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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

12. AGABUS - a gifted prophet

"One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world" (Acts 11:28).

Consider the person
There are only a few examples of New Testament prophets in the Acts. Agabus is the main example. He was a believer in the Jerusalem church, one of a number of itinerant prophets with a local church base. His recorded prophecies were predictive, containing prophecy in the sense of foretelling future events. Read Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-11.

Study the Scriptures
In Acts 11 Agabus arrives at the young church in Antioch with other prophets. His ministry complemented the ministries of Barnabas (an exhorter) and Paul (a teacher).  Here he predicted a widespread dearth or famine. The word motivated the local church to create a fund for the poor believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). In Acts 21 when Agabus arrived in Caesarea, he predicted Paul's imprisonment by the Gentiles. The account is interesting as it records a twofold reaction to the prophetic word. On one hand the disciples advised Paul to avoid trouble; on the other hand Paul was challenged to submit himself to the will of God (Acts 21:10-14; cf. 1 Cor.14:29). The ministry of Agabus may have encouraged the ministry of other prophets in the church at Antioch. Their ministry also had a practical application – it singled out Paul and Barnabas for special ministry (Acts 13:1-4).

Ask questions

1. Compare Agabus with other prophets, such as Judas Barsabbas and Silas Acts 15:22:22,23). Their ministry appears to be more exhortatory than predictive, more a forthtelling than a foretelling. We prophesy in proportion to our faith (Rom.12:6). Prophecy may include words of wisdom or knowledge (see 1 Cor.14:24,25).

2. How does the ministry of Old Testament prophets compare with that of church-based New Testament prophets?

3. Can you describe this ministry gift given by Christ to his church (Eph.4:11; 1 Cor.12:28)?

Apply some thoughts

1. Scripture warns us against false prophets (Acts 13:6; Mk.13:22; 2 Pet.2:1). We should test prophets by the way they live (Mt.7:15-23), by what they teach (1 Jn.4:1), and by the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of their predictions (Dt.28:18).

2. All prophecies should be judged (1 Cor.14:29). How can we do this?

3. Are there self-acclaimed prophets promoting themselves today? We must evaluate so-called 'prophets' who have no local church base or accountability.

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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