Does Amos 3:7 still apply today? By Jack Kettler
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
Is Amos 3:7 a directive for all time or just for the people of Israel?
If this directive in Amos is the norm for the New Covenant, then there should be some directive in the New Testament reaffirming this or something in the text itself indicating that Amos 3:7 is perpetual. It should be noted at the outset that there is nothing in Amos 3:7 that indicates the text is to be understood as binding in the New Testament times. One would have to read this into the text of Amos.
In the Old Testament, there are everlasting or perpetual covenants. How does the New Testament handle these covenants?
The Older and New Covenant a necessary digression:
There is continuity in the covenants, and there is a discontinuity between the covenants.
Believers should presume that stipulations that are said to be everlasting or perpetual in the Old Testament continue since the Covenant of Grace in both the Older Covenants and New are, in substance, the same. It should be noted that there are continuities moving from the Old into the New Covenant, and there are also discontinuities. Discontinuities between covenants also can manifest themselves as the changing of forms and beneficiaries.
In the Old Testament, many of the Covenants were said to be everlasting or perpetual. For example:
“Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath . . . for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:16-17)
The Sabbath Day and the Lord’s Day:
The discontinuity is that the day has been changed to the first day of the week in celebration of the resurrection of Christ. The continuity is that God’s people are to still honor Him by resting for our labors after six days of work. (Hebrews 4:9)
Another example is Passover and the Lord’s Supper:
The discontinuity is that the New Covenant church no longer celebrates the Passover feast. The continuity is that all of the Older Covenant feasts, including the Passover, find fulfillment in the Lord’s Supper.
And then, Circumcision and Baptism:
The discontinuity is that circumcision of the flesh is no longer required in the New Covenant. The continuity is that circumcision is replaced by baptism in the New Covenant era as the mark of the covenant, and the beneficiaries are expanded. In addition, with respect to continuity, the recipients of circumcision were infants, and likewise, the recipients of baptism are infants as far as covenant households are concerned.
Without recognizing these distinctions, the Scriptures would be hopelessly contradictory. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Old Testament Covenants and New Testament Covenant are the same in substance but different in form.
Does the discontinuity continuity motif apply to Amos 3:7?
Missing from Amos 3:7 is any language that implies the directive is everlasting beyond the close of the Old Testament.
The answer is no when using the time-tested method of allowing the Scriptures to be the best interpreter of Scripture.
The writer of Hebrews answers to question definitively:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
The Apostle Paul teaches:
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20)
The New Testament prophets were replaced by the teaching elder or pastor.
James Bannerman, in his two-volume The Church of Christ, explains why prophets were needed in the early Church but no longer today:
“It is not difficult to see the foundation laid in the circumstances of the apostolic church for the necessity and the use of this is special class of office-bearers. Our Lord had himself told his disciples shortly before his death, that he had many things to tell them, which at that moment they were not able to bear (John 14:25ff.; 16:12–14). The revelation of his mind and truth was left by him incomplete when he departed from this world to the Father. It remained incomplete until the canon of Scripture was closed, and the entire revelation of God, as we now have it, was committed to writing.”
“The earliest of the canonical books of the New Testament was not written until some years after the ascension of Christ; and the latest of them was not added until probably a generation had well-nigh passed away after that event. In the interval, the revelation of God remains unfinished; while from the difficulty of transcribing and disseminating in manuscript the copies of the books that partially made up the New Testament volume, before its completion there must have been, in many churches of the early Christians, a want felt of any authoritative record of the Divine mind and will.”
“The living Word of prophets, inspired by God to declare his truth, was the instrumentality employed by him to supply that want in the apostolic Church. The Apostles indeed have the same word of revelation that the prophets enjoyed. The prophesying of the Apostles supplied for a time, to the extent to which their personal presence could reach, the want of the written and inspired standard before the canon closed. But the number of the apostles admitted of no increase, while in the rapid spread and prevalence of early Christianity there were multitudes added to the church daily of such as should be saved.”
“And hence the necessity of another order of office-bearers, suited to the extraordinary emergency, and to the transition state of the Christian church, who should, by means of personal revelation granted to them, and personal prophesyings emitted by them, become the teachers of the early converts, when they have no other adequate source of information and instruction in Divine things. The necessity for such extraordinary instrumentality ceased when the canon of scripture was closed. The written word in the hands of the Christian churches superseded the need of revelations and prophets. Both in their character of foretellers of future events, and in their character of inspired preachers of divine truth, the order of New Testament prophets was temporary, and did not outlive the apostolic age.” (1)
The canon of Scripture is closed. Therefore, the office of the Old Testament prophet during the interim period of the 1st Century, both the office of the Apostles and prophets, ended.
In answer to the question in the title of this study, there is no reason to believe that God speaking to His prophets is a norm for the New Testament times. On the contrary, the New Testament affirms a system of Church government that is led by elders or presbyters, not by prophets or a prophet.
“Christ, as our Redeemer, executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 23)
Christ Himself superseded the temporary role of the prophets, which pointed to Him.
The Catechism is supported by the writer of the Hebrews:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. James Bannerman, The Church of Christ, Vol. 1, (Edmonton, AB Canada, Still waters Revival Book, reprint edition 1991), p. 233-234.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jack-Kettler/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJack+Kettler