Friday, March 23, 2012

Prophecy, Apostleship, and War - Part 11 of Spiritual Gifts

Today we’re covering another hodge-podge of unrelated spiritual gifts: prophecy, apostleship, and war.  Because most people are highly familiar with the first two gifts on today’s roster, we won’t spend an exceptionally long time on them.  Without further ado, let’s get started. :-)


Although it is rarely seen in the modern American church, prophecy is a fairly well-known gift because of its prevalence in the Old Testament (both in its stories and comprising entire books), and because it is mentioned on all three of the traditional spiritual gift lists (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4).

Prophecy is the Greek word propheteia, and it and its grammatical variations are the only words used to describe prophecy in the New Testament.  The word literally means to foretell or to tell forth.

From the Old Testament, we see that prophecy entailed getting a specific message from God to deliver to a large group of people or occasionally an individual (usually an influential one).  These messages focused on future events, promises of blessings versus warnings of punishment, and revealing mysteries about God.

In the New Testament, there are certainly examples of people prophesying (e.g. Luke 1:67, John 11:51, and Acts 19:6), but the primary focus on this matter is to be constantly on the watch for false prophets (1 John 4:1, Matthew 7:15, Romans 16:17-18).


Apostleship is identified as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11.  The Greek word for apostle is apostolos, which literally means a messenger, or one sent on a mission.  Biblical examples are Paul and Peter.

From their examples, we learn a couple of things about apostleship:
-          It entails your entire life being devoted to ministry – to an extent far beyond pastoring, for example.
-          In line with the above item, it’s sort of a catch-all gift.  It can involve serving, teaching, pastoring, exhorting, leading, evangelizing, sharing wisdom and knowledge, healing and miracles, tongues, discernment, etc. etc. etc. 

War / Physical Protection

War is not listed as a spiritual gift in any New Testament lists, but it seems to be identified as such in the Old Testament (we’ll get to that in a minute).  Remember, we’ve discussed a few times before how such lists are in no way intended to be all-inclusive, so it is very logical to assume that there may be some spiritual gifts not included on the lists.  Let’s consider the following Scriptures:

[Speaking of Samson, a mighty warrior for Israel] “For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazarite to God form the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
Judges 13:5

[Another Samson example]  Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Judges 16:28

[Written by King David, another mighty warrior for Israel]
He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:34

[Another example written by David]
O give us help against the adversary, For deliverance by man is in vain.  Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.
Psalm 60:11-12

From these verses (and there are many, many more examples throughout the Old Testament), it is apparent that military leaders are specifically given their abilities by God.  Keep in mind that this is not just the physical ability to fight – it also included a mind for combat – true leadership involving strategy, not just bodybuilding.

But…is this still a gift God doles out today?  That answer depends on how you interpret the following verse:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
John 18:36

Some people take this as a command for constant pacifism.  Others take it as an admonition against holy war.  Others think it applies only specifically to the context in which it was spoken (Jesus being on trial before his crucifixion).

My personal opinion is that war/physical protection can still fall under the heading of spiritual gift (for example, security directors at large churches), but also under the principal of common grace in that it is also an ability God chooses to give to believers and unbelievers alike.  Throughout the Old Testament, it is clear that God directs who is in power, and military victories are directly tied to this.  The overall message I think we are supposed to glean from such passages is that all of our abilities are from God.

Weigh in Here!

Can you think of any modern-day apostles?
What’s your opinion on the war-as-a-spiritual-gift issue?

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