One of the reasons there is confusion in the church today about the prophet gift is the failure to distinguish between the “gift of the prophet” and “gift of prophesying”. One is a “gift of the prophet” from Christ to the church and the other is a “gift of prophesying” given by the Holy Spirit to individuals within the church. Even though to the casual reader this may appear to be just a play on words, this fact is important in understanding the difference in the “gift of the prophet” and the “gift of prophesying”.
According to Ephesians 4:11-16 “He(Christ: See v7))gave some… i.e., prophets(Note the significance of the plural use of prophets emphasizing the importance of functioning in plurality for mutual accountability and judging of the prophesies given to the church)…for the 1)perfecting of the saints, 2)for the work of the ministry, 3)for the edifying of the body of Christ…”. In the Greek, this passage clearly states that these equipping leaders were themselves a gift of Christ to His church and it was not just the gift of prophecy that was given. I Corinthians 12:28 adds, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers…”
Only the prophet, as an equipping servant-leader, is qualified according to Scripture to function in what the KJV calls the “office” of a prophet. However, it is important to qualify this word “office”, for the connotation today is that “office” implies position or rank. In reality, the KJV’s use of the word “office” does not accurately translate that Greek word in any of the three times it occurs.
All three uses of the word “office” in the KJV as the subject relates to spiritual gifts, which include Romans 11:13, Romans 12:4 and I Timothy 3:1 , should not be translated as “office”. In Romans 11:13 Paul said, “I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine “office” (Gr.diakonia=service, ministry). Romans 12:4 states, “For as we have many members in the one body, and all members have not the same “office” (Gr.proxis=work, action, use).” I Timothy 3:1 it says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire, the “office”(Gr.episkope=oversite) of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
In truth, the “office” is not a position nor a rank but rather a descriptive function. The different Greek names given to represent the various leaders in the church(i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, deacons, etc.), simply describe who these leaders were and what their function was in the church.
The servant leaders who are described in Ephesians 4:11-12, i.e. prophets, were themselves as individuals gifts to the church. Their primary purpose was to serve and lead by example. Their primary function was “For the perfecting of the saints, “for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
Those who serve in the function or “office” of a prophet, that is as a “gift” from Christ to the church, operate in this gift as their primary ministry function and are known and recognized through spiritual discernment by the church as a result of the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. Because the prophets are a “gift” to the church, the prophets function in a continuing prophetic ministry and they consistently walk in that gift because that is who they are in the Body of Christ.
Now, concerning the issue of the “gift of prophesying”. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit available to any believer in the Body of Christ. According to
I Corinthians 12:7 “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. I Corinthians 12:8, 10 adds “For to one is given by the Spirit…i.e. prophecy…” In I Corinthians 12:11 it states, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” I Corinthians 12:18 says, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.”
Thus we see that the “gift of prophesying” is available from the Holy Spirit to all believers in the Body of Christ. The “gift of prophesying” can be given and ministered by the Spirit through any believer in the Body of Christ at any time the Spirit chooses. Those who minister in the “gift of prophesying” do so by the unction of the Holy Spirit. Those who are moved by the Spirit to prophecy may do so “one time” or “many times” depending upon the Holy Spirit’s choosing. The “gift of prophesying” can be exercised by any believer within the Body according to the order given in I Corinthians 14:29-31 concerning judging the prophet and the prophecy. Other scriptural safeguards include I Corinthians 14:32, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
In conclusion, one of the best passages in the Scripture illustrating the difference in one who is “a prophet” and one who “prophesies,” is recorded in Acts 21:9-10. “Phillip, the evangelist, one of the seven, and the same had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. There came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus…” Note the distinction of one who “prophesies” and one who is a “prophet.