• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service [except for the second Saturday of every month when the service starts at 6:30 pm and is followed by a shared meal]. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (Pastor Jeff Whittaker).

    Sunday 11:30 am for our Chinese (Mandarin) language service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

  • Contact details…

    Physical and postal address:
    4 Inverary Avenue,
    Epsom,
    Auckland 1023,
    NEW ZEALAND.

    Email:
    epsombaptist@clear.net.nz

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurer: Ann Guan

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

    Church Deacons: Anne Bartley, Ian de Stigter, Kristy Choi, Helen Evans, Willa Hui, and Alfred Zhou.

Looking at prophets (again)…

My blog from a couple of day’s ago – ‘The calling to be a prophet’ – prompted a response in the form of a couple of questions and a comment, viz: First, were the prophets confined to a certain period of Israel’s history? Second (and this is related to the first), what do you think a prophet (satisfying your description) would look like today? [Since most nations weren’t necessarily founded on a covenant with God, I would assume that the message would be for the church rather than for the nation the prophet lived in (otherwise the ‘diagnosis’ stage wouldn’t seem very valid).]

First, Israel’s prophetic ministry runs from Moses through to Jesus and John the Baptist, and beyond. That said, prophetic activity in Israel was concentrated from the time of Amos (around 750BCE) through to the post-exilic period. Interestingly, this corresponds to the so-called axial age, the period in which the universal religions arose independently around the world, and the stress in religion seemed to move from collective ritual to individual responsibility and participation.

To the implied question as to whether there were – are – prophets in the New Testament era, the answer is affirmative. The apostle Paul mentions prophecy in some of his letters. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 20, he instructs that the words of prophets are not to be despised, but instead tested. (It seems New Testament prophets were as unwelcome as Old Testament ones.) The covenant against which the New Testament prophet conducts his/her diagnosis is of course the new covenant enacted in Christ and sealed with his blood at the cross. Here, though, a difference arises. The Old Testament covenants contained curse clauses for disobedience to the agreed conduct expected in the covenant. The New Testament teaches that Christ took upon himself the curse of disobedience, destroyed its power through dying on the cross, and now offers forgiveness through his resurrected life.

I wonder, then, if the role of the New Testament prophets was to remind the churches to which they belonged what living ‘in Christ’ really entailed. This is a far cry from attempts to predict the future that are sometimes presented as prophetic activity, and a far cry from many of the so-called ‘words of knowledge’ that accompany some of today’s prophets. (I do know a man who, when converted to Christ, became aware that the internationally known pastor through whose ministry he had come to faith was interfering with boys. He shared his concerns with another pastor, but was ignored. Decades later, he was vindicated.)

As to the idea of the universality of covenant, the death of Christ at the cross and his subsequent resurrection is considered to usher in a covenant with the nations. We read hints of this sort of universality in the book of Isaiah, where First Isaiah’s prophecies seem to cycle through addressing the people of Judah and Israel, then extend out to the surrounding nations, before encompassing the whole of the created order.

1-19-Martin-Luther-King-ftr
Anyway, after that detour, we arrive at the second question: What would a prophet look like today? In answer, I’ll give two examples. First, Martin Luther King Jnr was a prophet. Interestingly, in his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ King mentioned his reluctance to take up the role he had advocating for civil rights in the US, and then listed four steps required by any non-violent campaign. These were: Collection of the facts to determine whether injustice exists; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. I think that these four, together with his acknowledged reluctance to be so involved, correspond pretty well to the five marks of a prophet I wrote about a couple of days ago. King was assassinated. My second example is Bishop Oscar Romero from El Salvador. Romero was apparently chosen to be Arch-bishop of El Salvador because he was considered ‘safe.’ Certainly, his initial ministry emphasis was on piety and moral issues. But all that changed when a close friend was killed by gunmen acting for the rich elite of the country. Romero became a fiery prophetic voice in that land, fearlessly advocating for the poor. He also invited the oppressors to join the poor in the kingdom of God, to find their true place amongst believers. He became a martyr when shot celebrating the mass.

Romero headshot

So, dear correspondent, I trust that answers your questions. I think it poses a challenge to all who take upon themselves the name of ‘Christian.’

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