Rethinking God’s Prophets (part 1) – Brad Jersak
Who were God’s prophets? What are God’s prophets? Are there still prophets among us? How do we discern the true prophet from the false? By what criteria? If they’re still around, what is the role of a prophet?
In this brief series, I hope to help readers rethink the idea of the prophets a wee bit. I’m hardly going to engage the above questions at all, at least not along standard lines that generally divide charismatics and cessationists, much less those who presume to put “prophet” on their business card or genuflect before their favorite politician and take the Lord’s name in vain by spouting partisan talking points in the name of God. Blech!!!
The Bible as a God-given prophet
In this first instalment, I’d like you to consider thinking of the Bible as a prophet. The tradition I grew up in loved to call the Bible “the Word of God,” and our faith statements held up the Bible as “our final authority for faith and practice.” Odd, because I’m pretty sure the Bible calls Jesus the Word of God and that he alone is our final authority. You could make a case for charging us with blasphemy and bibliolatry.
Of course, once you see the problem with elevating the Bible to the throne where Christ alone belongs, the knee-jerk overreaction can be just as problematic. Some are tempted to set the Bible aside at that point, questioning whether it’s inspired or at least wondering what that means.
Here’s my suggestion: what if we think about the Bible the way John chapter 1 describes John the Baptist?
- 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
What if we were to listen to the Bible in the same way we might listen to John the Baptist. The Bible is NOT the Light of the world, but it is a faithful witness–a prophet, so to speak–sent to testify concerning the Light. The Bible itself is NOT the Light; the Bible came only as a witness to the Light.
As with John the Baptist, we have both the inspiration of the Spirit that drives him to point to Christ, and we also have a human participant who speaks from a particular perspective and worldview. Through John, we hear a prophet testifying these all-important words:
- “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me” (John 1:15).
So too, we say that the Lord Jesus Christ both surpasses the authority of Scripture and precedes it by an eternity! This is not to disparage God’s prophet (John or the Bible). It’s just to say without apology that they are subordinate to the Word of God. They are his willing servants who show us, by the Holy Spirit, what we would not have seen for ourselves:
- “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Or would you have figured that out yourself? No, you wouldn’t. We needed that testimony from an inspired prophet. From John. From the Bible. And yet the Bible, through John the Baptist declares:
- 27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:27-30).
The prophets and the Bible alike are NOT the Bridegroom or the Messiah. They are friends of the Bridegroom. The Bride does not belong to the prophets or to the Bible. The Bride belongs to the Bridegroom.
Notice too, what is the role of the friend of the Bridegroom? What is the role of the Prophet? Or of the Bible? To wait and listen for the Bridegroom’s voice. To rejoice when God’s people hear the Bridegroom’s voice for themselves.
Similarly, it is NOT the watchman of the sheep pen who call the sheep out by name. It is the Shepherd–Jesus–who calls us. What does the watchman, the prophet or the Bible do? It opens the door for the Shepherd.
To summarize, the Bible is NOT a member of the Trinity … nor is it simply a muddled bit of ancient near-Eastern literature. The Bible is a prophet pointing to the Word, the Lamb, the Bridegroom, the Shepherd–witnessing to Jesus.
In our next instalment, we’ll think about the conscience as a prophet, for better or worse…