Ordinary Christian prophecy comes through ordinary Christian people — “your sons and daughters,” to use Joel’s words which Peter quoted on Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21). As we learn more about ordinary Christian prophecy we will learn also not to confuse this kind of revelation with the “Thus says the LORD” messages given through Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The great prophets of the Old Testament spoke authoritatively and delivered the precise words of God (Jer. 1:9). What they predicted would certainly come to pass (1 Sam. 9:6). What they commanded, God’s people were expected to obey. What they announced was to be accepted without hesitation and received without question (Deut. 18:18-22). We will later see in detail that those comments do not describe ordinary Christians to whom God gives ordinary Christian prophecy. But there is a group of New Testament spokesmen which these comments do describe.
These comments do describe the apostles of Jesus Christ, the New Testament counterparts to the authoritative prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus himself placed the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles side by side as God’s unique and special messengers (Lk. 11:49-51). God’s authoritative, enduring, normative message came through the “holy prophets” of the Old Testament and the “apostles” of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (2 Pet. 3:2). As it happens, the apostles were also prophets, but only a few Christian prophets have also been apostles of Jesus Christ. Paul the apostle was also a preacher and teacher — but most preachers and teachers have not been apostles (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). The apostle Peter was an elder — but most elders have not been apostles (1 Pet. 5:1). The ministry of the prophetic apostles was indeed foundational: the “apostles and prophets” are probably the same group of men when mentioned in that regard (Eph. 2:20; 3:5).
Like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus’ apostles spoke the very words of God (1 Cor. 2:12-13). Their message is authoritative and beyond question (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thes. 3:14). Even a person with the gift of ordinary Christian prophecy must yield to the command of an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 14:37-38). When the church eventually recognized the 66 books of Scripture which we call the “Bible,” they did so in large part based on the prophetic origin of Old Testament books and the apostolic origin or connection of the books that compose our New Testament Scriptures. That process of recognizing certain writings as authoritative Scripture began during the first century, and it acknowledged Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles even then (2 Pet. 3:1-2, 15-16). Ordinary Christian prophecy has nothing to do with writing Scripture. Let there be no doubt: the Bible is complete. Until Jesus comes again, it will remain the standard by which ordinary Christian prophecy is always to be measured and tested.