Bible Q&A: A Very Good Question About God Speaking Through Prophets

If God has revealed all things we need, does that mean that all discussion God had with prophets are recorded?  If not, then does this lend way for the concept that God is still speaking through prophets?

A prophet by definition is a spokesman, an oracle (1 Pet. 4:11), someone who speaks on behalf of God, God’s messenger.  In biblical times, miraculous prophecy took place more times than not in that God spoke to the prophets directly through the Holy Spirit, who would then share God’s message with the people.  We will discuss that in more detail below.

It is true that prophets gave messages from God which are not on record in the biblical canon.  Paul had written a letter to Corinth prior to 1 Corinthians in which he gave them a command (1 Cor. 5:9).  Being a prophet, that command would have originated from God (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37), and yet that original letter to Corinth was not included in the New Testament canon.  In the early years of the church before the apostles and prophets were inspired to write the New Testament scriptures (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 2:9-16), they were still directed by the Holy Spirit concerning the messages they gave to the people orally (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; Matt. 10:19-20; cf. Acts 2:4).  We know the apostles and prophets in the early church preached via inspiration daily and regularly (Acts 5:42; 11:19-21; 19:8, 10; 20:31; 28:30-31).  Yet only some of those oral messages are included in the biblical record, such as the sermons to Jerusalem and Athens (Acts 2-3, 17).

The fact that not all discussion God had with prophets is part of the biblical record does not mean that God is still directly speaking through prophets.  Miraculous prophecy – i.e., God giving a message to the prophet directly via the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11, see v. 10; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 1 Cor. 14:37) – was said to be “in part” (1 Cor. 13:9), i.e., not the whole but what leads up to the whole, the infancy stage before maturity.  The coming of “the perfect” – telios, that which is complete, whole, mature – is said to result in the cessation of “the partial” (1 Cor. 13:10).  The New Testament canon was not yet complete at the time Paul wrote this; indeed, by virtue of prophesying this by written inspiration Paul was working towards the completion of the New Testament!  When the written New Testament canon became complete (cf. Rom. 12:2; James 1:25), the miracles which were said to be “in part” would cease, including miraculous prophecy. Additionally, by virtue of being complete God gave us in written form everything we would need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  No other revelation would be needed or is forthcoming (Jude 3; Gal. 1:6-10; Rev. 22:18-19).

This is why the Holy Spirit inspired the prophet who wrote the book of Hebrews to inform us that “in these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).  Jesus received his message from his Father (John 12:49-50).  He promised his apostles that after his departure, the Holy Spirit would receive from Christ the message he would in turn pass on them through inspiration (John 16:12-15).  So when we read our Bibles or hear a sermon or Bible lesson from an uninspired preacher or teacher in which every part of the message is completely based on rightly divided Scripture (2 Tim. 4:2; 2:15), we are receiving a message from God which he spoke to us through his Son, who in turn gave it to us through the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles and prophets who wrote the Scriptures which we are reading or hearing (Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 14:37).  Any prophets who exist today are uninspired spokesmen from God who are simply preaching the Word as the Bible commands.  Since direct, miraculous prophecy passed away upon the completion of God’s Word, God no longer gives messages directly to prophets as he did in biblical times.

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