Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

2 Kings 13:20-21

After Elisha dies, we don’t hear much about the prophets in the book of 2 Kings. This is in part because the prophets who followed him operated less in the miraculous and in part because the prophets after Elisha started to write down their prophecies. The prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos and Jonah were the next prophets to take up the prophetic mantle after Elisha.

It is important to realize that ever since the Hebrew people were set free from Egypt and started to form a national identity, they always had a prophet, priest and king. In the early years, their prophet was Moses, their priest was Aaron, and their King was Yahweh Himself. Moses passed off his prophetic mantle to Joshua and then to those would be raised up as Judges to lead the people. Aaron passed off his priestly mantle to his own descendants and the Levites.

Then the people wanted an earthly king and so the prophet Samuel anointed King Saul, the first official king of Israel. From that point on, there was always an executive branch (the kings), a judicial branch (the prophets) and a legislative branch (the priests) that functioned as the leaders of the people of God. The kings led the people, the prophets heard from the Lord, and the priests helped the people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system.

A similar system existed when Jesus entered the scene, only the prophetic presence has diminished. John the Baptist functioned as the first real prophet in hundreds of years. And the priests had divided their role in two. Part of the priestly role was pastoral, helping people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system; the other part was a teaching role, helping people know the Law and avoid sin in the first place.

Jesus was furious that the priestly role that was supposed to pastor the people and teach the people instead was exploiting the people and weighing them down with guilt and legalistic burdens.

Jesus took these leadership roles for the people of God and adapted them for the birth of the Church. The executive leader became the apostle. The judicial voice became the prophet. The priestly/legislative role became the pastor and the teacher. Then He added one more role for the spread of the Kingdom of God, the evangelist.

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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

These five roles together are called the five-fold ministry gifts. Each of these five roles are gifts to the Church which allow it to be equipped and built up. The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are meant to work together, each bringing something special.

The apostle is focused on God’s direction. The prophet is focused on God’s voice, His word to the people. The pastor, teacher, and evangelist are all focused on the people but in different ways. The pastor wants to care for the people and remind them of God’s grace and forgiveness. The teacher wants to disciple the people and help them know the scriptures. The evangelist is focused on people outside the Church, wanting them to hear the good news of the gospel.

The foundation of the global Church and the local church, however, has to be the apostolic and prophetic roles. The apostle Paul said it this way:

…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-21

The foundation of the American church is too often the pastor or teacher. This is not how Christ designed His Church to function. He designed the base on which the church is built to be the apostolic role and the prophetic role. Paul emphasized this truth to the Corinthians.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28

What the people of God need right now is not more pastors but more people operating in an apostolic anointing. What the people of God need right now is not more teachers but more people operating in a prophetic anointing. Both the apostle and the prophet are focused first on God–His direction, His voice, His signs, wonders and miracles, His Presence–and not primarily on whether they will be liked by people. Apostolic and prophetic people do not fit well in consumeristic Christianity. Their target audience is an Audience of One. Their opinion polls are filled out by One and Only One.

Who will be the ones to stop pretending to be pastors and instead step into the apostolic role they were created for? Who will be the ones to stop just teaching and instead deliver the prophetic words from the Lord as they were called to do?

Routing the enemy

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. 

Judges 7:19-22

Gideon’s army had been reduced by God to 300 men. Yet, take notice that each man had a trumpet. This trumpet was likely a ram’s horn. And normally, I would imagine, there would be one person in charge of blowing the trumpet for a large group of men. This was the signal to charge into battle.

So, without seeing the army, the Midianites heard 300 trumpets. Normally, this would have meant 300 large groups of men would be charging toward them in battle. But no one in Israel moved, so the Midianites assumed that many of their own men who were frantically running around were the Israelites. The Lord supernaturally added to their confusion and Gideon’s army won the day.

This passage really spoke to me about the power of each soldier having a trumpet. In normal circumstances the trumpeter would have been a specialized position representing hundreds, if not thousands, of men. In Christian terms, it’s like having one or two pastors per church.

But what if every person in the church was a pastor? Isn’t that how the Church was designed to be anyway? Isn’t every person in the Church called to be a minister of the gospel?

We, as the Church, are called to be a mighty force regardless of our size. In other words, we are called to be an army where everyone has a trumpet. And rather than charging into battle, we are often called to hold our ground and watch the Lord work.

The apostle Paul had this same vision of the Church:

And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (New English Translation)

Jesus gifted the Church the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. These roles in the Body of Christ are meant not only to build it up, but to equip the people to do the work of ministry. So, the work of ministry is accomplished by the entire church, every single person, with the people in the above roles functioning as equippers. Everyone gets a trumpet! And everyone must use it!

Instead of the church having a few pastors and 300 members, we are called to have 300 ministers with a few equippers. A church of 300 people doing the work of ministry can rout an army of darkness numbering in the tens of thousands. Gideon teaches us that!

Do the problems of our cities seem to big? Do the issues of our culture seem like a massive, undefeated army?

We need to fight like Gideon’s army! Gone are the days where one minister in a church of 300 is enough. We need 300 followers of Jesus each using their a trumpet to sound the call to battle. We need 300 people doing the work of ministry so that we can watch the Lord move in power to defeat the enemy.

Pastors

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Peter 5:1-4

Peter describes the kind of pastor every church should be looking for. Pastors, and all leaders in the church, should be willing to shepherd those under their care. They should do it willingly and not begrudgingly. They should seek to serve and not to be served. They should seek to be examples in their own lives of what it looks like to follow Jesus and not controlling or dominating leaders.

The key here is character and intimacy with Jesus. Obedience flows out of intimacy. Character flows out of consistent obedience. This is what pastoral search committees should be looking for. Unfortunately, too many churches get too easily impressed with education and giftedness. And while both of these are necessary and important, they pale in comparison to the importance of character and intimacy with Jesus.

In interviews, it should not be assumed that the person spends time with the Lord and has no hidden sin. Questions should be asked that involve the revealing of a person’s character. Questions should be asked that involve the revealing of a person’s intimacy with the Lord. This is the foundation of all ministry.

And while scandals of marital infidelity, sexual abuse, and financial embezzelment always take up most of the headlines, most of the pastors that I know are amazingly dedicated servants of the Lord. They have fully surrendered their lives to Jesus and are standing with their church people through the muck of life. They are faithfully serving the Lord and His Body in the most humble and self-sacrificing ways without a lot of recognition. These men and women are hidden heroes of the Kingdom whom the Chief Shepherd will reward greatly on the day He appears.