Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘charismatics

Short Thoughts on “Rhema” Words From God

Recently I visited a Pentecostal church and once again I heard the old teaching that “logos” is the written Word of God but “rhema” is the “revelation to the heart from God.” In other words, “logos” is the Bible and “rhema” is a personal revelation from God the Holy Spirit.

A few thoughts are in order.  First, the Greek usage of “logos” and “rhema” here is horrible.  Not one Greek scholar (barring perhaps someone from the Word-Faith camp) would try to build this case.  Every Greek lexicon and Greek word study book I own doesn’t offer this distinguish between the Greek words “logos” and “rhema.”

Secondly, while this Pentecostal teacher would not admit to this, the teaching undermines the authority of the Bible.  When “logos” is reduced to “the written Word” but “rhema” is a fresh revelation from God, how does this not undermine the authority of the Bible?  Instead of opening up the Bible and hearing directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the believer instead believes they have to pray and wait on the Spirit to give them a fresh, divine revelation from heaven.  So what happens is simple: people want to hear from God so they don’t open the Bible to hear from God since they are taught that while the “logos” is good, “rhema” is better.  This undermines the authority of the Bible and makes the revelation from God via direct communication through so-called “rhema” words more important.  I know that most Pentecostals would reject such a view but they don’t see that their teaching is not helping people hear from God (which they can by simply reading the Bible) but is undermining the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).

In reality, a good Greek study tool will easily clarify the issues related to “logos” and “rhema” and one need only go to a study site online.  It would only take a few minutes to see the error of trying to make “logos” as the “written Word” and “rhema” as “a personal word from God.”  This is misleading and false.

Finally, I repeat here again that if you want to hear from God you need only to read your Bible.  That is it.  I don’t need a personal vision, revelation from God.  I have His Word and His Word is inerrant and infallible and true.  I point again to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is breathed out by God (ESV) and makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (v.17 ESV).  Peter the Apostle pointed not to his personal experience but the Word of God in 2 Peter 1:16-21.  The Word of God is our sure foundation.

To hear from God is easy and only takes seconds.  Take your Bible.  Open it.  Read it.  You’ve now heard from God.  Congratulations.

Rhema, Logos, and “Words from the Lord”

From time to time I feel it is important to address the use of the Greek terms “Logos” and “Rhema” which are often translated in our English Bibles as “Word.”  In many charismatic circles, the “logos” is used for the Bible but the “rhema” is used for a “personal word from the Lord” or sometimes its where the Holy Spirit makes the Bible “a personal word.”  Often I have found this doctrine is taught by those in the Word-Faith movement but that is not always the case and many godly charismatics have fallen prey to the teaching.

The teaching often goes like this:  The Bible is important and it is the Word of God (logos).  But God wants to speak to us personally and give us a “rhema” word where He reveals His heart to us.  Sometimes this “rhema” word will come while reading the Bible (logos) but sometimes God will send His “rhema” word to our spirit.  The “rhema” word is a “now word from heaven.”

What happens is that this doctrine undermines the authority of Scripture.  It also undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.  But it also misuses the Greek words.  For example, the word “logos” is most notably used in John 1:1 where Jesus is called the Word of God.  Oneness Pentecostals jump on the term “logos” as meaning “the thought of God” so that they can deny the eternality of the Son.  Oneness Pentecostals teach that only God the Father (whom they name Jesus) is eternal but Jesus the Son is only eternal in the sense that He was in the mind of God the Father.  The context does not allow for this (John 1:1, 14, 18).  The word “logos” certainly is used here for Jesus but the word “logos” can also just mean “a word” such as in Matthew 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7.  “Logos” can mean a saying or discourses or conversation such as in Matthew 12:37; 15:12; 19:22; 22:15; 26:1; John 4:39; Acts 5:24.  “Logos” can mean a report or rumor (Matthew 28:15; Luke 5:15; 7:17).  It can mean a common saying or proverb (John 4:37).  “Logos” can also mean the Word of God whether the law or the gospel (Matthew 13:19-23; Mark 2:2; 7:13; 16:20; Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2).  It can mean “the ability to speak, utterance” as in Ephesians 6:19.

The word “rhema” is used in many ways interchangeably with “logos.”  For example, Jesus (who is the logos of God in John 1:1) says in John 3:34, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words (rhema) of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” And again Jesus says in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My word (logos)” and then our Lord says in John 8:47, “He who is of God hears the words (rhema) of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Notice in the above texts that the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus, uses the words interchangeably.  In context, rhema is not a subjective, personal word from God but is the Lord Jesus speaking to us.  The Bible is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and reveals the words of God to us.

In 1 Peter 1:23-25 we read (NASB):

23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word (logos) of God. 24 For,

“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,

25 But the word (rhema) of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.

If “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the personal word from God, why does the Holy Spirit use them both here referring to the same thing?  Again, it is because the New Testament writers use the Greek terms interchangeable at times.  We must examine the context.

What is clear from 1 Peter 1:23-25 is that Peter has the Scriptures in mind.  He is not pointing us to a subjective personal word.  He is pointing us to the sufficient, inerrant, infallible Word of God and he quotes from Isaiah 40:6.

In conclusion, the teaching that the “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the subjective personal word is not found in the Bible.  If you want to hear from God, open your Bible and read it.  The Bible is all you need to hear from God.  The Bible is breathed out from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is useful for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).  This “word” is what we are to preach (2 Timothy 4:2).  We need no other.  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that we have the sure foundation if we heed the Word of God.  Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

In order for people to accept “words from God” apart from Scripture, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is attacked.  People are taught that the Bible is a “dead book” but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6 misused).  Other “holy” books such as the Quran or the Book of Mormon will attack the Bible itself and mock it.  In the end, if you want to hear from God read the Bible for the Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is sufficient.  Open it up, read it, and you are hearing from God.

The Draw of the Oneness Pentecostal Movement

I have been studying the doctrine of the holy Trinity now for some time.  I love the doctrine!  It is amazing how Scripture opens up when you begin to study the nature of God.  Fred Sanders is correct, “The trinity changes everything.”  The holy Trinity changes our understanding of love, creation, humanity, order, prayer, worship, and salvation.  Without the Trinity, these doctrines become confusing and twisted.

In my studies, I have been reading books from the Oneness camps to see where they are coming from.  I have listened to many hours of lectures and sermons from Oneness Pentecostals.  Some of the sermons were just normal sermons while most of them I tried to pick that focused on my studies.  I will not, for the sake of time, try to dive into the Oneness views regarding their view of God.  It is suffice to say that Oneness Pentecostals are “Jesus only” meaning that, in the words of one of their preachers, “Jesus is everything.”  In Oneness Pentecostalism, Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, Jesus is the Holy Spirit.  There is more to it than just that but they hold that Jesus is God and that there is only one God and thus Jesus is the only person of the Godhead and He alone is all three modes or manifestations of God that we read in the Bible.

What is the draw then to Oneness Pentecostalism?  I think the appeal is the same as the draw to Trinitarian Pentecostalism in many ways.  First, there is the focus on experience.  Oneness Pentecostalism is very emotional.  The worship is dramatic.  People often shake, dance, run, lift their hands, speak in tongues, etc. in their worship services.  The God of Oneness churches is a very personal God who wants to interact with his people.

Secondly, the preaching is more dramatic than the average evangelical sermon.  While I enjoy a good expository sermon, I detest a lifeless one.  I want a preacher who preaches with passion the truth of God with sound exegesis.  However, the average evangelical pulpit is often shallow and lifeless.  Not so with many Oneness Pentecostal churches.  They preach with power (anointing they would say).  While their message is often shallow and not based on exegesis, they preach with conviction and shouting and fire that is often missing in evangelical churches.

Third, they present themselves as the keepers of the truth.  Oneness Pentecostals (most of them I have listened to) believe that all are lost but Oneness Pentecostals.  If you have not been saved according to their view of Acts 2:38, you are lost.  This would be all Trinitarians including Trinitarian Pentecostals.  You must be baptized in the name of Jesus to have your sins forgiven.  To be baptized in any other way is damnation.  This twisting of Acts 2:38 leads Oneness Pentecostals to feel that they alone are the keepers of the truth of God.  Their duty is to evangelize all who are not Oneness.  This “cause” helps people find purpose in their existence.

Lastly, simple answers.  People want to know who is God.  Oneness Pentecostals are ready with an answer: Jesus is God.  Of course, Trinitarians believe the same but Oneness groups don’t teach that the one God is three persons but rather they teach that Jesus is God and He alone is God and He alone has always been God and He alone will forever be God.  There are no persons in the Godhead but only Jesus (Colossians 2:9).  If you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:8-9).  Oneness groups provide answers for who is God and what is He like.  Like cults, they have answers for God where confusing may exist.  They have their God figured out.

Sadly, many Trinitarian Pentecostals often fall into prey with Oneness Pentecostals.  The reason is that pragmatism abounds among the Trinitarian Pentecostals.  One could easily attend a Trinitarian Pentecostal church and never know that it was Pentecostal.  This is not so with Oneness Pentecostals.  They have the feel of the old Pentecostal services where the music is jumping, the people are jumping, and the sermons are “anointed.”  The average Trinitarian Pentecostal looking for an “experience” with Jesus will find one in Oneness churches and will remind them of “the good old days.”  Due to pragmatism, doctrine among many Trinitarian Pentecostals is weak and thus a Trinitarian Pentecostal is easily drawn into the Oneness groups and led astray.

For more information on Oneness Pentecostals, I recommend this book.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/18/2015 at 5:17 PM

The Purpose of Signs and Wonders In the Ministry of Jesus

Why did Jesus do miracles?  What was the point of signs and wonders in the ministry of Jesus?  In Matthew 8 we get a reason from Matthew about why Jesus did miracles (at least just one among others as we shall see but this point is the overwhelming reason why Jesus did miracles).  In Matthew 8:16-17 we read:

16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Here Matthew quotes from Isaiah 53:4.  Adam Clarke commented on Matthew 8:17:

Christ fulfils the prophecies in all respects, and is himself the completion and truth of them, as being the lamb and victim of God, which, bears and takes away the sin of the world. The text in Isaiah refers properly to the taking away of sin; and this in the evangelist, to the removal of corporeal afflictions: but, as the diseases of the body are the emblems of the sin of the soul, Matthew, referring to the prediction of the prophet, considered the miraculous healing of the body as an emblem of the soul’s salvation by Christ Jesus.

The Messiah would come and He would bear the sins of Israel (and the world; see John 1:29).  Part of this was to “reverse the curse” (Romans 5:17-18).  Part of the fall into sin is suffering, pain, and sickness.  In Revelation 21:4 assures us that in the new heavens and new earth, there will be no more pain, suffering, crying, death.  In fact, death will be destroyed completely according to Revelation 20:14.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and part of that work is death itself whom He abolished (2 Timothy 1:10).  Death has been swallowed up in victory through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54) so that Jesus could say to Martha that He was the resurrection and the life even before the cross (John 11:25-26).

What point then does signs and wonders serve for the Messiah?  They point to Him being the true Messiah.  John the Apostle mentions “signs” in John 2:23.  The Greek word here is “semeion” which can be translated “sign, signal, mark.”  Jesus, by doing signs and wonders, was giving a sign, a signal, and a mark that He was in fact the Son of God.  In John 2:11 John the Apostle states that Jesus did these signs or signals or marks and His disciples put their faith in Him.  The signs and wonders of Jesus were not for a show.  They were to point to a greater, deeper meaning and that was that Jesus was the Messiah of God.  Jesus was the promised one from the Old Testament (Genesis 3:15).

When Jesus appeared on the scene, He was unlike any other who had ever been or will be.  I know some charismatics like to quote John 14:12 to say that we as believers can do greater works than Jesus but that was not the point of John 14:12.  I know of no charismatics who would claim to do greater miracles than Jesus.  Who can claim to be sinless?  Who can claim toward others that if they destroy them, they will raise themselves up again?  Who can truly make blind eyes open just by a touch?  Who can raise the dead by a word?  Who can claim to seeing the lame walk just by taking them by the hand?  Even the Apostles pointed to the Lord Jesus with their signs and wonders in Acts (more on that in the next post).

In the Bible, God allowed signs and wonders for a purpose.  In biblical history we only find three main times when miracles were rampant.  Moses.  Elijah and Elisha.  The Gospels and Acts.  In each case, the purpose was a sign from God.  For example, in Moses’ case the Lord was delivering His people out of Egypt and He gave great power to Moses as he led God’s people out.  While the Lord allowed Joshua, Moses’ aid and successor, to do miracles, they were not on the same level nor quantity as Moses.  The point of the signs and wonders was to point to Moses as God’s faithful servant and deliver (Exodus 4:1-9).

In the case of the Lord Jesus, He did miracles to point to Him being the true Messiah.  In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus appeals to the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 as about Himself.  The Jews take an exception to this (Luke 4:29) but Jesus escapes from their grasps (Luke 4:30).  Jesus points to the Old Testament Scriptures about Himself and to His miracles (John 5:36-40).  The purpose of the signs and wonders was to reveal that Jesus was in fact the Son of God who came down from heaven to do His Father’s will (John 5:30; 6:32).

So let me return to my original question: what is the purpose of signs and wonders in the ministry of Jesus?  They were to validate Him as the Messiah.  Yet if divine determinism is true, why is this necessary?  If God can make a person believe and make another not believe by His own determinism then why do we need signs and wonders?  The elect would believe because God makes them believe and not because of signs and wonders!

The very nature of signs and wonders in the life of Jesus points to the reality of contra-casual free will.  God was not making people believe or disbelieve.  He was sending His Son to redeem fallen humanity just as Isaiah stated in Isaiah 53.  This good news (gospel) would be for all people and not just the Jews (Luke 2:10).  All of humanity is under the curse of sin but Christ came to redeem us who were under the curse of sin (Galatians 3:13-14).  Just as Moses lifted up the serpent on the poll to redeem all who would look upon the poll, so the Lord Jesus was lifted up for all sinners so that whosoever can come and be saved by looking to Him alone to save them (John 3:14-15).  The purpose of signs and wonders is to point to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah and by believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31).  The signs and wonders are signs, signals, and marks that Jesus is the Son of God who gave Himself for our sins (Galatians 1:4; 2:20; 1 Peter 3:18).

If unconditional election were true what point would signs and wonders play?  The elect will believe because God makes them to believe (or at least makes them irresistibly willing to believe).  A Calvinist may argue that the purpose of signs and wonders is so that the elect will believe but if God chooses whom He will save and whom He will damn, the elect will believe no matter what by God’s determined decree.  The signs are not true signs then but just merely a show for the purpose of the Bible.  Even if Jesus never did miracles, the elect would believe if in fact divine determinism is true.  The very reason for signs and wonders points to free will.  The signs are to invoke people to consider Jesus and His claims.  The wonders are to cause people to question if Jesus is truly the Messiah.  Read John 9 and notice how signs and wonders play into the reasoning of the people about Jesus.  Jesus healed the blind man to provoke people to debating about Him.  The signs provoked the people as well in John 7:31 to consider Jesus.

One final point about signs and wonders.  The purpose of signs and wonders in the Gospels seems to me to be three-fold.  First and most obvious, the signs point to Jesus as the Messiah.  This is God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) so we expect Him to do miracles since He is God.  This is the anointed one (Christ) of God who is sinless and is the perfect Son of God.  He does miracles to point to Him being both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:22, 36).

Secondly, signs and wonders provoked the Jews to consider Jesus as the Messiah.  I point again to John 9 as a case in point.  I would also point to Acts 10:38.

Thirdly, I believe that signs and wonders also provoked the Jews to kill Jesus.  We read this in John 12:36-43.  Some of the Jews (such as the Apostles) believed in Jesus because of His signs and wonders and His teachings but many Jews rejected Him as the Messiah and killed Him for it.  The signs worked to provoke some to faith while others to rejection.  This is still true today.  Why does God do this if in fact divine determinism is true?  Why does God need to harden the Jews according to John 12:40 if total depravity (in the Calvinist sense) is true?  If man is born depraved, dead in their sins, wicked sinners from birth then why would God need to provoke the Jews to harden their hearts toward His Messiah?  There is no logical answer for the Calvinist here.

In my next post I will jump into the purpose of signs and wonders among the Apostles.

Critical Thinking Out Loud

Let me do some critical thinking out loud for a moment.  I am pondering two questions.  First, if God is speaking to us through visions, dreams, personal prophecies, etc., why is it that so often those who receive these visions, dreams, personal prophecies are some of the weakest people I know?  I am not going to lump all charismatics together here as I don’t know all of them of course and that would be unfair but those that I do know who claim God is speaking to them in a dream or a “word” in their spirit are typically not committed to studying the Bible, are often ignorant of basic doctrines, don’t pray too much, are not serious in evangelism, and for the most part are weak spiritually.

Secondly, how can we claim that we believe in the sufficiency of the Bible if in fact we are not making a commitment to study it or apply it to our lives?  This is true for both evangelicals and charismatics.  We have all been guilty in knowing too much and not obeying what we know (James 4;17).  The truth is that we all need to take serious our study of the Bible.  The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is true in all that it says (John 17:17).  David said in Psalm 119:142 that he would not forget God’s precepts but have we?  Do we know God’s precepts?  I believe the answer is that we know much but obey little and in reality, we don’t know as much as we think we know.  Remember Jesus’ disciples are those who hear His Word and put it into practice (Luke 11:28).  James the Apostle says that is true faith, to put into practice the truth of God (James 2:14-26).

So the bottom line for me is this: people are running around seeking a “word from the Lord” when in fact He has spoken faithfully and truthfully in the Bible.  The Bible is sufficient to teach us the ways of the Lord and we must be faithful to heed His voice in the Bible.  In reality, we don’t need any other voices.  We have a prophet in the Lord Jesus.  We have a king in the Lord Jesus.  We have a rabbi in the Lord Jesus.  We have a faithful high priest in the Lord Jesus.  We have an advocate with the Father in the Lord Jesus.  We have One who died in our place for our sins as our Passover lamb in the Lord Jesus. We have a sabbath rest in the Lord Jesus.  All of this is revealed not by some revelation apart from Scripture but in the Word of God.  We would do well to go to the Bible and hear it (Psalm 119:151).

Final Thoughts on Strange Fire Book Review

My review of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire has been a long process.  For that I do apologize.  I actually read the book in January and started my review then.  However, because of my work schedule and family duties, etc., I have had to post here and there on the book.  I pray that you did learn something from the review as I tried to be fair with the book and the content.  You can find the first post on this series here.

The book has an appendix in which MacArthur quotes from various Church Fathers and leaders through the centuries about the nature of spiritual gifts.  His point is to prove that many church leaders including men like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon all held to modern cessationists views.  Of course, modern charismatic theologians will often respond in two ways.  One is to say that even such views were held, this does make them right or wrong simply because they held those views.  The bottom line for authority is not Augustine or Gill but the Bible.  I know that MacArthur would agree.  Secondly, some charismatics would argue that the Pentecostal revival brought back an emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit that had been buried by tradition and unbelief.  Others, like Dr. Jack Deere, would argue that it is just unbelief and a presupposition argument against miracles that leads to such views.  You can find Deere’s views in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.  

In conclusion to my review, let me state that I do believe that charismatics would benefit from reading MacArthur’s book.  I said the same when he released Charismatic Chaos back in the early 1990’s.  I read Charismatic Chaos three times!  I agreed with much of what he wrote back then and still do today.  I think most charismatics (and I do not align myself with this camp) would agree with much of what MacArthur points to in his books.  The errors of the prosperity gospel, the errors of the healing movements, the sinfulness of some charismatic leaders, etc., are all things that we should all oppose.

Nonetheless, MacArthur painted with a big brush.  He grouped together men such as Dr. George Wood with men such as Todd Bentley.  He grouped together even Reformed charismatics like Wayne Grudem with the likes of a Rick Joyner.  He blasted all charismatics as blaspheming the Holy Spirit while ignoring the good that is done in the name of Jesus by groups such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, TN), or the Foursquare Gospel Church.  What about ministries such as Teen Challenge that was started by a Pentecostal (David Wilkerson) and is still maintained by Pentecostals?  Teen Challenge remains the top ministry for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.  I personally have visited Teen Challenges and seen the good that they do.

Two prominent seminaries, the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) and the Church of God Theological Seminary (now called the Pentecostal Theological Seminary) are both schools that seek to glorify Christ and exalt the Word of God.  AGTS teaches its students that expository preaching should be the norm for biblical preaching and teaching.  These are both seminaries with theologically trained teachers.  These are not fanatics are they?  Should we lump AGTS alongside Bill Johnson and Bethel Church?

However, the main issue is what does the Bible teach.  It is easy to lump people together in groups and say that they are all the same.  Both Arminians and Calvinists and have done this for years.  Yet people are still people.  Some charismatics are out there.  Most are not.  There are false teachers among Pentecostals.  There are also false teachers among the Presbyterians as well.  People have fallen into sin in the Pentecostal movement.  The same is true of people in all other circles as well.  None of us escape the temptations of the flesh.  But we must seek to be biblical.  The Bible must be our guide.  Not one teacher or group.  The Bible is where we must fall or stand.  I am grateful that I personally know godly Pentecostals who love the Bible and preach the Bible.  They would be appalled if someone said that they were basing their faith on their emotions and not the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19).

I pray that God would use MacArthur to call all of us back to the Bible.  The Bible and not MacArthur or a study Bible or a denomination must be our foundation (Matthew 7:24-27).  We must be people who love the Word of God and delight in His commandments (Psalm 119:131).  We must be like the Bereans and search the Word of God for truth (Acts 17:11).  We must not be foolish and fall prey to false teachings (1 John 4:1-2) but we must embrace and love the truth of God (Psalm 119:173).  This is my earnest prayer, that God would help us all to love the Word and follow Him with all our hearts.

Strange Fire Review (Chapter 12)

This is the final chapter of John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  To find the previous posts, you may begin here.

In this final chapter, MacArthur writes an open letter to his continuationist friends.  This would include mainly Reformed theologians and preachers who are charismatic such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, CJ Mahaney and Sam Storms.  Both Piper and Mahaney have spoken at MacArthur’s church and at conferences with him and I believe that Grudem has taught some classes at the Master’s Seminary.  All of these men (and many other charismatic Calvinists) would disagree with MacArthur over some (not all) of what he has written in this book.

MacArthur gives eight reasons why he believes that the continuation of the revelatory gifts is dangerous.  I will only list them without comment:

1.  The continuationist position gives an illusion of legitimacy to the broader Charismatic Movement.

2.  The continuationist position degrades the miraculous nature of the true gifts that God bestowed upon the first-century church.

3.  The continuationist position severely limits the ability of its advocates to confront others who fall into charismatic confusion.

4.  By insisting that God is still giving new revelation to Christians today, the Continuationist Movement opens the gates to confusion and error.

5.  By insisting that God is still giving new revelation to Christians today, the Continuationist Movement tacitly denies the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

6.  By allowing for an irrational form of tongues-speaking (usually as a private prayer language), the Continuationist Movement opens the door to the mindless ecstasy of charismatic worship.

7.  By asserting that the gift of healing has continued to the present, the continuationist position affirms the same basic premise that undergirds the fraudulent ministries of charismatic faith healers.

8.  The continuationist position ultimately dishonors the Holy Spirit by distracting people from His true ministry while enticing them with counterfeits.

MacArthur ends by calling his continuationist friends back to the Reformation and what it means to be Protestant.

Interestingly, I read after the Strange Fire Conference that MacArthur stated that he wanted to draw a line in the sand at some point and ask all who agree with him to stand with him.  He stated that he would ask his friends who share his theology (Reformed) to cross over and denounce the charismatic movement once and for all.  I have not heard more about this as of this post.

In my estimation, Satan usually offers counterfeits to the truth.  Cults often take some truths of Scripture and build on them but they deny the gospel in essential ways.  Satan will take some truth and sprinkle it into many lies but he seeks to counterfeit the power of God.  This is the case with false healings.  Satan raises up fake healers to spread their heretical “health and wealth” gospel while using a truth about God, that He can do miracles but they ignore that God does them for His glory.  I think that we should not cast away our desire for God to do miracles, for His name to be glorified through His divine intervention simply out of fear of fakes.  This is what I see and hear when I read Strange Fire.  

MacArthur has made many valid points and Pentecostals can read this book and will no doubt amen much of what he has written.  I believe that all disciples of Jesus (whether you agree with MacArthur or not) would agree that the Bible must be our sure foundation.  The Bible alone is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13) and we must stand on the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).  This must be the case when examining healings or those who would claim to speak for God (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

Yet I also believe that MacArthur has labeled many people in the Pentecostal or charismatic with tags that they would not appreciate.  I know of godly Pentecostal missionaries who are gospel centered in their preaching and are in foreign nations now preaching the gospel to the lost.  These are not heretics who are wishing to dethrone Christ from His place of honor and worship.  These are godly men and women who have given up everything for the King.  I know of godly Pentecostal prayer warriors who spend hours in prayer for others and for the nations.  I know of godly Pentecostals who love the Bible and seek to exegete the Word of God using sound skills of interpretation.  To simply label the entire charismatic movement as a false manifestation of the Spirit is misleading and wrong.

That said, all of us need godly correction.  None of us (including MacArthur) are perfect in our understanding of God or His Word.  We see through a glass rather dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).  While our hearts must be for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), we humbly acknowledge that we are imperfect people seeking to know a perfect God.  I rejoice that God reveals Himself to us in His Word (John 20:31) and I rejoice that the Holy Spirit leads us into His truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).  I rejoice for the grace that He has given to me to know Him (Philippians 3:9-11).  None of us have arrived to perfect doctrine but we strive to know God, to understand His truth, to interpret His Word, and to preach His gospel.

I pray that whatever areas of correction I needed while reading Strange Fire, I pray that the Lord does use MacArthur and the Word of God to correct me.  But I equally pray that for MacArthur.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/26/2014 at 9:02 PM

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