I have heard the teaching, too many times to count, that prophets should be “under” the leadership of an apostle, or a pastor, depending on what terminology that particular stream happens to favor. Is this true? Should prophets be subject to an apostle? If not, how should prophets relate to the church?
First, this notion that prophets should be under the leadership of an apostle is entirely unbiblical. It is also, at the same time, entirely biblical.
Confused? Stick with me.
Submitting To Scripture
There is nowhere in scripture that proclaims a prophet must be under the leadership of an apostle or a pastor or anyone else. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:29 that when a prophet speaks, the “others should weigh carefully what is said.” Paul specifically says that the prophetic words should be subject to the leadership of the church, but he says nothing about the prophet.
At the same time, Jesus made one thing eternally clear to us when it comes to submission.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus tells us that we must submit ourselves to one another in the Kingdom of God. Note that He didn’t say this to the random masses who followed Him, but directly to His twelve disciples. Jesus told those men who would go on to become the foundational apostles that their authority and leadership must take on the humility that Jesus’ leadership did.
So this concept of submission to apostolic authority is biblical, but it isn’t just for prophets. It is for prophets, pastors, elders and other apostles. The way of the kingdom of God is that we all “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Any organization that exerts the authoritarian leadership of an “apostle” or “pastor” over anyone, prophet or otherwise, is on dangerous ground. Paul defended his apostleship, not by demanding others recognize it, but by demonstrating it through suffering and laboring for others. He laid down his life in service of others.
So yes, prophets should submit to apostles. And pastors. And janitors. And the sound guy.
And likewise, they should all submit to the prophet.
Out of reverence for Christ, we should all submit to each other. Without that kind of submission, we do great damage to the humility of the church. Scripture does not call us to ask or demand for submission from others, but to offer our submission to others.
There’s a big difference.