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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Charismaticism (V): Ongoing Prophecy

Having surveyed the history and precursors of modern renewalism (Pentecostalism,         Charismaticism and Neo-Charismaticism) and discussed two major aberrations of this movement (the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues), we now come to prophecy. By prophecy, renewalists are not simply referring to quotations from the Bible or explanations and applications of Scripture. By prophecy, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics mean utterances in the post-apostolic era which they claim are direct revelations from God. So what should Christians, and especially Reformed believers, make of all this? Three tests regarding ongoing prophecy are set forth below, as well as the answers to two evasions.

Test 1

Test one involves asking, and getting answers to, these sorts of questions: Have you heard teaching by a modern prophet which is contrary to the Bible’s teaching? Do renewalist prophecies contain false predictions? Do you know of a prophecy which was contradicted by events? One brother I know asked these questions to many renewalists and all of the people with whom he spoke said, “Yes!” What a damning indictment!

David Wilkerson, an Anglican Charismatic, predicted in 1972 that within the next twelve months the Berlin Wall would fall. But it fell 17 years later, in 1989! What did the church do in that instance? What did the church do in the many other instances where renewalist predictions have been proven false? If not in all cases, at least in the vast majority of them, Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations do absolutely nothing by way of church discipline. So much for the third mark of a true church (Belgic Confession 29)!

Deuteronomy 18:22 declares, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Regarding a prophet who makes a prediction which does not happen, “that prophet shall   die”   (v.   20).   1 Corinthians 5 tells us that the New Testament equivalent is excommunication. Has anyone heard of a Pentecostal being excommunicated because his or her prophecies were not fulfilled? Perhaps such a thing occasionally happens but if so it is exceedingly rare!

The Kansas City Prophets maintain that, if two-thirds of their prophecies come true, that is “pretty good”, for that is a lot higher than it has ever been up until then! All the Kansas City Prophets have admitted that they have made predictions which did not come to pass. The Charismatic John White, who prophesied that he was going to live but subsequently died, said that, since we are all human beings, modern prophets will make mistakes in their predictions (even though God is speaking through them)!

Do you know how many false prophecies it takes to reveal a person as a false prophet? One! Just one! Anyone who utters a single false prediction in God’s name and remains impenitent should be excommunicated as a liar and a false prophet.

Test 2

Imagine a Pentecostal prophet who makes a prediction that actually happens. However, the one who predicted it teaches false doctrine. How do we evaluate such a thing?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 deals with this and so provides us with our second test. Verse 1 speaks of a prophet who performs “a sign or a wonder” which comes to pass (v. 2). But this prophet also teaches false doctrine (v. 2). Even though his sign or wonder or prediction came to pass, he too is to be put to death as a false prophet (v. 5) or, in New Testament terms, excommunicated.

Deuteronomy 13 explains that God’s purpose in all this is to test His professing people. If you really love God with all your heart and keep His commandments, even though someone does wonderful signs, because he teaches false doctrine, you must renounce him and excommunicate him (vv. 3-5).

If tomorrow morning’s newspapers carry accounts of remarkable prognostications by the Pentecostals that have been fulfilled—let us say, the nation’s capital is destroyed by an earthquake and prophets from a Pentecostal assembly had predicted this—we still would not receive them as Christ’s messengers. Why? Because mixed in with their proclamations comes Arminian free-willism and other false doctrine. God would thereby be testing you: “Do you love me? Do you love the truth? Or are you more interested in the signs and wonders of a false church?”

Test 3

To go further, here is a third test. Let us say, for sake of argument, that there is a man who claims to be a Christian prophet and who makes predictions that always come to pass and who teaches orthodox doctrines. What would you do then? You ought to remember Ephesians 2:20, which states that “the apostles and prophets” are “the foundation” of Christ’s church. This foundation was laid in the first century and, being a foundation, can never again be re-laid or augmented! The doctrine of the apostles and prophets, the foundation, is found in the complete, sufficient, inerrant and infallible Word of God.

Therefore, whether or not an extra- biblical prediction comes to pass, and whether or not their other doctrines are orthodox, any person who claims to be a prophet who receives direct revelation from the Lord is, by definition, a liar and a false prophet. Why? Because God is no longer giving direct revelation, since He has already laid the foundation of His church in the Holy Scriptures He delivered by the apostles and prophets whom He sent almost 2,000 years ago!

Two Evasions

There are two main attempts to wriggle out of this. The first evasion is the claim that there are two types of prophecy: inerrant and infallible prophecy found in the Bible, and fallible and errant modern prophecy which can and does include mistakes. This is the teaching of Wayne Grudem, amongst others.

This ought to strike you as a wretched argument, one to which the renewalists have been driven simply because they know (and practically everybody else knows) that there are numerous failed prophecies in the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neo-Charismatic movements. Direct revelation from God is, by definition, authoritative, inerrant and infallible, for He is the God of truth who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), unlike the renewalist prophets and their apologists.

The second evasion—and this one is   increasingly   popular—is   that God speaks today to unevangelized heathen (especially, it would appear, to Muslims) by dreams or visions. A number of former Muslims have said that Christ appeared to them in their Islamic lands in a dream or vision and told them to go to such and such a place to hear God’s Word from such and such a church or person.

There are even a number of Presbyterian and Reformed people who accept their claims. For some of these Protestants, this is the start of their own descent to Pentecostalism or Charismaticism, while for others, at the very least, it weakens their grasp of the truth of the sufficiency of Scripture and their opposition to the heresy of ongoing revelation.

Setting aside questions about the sort of church or Christian (whether true or false) these Muslims went to, and to what sort of Jesus they were converted (whether the true Christ or a false Christ), we deny that God gives direct revelation through dreams or visions, even to unevangelized heathen, even in Islamic countries. We do this because receiving a revelatory dream or vision from God, especially one that does not declare divine judgment upon the recipient (cf. Daniel 2; 4), constitutes a person as a prophet.

A prophet has two aspects to his office. First, he receives direct revelation from God and, second, he passes it on to the people. But the extraordinary office of a prophet has ceased since it was a temporary office involved in the laying of the foundation of the New Testament church (Ephesians 2:20). Today, instead, we have the ordinary office of prophet included in the office of believer. This is a permanent office given to all Christians, in which we search the Scriptures and by the Spirit know the mind of Jesus Christ, and then speak of Him to others.

What we need today is not false prophets or false prophecies but the proper exercise of the believer’s office as prophet, so that he hears, loves, obeys and witnesses of Jesus Christ, as He is set forth in Scripture and through the faithful preaching of His gospel by true ministers in their office of pastor or teacher. Where love for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is lost, there is a congregation or an individual wide open to renewalism. Where love for God, His Christ and His Word is strong, the church is based solidly on the only true foundation and so is totally uninterested in the siren song of false prophets and ongoing prophecy!

Written by: Pastor Angus Stewart | Issue 38

Charismaticism (IV): Speaking in Tongues

Having considered the three waves of Charismatic Christianity, the precursors of modern Charismatic Christianity and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, we come to tongue speaking. Let us be clear, first of all, that tongues in the Bible are not gibberish—my deliberately pejorative term for the gobbledegook of Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and Neo-Charistmaticism, also known collectively as renewalism. The tongues in Acts and I Corinthians are real human languages.

Acts

Let us prove this from Acts 2, by looking, first, at the words used. Verse 4 says that those in the upper room “began to speak with other tongues”. The Greek for “tongues” here is glossa, which is, first, that organ in the mouth by which we speak and, second, the language which is spoken by it. In verse 6, we read that “every man heard them speak in his own language”, with “language” being the Greek dialektos, from which we get the English word “dialect”. “Tongue” and “dialect” are used interchangeably for the “tongues” (glossa) that were spoken by those in the upper room and were heard by the people in their own “languages” (dialektos) (vv. 4, 6). Verse 8 contains the question: “How hear we every man in our own tongue [dialektos]?” Verse 11 states, “we do hear them speak in our tongues [glossa] the wonderful works of God.” Clearly, “tongues” (glossa) and “dialects” (dialektos) are used interchangeably in Acts 2:4, 6, 8 and 11.

Second, we know that these are real human languages, along the lines of French or Javanese or Swahili, etc., because this is the explanation given in the passage:

And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue [dialektos], wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia … (Acts 2:7-9).

Third, verse 11 states that the people heard in their own “tongues” (glossa) or languages “the wonderful works of God.” However, this is not what we do hear from renewalists. We do not hear the wonderful works of God when they talk gibberish; we do not hear the wonderful works of God for most of their churches side-line preaching; we do not hear the wonderful works of God in their customarily shallow, non- exegetical, Arminian sermons. Their false doctrine and practice regarding the Holy Spirit (including their view of “tongue speaking”) grieves the Spirit, who is the only one who enables pastors faithfully to preach, explain and apply the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:7-8).

With the tongues in Acts 2 being real human languages, we are in a position to understand the tongue speaking mentioned in Acts 10 and 19, and inferred in Acts 8. The tongues there are the same as the foreign human languages in Acts 2. This is precisely the point of the book of Acts. Those in Acts 2 speak in foreign tongues as a sign that the ascended Christ has now poured out His Holy Spirit on His church and that the church is catholic or universal, embracing all the nations. Later, the Samaritans (Acts 8), the Gentiles (Acts 10) and the disciples of John the Baptist who had not received the full New Testament blessings (Acts 19) also speak in foreign languages or tongues, as a sign that all believers, Jews and Gentiles, are embraced in the New Testament church of Jesus Christ. This confounds the notion of tongue speaking as gibberish in the book of Acts, along with the idea that speaking gobbledegook is evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 14

The tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 are also real human languages and not gibberish. Isaiah 28:11-12 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:21: “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” The argument here is that Israel was so wicked that the prophets who came to speak to them in Hebrew were despised and their message was rejected. Therefore, God said, in effect, “You will not hearken to Me speaking My Word through My messengers in Hebrew, so I will make you sit up and listen. I will send the Assyrians and when you find yourself carted away to a strange country and surrounded by enemy soldiers, speaking a language that you do not understand, then you will know that I have punished you for your sins, as My prophets predicted.” 1 Corinthians 14:22 points out that this is a “sign,” a sign of judgment upon Israel. Now, in the New Testament, tongue speaking is God’s judgment upon unbelieving Judaism and a sign of the catholicity of Christ’s church. Thus, 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 identifies the nature of the tongues spoken of in this chapter as real human languages.

1 Corinthians 14:7 refers to a sort of language that is played with a musical instrument. We call it a tune and it is noticeably different from the banging of little children on a piano. Verse 8 talks about a trumpet, which must give a definite sound to be recognised as a summons to battle. Verse 9 makes a comparison: as with musical instruments, such as a harp or a trumpet, so with the human voice for unless you speak words that people can understand, a real human language, you may as well be speaking into the air.

The same thing is taught in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11. There are many sorts of voices in the world and none without signification or meaning (v.10). If someone came to a Greek man speaking a foreign language that he did not know, he would think of him as a barbarian, i.e., someone who is saying, “Bar, bar, bar,” the origin of the word “barbarian” (v. 11). The Greek heard sounds but he did not know what the other was saying. Yet an ancient Greek would have recognised that the barbarian was at least uttering a real language, unlike the crazy sounds uttered by the modern renewalists!

Charismatics appeal to the word “mysteries” in 1 Corinthians 14:2, which are uttered by the person speaking in tongues. But “mystery” in the Bible never means gobbledegook. The word “mystery” in Scripture refers to the great truths of the redemption centred in the cross of Jesus Christ, which were formerly hidden in God and which are now revealed by the Spirit through His prophets to the catholic church of both Jews and Gentiles (e.g., Matthew 13:11; Romans 11:25; 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:3-9; Colossians 1:26-27; 1 Timothy 3:16).

Madness

What is called tongue speaking in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neo- Charismatic circles is one of the biggest shams and greatest follies in the 2,000 years of the history of apostasy in the Christian church—and that is saying something! For renewalists, gibberish is the height of piety. It is viewed as the special prayer language that even the devil cannot stop as it ascends up to God. It is seen as a wonderful divine gift to be desired and earnestly sought.

Renewalist tongue speaking, consisting of the sort of sounds that people make to babies, is the folly to which God in His holy justice has reduced that apostate movement. We train our children to speak a language properly but the Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics train adults to speak gibberish like infants. Their tongue speaking is not a divine gift; it is a learned or imitated behaviour. People are taught by renewalists, “Do not analyse this with your proud mind. Let go of your tongue, let it rattle around your mouth and let sounds pop out. Isn’t that a wonderful gift; God is so good!” Yet tongue speaking (gibberish) is also found among non-Christians around the world. There are Mormons who speak in tongues, as well as Tibetan monks, Roman Catholics and Islamic whirling dervishes—there are even unbelieving Eskimos who speak gobbledegook in tongues!

There is no spiritual growth through tongue speaking because, as 1 Corinthians 14 underscores repeatedly, edification requires understanding (vv. 2-6, 12-19, 26-28). Christ prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17), yet tongue speakers deliberately bypass the mind. These powerful words are in the last canonical verse penned by the apostle Peter: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The “and” in this passage is a hendiadys having the force of “through:” “But grow in grace, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” If Satan can get a group of professing Christians to come together to jabber like idiots, then he has achieved his purpose.

The Holy Spirit declares, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues [i.e., other languages, as we have shown], and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Corinthians 14:23). It is even worse if a body of professing Christians, instead of uttering real foreign languages, babbles like babies. Thus, renewalist tongue speaking is a terrible witness to non-Christians, making them think that followers of Jesus Christ are crazy!

On the other hand, the ability to speak more than one language is of great value in the service of the catholicity of Christ’s church. Today, the means of acquiring such tongues is not a miraculous one, as it was in Acts 2. It is by hard work and study, just like any other intellectual endeavour, as Solomon said, “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). With the use of more than one language, people can translate Reformed creeds, books and pamphlets into other tongues. These can be published on the printed page and on the internet—a subject dear to my own heart (see http://www.cprf.co.uk/ languages.htm). Work such as this is of far more value for the kingdom of heaven than all the gibberish spoken by all the renewalists all around the world for a hundred years.

Foreign languages are also crucial in missions. There are some 6,700 languages in the world. The Gospel cannot reach and save people from all the languages of the world without missionaries learning their tongues and bringing them God’s truth. Christ will not return until people of every kindred and nation and tongue have been saved. That is the significance of tongues for us today: the church must pray for, and labour in, the spread of the gospel of Christ in every language of the world.

Written by: Pastor Angus Stewart  | Issue 37