Further to my other articles regarding the claims by various cessationists that apostles and prophets have ended, here are some interesting statements from CARM, an apologetics site dedicated to the defence of Reformed theology.
One of my previous posts pointed out that CARM had struggled with the scriptural fact that Junia, who is almost certainly a woman minister, was mentioned by Paul as being of note amongst the apostles of his time, and someone who had come to the Lord before him.
In a single passage in Romans 16 Paul commends several women for their ministry, including Junia, Phoebe, a deacon, and Priscilla, a teacher who, with her husband Aquilla, ran a house church.
CARM relieves prophets of their duties
In the same article, CARM made the extraordinary claim that apostles were finished. Now, in another series of articles, they say that prophets have ended because they were only temporary offices. Their exact words…
‘In the New Testament, the gift of the office of prophet was a temporary one granted by God for the purpose of building His Church.’
Now it occurs to me that Christ is still building His Church. He will continue building His Church until He comes again. He has designated certain gifts and offices to assist Him, including apostles and prophets. However, CARM is of the opinion that prophets are no longer necessary. They go on…
‘So, are prophets still needed today? Looking at the two functions listed above, we can see that the office of prophet is one that is no longer necessary and has ceased within the Church because the foundation of the Church was laid long ago, and, God’s revealed Word was completed with the close of the New Testament canon.’
What were these two functions, according to CARM? Prophets were gifted men given by God to help lay the foundation of the Church, and they received God’s revelation and truth and proclaimed it to their churches at a time when the early Church did not have a completed canon. In other words, the canon replaced apostles and prophets.
In fact, the canon as we have it was not completed until the fourth century after Christ, so this doesn’t compute.
We still need apostles and prophets
There is no scripture anywhere to confirm CARM’s claim. In fact, it is clear, as I have said before, that apostles and prophets were appointed by God, along with evangelists, pastors and teachers, to edify and equip the Body of Christ for the work of the ministry, and to develop as the Church community.
Ephesians 4:11 He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…
The claim CARM is making is that the Word of God in the form of the canon of scripture has taken the place of apostles and prophets and we no longer require them.
‘So while we always need men who are willing to proclaim boldly the Word of God as contained in Scripture (as pastors, teachers, and evangelists), there is no need for the office of “prophet” as it existed in the New Testament.’
However the Word of God tells us that Christ has gifted the Church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
The denial of the continuing ministry of apostles and prophets by these groups has lead to a growing controversy led by some of the so-called discernment ministries that anyone who teaches that, as scripture states, apostles and prophets are still in ministry today, is part of some vast conspiracy to undermine the Church.
They are, wittingly or unwittingly, helping to spread discord amongst the brethren.
New Testament prophets
On another page on their site, CARM makes this claim, which seems to contradict their earlier teaching.
‘The Bible says that there aren’t any more prophets. Luke 16:16 says that the Law and Prophets were until John the Baptist.’
This is expressly speaking of the Old Testament compared to the New. Prophets did not end with John. There were, and are, New Testament prophets. CARM continues…
‘The truth is that God gave us Prophets (Old Testament) and Apostles (New Testament) for the establishing of the church. Prophets pointed ahead to Jesus. Apostles point back to Jesus.’
That can’t be correct. The Old Testament prophets definitely pointed to Christ, but they were not the last of the prophets. We know this because Christ appointed prophets after His ascension, and He did so to fulfil all things. The coming of the Spirit to the Church and the gifts of Christ are evidence of His resurrection and ascension, and that He lives.
Ephesians 4:8-12 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
When did He ascend? After He had been raised from the dead. This action could only have taken place after the resurrection of Christ.
Acts 1:9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Just before He ascended Christ had said to His disciples that not many days from then they would all be filled with the Spirit, baptised with the Holy Ghost and with power. They would receive the promise of the Spirit and be empowered to be witnesses of Christ.
This was His ascension. And at His ascension, we are told in Ephesians 11, He gave gifts to men, including apostles and prophets. Remember, this took place after He had ascended. This could only be in the New Testament. Therefore, there are New Testament prophets, and they help edify and equip the Church for the work of the ministry, and to assist them with their development.
God will have His way
These prophets are not, as CARM claims, producing new revelation additional to the established canon. They speak of things to come, including warnings, and help churches with their development, but never outside of the established Word of God. New Testament apostles are sent out to establish church communities, and may oversee several works that are planted out of a main centre in a region, or across regions.
CARM confuses Old Testament prophets with New. They misrepresent the gifts given by Christ to apostles and prophets in helping Him establish and develop churches.
There are so-called discernment watchers, including chookwatcher sites, the pirates, and J D Hall who use this kind of cessationist doctrine to criticise ministries that are going ahead with God’s call on their lives. They sell the falsehood that apostles and prophets have ended, therefore anyone who claims they exist must be part of the great NAR conspiracy that the critics have devised as a weapon against the progress of the Church.
It can’t work, of course, because God will carry through His plans regardless of critics. But it does harm those who are fooled into thinking that these NAR claims have some kind of truth to them.
However, God will continue to call, gift and equip apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers until Jesus comes again for the Church.
Our prayer should be that new believers and those who are susceptible to wrong doctrine will be protected from the cessationist counsel and follow the truth in the Word instead.