follow his example by so referring to gospel preachers today.