Differences Between Old and New Testament Prophetic Ministry

Understanding the difference between Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) prophetic ministry is a vital key to flourishing in our gifts of prophecy.

A clearer perception of this in my earlier days would have saved me personally a great deal of heartache and error in church life. [1]

Here are four key points of difference between Old and New Testament prophetic ministry, along with some dangers that can occur when a prophetic person maintains an OT viewpoint in the context of church life.

1. In the OT, a prophet was the mouthpiece of God

Old Testament prophets had the singular role of bringing God’s word—instruction, warnings, prophecies, and so on—directly to His people.

By contrast, in the New Testament all believers have a relationship with God and can hear Him speaking to them personally. Therefore, prophecy is confirmation of what is already heard through relationship.

This also relates to leaders in the church today, who hear from God in their leadership capacity.

Prophetic ministry is designed to bring confirmation, clarity and empowerment to the vision of a church.

Signs of maintaining an Old Testament viewpoint in church life:

  • Maintaining they have correctly heard from God (and the leaders are wrong) when there is a point of difference
  • Believing that their prophetic insights carry greater weight than the vision or direction of others who may not have a prophetic gift.

2. The OT was an era of law and judgment

In the Old Testament, prophets pronounced warnings and judgements upon people and nations who were in disobedience to God.

The New Testament, however, is an era of God’s grace. [2] New Testament prophecy is for ‘strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.’ (1 Cor 14:3) Here is an example from Acts 15:32:

‘Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.’

New Testament prophecy is consistent with the ministry of Jesus and His revelation of the Father’s nature.

Even if a prophetic word is addressing error, the prophetic motive is redemption—to bring God’s purpose and to transform the situation and its outcome—and the word will be framed that way, presented in love and humility.

Signs of maintaining an OT viewpoint in church life:

  • Using prophecy to point out wrongs, being quick to condemn or warn church leaders or other Christian believers
  • Using prophecy to call for repentance with an underlying attitude of criticism or judgment [3]

3. In the OT, a prophet could ‘stand alone’ before God (1 Kings 17:1)

In the New Testament, Paul says in 1 Cor 12 that we are many members, with different gifts, in one body.

As with other spiritual gifts, prophecy is not meant to be a stand-alone ministry in the church, rather, it is incomplete without the added value of other gifts in the church body. (1 Cor 12:12)

No one ‘prophetic person’ has all the revelation. He or she also depends upon others with prophetic gifts to supply more ‘pieces of the puzzle’ of God’s revelation (1 Cor 14:29-33).

The person prophesying also needs those who have gifts of discernment, leadership and wisdom to complete their contribution to the church.

Also, in the New Testament you see less of the individual prophet and more of prophetic teams – e.g. Acts 15:32, Acts 13:1, Acts 11:27, 1 Cor 14:29, 31-32.

Signs of maintaining an OT viewpoint in church life:

  • Isolation, separation from community
  • Believing that they report directly to God only, and are commissioned and trained only by God
  • Lack of accountability, i.e. not coming under leadership

4. OT prophets were expected to speak the PERFECT, inspired word of God

If they did not speak a word that proved true, they were condemned as ‘false prophets’ (Jer 14:14-16).

Some prophets were entrusted with the writing of scripture.  They also were used of God to convey His specific instruction to Kings, nations and others. Thus, accuracy and purity of their words was essential.

In the New Testament church, prophetic words are subject to being weighed up. (1 Cor 14:29, 1 Thess 5:20-22)

New Testament Prophetic ministry needs an environment of humility, cooperation and grace to operate as Jesus intended it to.

Signs of maintaining an OT viewpoint in church life:

  • Believing they have a ‘hotline to God’ that bypasses the input of leadership.
  • Resisting having their prophetic words weighed up
  • Reacting negatively when prophetic words are not acted upon, or feedback is given that disagrees with their viewpoint

The Fruit of New Testament Prophetic Ministry

‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.’ (Eph 4:11-12)

In the New Testament, prophetic ministry is a servant ministry in the church. This is also true of the prophetic office.

As Paul outlines in Ephesians, the role of a leading prophetic ministry is to equip the church. This includes encouraging and empowering Christians to hear from God, as well as releasing others who have prophetic gifts.

One danger of maintaining an Old Testament paradigm of prophetic ministry is that it sends a message of exclusivity (see points 1 and 3 above). It tends to have the opposite effect—intimidating others who have prophetic gifts and creating an unhealthy reliance upon the prophetic minister.

And finally, the fruit of New Testament prophetic ministry is unity. The picture that Paul gives is of a healthy body, each part unique but working and growing together into Christ-likeness.


Notes:

[1] For more on my journey check the ‘About Enliven Blog’ page.

[2] For more detail on this topic, see the post ‘How To Weigh Up What The Prophets Are Saying Pt 2

[3] This is not to say that someone with a prophetic ministry cannot call for repentance. See ‘How To Weigh Up What The Prophets Are Saying Pt 1′

[4] I am aware that many prophetic people have experienced unhealthy or even abusive leadership, at some stage of their journey. Past hurts and difficulties should not stop us honouring and having a Biblical response to our leaders in our current situation where God has placed us. For more information on this, read my e-book Prophetic People In A Changing Church.


Related Post:

Prophetic Ministry In Church Life: 3 Non-Negotiables


© Helen Calder 2011 Enliven Blog

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

 


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34 thoughts on “Differences Between Old and New Testament Prophetic Ministry

  1. Another great article Helen 🙂

    Some great teaching on this i recently listened too was from
    Kris Vallotton

    We are in a new covenant, with new ways. Old testament prophets had a different job description than new testament prophets– a huge difference. One was a ministry of death, while the other is a ministry of life. We need to make sure that our mindsets and ministries stay on the right side of the cross.

    http://www.kvministries.com/podcast/2010/07/26/old-testament-vs-new-testament-prophecy

    And here also:
    Kris discusses false prophets and how to not become one.

    http://www.kvministries.com/podcast/2010/08/05/false-prophets

    • Thanks Steve, I respect Kris Vallotton’s teaching and will check these out!
      I love what you say about the old covenant being a ministry of death and the new a ministry of life.
      This is clearly brought out in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians and is very powerful when we relate it to prophetic ministry:

      “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” (2 Cor 3:6-10)

      I believe as we really catch this truth, we are going to see the glory of God in ways beyond which we’ve ever dreamed!

  2. I am very grateful fOr this teaching. What a revelatiOn this was fOr me, understanding my respnsibility, accuntability and responsibility if called as a prophet. How do I know that I am in the office as a prophet ?

    • Nadia, awesome question!
      The things I have discussed in the article don’t just relate to those who are called to prophetic office, but also to anyone who has a prophetic gift. We need the insight of what it means to operate in our prophetic gift in church life based on the New Testament prophetic role. (This is true even if we’re unsure as to whether we have an actual gift of prophecy).

      So that’s our starting place, being faithful, honouring leaders, focusing on the things I’ve mentioned above and developing our gift. My e-book, Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts gives some great suggestions for developing in prophetic gifts, also I’ve included a blog link to a brief article that may be helpful.

      http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/e-books/grow-your-prophetic-and-prayer-gifts-e-book/
      http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/2009/10/24/how-to-develop-your-prophetic-gift-pt-1-where-to-begin/

      As far as Prophetic Office, it is an appointed role, recognised by leadership, so even if one senses the call of God in this area, that call is not affirmed until recognised and established by church oversight. I’ve asked Steve McCracken to add his own thoughts on this (see below).
      Bless you, Nadia, and I pray you will continue to be faithful in your gift and the call of God on your life will ultimately be established.

  3. Helen lays out excellent biblical teaching on the difference of the prophetic office in the Old Testament and New Testament.

    One of the main differences is the element of God’s plan for everything to now be done within the context of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

    Isolation and self-appointment is not a New Testament way of thinking. God appoints and places every member in the Body, as He wills. Therefore it’s not about appointing ourselves to a position we desire, but rather about us discovering what God has pre-ordained.

    Therefore I believe that other leaders in the Body of Christ will bear witness that we are called and gifted in a certain area. I believe in the need to always be submitted, so a great starting point is to chat your feelings and thoughts through with your current oversight. They often have a sense of what God might be saying, as well as the added safety of knowing the individual and what is needed to move them forward. This is where accountability comes in too. A leader who knows the person, knows some of the growth areas, including character issues that may need to be addressed if the person is going to walk in the gift with integrity and longevity.

    Sometimes it is easy to desire a certain gift or calling without giving due diligence to what is required. David McCracken’s teaching series on God’s Emerging Prophets gives an excellent base for understanding the prophetic office.

    • Thanks Prince! You’re local in Melbourne, aren’t you? We have our Breakthrough Night tonight, would love to see you there if you can make it! Check out the David McCracken Website for info…

  4. Thanks Helen, this is a great and timely post.

    I’m leading a small group tonight on the subject of prophecy and was just thinking, I wonder what David McCracken would say about the difference between OT and NT prophecy. I googled the subject and your post was the top of the search.

    God is good!

    Blessings,

    Darren

  5. thanks for your great inspiring writting God bless you ma… For a long time i have been wanting to relate the 2 types…thanks to God for the grace of redemption of man that brought a gap between the two prophet may God continue to inspire us more in him and deliver us for obnioxuos prophet of this days whom greed is their first fruit.

  6. I was greatly blessed by your write up on this topic and it is timely!!! I have some burning questions though with regards to church leadership in the New Covenant!
    1. Kindly explain the leadership roles in the church and their relationship vis-a-vis a believer
    2. Does 2 Chronicles 20:20b still apply in the New Convenant and in what context!! Mind you a lot of our Pastors,GOs,Prophets here in Africa use this scripture to tell us the congregation that their ‘Word is Law’
    3. Do we still have the Levitical priesthood in operation? Or rather Apostle Paul’s ‘tent making’ format?
    I will greatly appreciate your insight on the above mentioned questions with their Biblical references
    Thanks

    • Dear Deyemi Ajayi,
      Sorry for the delay in replying, it is great that you are seeking out the answer to these very important questions.
      1. Kindly explain the leadership roles in the church and their relationship vis-a-vis a believer – this is a great question but one that is very broad. Sorry that I don’t have the time to tackle it here.

      2. Does 2 Chronicles 20:20b still apply in the New Convenant and in what context
      This verse states: ‘…Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.’ In the Old Testament context, this referred to God’s prophets who had His true and directive word for the leaders and people to obey. Bear in mind, even Kings needed the Prophets to hear God’s instruction.
      In the New Testament this only applies having met with some very important conditions: That the prophecy confirms what the recipient (whether leader or individual) is hearing themselves, that it is according to Scriptural principles, and has been prayerfully weighed up and agreed that it is a true word from God (i.e. it is not automatic, even coming from a seasoned Prophet)

      3. Do we still have the Levitical priesthood in operation? Or rather Apostle Paul’s ‘tent making’ format?
      I have some comments with regard to this from Clayton Coombs, who is a Theologian and ministers on our team:
      ‘The levitical priesthood is superseded by the priesthood of all believers in the sense of their mediatorial role, however, there is a functional need for leadership.

      By way of example, there must be a balance between the teaching gift and office, and the anointing which all believers possess that ‘teaches you all things.’ Part of that is a New Covenant balance “No longer will a man teach his neighbor saying ‘Know the Lord, for they will all know me from the least to the greatest.” So all know him, and the anointing teaches us all things, and yet there is a place for teachers.

      In the same way, there is a place for leaders in spite of the principle of the priesthood of all believers. And yet, as Jesus makes clear, it is a radically different type of leadership to the world’s kind and should not be used to prop up existing class distinctions or to promote one above another (“it shall not be this way among you…” and “there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ).’

  7. I am teaching on the gifts of the Spirit and I am called to the Prophetic ministry, I always know that the was a different between the old and new Prophetic ministry, you made it clearer.

  8. All prophets are prophesiers, but all prophesiers are not prophets.
    All prophets have the gift of prophecy, which Silas and Barnabas
    functioned in. That is what it the text says, doesn’t it? But it describes ONE aspect of their function. Not all of it.

    Error comes in when the prophesier tries to function outside of the grace of their gift.

    Yes, all believers hear God. That makes the Church a prophetic organism.

    But we all know the ascension gifts function differently than the rest of the church for the sake of equipping us. Jesus just called apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors to Himself. Why doesn’t it say anywhere in the New Testament how these servants need to function, except in love?

    Yes, we must serve the Body out of the love of God. But God’s love does not always look like the humanistic nonsense we are sold today. He disciplines those He loves, in love. It don’t very well LOOK like love to us at the time, but it is.

    The Old Testament was not just an era of law and judgment. God bestowed plenty grace and love on His people then, too. His outcome then, too, was redemption. The Old and the New Testament is the same thing. The former is just a shadow of the latter.

    They are no better than anyone else of God’s children, but prophets exist. And yes, they still are God’s mouthpieces to the church, the government and society. They are very few and far between, rarer than we think. While they will be scattered across congregations (yes, not every one will have one), they WILL be in a fellowship, but still, by virtue, alone.

    We cannot apply the gift of prophecy to the ascension gift of the prophet and tell him or her to function only in that manner. We are holding back stupendous national Old Testament miracles in the New Testament dispensation if we do.

    One man put it very nicely. ” A true prophet does not charge a fee. He pays a price.”

    • Hi Ella, I just want to say thanks for the very well thought out response you have shared. Some very good thoughts there, and I love the insight about the redemptive nature of the Old Testament, thank you!

  9. I have a question. What if a portion of the prophetic word is a calling they haven’t recognized yet? For example,the call from pastor to apostle.

  10. Hi Deidra,
    Do you mean that the person receiving the word has not recognised the calling, or those in leadership about the person have not acknowledged it? Also, in what context has the prophecy been given – is it in a presbytery, or given by an individual to the pastor? If you can explain a little bit more I may be able to share a response. 🙂
    Bless you, and thanks for leaving the note!

  11. I have been called to be an apostle within the last 2 months. I also am developing the prophetic more. The Lord has given me this prophetic word for someone that is currently a pastor. I asked for a confirmation and in a dream I saw a picture. I have not given it to him yet. Thank you.

  12. Do you believe male and females called to the office of a prophet should be addressed as prophet so and so?

    • Thanks – what a great question! Here in Australia we don’t use a title or require to be addressed as ‘Prophet’ or ‘Apostle’ – but we do honour other Christian cultures where that is done.
      I see that there are some good reasons to do so, and advantages in not doing so, but do not have a strong opinion either way.

  13. Thank you for the insights. I seek for balance. You wrote:
    Maintaining they have correctly heard from God (and the leaders are wrong) when there is a point of difference
    Believing that their prophetic insights carry greater weight than the vision or direction of others who may not have a prophetic gift.

    From the scriptures and my little experiences over the years, I believe a true new testament prophet’s most important quality is HUMILITY. If such is humble, revealed divine will communicated to leadership could be received or rejected depending on the nature and maturity of Leadership. It is not the part of the prophet to force the message. If it’s rejected and the message is from God, when it’s fulfilled , then leadership COULD by the evidence listen next time such message comes. I have had such rejection of messages and even questioned the source of such revelation, but I still submitted to leadership; Overtime, leadership began to accept these messages. First, the prophet should expect their prophetic word or revelation to be weighed by leadership or hearers. Let’s follow divine princples: we see that it’s not all new testament and old testament prophetic messages were accepted by their generation and God did not force it on them.

    • Thank you very much for this, Okech. This is a great insight and powerful testimony and I hope others will read and be inspired.

  14. Thank you for this article… There is a bit confusion in me still about the Holy Spirit… How do you know when it’s the Holy Spirit speaking and when is it divination spirit speaking? Many times prophets will recall past errors and then I think: “doesn’t His word say He has forgiven, and forgotten and doesn’t think of our sins no more” so why would this prophet of God remind me then? Is the Holy Spirit a mind/thought reader ? So many in the church today are out to expose ppl of their bad habits/shortcomings/sins, surely this can’t be Christ conscousness? So with what spirit are they operating with! Thank you….

    • Yes, this is a great question. With such prophecies – check the fruit (outcome). That which is of the Holy Spirit will bring genuine repentance that leads to joy and the experience of God’s grace. If the result is condemnation – something is wrong. I encourage you to check the links to the two articles I have put in the article above: ‘How to Weigh Up What the Prophets Are Saying, Pts 1 & 2

  15. This is very deep and adds knoweldge to the study of prophets.personally I benefitted alot and wish to ask this question ‘HOW DOES THE TODAYS PROPHETS HELP THE SOCIETY TO LIVE IN THE STATURE OF GOD?’

    • Hello Esther, in Ephesians 4 Paul explains that Jesus has given the 5-fold ministry – including that of the prophet, to equip the church, to do the work of service, so that we (the body of Christ) grow into maturity, in the full stature of Christ.

  16. Praises all unto God, I do needed to read this book, only read, 21 pg. and already found myself in it Praise the Lord; I have been spiritual wounded very hard to the point of being traumatized, and number 2 I like being isolated from people, I go to church. And praise the Lord for the elders of the Church, who have being my main support and actually the Lord have used me in prophecy on to them and they do receive it humbly, and glory be to God alone; they have seen the evidence of the Lord by manifestation….
    Thank You Jesus!

    And thank you to your book, I know already has been a blessing…

    Lidia

    • Hi Lidia, thank you for leaving the note, I’m glad the book is being a blessing to you, may you continue to go from strength to strength in your prophetic gift and ministry!

  17. Am a Christian of many years. Of late I have noticed so-called modern prophets who behave in a strange way . They pray and and tel people things like : they have been bewitched by their closest relatives like mom, father, brother etc. one was even told that his dead mother’s spirit was taken by his brother and is being used to torment him.

    What manner of a prophet would this be?! Truly a prophet of Jehovah?!

    What do you think?

    • Hi Stanley, you are right to step back and ask these questions. What is the fruit – the outcome of their ministry? See the links in the article above to my posts on ‘How to Weigh Up What The Prophets are Saying’ for more information.

  18. In the OT God would speak to the nation through one prophet at the time,after that prophet pass away then the next would come.Eg after Elia there comes Elisha 2kings 2v11-14.

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