We hear increasingly this idea of the "office" of the prophet. When
presented, this idea differentiates two supposed prophetic practices.
the one hand, there is the practice of one occupying the "office." On
other hand, there is the practice of one just operating in the
gifting. Notice that the use of the word "just" subordinates to the one
occupying the office the one practicing the usual prophetic gifting (of
Romans 12:6-8). Used in this way, the English word, "office," brings
with it the context
of a formal vertical authority structure. And, there was in the Church,
a formal vertical authority structure, from the time of Constantine
The Protestant Reformation kept that authority structure, except for
office of Pope. But, what about "office" in the early Church of Peter,
Paul, and the other original apostles. What does "office" mean
in the New Testament? The King James New Testament (KJV) does use the
words "office" and "officer."
Uniformly, the word, "officer," is a secular title, denoting a civil
In [Rom. 11:13], Paul mentions his "office," but the Greek is
which is usually translated "ministry." In [1 Tim. 3:1], Paul mentions
the "office of a bishop." But, there is no Greek word used that
to "office." Rather the literal English translation of the Greek is "If
anyone oversight aspires to, …" That is, the Greek
deals directly with
the function, rather than making of it an office. Likewise, in [1 Tim.
3:10 and 3:13], Paul is translated as "… use
the office of a deacon …" Literal translation
gives "… let them
minister …," where all three English words come
from one compound Greek
word, based on "diakon," the stem that is variously translated as
and "deacon." The final KJV New Testament use of "office," is [Heb.
which is translated as "… the office of the
priesthood …." The Greek
is simply a single word, "… the priesthood
…" Again, there is no
Greek word, present, that literally translates as "office." Where the
KJV New Testament talks about "the office," it is talking
about the function being practiced, not some authority structure. In
in [Rom. 12:4], which is getting ready to list the seven charismatic
it says that all Christians don’t have the same office.
would mean that each and every Christian does have an office. However,
the Greek word used here for "office" is "praxis," from which we get
English, "practice." That same Greek word is also translated elsewhere
in the KJV as "work" or "deeds," which gives the idea that "office" is
"practice," which is a hands-on kind of thing. That is, it is function,
not authority structure. So, [Rom. 12:4] actually means that every
has a spiritual practice, in the sense of a doctor’s or
engineer’s practice. The view that "office" denotes authority
structure comes from King James’
time, when the English had kicked out the Pope, but kept the Roman
authority structure. That view and hermeneutical use of "office" came
New Testament exegesis that was influenced by then current Church
The idea has been carried forward in subsequent King James’
as a matter of tradition. It has influenced the understanding of the
peoples, not only of the Bible, but of the English language, itself.
The use of the phrase, "office of the prophet," does not occur in Holy
Scripture. It appears to be synthesized by extending to the five
gifts" of [Eph. 4:11] those uses of "office" that pertain to bishop,
and priest. However, as just shown, those latter "offices"
is office of the prophet an office. It is a function. It is a function
that obviously requires the charismatic gift of prophecy, from [Rom.
12:6-8]. So, how does the supposed office of prophet differ from
the prophetic gift by those so gifted? In my opinion it is not a
in kind, but only in degree. Experience shows that there is a smooth
in degree of prophetic gifting, as in any of the other six charismatic
gifts. Those with a high degree might be supposed to occupy some
office. They might be held above their brothers. But, such
is dangerous. It can lead to idolization of persons who appear
and may in fact be the false prophets against whom Jesus warned [Mat.
It is better, in my understanding, to accept all prophets equally, but
to test every one according to [1 John 4:1]. And, the test is on
fruit [Mat. 12:33], not on supposed authority.
About the Author Dr. John
Painter - See Biographical
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