by Wilhelmus a Brakel
- The Anointed One: Foreordained and Qualified
- The Prophetical Office of Christ
- Christ's Administration of His Prophetical Office
- Exhortation to Seek Personal Benefit from Christ's Prophetical Office
- A Diligent Exhortation to Converted and Unconverted Alike to Give Heed to the Words of this Prophet The Christian's Sacred Duty to Be a Prophet
- The Christian's Sacred Duty to Be a Prophet
- The Prophetical Obligations of the Christian
- Exhortations and Guidelines for Personal Evangelism
Having discussed the Person of the Mediator, it now follows that our discussion focuses on His offices. The Savior Jesus generally is also called Christ. The Savior had been promised in the Old Testament under the name Meschiach, 'unto the Messiah the Prince' (Dan 9:25). The Greek have translated this as Christos. 'We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ' (John 1:41). The meaning in our language is 'Anointed One,' which is derived from the Old Testament practice of anointing. In those times and places, rather than using a fragrant powder for one's hair as we do, they used fragrant oils which, by way of the apothecary's art, were created as a very choice mixture whereby all its fragrance was derived from mixing a small quantity of ingredients together, creating a quintam essentium. This oil would be sprinkled in the hair in small quantities in order to make one's appearance presentable, and by the loveliness of the fragrance to make oneself desirable in the presence of others. The Lord had commanded to make a special oil from various fragrant spices according to the art of the apothecary (Exod 30:32). No one was permitted either to imitate this or to sprinkle with this ointment, the violation of this injunction resulting in being cut off from his people (Exod 30:32-33). With this oil Aaron and his sons were anointed to minister in the priest's office (vs. 30). Prophets, as well as kings (1 Sam 10:1; 1 Sam 16:13), were anointed with this oil (1 Kings 19:16).
This anointment was expressive of two matters. It first of all —Vol. 1, Page 518— conveyed that such persons were foreordained and called to this office by God, for one would smell the fragrance of the Lord upon this person. Secondly, it conveyed that the Lord would qualify such persons for that office. Thereby they would be desirable to the people, as the fragrance of this oil was most desirable and the anointed one would exude a pleasant scent due to the fragrance of this oil. Therefore they were called the anointed ones, and the anointed of the Lord. Christ is thus called the Anointed One, being expressive of those two matters: foreordination and qualification.
We shall first of all consider foreordination. Christ did not take the office of Mediator upon Himself by His own initiative. 'so also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest' (Heb 5:5).
(1) He was ordained to this office by His Father. 'Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world' (1 Pet 1:20); 'I was set up from everlasting' (Prov 8:23).
(2) The Father sent Him into the world for that purpose. '... Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world ...' (John 10:36). He also called Him. 'I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness' (Isa 42:6). He was inaugurated into this office at His baptism. 'And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matt 3:17). He was thus made 'both Lord and Christ' (Acts 2:36). Secondly, His qualification consists in:
(1) the union of the two natures in one Person, without which He could not have been Mediator. God by Himself or man by himself would not have been qualified, but God had to be manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16);
(2) an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit. 'For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him' (John 3:34).
Just as three categories of individuals were anointed as types of Christ—prophets, priests, and kings—it was thus necessary that Christ would also have these three offices and minister in them, so that He would be able to remove the threefold misery of man. He removes blindness by His prophetic office, enmity with God by His priestly office, and inability by His kingly office. That Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King, ministering in these three offices on behalf of His elect, is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures. We will consider each office in particular.
The prophetical office of Christ is confirmed by both prophecy and fulfillment.
(1) He was promised as a prophet in Deut 18:15, 'The —Vol. 1, Page 519— Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken.' Acts 3:22 confirms that this reference is to Christ; these very words are quoted as relating to Christ. Consider also the following text: 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.' etc. (Isa 61:1-2). Having read these words, the Lord Jesus applied them to Himself, saying, 'This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears' (Luke 4:21), and in verse 24 He refers to Himself as a Prophet.
(2) In His sojourn upon earth the Lord presented Himself as a Prophet. 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him' (Matt 17:5). Everywhere the Lord Jesus conducted Himself as a prophet. 'And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom' (Matt 9:35). He was recognized as such by the people. 'A great prophet is risen up among us' (Luke 7:16); '... which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people' (Luke 24:19).
The ministry of the prophets consisted in 1) reception of immediate revelation from God concerning divine mysteries which occurred among prophets with an extraordinary calling; 2) the proclamation and exposition of the Word of God; 3) the foretelling of future events; 4) confirmation of revelation by means of miracles.
First, the prophets received divine mysteries by immediate revelation. 'If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream' (Num 12:6); '... holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost' (2 Pet 1:21).
The Lord Jesus received all things from the Father in this fashion. 'For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth' (John 5:20); 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass' (Rev 1:1).
This does not mean that Christ was taken up into heaven after His baptism to receive these mysteries. This is a fabrication of the Socinians for the purpose of denying the Godhead of Christ all the more effectively, for:
(1) Holy Writ does not mention a word concerning this; when mention is made of Christ's descent, the reference is to the assumption by the divine nature of the human nature, and His descent is mentioned prior to His ascension, which is contrary to their view; they place His ascension before His descent.
(2) It was not necessary for Him to be taken into heaven in order —Vol. 1, Page 520— to receive divine revelations, for as God He was omniscient, and all things had their origin in Him. 'I speak that which I have seen with My Father' (John 8:38). According to His human nature He had received the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). 'And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord' (Isa 11:2).
Secondly, the ministry of the prophets consisted in exposition and proclamation of the Word of God, which is to be observed in their prophecies. Thus, also the Lord Jesus, as God, as the sole Lawgiver and as the King of His people, gave them the law to be a rule of life for His people, declared this law to them, and purified it of erroneous exposition and distortion (Matt 5). He rebuked the transgressors (Matt 23) while exhorting and stirring up everyone to obedience by saying, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mark 1:15).
However, Christ did not preach a new doctrine, did not issue forth a new law, and did not reveal a new way to heaven—a way which would not have been declared in the Old Testament, and which to the godly would neither have known nor walked in. He merely fulfilled and confirmed that which prior to His coming had been written concerning Him and the way of salvation. 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil' (Matt 5:17).
Just as Christ conducted Himself in respect to the law, so likewise He proclaimed the gospel as a prophet. Christ is the author of the gospel, 'For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (John 1:17). Christ is also the messenger of the gospel. 'And came and preached peace to you' (Eph 2:17). Furthermore, Christ is the object of the gospel. 'But we preach Christ crucified' (1 Cor 1:23). For this reason the gospel is called the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16).
Thirdly, the ministry of the prophetical office also consists in foretelling future events; the Greek word 'prophet' is derived from this fact. Christ did not merely foretell what He Himself would have to encounter in order to merit salvation for His elect, but also what would transpire in the world, the church, and upon the Day of Judgment. This is confirmed by the entire revelation of divine truth, the gospels included.
Fourthly, just as the prophets confirmed their doctrine by means of miracles—as we observe in Elijah and Elisha—the Lord Jesus confirmed His doctrine by miracles. The gospels abundantly bear witness to this, so that the multitude exclaimed, 'When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath —Vol. 1, Page 521— done' (John 7:31). Peter stated, 'Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know' (Acts 2:22). The other prophets performed miracles by the power of Christ, to which Peter alluded when he said, 'Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? And His Name through faith in His Name hath made this man strong ' (Acts 3:12,16). Christ, however, did miracles by His own power. 'And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him ...' (Mark 5:30); 'For there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all' (Luke 6:19).
Christ administered His prophetical office:
(1) by means of His prophets in the Old Testament. 'searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow' (1 Pet 1:11); 'By which also He (Christ) went and preached unto the spirits in prison' (1 Pet 3:19);
(2) during His sojourn upon earth. 'God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son' (Heb 1:1-2);
(3) after His ascension. He still administers His prophetical office by means of His apostles, pastors, and teachers. 'And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ' (Eph 4:11-12). Since they are His messengers and preach in His Name, the Lord Jesus thus requires that we hear them as if we heard Him. 'He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me' (Luke 10:16).
There is a twofold administration of this prophetical office: an external and an internal one. They are conjoined in Isa 59:21: 'My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth.'
Christ administers His prophetical office externally by the written and printed Word, and by the Word preached by His servants. This is no longer limited to the Jewish nation, as was true prior to the coming of Christ (Ps 147:1920), but the gospel is now proclaimed to the Gentiles and all who hear the voice of Christ, for His 'sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world' (Rom 10:18). Many nations, however, are and remain deprived of the means of salvation unto the present time. —Vol. 1, Page 522— For even though all are not saved who hear the words of Christ, as 'the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it' (Heb 4:2), no one can be saved unless he hears the external preaching of Christ. 'How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Rom 10:14-17).
Christ administers His prophetical office internally when by His Spirit He illuminates souls by His 'marvelous light' (1 Pet 2:9). He illuminates the heart 'to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor 4:6), enabling them to understand the truth in its very essence, 'as the truth is in Jesus' (Eph 4:21), and to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). He causes their hearts to burn within them (Luke 24:32), regenerates them (James 1:18), grants them faith (Eph 5:8), sets them free by the truth (John 8:32), and they walk in the truth (3 John 4). When the Lord Jesus teaches sinners internally, He does not address Himself differently to them than He does to others. The same Word, the same sermons heard simultaneously by many, some only hear with the ear and understand the truth in a natural sense without their hearts being renewed by it. That same Word affects others internally, enlightening and renewing the heart. Thus, this difference is not to be attributed to the Word or person who hears it. It is the applying power of Christ that makes the difference, affecting the one and not the other.
In this we perceive the great distinction between all other prophets and this great Prophet of prophets. They were only ordinary, and above all, sinful men. They did not give authority to the Word, nor did they bring it forth of themselves. They were only able to preach the Word to the external ear.
But 'who teacheth like Him' (Job 36:22).
(1) He preached with divine authority, 'For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes' (Matt 7:29).
(2) He preached with a holy and penetrating zeal, so that the zeal of the Lord's house ate Him up (John 2:17).
(3) His preaching was accompanied by divine power, so that even His enemies said, 'Never man spake like this man' (John 7:46).
(4) He preached with a wondrous wisdom, so that no one could resist Him, for 'He had put the Sadducees to silence' (Matt 22:34). He Himself says, 'The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary' (Isa 50:4).
(6) He preached internally to the heart—illuminating, warming, converting and sanctifying it. He baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire (Matt 3:11). Oh, how blessed is he who may have such a Teacher!
Two matters must be considered more particularly regarding the prophetic office of Jesus Christ. First of all, one must seek to derive personal benefit from this office. Secondly, one must seek to follow His example for the benefit of others, that we also might be prophets, since as Christians we are named after Christ and are thus partakers of His anointing.
First, we must make use of this office to our own benefit. If Christ is a Prophet—yes, such a prophet as we have shown Him to be—then come to Him, you who are born blind, ignorant, and strangers of the life of God due to this ignorance within you. You also ought to come, who may perceive some light but are as the man born blind, seeing but a glimmer, who, when he began to see, saw 'men as trees, walking' (Mark 8:24). You ought to come who have received more light, which in turn makes you more desirous for additional light. You also ought to come—you who have come into a condition of spiritual stupor and darkness, rendering your knowledge ineffectual and not bringing forth inner warmth, comfort, joy, and godliness. Therefore, all who are desirous for the knowledge of God, come, so that you may grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Come to this Prophet and beseech Him to instruct you, and attentively heed His instructions.
First of all, you need to do so, considering your ignorance. Solomon says concerning you, 'Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good' (Prov 19:2). You are not suited for godliness or for salvation.
(1) You know that no one can be saved without faith. 'He that believeth not shall be damned' (Mark 16:16). But he who has no knowledge of the divine mystery cannot believe. 'By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many' (Isa 53:11); 'How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard' (Rom 10:14). Bind this upon your heart, you who boast of having faith, and nevertheless are without knowledge!
(2) You know that without conversion no one shall enter heaven (John 3:5). Without knowledge, however, there can be no conversion. The very first thing that manifests itself in regeneration is —Vol. 1, Page 524— knowledge. The Lord first opened Lydia's heart (Acts 16:14). Therefore conversion is referred to as an act of illumination. 'To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light' (Acts 26:18); 'Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light' (1 Pet 2:9). It is a sure sign that one is unconverted if he has no knowledge of divine mysteries, even if he lives blamelessly according to the law and excels in good works. His ignorance conveys that his works are not of the same nature as true good works. Take this to heart, you who are of the opinion that the knowledge of the truth is of little value, but that our actions are of primary importance. The absence of light and virtue renders our deeds null and void.
(3) You know that he who does not love God and Christ is accursed. 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha' (1 Cor 16:22). But without knowledge no one can love God and Christ, for no one has any interest or desire for the unknown. Ignorance begets lack of desire. Even if you call God 'dear Lord,' or if you say 'I love God,' you nevertheless are not truthful if you do not know Him in Christ.
(4) You know that he who does not serve God cannot be saved. 'Where I am, there shall also My servant be' (John 12:26). But without knowledge no one is able to serve, honor, fear, and obey God, for true religion is a reasonable service (Rom 12:1). Religion without knowledge is a 'sacrifice of fools' (Eccles 5:1), and idolatry (Acts 17:16, 23).
(5) Ignorance is the cause of all sin. Paul persecuted the church of God and, due to ignorance, even compelled its members to blaspheme Christ (1 Tim 1:13). Through ignorance the Jews crucified Christ (Acts 3:17). The apostle therefore establishes ignorance as the chief of all sins. 'For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another' (Titus 3:3). Therefore do not pacify yourself by asserting that you have done this or that out of ignorance, for you ought to have known it.
(6) In a word, ignorance deprives man of all grace and leads him to eternal damnation. 'It is a people of no understanding: therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them, and He that formed them will shew them no favour' (Isa 27:11); 'In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God ...' (2 Thess 1:8). Therefore do not soothe your conscience by reasoning that you have done some good, and have not publicly been ungodly, for ignorance alone is a cause for condemnation.
(7) You who have received some light, is it not your experience —Vol. 1, Page 525— that your unbelief, your failure to fear, love, and obey God; your fearfulness, anxiety, and sorrow are all caused by ignorance? Consider all this together and you ought to be frightened by what you perceive about yourself. Let this motivate you to go to this Prophet in order that He may teach you and that, being illuminated, you may walk in the light.
Secondly, if you may perceive the essential nature of this light and of saving knowledge, you will be motivated to be taught by this Prophet, for:
(1) It is an experience of extraordinary joy. 'Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace' (Prov 3:17); 'My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste. So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul' (Prov 24:13-14); 'Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart' (Ps 97:11); 'They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance; in Thy Name shall they rejoice all the day' (Ps 89:15-16).
(2) Sound knowledge sanctifies powerfully. 'And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32); 'But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor 3:18).
(3) Such knowledge yields steadfastness in faith and stability for our entire pathway of life. 'And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation' (Isa 33:6); 'Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God ... that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine' (Eph 4:13-14).
(4) This knowledge is the way unto salvation and pertains to the special felicity that shall be enjoyed in heaven. 'In Thy presence is fulness of joy' (Ps 16:11); 'I will behold Thy face in righteousness' (Ps 17:15); 'And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ' (John 17:3). These matters being so desirable, they ought to strongly motivate us to go to this Prophet in order that He might instruct us.
Thirdly, who shall instruct you? You cannot teach yourself, for were you through some effort to increase in a natural knowledge of God, such knowledge would merely be as moonlight and will not save you. Even if by study you were to increase your natural knowledge of the truth to some degree, your knowledge will nevertheless remain natural and shrouded in darkness. Even if you were to understand the entire Bible as to the meaning of the words and their respective context, you would not understand the matter —Vol. 1, Page 526— expressed by these words. Even if you imagine to know God, that Christ is the Savior, and that those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life—then what do you know more than the devils? Exert as much effort as you wish, and seek the assistance of wise teachers; together you will not be able to illuminate yourself spiritually. Although you have the notion that you do see, you are nevertheless blind. In order to be delivered from your darkness and to be illuminated with spiritual light, the Lord Jesus, this great Prophet, must take the task in hand to instruct you. He can, will, and does so to all who come to Him for such instruction.
(1) This Prophet is able to teach, for He Himself is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) He is 'as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth' (2 Sam 23:4). He is 'a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel' (Luke 2:32).
(2) It is His desire to instruct, for He invites everyone, saying, 'Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come' (Prov 9:4-5). He says, 'I counsel thee to buy of Me ... and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see' (Rev 3:18).
(3) He does this very thing, not only by giving His Word to this or that nation, by sending them His servants with this commission, 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations' (Matt 28:19), but also, by His Spirit, illuminating His own. 'That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened' (Eph 1:17-18). He is the One who fills the soul with 'the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding' (Col 1:9); He shines 'in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor 4:6).
You who are unconverted, reflect upon your case for a moment. How long has this Prophet already been engaged in instructing you? How many teachers did He already send to you? How many agitations of conscience have you felt? How often has He convinced you of sin, your unconverted state, and eternal condemnation? How frequently has He stirred you up to become a Christian, to repent and enter into covenant with Him? You have not been inclined to do so, however, nor have you had desire for a knowledge of the truth; but you have ignored it as if it were something strange when He held before you the excellency of the gospel. You have permitted all convictions to disappear and have stifled them by turning to other matters. Perhaps you have hardened yourself against His rebukes and thus have made your bands even stronger —Vol. 1, Page 527— (Isa 28:22). Tell me, would it not be just for this Prophet to turn away from you and allow you to go your own way, since you do not desire to hear Him anyway? Has He not stretched out His hands long enough to you? If He were to cease doing so at this moment, would your condemnation not be just? Yes, would your judgment and condemnation not be more severe and intolerable than others to whom God never caused His gospel to be proclaimed? Consider attentively this one text which I wish would be bound upon your heart: 'see that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven' (Heb 12:25).
And you, children of God, consider that prior to your conversion you behaved yourself in like manner towards this Prophet. Consider what a great mercy it is that the Lord nevertheless persisted and by His almighty power opened your heart so that you gave heed to His voice, He shining in your heart to give the light of knowledge. It is only for this reason that you now properly perceive the truth—that it is so desirable to you, quickens your heart, causes you to rejoice, and changes you. Acknowledge this. Perceive it as a wonder and blessing for you. Rejoice over this and give thanks to the Lord whose work alone this is. But consider at the same time how disobediently you still behave with regard to this Prophet. You have but a glimmer of light. Should you be satisfied with that? And even if this lack of light does not grieve you—although it ought to—you should have such esteem for this Prophet that you would not so frequently allow Him to speak in vain.
Therefore, both converted and unconverted, hear this Prophet with more reverence, attention, and desire.
(1) You must consider that this Person is God Himself. Should God speak and we not give heed? In what a powerful manner Isaiah began his prophecy! Oh, that it would move us! 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken' (Isa 1:2). Consider that the Father has sent Him to you, and that He exhorts you from heaven. Hear ye Him! (Matt 17:5).
(2) Consider the matters themselves for they are the mysteries of salvation. They pertain to God, Christ, peace, joy, and the way in which a soul finds satisfaction in God. They do not merely point you the way to heaven, but seek to cause you to rejoice in this light already here.
(3) Consider the manner of His instruction. He does so in such a kindhearted, friendly, and quiet way; it is so wise and suitable to your circumstances—counseling you precisely at the right moment, warning you, stirring you up, continually saying, 'This is the way.'
(4) You who are unconverted, if you do not give heed, know that He will not always speak to you. He will remove either His Word, His Spirit, or you, and then it will be too late. 'To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart' (Ps 95:7-8). You who are converted, know also that if you are not diligent in listening to Him, in continually beseeching Him, in expecting His answer, nor in following His counsel, He will remain silent, hide Himself more and more, and leave you in darkness. The more attentively and persistently you hear His instruction, however, the more He will reveal His secrets to you, and grant deeper insight into that which you may know already. His voice of instruction will be more enduring and efficacious within you. Therefore, 'Hear attentively the noise of His voice, and the sound that goeth out of His mouth' (Job 37:2). The Lord Jesus says, 'Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness' (Isa 55:2); 'Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors. For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord' (Prov 8:34-35).
All of you who are conscious of your blindness and are desirous for spiritual light, come to this Prophet who can and will instruct you, in order that by His instruction you may make progress.
(1) Renounce therefore your own intellectual ingenuity and shrewdness and cast yourself at His feet as one who is ignorant and even unfit to be instructed. Follow the advice of Paul, 'If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God' (1 Cor 3:18-19); 'And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know' (1 Cor 8:2).
(2) Come with an obedient heart, being not only desirous to know, but also to do the will of God, saying with Samuel, 'speak; for Thy servant heareth' (1 Sam 3:10) and with Paul, 'Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do' (Acts 9:6).
(3) Come and hear with an attentive heart, taking note not only of the meaning of the Word, but also of every illumination and motion of the Holy Spirit by and according to the Word. Lydia attended to the words spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). Habakkuk stood upon his watch to see what God would say unto him (Hab 2:1). The church confesses, 'I will hear what God the Lord will speak' (Ps 85:8). Cornelius said, 'Now therefore are we all here —Vol. 1, Page 529— present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God' (Acts 10:33).
(4) Come to this Prophet, humbly beseeching Him that He will teach and guide you. 'shew me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths; Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me' (Ps 25:4-5); 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law' (Ps 119:18). Then believe that He shall hear you and grant you wisdom. 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering' (James 1:5-6), that is, doubting neither the power and the willingness of the Lord nor the fact that He will grant any matter at His time, in His manner, and in a measure determined by Him.
(5) In addition to this, be occupied in reading the Word, which is the voice of this Prophet, as well as in hearing sermons and catechism instruction. Meditate upon what you have read and heard. 'search the Scriptures' (John 5:39); 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly' (Col 3:16); 'In His law doth he meditate day and night' (Ps 1:2). Do not imagine that you will either acquire or increase in knowledge if your mind is not set on this, if you are not willing to make an effort, and if the ordained means are not used in earnest. 'Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding, if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God' (Prov 2:3-5).
(6) Be especially careful and diligent to apply at once what you have learned, for you will only understand each truth if you practice it. 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God' (John 7:17); 'If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth' (John 8:31-32). Give careful consideration to all these matters, and order your conversation accordingly. In so doing you shall be taught of the Lord (Isa 54:13) and 'grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Pet 3:18). It is thus that we are to make use of Christ in His prophetical office to our own benefit.
Secondly, if someone has thus been taught by the Lord Jesus as Prophet, it behooves him, in some measure and in a manner worthy of Him, to be conformed to Him in His prophetic office, since believers are named Christians after Christ, being partakers of His anointing. They were first called by this name in Antioch —Vol. 1, Page 530— (Acts 11:26), although it is not known whether believers called themselves by this name or whether those from without called them such. The use of this name became common. King Agrippa also called them by this name when he stated, 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian' (Acts 26:28). The use of this name was authorized by the Holy Spirit when Peter wrote, 'Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf' (1 Pet 4:16). This name, as despised as it is by Jews and Turks, is so precious for Christians, for this name is expressive of their union with Christ and the fellowship with His anointing. This anointing comprises their ordination and qualification for the discharge (in a manner applicable to them) of the three offices: prophet, priest, and king. 'But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him' (1 John 2:27). They are therefore called prophets according to the promise found in Joel 2:28. 'Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy' (Acts 2:17). They are also called kings and priests (Rev 5:10), and a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9).
That which Moses once desired, 'Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets' (Num 11:29), has come true in a special manner in the New Testament, it being superior to the Old Testament dispensation. For believers are prophets, albeit not to foretell future events. We do believe, however, that the Spirit of prophecy concerning future events has not fully ceased in the church. We believe that the Lord will still reveal to this or that one of His faithful servants such things which relate either to themselves, His judgment upon the enemies of the church, redemption, or the oppression of the church. This agrees with what Christ said, 'And He will shew you things to come' (John 16:13).
Nevertheless, such revelations are not regulative for others, either in doctrine or in life; neither ought we to expect these things from others. Man is naturally inclined towards foretelling future events. The devil can transform himself into an angel of light. Since the outcome of events is at times consistent with his predictions, this draws man away from God and inclines him towards superstitious predictions by way of dreams and other incidents, all which may easily lead a person to be ensnared. A Christian should therefore take care and refrain himself from desiring to know future events outside of the context of the Bible. Furthermore, he should refrain from yielding to a desire for revelations and from giving heed to dreams, interpretations, and incidents, as if they —Vol. 1, Page 531— had some significance for the future. A Christian, however, resting in God's providence, must be governed in faith and practice by the law and testimony. If he walks according to this rule, he will walk safely and have peace. He will cleanse his way if he takes heed thereto according to God's Word. Then he will not be 'soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word' (2 Thess 2:2). The difference between revelation and imagination I will not discuss here. It is a wise proverb which says that bina, that is, wisdom or prudence is better than nabi, which means a prophet who foretells future events.
Believers, however, are prophets, and must strive to function more and more as such. They must do so in a twofold manner: to know the mysteries of the gospel, and to make them known to others.
First of all, believers are prophets for the purpose of acquiring a clearer knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. Their knowledge is so limited, and they have but glanced at the matters with which they are acquainted. They therefore stand in need of an increasing knowledge, both by a continual searching of God's Word and by the immediate instruction of God's Spirit who discovers to the soul the essential spiritual nature of that which is written. Oh, that they would thus turn unto the Lord, open their hearts for the influence of the Spirit, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work! Thus they would keep watch at the door of supreme Wisdom until they are brought into the inner chambers to be taught there of God; there the Lord Jesus would reveal Himself to them according to His promise (John 14:21).
The Lord has also made known in His Word what the church of the New Testament will encounter until the end of the world. This they must search out. They should especially read the Revelation of John frequently, that they may be enabled to strengthen both themselves and others against tribulations which shall come, and to comfort themselves and others with the blessed outcome which has been prophesied.
The second prophetical task of believers is to make known to others the mysteries revealed in God's Word and which would have been sealed to their own soul. They are called to instruct, warn, exhort, and comfort others. Everyone must do so, however, in the position which God has assigned to him. A minister must do so differently from a church member. The latter must give heed that he neither assumes nor imitates the role of a sent servant of God, in order that the mission of the servants of God and the necessity —Vol. 1, Page 532— thereof be not overshadowed, as this would be very detrimental to a congregation.
The above is not merely the task of ministers, but each individual member ought to be convinced that this duty has been imposed upon him by God. Attentively consider the following texts, and bind them as a command of God upon your heart, especially since this duty is so greatly neglected. 'And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up' (Deut 6:6-7). This is intended for you, fathers and mothers. Are you thus engaged? In the future, will you not earnestly engage in this task as a task commanded by God? 'And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths' (Isa 2:3). In the prophecy of Zechariah we read, 'And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also' (Zech 8:21). Notice that mention is made here of individuals, not of ministers. Observe how these prophecies relate to the days of the New Testament. Therefore consider the obligation to which the Lord binds you.
Attentively consider also these texts in the New Testament. 'Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church' (1 Cor 14:39); 'Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy' (1 Cor 14:39). The apostle is not writing to ministers, but to the congregation and to saints who are called (1 Cor 1:2). This exhortation therefore applies to each individual member, and thus also to you, whoever you may be. 'Teaching and admonishing one another' (Col 3:16); 'But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day' (Heb 3:13); 'And let us consider one another' (Heb 10:24). If God's command has any effect upon you at all, observe this duty to which the name of Christian obligates you.
In order to stir you up even more, consider the following:
First, the light, grace, and ability you may possess, you have received for that express purpose and are to give an account of both its receipt and use. 'And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. ... Then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading' (Luke 19:13,15). Do you observe how that —Vol. 1, Page 533— you have received gifts and graces to make gain and that you shall have to give an account of what you have gained with them? If a group of beggars were to stand before your door and you were to give a piece of money to one of them, commanding him to share this with the others, would he not be unfaithful if he were to keep it for himself? How did the unfaithful servant in Matt 25:30 fare?
Secondly, love for the honor of Christ ought to compel you to do so. If you love Christ, you will be desirous to speak of Him, and you will be desirous that He be known, praised, and glorified by everyone. That desire will motivate you to display His beauty and to declare His perfections, saying, 'This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend' (Song 5:16); 'For how great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids' (Zech 9:17).
Thirdly, love for noble and precious souls ought to compel you to engage in this task. In observing that your children, servants, close friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are ignorant, live in sin, and are travelling to hell, how can you quietly observe this and see them go lost? If a child has fallen into the water and is in danger of drowning, will you not do your best to save it? And if you cannot do so yourself, will you not cry and gather everyone together to help you? Will you be silent when you observe that such and such individuals are going lost? Will you have no compassion for these poor souls, forbearing to warn, exhort, and instruct them? Yes, will you not be held accountable for the damnation of souls which you could have helped as much as is in you?
Fourthly, to be instrumental in the conversion of souls is a very sweet and delightful task. Someone who plants a tree or orchard finds sweet delight in perceiving that the tree begins to show forth new branches, grows, blossoms, and bears fruit. He says to himself, 'I have planted this tree with my own hands.' However, to be instrumental in the conversion of souls is infinitely more delightful. Yes, this is not only delightful for the person himself, but it brings joy to the angels in heaven and to believers upon earth, for 'there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth' (Luke 15:10).
Fifthly, to be engaged as a prophet greatly promotes the upbuilding and growth of the church. If everyone would make this to be his duty, what a blessing would rest upon the church! Knowledge would increase, multitudes would be converted, and everyone would be 'sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof everyone bear twins, and none is barren among them' (Song 4:2). When the congregation of Jerusalem was —Vol. 1, Page 534— scattered, 'they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word' (Acts 8:4). This was the means for a wondrous expansion and increase of the congregation. It is remarkable that everyone who helped build the walls of Jerusalem is mentioned individually. Among them also the daughters of Shallum are recorded for an everlasting remembrance (Neh 3:12). From experience I may know what blessing the Lord imparted by means of six or eight daughters of the congregation of Harlingen (then my congregation), each as prophetess giving herself to the service of the Lord, and wherever finding entrance, exhorted everyone to seek after knowledge and repentance. What a blessing the Lord bestowed through them! If you may be instrumental in the conversion of one soul, consider that this is not merely beneficial for this one soul, but such a soul may be the means whereby others may be converted, and this seed shall remain from generation to generation.
Oh, how sweet and delightful it shall be to be able to say on the last day, 'Behold I and the children which God hath given me' (Heb 2:13)!
The Lord shall multiply His blessing upon such laborers. If someone is unfaithful, lazy, void of desire, and neglectful of the work of a prophet, such a person will generally walk in darkness and be lacking spirituality; his light will become dimmer and dimmer and he will become less and less capable of performing this task. He will complain frequently about this frame, but he knows that his neglect in this duty is the cause of it. If you engage yourself on behalf of others, the promise shall be fulfilled, 'Unto every one which hath shall be given' (Luke 19:26). You shall experience that in teaching others you shall receive more light in these matters, and that while rebuking others, the rebuke will bear down upon you. While exhorting others, you yourself will be stirred up; and while comforting, you yourself will receive more faith and comfort and will go on your way rejoicing. All this considered together will undoubtedly touch and move you to be engaged as a prophet.
Our nature, however, will not readily submit to this; it would rather receive than give. For this reason one will think of many excuses and pretend to be confronted with great difficulties, in order, if it were possible, to discontinue this task and yet have a quiet conscience.
One will argue:
(1) 'I have no qualifications for it, and if I wish to begin with this task, the words freeze upon my tongue and I do not know what to —Vol. 1, Page 535— say; if I say something, it has no effect.' To this I respond, 'You learn by doing.' If you are not capable of speaking to certain individuals, and about such matters, speak to others. Begin with beggars and children, by whom you are not intimidated, and discuss general and rudimentary principles. You will subsequently acquire more skill.
(2) You may say, 'I do not know much myself, and I am in need of being instructed myself.' To this I respond that if you are a Christian, you will have some knowledge. If you know three words, then teach others two, even if you were only to say, 'We are going to die, which will be followed by eternity.' This could be a means to someone's conversion.
(3) 'My words have no effect. They neither have authority nor power. None wish to listen to me. They even laugh at it.' To this I respond that fruit upon your words does not come forth from you. You will not be held accountable for fruitlessness, but for faithfulness. If any do not wish to hear you, you will be able to find another who will readily hear you. If anyone laughs, another will weep.
(4) 'I am sinful and people see my faults; thus I am incapable of edifying even to some degree. Yes, it will be an offense and one shall say, 'At that time he acted and spoke in such a fashion and now acts as a pious one. It is nothing but hypocrisy, which is true for all who are like him. 'Yes, I am in such a sinful condition that my lusts have the upper hand, and thus I cannot speak.' My response is that if someone were to wait with prophesying until he would be without sin or without obvious errors, there would be silence over the whole world and one would not hear Christ proclaimed. All His messengers are men of like passions as others. Let it be evident that you are conscious of your failures, that you grieve over them, and do battle against them while seeking to improve in these areas. Own your insignificance more frequently. When you address others, include yourself; do not say you, but we. In doing so you will perceive that while using your talent, you will become more careful and be more watchful against your own sins.
(5) If you are truthful, you will say, 'I am ashamed to speak of spiritual matters, even to my children, and to those who are placed under me—yes, even to the poor to whom I wish to give temporal support.' How dreadful this is! Ought you to be ashamed of Christ and His words? Ought the Lord Jesus detect shame of Him in you? Where is your love? This is being irresponsible. If you are overcome by a feeling of shame, press on that much more forcefully, and do not yield to such feelings—feelings which Christ will —Vol. 1, Page 536— detect. As you engage in your task, you shall overcome this sense of shame.
(6) Laziness is another obstacle. If one examines the inner recesses of the heart, one will say, 'This task is too heavy for me; I look up against it. It is as if I become ill when I decide to proceed with that objective in mind. I postpone it from one time to another, and thus nothing comes of it.' Be ashamed, you who are lazy in reference to this great, glorious, and beneficial task. Consider what befell the lazy servant. Therefore be diligent and fervent in spirit.
(7) 'I perceive that I seek myself in this work; that I am motivated by my own honor, and a desire to be praised by those who hear me. The fear of not doing well makes me fearful to begin. Therefore I think it best to refrain from saying anything.' I respond that it is first of all a desirable fruit to have self-knowledge which gives you much strife and causes you to pray and to struggle while proceeding in this work as well as can be expected. In so doing the purity of your motivation will increase. To refrain from engaging yourself in this task for this reason, however, is but to continue in your impure pursuit of seeking yourself.
Having overcome all obstacles, and having been inclined and made willing to begin this work of evangelism upon due consideration of its obligation, glory, sweetness, and advantage, it is necessary to engage in this task properly. For this purpose one ought to read much in the gospels with the objective of making Christ your example, observing in what manner the Lord Jesus engaged in this task.
(1) It is essential to begin with those individuals by whom you are not intimidated, who are under your command (such as children and servants), or those who depend on your financial support. Such persons will have a hearing ear, or they will at least pretend to be desirous and attentive.
(2) One must conduct himself according to the circumstances. Sometimes it will be wise to speak of civil matters. Thereby we will manifest ourselves as being discreet, and it will prevent antipathy for us or prejudice against us from arising. Upon having inclined their hearts somewhat towards us, however, one should not cease at this point. At that moment or at a future occasion, create an opportunity with your words, be they few or many, and impress upon them the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ. Sometimes you will have set some time aside to speak with this one or that one about nothing else but spiritual matters. This could be when catechizing by way of questions and answers those who are subject to us, or when one seeks to engage in spiritual conversation. If our heart is but determined to be thus engaged, numerous —Vol. 1, Page 537— opportunities will present themselves, and subject matter for discussion will be at hand.
(3) Above all, one ought to be watchful against pride and an air of superiority; otherwise there will be no edification. It must all be done in an amiable, loving and humble manner. Our conduct must be such, however, that we are serious about our intentions, have great reverence for God, and greatly esteem spiritual truths. It will soon be noticed whether we merely speak of spiritual matters, and thus it will have no effect.
(4) One must therefore often be engaged in private prayer; there must be prayer before one begins and while one is engaged. There must be prayer for enabling grace, as well as for fruits in others. Having performed the task with humbleness concerning the shortcoming in our own performance, we ought to again lift up our hearts to God with thanksgiving for having received proper motivation and for the fact that we were able to say something. Oh, that the Lord would touch, move, and qualify many to do the work of a prophet! Indeed, the congregation would be blessed and many souls would be converted.
Excerpt from The Christians Reasonable Service