Archive for the 'Holy Spirit' Category

Tongues and the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Image result for free clipart fire public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is an important doctrine of leading Pentecostal denominations that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. You will encounter it in the Assemblies of God (USA), which is now called the Australian Christian Churches in Australia, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (5.6.3), the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa (Confession of Faith), Elim Pentecostal Church (UK), and other Pentecostal denominations.

The Australian Christian Churches statement is (4.13 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit):

We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the bestowing of the believer with power to be an effective witness for Christ. This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the new birth; is received by faith, and is accompanied by the manifestation of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, as the initial evidence (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4; 8:15-19; 11:14-17; 19:1-7).

A. Promotion of tongues and Holy Spirit baptism

A Pentecostal believer and advocate online wrote of ‘those who have actually received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as depicted in Scriptures’ and he placed himself in that category.[1]

I have not reached that conclusion in my study of Scripture, so I responded as follows:[2]

I expect that there could be people on this forum (and I’m one of them) who would not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. Your view is thus encouraging at least two types of Christians: Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, but the Pentecostals have the superior biblical experience of the Holy Spirit.

I have addressed some of these issues in my articles:

clip_image002 Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image002[1] Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

His reply to this was:

There is no doubt that there are people here who do not believe that speaking in tongues and see initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I for one used to be one of those, even though I experienced the contrary. It took me years and studying this to arrive at my current point of view. If you read Acts and all the events of the baptism of the Holy Spirit you will note that all but one of them mention that the receivers spoke in tongues. The one that doesn’t explicitly state that does state that, “when they saw they had received the Holy Spirit”, implies that there was and outward sign. As tongues of fire was only ever recounted in Acts 2:4, we must assume that the outward sign was the speaking in tongues. I’ll leave it up to you to do the reading.[3]

This is a fairly standard response from Pentecostals. My rejoinder was:[4]

I have presented my evidence to refute your view of tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in, Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The evidence from Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:2-7 demonstrates the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early church (with tongues) was fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. The Pentecostal requirement of everyone since Acts 2:4 to speak in tongues as initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not consistent with what the Scriptures teach.

According to Acts 8:14-24 in Samaria, when the believers received the Holy Spirit, Simon the sorcerer ‘saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money’ (Acts 8:18). This states he ‘saw’ something that accompanied the receipt of the Spirit. One can infer that it may have been tongues that he heard, but there is no definitive statement that says such in this context.

B. Is tongues the initial physical evidence taught in 1 Corinthians?

Image result for free clipart fire public domainFor me, the definitive moment in my understanding of the interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ which is confirmed by the NASB translation: ‘All do not speak with tongues, do they?’

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all. One may argue that in 1 Cor 12-14, the gifts were being discussed and that tongues required the accompanying gift of interpretation (see 1 Cor 14:5, 9-13). The issue still remains: ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ The Greek expects a ‘no’ answer (1 Cor 12:29-30).

Believers in the Christian assembly must strive to edify the other believers (1 Cor 14:3-5). If one speaks in tongues and there is no interpretation, people ‘will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’ (1 Cor 14:11).

C. Tongues not a reasonable requirement

Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect that all people should speak in tongues as the initial physical evidence of a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic church leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: ‘Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit’ (Mallone 1983:90).

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones was no novice in seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit or dealing with Pentecostal-charismatics. He wrote: ‘If the suggestion is made that all who have the baptism of the Spirit must speak in tongues and this is repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues. But the question then arises as to what they are doing…. But all I am concerned about at the moment is that we should never forget the power of suggestion’. In the same exposition, Prove All Things, he also wrote that ‘it is possible for a man to be baptized with the Holy Spirit without ever speaking in tongues, and, indeed, without having some of these other gifts’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:101, 146).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image004(photo of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, courtesy Wikipedia)

One of the greatest biblical expositors of the 20th century who had a profound knowledge of the Word was the late D Martyn Lloyd-Jones.[5] In 2016, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of his home-call (he died on 1 March 1981). Lloyd-Jones had a very different view to you of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. See, ‘Lloyd-Jones on Baptism with the Holy Spirit‘.

It was Lloyd-Jones who stated,

The evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts…. There are people today who say that the baptism with the Spirit is always accompanied by certain particular gifts. It seems to me that the answer of the Scripture is that that is not the case, that you may have a baptism with the Spirit, and a mighty baptism with the Spirit at that, with none of the gifts of tongues, miracles, or various other gifts. No one can dispute the baptism with the Spirit in the case of men like the brothers Wesley and Whitefield and many others, but none of these things happened in connection with them (Lloyd-Jones1985:53).

So am I to cast out Lloyd-Jones’ biblical teaching in favour of your Pentecostal view? Lloyd Jones provides considerable biblical evidence to support his view in Lloyd-Jones (1985).

The Pentecostal with whom I was discussing this theology online was resistant to Lloyd-Jones views, saying:

I don’t agree with Lloyd-Jones conclusions so you can do with him whatever you want. I gave you my perspective in the previous post. You see I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date. This is not a new issue within Pentecostalism. There are indeed two sides to the fence but in Canada and in the U.S. the two major Pentecostal denominations accept and believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism/infilling of the Holy Spirit. To me, that’s enough to know that it is a consensus opinion, and as it is what I see evidence in the scripture I can only concur.[6]

You wouldn’t expect me to let him get away with this misrepresentation, would you? He misrepresented the meaning of ‘consensus opinion’. So, here goes with a refutation, brief though it will be:

E. The Pentecostal consensus opinion

It is NOT a consensus opinion.[7] It is a Pentecostal opinion supported by the Pentecostal denominations such as, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Assemblies of God (A/G), Apostolic Faith Mission South Africa, Elim churches, etc.

There are major Christian denominations around the world that do not accept that view. These include Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites), etc. When you can use ‘consensus opinion’ for 2 denominations, you have redefined consensus. There is NO consensus opinion among the major denominations around the world to make tongues the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

F. Don’t use authors who are ‘way out of date’

Image result for tongues of fire public domainSo this fellow will ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. So do you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant, you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, whose ministry is ‘out of date’ from your perspective. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Luke 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any assembly/church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ – today and down through church history. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have gone before. Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this man’s view!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with this fellow’s ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘. Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’, short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. This really is pathetic that he wants to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His own ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.

Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). This poster excluded them and their influence!

I found his response to be incoherent and making many assumptions that need far more biblical justification than he gave.[8]

G. Conclusion

I found it nigh impossible to have a logical conversation with a Pentecostal, tongues-speaking individual online because of:

# His insistence on a Pentecostal interpretation. It seemed as though he had been indoctrinated into this view. Lloyd-Jones states that when a doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is ‘repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues’ and he likened this to ‘the power of suggestion’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:201).

# He refused to listen to the teaching of people from Christian history. He lives in the here and now and wants nothing to do with Christian authors who are ‘way out of date’. He has no concept of God’s gift of teachers to the church in the past and present.

# I could not have a rational conversation with this person who refused to deal with some of the issues I presented to him. He engaged in several red herring fallacies and then went into his own spin, ignoring my emphases. This is typical of a person who reverts to using a red herring.

# He made ‘consensus opinion’ of tongues as the physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit sound like he was referring to all churches but he confirmed he was only dealing with Pentecostal denominations. As I pointed out, it is not a consensus theology that applies across most denominations.

H. Works consulted

Lloyd-Jones, D M 1985. Prove All Things: The Sovereign Work of the Holy Spirit. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic Church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, StanJ#111, 23 January 2016. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-4 (Accessed 24 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#113.

[3] Ibid., StanJ#122.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#126.

[5] I included this information at ibid., OzSpen#114.

[6] Ibid., StanJ#123.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#127.

[8] See his response at ibid., StanJ#129 & #130.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.

Are Miracles Valuable?

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

 Jack Deere (photo courtesy Holy Spirit Activism)image

By Spencer D Gear

Please note: I preached on this topic at West Bundaberg Baptist Church (Bundaberg, Qld., Australia) on 3 July, 2005 as a topic assigned to me by the pastor.  I commend to you this article, ‘Were Miracles Meant to Be Temporary?’ by Jack Deere, as I am convinced that this chapter from his book, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (1993), very adequately states and refutes most of the main points of cessationism. 

Who, do you think, could have said this? “When we declare the miracles which God has wrought, or will yet work, and which we cannot bring under the very eyes of men, sceptics keep demanding that we shall explain these marvels to reason. And because we cannot do so, inasmuch as they are above human comprehension, they suppose we are speaking falsely.”   Could that be Billy Graham, John MacArthur, Jr. or Benny Hinn?

It was written by St. Augustine who lived in the fourth & fifth centuries [ca. AD 354-430], and was one of the most prominent church leaders in his era (Augustine 2004, City of God, 21.5).
Have you seen a miracle lately?  Do we pray in this church for miracles to happen?  Is it the will of God for miracles to be happening around the world in answer to believing prayer?  What was the last miracle you saw happen to people in this church?

The subject of this article is: “Are miracles valuable?”  We will examine four themes:

1. Can we expect miracles among ordinary Christians today?  (I will contend that miracles are a available for all people of the New Covenant age after Pentecost.)
2. What’s the purpose of miracles?
3. How do we respond to counterfeit miracles?
4. What’s the key to more miracles happening in this church?

Before we expound our subject, we should define the term, “miracle.”

A.  What is a miracle?

Does this definition by J. D. Spiceland make sense?  “The biblical concept of a miracle is that of an event which runs counter to the observed processes of nature” (Spiceland 1984, p. 723).  Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274) stated, “Things that are done occasionally by divine power outside of the usual established order of events are commonly called miracles (wonders)” (1905, 3.100). Sounds reasonable to me.

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, defines it this way: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (1994, p. 355).  I like this one even better and will adopt it here as a guiding definition: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself”.

“The biblical terminology for miracles frequently points to this idea of God’s power at work to arouse people’s wonder and amazement” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).

Three Greek words are used in the Bible relating to miracles:

1. “Sign” (Greek: semeion)

This “means something that points to or indicates something else, especially (with reference to miracles) God’s activity and power” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).

2. “Wonder” (Greek: teras)

This is “an event that  causes people to be amazed or astonished” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).

3. “Miracle” or “mighty work” (Greek: dunamis)

This is “an act displaying great power, especially (with reference to miracles) divine power” (Grudem 1994, p. 356).

a.  Signs & wonders

You will see the combination of “signs and wonders” used to refer to miracles in places like:

Ex. 7:3, But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt (NIV);
Deut. 6:22, Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household (NIV)
Acts 4:30, Peter and John, after being released from prison, prayed,”Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (NIV)
Rom. 15:19, “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God–so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (ESV).


There are many other verses that indicate “signs and wonders.”

b. Signs, wonders and mighty works

In other verses, the three words are used together: mighty works, signs & wonders.

  • Acts 2:22, “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.”
  • Second Cor. 12:12, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.”
  • Heb. 2:3-4, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

But, these kinds of signs, wonders and miracles were performed by God and his prophets in the Old Testament, by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, but …

B. Can we expect miracles among ordinary Christians today?

Many people object to miracles for today.  Some are

1.  Secularists

British agnostic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, wrote:

Agnostics do not think that there is any evidence of ‘miracles’ in the sense of happenings contrary to natural law. . .  As for the records of other miracles, such as Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, the agnostic dismisses them as legends and points to the fact that all religions are plentifully supplied with such legends. There is just as much miraculous evidence for the Greek gods in Homer as for the Christian God in the Bible” (1953).

2.  Liberal theologians and some philosophers

David Strauss, famous German theologian and philosopher, in the 19th century, claimed that in the Bible, an event is unhistorical “when the narration is irreconcileable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events.”  Miracles and prophecies are “considered as not historical” (1860, Introduction 16.I)

John Dominic Crossan, a current Roman Catholic liberal biblical scholar and member of the Jesus Seminar, states, “A miracle is a marvel that someone interprets as a transcendental action or manifestation.” (1998, p. 303).  Then he goes on to say that “Jesus was both healer and exorcist, and his followers considered those actions miracles.  But no single healing or exorcism is securely or fully historical in its present narrative form” (1998, p. 302).  He declares what he really means is: “To claim a miracle is to make an interpretation of faith, not just a statement of fact. . .  I cannot see how miracle status can ever be proved or disproved” (1998, p. 304).

But even among evangelical Christians there are doubters as to the need for miracles today.

3. Some Evangelical Christians

These are people who love the Lord but they have considerable opposition to the idea that God continues to perform miracle. These are only 2 examples

Wayne Jackson, writing in the Christian Courier, states that:

“According to the teaching of the Bible, miracles are not being utilized by God today. They formed a special function in the divine scheme of things, and when their purpose was realized, the Lord suspended his operations via these supernatural phenomena” (2000).

John MacArthur Jr., a leading evangelical Bible teacher today, states:

I am not going to say that God can’t do miracles. God can, and does, whatever He wants to do. If He wants to do something that is against the normal natural law, He will do it. . . Please don’t say that I don’t believe God does miracles — I believe He does. In fact, He does them hour by hour. And the greatest miracle of all is the miracle of the new birth — people created as new creatures in Christ. We are not denying God the power, the desire, or the will to do miracles (n.d.)

But he goes on to say,

People don’t need miracles today, they just need to understand the Word of God. If they won’t believe the Word of God, they won’t believe miracles either. . . miracles had a limited time, only for the early era; limited persons, only the Apostles and prophets and early New Testament preachers; and a limited purpose, only for the confirmation of revelation. They were signposts pointing to God’s revelation, first in the living Word and then in the written Word. Now that the reality is here, we don’t need the sign anymore (n.d.).

4.  I am not convinced by these views.

I do not consider this to be a biblical perspective because the Scriptures convince me that miracles are a characteristic of the entire New Covenant age after the Day of Pentecost.  That includes today.  These are my reasons, briefly:

a. In Mark 9:38-40 we read:

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” 

Jesus is here affirming to John the apostle, that ordinary people can perform a miracle in the Name of Jesus because it is God who is performing the miracles.

b. Let’s go to Jesus again in John 14:12-14 (ESV).

He said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Who is it who will do “the works” that Jesus does and “even greater works than these”?  From the mouth of Jesus: “Anyone who has faith in me.”  He does not say, “Only the apostles and early church leaders until the canon of New Testament Scripture is established.”

But, you may ask, this does not say that “whoever believes in me will also do the miracles, and even greater miracles than I, Jesus, do.”  That is true.  We must understand that the Greek word for “works” (erga) has a broad meaning in John’s Gospel.  Australian New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, states:

Of the 27 times [John] uses the word 18 times he applies it to what Jesus has done.  He uses the term in a variety of ways.  Clearly it applies to the miracles on some occasions, e.g. ‘I did one work and [you] all marvel because thereof’ (John 7:21).  On other occasions it refers to the whole of Jesus’ earthly work, as when He refers in prayer to ‘having accomplished the work which [you have] given me to do’ (John 15:24) (Morris 1971, p. 689). 

Another New Testament expositor, D. A. Carson, confirms the fact that “works” refers to miracles in John 14:12.  He states, “Jesus’ ‘works’ may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them” (1991, p. 495).

What are the “greater works” that those who believe will be available to do?  It can mean greater in nature because what could be greater than resurrection from the dead, walking on water, feeding the 5,000.  The clue is found in John 14: 12, “Because I am going to the Father.”  Jesus was only one supernatural person in one place at a time in the Middle East.  After he died, was resurrected, and ascended to the Father, God’s people of the New Covenant are spread throughout the world.  Greater works of all kinds will be done among the Christian community because the Holy Spirit is now among us and we are spread throughout the world.  When God’s new day dawned at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was set loose among God’s people to do the comprehensive works that Jesus did while on earth – including miracles.

Leon Morris confirms this: “What Jesus means we may see in the narratives of the Acts.  There there are a few miracles of healing, but the emphasis is on the mighty works of conversion” (1971, p. 646).

Because of these direct words of Jesus, I am convinced that anybody who had faith in Jesus Christ is available to be used by Jesus in all his “works”, including signs, wonders, miracles and proclamation of the Gospel that leads to supernatural conversions to Christ.

c. Some of you might wonder why I don’t use Mark 16: 17-18 as the most obvious support for miracles today.

These verses read:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

I don’t use these verses because Mark 16:9-20 is not in the oldest manuscripts of the NT.  You’ll find them in the KJV because it is based on Byzantine manuscripts that are much later than that for modern translations, which follow the Alexandrian text of the NT.  For example, my edition of the NIV states before Mark 16:9, “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.”  I am convinced by the manuscript evidence that Mark 16:9-20 was not in the earliest and best manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel.

However, these verses of Mark 16 were a teaching of the early church after Mark’s Gospel was written and were somehow inserted by later copyists.  This suggests it was included in the teaching of the later church. This we do know: John 14:12-14 is most certainly in the earliest Alexandrian manuscripts and it teaches essentially the same as Mark 16:17-18.

Let’s go to other reasons for being convinced that God performs miracles today.

d. In John 3:2,

Nicodemus recognised this about Jesus that “no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

e. In Acts 2:22,

Peter proclaims that “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.”

f. Acts 2:43 states:

“Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”  So are miracles only available to be performed by the apostles?  Not so, according to Jesus in John 14.

g. Gal. 3:5 reads,

“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”  Paul, the apostle, is here assuming that the church of Galatia, where there was no apostle, were seeing evidence of miracles among them.

h. I Cor. 12:7 teaches,

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  Then go on to I Cor. 12:9-10 and we read that “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers. . .”  Here we see the the manifestation of the Holy Spirit given to all churches since the Day of Pentecost has included “gifts of healing by that one Spirit” and the gift of “miraculous powers.”

i. I Cor. 12:28,

“in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles . . .”  Those who were gifts to the church included “workers of miracles.”   While these verses are directed to the Church at Corintha, we know from 12:7 that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” where?  In all churches throughout the ages, and miracles are included.

A characteristic of the New Testament church is that healings, miracles and other gifts of the Holy Spirit are available today.  Miracles are available for people of the New Covenant age after Pentecost.  That includes us today.

C. Is there any evidence of God performing miracles after the close of  the New Testament Scriptures?

Recently I have been reading on the www a book from which I have only read bits and pieces over the years.  I’m speaking of St. Augustine’s, The City of God.  He completed it in AD 426, towards the end of his life (Kelsey 1973, p. 185).  Augustine has been called, “not only the greatest theologian of the early Middle Ages but [also] one of the greatest of all time” (Geisler 2002, p. 290).  He was certainly the most prominent church leader of his era, based in Hippo Regius, Northern Africa on the Mediterranean Sea.  Today it is called, Annaba, in Algeria.

In one of his earlier writings, about AD 390, On the True Religion, he wrote that when the church had been “established through the whole world, these miracles [like those of Christ and the apostles] were no longer permitted to continue in our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things” (25.47, in 1918/1972, p. 41).

But he changed his mind later in life to become an enthusiastic believer in miracles in his day.

The City of God consists of 22 Books.  In books 21 and 22, he tells of the miracles that had been happening where he was ministering around Hippo and Carthage.

Augustine does speak of “all the miracles of the magicians, who he thinks are justly deserving of condemnation, are performed according to the teaching and by the power of demons” (2004, 8.19).

He then stated his change of mind that “even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles” (2004, 22.8).

Here are a few examples of miracles, performed by the power of God, described in The City of God.

1. In Milan, when Augustine was there,

a blind man was restored to sight…  the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius….  By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day” (2004, 22.8).

This miracle involved the use of relics associated with the bodies of martyrs.  I will address this issue of relics shortly.

2. Innocentius at Carthage had a bowel condition, was “treated by medical men” with surgery but it was not successful.  Second surgery was threatened with the surgeons saying “he could onle be cured by the knife.  Agitated with excessive fear, he was terrified.”  There was such “wailing” in the house.  It seemed “like the mourning at a funeral” because of “the terror” the “pains had produced.”  He was exhorted “to put his trust in God.”  Then they “went to prayer ” with “earnestness and emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what groans and sobs.”  When it came time for the proposed surgery, the surgeon searched and searched but there was no disease found.  Augustine writes: “No words of mine can describe the joy, and praise, and thanksgiving to the merciful and almighty God which was poured from the lips of all, with tears of gladness. Let the scene be imagined rather than described!” (Augustine 2004, 22.8)

3.  A woman had breast cancer and her breast was to be removed because the “physicians” said it was “incurable.”  This godly woman went to “God alone by prayer.  [At] Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistery after being baptized, and to ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so, and was immediately cured.”  When the physician examined her and now found no cancer, he asked her what “remedy” she had used.  When she told him, he spoke “with a contemptuous tone” and she fearded that “he would utter some blasphemy against Christ.”

He said that he thought that she would tell him of “some great [medical] discovery.”  “She, shuddering at his indifference, quickly replied, ‘What great thing was it for Christ to heal a cancer, who raised one who had been four days dead’” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

4.  A Spanish priest, Eucharius, died and “by the relics of the . . . martyr [Stephen]” was “raised to life” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

A doctor with gout was cured when he was baptised.

blue-satin-arrow-small “An old comedian” was cured of paralysis and a hernia when he was baptised.

blue-satin-arrow-small Hesperius, his family, cattle and servants were “suffering from the malice of evil spirits.”  Through the prayers of the

elders this demon possession ceased “through God’s mercy” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

blue-satin-arrow-smallA man with “his eye, falling out on his cheek, hung by a slender vein as by a root” was cured by the power of God.

blue-satin-arrow-smallA tax-collector, the son of a man named, Irenaeus, “his body was lying lifeless” and there was much “weeping and mourning of all.”   The body was “anointed with the oil of the same martyr [Stephen]. It was done, and he revived” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

blue-satin-arrow-small Eleusinus’s infant son “had died” and he was placed “on the shrine fo the martyr [Stephen]” and “after prayer, which [the father poured out there with many tears, he took up his child alive” (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

Augustine wrote,

I cannot record all the miracles I know. . .  For were I to be silent of all others, and to record exclusively the miracles of healing which were wrought in the district of Calama and of Hippo by means of this martyr–I mean the most glorious Stephen–they would fill many volumes. . .  For when I saw, in our own times, frequent signs of the presence of divine powers similar to those which had been given of old, I desired that narratives might be written, judging that the multitude should not remain ignorant of these things (Augustine 2004, 22.8).

Read the last book of Augustine’s City of God and you’ll know that God still miraculously heals and delivers the demon possessed.

I must pause to make brief comments about . . .

Faith in the healer, relics, or in God?

I must say that I am not troubled by miraculous healings (I am a convinced supernaturalist who believes that God can perform miracles today).  However, the paraphernalia associated with the healings, relics, graves of the martyrs, during Augustine’s time did trouble me.  By the time of the 5th century, the church was moving towards a Roman Catholic view of relics, but then I checked the Scriptures.

Do you remember?  Are these miracles cited by St. Augustine in association with the relics of St. Stephen, later examples of the type that happened when Peter’s shadow fell on sick people and they were healed (Acts 5:15)? We know from Acts 19:12 that handkerchiefs or aprons were brought to the apostle Paul from people who were sick. We are told that when the handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul’s skin “were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

Go back to the Old Testament.  Remember . . .

blue-satin-arrow-smallThe serpent lifted up on the pole by Moses, Lev. 21:5-9 reads:

[The Israelites] spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

But in 2 Kings 18:4 we read, “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”  When people began to worship the relic, the bronze snake, that angered God and he smashed it.  It is not the relic that brings healing, but the Almighty God of whom the relic reminds us.

When we worship a physical object, a relic, instead of the living God, we violate the first of the 10 commandments, ”

blue-satin-arrow-smallRemember the bones of Elisha in 2 Kings 13:20-21,

Elisha died and was buried.
      Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

blue-satin-arrow-smallIn 2 Kings 5:14, we read of Naaman’s dealing of leprosy,


“So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

cubed-iron-sm Also remember that Jesus used natural elements along with healing (saliva and washing).

cubed-iron-sm James 5:14-15 asks:

“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”

What do all of these verses point to?  There are clear examples of miracles associated with physical objects in the Bible.  It seems that sometimes the Lord knows that we need a physical point of contact and he provides it.  But we call upon the Lord Almighty for the healing.

Remember the first of the ten commandments (Ex. 20:3-5):

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . .

The moment we seek the relic and not the Redeemer, we are doomed and committing idolatry.

D. What are the purposes of miracles?

1. One purpose of miracles is “to authenticate the message of the gospel” (Grudem 1994, p. 359). 

Remember the words of Nicodemus from John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Heb. 2:4 confirms this: “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  “God testified to IT with signs, wonders and various miracles.  What is the IT?  Heb. 2:3 tells us that it is  this “great salvation.”

Miracles are given throughout the church age “to confirm the truthfulness of the gospel” wherever it is preached.  Not just by the original apostles, but by anyone who believes and is a Christian.

Concerning Jesus, Augustine wrote:

“He did many miracles that He might commend God in himself. . . the gospel of Christ was preached in the whole world, not only by those who had seen and heard Him both before His passion and after His resurrection, but also after their death by their successors, amid the horrible persecutions, diverse torments and deaths of the martyrs, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (2004, 18.46, 50)

2.  It is to confirm “the fact that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives” (Grudem 1994, p. 360). 

Jesus said in Matt. 12:28, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  According to Luke 9:1-2, Jesus gave his disciples “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  When God performs miracles in our midst, it lets people know that God’s kingdom is alive and well among us with exceptional results.

3.  A third purpose of miracles is declared by Jesus when he healed the two blind men near Jericho. 

Matt. 20:30 and 34 state, “Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ . . .  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”  Miracles are to help those in need.

In Phil. 2:27, Paul says of Epaphroditus, “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” God’s compassion and mercy towards the needy are demonstrated by signs, wonders and miracles.

4.  A fourth purpose of miracles is to bring glory to God. 

When Jesus healed a paralytic, Matt. 9:8 records, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.”  In Luke 7:16 after Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son, it says, “They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”
St. Augustine wrote in The City of God:

These miracles, and many others of the same nature, which it were tedious to mention, were wrought for the purpose of commending the worship of the one true God, and prohibiting the worship of a multitude of false gods. Moreover, they were wrought by simple faith and godly confidence, not by the incantations and charms. . . (2004, 10.9).

In the 21st Book of Augustine’s City of God, the 7th chapter is titled, “That the Ultimate Reason for Believing Miracles is the Omnipotence of the Creator” (2004, 21.7).  In the 22nd Book of City of God, ch. 8 is titled, “Of miracles which were wrought that the world might believe in Crhist, and which have not ceased since the world believed” (2004, 22.8).

Jesus’ miracles were meant to point to God Himself.  Any miracles that God allows to happen among us today are designed to point to the glory of God.

So many alleged miracles today are meant to point to the human healer, whether that person be Benny Hinn, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, or Reinhard Bonnke.  That was not Jesus’ emphasis and it must not be ours.  All signs, wonders and miracles are meant to point to the miracle worker, God Himself, and to give him praise and glory.

E. How do we respond to counterfeit miracles?

I am not dealing in any depth with this aspect, except to say that we must be very careful in making sure these miracles have taken place. For example, in an issue of my local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail (June 29, 2005, p. 23) there was an advertisement: “A Church on the Move: Salvation – healing – miracles Spirit filled Worship.” [2] It is advertised that right here in Bundaberg, healing and miracles are taking place.  I don’t know whether that is true or not.  I’m wary because of this combination: salvation, healing and miracles.

blue-satin-arrow-small If I go along to that church can I receive salvation?  Yes, absolutely, if there is true repentance and faith in Christ;

blue-satin-arrow-small If I go along to that church, can I receive healing?  Only if the sovereign Lord chooses to give it.

blue-satin-arrow-small If I go along to that church, can I receive a miracle?  Only if the sovereign Lord chooses to give it.

Advertising that a church that is “on the move” offers salvation, healing and miracles in the same breath is sending a mixed message in my view.  Placing this kind of message in advertising sends the wrong message as I see it.  What would happen if our church advertised something like: “Come to our church and meet the living Christ.”  At our church where we proclaim and encounter the living Christ, we pray for the sick, earnestly seek God’s spiritual gifts, and we leave the results to Him.  We seek to bring God glory in all that we do.  If healing and miracles happen, God will be glorified.  But we will not be calling upon people to come to our church with the expectation that they will be healed or that definite miracles will happen in our church services. 

I’d want to check the evidence for healing and other miracles before the alleged healing or miracle and the evidence now.  Why?

Because of this:

blue-satin-arrow-small Down through the years, godly believers have exposed counterfeit miracles, as with this book by B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (1918);

blue-satin-arrow-small Peter Masters, The Healing Epidemic (1988);

blue-satin-arrow-small John F. MacArthur Jr., Charismatic Chaos (1992).

There’s a report going around about the resurrection of Pastor Ekechukwu in Nigeria in November/December 2001.

I’m talking about the … sensational story coming from Reinhard Bonnke who was a guest on Benny Hinn’s program on Feb.28 2002 (and Kenneth Copeland’s program through the week of Aug.19, 2002). On Hinn’s program he showed a video produced by Cfan (Bonnke’s ministry- Christ for all nations) and gave testimony to a man being raised from the dead at a church he was preaching at in Nigeria, Africa. This video is now making the rounds . . . as a [supposed] fulfillment of many people’s prophecies of the great miracles that are supposed to occur in our time. Stories are supposedly pouring in from around the globe of thousands being saved. This is becoming a big story, but is it a fish story that keeps on growing as it’s told? (Come Let Us Reason 2002; for my assessment, see here)

We need to be discerning.  There are a number of conflicting elements in this story that I am not able to get to the bottom of.  However, we need to remember that one faulty Falcon doesn’t make every Ford a bomb.  If there are fake miracles, it doesn’t discount the real.  It just means that we need to be ever more vigilant and discerning. I agree with Wayne Grudem,

Christians should be very cautious and take extreme care to be accurate in their reporting of miracles if they do occur.  Much harm can be done to the gospel if Christians exaggerate or distort. . . The power of the Holy Spirit is great enough to work however he wills (1994, n31, p. 368).

I am not convinced that we should be advertising: “Come to West Bundaberg Baptist Church for salvation, healing and other miracles.”

F.  What’s the key to more miracles happening in this church?

Miracles were continuing in the 5th century when St. Augustine wrote, but what about today?  What about in this church?

We have seen some miracles in Christian conversions lately for which we praise the Lord.  Have the seriously ill been healed supernaturally?  Have the dead been raised?  Honest now!  If miracles are for today, and I am convinced they are, why are they not happening regularly in association with our church?

I want to make some suggestions and not accusations:

1.  First, should Christians ask God to perform miracles?  I Cor. 14:1 states, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”  Note what it says: “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”  Can we honestly say that this church encourages all believers to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”  Are you desiring he supernatural abilities that the Holy Spirit gives, and especially the gift of prophecy?  Until we earnestly desire the Holy Spirit’s gifts, which include “the working of miracles” and “gifts of healings”, I don’t expect that many miracles will be demonstrated.

Please understand that we do not manufacture miracles or healings.  They only come as sovereign gifts of God, but we must “earnestly desire spiritual gifts.”  Don’t you think that would be a good starting point if we are to see miracles?  Are we open to the supernatural spiritual gifts in this church?  (I Cor. 12-14)

2.  Second, miracles are not for entertainment.  Miracles are not intended to give limelight to somebody’s ministry. As I mentioned about Luke 7:16 after Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son, it says, “They were all filled with awe and praised God.”  If we don’t intend to give praise and glory to God and God alone through the miracles, forget about it.  God’s glory is primary.  Can God trust us with miracles?  Will we draw attention to ourselves, to this church, or to God?
3.  Third, James 5:14 says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”

We need to make prayer for the sick and anointing with oil a regular part of our worship, calling for the elders and anointing with oil.  Calling for whom?  The elders.  But we don’t acknowledge elders by name in this church.  Could that be one reason why miracles are not happening?  I am not accusing, but simply making a suggestion.

Wayne Grudem has stated, “Miracles are God’s work, and he works them to bring glory to himself and to strengthen our faith (Grudem 1994, p. 371).

4.  Fourth, I John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  Are we are people who are asking, and even pleading earnestly, of our God to give us the best gifts?  It is His sovereign will whether he chooses to give us miracles.  Are we asking?

G. Conclusion

I conclude with Augustine’s thought: “Even now, therefore, many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of [is] still performing them, by whom He will and as He will” (2004, 22.8).
So, are miracles valuable?  They most certainly are,

3d-gold-star-small if we are open to such Holy Spirit ministry;

3d-gold-star-small if we eagerly desire spiritual gifts,

3d-gold-star-smalland most especially, if we give glory to God, are filled with awe of God, and we praise the one and only true and living God.

Notes:

2.  This is Sims Road Churches of Christ, a charismatic church, in Bundaberg, Qld., Australia.

Works consulted:

Aquinas, T.  1905 (transl. Rickaby, J.), Summa Contra Gentiles [Online], Available from: http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc.htm [26 June 2005].

Augustine, St. 2004, The City of God, New Advent, Church Fathers, by K. Knight, [Online], Available from: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120122.htm [25 June 2005].

Carson, D. A. 1991, The Gospel According to John, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England/William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Come Let Us Reason 2002, ‘The Rich mans prayer  is answered!  Reinhard Bonnke raises the dead,’ available from: http://www.letusreason.org/popteac13.htm [28 June 2005].

Crossan, J. D. 1998, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happen ed in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

Deere, J. 1993, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: A Former Dallas Seminary Professor Discovers That God Speaks and Heals Today, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. 2002, Systematic Theology (vol. 1), BethanyHouse, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.

Jackson, W. 2000, ‘Science and Miracles’, Christian Courier: Penpoints [Online], January 24, 2000, Available from: http://www.christiancourier.com/penpoints/scienceMiracles.htm [26 June 2005].

MacArthur, J. n.d., ‘Spiritual Gifts: The Temporary Sign Gifts – Miracles’: 1 Corinthians 12:10, Tape GC1856 [Online], T. Capoccia,Bible Bulletin Board, Available from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1856.htm [26 June 2005].

Morris, L. 1971, The Gospel According to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F. F. Bruce, gen. ed.), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Russell, B. 1953, ‘What is an agnostic?’, Available from: http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/humftp/E-text/Russell/agnostic.htm [6 May 2007]

Spiceland, J. D. 1984, ‘Miracles’, in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. W. A. Elwell, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 723-724.

Strauss, D. F. 1860 (transl. Evans, M.), The Life of Jesus Critically Examined [Online], Calvin Blanchard, New York, Available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/strauss/ [26 June 2005].

Warfield, B. B. 1918, 1972, Counterfeit Miracles, The Banner of Truth Trust, London.

 

Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Out of Heart

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to meet concerned Christian people who worry about whether they have committed the unpardonable sin. These verses from Jesus bother some folks:

‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:28-29 ESV).

So they should bother them if they have committed this unpardonable sin. However, what is the nature of such a sin that God will never forgive?

What is blasphemy?

Barnard Franklin summarised the New Testament material:

The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (Franklin 1936:224-225, in Butt 2003).

I met one such person on the Internet whose issue was,

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was put this way from a Christian write up I just found.
The man said,

“The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”
So for me to put it in my head that I was never forgiven was wrong.
To catch up really quick with my story is 10 years ago I thought I made the unforgivable sin and gave up since why would i continue if in my head I was never going to be forgiven. Here I am 10 years later with a burning desire to really follow Christ but once again having to come to some conclusion did I wait too long and grieve the Holy Spirit? Or is the fact that I still have a desire to follow good enough to prove I have hope?
I do know some Christians follow maybe as a child or a teen and then have a falling away only to be brought back at a later time in life.
I surely hope that is me.[1]

My reply to this person was as follows:[2] It seems to me that, based on the sins you have done, you are battling whether or not you have committed a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness. Why is this happening for you? The Scriptures state that such a person is guilty of an eternal sin.

Blasphemy and damnation

What is the nature of this sin that has no forgiveness? If this sin cannot be pardoned, it means the person is damned forever. At the final judgment (Matt 25:31-46), Jesus describes what will happen to the unrighteous who are cursed by God: ‘These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (Matt 25:46).

The nature of this blasphemy

Many theologians and exegetes have battled over the nature of this sin.

Henry Thiessen wrote:

The degree to which the soul has hardened itself and become unreceptive to multiplied offers of the grace of God here determines the degree of guilt. Final obduracy is the sin against the Holy Spirit and is unpardonable, because the soul through it has ceased to be receptive to the divine influence (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:29; 1 John 5:16, 17; Heb. 10:26) (Thiessen 1949:270).

I consider that William Hendriksen’s commentary on these 2 verses explains this blasphemous sin with no forgiveness as well as any I have read. He expounds:

The question is, “How is it to be understood that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable?” As to other sins, no matter how grievous or gruesome, there is pardon for them. There is forgiveness for David’s sin of adultery, dishonesty, and murder (II Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51; cf. Psalm 32); for the “many” sins of the woman of Luke 7; for the prodigal son’s “riotous living” (Luke 15:13, 21-24); for Simon Peter’s triple denial accompanied by profanity (Matt. 26:74, 75; Luke 22:31, 32; John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-17); and for Paul’s preconversion merciless persecution of Christians (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:9-11; I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; Phil. 3:6). But for the man who “speaks against the Holy Spirit” there is no pardon.

Why not? Here, as always when the text itself is not immediately clear, the historical context must be our guide. See Luke 11:15, 18; Mark 3:22; cf. John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20. From it we learn that the bitter opponents of Jesus have been ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, was achieving. Moreover, they were doing this willfully, deliberately. In spite of all the evidences to the contrary they were still affirming that Jesus was expelling demons by the power of Beelzebul. Now to be forgiven implies that the sinner be truly penitent. Among the opponents such genuine sorrow for sin was totally lacking. For penitence they substituted hardening; for confession, plotting. Thus, by means of their own criminal and completely inexcusable callousness, they were dooming themselves. Their sin was unpardonable because they were unwilling to tread the path that leads to pardon. For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope. The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, “O God be merciful to me, the sinner.” But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the promptings of the Spirit, not even to listen to his pleading and warning voice, he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition. He has sinned the sin “unto death” (I John 5:16; see also Heb. 6:4-8).

For anyone who is truly penitent, no matter how shameful his transgressions may have been, there is no reason to despair (Psalm 103:12; Isa. 1:18; 44:22; 55:6, 7; Mic. 7:18-20; I John 1:9) (Hendriksen 1975:138-139).

Wayne Grudem takes a similar line:

WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

There are several passages of scripture that speak about a sin that will not be forgiven.  It is described as blasphemy against the Spirit. (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29-30; Luke 12:10; Hebrews 6:4-6)

Possible interpretations:

(1) Some have thought that it was a sin that could only be committed while Christ was on earth, but Jesus statement in Matthew 12:31 is too general to mean this and Hebrews 6:4-6 is speaking of apostasy that occurred after Jesus.

(2) Some hold that it is describing unbelief that continues until the time of death.  While it is true that unbelief until death will not be forgiven, these verses are not speaking about unbelief in general, but a specific sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit.

(3) Some hold that this sin is serious apostasy by genuine believers.  While there is a case based upon Hebrews 6:4-6, the argument loses strength when considering the context of the gospel passages where Jesus is responding to the Pharisees denial of the work of the Holy Spirit through him.

(4) The most likely interpretation of the unpardonable sin in these verses is that it is an unusually malicious, willful rejection and slander against the Holy Spirit’s work attesting to Christ, and attributing that work to Satan.  In the context of these verses, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees accusation that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan.  This despite of the fact that they were aware of Jesus’ miraculous works and authoritative teaching that was consistent with scripture.  This made their lies especially malicious in nature.  This sin is speaking of one that includes (a) a clear knowledge of who Christ is and the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, (b) a willful rejection of the facts about Christ they knew to be true, and (c) slanderously attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ to Satan.  This explanation fits with the passage in Hebrews 6:4-6 as well because it describes someone who has knowledge and conviction of the truth, but willingly turns away from Christ and holds him in contempt.

These verses speak more to the condition of the human heart than the willingness or ability of God to forgive them.  These people have hardened their heart so much toward God that normal means of bringing them to salvation would not work.  Believers who fear they have committed such a sin should not really worry because the fact that there is still sorrow for sin and a desire to return to God is evidence in itself that they do not fall into this category.[3]

What about purgatory?

https://i1.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/4/d/7/3/1335964111846931012purgatory-md.png

clker.com

Mark 3:29 stated that the person who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit ‘is guilty of an eternal sin’. However, in Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus stated the Mark 3:28-29 theme but with a slight variation:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt 12:31-32 ESV).

This different emphasis here is not in Mark 3:29. The person who commits this blasphemy ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’ (Matt 12:32). Some have used this nuance to promote the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. What is purgatory? The Roman Catholic Church teaches that

Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions (Hanna 1911).

Edward Hanna, in articulating the Roman Catholic position, cited the Council of Trent’s position:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983) (in Hanna 1911).

When confronted with the Scriptures, interpreted in a contextual way, purgatory fails the test. For a refutation of the doctrine of purgatory, see ‘What does the Bible say about Purgatory?’ (Got Questions Ministries 2014) This article provides some reasons why purgatory is a non-biblical teaching:

Purgatory, like many other Catholic dogmas, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Catholics view the Mass / Eucharist as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice because they fail to understand that Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient (Hebrews 7:27). Catholics view meritorious works as contributing to salvation due to a failure to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial payment has no need of additional “contribution” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Similarly, Purgatory is understood by Catholics as a place of cleansing in preparation for heaven because they do not recognize that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are already cleansed, declared righteous, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and sanctified.

The very idea of Purgatory and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, meritorious works on behalf of the dead, etc.) all fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for our sin. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2). To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. If we must in any sense pay for, atone for, or suffer because of our sins – that indicates Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

For believers, after death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say “away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire.” No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

In his exposition of Matthew 12:31-32, William Hendriksen demonstrates why the phrase, ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’, does not refer to purgatory:

These words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven. As to the doctrine of purgatory, supposedly the place where the souls of those who are not eternally lost pay off the remainder of their debt by suffering punishment for the sins which they committed while still on earth, it is clearly contradicted by Scripture, which teaches that ‘Jesus paid it all’ (Heb. 5:9; 9:12, 26; 10:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 7:14) (Hendriksen 1973:528).

Personal application

For you personally, are you presently and continuously ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, is doing in you or others’ lives? In addition, are you continuing to do this wilfully and deliberately?

Or, have you been so convicted of what you have been doing that you have come to Jesus in repentance to seek forgiveness for your sins? Do you have utter contrition for what you have been doing?

The fact that you are here on this forum discussing your sins and concern about the unpardonable sin indicates that you have not turned off the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Please remember what Mark stated: ‘All sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter’ (Mk 3:28) EXCEPT one. That one thing for which there is no forgiveness is if you currently are wilfully accusing Jesus of expelling demons and linking that to the work of Satan (Beelzebul).

Conclusion

When the Pharisees were faced with Jesus’ miracles and the working of the Holy Spirit through him, they credited that power to Beelzebul (the devil). Franklin rightly stated that the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was ‘Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost’ (Franklin 1936:227, emphasis added). By attributing Jesus’ miraculous powers to Satan, the Pharisees were committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Thus, this was a particular sin addressed to the Pharisees in the time of Jesus for which there was no forgiveness .

However, a person can commit another sin for which there is no further repentance. That is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 as apostasy (‘fall away’ from the faith and renounce it). For my exposition of this passage, see the article, ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

Works consulted

Butt, K 2003. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – the ‘unpardonable sin’. Apologetics Press. Available at: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1218 (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Franklin, B 1936. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the scriptural teaching regarding the unpardonable sin. Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April-June.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Hanna, E. 1911. Purgatory. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. New Advent, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Hendriksen, W 1975. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Jayblue1#1. Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Hi there, I have some questions’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7847469/ (Accessed 25 October 2014). Because Jayblue1 made and error and deleted his original post, the content of what is said is gained from its being quoted by ibid., 98cwitr#7. Jayblue1#5 said the Bible passage was from Matt 3:28-29, but it is Mark 3:28-29.

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Grudem, W 1994 (Systematic theology), ch 24, available at: http://www.thegravelperspective.com/blog/2013/10/23/grudems-systematic-theology-chapter-24-sin (Accessed 25 October 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Gift of tongues is gibberish?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

File:Baptist-Church.jpg

Baptist Church (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

How would you respond to somebody who called the New Testament spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’ and ‘foolish’?

Baptists and speaking in tongues

A fellow asked in a Baptist directory online, ‘I know that there is considerable diversity within the Baptist movement, but I’m not sure whether this extends to multiple positions on glossolalia [speaking in tongues]’.[1]

I responded:[2]

Near where I live in the outer suburbs of Brisbane Qld, at Burpengary, there is a Baptist Church called ‘Access Church‘, that is as full-on Pentecostal-charismatic as many such churches I’ve visited.

This topic of Baptists and tongue speaking had been addressed previously (in 2012) in the Baptist directory on this forum, in the thread, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?

However, to pick up this theme (only briefly), here are some biblical basics:

a. First Corinthians 14:2, 4 refers to tongues for personal edification and not requiring interpretation — therefore it is not for use in the church. This seems to be what Paul is referring to when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Cor. 14:18). In the church, he prefers intelligibility: “I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19).

b. First Corinthians 14:14-18 contrasts speaking and singing “with the spirit” (tongues on the basis of v. 14) and praying with the mind. Therefore, throughout I Cor. 12-14, there seems to be an interchange of tongues (spiritual language or ecstatic utterance) as a language spoken to God for personal edification and tongues requiring interpretation for the edification of the church.

Therefore, my conclusion is that I Cor. 12:28, 30 are referring to both kinds of tongues, which are not given to all believers. Why? It is because ‘one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills’ (I Cor. 12:11 NASB). First Corinthians 12:14 emphasises: ‘For the body is not one member, but many’. Therefore, I do not find it surprising that tongues is restricted to some believers by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state quite a few years ago: “Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit” (Mallone 1983:90).[3]

How would you expect a sceptical Baptist about the gift of tongues to respond to the information provided above?

The gibberish encounter

One person replied:

Most of us believe it is a true gift from God. But we do not believe gibbering away is speaking in tongues we believe it is when you start speaking a real language go Earth in order to minister to others. So speaking gibberish here at a church in the middle of the United States is not speaking in tongues. So many of us believe it is a real gift from God just one that is very misused here in the US.[4]

How does one reply to such a negative assessment, even though there is some truth in what this female said? I replied:[5]

(a) Why the negative assessment?

Why are you speaking pejoratively – calling it ‘gibbering’ and ‘gibberish’ – when God speaks of the genuine gift of tongues that is for the purpose of

  • speaking to God (1 Cor 14:2);
  • for personal edification (1 Cor 14:4);
  • revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching when it is accompanied with interpretation when the church gathers (1 Cor 14:6, 12-13)?

So the Scriptures teach that there are two purposes for tongues for the believer when not in a church gathering: speaking to God and personal edification. Sadly much of this personal gift of tongues (without interpretation) makes its way into the public gathering of the church. My understanding is that this is in error, based on 1 Corinthians 14.

However, when in the midst of other people there must be the gift of interpretation of tongues for there to be a communication of revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching.

There are extremes and errors in many dimensions of theology. That does not nullify the genuine. What applies to theology such as soteriology (doctrine of salvation) also applies to glossolalia. Extremes and error do not negate the authentic.

Why tongues and not in English?

A fellow took me on with some provocative and legitimate questions:

OK. Why must you speak in tongues to speak to God? Is speaking in tongues more efficacious than speaking to God in English?

How does tongues personally edify you?
Also, when you speak in tongues for “personal edification”, who interprets that for you?…

The way it is practiced today is gibbering and gibberish. I would go further and say that it’s foolish.[6]

This does raise some important points about an unknown language and edification; there are times when tongues’ speaking sounds like human ‘gibberish’ and foolishness. But does disorder negate the orderly?
Some out-of-order practices

Here is some of my reply:[7]

Let me make it very clear. I never said and I do not support how you put it by asking why I ‘MUST … speak in tongues’. Nobody MUST speak in tongues. Of all of the gifts, the Scriptures state, ‘earnestly desire’ spiritual gifts. I desire God’s best for me – and I’ll thank him for the gifts He gives me.

How does tongues personally edify you?

God has stated that the gift of tongues does edify personally and that has been my experience. I take him at his word and that is how it happens. It enhances my relationship with the Lord for which I’m grateful.
If you read the Scriptures I gave carefully, esp. 1 Cor 14:2, 4, you would not ask this second question about the need to interpret for personal edification. The Scriptures do not state that interpretation is necessary for personal edification. I agree with what the Scriptures state.

It might sound like ‘gibbering and gibberish’ and ‘foolish’ to you, but by the kinds of comments you have made in this response to me, you seem to want to denigrate the gift of tongues. I have never experienced the gift of tongues as gibberish for personal edification but as one of God’s special gifts for my relationship with God. If God gives the gift of tongues in the church gathering, tongues must be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. That’s Bible.

I encourage you not to disparage the spiritual gifts that God has taught us about: ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy’ (I Cor 14:1 ESV).
May God encourage all of us to ‘earnestly desire’ the spiritual gifts. These are gifts of the Spirit of the Trinitarian Lord God almighty.

Further penetrating questions

Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870

This person who has been challenging me said, ‘I disparage the unbiblical use of those gifts’ and he said that I left unanswered three questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

2. How does tongues edify you?

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

I join with you in offering a biblical correction for the unbiblical use of the gifts (incl. tongues) that can be evident in some churches.[8]

Answers to those questions

Let’s turn to the Scripture so answer this fellow’s legitimate questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is not helpful without an explanation of the nature of the gift of tongues and the issue that Paul was attempting to correct:

(a)  Ch 14:11-13 tells us some of the problem Paul was trying to correct. There were tongues without interpretation at Corinth in the church gathering and this was not on. One would be a ‘foreigner’ in such an atmosphere without interpretation. So Paul’s message to the 21st century Pentecostal, charismatic, and other churches allowing expression of these gifts, would be the same as for Corinth: ‘One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13 ESV).

(b) ‘If I pray in a tongue my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful’ (14:14). So tongues are more efficacious when I’m praying with my spirit to God. God gives a place to the spirit of the human being in communication with God.

2. How does tongues edify you?

Paul tells us things that are critical when speaking about tongues:

(a) The tongues’ speaker ‘speaks not to men but to God’ (14:2). So tongues is a means of communing with God by the Holy Spirit. We know from 14:13-14, 28 that those who speak in tongues are ‘communing with God by the Spirit…. Paul understands the phenomenon basically to be prayer and praise’ (Gordon Fee’s language 1987:656).

(b) My experience in God’s prayer and praise language in the spirit/Spirit is just that. It’s a special way of communing with God that I’ve never experienced while praying in my Aussie English.

(c) So tongues edifies me in by my spirit communing with the Spirit of God in a language He has given me. I would never want to crush that understanding through Enlightenment thinking.

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

That is partly answered by #2, but there is additional communication in 1 Cor 12-14. It is important not to minimise and underestimate what Paul states in 14:5, ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues’, but even more to prophecy’. The first half of that sentence is often diminished, ignored, minimised or excised by some Christians.
The one who speaks in tongues ‘utters mysteries in the Spirit’ (14:2 ESV). That is not possible in English. These ‘mysteries’ spoken by the Holy Spirit could mean what is stated in 1 Cor 13:2, but my experience is that the gift of tongues for personal edification (thus not needing interpretation) involves an encounter with the Spirit of God that is outside my rational understanding as a speaker. It would be the same for the hearer, so there is no place for the gift of tongues in a public gathering without a God-given gift of interpretation.

How is it possible for language given by the Holy Spirit (tongues) and not understood in English to be edifying for the speaker, to be self-edifying? This is not egotistic, self-centred spiritual elitism. My experience is that this is through prayer and praise with the gift of glossolalia (tongues) as I Cor 14:14-15 indicates.
However, 1 Cor 14:14-15 tells us how we can be edified by a language we cannot understand through the gift of tongues:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also (ESV).

The Spirit of God, through the Scriptures, here tells us that there is a way to be spiritually edified without using the cortex of the brain – through the gift of tongues where the spirit prays and the mind is not playing a pivotal part – thus being ‘unfruitful’.

So the Scripture exhorts us to use both – pray and sing with the spirit/Spirit through the gift of tongues and pray and sing with the mind. Paul taught us that there are favourable things that can happen in private devotions through the gift of tongues without interpretation, but his concern in the Corinthian church (and by application to the contemporary church) is that there should be no gift of tongues in a public, group church gathering without the gift of interpretation (see 14:5, 13, 27).

First Corinthians and the contemporary church

By application, Paul’s message to the contemporary church is, ‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (14:5) but in the public gathering, ‘one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13).

But what do I find when I visit many services of Pentecostal-charismatic churches or charismatic churches in other denominations? I hear group tongues allegedly associated with ‘singing in the Spirit’, ‘speaking in tongues’ and no interpretation. This is totally out of order and is contrary to Paul’s instruction ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 1 4:40). Many Pentecostal-charismatics are violating the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14. My experience is that this is often because there is too little biblical teaching on the gifts of the Spirit in these churches.

Many people absorb the atmosphere by osmosis and are not exposed to biblical correction concerning the gifts of the Spirit.

See these samples of Pentecostal-charismatic issues:

Congreso Nacional Juvenil3.jpg

Pentecostalism (Wikipedia)

Works consulted

Fee, G D 1987. The first epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Mallone, G. 1983, Those controversial gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What is the Baptist view on Speaking/Praying in Tongues?’ ’Colfax #1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #24, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[3] I have provided more details at OzSpen #151 at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-16/ (accessed 24 February 2014).

[4] Vella Vista #18, ibid., available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-2/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #26, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[6] Ibid., South Bound #28, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[8] Ibid., South Bound #30.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Famed heart doctor tells the dramatic story of how a patient of his was ‘raised from the dead’ after prayer

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Ribbon Healing Button

Award winning journalist, Dan Wooding, has granted permission for the republication of his article that tells the amazing, true story of a person being raised from the dead by God through prayer of a cardiovascular specialist. The article follows:

 

ASSIST News Service (ANS) – PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA
Visit our web site at:
www.assistnews.net — E-mail: assistnews@aol.com

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Famed heart doctor tells the dramatic story of how a patient of his was ‘raised from the dead’ after prayer

(On 22 November 2015 this article was no longer available at this link, but it was available at Breaking Christian News at:  http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=4216).

Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall IV produces evidence at the 4th Annual World Christian Doctors Network conference in Miami, Florida

 

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries


MIAMI, FL (ANS) — The audience of 120 doctors from 50 countries sat in stunned silence as a renowned heart doctor produced evidence of how, after he had prayed for a patient who had died and was being prepared for the morgue, was brought back to life after prayer.

Chauncey_Crandall_CardiologyDr. Crandall
(courtesy https://chaunceycrandall.com/)

Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall IV, who serves at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, made his dramatic presentation on Friday, July 13th at the 4th Annual World Christian Doctors Network Conference in Miami, Florida.

He produced dramatic evidence that was shown on the screen and then, afterwards, agreed to tell the story to ANS in an interview.

Dr. Crandall began by saying that the dramatic incident took place almost a year ago in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“We had a fifty-three year old man who came to the emergency room with a massive heart attack and actually his heart had stopped,” he said. “The medical people had worked on him for over forty minutes in the emergency room and then declared him dead.

“They called me in to evaluate the patient towards the end of his treatment where they had unsuccessfully tried to revive him. The nurse was preparing his body to be taken down to the morgue when the Holy Spirit told me to ‘turn around and pray for that man.’ When the Holy Spirit talks to you, you have to respond. It’s sometimes a quiet voice and this was a quiet voice and to honor the Lord I did turn around and I went to the side of that stretcher where his body was being prepared.

Black with death

2

Dr. Crandall making his presentation at the World Christian Doctors Network conference in Miami

 

“There was no life in the man. His face and feet and arms were completely black with death and I sat next to his body and I prayed, ‘Lord, Father; how am I going to pray for this man? He’s dead. What can I do?’ All of a sudden, these words came out of my mouth, ‘Father, God, I cry out for the soul of this man if he does not know You as his Lord and Savior, please raise him from the dead right now in Jesus name.

“It was amazing as a couple minutes later, we were looking at the monitor and all of a sudden a heart beat showed up. It was a perfect beat; a normal beat; and then after a couple more minutes, he started moving and then his fingers were moving and then his toes began moving and then he started mumbling words.

“There was a nurse in the room — she wasn’t a believer — and she screamed out and said ‘Doctor Crandall, what have you done to this patient?’ And I said, ‘All I’ve done is cry out for his soul in Jesus name.’

“We quickly rushed the gentleman down to the intensive care unit, and the hospital was by now buzzing about the fact that a dead man had been brought back to life. After a couple of days he woke up. He had an amazing story to tell after I had asked him, ‘Where have you been and where were you on that day that you had that massive heart attack? You were gone and we prayed you back to life in Jesus name.’

Thrown in the trash

“He said, ‘Doctor Crandall, it’s the most amazing thing. I was in a dark room and there was no light. It was complete darkness and I felt I was in a casket and I kept repeating that I was so disappointed.’ He said the disappointment came from the fact that none of his family, friends or colleagues, had come to visit him. Then he told me, ‘All of a sudden, these men came in and they wrapped me up and they threw me in the trash.’

“Dan, he was in hell that day and as he told me that story, I cried out, ‘Lord, this gentleman needs to accept You as Lord and Savior.’ I then explained the salvation message to this man as he sat in that bed and I held his hand and I cried out, ‘Father God, in the name of Jesus, I pray that this man accepts you as his Lord and Savior right here in the intensive care unit.’ He held out his hand and accepted Christ as his Savior with tears rolling down from his eyes and now he’s a child of God.

“I told him, ‘You never have to be thrown in the trash into total darkness now. The life of Christ is in you and the light of the kingdom of Heaven is on you now.”

I asked Dr. Crandall if there had been any brain damage to the patient.

“No there was no brain damage at all; his brain was completely normal,” he said. “I was most concerned about his hands because his fingers were completely black and he had some numbness in his fingers and his feet, but now that is totally resolved.”

I asked Dr. Crandall if he could give the name of the man and he said he couldn’t as the patient had requested that it would not be revealed.

“All I can say is that he was fifty-three years old and he was a car mechanic,” he said. “He had a family that were believers, but he left them twenty years ago because he didn’t believe in the Lord. His family continued to pray for twenty years for his salvation, and his ex-wife was on her hands and knees praying for the salvation of her ex-husband, who came to know the Lord that day.”

I then asked the doctor if he had seen other similar miracles in his practice.

“I’ve been witness to three cases of people being raised from the dead,” he said. “One other case was when another patient came to the hospital with a massive heart attack. It was on the very day that I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and I’d been praying for weeks that I would receive this mighty baptism that the Lord can give us. We were working on this patient that came in again with a massive heart attack and who didn’t survive in the operating room.

“All of a sudden, that Baptism of the Holy Spirit hit me and I started speaking in a spiritual language and crying over this patient in the operating room theater who had passed away. And then, within five or ten minutes, the heartbeat came back and life came back to this patient. Once again, the nurses who are not believers looked at me as if to say, ‘There goes Doctor Crandall on another case.”

I concluded the interview by asking Dr. Crandall what he would like to say to doctor’s who do not believe in supernatural healing.

“I would just like to say to my colleagues and physicians out there, that the Lord is real. We’ve seen many miracles and we pray for our patients daily. There is not one week that goes by that we don’t see a mighty miracle in our office. The people need this; they need the power of Christ in their life and they need the power of Christ for healing.

“I would just encourage my fellow doctors to get involved in a church, meet with a minister, and attend a healing service run by people that believe in the power of Jesus Christ. We love our colleagues in medicine we pray for them.”

Background on Dr. Crandall:

Dr. Crandall serves at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. and was awarded a M.D. degree from Universidad Centro de Estudios Tecnicos Escuela de Medicina Republica Dominicana. In addition, he has done post-doctoral work as an intern and as a resident in medicine at Yale University School of Medicine; as a fellow in cardiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and as an intervention cardiology fellow at the Medical College of Virginia. He has served as an instructor in the Department of Medicine, Cardiology Division at Beth Israel Hospital, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. He also has served as an associate faculty member at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. and as a visiting professor at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Granada, West Indies.

Dr. Crandall has been in private medical practice since 1995 and holds medical staff privileges at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Jupiter Medical Center. A noted lecturer both nationally and internationally, Dr. Crandall has spoken on topics including heart transplant, interventional cardiology, preventive cardiology and cardiology health care of the elderly. He is married to Deborah Newell Crandall. They are parents to two sons, Christian Pierce and Chadwick Baxter.

For more information on the World Christian Doctors Network, go to www.wcdn.org.

Note to the broadcast media. An MP3 audio file of the interview with Dr. Crandall is available for broadcast from Dan Wooding at assistnews@aol.com. If you would like to interview Dr. Crandall, just send me a message at the same e-mail and I will forward your request to him directly.

* I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.

 


Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to www.fromtabloidtotruth.com. danjuma1@aol.com.

 


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Charismatic chaos in a Brisbane house church

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

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By Spencer D Gear

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I never thought that I would ever get to the point of saying, ‘I am ashamed to be identified with that church’. But I am embarrassed and ashamed over what I witnessed in a house church in the home of Jack and Joan (not their real names) in a northern Brisbane suburb on Sunday, 3 November 2013. This is how it unfolded.

The house church meeting/gathering starts with a barbecue lunch (all people bring their own meat to barbecue and a salad to share) and my first visit was on Sunday, 20 October 2013. The church meets on a 2-weekly basis. I was recommended to this church by a person who attends a house church in a southern Brisbane suburb. There were a couple of issues in that first meeting that I wanted to raise in the group on 3 November, but I wasn’t able to raise it in the group meeting for reasons I shall now explain.

The issues I wanted to raise were:

(1) Does this group have a statement of faith in order to stop false doctrine from being perpetrated in the group?

(2) In the meeting of 20 October, some people were speaking in tongues out loud for all to hear, but there were no interpretations. This is forbidden in 1 Corinthians 14 and I was a ‘foreigner’ to that group (1 Cor 14:11).

(3) There seemed to be a strong emphasis on tongues. What is this group’s view of the spiritual gifts of tongues and interpretation? Do some believe one has to speak in tongues as evidence of salvation?

For the barbecue lunch, I was sitting at the kitchen table and engaged in conversation with Ken (not his real name). He was an older man (my guess would be that he could be aged about 70 and had been a Christian for about 40 years, based on his testimony. Ken has had a long association with the charismatic movement, especially a couple of smallish Pentecostal-charismatic denominations. I told him that I wanted to raise some matters that emerged from the meeting two weeks ago. He said it was OK to raise them with him as we sat at the table.

As we were talking, a group of people (perhaps about 10) was forming in the lounge room and there was some singing of songs accompanied by guitar and piano. Some louder shouts were beginning to come from that room.

Statement of faith

I told Ken that I wanted to ask if the group had a statement of faith. He said that other charismatic churches with which he had had association had statements of faith but they didn’t have much impact.

I said that a statement of faith was a guide to prevent false doctrine from infiltrating the group from, say, the Mormons wanting us to become gods, JWs who didn’t believe in the deity of Christ, tongues as a requirement for those who are saved (which is a doctrine of the Revival Centres in Australia). He was not aware of one for this house church. He said that he used to accept such a view but not now, since the Holy Spirit had changed the openness with which he ministers and has experiences in the group. He is overcome by the Holy Spirit at times and has all kinds of emotional/spiritual experiences. He would not expect that Jack would accept the need to have a statement of faith.

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Speaking in tongues without interpretation: You are foreigners

I then spoke to Ken about the amount of speaking in tongues in the group 2 weeks’ ago. It seemed to be an overemphasis to me. One person shared that when she spoke in tongues she used three different languages.

I then turned in my Bible to 1 Corinthians 14:9-12,

So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church (ESV, emphasis added).

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I emphasised 1 Cor 14:11 that when there is tongues without interpretation, this is the result: ‘If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’. I said that I was a foreigner to what was said in tongues 2 weeks’ ago as I heard the tongues without interpretation and this was not edifying for me. The Scripture says that tongues without interpretation makes many people into foreigners in a group where that happens.

At this point Ken asked if I was a fundamentalist. My response was that I was an evangelical charismatic. On further reflection after the meeting, I concluded that I should have asked him: What do you mean by fundamentalist? I sensed that he had some pejorative understanding. The fundamentalists at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries were those who accepted the fundamentals of the faith regarding the nature of God, Scripture, Christ, salvation, etc. See the article, ‘What is fundamentalism?’ for an understanding of why the original fundamentalists came to be called fundamentalists. This article states, ‘Fundamentalism … is a movement within the church that holds to the essentials of the Christian faith. In modern times the word fundamentalist is often used in a derogatory sense’.

Ken admitted that he knew what I was driving at, but he didn’t agree with my view on I Cor 14:9-12 in which tongues needed interpretation if it was in a group setting. He said that tongues were also a prayer language. I agreed, but said that that needed to be practised in private where nobody else could hear and no interpretation was needed. This is part of my understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:14-19,

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue (ESV).

I said that tongues as practised at home when ‘my spirit prays’, ‘I will pray with my spirit’, and ‘I will sing praise with my spirit’, should be something done in private. However, if it is in public, an interpretation is necessary. I emphasised that if tongues is in a group with 2 or more, interpretation is needed. Otherwise the people would be ‘foreigners’ as they didn’t understand the foreign language and could not be edified. That’s what 1 Corinthians 14:11 teaches.

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Enter an antagonist

In the midst of this conversation, Ken and I were joined by Jack and a younger man in his 20s whom I’ll call Wally (not his real name). Wally became a listener to this conversation and did not participate. So I continued the discussion that Ken and I were having that tongues without interpretation in a group is making people foreigners in the group – foreigners who do not understand the language, the gift of tongues.

Jack’s immediate response was, ‘That’s your interpretation’. I said that I was using grammatical, historical and cultural principles of hermeneutics to reach that conclusion. This is the common method of interpreting any document. I was a foreigner 2 weeks ago because I did not understand what was being said (on the basis of 1 Cor 14:11). He replied: ‘That’s how you felt’. I said it had nothing to do with how I felt. What happened to me was exactly as the Scripture stated: I will be a foreigner to the speaker and that’s exactly what I was. I was a foreigner and it was out of order and ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40). By this time Jack was raising his voice at me and I was probably raising mine in return. I had to do this to overcome the noise that was coming from the other room – screaming, slapping sounds, and barking by the people who were supposedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t sound too holy to me. I could see two people on the floor crawling on their knees, shouting, banging the floor, and barking.

At this point Ken interjected: ‘You probably don’t like what’s going on next door’ (in the adjoining lounge room). I agreed.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

‘That’s your interpretation’ as a logical fallacy

I thought about this later. What was Jack doing when he would not listen to the plain meaning of what 1 Cor 14:11 was saying in that ‘If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’? Jack did not want to deal with the content of this Scripture so he diverted attention by accusing me: ‘That’s your interpretation’.

This is what I should have said (afterthought is often helpful as we consider our experiences): ‘Jack, you have just committed a red herring logical fallacy by diverting attention away from the content of 1 Corinthians 14:11 to another topic – your topic. The issue is that the listener is a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker is a foreigner to the listener if, in a public meeting (which this house church was), tongues is not accompanied by interpretation. By calling attention to my hermeneutics (interpretation), he was diverting attention away from the real issue – the plain meaning of 1 Cor 14:11. I wanted to discuss the failure for the listener to be edified and being treated as a foreigner when the gift of tongues was not accompanied by the gift of interpretation.

What is a red herring logical fallacy? The Nizkor Project explains that ‘a red herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic’.

In this circumstance, Jack tried to divert attention away from tongues without interpretation to accuse me: ‘That’s your interpretation’. What should have been done was to look at what 1 Cor 14:11 was saying and what it meant. What does the text really say? And by application, were the leaders of this house church (Jack and Joan) acting contrary to Scripture by allowing tongues to be spoken for all to hear, but without interpretation? Why were they not correcting what was going on?

At the point Ken said, ‘You probably don’t like what is happening in the other room’, I agreed. It was a shocking loud level of shouting. What were the neighbours thinking was going on? I was disgusted and embarrassed.

Jack jumped in and said that in the 1970s he was living in a town on Queensland’s Darling Downs, Toowoomba being the largest City and commercial centre of this region. He was not living in Toowoomba:

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Map of Queensland (Darling Downs, W of Brisbane, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

He said that he was associated with the charismatic renewal in that town and an Assemblies of God minister in Toowoomba, Aeron Morgan (he pronounced his name Aaron), opposed it and Ken was taking the opportunity to oppose Aeron Morgan in the 3 November conversation I had with him. I told him that I was a personal friend of Aeron Morgan (who is now in the Lord’s presence, having died a few months earlier). I was on the faculty of the Commonwealth Bible College (Assemblies of God of Australia) when it was located at Katoomba NSW, 1977-1980 and Aeron Morgan was principal.

I didn’t say this to Ken (I should have), but I expect the reason why Aeron would have opposed the charismatic chaos of the charismatic movement of the 1970s on the Darling Downs (if it has any resemblance to what I saw on 3 November 2013 in northern Brisbane) was because Aeron was a Pentecostal minister and Bible teacher who knew the Scriptures. He knew that much of what was happening in charismatic meetings was contrary to the instructions of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other passages, so he would have spoken out against it because it was unbiblical. For a biblical understanding of the gifts of the Spirit, see Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005).

For the Christian Witness Ministries’ memorial tribute to Aeron Morgan after his death, see ‘Home call of Aeron Morgan 1934-2013’.

This is why Aeron would have spoken against what was happening in some charismatic meetings in the 1970s and elsewhere. He wrote:

I am disturbed and distressed by the trends away from the Scriptural position and the more existential climate now apparent on the neo-Pentecostal Church scene. I make an effort to speak to this as a serious concern….

There is observed an increasing readiness to accept all manner of strange teachings and questionable manifestations as being of God, the naïve and mindless validating of all kinds of weird and abnormal phenomena, without the applying of any Biblical test to them. This is most serious and needs addressing urgently (Morgan 2005:39, 45).

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Aeron Morgan (courtesy Christian Witness Ministries)

Aeron wrote of ‘the abnormal conduct of misguided Charismatics’, which is a gentle and mild way to describe the chaotic behaviour that I encountered in that charismatic house church in Brisbane (Morgan 2005:172). He wrote:

It appears that in recent times something of this dubious conduct has taken place where people have witnessed in the meetings certain behaviour with others which has been claimed to be the work of the Holy Spirit, and consequently they in turn have given themselves to ‘manifesting’ in a like manner. It has not been a work of the Holy Spirit, but the result of psychological manipulation, autosuggestion, and in some instances what appears to have been certain hypnotic influence. This is very serious, for it reveals two things:

(a) How easily many people are accepting teachings and practices on the strength of what they are told or witness, without any discernment.

(b) It shows up the serious lack of discernment and judgment of these things by those leaders who profess to be “full of the Holy Ghost”. It can only be described as gross irresponsibility on the part of those who ought to know better. Their failure cannot be excused. It must be condemned. Such persons are not fitted for the role of leadership. Leaders in Christ’s Church are to be “Watchmen”, considering as a divine obligation the spiritual welfare of His people before any personal interest (Morgan 2005:177-178).

Aeron Morgan has rightly pointed out the extremism of the alleged ‘Toronto Blessing’. He drew my attention to an article in Charisma News that reported on the 10th annual ‘Catch the Fire’ conference at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, formerly known as the Toronto Airport Vineyard where the supposed outpouring of the Holy Spirit was ‘marked by unusual physical manifestations among believers’ (Charisma’s language). The report noted that at this 10th anniversary meeting,

“The Toronto Blessing” is a phrase coined by British journalists to describe what movement insiders say is an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit marked by unusual physical manifestations among believers. It began in Toronto and quickly spread. TACF senior pastor John Arnott told Charisma that the Catch the Fire conference in 1994 was “catalytic in spreading the fire of God around the world.”

Ministry leaders from all corners of the earth came to that first October conference. “They were shocked by the intensity of what happened to them,” Arnott said. “It launched them into a whole new dimension of ministry.”

Those who came to Catch the Fire 10 Years On hoping to witness or share in similarly shocking experiences weren’t disappointed. Attendees and speakers alike participated enthusiastically in the partylike atmosphere. Countless individuals could be seen jerking spastically, laughing, shaking, weaving drunkenly or falling backward into the arms of catchers (Sommer 2013, emphasis added).[1]

See an example of the ‘Crazy dog man’ behaviour of the Toronto Blessing on YouTube.

With the kind of party-like, unbiblical behaviour happening in the lounge room (which I could see) of that house church on 3 November 2013, I chose to shake Ken’s hand and leave the house. He was not open to reasoning biblically from the Scriptures to address the unbiblical manifestations that were happening in that church.

I sent the first draft of this article to a friend in the USA who was a Pentecostal minister and missionary in a mainline Pentecostal denomination for 18 years. He is no longer with that denomination but continues his Pentecostal manifestations (tongues) in his prayer life. Of my article, he wrote:

I also visited the Toronto church where the so-called ‘Toronto blessing” was going on.

What you described sounds a bit like the events at the Toronto Blessing. I didn’t have a problem with them because, in my opinion, they were not representative of a “normal” church service. In fact, they called it “renewal” by which they meant a renewal of the joy of the “first love” of salvation. (As I understood their meaning.) Some people were acting very strangely but my thoughts were that people come as they are with the baggage they are carrying and God meets them there.

I find this to be an excuse to allow all kinds of disorderly, chaotic happenings in charismatic meetings, but all in the name of ‘renewal’ and ‘blessing’. He did not mention a word about the order of 1 Corinthians 14 and the need that ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (ESV), or as the New Living Translation puts is, ‘But be sure that everything is done properly and in order’ (I Cor 14:40 NLT), or, ‘ But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (NIV).

In his commentary on 1 Cor 14:40, Pentecostal minister (Assemblies of God, USA) and Greek exegete, Dr Gordon Fee, states that the last clause in verse 40

summarizes the argument of vv. 26-33: ‘Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.’ The word ‘fitting’ [euschemenws] argues again for propriety in the assembly (cf. 11:13); the word ‘orderly’ [taxin] echoes its opposite, ‘disorder,’ from v. 33, and along with that verse strongly implies that the assembly in Corinth was in disarray. The implication of the argument throughout has been that speaking in tongues is the guilty party. With these words, therefore, the argument is brought to a fitting conclusion (Fee 1987:713).

Reflections

As I reflected on what happened on 3 November 2013, these thoughts came to mind:

  1. I am grieved to have been in the presence of a church that resisted biblical order and testing of the charismata (gifts of the Spirit) in action.
  2. I saw and heard the horrific, strange spirit of the alleged Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Revival, with the screaming, barking and banging of the hands as a supposed Holy Spirit manifestation. In my estimation, it was another spirit in action.
  3. I was seeing an unholy spirit manifesting chaotic behaviour in contrast to the order required from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14.
  4. It was interesting that Wally, in his 20s, chose to stay and listen to the conversation among Jack, Ken and Spencer, rather than joining in the group chaos in the next room. Why? His language was that he was raised on these kinds of manifestations in the charismatic mainline denominational church he attends and found our conversation more interesting. His church has a strong charismatic influence. What he heard in the next room was nothing strange to him.
  5. I was thinking of what the neighbours would have been thinking with all the noise happening in that house. If this happens every two weeks, couldn’t the neighbours become concerned enough to phone the authorities about the noisy behaviour coming from that house.
  6. There was no way that I could get through to Jack about the unbiblical disorder he was promoting in that house church. The manifestations in that place were contrary to the biblical order required.
  7. Jack seems to be a dominant person in that group. He would not listen as I attempted to expound the Scriptures in a calm manner.
  8. No wonder John MacArthur’s updated Charismatic Chaos book (1993 Zondervan) is now titled, Strange Fire (2013 Thomas Nelson) and MacArthur’s organisation conducted a ‘Strange fire’ conference in the USA. What I heard on 3 November was strange fire from a source that was not holy. For a counter view to John MacArthur’s cessationist ‘strange fire’ promotion, see Roger E Olson, ‘Strange fire fundamentalists and the Holy Spirit’.
  9. I have decided that I will never ever be a part of that kind of church again. It has made me very wary of associating with charismatics – until I know the nature of biblical order/disorder that they practice when the church comes together. Unless they require biblical order in charismatic manifestations from 1 Cor 12-14, I’m not interested in participating.
  10. Jack and Ken do not have their roots firmly down into the practice of biblical Christianity when it comes to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Testing the spirits and practising manifestations according to the biblical limits do not seem to be on their agenda. ‘Anything goes’ is how I describe what happened in that house church on 3 November 2013. I highly recommend Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005).
  11. I have questions about whether these charismatics could find it difficult to know the differences between their experiences of the Spirit and the Mormon’s burning in the bosom to convince the LDS people of the truth of Mormonism. On what grounds could the charismatics be correct in their existential experience and the LDS experience wrong? Consider the LDS teaching which states:
  12. 9:7 ‘Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.9:8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.9:9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me’ (Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-9, emphasis added).

  13. I will not commit the logical fallacy of generalising what happened on 3 November 2013 to all or many charismatic groups. This would be committing the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization. It is ‘also known as: Fallacy of Insufficient Statistics, Fallacy of Insufficient Sample, Leaping to A Conclusion, Hasty Induction’. It is explained: ‘This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough…. Since Hasty Generalization is committed when the sample (the observed instances) is too small, it is important to have samples that are large enough when making a generalization. The most reliable way to do this is to take as large a sample as is practical. There are no fixed numbers as to what counts as being large enough’ (The Nizkor Project). To know that there are people within the Pentecostal/charismatic movement that oppose unbiblical manifestations is an encouragement to keep looking for openness to the spiritual gifts where biblical order is maintained. The ministry of the late Aeron Morgan is one such example. Christian Witness Ministries[2]also is supportive of the charismatic gifts in contemporary church gatherings, but within the boundaries set out in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
  14. Aeron Morgan wrote that ‘in the face of increasing activity of false teachers, the proliferation of false teachings, and the “fever” with many for more spectacular and sensational charismatic signs’, we need to be aware of ‘the warnings of Christ Jesus our Lord himself, and of the apostles, as to what will be in these last days’. His exhortation and prayer were: ‘May God preserve us from the false, and grant us a great and genuine move of the Holy Spirit that will be undeniably from above. In our desire to see God at work let us beware [of] the readiness to accept anything that just “appears” to be authentic. Let us apply the tests as outlined [in his book], and be sure that what we approve is truly of the Lord and in accordance with His Word’ (Morgan 2005:255, 257).
  15. I remain convinced that a house church is the best environment in which the genuine charismatic gifts (1 Cor 12-14) can function. In my region, I have not been able to find such a house church.
  16. To expose some of the controversial issues of John MacArthur’s labelling the charismatic phenomena as ‘strange fire’, see the articles:

John F. MacArthur Jr..JPG

John F MacArthur Jr (courtesy Wikipedia)

blue-coil-smChristianity Today article, ‘Understanding the charismatic movement’ (October 18, 2013).

blue-coil-smJohn MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll: Megachurch pastors clash over charismatic theology’ (Religion News Service, October 18, 2013).

blue-coil-smA Final Appeal to Pastor John MacArthur on the Eve of His ‘Strange Fire’ Conference’ (Charisma News, October 15, 2013).

blue-coil-smTom Schreiner reviews John MacArthur’s book, Strange fire (Thomas Nelson 2013) – The Gospel Coalition.
blue-coil-smJohn MacArthur and Strange Fire’ (Tim Challies, September 26, 2013).
blue-coil-smDave Miller (SBC Voices), ‘“Strange Fire”: John MacArthur is Right…and VERY Wrong’, 18 October 2013.

Conclusions

Although John MacArthur is a cessationist who does not support the continuing gifts of the Spirit of 1 Corinthians 12-14, the titles of his books, Charismatic chaos and Strange fire accurately describe what went on in the charismatic house church meeting I attended on 3 November 2013.

Charismatic commotion and confusion were alive and well at this gathering. It demonstrated a low view of biblical authority where extreme human performance was the guide of what should happen in a charismatic church gathering. More than ever there is a need for the teaching in Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005). For a description and biblical assessment of the gift of prophecy, see Wayne Grudem’s, The gift of prophecy: In the New Testament and today (1988).

Charismatic strange fire is dangerous because it assaults biblical integrity. It exalts experience as a prominent determiner of what is right and wrong when the gifts are manifest in a church gathering. What is the biblical position?

clip_image003 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[1] 1 John 4:1-3, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[2] 1 Corinthians 14:1-12, 29-33, 39-40, Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

6 Now, brothers [and sisters], if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church….

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace….

39 So, my brothers [and sisters], earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[3] 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[4] Acts 17:11, Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (ESV).

designRed-small (1) ‘False teaching is a malignancy that corrupts and destroys. False manifestations will lead people astray and cause more damage than [people] might deem possible’.

designRed-small (2) ‘The Scriptural guidelines for testing teachings and manifestations are there for the spiritual blessing and mutual edification of the believers who fellowship in any local church. Our Lord wants the best for His people, to prepare them for that Day when He will appear’.

designRed-small (3) ‘We must be watchful as we see emerging signs of “the apostasy” of these end times (2 Thess 2:1-3), and preserve our “love of the truth”’ [2 Thess 2:10] (Morgan 2005:254, 255-256 ).

Works consulted

Fee, G 1987. First epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce, gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Grudem, W 1988. The gift of prophecy in the New Testament and today.[3] Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Morgan, A 2005. The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations. Spring Lake, MI: Dust & Ashes Publications.

Sommer, L 2013. Around the world in 365 days: Toronto blessing celebrates 10 years. Charisma Magazine (online). Available at: http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/devotionals/around-the-word-in-365-days?view=article&id=1104:toronto-blessing-celebrates-10-years&catid=154 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

Notes:


[1] In Aeron Morgan’s book (2005), he stated that this information came from Charisma News Service (online), 8 January 2004, and that the article was titled, ‘Toronto blessing: Just as anointed after 10 years’. He accessed it on 8 January 2004 at: http://www.charismanews.com/a.php? Article ID=8437 (Morgan 2005:179, n. 132). Such an article is no longer available online at Charisma News and the Sommer (2013) article seems to be an update of the previous article. However, a copy of the 2004 article seems to be that at: http://www.openheaven.com/forums/printer_friendly_posts.asp?TID=494 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

[2] This in no way is meant to state that all teachings on this site are supported by this researcher. For example, I do not support the Received Text (Textus Receptus) as the most reliable Greek NT nor of the King James Version and the New King James Version English translations that are based on this NT text. Also, I am not supportive of the eschatology of dispensational, premillennial, pretribulationism promoted on that site. For views that oppose this perspective, see my articles:

(1) The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations;

(2) Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible,

(3) Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

(4) The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?

(5) What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

[3] A revised edition is available from Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books 2000. See: http://www.crossway.org/books/the-gift-of-prophecy-in-the-new-testament-and-tpb/ (Accessed 4 November 2013).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Is the Holy Spirit God?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Hovering Dove

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

There are some who have doubts about the Holy Spirit being God, expressed in some of the blogs I visit on Christian Forums on the Internet. Here is but one example:

Also how come the Holy Spirit is never called God in any scripture? Look at John 10:30–“I and the father are one”.[1]

The following is my response.[2]

You don’t seem to want to believe that the Holy Spirit is God. Take your example:

‘Also how come the Holy Spirit is never called God in any scripture? Look at John 10:30–“I and the father are one”.

Yours is false teaching that “the Holy Spirit is never called God in any scripture”. Don’t you read the Book of Acts? This is what Acts 5:3-5 states:

3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it (ESV).

Who did Ananias lie to? The Holy Spirit and that means that Ananias lied to God. That’s Bible, but you don’t want to believe it!

I obtained the following summary of the deity of the Holy Spirit from Norman Geisler 2003. Systematic Theology: God, Creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse, pp. 675-676.

The Holy Spirit is given the names of Deity
The Holy Spirit is referred to as “God” or “Lord” (Acts 5:3-4), “God’s Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16), “Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4-6), and “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14).

The Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of Deity
The Holy Spirit has attributes of God such as life (Rom. 8:2), truth (John 16:13), love (Rom. 15:30), holiness (Eph. 4:30), eternality (Heb. 9:14), omnipresence (Ps. 139:7), and omniscience (1 Cor. 2:11).

The Holy Spirit performs acts of deity
The divine works of the Holy Spirit include the act of Creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30), the acts of redemption (Isa. 63:10-11; Eph. 4:30; 1 Cor. 12:13), the performance of miracles (Gal. 3:2-5; Heb. 2:4), and the bestowal of supernatural gifts (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11).

The Holy Spirit is associated with God in prayers and benedictions
Jude 1:20 exhorts readers to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” The benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 contains all three members of the Godhead: “May the brace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (emphasis added). The baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 also contains the Holy Spirit, along with the other members of the Trinity, all under one “name” (essence).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Is Jesus God’, yogosans14 #242, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7648044-25/ (Accessed 11 March 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #255.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Blue Greek Key With Lines Border by GR8DAN - A blue greek key based border.

Is the gift of tongues an example of babbling to God?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Beyond Words

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’ve heard some fairly demeaning things said about the gift of tongues down through the years. Here is one example that I encountered on the largest Christian forum in the world, Christian Forums. In a discussion on tongues in Baptist churches he said,

My old Baptist pastor said that people who do it are just leading themselves on and getting over-the-top exited (sic) and i really don’t see the point in babbling to god but objectively the bible does support it and ive (sic) known some awesome christians who do it.[1]

My response was:

“Babbling to god” is hardly a biblical way of describing one of God’s genuine gifts of the Spirit.

Could it be that you don’t understand this gift and so use this kind of put-down language, ‘Babbling to god’ – along with the lower case for ‘god’? Are you saying that the person with the gift of glossolalia is worshipping another ‘god’?[2]

Then this reply came to my post:

I would tend to agree that the practice as it is done in many Christian circles is little more than “babbling” presumably “to God.” And that is the more benign form. In some circles, there is an entire theology built around “speaking in tongues” that is dangerously exclusive and overly reliant on a very specific practice.[3]

‘Babbling to God’

How does one reply to such content? I responded[4] that I find it reprehensible that he used language such as “babbling to God” to refer to God’s supernatural gift of tongues. On occasions I speak to God in the language of tongues in my home devotions, a language that he has given me and it is by no means “babbling”. It is God’s gift to me and I use the glossolalia that he has given me to communicate with him in my prayer time.

This person obviously doesn’t understand this gift, otherwise he would not be using this disparaging kind of language.

However, I do find that many Pentecostal and Charismatic gifts allow this speaking in tongues, without interpretation, in the public gathering and this leads to unbiblical disorder. The Scriptural injunction is that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).

This does not happen in some of these churches that I have visited. This means that they are right out of order, based on the teaching in 1 Cor. 14. In fact, I think it could have been this kind of chaos that Paul was addressing in Corinth.

However, excesses should never be a reason to reject biblical doctrine. Extremism should tell us where to make correction and get back to biblical teaching. But cessationism is not the solution.

I’ve been off the air with my computer with a virus for the last week. I contracted it by opening an email that was from my son’s email address but it was one of those extremist virus producers who use email to catch us. I was caught by such extremism. However, it would be unrealistic of me to give up using email because of some extremist who abused the privilege.

It’s the same with the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. I will never interpret God’s amazing gifts of the Spirit through the extremism I see in some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. They are doing things indecently and out of order (the opposite of 1 Cor. 14:40). God wants us to get back to biblical order in the decent manifestation of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

In fact, this biblical injunction should be happening in all Pentecostal and Charismatic groups and churches: “Let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor 14:29).

Fake gifts

This fellow responded to me on the Forum,

Would it be fair to say that there are those who are not genuinely exercising the gift of tongues but are going through the motions for the sake of showing off or pretending to have a spiritual prowess of sorts? I would say that in church circles that overly emphasize speaking in tongues, this is quite common and is nothing more than “babbling” supposedly “to God.” If you find this opinion “reprehensible” then so be it. I just want to make sure you understand what you are calling “reprehensible”.
In short, I am not referring to “God’s supernatural gift of tongues” as babbling. I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”.[5]

How should I respond to such questions and observations? This was my answer:[6]

Of course it is possible to fake a genuine gift of the Spirit. But it also is possible to fake being a Christian as well. Any who want to demonstrate spiritual prowess by faking any kind of gift are heading in the wrong direction spiritually. It is easy to fake any kind of religious experience. Let’s not focus solely on the Pentecostals or charismatics.

So could “babbling for God” be in competition with:

  1. Solemnity for God;
  2. Contemporary Christianity for God;
  3. Traditionalism for God;
  4. Evangelicalism for God;
  5. Liturgy for God, etc?

He says that ‘I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”’. What criteria are you using to determine the genuine from the fake to KNOW that they are “babbling for God”? Does he have the genuine gift of the Spirit of discernment / knowledge so that he can walk into any Pentecostal or Charismatic church and he knows exactly who are exercising genuine gifts and those who are “babbling for God”?

Is speaking in tongues gibberish?

That’s how one writer stated it:

Speaking in tongues was simply, as stated, an act of communication on the part of the Spirit to help communicate and found the church movement that led us into the age that we are in now, the Church Age. Tongues was the Spirit of Christ taking hold of the ears and mouths of people and letting them understand each other in their own language without the speaker or listener speaking any specific language. READ THE BIBLE.

Seriously, take some courses in a Bible college to understand this. Read the original Hebrew and Greek texts, realizing what it meant. In Greek, which is what the new Testament was written in, in the book of Acts when the writer says “spoke in tongues” it is the phrase “mílise se pollés glósses””, which literally means, “many languages”. So you could say, they spake in MANY LANGUAGES, meaning everyone understood what was being said. It was NOT gibberish….[7]

Speaking in Tongues is not a gift that the Spirit grants these days because it’s need was fulfilled and we have moved on passed that time. We have multilingual Bibles now, there is no reason that we would have to speak in Tongues considering we can present a Bible in virtually any language now. It’s time has passed.[8]

My response was:[9]

I wish I could agree with you but I can’t. Why? The Bible disagrees with that perspective. What happened on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4, with the outpouring of the Spirit was a once only experience.

However, the gift of tongues is a different gift that God continues to give. I know that from 1 Corinthians 14:1-5,

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (ESV).

We are to earnestly desire all spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, but the genuine gift of tongues and interpretation continues. There is no place in the church gathering for any who speaks in tongues without interpretation. However, these verses teach that there is a genuine gift of tongues where one ‘speaks not to men but to God … for he utters mysteries in the Spirit’. You seem not to have experienced or want to experience this, but I can vouch for this kind of communication with God on almost a daily basis. I praise and thank God for this gift he has given me.

However, while Paul gives a preference for prophecy as a gift in the church as it ‘builds up the church’, he still gives this important teaching about tongues:

blue-arrow-small ‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of tongues was available to NT believers. Notice the contrast:

blue-arrow-small‘The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of prophecy approximately equals tongues with interpretation for the building up of the church.

Conclusion

My experience is that there is such poor teaching on the correct approach to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit – especially tongues and interpretation – that there is too much existential chaos allowed by church leaders at the local church level that is too much like Toronto ‘blessing’ and Brownsville Pensacola ‘revival’ excesses.

The excesses should not cause us to reject the correct biblical teaching of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that includes tongues and interpretation.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?’, Blooper #171, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-18/#post61495691 (Accessed 3 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #173.

[3] Ibid, dies-I #174.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #175.

[5] Ibid., dies-I #176.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen #178.

[7] Ibid., ChrisHolland169 #150.

[8] Ibid., #157.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen #161.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 October 2016.

 

What Presbyterians can learn from Pentecostals!

Monday, August 20th, 2012

 

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(image Courtesy: Wikipedia)                     (image Courtesy: Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

When my wife and I moved to Brisbane from Hervey Bay, Qld., Australia, we left Fraser Coast Baptist Church where the senior pastor, Steve Sauvageot, was a solid biblical expositor of the Scriptures and the church sang only hymns during the services. And have a guess what? There were plenty of youth who came to the church who were part of a vibrant youth group.

When we moved to Brisbane in mid 2011 and settled in a Brisbane suburb, we set about finding a church with solid preaching and sound theology in the songs they sang. We were seeking out an evangelical church that believed the Bible, the Gospel, and preached from the Scriptures.

What did we find?

We went to seven local evangelical churches and for all of those, Baptist and Churches of Christ, the old hymns were out and contemporary, rock music was in. Loud rock music tended to dominate the music. At one church, the music introduction in one of the songs was led by the drummer. In fact, the musical interlude in this song was given by the drummer as the only means of music. Now that’s a hard way for me, a very average singer, to get a note to try to sing.

The lyrics of these songs were biblical-lite. There was nothing like, ‘A mighty fortress is our God!’, ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise’, or ‘How great Thou art’. Since it was 12-months ago, I cannot remember one contemporary song that we sang in those churches.

In one church, there was not a Bible reading in the entire service. Most of the sermons were topical with no expository emphasis. The one exception was the ‘drummer’ church where an elder did give a very good expository sermon. However, we were hardly going to settle at that church as the music was superficially light and the people were not very friendly. Not a person spoke to us after the service.

We settled on a Presbyterian church

While I am not Calvinistic in my primary theological orientation, my wife and I found a Presbyterian church where there was solid expository preaching along with the singing of hymns, most of which we know. Singing is from words flashed onto a projector screen from a computer and digital camera.

But here there is another challenge. The people are friendly, the sermons are expository as the pastor preaches through the Bible, but the services, to use my language, are as dry as dust. It is traditional church order of: introduction from the psalms (generally), hymn, prayer (by pastor),  children’s talk, announcements, hymn, Bible reading, pastoral prayer (by pastor), hymn, sermon, hymn, and benediction. It is dominated by one-way communication. It is quite a contrast from some of the other Pentecostal and evangelical churches with which I have been associated down through the years.

I have been to some mid-week, evening Bible studies in the church and they are a fairly sterile environment with a Bible study gained from the Internet on 1 Corinthians, but there is no prayer and care for one another in the group. It’s a dry, academic study where interaction is allowed.

There was content that came in a sermon on 19 August 2012 on the raising of Lazarus (John 11:11-27) that caused me to think further about the nature of what is happening in this evangelical Presbyterian church. I take notes from all of the sermons I hear and this is one area of emphasis from this sermon (the pastor has been at this church for 9 years) – this is based on the notes that I took during the service:

  • (Australian) Presbyterians are a fearful people; we fear to give and we are an impotent bunch.
  • Pentecostals are more optimistic.
  • Baptists and Pentecostals are more evangelistic.

I have observed this kind of thinking among the Presbyterians in this church also.

How should I respond?

I took the time to send the pastor an email that included this content:

clip_image006 I’ve been contemplating some of the content of your sermon and the contrasts between Presbyterians and Pentecostals. Then there was a chain of people that the elder asked to be formed at the end of the service when we held hands and prayed. The elder had a personal issue that he shared.

clip_image006[1]Would you and the elders be prepared to engage with me in two areas of ministry that I believe will make a major difference at this Presbyterian Church? I’m convinced that this needs to happen at the local church level. There are two areas that I’d like to discuss with you and the elders, based on your sermon contents and the joining of hands of the people at the conclusion of the service.

What are those two areas?

clip_image007Firstly, this has to do with the pastor’s comment about the differences between Pentecostals and Presbyterians. One of the reasons many of the Pentecostals I know are so active in evangelism and vibrant in their understanding of Christian ministry is because of this emphasis: They have a biblical understanding of the need for all Christians to care for one another, weep with one another, hurt with one another, pray for one another and minister to one another. This is the biblical emphasis:

  • James 5:16: ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 6:18: ‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints’ (ESV).
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26: ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together’ (ESV).

What happens when my wife and I go to the church’s Bible study? There is no confessing of sins one to another, praying for one another. It becomes an academic exercise without the involvement of the community of believers and the Community of the King (the language of Howard Snyder). We are the body of Christ and we need to be caring for one another when we meet. I asked for opportunity for me to discuss this with the pastor and/or elders. I believe it is an important aspect of ministry among the body of believers that seems to be neglected at this church (I await a reply from the pastor).

If the elder had not shared his personal struggles from the pulpit at the end of service, I would not have known of his personal struggles with a certain issue. This should not be so with a functioning body of believers. When we meet for Bible study, it should not be just a Bible study. It ought to be a gathering of the body of believers where all believers are able to minister to one another. If anyone is hurting, this is the opportunity to pray for one another and be healed by the power of God. I asked to be able to share further with pastor and elders.

clip_image007[1]Secondly, there is another area where Pentecostals could teach Presbyterians a great deal about biblical functioning. I’m somewhat reticent to broach this subject with the pastor as I know that he opposes this view. However, I asked him to consider allowing me to present some teaching at some elders’ meetings on the biblical understanding of the continuing ministry of the gifts of the Spirit. I was raised in a cessationist Baptist Church but when I exegeted the relevant Scriptures, I could no longer support that view.

What I observe happening at this Presbyterian Church is that it is very hierarchical and one-way communication is dominant when the church gathers. That is not what happened at Corinth and it should not be what happens with any church that believes the Bible in the twenty-first century. I’m speaking of the giftedness of the whole body of believers. We have this teaching stated clearly and overtly in Paul’s correction of the Corinthian Church. He did not condemn them for this practice but told them that this is what ought to happen when the church gathers. Here it is:

  • 1 Corinthians 14:26, ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’ (NIV).

This is what should be happening in each church gathering, but especially in small groups. I asked for permission to come to elders’ meetings and present teaching on the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the body of believers. I am convinced this would address some of the issues raised by the pastor in his sermon about the vibrancy of Pentecostalism when compared with Presbyterianism. I am not suggesting that we adopt a philosophy of pragmatism – doing what works. But I see a biblical need to get back to the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit among us when the church gathers. This is not happening in this Presbyterian Church. Why? It is because cessationism is being promoted. I asked for permission to engage with the pastor and elders on these teachings.

I said that it may sound brazen of me to raise these topics as I’ve only been in the church 12-months, but I consider they are two vital factors in a healthy church.

For some of the articles I’ve written on these topics, I refer you to:

Appendix A: An expose on what is happening to music in the church

I only recently have become aware of this book. My wife, a pianist and vocalist, has just finished reading it. I’m impressed by what I’ve heard so far, but my wife has passed it on to another musician in the church to read. Here is the book by T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal ( 2010. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing).

For reviews, see:

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 June 2016.

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Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

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By Spencer D Gear

Some Pentecostal Christian denominations and para-church agencies of a similar theological persuasion have Statements of Beliefs that state that they believe the baptism with the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 2:4, is given to believers who ask for it. [1]  The meaning is that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism/filling with the Holy Spirit.  Those who are Spirit-filled will speak in unknown or other tongues, according to this theology.

Although I accepted this view for about 13 years, an examination of the Scriptures and Christian experience have  pressed me to question this understanding.  Since I am committed to the inerrant Word of God, I have sought answers from a careful study of the grammar and context of Acts 2:4 and other Scriptures.

I consider this an important issue since the Scriptures speak about the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.  I deeply desire the Holy Spirit’s ministry in my life, therefore, the following study is directed towards discovering the theology of the baptism with the Holy Spirit with a view to experience in the Christian’s life.

The Day of Pentecost

What happened on the day of Pentecost was a unique historical occurrence (tongues were not sought) where the tongues were actual known dialects (Acts 2:6, 8 uses the Greek word, dialekto — dative case, which v. 8 affirms was their own native language).  These dialects were understood by the listeners and did not need to be interpreted.

To make Acts 2:4 support the “initial evidence” doctrine, one, to be consistent, must require that those baptised in the Holy Spirit today must speak in known dialects.

Other References in the Book of Acts

The “tongues” of Acts 10:46 seem to be interpreted by Acts 11:15, which means that it is the Gentiles’ Pentecost with the languages being known dialects (cf, “just as He did upon us at the beginning”, 11:15).  Therefore, because of this context of the Book of Acts, Acts 19:6 would be most consistently interpreted as the dialects of the day of Pentecost.  What is significant is that as the gospel spread and as each new group of people was encountered, tongues is mentioned (the Jews, Acts 2:4; the Gentiles, Acts 10:46; those who accepted John’s baptism, Acts 19:6).  From these verses it is evident that for some people who are filled with the Spirit, they will speak in tongues.

It is just as significant in the Book of Acts that tongues is not mentioned with the filling of the Spirit in all examples.  Acts 8:18 does not state what Simon the sorcerer saw.  Acts 9:17 does not associate Paul’s filling with the Holy Spirit with “tongues”.  It is arguing from silence (a dangerous exegetical practice) to say that Paul’s baptism with the Spirit was accompanied by tongues.  We know he spoke in tongues (I Cor. 14:18-19), but do not know when it began.

In Acts 4:8, “filled”, an aorist participle, could be translated “having just been filled”, does not mention tongues.  This is repeated in 13:9, 52.  Acts 4:31 does not mention tongues.  In fact the evidence was that they “began to speak the word of God with boldness” (NASB).  Why are not boldness (Acts 4:31), power (Acts 1:8) and prophecy (Acts 19:6) the evidences of the filling of the Spirit?

Tongues in I Corinthians

What happened on the day of Pentecost cannot be identified with the “tongues” of I Cor. 12:11, 30; 14:2, 4, 13, 19, 27 where the “tongue” either had to be interpreted (12:11, 30; 14:13, 27) or was unknown language, spoken to God for personal edification (14:2, 4).  However, I Cor. 13:1 identifies tongues with the languages of men (understandable human languages) and the languages of angels (presumably the communication language of the angels in heaven).

For me, the definitive moment in my interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, “Do all speak in tongues?” which is confirmed by the NASB translation: “All do not speak with tongues, do they?”

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all.

Perhaps the reply could be: I Corinthians 12-14 must be taken as a whole and refers to the use of tongues in the corporate gathering of the church and so refers to the gift of tongues requiring the accompanying gift of interpretation.  Therefore, it is correct to say that not all believers are given the gift of tongues requiring interpretation for exercise in the gathering of the body.

This is a valid objection that I accepted for many years.  However, a closer examination of the context reveals the following:

a.    I Cor. 14:2, 4 refers to tongues for personal edification and not requiring interpretation — therefore it is not for use in the church.  This seems to be what Paul is referring to when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Cor. 14:18).  In the church, he prefers intelligibility: “I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19)

b.    I Cor. 14:14-18 contrasts speaking and singing “with the spirit” (tongues on the basis of v. 14) and praying with the mind.  Therefore, throughout I Cor. 12-14, there seems to be an interchange of tongues (spiritual language or ecstatic utterance) as a language spoken to God for personal edification and tongues requiring interpretation for the edification of the church.

Therefore, my conclusion is that I Cor. 12:28, 30 is referring to both kinds of tongues, which are not given to all believers.  Why?  Because “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (I Cor. 12:11 NASB).  I Cor. 12:14 emphasises: “For the body is not one member, but many.”  Therefore, I do not find it surprising that tongues is restricted to some believers by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: “Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit” (1983:90).

Based on Experience

Experience is never the way to judge whether or not a doctrine is correct.  That must come from a solid historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible.  However, my experience and that of others is that, even though one speaks in tongues, this does not mean one is always controlled by the Spirit (and surely that is one meaning of the filling/baptism of the Holy Spirit).  I have spoken in tongues in my prayer time with the Lord, but later in the day have been angry with my children, told a lie, or slandered a brother.  So, speaking in tongues is no guarantee for me that I am always dominated by the Spirit of God.

On the other hand, I know people who do not speak in tongues (my wife is one example) whose lives are a constant testimony to submission to Jesus Christ and control by the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

A consistent interpretation of the relevant Scriptures reveals that tongues cannot be available to every Christian as the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit because:

1.    Not all will speak in tongues (I Cor. 12:30), and
2.    Such a doctrine usurps the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, based on the following Scriptures:

  •  “We have different gifts according to the grace given us” (Rom. 12:6a).
  •  “All these [gifts] are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (I Cor. 12:11).
  • ·Hebrews 2:4 speaks of “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
    I believe it grieves the Holy Spirit and is a promotion of doctrinal error when denominations and Christian leaders go contrary to the Bible’s teaching.

However, if I am in error in the above contextual-grammatical interpretation of “tongues” I need your correction.  Please be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and direct me to the Word of God. Use this web page’s response form to show me my error.

References

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.

Endnotes:

1.    These Denominations explain the baptism with the Holy Spirit as follows:

(a)  Statement 8 of the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal denomination) “Fundamental Truths” is:

The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit”: ‘The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance. Acts 2:4 [KJV/NIV]

The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [KJV/NIV]; 1 Corinthians 12:28 [KJV/NIV]’.

(b)  The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (a Pentecostal denomination) in its ‘Declaration of Faith’ states:

We believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the incoming of the promised Comforter in mighty and glorious fullness to endue the believer with power from on high; to glorify and exalt the Lord Jesus; to give inspired utterance in witnessing of Him; to foster the spirit of prayer, holiness, sobriety; to equip the individual and the Church for practical, efficient, joyous, Spirit-filled soul-winning in the fields of life; and that this being still the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the believer may have every reason to expect His incoming to be after the same manner as that in which He came upon Jew and Gentile alike in Bible days, and as recorded in the Word, that it may be truly said of us as of the house of Cornelius: the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning [biblical references to support this statement are: John 14:16-17; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4; 8:17; 10:44-46; 1 Cor. 3:16].

(c)  The Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee (a Pentecostal denomination), in its “Declaration of Faith” states that ‘we believe … in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost’.

(d) The Vineyard Churches USA take a different slant in their statement of Core Values, ‘The Ministry of the Holy Spirit’:

We believe that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church at Pentecost in power, baptizing believers into the Body of Christ and releasing the gifts of the Spirit to them. The Spirit brings the permanent indwelling presence of God to us for spiritual worship, personal sanctification, building up the Church, gifting us for ministry, and driving back the kingdom of Satan by the evangelization of the world through proclaiming the word of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus.

We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is our abiding Helper, Teacher, and Guide. We believe in the filling or the empowering of the Holy Spirit, often a conscious experience, for ministry today. We believe in the present ministry of the Spirit and in the exercise of all of the biblical gifts of the Spirit. We practice the laying on of hands for the empowering of the Spirit, for healing, and for recognition and empowering of those whom God has ordained to lead and serve the Church.

(e) The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (a Pentecostal denomination) in the “Confession of Faith” states that,

WE BELIEVE in the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as promised to all believers. We believe in the manifestation of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. We believe that a Christian should be a disciple of Jesus Christ living a consecrated and holy life.

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear.This document last updated at: 11 October 2015.

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