Arminian Today

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Strange Fire Book Review (Chapter Six)

This is an ongoing look at Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  You can find the first post here.

This post will examine chapter six of the book.  In this chapter, Dr. MacArthur is writing about “the folly of fallible prophets.”  The chapter opens with MacArthur looking at what the Old Testament had to say in regard to prophets.  Prophets, oddly enough, were not that common in the Bible.  Even the Prophetic writings themselves (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, etc.) were not full of prophecies but were expositions from the Lord to His people.  While there are prophecies given in the Old Testament (such as the prophecies about the Messiah that have been fulfilled in Jesus), the Old Testament is not one long prophetic book.

Yet the Old Testament did give guidelines for the Israelites in regard to the claim of a prophet.  Deuteronomy 13:1-5 is clear on this issue:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

MacArthur writes, “The New Testament is relentless in echoing that same warning.  Anyone who claims to speak for God while simultaneously leading people away from the truth of God’s Word is clearly shown to be a false prophet and a deceiver.”  MacArthur points out that even Satan himself can do miracles to fool the people (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

In the book MacArthur gives three signs of a false prophet.  They are:

  1. A false prophet is one who leads people into false doctrine and heresy (Deut. 13:1-5).
  2. A false prophet is one who lives in unrestrained lust and unrepentant sin (Matthew 7:20-23).
  3. A false prophet is one who claims to have a “revelation from God” that turns out to be inaccurate or untrue (Deut. 18:20-22; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Using these three criteria, MacArthur takes on the modern charismatic prophets who claim to be using the gift of prophecy.  He even takes on Reformed charismatic Wayne Grudem over the issue of fallible prophets.  Grudem believes that Acts 21:10-14 records a fallible prophecy from Agabus.  MacArthur takes Grudem to the task of showing Grudem to be wrong on this issue.

Overall this chapter is rooted in the Bible.  The Bible is clear that prophets are to be tested and not believed just because they claim to speak for God or even that they can do signs and wonders.  We must be biblically discerning toward those who claim to be speaking for God.  I have always been wary of someone claiming to have a “word from the Lord” for me or for the church.  When I have pressed people to how God gives them these “words from the Lord,” I have been dumfounded at their answers.  It has ranged from strange to “I just felt like this is from the Lord.”  Rather than heeding the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we have had prophets and the like running around claiming to hear from heaven while leading people astray.  We must be careful about this.

That said, I have also had “words from the Lord” that were incredible in their truth.  I am not claiming that the gift of prophecy is to be proved by our experiences but I must admit that I have heard some incredible “words” from people who didn’t know me and yet they were able to discern things that I had not expressed outwardly.  Again, this does not prove their prophecies to be true nor should we base our faith on my experience, but I have witnessed some incredible things.

And I believe that MacArthur would say that God leads us not by direct communication but by His divine providence.  His associate, Phil Johnson, taught on this at the Strange Fire Conference.  You can find that teaching here.  Divine providence shows us that God is not dead nor does He not care for His creation.  God is involved in every detail of our world.  From the animals to the weather to His own children in Christ Jesus.  However, MacArthur would be clear here that God speaks today only in the Bible and through the Bible and we must hear His voice today in the Scriptures.  While the voice of God does go out into the world through His creation (Psalm 19:1-3), Scripture speaks clearly for God and reveals His salvation (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Charismatics that I have known would agree with much of what MacArthur writes.  They would reject the idea that God is not speaking while agreeing that the Holy Spirit can lead us and yet we should be careful to test all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).  No doubt all “words from the Lord” should not just be accepted simply because the person speaking is godly or has spoken truth in the past.  The Bible must be the final authority for all things.


Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/23/2014 at 10:50 AM

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