Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 24 Number 5 May 2022
Page 16

Questions and Answers

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What Is the Difference
between a Prophet and an Apostle?

Louis Rushmore

Louis Rushmore“What is the difference between a prophet and an apostle?” “A prophet was an individual who received a call from God to be God’s spokesperson, often connected with some crisis that was about to occur, and then announced God’s message of judgment and/or deliverance to Israel and the nations. The importance of this office can be seen in the fact that the word ‘prophet’ occurs over 300 times in the Old Testament and almost 125 times in the New Testament” (Evangelical Dictionary emphasis added). Therefore, a prophet was “a religious intermediary” (Eerdmans Dictionary) between God and mankind. “The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, derived from a verb signifying ‘to bubble forth’ like a fountain; hence the word means one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). “Most frequently naba is used to describe the function of the true prophet as he speaks God’s message to the people, under the influence of the divine spirit” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).

A prophet was “a person who acts as the organ of divine communication with men, especially with regard to the future. He differs from a priest in representing the divine side of this mediation, while the priest rather acts from the human side” (McClintock and Strong emphasis added). Even when a prophet didn’t have a divine message at some time to declare, he was still a prophet, but we typically think of prophets as forthtellers of the future. Contrasting prophets and priests, think of two signs with arrows on them pointing in opposite directions. The prophet held the arrow pointing from God to man, whereas the priest held the arrow pointing from man to God. The prophet acquainted mankind with God’s message, and under Old Testament Judaism, the priest conveyed man’s response to God.

The Greek word for “apostle” is apostolos – clearly a transliterated word rather than translated. An apostle was “a messenger, ambassador, envoy” (Liddell and Scott), “one who is sent with a message – ‘messenger’” (Greek-English Lexicon), “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) or “‘One sent out,’ generally to proclaim a message” (Eerdmans). “Properly signifies a messenger or person sent by another upon some business. It is particularly applied to them whom our Saviour deputed to preach” (Buck’s Theological Dictionary).

Apostolos appears seventy-nine times in the New Testament (ten in the Gospels; twenty-eight in Acts; thirty-eight in the Epistles; and three in Revelation). The vast majority of these occurrences are found in Luke-Acts (thirty-four) and in the Pauline epistles (thirty-four) refer to those appointed by Christ for a special function in the church. Their unique place is based not only on having witnessed the resurrection, but also on having been commissioned and empowered by the resurrected Lord to proclaim the gospel to all nations.

In the New Testament apostolos is applied to Jesus as the Sent One of God (Heb 3:1), to those sent by God to preach to Israel (Luke 11:49), to those sent by churches (2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25), and most often, to the individuals who had been appointed by Christ to preach the gospel of the kingdom. (Evangelical Dictionary)

A distinction between apostles and other Christians is that the apostles acted with special authority given to them by Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; 1 Timothy 1:11-12), which other disciples did not and do not possess. Consequently, in the absence of the delegation of such authority today, we have neither living apostles nor “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) in the biblical sense in which the apostles were “ambassadors.” “Apostle. The term applies literally to a sent or commissioned messenger; in Judaism such messengers acted on the full authority of their sender, to the extent that they accurately represented the sender’s message” (Keener emphasis added). “APOSTLES Persons sent to accomplish a mission, especially the twelve apostles Jesus commissioned to follow Him. An apostle represents the one sending and has authority to represent the sender in business, political, or educational situations” (Holman emphasis added).

Finally, both testaments of the Bible note the function of prophets, but in the New Testament along with prophets there were also apostles. So, how did prophets and apostles differ? “The closest Old Testament equivalent to God’s ‘apostles’ in this sense was the prophets, although the apostles seem to have added an overseeing and evangelistic function that prophets (both Old Testament and New Testament) did not always incorporate” (Keener). The apostles had an elevated responsibility that was wider in scope also than that of the prophets in the New Testament.

Works Cited

Buck’s Theological Dictionary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2015.

Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Electronic Database. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans P., 2000.

Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Electronic Database. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain. Electronic Database. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988.

Holman Bible Dictionary. Electronic Database. Nashville: Holman Bible P., 1991.

Keener, Craig S. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Electronic Database. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity P., 1993.

Liddell and Scott Abridged Greek Lexicon. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.

McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Electronic Database. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Electronic Database. Nashville: Thomas Nelson P., 1985.

If a Person Can Be Forgiven for
Adultery, Why Is There Still a Penalty?

Louis Rushmore

“If a person can be forgiven for adultery, why is there still a penalty?” There are a couple of points relative to this question. First, when one repents of whatever sin is under consideration, he or she stops committing the sin as a prerequisite to pardon. Repentance is “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness” (Greek-English Lexicon emphasis added). Forgiveness of sins in unobtainable while continuing in the sins for which a person desires pardon. Continuing to commit the sins for which one wants pardon is not repentance! Therefore, under those circumstances, there is no forgiveness of sins. Mental acknowledgement of wrongdoing does not convert sinful activity into something acceptable to God. For instance, being in a biblically impermissible marriage (though sanctioned by man’s laws) does not somehow become acceptable to God merely by one noting that he or she has violated God’s New Testament commandments about marriage, divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9). Jesus cited only one circumstance for which an innocent person in a divorce for the cause of fornication may (but does not have to) marry a biblically eligible person. The apostle Paul quoted our Lord regarding divorce, penning, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 NKJV). Jesus said not to divorce, but if a divorce occurred (when fornication was not the reason for the divorce, Matthew 19:9), the divorcees could only remain celibate or reconcile.

In the second place, often there are consequences for sin that persist despite repentance and forgiveness for sin. Moses had a relationship and fellowship with God that is evident as Moses viewed the land of Canaan to which he had been leading Israel for 40 years. However, the consequence of Moses’ sin at Kadesh was that he was forbidden to enter Canaan (Numbers 20:1-12; Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Furthermore, despite his sin and being forbidden to enter Canaan, Moses appeared in the Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-5), implying Moses died in a right relationship with God. Nevertheless, as a consequence of his sin, God forbade Moses to enter Canaan. Again, often there are consequences for sin that persist despite repentance and forgiveness of sin. Contemporarily and in the Gospel Age, our Lord did not cite and the New Testament does not mention permission for guilty persons to a divorce for the cause of adultery to remarry.

Certainly, Scripture provides for the forgiveness of the sin of adultery. Paul described the array of sins formerly characteristic of Christians at Corinth, but they were forgiven of their sins when they repented of them.

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:8-11)

None of us, whom God created, are in a position to either question or to dispute with our Creator. “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay…” (Romans 9:20-21). Instead, all of us ought to be exceedingly grateful that God has extended to mankind grace (Ephesians 2:8) and mercy (Titus 3:5), without which there would be neither hope of salvation from past sins (Romans 3:25 KJV) nor a genuine prospect of spending an eternity in Heaven with God. When anyone reject the doctrine of Christ, he rejects God. “Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Willfully sinning amounts to throwing away and disrespecting the sacrifice Jesus Christ – our only solution for sins (Hebrews 10:26).

Works Cited

Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain. Electronic Database. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988.

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