Arminian Today

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Strange Fire Book Review (Chapter Five)

This is an ongoing look at the controversial book by Dr. John MacArthur, Strange Fire.  This post will be on chapter five of the book.

In chapter five, Dr. MacArthur is going to begin looking deeper at the charismatic movement and biblically why he disagrees with it.  This chapter focused on the issue of Apostles.  MacArthur points out that many charismatics claim that apostles are for today and that in some ways, modern Apostles are more powerful, more anointed, etc. than the Apostles in Scripture.  He points out that men such as C. Peter Wagner have taught that we are now living in a new era of apostles.  Men such as Bill Hamon promote the idea that we need modern apostles just as found in Ephesians 4:11-16 to help us build up the kingdom of Christ.

Along with modern apostles comes all that the Apostles did in the book of Acts: miracles, visions, dreams, leadership, authority, etc.  MacArthur rightfully asks the question as to whether this is biblical?  Is it biblical for someone to claim to be an apostle today or has the office of the Apostles ceased with the death of Paul (who was the last Apostle according to 1 Corinthians 15:8-9).  MacArthur points out that while some were indeed called apostles, the Apostles (capitalized) have a unique place in the kingdom of God that will never be repeated.  MacArthur points out that most charismatics agree with this with the exception of a few who claim to have been gifted beyond the Twelve.

I will admit that I have struggled with people claiming titles for themselves.  I have met people who claimed to be an apostle.  I doubted they were anything like what I see in Scripture regarding the Apostles.  Frankly, I have yet to meet an “apostle” who was humble or broken as Paul was (2 Corinthians 2:17).  Most “apostles” I have met claimed that title for power purposes only.  In reality, the only title I see in Scripture that we are to give is to the Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 6:15).  Jesus alone is the exalted One that we worship and adore.  We do not exalt men of flesh (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

The word Apostle in the New Testament has several meanings depending on the context.  It can refer to the Twelve (Matthew 10:2; Revelation 21:14) or those sent out by the Church (missionaries; the Greek word means “one sent out”; see Acts 13:1-3; 14:14).  MacArthur points out that the Apostles had three major criteria:

  1. An Apostle had to be a physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39-41; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7-8).
  2. An Apostle had to be personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Galatians 1:1).
  3. An Apostle had to be able to authenticate his apostolic appointment with miraculous signs (Matthew 10:1-2; Acts 1:5-8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4).

If the “apostle” does not meet these qualifications, they are not biblical apostles.  He points out that Dr. Wayne Grudem (a charismatic theologian himself) has written, “since no one today can meet the qualification of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today.”  MacArthur believes this to be a remarkable statement from someone who believes the gifts continue to this day yet Grudem admits to being a cessationist when it comes to modern apostles.

MacArthur goes on to write how the modern apostles not only fail the test of apostolic ministry but they serve no purpose today in the Church.  The Apostles laid the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20) but they have ceased since no one has seen the risen Christ with their own eyes today.

I agreed with much of what MacArthur wrote here.  I have no problem saying that the Apostles were indeed unique just as Moses was unique to ancient Israel.  There will never be another Moses nor another Paul the Apostle.  In this I can admit that I am a partial cessationist when it comes to many issues regarding the charismatic movement.  This is why I admit that I am a disciple of Jesus first and foremost above being an Arminian or a Baptist or whatever.  Our faith is in Jesus and not in a movement.

In conclusion, MacArthur has a strong defense for the cessationist arguments against modern apostles.  I suspect that many Pentecostals could easily read this chapter and agree with MacArthur, that the Apostles were unique and there will never been men such as that again.  They will be forever remembered for their service to the King in Revelation 21:14.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2014 at 10:10 AM

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