The Spirit


Abbreviations Used

General Subjects
  John 14-16
  1 Corinthians
  2 Corinthians
  1 & 2 Thess.
  1 & 2 Timothy
  1 & 2 Peter
  1 John
Gifts of the Spirit
Inter-Ecclesial Offices
Word Studies
Epilogue Acknowledgements
Section E - Inter-Ecclesial Offices
Gifts of healings
Helps ... or ministrations
Governments (administrations)

It is evident that there was a distinction between ecclesial offices (overseers, elders, servants) and inter-ecclesial1 offices such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. So also is it evident that these offices (1 Cor. 12:28) were distinguished from the gifts of v. 8-11. The Apostles, for example, were not members of the ecclesia at Corinth.

1 Conybeare and Howson support this by adding an interpolation: "God has set the members in the church, some in one place, and some in another" because of "omission of the answering clause in the Greek."


"God hath set some in the ecclesia, first Apostles" (1 Cor. 12:28).

The whole tenor of the New Testament points to the Apostles as the leading figures in the early ecclesia. Originally Christ had chosen twelve apostles:

"He called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles" (Luke 6:13).

Also, others besides the original twelve came to be properly called apostles.2 Barnabas and Paul are examples (Acts 14:14).

The basis of the work of the Apostles is presented in the last ten verses of Mark, and also in the Lordís words in Acts:

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

To these scriptures it is well to add Peterís testimony:

39We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:39-43, NASB)

These supreme qualifications of the Apostles inevitably involved their exercising authority in the early ecclesias.

There was another sanction for the authority of the Apostles equal to that of their being witnesses of the risen Lord and of His commission to them. God by His Spirit spoke through them. (Eph. 3:3,5).

The Spirit not only confirmed and strengthened their hands as Apostles, but enabled them to serve their brethren as prophets, teachers, evangelists and healers.

"I am appointed a preacher and an Apostle and a teacher" (2 Tim. 1:11)

The one main difference between the office of Apostles and other offices was that they could and did impart various gifts of the Spirit to others. (Acts 8:17, 14). This was their exclusive right. The Apostles must have had all the gifts otherwise how could they have passed them on to others?

The Apostles were given the power to "bind" and "loose" sin3 (Matt. 16:19).

The following attempts to illustrate that the Apostles had all the gifts.

  • "The signs of a true Apostle" were "signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12).

  • the 'gift of miracles' - to strike terror into the adversaries of the truth and to win the attention of closed minds. Paul struck Elymas the magician with blindness (Acts 13:8; cf. Rom. 15:18-19).

  • 'gift of prophecy' - It was their special commission to reveal the truth of God to man. (Eph. 3:3, 5) They were consoled in the midst of their labours by heavenly visions (2 Cor. 12:4). Paul was a prophet (Acts 20:29; 28:28).

  • 'gift of tongues' - Necessary in their travels (cf. Paul, 1 Cor. 14:18).

  • 'gift of wisdom' - the daily care of all the ecclesias (2 Cor. 11:28). They employed this gift when imparting gifts to others (cf. Acts 6:3).

In the pressing problem of whether circumcision was necessary to salvation the correct course was indicated by the Holy Spirit4, probably through the "word of wisdom".

"The gift would serve to handle problems of administration and conduct, and would no doubt include the giving of practical advice based on guidance received through other gifts."5

  • 'gift of knowledge' - They must build up their converts in the faith (Eph. 4:11-14)

  • 'discerning of Spirits' (Acts 5:3).

  • 'interpretation of tongues' - No specific mention is given.

  • 'gifts of healings' - Paul was able to perform extraordinary acts of healing while in Ephesus. Handkerchiefs and aprons carried away from Paul cured the sick (Acts 19:12). Paul "raised" Eutychus (Acts 20:9), cured the father of Publius (Acts 28:8).

2 Some versions imply that Andronicus and Junia were Apostles (Rom. 16:7) but the following suggest only that they were held in high esteem by the Apostles: NEST, DIAG, KNOX, ROTH.
3 see Section D - "Miracles of judgement".
4 Acts 15:1-28.
5 TEST, Vol. 43, P. 258.


When we speak of prophets, we think of the major (and perhaps minor) prophets of the O.T. However, we must realize that there were other prophets other than these the Christian prophets. These prophets wrote the books that became our New Testament, and they had an important standing and function within the first century ecclesial organization.

Despite the historical discontinuity between the prophets of the Old Testament and the prophets of the New, they were all, in the mind of God, part of one and the same order; they were all alike in authority, in character and in function. The Christian prophets merely took up their work where the Old Testament prophets had left off. The vocabulary, the idiom, and all the fiery eloquence of the Old Testament prophets were revived, and the Old Testament itself became both text-book and dictionary for the terms of redemption used by the prophet-teachers of the early Church.

Consistently, the New Testament writers recognize no distinction between Old Testament and New Testament prophets; all are regarded as speaking with Divine authority. Thus Paul, for example, can say, "The Scripture with", and can then quote Deuteronomy and Luke in the same verse without any qualifying comment (1 Tim.5: 18). Paul again, this time in his address to the Jews in the synagogue at Corinth, shows that the duties attached to his own prophetic mission were identical to those laid on an Old Testament prophet like Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. 3:18-19 and Acts 18:6; cf. also 1 Tim. 4:16).

All this is diametrically opposed to the widely-accepted view that the quality of the message of the prophets, and the degree of their authority and relevance, somehow increased the nearer they were in time to the one who was "full of grace and truth". The revelation of the truth was certainly progressive, but the truth itself never altered. It could be revealed in simple or complex forms, but never did it contradict or invalidate what God had previously revealed.

Status of Prophets

Prophets in Old Testament times were men who stood out amongst their contemporaries. As a mouthpiece of God, a prophet was always noticed and heard, if not always obeyed. And so it was in New Testament times. Prophecy was said to be the "best gift" (1 Cor.14:1,39), and New Testament prophets were second only to Apostles in importance and standing in the ecclesias (1 Cor. 12:28,29). The early Church was being built "upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets" (Eph. 2:20), and the context of Ephesians 3:5 makes it unquestionably clear that these prophets were contemporary Christians, through whom, in conjunction with the Apostles, the "mystery of Christ" was being progressively revealed (cf. also Eph. 4:11-12).

These prophets formed a ministry in the Ecclesia that was much more widespread and active than has generally recognized. Later evidence will show that rather than being largely restricted to the writing of the books of the New Testament, their ministry was actually more oral than written.

The means by which messages from Heaven were conveyed to a prophet varied according to the content and degree of importance of the message concerned. Most came in direct speech through the prophetís lips; some were given to be put on record as a witness to be quoted against the people of God later; others came to the prophet in vision or dreams.

Exhortation was one of the functions of the prophets (1 Cor. 14:3,31, see RVm). "Judas and Silas being themselves prophets also exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed" the message they had brought from Jerusalem (Acts 15:32).

After Paulís conversion the ecclesias throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria felt an immense sense of relief and "had peace, being edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of (lit. "the exhortation of", i.e. supplied by) the Holy Spirit, were multiplied" (Acts 9:31)1. "The word of exhortation" by itinerant Apostles, to which The Acts frequently refers, must always be understood as part of the prophetic ministry. The encouragement came from the exalted Lord as he inspired his words to the ecclesias.


Psalms, which were a type of prophetic utterance (1 Cor. 14:26) were probably hymns of praise. It appears that some were embodied or quoted in the epistles; Phil. 2:6-11, for example, is in poetic form in the Greek, and some modern versions, like the NAB and the Jerusalem Bible, set the text out in blank verse. The "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" which Paul said should overflow in melody out of the joy of Christian life were not necessarily excerpts from the Old Testament.


Interpretation was another aspect of the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:26). This gift of infallible spiritual enlightenment was no doubt one of the most fascinating and enthralling aspects of Divine revelation for those first-century believers who were privileged to witness the gift in operation. Obviously the only Spirit-guided interpretations available to us are those recorded in the New Testament, from which our examples must be taken.

Four verses about Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-20) are taken up by the Christian prophet in Hebrews chapter 7, and are made the basis of a 28 verse "interpretation".

More surprisingly, the student discovers that each stage of the argument in Hebrews 7 is based on one word or phrase from Psalm 110:4, which is itself Davidís comment (as a prophet) on Melchizedek, at a point midway in time between the original king-priest and his eternal Antitype; so that when the end of Chapter 7 is reached, every phrase and every word of Psalm 110:4 has been expounded, as the following tabulation shows:

vv. 1 - 3:"Melchi...": King of
vv. 4 -10: "order of"
vv. 11-13: "Thou art"
vv. 14-19: "Priest"
vv. 20-22: "hath sworn and will not repent"
vv. 23-25: "for ever"
vv. 26-28: "Zedek ...": of righteousness

Added Revelation

Throughout their ministry, the prophets, both Christian and pre-Christian, miraculously distributed throughout their writings, in an apparently artless and coincidental way, many details of earlier events in the history of redemption that had not been included in the original inspired records. Examples could be cited sufficient to fill a book, but a few selected at random from the Christian prophets must suffice to introduce the readers to this fascinating field of study.

Elijah said there would "be neither dew nor rain these (three) years" (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1). The Lord Jesus (Luke 4:25) and the Epistle of James (5:17) say "three years and six months". The apparent discrepancy is in fact an added detail of revelation, which explains that the three years drought began after the usual six months dry season.

Again, the speech of Stephen, in his survey of Jewish history, is a mine of significant additional details made all the more remarkable in that he spoke under the stress of interrogation and under the threat of imminent death. A double miracle of revelation was involved here also, in that these additional details were later put on record by Luke, who could hardly have been an eyewitness.

A further example is Judeís revelation (v. 14) that the Enoch of Genesis 5 was himself a prophet; and the astonishing amount of extra information to be gleaned about Moses from the New Testament has already been the subject of a separate study2. If all this, and much more, can be found in the preserved written records of the Christian prophets, then we can only begin to imagine the frequency of such added revelations in their day-to-day oral ministry in the ecclesial assemblies.


The word Ďmysteryí in the N.T. is transliterated from its Greek source-word, and commonly means a "secret". It is widely used in the N.T. about the secret purposes of Godís redemption which was part of the function of the Christian prophets to disclose (1 Cor. 13:2). Wherever, therefore, a prophet, including Christ himself, says "I show you a mystery", he intends his hearers or readers to understand that he is declaring some aspect of the Gospel that hitherto has been kept secret in the mind of God. The following are a few of the more striking instances that serve to illustrate this aspect of the ministry of the Christian prophets:

"It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. 13:11).

New truths of an astonishing nature were being taught by Jesus through the veiled teaching of parables, to disciples who had only a vague understanding of what was implicit but not clearly revealed in the Law and the Prophets.

The participation of the Gentiles in the benefits of the Gospel had only been hinted at in the prophets of the Old Testament; but now the time had come for Christís prophets to open up this great truth in detail.

"This mystery ... that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in"(Rom. 11:25)

Never before had the purpose of God been explained in all its dispensational breadth: that "through their (the Jewsí) fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles".

"Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep..." (1 Cor. 15:51):

New truths were unfolded by Paul about the relation of the living and the dead believers to the resurrection at Christís coming.

"When ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known... that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs (with the Jews), and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3:4-6).

"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:32).

Christís love for his Ecclesia, in giving himself for it, is the prototype for all true Christian marriages. That wonderful truth had been locked away in the oracle of Genesis 2:24 until the Christian prophet released and expounded it in all its spiritual beauty.


"Your young men shall see visions and your old men dream dreams" (Acts 2:17) was a further part of Godís promise through Joel fulfilled at Pentecost.

It would seem that these visual forms of revelation were used on occasions of great moment, as for example, at the death of Stephen, at the conversion of the first Gentiles, at the conversion of Saul, and at Paulís later call to be an Apostle with the twelve (Acts 22:17,21). The subject, with all its mystery, is not only fascinating, but also has a vital bearing on the overall principles of Divine revelation in its various forms.

When discussing "visions and revelations of the Lord" Paul says he was "caught up to the third heaven and heard things" beyond the capacity for words (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Ezekiel had a similar experience in what he described as "the visions of God". The Lord lifted him, as he said, "by a lock of mine head", and transported him in vision to the Temple in Jerusalem, while he remained bodily in Chaldea within his house, with the elders of Judah sitting before him (Ezek. 8:1-3; cf. 11:24-25). The vision was in vivid technicolour, and came to the prophet with all the reality of "live outside broadcast". He could clearly see a group of 25 men who were worshipping in the Temple courts, with their backs towards God and their faces towards the rising sun. And as Ezekiel in Spirit uttered his burden over the Temple and the city, one of the 25 men dropped dead. The vision was so "large as life", that Ezekiel was able to identify this one out of the 25 as Pelatiah the son of Benaiah (Ezek. 11:13). Finally, the prophet was brought back to his house in Chaldea and the vision closed: "So the vision that I had seen went up from me" (11:24). Having come out of this visionary trance in which he had been permitted to see distant events with Divine omniscience, Ezekiel was able to communicate the substance of it, by the 'gift of prophecy', to the elders who had gathered to listen to "the Word of the Lord" (Ezek. 11:25).

That Paul was privileged to experience such an astonishing visionary trance is clear from the similarity of much of the language of 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 and Ezekiel 8:1-4; Paulís own amazement is even communicated by his repetition: "Whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell" (2 Cor. 12:2-3). "The third heaven" to which Paul was "caught up" was no doubt comparable to the heavenly scene in Revelation 4 about which similar phrasing is used, and which the Apostle John was invited to see with the words: "Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (4:1).

The visionary trances of the O.T. and N.T. prophets are strikingly similar, not only in form but also often in content. A grasp of the mechanics of prophetic visions as a N.T. Spirit-gift is greatly facilitated by a consideration of parallel manifestations in O.T. times. The visions of Daniel and John, for example, have much to contribute in this respect. Not only are they parallel in the form which they take, but also even what they reveal is complementary. As Bro. Thomas put it, "The Apocalypse is an exhibition in detail of all Daniel saw that remained unfulfilled when John was in exile" (Preface to Exposition of Daniel). Separate analyses of Danielís visions (ch. 7) and of the Revelation to John cast much light on a relatively obscure aspect of the operation of the Holy Spirit.


In this study it is presumed that the usual definitions of inspiration understood and believed amongst us do not need to be defined. In 2 Samuel 23:1-3, David says four times that he was speaking his own words, and yet four times equally explicitly that Godís "word was in his tongue". Whilst it would be unwise to dogmatise about the "mechanics" of inspiration, it is proper that we should go as far as The Word itself will take us toward resolving the problem of the fusion of the Divine and the human within the miracle of revelation.

Many prophets introduce their message from God with words such as "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz did see" (Isa. 2:1; 13:1), as if it had come to them in a vision, although nothing of a pictorial nature was necessarily involved. Similar expressions were used by Obadiah (v. l), Amos (1:1), Micah (1:1), Habakkuk (1:1 mg.; 2:lf.), Jeremiah (38:21; Lam. 2:14), and Ezekiel (13:3). With the earlier study of Visions fresh in the mind it is perhaps possible to grasp the significance of these unusual introductions. If God could flash on a prophetís mind such live visions as Ezekiel "saw" of the Temple in Jerusalem, might He not reveal His Words no less clearly on the screen of the prophetís mind? In communicating these words to others, the individuality and vocabulary of the prophet, guided by the Spirit of prophecy, would be evident in what was still the "Word of the Lord".

The marvel passes human understanding, however, on the occasions when God speaks to man through the medium of manís own words to God. Psalm 16, for example, was Davidís anguished plea to God to save Jerusalem from a bloodbath through Absalomís foolhardy rebellion. And yet Davidís own words of faith were at the same time Godís revelation to David, so that Peter could say of verses within the Psalm "He (David), seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ" (Acts 2:25-31). The whole situation of Ahithophelís treachery, Davidís flight over Kidron after being rejected by his people, and his final recovery of the throne, was a pattern of the greater crisis of the rejection and ultimate triumph of Christ. How such a miracle of revelation could be possible is altogether beyond our understanding. Faith must be content to probe no further and to accept that the individuality of a prophet in no way affects the inspired authority of the words revealed through him.3

Some examples of Prophets

Philip the evangelist was a prophet and also performed miracles of healing (Acts 8:6, 13, 14), but he could not transmit these gifts to others. It is suggested that when a brother received a gift by the laying on of hands, it would be necessary for a prophet in the assembly to announce the Lordís intention as to how and in what field of the Truthís work the gift was to be used. (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). Thus Timothy received his gift "by prophecy".

Judas and Silas (Acts 5:32) and Agabus (Acts 11:27) were prophets. Also there were prophetesses - the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) and those mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:4. The importance of this office is indicated by such verses as Eph. 2:20; 3:5.

This subject would be incomplete without some reference to the prophets which bridged the gap between the Old Testament prophets and Christ. Both Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45) and Zacharias (Luke 1:67-80) were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Of their son, John the Baptist, Christ said that "there is not a greater prophet" (Luke 7:28). Simeon and Mary, the Lordís mother, both gave prophecies (Luke 1:46-55; Luke 2:25-32). "Anna a prophetess,... which departed not from the temple... gave thanks unto God and spake of him to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:36,38).

We see, therefore, that God gave revelations by His prophets and by angels whenever the occasion arose. It was obviously a miraculous ability and all hearing them would recognize this.

1 See Weymouthís translation of Acts 9:31.
2 See Moses in Later Revelation: The Testimony Oct. 1968.
3 The foregoing is largely verbatim from "The Christian Prophets", TEST, Vol. 43, P.335-340.


e.g.Philip (Acts 21:8).
Timothy (2 Tim. 4:5).

This inter-ecclesial office was third in importance. (1 Cor. 12:28).

When Stephen, one of the seven, emerged as one of the great teachers and leaders of the early ecclesia, it is recorded that his adversaries "were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake" (Acts 6:10). As well as having the office of "teacher" he also had the gift of wisdom. It seems very probable that teachers also had the "word of knowledge". The ecclesia at Antioch had an abundance of prophets and teachers. (Acts 13:1). Therefore the Holy Spirit indicated (probably through one of the prophets) that Barnabas and Saul were to go to other areas to teach the gospel. (v. 2-5).

According to Eph. 4:11 the office of teacher and pastor1 were closely related. Also an evangelist2 was just a teacher that went away from his home ecclesia.

The example of Christ illustrates that proper use of the office. He is addressed as "teacher" 40 times and "Rabbi" 6 times. There was ample need and scope for first century brethren to follow their Lord in a teaching capacity. It is no surprise therefore, to read that the apostles were themselves notable teachers (Acts 15:35; 28:30).

But the Apostles could not do all the teaching. In the ecclesias they established or visited, they would impart much invaluable knowledge, but this work had to be carried on when they left to resume their journeys. Therefore the gift of knowledge would be one of the gifts imparted by the Apostles so that the flock could be fed in their absence (2 Tim. 2:1-2).

1 "Poimen" (pastors) fed (poimaino) the ecclesia of God. (cf. Acts 20:28).
2 Hastings Bible Dictionary = "teachers abroad".

Miracles - (1 Cor. 12:10,28)

Here and in what follows, abstract terms are used for concrete - "Miracles" means men endowed with the gift of miracles.

Gifts of healings

- (1 Cor. 12:9)

i.e. a person having these gifts who travelled from ecclesia to ecclesia.

3 see Section D "Gifts of Healings"


... or ministrations

Possibly the seven in Acts 6 who were chosen to "serve tables" had this office. They would possibly minister to the wants of their brethren, distribute relief and tend the sick. These seven had the intermittent gift of the "word of wisdom"4.

Some suggest they were Apostlesí helpers who accompanied them and assisted in teaching and baptizing the converts. (Acts 13:5).

4 See notes at Acts 6:3.



Greek kubernesis from a root meaning to steer or pilot a ship and by implication a captain (S). ("wise counsels" RV mg). Those who had this office were specially endowed to preside over the ecclesia and regulate it. They possibly had the following gifts:

gift of knowledge - instruct the ignorant (1 Tim. 3:2).

gift of wisdom - confute the gainsayers (Tit. 1:9). feed the flock (Acts 20:28).

gift of healings- warn the unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, to be patient towards all (1 Thess. 5:14).


i.e. Persons having this gift.


i.e. Persons who had the gift of interpretation. Not listed in 1 Cor. 12:28 but obviously the Apostles would have to have this gift (cf. v. 30) to be able to pass it on to others, so it is an inter-ecclesial gift.