Didache, Lesson 15: Apostles and Prophets, Pt. 2


In the last lesson, we saw the Didache link the Apostles to Jesus (11:4.)  But today, we will see the Didache link prophets to the Holy Spirit.  

Although, at first, this seems a hair-splitting distinction, it simply shows the worldview of those who put together the Didache.  It shows that the Apostles were directly called by Christ.  That’s why the Didache says the first Christians were to receive every Apostle as they would the Lord, as they would Jesus.  But take notice how the Didache will link prophets with “the Spirit.” 

Paul also brings this out this distinction.  A pastor’s authority to be a pastor doesn’t come from being directly called by Christ (like the Apostles were called); instead, their authority comes indirectly from Christ, through the Holy Spirit He has sent.

  • 1 Timothy 4:14: “Do not neglect the gift in you, which was given you by prophecy with the laying on of hands through the body of elders [presbyters].”
  • 2 Timothy 1:6-7: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a Spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

–          What then is the “gift” a pastor has received through the laying on of hands?


That’s why our Confessions say, “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call [a “rightly ordered call” includes being called and ordained].” (AC, 14)

Of this, Church Father, Marius Victorinus (280-355 AD), said, “The Apostles beheld [God incarnate]; the prophets received the Spirit.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, I.2.20)


[11:3  Concerning the apostles and prophets, based on the dogma of the Gospel, treat them this way: … ]

  • 11:7  Do not test any prophet who speaks in the Spirit; for every sin will be forgiven, but this will not be forgiven.
  • 11:8  But not everyone speaking “in the Spirit” is a prophet, but only those who follow the Way of the Lord.  And so from their ways will be known the false prophet from the [true] prophet.

–          How does the Didache regard what a prophet [pastor] says “who speaks in the Spirit”?


1 Corinthians 12:3: “So I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

–          If a prophet [pastor] is speaking “in the Spirit,” what does that mean?


–          So then, according to the Didache, testing a prophet [pastor] who “who speaks in the Spirit” is the same thing as doing what concerning the Holy Spirit?


Excursus: The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Matthew 12:31-32 (also Mark 3:28-30 and Mark 12:10):

[Jesus said:] “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

1 John 5:16: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and God will give him life–that is, to those who commit sins that don’t lead to death.  There is a sin that leads to death.

The existence of a sin that is “against the Holy Spirit,” a sin not forgiven, is a frightening thought.  To make sense of how this can be, we must first ask, “Why did God send His Spirit?”  He sent His Spirit to create and strengthen faith through the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.  For these are the means God uses to bring, and keep, people into Christ’s Church.

To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, then, is to reject and repudiate His work of saving faith.  And if the Holy Spirit is blasphemed in such a way, then one is not in Christ.  And if one is not in Christ, then Jesus does not bring him to the Father.  Such a person is not living in the divine Life of the Holy Trinity.

–          In other words, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is _____________________.


Discerning True Prophets from False Prophets

11:8  But not everyone who “speaks in the Spirit” is a prophet, only he who has the ways of the Lord.  By their ways will the false prophet and [true] prophet be distinguished.

Matthew 7:15-20:

[Jesus says:] Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravaging wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a diseased tree produces bad fruit.  A healthy tree can’t produce bad fruit.  And a diseased tree can’t produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will recognize them by their fruits.

–          The Didache says that only a true prophet [pastor] “has the ways of the Lord.”  So, what then does it mean “to have the ways of the Lord”?


–          Both Matthew and the Didache tell those within the Church to be wary of false prophets.  In contrast to a false prophet, a true prophet not only talks the talk, but does what?


Now the Didache tells how, in its context, one may help distinguish between a true and false prophet.

  • 11:9  No prophet who orders a meal, eats of it himself.  If he does, he is a false prophet.

This verse doesn’t seem to makes sense.  Most likely, the Didache is referring to the Agape meal mentioned earlier.  If so, then another early Christian document, the Shepherd of Hermas, may help us understand this statement. 

In the first place, the one who seems to have a spirit exalts himself and wants to have a seat of honor.  He is immediately arrogant, shameless, talkative, well-acquainted with many luxuries, and with many other pleasures.  He receives money for his prophesying; if he doesn’t receive money, he won’t prophesy. [Commandment 11, 12]

Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

The most we can make of this, because we don’t have enough context to be certain, is to see if the prophet/pastor is focused on himself or on serving others.  If he is focused is on serving himself, then that is a good indicator that he’s a false prophet.


  • 11:10  Any prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet.

Matthew 23:1-4:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy burdens and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians 15:1: “It is better to be silent and be real than to talk and not be real.  It is good to teach, if someone does what he says.”

–          Discuss.  Why is there such a strong link between a prophet’s words and deeds?


  • 11:11  Any prophet, who has proven to be true, who portrays in an earthly way the mystery of the Church (provided he does not tell you to do what he himself is doing), do not judge him.  Let God judge him, for the ancient prophets also acted in this way.

The Coptic version reads, “who teaches and attests a world tradition in the Church.”

Again, this not entirely clear.  But using the Old Testament prophets’ lives, Prophet Hosea immediately comes to mind.  He married a prostitute, Gomer, to show to the Israelites how they were being unfaithful to God.  So, although Hosea’s marriage served God’s purposes (for God told Hosea to marry Gomer!), it would not have been right for Hosea to tell the Israelite women to become prostitutes, or the men to seek out prostitutes. 

It seems that Didache is bringing out the idea of a prophet/pastor teaching or living his life in a way to bring out a spiritual mystery in an understandable, tangible, earthly way.  God Himself does this in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  The Apostle Paul does this when he relates a how Christian marriage to Christ and His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

–          Discuss


  • 11:12  But whoever says “in the Spirit,”
    • “Give me money,” or something similar, do not listen to him.
    • But if he tells you to give something for others in need, let no one condemn him.


1 Timothy 5:17-18: “Let the elders [pastors] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’”

Consider the difference between a mercenary and a professional soldier.  A professional solder does not say “Give me money,” all the while he “deserves his wages.”  That is a good way to understand a pastor/prophet and money.

–          If a pastor/prophet acts like a mercenary, how then are you to treat his teaching and preaching?  Why?


–          If a pastor wants to have a “collection” to help another in need, how then do you treat him?