Differences and Similarities Between Apostles and Prophets
It seems that there is some confusion and misunderstanding when one considers the differences between the function of those who are apostolic and prophetic.
There actually is quite an overlap between the two offices, and only a slight difference is seen when one regards executive leadership roles.
Many still regard prophetic ministers as those who float from place to place as itinerant preachers giving a “Word from The LORD” to individuals, churches, and other areas.
Many forget that these can still lead large effective organizations. Those who function as itinerant ministers may well be considered as “exhorters,” rather than fulfilling the biblical function of a New Testament office prophet.
If we were to look back to the Old Testament, we would find men who were called prophets, that today would be serving in the capacity of an apostle. Certainly men like the patriarch Abraham, Moses as well as Samuel would be considered as such in this way.
There is actually no difference in function or calling between the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. Also when one considers Ephesians 2:20 that says:
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone…..”
Here we must consider that the word “prophets” is referring not to apostle/ prophet teams, but rather upon the Old Testament prophets and their prophetic writings that were handed down to us.
Actually the Old Testament prophets were called to a specific geographical area, because God was building a divine model-nation for the nation of Israel.
So then why make definite distinctions between the two ministerial functions? For we see these functions clearly laid out in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11.
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues,” 1 Corinthians 12:28 (NKJV).
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” Ephesians 4:11 (NKJV).
We see in Acts 13:1-2 how the first-century church in Antioch was led by prophets. During this time there is no mention of apostles in the Church, and this seems to shatter the notion that prophetic leaders cannot lead larger Church networks or organizations.
During this time in history we see a wide variety of various types of leaders who go into uncharted areas where Christ has not been named or proposed.
These are going outside from the local Churches and organizations with powerful anointings. This can and does go against the notion that just an apostle is a “sent one.”
This term was actually taken from the Roman army which called various generals who were set up in enemy territory as “apostles.”
Prophets were sent as seen in Isaiah 6:6-9, but were mainly in one place in regard to their focus.
On the other hand, Apostles were sent out or deployed, as God’s generals to establish God’s kingdom in new nations and other areas of life.
So then it can be said that many that we call apostolic are actually New Testament prophets and leaders, and those who may be called prophets would actually be more of an exhorter who have developed a mature gift of prophecy, rather than functioning in the office thereof.
So having said that, there are probably much fewer apostolic leaders who would call themselves as an “apostle.”
To look deeper into this subject perhaps one of the main differences between these two “types” of leaders is mainly in delivery.
Apostolic leaders engage in problem solving more out of strategizing and teaching out of principle through their vast experiences.
On the other hand, prophetic types engage in the same type of problem-solving but do so in a different type of delivery which can and sometimes comes out of a more spontaneous prophetic utterance, and yet the differences may well be quite minute.
However, prophets also teach and can lay down principles upon which a foundational concept can be built.
So actually both can be involved in laying the foundation and the building of a local church or a network of churches. This then is why there should be a working together of them in doing what they have been called to do.
I actually believe that there is oftentimes an overlapping of the two functions. Some who are apostolic are also prophetic and the opposite is also true.
Whenever one is sent to lay a foundation to establish something in the enemy territory, they must also receive a word from The LORD in regard to timing, and other details in the implementing of the strategies that must be established.
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to The LORD and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,” Acts 13:1-2.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”
Also I heard the voice of The LORD, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive,’” Isaiah 6:6-9.
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to The LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?