11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
God gave “prophets” truths of the New Testament before its books were written. The apostolic church, or the primitive church, needed prophets because the canon of Scripture was not complete (Ac 11:27-30; 13:1). Since the New Testament had not been written yet, prophets gave the church the revelation it lacked.
As with apostles, the office of the prophet concluded with the completion of the canon of the New Testament. The role of the prophet in the sense of an office ceased when the canon was completed. Prophets in the sense of proclaimers exist after the full canon but not in the sense of receiving divine revelation. The office of the prophet was only for the first century. With the office gift, however, they had the right to receive revelation (Ac 11:21-28; Eph 3:5).
“Prophets” carried the roles of revelation, exhortation, and edification (2:20). A prophet was not only a foreteller but also a forth teller (1 Co 14:3). Most of the people in the first century did not possess their own Bible; therefore, they needed proclaimers who received direct revelation from God.
Prophets were second to apostles in authority. Note the order of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28: first, “apostles,” then “prophets” and finally” teachers.” Then this verse says “after that,” indicating lesser-important gifts. Today authority rests in the Word of God, not in apostles and prophets as it was in the first century. All authority now is reduced to writing. Any preacher today who claims to have the authority of an apostle or prophet is off base.
Neither apostles nor prophets (in the official sense) exist today.
The primary use of “prophet” is one who speaks forth (Ac 13:1 1 Co 11:5; 14:26-33). The idea primarily means to preach and the secondary idea is to prophesy. He was to provide edification, exhortation, and comfort to the church (1 Co 14:3).
Some prophets in the first century transferred new revelation (2:20; 3:5; Ac 11:28; 21:10-11). They gave revelation of New Testament ideas before the New Testament was written. Today Christians do not get information from God directly through the Holy Spirit, but rather in a mediate manner—through the Word as applied by Holy Spirit to believers’ minds.
The organization upon which God puts His emphasis today is the local church. That is where He located gifts. Now the “pastor-teacher” is the most important role for the local church. Today authority rests in the Word of God, and the pastor-teacher is the main communicator of the Word.
The reason so many evangelicals are open to cultic teaching and are influenced by culture is that they are biblical illiterates. Churches offer superficiality in their services rather than solid Bible teaching. We need people who understand Scripture to measure those who communicate the Word of God. Even in the New Testament a prophecy was subject to the prophets (1 Co 14:29, 32).