Charismaticism (VI): Miracles

In the previous five articles on renewalism (Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and neo-Charismaticism), we covered its history (including each of these “three waves” and their precursors) and its peculiar views on the baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophecy. We now conclude with one last feature of the renewalist movement: its claim to perform miracles in the post-apostolic age.

Nature of Miracles in the Bible

The nature of miracles in the Bible, especially the healing miracles, is very different from that of the Charismatics. You could say that the miracles in Scripture specialize in hard cases: demon-possessed people, paralytics, the blind, the lame and even the dead. This makes biblical miracles easy to verify. This is not the case with the so-called healings of the renewalists. C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, states that his healings major in headaches and backaches. How do you verify these “cures”?

Look, for example, at the stark contrast between the unverifiable healings of headaches and backaches, etc., and the miracle recorded in Acts 3-4. In Acts 4:16, after Peter (and John) healed the man who was born lame, the false leaders of the church declared, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.”

Notice how all who came to the apostles to be healed were always healed, as in Acts 5:16: “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one of them.” This is very different from Pentecostal or renewalist healing services, where unhealed folks make their sorry way home after yet another meeting.

There were no relapses for those healed in God’s Word. Compare this with the many poor souls filled with enough adrenalin to get out of their wheelchairs on the stage but a day or two afterwards are no better. Two thousand years after the apostles, there is a world of difference!

If anyone claims to do miracles, the question must be asked, What do they mean by miracles? Do they mean what the Bible means, namely, that all who come for healings are always, verifiably, completely and immediately healed of various and serious afflictions, without any relapses or remuneration for the healer or anything designed to whip up the crowd or play on their emotions? [1] Scriptural miracles are the standard, the benchmark. All that falls short is fraudulent and spurious, and must be rejected by God’s people.

Workers of Miracles in the Bible

Whom does God use to work miracles after Pentecost? In 2 Corinthians 12:12, miracles, “signs, and wonders,” are called, not the signs of believers, nor the signs of specially anointed or baptized saints, but “the signs of an apostle.” This is also what you discover when you go through the book of Acts. Acts 2:43 and 5:12 clearly state that it was the apostles who performed miracles. The apostle Peter heals the lame man in Acts 3. In Acts 5, God slays Ananias and Sapphira at Peter’s word —you do not hear much from renewalists claiming that sort of miracle! Peter heals paralyzed Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead in Acts 9. Paul performs various miracles in Acts 13-28.

There are three other individuals who were not apostles who did miracles. First, Philip wrought miracles in Acts 8 but he was an evangelist (Acts 21:8)— another extraordinary, temporary office—and he was ordained as a deacon by apostles (Acts 6:5-6). Second, Stephen performed miracles (Acts 6:8). He was also deacon who was ordained by an apostle (Acts 6:5-6) and the first Christian martyr (Acts 7). In that he wrought miracles, God especially stamped him as the first one after Pentecost to give up his life for Jesus Christ. Third, Ananias in Acts 9 wrought a miracle but he was a prophet, for he received a vision in which Christ spoke to him. This miracle was unusual, too, in that Christ had earlier struck Paul blind on the Damascus Road and then He sent the prophet Ananias to Paul to restore to the apostle his sight. There are no prophets today, as my previous article proved.

1 Corinthians 12 may seem to indicate that some outside of the extraordinary offices in Corinth wrought miracles, yet we note that this is in the apostolic age and that the apostle Paul himself was the founder of this church (Acts 18; 1 Corinthians 3). Moreover, in Paul’s next epistle to the Corinthians, he refers to miracles as “signs of an apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12) because they were performed in the apostolic age: 1) by apostles or 2) on apostles (e.g., Acts 9) or 3) by prophets, who functioned alongside apostles (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11), or 4) by evangelists, who were apostolic helpers (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5), or 5) by those ordained by apostles.

Miracles in the False Church

Another point must be made with respect to miracles. Nowhere in the Bible do we have predictions or promises of the saints working miracles in post-apostolic days. Nor does God’s Word present a future in which the true church will work some miracles and the false church will too. Although there are passages to which some people will appeal, Scripture clearly predicts miracles in the line of the development of the false church alone.

In Matthew 24:24, false Christs and false prophets will work great signs and wonders (cf. Mark 13:22). According to 2 Thessalonians 2:9, mighty miracles will be performed by the man of sin. In Revelation 13, 16 and 19, the miracles are wrought by the false prophet in the service of the beast.

The Bible also teaches that the mystery of iniquity, which is the spirit of Antichrist, was working already in the first century and keeps working through the millennia to bring forth the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:7; 1 John 2:18). The line of false miracles runs in the development of apostate Christianity.

You can see this, too, if you read church history, as we saw in my second article in this series entitled “The Precursors of Modern Charismatic Christianity.” The Montanists, the abundance of false miracles in the Dark Ages, the Anabaptists, the French Prophets, Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church, and the church of Rome today (especially with her Marian miracles) and modern renewalism—all prepare the way for the greatest anti- Christian miracle worker of all time, Antichrist. That great man of sin will perform real, mighty miracles, unlike much of the weak, deceptive miracles in Charismatic and Romanist circles.

Conclusion

I could highlight, and expand upon, other problems connected with renewalism but I will only briefly mention some of them.

Prosperity theology, also known as the health and wealth gospel, came out of renewalism and retains its distinctive false teachings. Scripture tells us that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), yet in the health and wealth movement that is preached as the gospel!

Renewalism boasts in horrendous, unbiblical worship practices (especially people falling backwards and doing “carpet time,” and adults uttering gibberish in religious services), which are far from, and diametrically opposed to, the regulative principle of worship (cf. Leveticus 10:1-2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Isaiah 1:12; Matthew 15:5-9; John 4:24).

The false ecumenism of renewalism is well-known. The Pope even invited a charismatic contingent to Vatican II (1962-1965). Idolatrous bodies have a way of seeking each other out and working together!

Then there are the Modalist renewalists: those Pentecostals and Charismatics who reject the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity and especially deny the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit. Even with their heretical views of the Holy Spirit, they can still receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” they can still “speak in tongues,” they can still utter “prophecies” and they can still perform “miracles,” just like the other renewalists! It makes no difference. Apparently believing the truth concerning the Holy Spirit does not matter when it comes to His “gifts.”

In his very helpful book, The Theology of the Holy Spirit, Frederick Bruner observes that, in his analysis of the doctrine of the renewalists, the theologian he found most helpful was Martin Luther. [2] Why? Because Luther deeply grasped salvation in Christ alone through grace alone by faith alone to the glory of God alone according to Scripture alone.

It was Luther who issued the famous rebuke to the Anabaptists, the charismatics of his day: “I slap your spirit on the snout.” Think about it. What well-known animal has a snout? A pig, an unclean beast in the Old Testament. Luther was declaring, “Your spirit is an unclean spirit and I slap it— hard.” Remember also Luther’s prayer. He besought his heavenly Father that He would fill him with His Word alone and that God would never, ever, give him visions or direct revelation but would make him blessedly content with, and rich in, sacred Scripture alone! Luther’s scriptural and spiritual desires, prayers, contentment and warfare should be ours too!

REFERENCES:
[1] Cf. Angus Stewart, “Eight Facts Regarding Biblical Healings” (www. cprf.co.uk/articles/healings.html)
[2] Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 344.

Written by: Pastor Angus Stewart | Issue 39

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