Over the last few months, I have been recovering from a broken hip that required an operation and a week in hospital. When I eventually came home after three weeks in rehab, I listened to a number of Christian messages on the radio and TV. I recently heard some messages mention apostles and prophets in a negative way. It inspired me to take a look at this subject, apostles and prophets. The purpose of this letter is not to present a comprehensive study of these ministries but to emphasize a few significant aspects of apostles and prophets.

Now, let’s begin by recognizing that some teachers do not believe these ministries are meant to operate today. They believe there were for the apostolic age, and the term “cessation” is used for this view. The doctrine of “cessation” of the supernatural (i.e., miracles, etc.) has been expressed as early as Augustine. However, it was in the sixteenth century that it took on a new significance with people like John Calvin.


Our eldest daughter, Dr. Beth Langstaff, graduated M. Div. from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and then went on to complete a Ph.D. in historical theology at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. In the course, she was required to write a major thesis. She chose to study John Calvin and his concepts regarding the gifts of the Spirit, etc. Her thesis was titled “Temporary Gifts” and related to Calvin’s concept of “cessation.” Calvin believed that healing, exorcism, prophecy, and miracles ceased at the close of the apostolic age. In reading her thesis and discussing Calvin and cessationism with her, I came to realize a number of points, including:

  • Calvin did not have any scripture to support his claim. He lacked any biblical basis for his position on cessationism.
  • Calvin’s views, as seen in a great majority of his statements regarding cessation, are either explicitly or implicitly anti-catholic.

Now, know this is initially dealing with the miraculous, but the role of apostles and prophets is tied up with ‘cessation.’ So let’s take a look at the biblical teaching on apostles and prophets.


One has to start by drawing attention to some key passages in the Bible. Firstly, Ephesians 2:18-23 describes Christ as the chief cornerstone, and apostles and prophets are the foundation. Speaking of the church using the illustration of a building, the passage declares, “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21, NKJV).

Some see this as being a once and for all event and that apostles and prophets were for the church’s original foundation. However, this is not so. There were 12 apostles, but God added others, the most significant being Paul, who in this writings such as Ephesians 1:1 (NKJV) claims to be “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.”

Beyond that, we have the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 4:11 (NKJV), “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” If we are going to eliminate apostles and prophets, why keep evangelists, pastors, and teachers? All five (or four as some number them) are necessary for the church to fulfill its calling.

Let me add one other reference. In 1 Corinthians 12 (NKJV), Paul writes about the body of Christ and its individual members. In other words, he describes the various ministries and their foundation in the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 (NKJV), he writes, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets…” followed by a list of ministries. Obviously, Paul recognized the place of apostles and prophets in the church in those days, and we should recognize them today.

As already mentioned, there are those who teach that these ministries, together with the gifts of the Spirit, were only there to get the church started, and since we now have the scriptures, we no longer need them today. However, there is not one verse of scripture that backs up this view. The verse in 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV) where it says, “prophecies, they will fail… tongues, they will cease…” refers to the second coming of Christ, not the present-day church.

Hence, when the Jerusalem Council met, as recorded in Acts 15:6 (NKJV), where it is written, “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter,” the apostles were recognized as leaders in the church of that day. In the same way, we should recognize them in the church today. We may call them by other names, such as overseers, or even bishops, etc., but they can still be apostles. Let’s look at the role of apostles and prophets.


Let me attempt to give you a picture of what is at the heart of the ministry of an apostle. This is not meant to be a comprehensive study of all an apostle is or does; that would take a book. It is simply a concept I have found helpful in understanding the role of apostles. In my understanding, an apostle is called by God to be a ‘leader of leaders.’

In his books on leadership, John Maxwell points out that a leader has followers, so if others are not following you, you are not a leader; you are simply taking a walk. Likewise, with apostles, if no other leaders are following, you are simply taking a walk. An apostle will be a leader of other leaders, mentoring them, encouraging their leadership, and even disciplining them at times. In some ways, an apostle is like a captain or coach of a sporting team. He is a leader of leaders.


It is helpful to distinguish between the gift of prophecy and the office of prophet.

The Gift of Prophecy – Forth telling. Paul describes the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV), “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” Those are the three distinctive features of the gift of prophecy. It is a gift all Christians can exercise, and all Christians need it from time to time.

The Office of Prophet – Foretelling. While a prophet will undoubtedly exercise the gift of prophecy, they will also have the ability at times to foretell things regarding the future. An example in the New Testament would be Aqabus, who, in Acts 21:10-11, prophesied over Paul concerning his plans to go to Jerusalem.

Now, let us acknowledge prophecies made today that have turned out false.


A further criticism of apostles and prophets points to false expressions of these ministries, mainly regarding false prophecy. This especially arose after the 2020 election when a number of prophets had prophesied Donald Trump would be reelected president. However, in 2016 many leaders correctly prophesied Trump becoming president, which initially was not expected.

Obviously, those 2020 prophecies were wrong, but that does not eliminate the office of prophet. Some will refer to where the Bible talks about putting false prophets to death in Deuteronomy 13. However, let us remember that in the Old Testament days, they did not have the Word of God by which one could test prophecies. The only way was to see whether they came to pass. Today we have the scriptures by which one can test a word. There is no reason to kill the prophet today than it is to kill an evangelist who preaches in error or a pastor who teaches false doctrine. Simply, in this age of grace, all of these Ephesians 4 ministries can make mistakes and present things that are false but God can still use them.


Over ten years ago, I was invited to be part of a three-man presentation regarding apostles at what is now North Central University (Assembly of God). I told them the story of Frank Houston, who God called, even as he was General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand, to come to Sydney, Australia. This he did, and without going into all the details, he exercised an apostolic ministry that really impacted the church at that time over 40 years ago. Now, I am fully aware of certain issues regarding Frank Houston, but though not perfect, he exercised an apostolic ministry back in that period of the charismatic renewal.

If you look around, you will see many persons who are called by God to be a ‘leader of leaders’ and who are given Apostolic leadership in the body of Christ today.


Across the years, I have been blessed by the ministry of prophets whose word either confirmed what God was already saying to me or was later confirmed. I have seen prophets release words that did that. For example, at the beginning of Vision Bible College back in Australia in the mid-70s, I was especially blessed by Dick Mills from California as he prophesied over Murray Cameron in a ministers meeting in a downtown church. It was truly a prophetic word from God that led up to the formation of the Bible School.


Let me finish with a story from a good friend of mine in Pennsylvania, Pastor Phil Roland, sharing how he first encountered a supernatural prophetic word.

The year was 1973 and I was 33 years of age. I moved my family to Orange County in So. Calif. to I could be closer to my school I chose to prepare me for full-time ministry. My Bible school was Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim California. It was a night school so I could continue to work at my shop in Long Beach, California. 

I was an emotionally and physically exhausted, burned-out Southern Baptist Deacon enrolled in my first semester of Bible school. On my way to class one evening after a day’s work at my shop I had a gripe session with the Lord. I told Him as I drove to class, “Lord, I’m upset with how things are going right now.”

Remember, I sold our house in Hawthorne and moved 40 miles to our new home on a cul de sac in suburban Orange County near my school. I have expected more from this school experience.

“Lord,” I continued, “There are three things I have against You!” 

My Professors are presenting the same Gospel Message I have always heard at my So. Baptist Church. I was hoping to hear something different and new. .”

I went on listing my other two complaints until I arrived at the parking lot where my class was held.

Melodyland School of Theology had a Mission statement, “We are a Prophet-Making Institution!” We started each class with a prayer and a worship song. After the voices died there was always a soulful silence, and occasionally a voice would chime up. “Thus says the Lord. . .” A prophetic word would follow. It usually was a word of comfort, encouragement or assurance.

The night in question everything went routinely, except the voice that chimed in during the holy silence was a woman’s voice. I knew who the voice belonged to immediately. It was a woman I didn’t particularly like. She was an obnoxious person who spoke up in class and was personally annoying to me. Here is how she started,

“My Son, I have heard your complaints! I know how exhausted you are! I know the sacrifices you have made to get here. Here is my answer. . .”

She went on to list all three of my complaints in the same order I listed them on my drive to class that night. Another reason I was annoyed by this woman was that at the time I didn’t believe in women preachers. 

This was my first encounter with a person operating in one of the New Testament Spiritual Gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, the Gift of Prophecy. That experience has not been the last.


As I said before, this is not a comprehensive study of apostles and prophets. Nonetheless, I believe they are ministries that God is using today. So, I encourage people to be open to see how God has raised up apostles and prophets to serve the church in this present generation.