Posted in cessationist, continuationist, holy spirit, miracles, strange fire, tongues

Does it "limit God" to say the miracle gifts have ceased?

This blog post is an answer regarding a common objection continuationists make, and that is, to say that the Spirit is no longer distributing miracle sign gifts (tongues, miracles and prophecy) that this ‘puts a limit on God.’

Pentecost, Giotto, 1310

This is a very important topic. 1 Corinthians 12:10 speaks of four (temporary) signed gifts; miracles, prophecies, languages, and the interpretation of languages. A continuationist is a person who believes these miracle sign gifts have always continued since Pentecost. A cessationist (like me) says they ceased before the New Testament was even finished being written, that they were never meant to be permanent.

Formerly, this ‘continuing-or-ceased’ issue was seen as a secondary issue, or a non-essential to the faith. It was one of those ‘let’s agree to disagree’ things, and everyone went on their way. However, the fastest growing faith sector in the world is Holiness/Pentecostal/Charismatic believers who hold to the notion that men still perform miracles, speak in babbling tongues, and can receive prophecy directly from God which is separate revelatory knowledge distinct from the bible.

The Strange Fire conference showed me two startling things: that the fastest growing religion is not Islam, it is charismania. There are a billion people in the world who believe, in effect, the bible is not the final word of God. This has diluted the word of God and the works of God  -as He has revealed them- from something final, absolute, and with integrity, to something that is secondary to the latest word one has received this day. This has opened the door to everything from merely wayward thinking, to people making a shipwreck of the faith, to the purely demonic. Therefore with this many people at risk, it is no longer a secondary issue.

Every cessationist, like me, and every continuationist knows, that God is infinitely powerful, and can do anything. He has no limit, at anytime. However, there are two things to consider here. First, God does not intervene in a visible, global, or dramatic supernatural way very often. Even in the bible days, seas parting, fire coming down, and resurrections etc. were not common. 

Secondly, God already limits Himself TO US in at least one important way: His revelation of Himself . 1 Corinthians 13:12 says that we know in part now but later we will fully know. He has chosen to limit His infinite revelation to us for now, through creation (Romans 1:19-20) and the bible (Revelation 22:18-19; Hebrews 1:1). It is not germane to any discussion to allow the talk of  “that puts a limit on God” to become part of the discussion. We are talking the miracle Spiritual gifts here, and those gifts were given to humans to employ. THAT is what we are talking about. Humans working the gifts, not God working supernaturally.

Lazarus, come forth, Salvador Dali, 1964

So the Word is where we look for a basis for any discussion about whether miracle gifts continue, or not.

And what the bible says, is that the sign gifts (tongues, miracles and prophecies) were given to men by the Spirit to authenticate Jesus’s message. (2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:3). The bible even shows that tongues were not meant for the church, but for those who didn’t believe, a fulfillment of an OT prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:22; Isaiah 28:11-12.) Now that the message is complete, the Spirit is no longer giving those particular sign gifts to men. Though we all agree God could perform them if He wants, and Revelation is full of examples of how He will do exactly that, in the Tribulation.

The difference is, the Spirit does not give miracle working ability to men like He did before the canon was complete. Today, there are no apostles bringing His message, it’s all of us bringing it (Mark 16:15) and we can authenticate the message through His word, (Acts 17:11) with the Spirit’s help. That is why the miracle sign gifts faded away even as the NT was being written. 

As far as God moving in supernatural ways, no, God has never stopped. That is what providence is. (Romans 8:28). It’s what justification is. (Romans 4:25). It’s what regeneration is. (Titus 3:5). It’s what sanctification is. (1 Thessalonians 4:3). But He did stop giving men the gift of miracles, tongues, and prophecy.

Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes, James Tissot, 1896
Posted in continuationism, miracles, spiritual gifts

The spiritual gift of miracles given to Christians in the first century is not for today

Men are not endowed with the power today to heal miraculously, like they were in the time of Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha & Jesus/Apostles. Those miracles were for a sign to authenticate the message and the messenger, in the building of the foundation of the church. Today we have the messenger whom we authenticate if he preaches the same Jesus and if his message is consistent with the one delivered once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3).

In the time of the Apostles, the miracles were authenticated, undeniable, and sufficient. Lazarus was dead. Then he wasn’t dead. There was no ambiguity. Jesus healed a man born blind. He could not see. Then he could see. (John 9:1-7).

The one I always got a kick out of was Peter’s mother-in-law.

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” (Matthew 8:14-15).

Jesus’s touch healed her completely. When you have a fever, you’re usually sick for a period of time, days even. You get weak. You cannot keep food down. You body deteriorates and after the fever breaks, you need time to recuperate to get back to 100%. Not so with the miracle of Jesus and His healing touch.

Her healing was authenticated, because there were witnesses. It was undeniable, it is in the bible. It is sufficient, because she was healed and restored to 100% perfect health.

What does one do when they are delivered from a bad situation? You’re grateful. Imagine the gratitude of Peter’s mother-in-law being delivered from an illness of a person in advanced age. Gratitude, unto service. Her gratitude was so great, she served the Lord. It was so complete, she could serve the Lord.

God can and does still perform miracles today if He chooses. He does not give people that ability any more, those gifts have ceased.

I’m listening to a Phil Johnson lecture in the series Drive By Pneumatology. He defined cessationism and continuationism. Here is Pastor Phil Johnson on the miracle gifts:

“The Holy Spirit is at work in us in the ordinary things of life. A lot of people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is only working if He is doing miraculous or phenomenal things. If it not something that takes your breath away, or amazes you, that if He is not doing things like that, He is not at work at all. But I believe that scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all the ordinary aspects of life. He orders every minute detail of our lives. It is He who actually gives us life. That’s what it says in Romans 8- He gives life to our mortal bodies… . Most of what he does seems ordinary but it is really extraordinary because He is the Holy Spirit.”

He went on to explain the difference between revelatory gifts and ministry related gifts, revelatory ones (the Charismata) are utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith (a supernatural measure of faith, not saving faith we all have) prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians) compared to the gifts in Romans 12; preaching, service, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, and teaching. In comparing the two lists of gifts, the Romans 12 one is ministry related, and is neither supernatural in character nor revelatory.

Phil said, “The distinctive claim of the Charismatic movement is that these revelatory gifts of healing, miracles, tongues knowledge/wisdom and prophecy are continuing today just as they were in Apostolic times. The Charismatic person says they continued since then and never ceased. That these gifts are available and operational just as they were since Pentecost. This is the continuationist view.”

The opposing view is cessationism. The belief that these revelatory gifts, these sign gifts, have ceased. That they pertained uniquely to the Apostolic age and that those gifts ceased sometime at the end of the first century upon the death of the last apostle.

(Phil is a cessationist).

So the question is, is the Holy Spirit doing everything exactly as He was doing as He did in the book of Acts? Has that stopped, or has that continued? And is there a proof text that shows it has stopped?

The miraculous gifts of the apostolic era had a specific and clearly defined purpose. I contend that it I also clear in scripture that they did diminish in frequency and importance and in fact, faded from use after the era in the Book of Acts ended.

Cessationism is today a minority opinion. It was practically standard evangelical theology for many centuries until about 60 years ago. Prior to the 20th century, it would have been hard at any time to find any protestant who believed that the charismata, the miraculous gifts, continued uninterrupted from the time of the apostles thru all of church history. It is a fact that the most theologically orthodox church theologians all believed the miracle gifts ceased.

In summarizing the next part of Pastor Johnson’s lecture, the reason they say this today, that the charismatic gifts continue, he explained, is that they cannot find a proof text or a verse that would support the view that the spiritual gifts of this nature have ceased. Specifically there is no one verse in scripture that says the miracle gifts have stopped at a particular date or time. Bottom line there is no proof text that states that the miracle gifts would end at the conclusion of the Apostolic era.

There is no proof text to show the Jehovah’s Witness to show their flawed view of the Trinity, either. You compare scripture with scripture to show the Trinity and I would say the same method applies to cessationism.

Those of us who are cessationists base our conviction not on a single proof test but is a theological conclusion that is drawn from a number of biblical, historical, and doctrinal arguments.

Scripture does teach that the charismata had a specific, foundational and temporary purpose. They are part of a hierarchy of supernatural signs and wonders that were associated with the founding of the church. That hierarchy is listed in 1 Cor 12. It specifically states not all the miracle gifts were given to all in the church. (He goes on to explains some verses here). Scripture does not have a specific proof text that shows the Apostolic age ended, that there are no more apostles. There is no specific proof text that the canon of scripture is closed. Those arguments are the same exegetical arguments used to also say that the miraculous gifts ended too.

Posted in chaos, charismatic, dreams, faith, miracles, pentecostal, strange fire

Charismatic manifestations & excesses of the Pentecostal movement is a global phenomenon

The universe exists so that God will accomplish the redemption of man.

It’s that simple.

“As we read in Colossians, “All things created by Him and for Him.” And what is this grand design? What is this grand purpose? What is God doing? Why did He create this universe? Why did He create the earth? Why did He put on the earth all these creatures? Why did He make man? What is the point of all of this? (Colossians 1:16).

“And the answer is, “The grand design is redemption.” The grand design is the gathering of a redeemed people into eternal glory for the purpose of worshiping Him forever and ever.”
~John MacArthur, “The Theology of Creation

To that end, Jesus commissioned emissaries to go forth with the message of redemption, AKA the Good News AKA the Gospel. Some proclaim it nearby and others go far afield. The ones who go far are missionaries, bringing the good news to every nation, tribe, and tongue. (Matthew 18:16-20; Acts 1:8).

God will sovereignly ensure all will occur as He designed it to occur as He said in Isaiah 46:9. It will happen. He said in Isaiah 46:9. “Remember the former things long passed. I am God, there is no other. I am God, there’s no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done saying, ‘My purpose will be established, I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”

However, that is not to say that from our one-dimensional view down here on earth, that there won’t be heartbreaks, apparent setbacks, and distress among us as His plan is being carried out from above.

I keep up with a couple of missionaries who our denomination supports, via the Southern Baptist Convention and International Mission Board. The couple is in Central America, in the jungle. They have worked with a local man for a year who is a Pastor. This pastor travels over rough jungle roads to reach a family who lives in the jungle who had opened their home to the Pastor. He travels long to reach the place, and does the weekly bible studies. He travels so long he must stay overnight there. They had hopes to plant a church there, eventually. Above, Jungle, Wikipedia commons

This month’s mission report says that though we all expect opposition from without, the missionary couple were blindsided from within.

The local pastor who travels to the jungle there each week, “was told by the head of this family that they will no longer host the Baptist meetings. The reason: they have been led to believe by leaders of their church that Baptists do not believe in the Holy Spirit because we do not speak in tongues and have experiences like being “slain in the Spirit.” This is not the first time we have encountered this attitude from those we call our brothers in Christ.”

Until now, the worst battles had been against shamanism, Mayanism and Catholicism, all of which are so rampant in Central & South America. But now missionaries must also battle the worst examples of Pentecostalism from inside our own Protestant denominations? Sad!

The same is happening in Africa. Pastor Conrad Mbewe of Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia speaks often about evangelical issues in Africa. One of the issues with the decline of the church in his native land, he says, have also been the excesses of Charismatic Pentecostalism. Above, Africa.

This week he wrote,

“A century or two ago, Christian missionaries came from the West and taught us the Bible. As a result of this, we did away with polygamy, cannibalism, tribal feuds, etc. We were taught to put on more clothing to hide our nakedness. We learned to desist from tattooing our bodies, which were now temples of the living God. We even stopped sacrificing our babies to ancestral spirits.”

Yet this is the reality today, he wrote last May

“I am reminded of the many claims to healings that are made by “anointed” Charismatic preachers. Every week, there are tens of thousands of miracle services conducted across the country and the continent. When I say that these are just publicity and fundraising gimmicks, sincere Christians are often horrified at my saying so. When I then ask them to give me the name and address of one person whom they know who was once blind but now sees, or was a cripple (on a wheelchair or on crutches) who now walks, or was deaf and dumb but now speaks, they suddenly sober up and admit that they do not know anyone. “Sources” have told them of many people who have been healed.”

Kenya revival services, healing crusade
and pastors’ conferences.

Clint Archer, one of the team at The Cripplegate, and a pastor in South Africa, interviewed Mr Mbewe a few months ago at the African Pastors’ Conference. Archer asked,

What information would be helpful for Evangelicals in the West to know about the state of the African church?

Pastor Mbewe responded,

The Christians in the economically and educationally challenged areas of Central Africa are in a state of what I call “blessed ignorance.” I find that in general their hearts are with Christ and they are faithful followers of His, but they lack the theological refinement necessary to get all their ducks in a row. The people have “low expectations of their leaders’ educational qualifications to preach.” It is in these areas where rampant health-wealth-prosperity preaching and extreme charismatic practices are most common and leave the church in a state of immaturity.

As for what’s happening in Asia, there is a terrible influence of the healing-miracle-prosperity church there, too, especially in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, thanks to a charismatic South Korean named Pastor Lee at Manmin Church. We read,

“Abundant Fruit of the Holiness Gospel Has Been Borne in Thailand “
“Amazing works of the Holy Spirit unfolded and abundant fruit of the holiness gospel was borne even in Thailand where the 95 % of population is Buddhist. … Additionally, Thai Com 5 satellite TV has broadcast GCN TV programs, such as Dr. Lee’s sermons and the programs on the works of God’s power, nationwide. Since innumerable people watch the programs, the holiness gospel is being spread rapidly. Amazing works took place through the handkerchief prayer on which Dr. Lee had prayed. Even sorcerers and shamans accepted the Lord through the handkerchief prayer (Acts 19:11-12). Pastor Sungchil Lee has given glory to God by holding meetings in many areas of Thailand in September 2009, November 2010, and February 2011. Countless people were healed of their diseases in the meetings.”

The book by Candy Gunther Brown titled Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, was published 2011 by Oxford University Press. The abstract says,

“This book explains why Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity is a rapidly growing global phenomenon. Although often caricatured and reduced to speaking in tongues (glossolalia), prosperity, or snake handling, this volume reveals that the primary appeal of pentecostalism is divine healing and deliverance from demons. Globalization heightens the threat and fear of disease, fueling growth of religions that are centrally concerned with healing. In Latin American, Asian, and African countries where world Christianity is growing most rapidly, as many as 80 to 90 percent of first-generation Christians attribute their conversions primarily to healing for themselves or family members.

Even in the United States, 62 percent of Pentecostals report healing experiences. Contrary to popular stereotypes of flamboyant, fraudulent, anti-medical “faith healing” televangelists who preach a materialistic, “health-and-wealth gospel” or sensational “exorcism” of demons, this book offers a more nuanced portrait. The chapters illumine local variations, hybridities, and tensions in practices, depict human suffering and powerlessness, and explain the attractiveness to many of a global religious movement that promises material relief and empowerment by invoking “miracles” and spiritual resources. Achieving the twin goals of thick description and comparative analysis of global practices is best achieved by bringing area experts into conversation. Sociologists, anthropologists, historians, political scientists, theologians, and religious studies scholars from the United States, Europe, and Africa write about illness and healing on six continents. Read together, these chapters generate and set the agenda for a new program of scholarly inquiry into some of the largest forces of change reshaping today’s world—globalization, pentecostalism, and healing.”

I’ve striven to show you both personal and widespread examples of the worst excesses of the

Source

Charismatics that are happening in Latin America, Asia and Africa and the devastating impact on the church. The tomfoolery you view each day on TBN is not just contained in American broadcast media and a few churches at the fringes of the faith. It is a widespread, global phenomenon that is killing the church.

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”” (Luke 18:8b).

The answer is yes, because God purposes to bring a group He’s selected for His son to redemption as His Son’s bride. It will happen. But the falsity of the false church which abuses the Holy Spirit is daily being revealed and the stain of is is spreading.

When I refer to the excessive charismatic aspects of Pentecostalism, I’ve said “fringe” or “excesses” etc, so it is clear to you that I do not indict an entire denomination. As John MacArthur said in his essay, “Encouragement to Faithful Pentecostals,”
“There are those in charismatic and Pentecostal churches who love Christ, serve His people, and—like John—are disturbed by the sinful excesses they see dominating the charismatic movement.”

He said, however, that they need to speak up against the abuses against the Holy Spirit with the ridiculous excesses of tongues, slain in the spirit falling down, toking the spirit, laughing in the spirit and so-called miracles and alleged healings. Speak. Up.

John MacArthur and colleagues are speaking up. He has organized a conference called Strange Fire. The Strange Fire conference “will boldly and thoroughly deal with prosperity preachers, faith healers, and many of the other familiar charismatic aberrations and blasphemies of the Holy Spirit.”

MacArthur, along with Phil Johnson, RC Sproul, Conrad Mbewe (I mentioned him up above), Tom Pennington, Steve Lawson, Nathan Busenitz, Justin Peters (I refer to him frequently regarding his monumentally helpful series “A Call For Discernment”), Todd Friel, and Joni Eareckson Tada. These speakers’ bios can be read here.

He said,

“If you believe that the baptism of the spirit is subsequent to and separate from salvation, you have now created two classes of believers. If you believe in mystical experience, transcendent esoteric kinds of supernatural things, then what you will do is depreciate study, spiritual discipline, and the means of grace by which you grow. If you exalt feeling you will denigrate reason and open the mind and the spirit, the powers that people cannot understand or deal with. And as long as these kinds of things lie at the core of Pentecostal tradition, the potential for disaster is there, and if you believe that God is still giving revelation of any kind, the lid is off.” (source)

It’s as if satan had said, “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war,” as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar. “Dog has its ordinary meaning; havoc is a military order permitting the seizure of spoil after a victory, and let slip is to release from the leash.” (Wiki)

The lid is indeed off, and nobody likes what was released. Fortunately, in this long essay for the third time, I refer back to Isaiah 46:9. “Remember the former things long passed. I am God, there is no other. I am God, there’s no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done saying, ‘My purpose will be established, I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”

His good pleasure is to bring a Bride to His son- us, believers in the resurrected, holy and divine Jesus. As our wedding day approaches, please pray for your own church to withstand this worldwide onslaught of Holy Spirit perverted-charismatic excess, and pray for those who are caught up in it. There are many, and we weep for them as much as we do the lost in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, atheism…

Won’t you be glad when satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire to deceive the nations no more! (Revelation 20:3, 10).

Amen!

——————————
Further reading:

Strange Fire conference website

Charismatic Chaos sermon series

Discerning Angus Buchan’s ‘Faith Like Potatoes’

What is the Charismatic Movement?

Drive By Pneumatology: Correctly Understanding the work of the Holy Spirit (purchase CD lectures)

Justin Peters ‘A Call For Discernment’ Overview, updated

Posted in faith like potatoes, miracles

Faith Like Potatoes: Movie review and a discernment lesson

I have Netflix now. I love Netflix. I love spending an hour looking for something to watch before giving up and going to bed. Ha ha, it’s not quite like that but almost. So when I found a film in the religion and spirituality section that seemed solid, and had good reviews, I eagerly queued it up for a viewing last night.

It is called Faith Like Potatoes.

The story is based on a real family and a true spiritual event that began in the mid 1970s in Zambia. The movie is actually based on a book and the real-life story of Scottish farmer Angus Buchan and his struggles in Africa to make a living. Angus Buchan and his pregnant wife Jill and three children had been growing concerned with the rising violence and plunging currency in their adopted country. Selling their huge and good-yielding farm at a severe loss, they packed up and headed to South Africa to start over.

Practically penniless, life was hard and Angus grew more angry and despairing. The work was tough. Having little to no money to pay farm help, it meant long 18 hour days, 7 days per week for Angus as he strove to provide for his family and made slow but agonizing progress.

He began to get into fights, haunt the local bar, and gobble tranquilizers, all to no avail to salve the anger and depression stealing the light in his soul. One day he was invited to a Methodist church service in which other farmers & lay-men were giving testimonies. Struck by a spiritual thunderbolt, he came forward at the invitation and accepted Jesus as Savior.

The film did an excellent job up until this point. His longing for the Savior was evident to all except him, that is, and what he needed was obvious. His conversion was beautifully done. The struggle he evidenced in the pew until that climactic moment when he stood up, grabbed his wife’s hand and led her forward had me in tears. Excellent.

Then the movie started to lose me.

In this article from CrossRhythms Angus explains, “The name Faith like Potatoes originated from that great Scottish preacher Peter Marshall. He was the Chaplain to the US Senate. He said that you must have faith that’s tangible and simple; faith that’s real, faith that you can touch; faith like potatoes. We took that little cliché and used it as our title.”

In the movie it is explained, “Feel this potato. Smell it. Your faith in God must be like that. It must be real. You can feel it. You can smell it. Faith has got to be like potatoes.” It was said in the movie and he has said in real life, ‘faith needs to have flesh and substance.’

However the bible says the opposite.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

The faith of Angus Buchan rests on, and his later preaching emphasizes, tangibility. In the movie, shortly after his conversion (it seemed shortly, in movie terms anyway) the Lord sent a miracle rain to stop a fire from destroying his and a neighbor’s farm. Then a lightning bolt stunned (or killed, no one is quite sure) a Zulu farm worker and Buchan raised her from unconsciousness (or death, no one is quite sure). The potatoes were an expensive crop that one was daft to plant in a drought, and many friends and even his pastor tried to talk him out of it. If the potatoes failed, he would be bankrupt, but the harvest yielded potatoes. Big ones, too, it’s noted.

People in the movie came to believe based on what God did rather than what they heard. But it is what a person hears and knows that saves him. Not miracles. (Romans 10:17).

As you may know because I’ve written about it in a three-part series, I am cessationist. I believe God still works miracles and I believe in the supernatural, but I do not believe He endows His believers with miracle producing ability today. The gifts of healing and prophecy and tongues were for a sign and now that the bible is finished we have the bible as a sign. I believe that apostolic miracles ended as the scriptures indicate, sometime during the end of the first generation church when the last of the Apostles died. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). More to the point, Jesus warned us that in the last days, false christs would come and perform miracles and signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24-25.)

By the time the movie got to the potatoes, it seemed to me that Angus was trying to test God. Further, it seemed to me that his faith rested in miracles rather than solely on the God who could perform them. But that was how the movie presented it. I wanted to learn more about the man and what he preached, directly from the man and not from what could be a twisted version of his beliefs.

To that end, I looked up information on Mr Buchan subsequent to the events portrayed in the movie. I watched interviews with him. I watched an hour-long documentary in which Mr Buchan spoke of his spiritual journey. I watched clips on Youtube of his preaching at revivals. I watched interviews, such as a recent one on CBN/700 Club with Pat Robertson.

I came away from all that more sad than anything because of what I learned.

I will discuss the doctrinal difficulties with Mr Buchan’s preaching and his beliefs in the next essay. As for the movie, I still give it a thumbs up. The first half is first rate. The cinematography is gorgeous. It isn’t a low-budget Christian movie with low production values, by any means. It is lush. And the acting was good. The final half, if one suspends belief regarding the miracles, is inspiring. For example, I was more struck by the growing relationship between Angus and his foreman Simeon Bhengu. As Angus was called away to preach in distant places more often, Simeon was the trusted one who stayed behind to protect the farm and Angus’s family. In another segment, the loss of the child and resulting portrayal of grief through faith was well done.

However, though the final scene where the potatoes are uncovered and Angus and his foreman dance on the plots, then pans to the lane where the wife is leading the entire town down to help harvest was nice. But then she said,

“Did you not think I’d have faith in these potatoes?”

Ultimately, one is left wondering at the end of the movie, what do I put my faith in? Did I hear a message of sin and redemption and a resurrected Jesus? A little but not so much. I heard a lot about miracles and what He can do for me by His miraculous power over disease and over weather.

For me, the miraculous power is salvation. It’s regeneration. It is a deposit of the indwelling Holy Spirit to sanctify me all my life-long. It is prayer heard and prayer answered. I wish, O, I wish, these miracles were enough for people!

I compare a movie like Faith Like Potatoes and The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and to me, the miracles occurred in Sperry and not Potatoes. Why? Because the miracle is in the transforming power of a lifelong faith in a man. The miracle is the beauty of a multiplying faith within a community by the quiet and unseen power of the Word. Flashy manifestations aside, faith in Jesus alone is the real miracle. Sperry has it. Potatoes doesn’t.

Go watch the more inspiring Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and leave the miracles to the unseen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 2 next: what exactly is off about Angus Buchan’s doctrine, and why is he the biggest evangelist you never heard of?

Posted in benny hinn, miracles, slain in the spirit, spiritual gifts, tongues

Are the miraculous spiritual gifts for today? Part 1

Do you wonder about being Spirit-filled, or being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” as a separate event from the regenerating work?

Do you ponder whether whether the miracle gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians have ceased?

And what about “praying in the Spirit”? What is that all about?

I was asked these questions this week and I answered in an email but decided to bring the issue to the blog also. I had an interesting conversation this summer with a person who attends a Pentecostal church and the issues that were raised then are still on my mind. So when the email came…

Disclaimer: I have friends who are in or who came from circles where it was taught or demonstrated that the miracle gifts are a normal part of Christian walk. As I explore whether the miracle spiritual gifts have stopped or not, I plan to make it a biblical exploration. Please do not consider this an attack on any person’s particular faith or denomination. I want to soberly take a look at the question, but I know that in so doing, the fact that so many people have had an experience which is tied to their emotions, they may react emotionally. Let’s just put Jesus in the center and discern His word,with full assurance from me that this discussion is from the heart and not a jab at any person’s salvation or any particular denomination’s legitimacy.

The question is discussed in various circles and it is an ongoing discussion. It is called “Cessationism versus non-cessationism” or in other words, if the miracle gifts have ceased or have not ceased. Sometimes the discussion gets heated. However, it is not a salvation issue nor it is something that impacts the essential doctrines of faith, so in discussing the issue here or anywhere let’s have grace and remember not to bring division. This isn’t a hill to die on, but it does call for discernment. The bible does tell us the miracle gifts are foundational, and the foundation has already been laid by the Apostles. So we must be careful when we see what someone claims is a miracle or says they are speaking for God with a word, just as we are told to test all things.

First, we look at the Holy Spirit and what He does for His church. These are links to all the bible verses collected on the topic of the Holy Spirit in each of His ministries–

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit as comforter:

Holy Spirit, The Personality of

Holy Spirit, The Teacher

Holy Spirit as God

Second, what are the spiritual gifts the Spirit gives, and where are they in the bible?

GotQuestions answers that one:
“The three main passages describing the spiritual gifts are Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The spiritual gifts identified in Romans 12 are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 includes the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 includes healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

The essay goes on to define each gift a little more.

The Holy Spirit delivers spiritual gifts to all believers. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). All people have at least one gift, and some have two or more. For example all pastors are teachers but not all teachers are pastors. Some of these were gifts of revelation from God and others were gifts of miracles, like healing or languages.

Third, what are the miracle gifts, specifically?

Bible.org states:
“On any given day of the week, Christians can be found debating with one another over the “sign gifts”–that is, the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings. [emphasis mine]. The debates center on a simple issue: Are they for today or not? There is no debate about whether these gifts were a part of the first-century Church. That part is assumed by all who embrace the Bible as the Word of God. Rather, the debate is whether these gifts have continued or have ceased. There is no debate that certain spiritual gifts have continued to today, such as teaching, mercy, administration, service, etc. But whether the more overtly supernatural gifts continued is a different matter. Again, the issue is not whether God is still powerful enough to work such miracles. Rather, the issue is whether he does so through individuals as special emissaries of his power.”

Why were these gifts given as described in the book of Acts?

The purposes of spiritual gifts given to the Apostles was to reveal and confirm God’s will for man. The miracle gifts were given to authenticate that these men were indeed from God and their words and deeds could be trusted as coming from the Divine source. The miracle gifts were to authenticate His men who proclaimed His will. And cessationists say that authenticating work was completed during the lifetime of the original apostles when the bible was closed.

Painting: Peter raising Tabitha, Acts 9:40,
Pierre-Jacques Cazes, Louvre.

Others say no, they are not finished, that the normal Christian life is, or can be, full of miracles and healings and supernatural knowledge and “tongues” just as actively as it was in the immediate post-resurrection time. The question is not whether God CAN work this way. His power is perfect and His will is His will. The question is, does He still work this way, and as a result, does the Spirit still distribute these miracle gifts to believers today?

“Jesus invested supernatural authority in his own apostles (Matt 28:16-20) to bring this good news to the world. These apostles and certain others in the early church had a measure of some of these gifts. Whether they represent all Christians of all time or whether theirs was a special time and a special gift is the question.” (source)

The folks at CompellingTruth.org wrote:
“The early church did not yet have the full revelation of Scripture. The Scripture was revealed to the apostles – the same apostles who by signs and wonders were proven to be authentic messengers of God. Their gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration were now added to the list alongside healing and miracles, and were given in order for the early believers to know God’s will and plans. But these “revelatory” gifts, now that the Bible is finished, are obsolete. The Bible is a supernaturally-inspired book, given to the apostles, God’s proven messengers. We are commanded not to add to or take away from the Word of God as revealed to the apostles (Revelation 22:18-19). Because the revelatory gifts have ceased, and the sign gifts were given to give credence to those receiving God’s message, it is safe to assume that the sign gifts have also ceased.”

People who hold to the stance that the miracles still continue today point to the fact that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8) so He would certainly still continue to distribute gifts via the Spirit. However, the bible shows us that some miracles He performed will never be repeated. (source)

  • Creation – Gen. 1,2 (cf. 2:1,2)
  • The flood of Noah’s day – Gen 6-9
  • The virgin birth – Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35
  • Jesus’ resurrection
  • The work of apostles living on earth (Acts 1:21,22)

So does that mean Jesus is different today than He was yesterday? No.

I am of the opinion the miracle gifts of languages, healings, prophecy, interpretation of languages and sundry miracles have mostly ceased- in believers. I believe that God still performs them or at least he can still perform them. I hold this opinion because of my high regard for the closed canon of the bible. It is God’s word and in it He said that no one is to add to it nor take away from it. Additional revelation, such as when Beth Moore says she was lifted up into another dimension, shown things by Jesus through His eyes, and sent back down to teach them, I believe are false.

If we believe Moore, and the myriad other people who claim to have a prophecy or a revelation or a miracle, where does it stop? It doesn’t. It is chaos. These modern “revelations” have the exact characteristics of false prophecy, not true prophecy. Falsity brings chaos, and that is exactly what we have today in the believing church. Chaos. [Here is a good series on the topic: Miracles and Spiritual Gifts]

John MacArthur is a cessationist who wrote a book called Charismatic Chaos, based on a preaching series he did. I recommend it.

So what about all the hubbub we see in the church of hearing a word from God, or the tongues, or miracles of healing we see on TV and in charismatic or Pentecostal revivals?

Benny Hinn crusade, Nashville?,people “slain in the Spirit”

Do you wonder about being Spirit-filled, or being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” as a separate event from the regenerating work? And what about “praying in the Spirit”? What is that all about? And what is it to speak in tongues? More on that next.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Part 2: Tongues
Part 3: Baptism of the Spirit

Posted in bible jesus, miracles, rapture

A comment on miracles

Today’s people want miracles. They want fabulous signs and wonders, and flock to places where they think God is performing them. I happen to believe that once the scriptures were closed that the signs and miracles all but ceased. God used the signs and wonders through His designated apostles (the 12 plus Paul) to authenticate the performer of those miracles as being from God. Acts 2:22 says, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance”. Hebrews 2:4 says of the Gospel, “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”

Once the canon was set, once the apostles were dead, the signs ceased, because we now had the miracle of God revealed in His closed Word. In my opinion that is why we don’t see the large swathe of validated miracles and signs occurring today.

I’d like to make a distinction about the Tribulation. During that 7-year judgment period, there will be signs, wonders, and miracles. Many will be false (Matthew 24:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). Some of them will be true: (Revelation 11:1-6; Revelation 14:6-9). The very judgments themselves will be miracles, in that the laws of physics will be set aside and magnificent but deadly miracles will occur such as oceans turning to blood and 100 pound hailstones, and a sun that goes dark.

But between the period of the close of the canon and the death of the original apostles, and the tribulation, showy miracles have all but ended. In His wisdom here and there the Lord may certainly perform a sign in His sovereign will. In Mark 8:12 Jesus signed deeply and asked of the people, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” He was saying that their belief rested in the show and not in faith. It is like that today.

Back to the clamor for miracles. In the ever-questioning God’s authority, emergent church, counter-reformation, ‘God spoke to me’ generation, they want a show. They desire a sign that will confirm the faith. But I remind us all, we overlook the miracles every day! There are so many. But they are getting lost in the clamor.

What about the miracle of a sinner repenting and coming to faith? It is the greatest act of a Holy God to draw a sinner to Himself for cleansing in redemption and forgiveness. It never fails to make me cry to see someone set aside the old man and ask Jesus to take over their life. It is a miracle of the Holy Spirit, since no man can make that decision for himself, being completely craven. (John 6:44). What about an adulterous marriage restored through faith and love? It is a miracle, because they chose God as their foundation and not their lusts. What about a teen or youth involved in cults, or cutting, or depressed and suicidal, brought to joy in the Lord after prayer and tearful prayers of the family and church? What about the birth of a child? Each child, formed by the Lord Himself. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13). What about answered prayer? A miracle that we have a God who listens to His people, though he is so High and we are so low. He listens and responds to us. A miracle. These are miracles. I praise the Lord for them all.

The quiet miracles from the Holy Spirit’s work are daily occurring around us. Take some time to thank Him for them. They are just as powerful, if not a more powerful witness to His everlasting love in this deeply fallen world.
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