The Differences Between an Apostle and a Prophet in the Church
(See Acts 13:1-3, Acts 15:1-41)
By Stephen Gola
What is an apostle and the apostolic? What are the differences between apostles and prophets? Is an apostle higher than a prophet? Who are apostles and prophets subject to? Below is a list of the functions of an apostle and prophet in the Church today.
< An apostle is "sent to," a prophet is "raised up."
< The apostles are "subject to" and "sent out" by the prophets and teachers.
< A prophet is "raised up in their midst." An apostle is "sent to" a specific place, group or group within a group.
< Jesus as a prophet: "I will raise up a prophet from among your brethren." Jesus as an apostle: was "sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel".
< Prophets can hold political or governmental positions, apostles do not. (See the book of Daniel.)
< Prophets are given authority within the authority-system of the church and the world systems. An apostle's authority is only within the church.
< Apostles deal with those who are saved or are leading them to be saved.
< Prophets deal with all---both saved and unsaved, but not necessarily with the focus (as apostles do) to lead them to Christ; but rather to teach, warn, guide or direct church and world affairs.
< Apostles foresee events coming to the church but could involve world events connected to the church. However, they do not normally foresee world events without being associated to the church. Prophets foresee coming events to the church, and the nations of the world. However, prophets normally foresee coming events of the nations which do not include the church.
< Apostles call "people" to salvation. Prophets call "peoples and whole nations" to turn from their wicked ways.
< It is not "who" a person is, but rather, "what office" they function in. "That" is where the authority comes from.
< A single person can hold multiple "offices." A person can be an "apostle to the church" and a "prophet to the nations" (just as Jesus was).
< The focus of an apostle tends more toward "fatherhood" to those who are birth through them. Prophets tend to be more focused on the "things of the Spirit" and "the things of God" rather than fatherhood.
< Apostles are not over prophets---the prophets and teachers release the apostles.
< Elders are not positions in the church; rather, an elder is "who you are." In other words, elders are mature individuals (usually which comes with wisdom, knowledge, skill, godliness and years of doing it). Elders can be a prophet, pastor (bishop, shepherd), teacher, apostle, and evangelist just as they were at the counsel at Jerusalem (see Acts 15). You are an "elder" because you "are" elder as described above. Elders of old were never "made" elders; they are in the positions of Elders because they "are" elders---mature and skilled.
< Apostles are not over the prophets pertaining to what is right or wrong for the church. Rather, the apostles go to the prophets, apostles and elders and together work through what God has given them.
< Apostles deal in the area of church government; prophets deal in the area of church and/or world governments (political, media, military etc (see the prophet Elijah).
< Apostles are "released" by the prophets, teachers and elders to go and labor in areas where the unsaved are in order to establish assemblies to train and equip.
< Apostles and evangelists were added to the New Covenant Addendum because of the new birth. Prophets, teachers and shepherds existed under the Old (Longstanding) Covenant before being updated with the New Covenant.
< Both prophets and apostles confront false doctrine and worship (lifestyles) and restore truth.
< The difference between a "major prophet" and a "minor prophet" is their scope, not their significance. The "minor prophets" in the Bible see only the events that are coming to the "specific nation" they are assigned to. The "major prophets" see events coming upon not only their nation "but the nations of the world---world events."
< The Apostolic is the "kingly anointing" like King David. The Scripture declares that God will raise-up the house of David and rule from it---the apostolic anointing to the church.
Stephen Gola is a Bible teacher and preacher who ministers on many different spiritual subjects. His current focus is on helping divorced Christians overcome guilt and experience hope for their future. For information on Stephen's book, Divorce: God's Will?, visit www.divorcehope.com.
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Stephen, I think your article was very informative and I can tell you put a great deal of work into researching scripture. I also think believers should know the functions of pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets and evangelists so they can learn about each one. We need to know, to understand the gifts and callings God has given us so we can understand what He wants us to do.
I have a couple of suggestions for you. Please take them as constructive advice, not as negative criticism or an attack against your writing.
One thing I noticed is that you repeated yourself in regards to the differences in the authority of the apostles and prophets, and also in a couple other points.
Secondly, I had a hard time understanding some of the comparisons between the two callings. For example, is the Apostle like a missionary that is sent out and spreads the word or is it like the Evangelist that is sent out to speak about salvation to lost souls? I guess I needed the differences to be spelled out a little more clearly.
Overall you did a good job! I look forward to reading more.