JESUS AS REVEALED BY THE GOSPELS

By: JIL Education and Discipleship Dept.

The beauty of the Gospels resides in the fact that even though each contains essentially the same basic information about Jesus, each Gospel account is remarkably distinct in its presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Each of the four books is actually complete in itself.  Yet, taken together, the four Gospels give us a holistic view of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  To fully grasp Jesus’ life and earthly ministry entails knowing Him as Servant as He is presented in the book of Mark, understanding His humanity as Son of Man as He is presented in the book of Luke, recognizing His Kingship and Royal identity as presented in the Gospel of Matthew, and acknowledging His Deity as presented in the Gospel of John.  This only goes to show that in each of the four Gospels we can find one motley splash of beauty and emphasis that contribute a particular viewpoint that is absolutely necessary in understanding the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Mark gives us a vivid picture of Jesus as “Son of God.”  It should be noted however, that the title Son of God is not used to denote His “Deity or Divinity.”  The title carries with it Messianic connotations, giving emphasis to Jesus’ Messianic role, that is, to bring the outcast and the marginalized back to society.  The book of Mark also presents Jesus as “Son of Man.”  As Son of Man Jesus came to the world to suffer and die for the redemption of mankind.  The title Son of Man is used to give emphasis to Jesus’ calling and mission that is characterized by mortification, suffering, martyrdom and servanthood.  As Son of God and as Son of Man Jesus exemplified true servanthood.  In Mark He is always at work, doing miracles and teaching people.  The book is actually characterized by fast-paced action and a sense of urgency as evidenced by the reiterative use of the words “immediately,” “at once,” “quickly” and “just then” that are mentioned no less than 41 times.

In the Gospel of Matthew the genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham the father of the Jewish nation and to David, Israel’s greatest king.  Both are recipients of covenantal promise.  This is to prove that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was spoken through the prophets, that He is the long expected King and Deliverer of His people.  In this book, Jesus has the following Royal titles:  King, Messiah, Christ, Son of David.  It is in fact in this Gospel that the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned 31 times.  Not even once does the said phrase appear in the other Gospels.  The Royal identity of Jesus is recognized by the multitudes that he preached to and even by the little children.  Another prominent feature of Matthew’s Gospel is the predominance of Jesus’ ethical teachings that are radical in nature- radical in the sense that His teachings openly denounced the hypocrisy of His contemporaries, the Pharisees.  As a matter of fact, in chapter 23, Jesus reserved His strongest and longest sermon not for struggling sinners, discouraged disciples or wealthy people but for hypocrites, glory hogs and legalists.

The book of Luke highlights Jesus’ ministry to the poor.  Here we find proof that Jesus is specially attentive to the plight of the marginalized- those who were generally looked upon as insignificant members of society in the first century:  women, children, the poor and the disreputable.    Luke also clearly establishes that Jesus is strongly opposed to love for riches as much as he is ardently concerned about the poverty of the needy.  In this Gospel account Jesus emphatically warned against riches.  Luke’s Gospel utterly denounces an order of society in which riches are highly esteemed and poverty despised for what is highly valued among men is detestable to GOD (Luke 16:15).  Another dominant theme in Luke is the special role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry.  It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary bore a child.  Furthermore, Jesus Himself was baptized by the Holy Spirit before His earthly ministry began.

The Gospel according to John gives prominence to the Divinity and Deity of Jesus Christ.  In this book we find the preexistence of Jesus.  Only in John is Jesus given the Christological title I AM.  Jesus Himself declared, “Before Abraham was I AM.”  He is also referred to as “Son of God.”  But unlike in the Gospel of Mark, the title speaks of Jesus’ Divine nature.  He is the “Son of God” whom the Father sent to do His work.  The writer of this Gospel sets forth to prove that Jesus, although 100% human is “undiminished deity.”  Among the four Gospels, John is considered a “primer” for it contains the very heart of Christianity – that eternal life is obtained through faith in the one and only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.

To have a thorough understanding of the Gospels one has to take each record independently and take into account that they were written by different authors, in different languages, in different cultural settings, and at different time periods.  As one probes deep into the Gospels, he is to uncover one absolutely amazing truth - that despite their distinctiveness, the Gospels in its entirety point out to one and only astounding truth – “that God loves the sinful humanity so much that He gave His Son Jesus to be the Savior of the entire humankind.”

The Defeated Ones

How do we clearly see if our path is at the center of God’s will?

By the Holy Scriptures.

It is our complete guide to morally upright living and humble obedience to God’s sovereign will. This is further stated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And so we find timeless truths and timely warnings from the divinely inspired words of the Bible. The truths revealed to us must seep into our entire being so that we may “live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). The warnings that prepare us for realistic situations must lead us into overcoming anything that attempts to come between us and our God.

One of the warnings in the Bible on which a great deal of attention must be given is in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Like a military general, Paul gives this comprehensive warning to the members of the Church in Ephesus.

A. Skevington Wood, commenting on this particular verse, highlighted this by reminding us that “in a military strategy one must never underestimate the strength of the enemy” (86). In essence, this was what Paul did when he worded this specific admonition to the followers of Christ. Knowing fully well the possible efforts of the demonic forces to attack their prospective targets, Paul included this caveat in his letter to the Ephesians. Recognizing the indispensability of this counsel in living a victorious life, we will deal with the spiritual forces of evil like an equipped soldier.

Before delving into demonic forces, it must be established first that above all powers and principalities, the Almighty God supremely reigns and eternally remains superior over these evil forces. As Revelation 19:6 (NIV) states, “Hallelujah! For our Lord Almighty reigns.” The New King James version uses the words “Lord God Omnipotent” expressing the immovable truth that the Living God is the All-Powerful Supreme Being, and this means nothing and no one can ever empower Him from eternity to eternity. There is nothing too hard or impossible for Him to do (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27).

In Daniel 4: 34-35, Nebuchadnezzar makes a confession of who God is by saying with awe and reverence:

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

 

Our Everlasting God is infinitely high above everything that sets itself as an authority in the entire universe. Again, no one and nothing can outwit or overpower Him who is the possessor of immeasurable knowledge and power. Founded on these truths, we must now and forever claim the true impact of the His Word in Romans 8:31b, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” Thus, we can rest on the truth that no matter how intensive and extensive the efforts of these malign forces in our lives, we can fight against them, and that is to battle with faith in God’s Power as well as the knowledge of our enemies and activities.

Our enemies, the demon spirits, are still in conscious operation like roaring lions looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8b). This reinstates that we are in a continuous battle with our enemies. Heeding Paul’s admonition to be wary, we must know the forces we are dealing with.

The Shepherd’s Staff gives a brief description as to who demon spirits are. First, demon spirits belong to the Devil, as spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:41, “the devil and his angels.” Second, demon spirits are fallen angels, who chose to disobey God and went away from grace (Jude 6). These two descriptions accurately paint a picture of rebels who decided to leave God’s sovereignty to seek their own selfish pleasure. And up to now, they still are exerting efforts to satisfy themselves by defying God through inflicting His creation with pain, suffering and every evil thing that try to steal people from God’s hands.

Duffield and Van Cleave present the two-fold purpose of demons: “they seek to hinder the purposes of God and extend the power of Satan” (484). The overall purpose is carried out by demonic forces through their wicked activities. Duffield and Van Cleave enumerate the activities of demons (484-485):

1. Opposing the saints (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

2. Inducing departure from the Faith (1 Timothy 4:1)

3. Encouraging formalism and asceticism as the result of false teaching (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

4. Backing all idol worship (1 Corinthians 10:19-21)

5. Causing various physical afflictions (Matthew 9:32-33; 12:22; Luke 8:26-25; Mark 9:22; 9:18; Luke 13:11-17)

6. Accomplishing God’s purposes sometimes, nevertheless. (Psalms 78:49; 1 Kings 22:23; Revelation 16:13-16; Luke 22:31; Job 42:5-6)

When talking about Satan and his demonic forces, one topic that is given considerable attention is demon possession. According to Conner, “Possession is to be under the power and control of a demon that has entered the person and can control their faculties at will” (111).

The Bible contains episodes of demon possession during the times of Jesus as well as the apostles (Duffield & Van Cleave 486-487). During the time of Jesus Christ, demon possessed people were also confronted by our Lord. In fact, He brought about healing in the lives of these people (Matthew 8:26; 9:22-23; Mark 5:12-13). Moreover, in the ministry of the early followers of Christ, demon possession was also dealt with by the early apostles, (Acts 5:16), by Philip the Evangelist (Acts 8:6-7) and by the apostle Paul (Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16). These biblical citations were evidence of the reality of demon possession and its work on human beings.

Studying on this topic in this century, Violeta Bautista, in her paper “Possession: Where Psychology, Culture and Theology Interface,” sought to illuminate certain aspects of demonic possession/sapi in the Philippine context. In the research paper she did in the 1990s involving evangelical Pastors, she found out that “possession is seen by Pastors as resulting from the entry of either good or bad spirit, the former usually referring to the action of the Holy Spirit and the latter to the work of the devil” (Bautista, 49-50).

In the interviews she conducted, she derived the Pastors’ beliefs on the cause of demon possession (from most frequent to the least frequent): weak mental/physical/psychological faculties, sin/spiritual problems, involvement with occult activities, psychological problems, generational/participation in occult, contracting with the devil and the interplay of several factors (Bautista, 50). Her data showed that the top causes of demon possession are mental/physical/psychological and spiritual weakness and involvement in occult activities – all of which leave us vulnerable to the schemes of the spiritual forces of wickedness. Hence, vigilance like that of a soldier must be put on by every believer who wants to ward off demon possession.

Aside from causes, Bautista also recorded the natural and paranormal symptoms of possession. The top three natural symptoms of sapi are behavorial (violent, curses, shouts, suicidal, rolls on ground, spits at people, frightens/threatens people), spiritual (denies belief in God, afraid of the Bible, cannot pray, can’t say the name of Jesus) and volitional (loss of self-control, somebody dictates action) (51).

The top paranormal symptoms of sapi are the following: eyes roll up, showing just the white part; sees spiritual beings; sudden skin discoloration; abnormal twisting of the body; abnormal lengthening of the tongue; and sudden ability to understand foreign tongue (Bautista, 51).

These are the observations of various evangelical Pastors who have been exposed to demon possessions. We can notice that we still hear a lot of these observations from reports of instances of possession. As expected of the evil forces, the demons have not ceased their operations against God and His beloved people.

We have seen the reality of demon possession even in the context of the Philippines. What then should the knowledge about this cultivate in our minds and hearts? This question must bring us back to what we have established at the outset, and that is the unchanging truth of the Omnipotence of the God we serve and follow. Hence, our knowledge about demon possession must by no means invoke fear in us. On the contrary, the fact of demonic forces juxtaposed with the reality of the Sovereign God must in every way elicit stronger faith in the Almighty God.

Acknowledging that we are in a spiritual arena where battles are fought and won, we heed the apostle Paul’s call to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11-18). And let us not forget the God-given arsenal for victory: the Word of God, prayer and fasting, and praise and worship. We must see these powerful weapons in light of the counsel and promise in James 4:7 that we must submit ourselves to God and certainly, the devil will flee from us when we resist him.

How can we submit to our God? Following His will through His Word, growing in intimacy with Him through humble and earnest prayer and fasting, and offering ourselves fully to His throne in praise and worship are the keys to submitting to the Living God. In a life of complete submission, we acquire a spiritually stable stance, protected by God’s power and shielded from the enemy.

With our divinely empowered position, we take hold of the power that overcomes every evil thing. Our Lord Jesus Christ assured us in Mark 16:17 of that power that makes these demons flee, “…in my name they will drive out demons…” We have the power of Jesus Christ in us, therefore we skirmish with the demons, always guaranteed of the victory in His Matchless and Powerful Name, the Name that is above all names. For in the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ, we are confident of the Biblical truth that “…having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [Jesus Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

We are the victors. The demons, no matter how hard they try to reverse it, already have their unalterable state and destiny: defeat. 


Works Cited

 

Bautista, Violeta V. “Possession: Where Psychology, Culture, and Theology Interface.” Principles and Powers: Biblical Reflections in the Asian Context. Mandaluyong: OMF Literature Inc., 2007. 41-65.

Duffield, Guy P. & N. M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 1990).

Mahoney, Ralph, ed. The Shepherd’s Staff. California: World MAP, 1993.

Wood, A. Skevington. “Ephesians.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 11. Gen. Ed. Frank E. Gæbelein. Michigan: Regency Reference Library, 1978. 3-92

The Day History Changed

The Cornerstone of Faith

We, Christians, are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). This briefly yet profoundly expresses an undeniable truth in our life as believers – that the keystone of our faith is our Lord Jesus Christ and His triumph in fulfilling God’s plan of redemption. We stand firmly on solid ground as we have placed our trust in the reality of the Incarnation that led to the gift of salvation.

Regarding the mystery of the Incarnation, one of the questions that arouses curiosity in the Christian’s mind is the exact birth date of our Savior, the precise moment when the Eternal willfully entered mankind’s history. Mankind, gifted with the ability to rediscover things of the past, has been searching for precise answers and substantial explanations to this question. Various views have been taken and explained in order to provide plausible information about this historical issue.

The Pursuit of Coherence

Scholars have used texts from Matthew and Luke as springboards in undertaking research on Jesus’ birth date. Both gospels present certain details that researchers have used to find out the exact point in history when the birth occurred. On the details presented in the two gospels, three data have been studied, and various questions concerning them have been raised.

The first is the gospel writer’s mention of King Herod the Great in Matthew 2. This gives scholars a possible reference point to determine Jesus’ birth. Yet, far from simply giving a decisive answer to the issue at hand, the date of King Herod’s death presents other concerns that need to be dealt with. This is due to the fact that various scholars have attributed different dates for the death of King Herod. Carson, Moo, and Morris state that “it is almost certain that Herod died in late March or early April of 4 B.C.”

First Century historian, Josephus had the same opinion about the date of King Herod’s death, specifying it to have probably happened between March 13 (lunar eclipse) and April 11 (Passover) (“The Date of Christ’s Birth”). Since Jesus was born before Herod died, His birth date would have been before 4 B.C., and more specifically around 6 B.C. if we are to consider the age of the babies ordered to be slaughtered by King Herod, i.e. two years old and younger.

Some scholars though like W. E. Filmer, Ernest L. Martin, and Ormond Edwards have a different belief, asserting that King Herod’s death occurred  between January  9 or 10 (Total solar eclipse) to April 8 (Passover) of 1 B.C. (“The Date of Christ’s Birth). If this is the case, the birth date of Jesus Christ must be around 3/2 B.C.

Four early writers nearly had the same ideas about the date of Jesus Christ: Africanus (3/2 B.C.), Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria (2 B.C.) (“The Date of Christ’s Birth”). However, this particular belief also presents itself as problematic because of the evidence that the successors of King Herod the Great started their reign in 4 B.C. (“The Date of Christ’s Birth”).

The second information that has been used in dating Jesus’ birth is found in Luke 2:1-2, which talks about a certain decree issued by Caesar Augustus when “Quirinius was governor of Syria” (also in Morris, 82). The decree is about having a census of the entire Roman world. However, Carson, Moo, and Morris articulate the difficulties and possible explanations in their discussion of Jesus’ birth:

Unfortunately, the census to which Luke refers cannot be identified from secular sources. Josephus refers to a local census that took place in A.D. 6, and some think that Luke has confused the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem with this one. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that we know of a Quirinius as a Syrian officeholder only in A.D. 6-8. But it is unlikely that Luke, proven so accurate in historical and geographical details in Acts, would have made so serious a blunder. We may surmise that Quirinius had held an earlier post in Syria, or that Luke 2:2 should not be translated “this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governer of Syria” (NIV), but “this census was before the census taken when Quirinius was governer of Syria.”


The third detail is the appearance of the star which actually shed so little a light on the issue of the year of birth of Jesus Christ. According to Carson, Moo and Morris, “several identifications of the star with known astronomical phenomena have been proposed – a comet reported in 5 B.C. or a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in 7-6 B.C. – but none is certain” (54).

The three data mentioned above were used in order to determine the year of Jesus Christ’s birth. It has been presented that there is still an ongoing research to find out substantial evidence that will form unified historical information about the birth date of Jesus Christ. Yet it must be remembered that “Some parts of the story, especially the date of the census of Quirinius, raise historical difficulties, but they hardly affect the question of historicity of the central matter at issue” (Carson, et al., 983). What is irrevocable is the truth that Jesus Christ came to fulfill God’s plan of redemption for mankind.

As to the precise date of the Jesus’ birth, there are also varying opinions from different authors. In an article entitled “Why December 25” from ChristianityToday.com, Elesha Coffman enumerates different views regarding the date of Jesus’ birth. Coffman relates that Clement of Alexandria favored May 20 yet noted that there are others who had argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. Some say though that Clement of Alexandria dated Jesus’ birth to be January 6 (“The Date of Christ’s Birth”). Hippolytus is said to support January 2, while others propose other dates like November 17, November 20, and March 25 (Coffman).

Now, one of the main questions that boggle us is the fact that we are celebrating Christmas Day every 25th of December. How did we end up with this date? Coffman wrote in the same article that:

The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.

Carson confirms this by saying that “The traditional date for the Nativity was set, long after the event, to coincide with a pagan festival, thus demonstrating that the “Sol Invictus,” the “Unconquerable Sun,” had indeed been conquered” (845).

Origen’s concern that was mentioned above is that pagans celebrate the birth date of their gods and that Jesus Christ must not be honored in this way (Coffman). Yet as seen in the quoted excerpt, the church leaders made positive use of this concern in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Formally, this date was established in the Western Christians when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the ‘”favored religion” of the empire (Coffman). By the end of the 4th Century, December 25 became the date of celebration of Jesus’ birth (Carson, 845).  

The Wonder of Truth

It is inevitable that the endeavor to accurately date Jesus Christ’s birth continues to be part of the significant historical research done by scholars. Though various data, analysis and opinion abound and appear to divide us into opposing camps, the community of truth-seekers exemplifies an identity that we, human beings, uniquely possess. The pursuit of dating historically the birth of Jesus Christ proves our insatiable desire for truth. Gifted with knowledge and the ability to search for it, we have an increasing hunger to find what is real and genuine. And this has led the entire mankind to venture on discovering paths to unearth treasures that will satisfy the yearnings of our minds and hearts.

As we stay true to this identity, may we always find the Ultimate Truth of it all and the very reason that fuels our search for knowledge and understanding – the reality of Jesus Christ’s birth and the beauty of the Incarnation. Far above disputes on differences of dates lie the veritable event that created an impact that reverberated from eternity to eternity. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left the majestic throne of heaven to enter into our history, endowing us with the divine life we have been created for. Hence the words of the beloved apostle in John 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Surely, Jesus Christ came, and now we experience His life.

Works Cited

Carson, D. A. “Matthew.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Gæbelein, Frank E., ed. Vol. 8. Michigan: Regency Reference Library, 1984. Print.

Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament. Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 1992. Print.

Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. Print.

Coffman, Elesha. “Why December 25.” ChristianityToday.com. Christianity Today International. 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.
“The Date of Christ’s Birth.” Bible Studies at the Moorings. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.

TRUE PROPHETS: MOUTHPIECE OF GOD

The Crucial Role of the Prophets in the Last Days

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
 

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”’    - 2 Chronicles 20:20


 

To be commissioned to be a representative is to be deputized to be the oral ambassador, the visual model, and the actual portrait of a person, entity or organization. And this is precisely what a prophet is called to be: God’s representative. As such, a prophet inevitably plays a critical role in the Last Days. The specific and highly essential role of prophets in the Church of Jesus Christ has been handed to us through Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Being one of the fivefold ministries ordained by Jesus Christ,the prophetic ministry plays an indispensable role in fulfilling God’s will for the church, as prophets lead faithful followers to grow and be united as we gain maturity in our relationship with the Almighty. As prophets carry out their tasks, they lead us, as a unified body of Christ, in reaching the full measure of the glory of Jesus Christ in us, thereby empowering us to live up to our calling as the salt and light of the world, especially at this point where various crises, political, and environmental, have arisen around the world.

  •     Political instability has been plaguing Middle East countries (Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, etc.) as violent conflicts between the government and the people have greatly disturbed the order.
  •     Natural disasters that resulted in great damage of the affected countries’ properties and resources shocked the entire world, and their effects continue to challenge the global community:

 

a.     A magnitude 6.3 earthquake shook Christchurch in New Zealand, leaving between $7.5B and $11B cost of damage (www.thenational.ae).
b.     Unexpected floods ravaged Queensland, Australia, submerging more than 170,000 homes (www.reuters.com).
c.     A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Northeastern Japan and triggered a tsunami with 10-meter high waves (www.scientificamerican.com).


    1. This earthquake has been listed as the 5th largest earthquake since 1900.
    2. The top speed of the tsunami over the open ocean was about 800 km/hr.
    3. There were aftershocks with magnitudes 6.0, 6.1 and 7.2.

In the midst of these depressing crises, the body of Christ, with its calling to be God’s instruments of hope in the world, must never forget its need for God-ordained prophets whom He has elected to be His mouthpiece to our church and to our nation. Moreover, our respect for the true prophets must reign unendingly, remembering what God had said of our father Abraham, “…he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live.” The genuine prophets are God’s channels of His life that He wants to give us – a life of love and compassion, holiness and mercy, excellence and integrity.  Having this special calling, God gave an absolute command in 1 Chronicles 16:22 saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” We, members of the body of Christ, must be the primary audience of the true prophets, believing in God’s sovereign act of revealing and proclaiming His will through His representatives, as 1 Peter 1:21 states, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

This gift of prophecy given to His chosen men and women around the world enables them to accomplish their tasks crucial to the church’s attainment of the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

1.    The true prophet “foretells” and “forth-tells”

  •     The verb "prophesy" means "to speak before" (from Greek pro, before, and phemi, to speak).
  •     The gift includes both the idea of foretelling and forth-telling,i.e., predicting the future and preaching.
  •     The prophet is blessed with the gift of predicting the future coupled with the knowledge of the perfect plan of God. As Amos 3:7 says,‘Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.’
  •     Inseparable to the task of foretelling is the prophet’s responsibility to forth-tell, and that is to deliver in all honesty and sincerity with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the authentic message of God, substantially grounded on the truth of His Word.
  •     Ephesians 2:19-20 states: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
  •     The prophets, with the apostles, institute foundations of truth that become pillars of the believers’ faith. In fulfilling this role, they have to be grounded on the character and power of Jesus Christ who is the chief cornerstone, the immovable foundation.


2. The true prophet is commissioned to fearlessly point out, confront and rebuke the people and/or their ruler of sin that they may return to God.

  •     Specific sins that attack the ‘deity’ of God such as idolatry and all other activities that lure people away from worshiping Him in spirit and in truth
  •     Such sins as those that are abominable in God’s eyes: practices against righteousness such as exploitation of the poor, against uprightness like court injustices, against the flesh like sexual immorality, against the family institution like marital infidelity and against the spirit like occultist practices, etc.
  •     Aside from pointing out the detestable sins of rulers and their people, the true prophet is charged to warn of the inevitable consequences of sin.
  •     The prophet Elijah exemplified this role in 1 Kings 21:21-24 when he rebuked the idolatrous practices of King Ahab as well as the evil schemes of his wife Jezebel: “I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel – slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.”

 

  •         With the prophet’s confrontation of imminent judgment that comes from continued disobedience, they give rebellious people the opportunity to rely on the mercy and grace that God gives when His people humble themselves, pray, and repent.
  •         The prophet Jonah became God’s instrument for the king of Nineveh to humble himself before God and ask for His mercy and compassion: “…he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” (Jonah 3:6)


3.    The true prophet is God’s envoy, His ‘messenger’:

  •     He acts as God’s emissary to the people and/or their ruler – the bearer of God’s words.
  •     These words are intended to bring His direction and guidance in times of disillusionment, weakness and fearfulness or warning, reproof and judgment.
  •     During the times when the nation is veered towards a state of spiritual, moral and political degradation, the true prophet serves as God’s voice trumpeting the message needed by the people.
  •     Moses, a true prophet of God, proclaimed His message with a promise to the Israelites in Exodus 15:26: “If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
  •     Isaiah completely internalized this role of a prophet as he declare the message of God in Isaiah 48:17-19:

 

 17 This is what the LORD says—    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

“I am the LORD your God,    who teaches you what is best for you,    who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,    your peace would have been like a river,    your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19Your descendants would have been like the sand,    your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out    nor destroyed from before me.”

 

4.    The true prophet is a channel of God’s message of hope and restoration

    The unparalleled good news of God for the entire humanity was given to a prophecy spoken by Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6-7:


6 For to us a child is born,    to us a son is given,    and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace    there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne    and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it    with justice and righteousness    from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty    will accomplish this.

  •     To a world living in uncertainty and destruction (physical, emotional and spiritual), the true prophet is to light the torch of hope and restoration for mankind, and this is by bringing the illumination of God’s Word. 
  •     God’s Word, proclaimed by the prophets, carries the power of assurance that will strengthen His people even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
  •     And when God speaks His Word through a prophet, the church can rest on the fact that despite sin and in the face of the existing state of affairs, God is able to keep His promises and fulfill His plan.
  •     Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.”
  •     God’s words cannot be thwarted. And true prophets believe in and proclaim this unchanging truth.

 
5.    The true prophet is the 'Seer':

  •     He is tasked by God ‘to see for the people’ [see-er], i.e. to discern matters of communal significance such as the spiritual, the moral, and the political state of the nation and its citizenry.
  •     In 1 Samuel 9:9, we see that prophet Samuel was called the seer:9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)
  •     As the divinely-ordained seer of the church and nation, a true prophet is the epitome of keen watchfulness, exemplifying real involvement in the affairs of the church and nation.
  •     He must be dedicated in observing the significant events that bear impact on the destiny of the people of the nation. He senses seasons and times with the sensitivity that comes from the Holy Spirit.
  •     The prophet’s character of watchfulness can be seen in Ezekiel 8:6: “And he [God] said to me [Ezekiel], ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.’”
  •     The question “Do you see what they are doing?” highlights the prophet’s role as the watchful seer who is attuned to the real and relevant affairs of the church and nation.
  •     Knowing this role, a true prophet recognizes that “where the church goes, the nation goes.”


Conclusion

As God’s representative, a prophet is God's mouthpiece: he speaks for God and gives His message. Sometimes that message is regarding the future. At other times, it concerns the present, even the past. Occasionally, the message is simply about doctrinal truth. Regardless of what the message is, it is always God's message spoken forth – His true and perfect Word that will surely bestows the favor of the Almighty.

Thus, the urgent call for us, as it was in the times of King Jehoshaphat, is to “Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” This is the perfect time for complete obedience to this command of our Almighty God for He has ordained true prophets who will speak forth prophetic declarations for our nation, the moment for giving our undivided attention to the local and international messengers whom God has sent to reveal His Word to us.

    At this historic point, as we are surrounded by the various notable events that have perturbed the entire humanity, we are all the more urged to conscientiously listen to the prophets of God, recognizing our privilege to receive His crucial and timely revelation.