Question: "What is prophetic ministry?"
Answer: Prophetic ministry, as understood by Charismatic groups today, is any ministry that relies on the gift of prophecy and new revelation from God to guide the church to maturity. Those involved in prophetic ministry sometimes refer to it as a five-fold ministry and believe that the offices of apostle and prophet are being restored to the modern-day church.
We see prophetic ministry often in the Old Testament, as God raised up prophets to encourage and rebuke the nation of Israel in times of trouble or rebellion. During King David’s reign (2 Samuel), the prophet Nathan, among others, spoke the word of the Lord to David, giving him guidance and direction as well as confronting him concerning his sin with Bathsheba. Of course, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zechariah, etc., also had a prophetic ministry—they were prophets, after all. The calling of a prophet was to speak for God. A prophet would teach, give guidance, counsel, or rebuke as necessary.
In the New Testament, we find others who had a prophetic ministry. Certain people were gifted as prophets to give guidance, direction, counsel, etc., to God’s people. The gift of prophecy is specifically mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Ephesians 4:11. Please note that this gift was given for the building up of the church (Ephesians 4:12). Thus, prophets were to speak the Word of God to the church so that believers would know the mind of the Lord and how the church should function.
We believe that true prophetic ministry today is simply the preaching of the Bible accurately and clearly. The gift of prophecy today is the “speaking forth” of the written Word, not the relaying of new information from heaven. The purpose of the sign gifts in the early church was to provide direction until the New Testament was completed and to validate the ministry of the apostles. Once the Bible was completed and the apostles died, the miraculous gifts ceased being of use in the church. We can see this in the New Testament in that the early books such as 1 Corinthians and Ephesians mention the miraculous gifts, whereas the later books such as 1 and 2 Timothy don’t mention them. The completed Bible is sufficient for us to follow the Lord faithfully. Second Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16–17 are clear on this. Additional words from the Lord are unnecessary.
There are many Christians today who claim to be involved in prophetic ministry, who believe that prophecy is ongoing, and who present themselves as conduits of new revelation from heaven. Churches who believe in prophetic ministry typically attempt to interpret dreams, predict the future, and speak in tongues—although the New Testament gift of tongues (the supernatural ability to speak in unlearned foreign languages for the purpose of sharing the gospel) is not the type of tongues being practiced today.
The bottom line on prophetic ministry is that the Bible is complete. Scripture even warns against adding to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18). The Bible is all we need to live a life of godliness. Thus, prophecy, in the sense of a “new” word from God, is no longer needed.