Q Who are the apostles and prophets spoken of in Ephesians 3:5?
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 4 Minutes
ANSWER: Ephesians 3:5 states, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
Most of us, including myself, read about the office of a prophet and our mind automatically recalls the renowned prophets of the Old Testament—daring Daniel, emotional Jeremiah, obedient Isaiah, among others. After all, they have books named after them and their delivered pronouncements endure to our day and beyond.
Similarly, when we think of apostles, we think of the Twelve whom we sang about in Sunday School (“There were twelve disciples. Jesus called to help Him.”). The Bible follows these twelve apostles from their inexperienced beginnings until empowered at Pentecost.
Yet, there were more apostles than the Twelve and additional prophets than the ones that are familiar to us. As the Mystery was being revealed during the transition away from the Kingdom program, God had apostles and prophets of Grace. This is what is recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures by Paul.
Apostles and Prophets of Grace
First Corinthians 1:28 declares, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” We learn that, besides supernatural confirmation gifts (tongues, healings, miracles), God also utilized the gifts of apostles and prophets as His Grace message was being made known.
There was no school you could go attend in order to learn the theology of Grace, for it had been hidden in the mind of God until the moment it was revealed to the Apostle Paul. It was necessary for God to supernaturally empower men to lead and proclaim according to His ways of Grace. We know there was prophecy happening in Corinth because Paul lifted it up as the preferable gift (I Cor. 14:1). As Corinthians was written during the time of the transition from Kingdom to Mystery, Paul gave the prophets instructions in the proper decorum for prophesying (I Cor. 14:29) and says this gift was important for people to learn and be comforted (I Cor. 14:31).
First Corinthians is also the book that tells us that there will come a day when the truth of the Mystery program is fully revealed and then prophecy (and supernatural gifts) will stop (I Cor. 13:9-10) for the remainder of the age of Grace.
Well, the fullness of God’s revelation has been complete, so prophecy is not being used by God today. Instead—and just as sufficient and powerful—God’s Word has been completely revealed and it is what informs, empowers, and equips us to serve (II Tim. 3:16-17).
Though we live in this time of completed revelation, we need to recognize that the apostles and prophets of Grace were foundational for the revealing of the Mystery. Ephesians 4:11 confirms this: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets.” Another book written during the transition period, Romans, lists prophecy as a gift given by the Holy Spirit (12:6). There was a prophet amongst the Cretians (Titus 1:12). Timothy’s ministry was recognized by the prophets (I Tim. 4:14).
Back to the verse in question: Ephesians 3:5 is stating that those Old Testament prophets and those twelve apostles did not know the Dispensation of Grace like the prophets and apostles of Grace know it now. Earlier in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 20, we learn that the apostles and prophets of Grace were foundational for what God is doing today in this age of Grace. They were necessary as the Church, the Body of Christ, was in its beginning stages (Eph. 2:20).
We know Paul was an apostle, for the Scripture assigns the title to him several times (I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; I Tim. 2:7; etc.). He was THE Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). While we do not have anyone in the Bible specifically labeled a “prophet of Grace,” the Scriptures do inform us that they existed (e.g., Rom. 16:26). In fact, Paul’s epistles could be considered prophetic writings, proclaiming the truth of God revealed to him for those under the Dispensation of God’s Grace through Christ Jesus.
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