Posted in discernment, jesus, spiritual gifts, tongues

Be children in mischief, adults in righteousness

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

Childlishly enthused with his new toy,
Opie killed the mama bird, leaving 3 orphans

Here, Paul is admonishing the Corinthians for over-valuing tongues (glossolalia). The church was entranced by the ‘show’ of tongues and interpretation of tongues.They had become unduly entranced by this next ‘shiny new thing’ (kind of like a mega-pastor with a fog machine or a boy with a new slingshot).

Pulpit Commentary says-

The Christian should always be childlike (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 19:4), but never childish (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14).

Good advice. To often in this day and age, pastors leave one fad to leap on the next so as to appear relevant. Surfing from Jabez Rugs to Daniel Fasts, Courageous Resolutions to Love Dares, Promise Keepers to Beth Moore bracelets, Be Still to Labyrinths, Seeker Sensitive to Emergent, tongues to healings, it often leaves out the most important: JESUS. Pastor Phil Johnson speaks harshly about the Flaws of a Fad Driven Church. A Charismatic fascination with tongues had swerved the Corinthian Church from its underpinnings and caused all sorts of divisive issues.

Going further, Gill’s Exposition says,

The apostle here has chiefly reference to the gift of speaking with tongues, these Corinthians were so desirous of; which when they had it, was only to talk like children; and for them to prefer it to other gifts, which were more useful and beneficial, discovered their judgment to be but the judgment of children; and if they desired this, and made use of it for ostentation, it showed a childish vanity, from which the apostle here dissuades.

Matthew Henry says –

Children are apt to be struck with novelty and strange appearances. They are taken with an outward show, without enquiring into the true nature and worth of things. Do not you act like them, and prefer noise and show to worth and substance; show a greater ripeness of judgment, and act a more manly part; be like children in nothing but an innocent and inoffensive disposition. A double rebuke is couched in this passage, both of their pride upon account of their gifts, and their arrogance and haughtiness towards each other, and the contests and quarrels proceeding from them.

Note, Christians should be harmless and inoffensive as children, void of all guile and malice; but should have wisdom and knowledge that are ripe and mature. They should not be unskilful in the word of righteousness (Heb. 5:13), though they should be unskilful in all the arts of mischief.

In today’s cluttered world, there are many things that compete for attention. In the Church it is the same. Fads, things that seem good or even biblical, are simply stumbling blocks. It’s hard to understand how a Spiritual Gift could be one of those stumbling blocks, but this simply proves that satan can make hay out of anything. He made a piece of fruit Eve saw every day look so good that Eve was drooling over it and with her husband caused the downfall of man! Disobedience can come anywhere at anytime.

The childish mischief is complicated but the solution is simple. Jesus. Stay in your word, stay praying, stay streamlined in your quiet time. Strip away the clutter, lay aside every weight, focus on the Holy One.

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 charismatic, macarthur, strange fire, tongues

Strange Fire: Final thoughts

John MacArthur/Grace Community Church hosted a major conference last week called Strange Fire. Its title is taken from the verses in Leviticus 10:1-3, where Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the LORD and they were killed by the LORD for it.

Strange Fire proclaimed truth
and the truth divides, Luke 12:51

The catalyst for the conference was because the organizers and speakers at Strange Fire had become concerned because of the improper worship offered to the Lord in the Holy Spirit’s name, in the form of the ever-growing Charismatic movement. This is the movement that has an expanding umbrella of false doctrines under it of Prosperity Gospel, miracles, tongues, healings, personal revelation, visions, intuition, and other shenanigans which the Charismatics claim are part of legitimate worship. The conference was held so that the men who were asked to speak could deliberately identify this movement as false and offer biblical reasons why. It was also intended to identify the true body of Christ, so that the body may be educated and the lost in this terrible movement be evangelized. Finally, it was to call out the leaders of both the Charismatic movement and the evangelical movement to step up and stand against it.

The conference was held on Wed-Thu-Fri Oct 16-17-18, and closed Sunday morning Oct 20 with a final message by Dr MacArthur at the Grace Community Church Lord’s Day morning service. I watched some live as it was happening, and some on YouTube when I got home from work each night. I saw the opening and closing sermon by Dr MacArthur, Phil Johnson’s stunning Baby in the Bathwater sermon, Tom Pennington’s case for cessationism, MacArthur’s address regarding the objections to having the conference, and Dr Steve Lawson’s brilliant sermon on the Puritans and cessationism. I also watched two Q&As, and the music worship. It was all great.

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men. Isaiah 29:13.It’s been two days now since the final address by MacArthur, and my head and heart have had time to settle. The dust is now settling a bit also. The reaction to this conference was extreme. Twitter and blogs lit up with comments of all kinds, from support and thanks to hyperbole and incendiary fury. The Pope got involved. Christian and secular news reported on it. Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald, two men who lead churches, crashed the conference and then whipped up even more anger because they failed to be totally honest about what happened when they arrived. Accusations flew and theological battle lines were drawn. Phew.

It was sad to see such reactions but in another way, it was good. If you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target, goes the old saying. It’s encouraging because I know that the Spirit was with the men of that conference and Jesus was honored by the truth being proclaimed.

The hyperbole is mostly on the side of people who disagree with the Strange Fire conference, either its existence or the content. The men who spoke at the Strange Fire conference were not hyperbolic, but spoke biblically in clarity, confidence and firmness, in love. Multitudes were edified, and said so.

Strange Fire: drew out men of faith.
It also drew out the faithless. Jo 8:32.

In fact, there is always hyperbole, division, and linguistic ruckus when the truth is proclaimed. Always. The fact that there IS such a ruckus is not indicative of a lack of work via the Holy Spirit, as some claim. To me, it is assurance that the Holy Spirit IS working. If we can take a look at the bible, Jesus spoke “hard sayings” and many left Him. Did He do it wrong? The Pharisees went hyperbolic over what Jesus was teaching, was the Holy Spirit not present?

In all that hullaballoo last week, there was one simple truth that was biblically explained time and again: the miracle sign gifts have ceased. The canon is closed. God is not speaking. Opening one’s self even one millimeter to the possibility of any of those things opens one’s faith to shipwreck, where it is heading for millions who believe they are experiencing visions and healings and miracles and tongues from the Holy Spirit, when it is really the devil.

This assertion inflamed millions, who hold that with half a billion people in the Charismatic movement they all can’t be wrong. LOL, by that standard, numbers, can a billion Muslims be wrong? A billion Catholics? Yes, and yes. And yes that many Charismatic people can be wrong too.

Both the number of heated reactions and the number of people involved in this false movement are staggering. It opened my eyes once again to the unfortunate fact of the proportions in the bible. There are many who are on the broad road, there are few on the narrow. Apostasy is on the rise so fast it is staggering.

CARM.org defines apostasy as “the falling away from the Christian faith. It is a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer. It can also describe a group or church organization that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible.”

The Charismatics who believe in the things they believe (as discussed at Strange Fire) have fallen away from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the bible. It is depressing to see how many are drawn away.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” (1 Timothy 4:1)

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

I was heartbroken to hear that half a billion people are drawn away from a sincere devotion to Christ and instead are pursuing ecstatic experiences that look and likely are demonic. In Dr MacArthur’s final sermon at the conference, which was Sunday morning, he said that no conference of that sort would be complete without addressing the likely end of people who defect from the faith, these defectors are the ones who don’t know they have defected and they plead with Jesus on His Day. Matthew 7:22 has it–

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'”

And grievously, the Lord will send them away, saying they are evil workers of iniquity and He never knew them. MacArthur noted that the list of works they use to plead their case are the exact list that the Charismatics insist are a work of the Spirit today: prophesyings, (and visions) demon deliverance, and miracles. The Charismatic movement as described at Strange Fire is indicative of apostasy.

This rising apostasy reminded me of a famous Japanese woodblock print called The Great Wave.

Wikipedia explains, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai. An example of ukiyo-e art, it was published sometime between 1830 and 1833 (during the Edo Period). This particular woodblock is one of the most recognized works of Japanese art in the world. It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats near the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture’s title notes, more likely to be a large okinami – literally “wave of the open sea.” (source)

The foam at the top of the wave look like claws, ready to devour the helpless rowers underneath. That is apostasy, the lion prowling with claws ready to devour the helpless and hapless. By its very nature, the Charismatic movement opens scripture to additions, and this make a shipwreck of people and their faith.

In his book Toward An Exegetical Theology, Walter Kaiser wrote 34 years ago,

It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food”; all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and Biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their physical bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)

There will be a lot of good that will come from the conference, there always is with the Holy Spirit. Men were edified. Truth was taught. Praise and honor to the Lord was given. People clarified their positions, on both sides. And in a seemingly negative good is that it showed just how apostate so many really are. The Lord said that before He returns there will be a rebellion against the faith, a falling away from it.

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

“I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26).

The Lord WILL be glorified. With all the words that have been said and will be said, there is only one goal. Worship the Lord properly. Glorify Him in Spirit and in TRUTH.

“All the nations — and you made each one — will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your great and holy name. For you are great and perform great miracles. You alone are God.” (Psalm 86:9-10)

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