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Posts Tagged ‘charismatics

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

Strange Fire Review: Chapter 11

I am nearing the end of my review of Dr. John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire.  You can find the first post on this review here.  Now I will review chapter 11.

This chapter is on the issue of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.  In this chapter, MacArthur gives a biblical overview of the Holy Spirit and His work in giving us the Bible and also in helping us to understand, apply, and preach the Bible.  The Bible, for the disciple of Christ, is precious.  It is the believer’s weapon according to  Ephesians 6:17 and is the only inerrant and infallible book that God has given to His people.  The Bible is a remarkable book that God has faithfully preserved for us for 2000 years.

MacArthur begins by pointing to the sad story of liberal German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Schleiermacher’s fall into liberalism in the late 18th century and he plunged many others with him with his liberal views.  As typical of liberals, he didn’t believe in the Bible anymore so he had to replace his faith with something else.  In this case he replaced it with Romanticism or subjective experience.  This has been the case for liberalism ever since.  Liberals are always replacing God with social causes and their seek to build their own heaven here (since there is no heaven over there).

MacArthur believes that charismatics have done the same by emphasizing dreams, visions, prophecy, etc. over the Bible.  MacArthur is clear that true disciples do not worship the Bible but love the Bible because God Himself has given us His Word.  We worship the God of the Bible and we love to read His Word because it faithfully reveals Him to us unlike subjective experiences.

I will add here again that I suppose there may Pentecostals out there who would reject the Bible but I have never met one who did.  Like any other movements, I fear that the Pentecostal movement is moving away from proclaiming the inerrancy of the Bible.  I would love to see Pentecostal fellowships such as the Assemblies of God or the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) or the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) come out and declare that the inerrancy of the Bible is something to be held and defended by all their ministers.  I fear that there are many now in the Pentecostal seminaries who do not hold to inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  I worry that pragmatism is now dominating the Pentecostal church and the Bible no longer is being preached as absolute truth.

That said, historically the Pentecostal movement has always held to the authority of the Bible.  Even the heretical United Pentecostal Church (UPC) holds to the authority of the Bible (though twisting it in many ways to teach their false doctrines).  I have heard many Pentecostals preach over the years and have fellowshipped with many of them and have seen a deep love for the Word of God.  I even once heard a “prophecy” given in an Assemblies of God church and one godly man stood up and said, “We must reject this prophecy because this man has spoken against the Word of God” and he proceeded to state how this was so.  He was obeying 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 in this case.

The Bible must be our final authority and it alone speaks for God.  Everything else must submit to Scripture.  We don’t need a new revelation from God but a fresh understanding of God’s inerrant and infallible Word.  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that subjective experience will never be the solid foundation for the disciple.  Scripture must be.  Jesus said that God’s Word cannot be broken (John 10:35) and therefore we must submit to the final authority of God (John 17:17).

I pray that many godly Pentecostals and charismatics would rise up and preach the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  This is not a side issue.  If we fail to stand on the Word of God, we will fail.  The Methodist are a case in point.  The rise of liberalism in the late 19th century doomed in the Methodist church.  Instead of remaining faithful to the Word of God, liberal Methodists rejected the Bible and today are left with a dying church.  Why?  Because they have no gospel.  When we reject the Word of God, we are left with nothing just as Schleiermacher was left with nothing.  The Bible faithfully reveals the gospel and if we reject the Bible, we are soon to reject the gospel.  We are then left with nothing to stand upon (Galatians 1:6-9) and we soon wander off into errors (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

May God give us an increase in those disciples who believe, preach, stand upon, and live the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God.

Strange Fire Review (Chapter Eight)

In chapter eight of Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Firehe writes about faith healers and false hopes.  He opens the chapter by examining two leading faith healers: Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn.  MacArthur shows that both men have made bizarre claims (such as Roberts’ claim to see a 900 foot Jesus who warned him that unless he received millions of dollars, he would be killed or Hinn who claimed to have received his healing anointing after visiting the grave of faith healer Katherine Kuhlman).  MacArthur does this to show that faith healers are not even close to the biblical healings nor to the men of God that God used to do these healings.

MacArthur then dives into the New Testament to show what types of healings God did and the men of God that He used.  He makes several key points:

  • New Testament healings were not performed for money or fame.  In fact, many of the healings were performed on obviously poor people who never could have paid for these healings (Matthew 9:27-31; 20:29-34; 21:14; Mark 8:22-26; Luke 17:11-21; John 5:1-9; Acts 3:1-10; 14:8-18).  Jesus, unlike modern faith healers, told the healed to tell no one what happened (Matthew 8:4; 9:30; Mark 5:43).  In contrast, Benny Hinn told TBN viewers that if they gave to TBN, God would perform a miracle for them.  Hinn brings in $100 million a year to his ministry all in the name of healings.
  • New Testament healings were completely successful (Matthew 14:36).  There were no failures.  Every attempt to heal was successful.  This is not the case with modern faith healers.  MacArthur points out that Hinn promises all to be healed based on the promises of God’s Word yet when the sick are not healed, Hinn will often say that a person didn’t have enough faith to be healed.  Rather than question his own teachings, Hinn will point the blame at those whom he is trying to teach.  MacArthur also points out that Hinn has often questioned why God doesn’t heal everyone including an article in the LA Times where Hinn ponders this question.  MacArthur points out that Hinn (nor any faith healers) can document complete healings like those done in the New Testament.  Not even one.
  • New Testament healings were undeniable (John 11:47-48; Acts 4:16-17).  While NT healings left unbelievers having to dip so low as to say that Jesus was healing by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24), modern faith healers have convinced no one.  MacArthur points out that HBO followed Hinn around in a documentary called, A Question of Miraclesbut the director concluded the series by saying that no one was healed at Hinn’s crusades.  None.  The director even wrote in the NY Times, “If I had seen miracles, I would have been happy to trumpet it but in retrospect, I think they do more damage to Christianity than the most committed atheist.”
  • New Testament healings were immediate and spontaneous.  Leapers are cleansed (Mark 1:42), blind men were immediately given sight (Mark 10:52), the paralyzed are able to walk immediately (Acts 3:8).  Nearly all NT healings were immediate and spontaneous except a select few (Mark 8:22-26; Luke 17:11-19; John 9:1-7).  Jesus was able to heal on the spot (Matthew 8:14-15; 9:20).  Yet not so with faith healers.  MacArthur points out that faith healers often claim that the atmosphere must be prepared for healings.  Where is this in the NT?  Why must faith healers rent a stadium to do miracles instead of doing their healings out in public for the lost to see if in fact healings point to God (Hebrews 2:1-4)?
  • New Testament healings authenticated a true message.  NT healings were used to open doors for the gospel (John 20:30-31).  NT healings also pointed to the deity of Christ (John 10:38; Acts 2:22) and authenticated the Apostles (Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12).  In contrast, MacArthur points out that even Satan can do false miracles (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:9) and if the gospel message is not accurate, it is from Satan (Galatians 1:8-9).  Yet faith healers are not known for preaching the gospel but instead they are known for loving money.  Further, faith healers are often caught in sinful acts and rarely repent until caught.

In conclusion, MacArthur acknowledges that the Lord does heal in answer to prayer.  James 5:14-15 calls us to pray for the sick but we are to leave the results up to God.  Further, James 5:14-15 is not the same as the New Testament gift of healing.  Faith healers cannot do apostolic quality miracles and have given no proof that God is using them to do miracles.  To this day, faith healers have produced not one verifiable healing that points to the glory of God.  Instead, faith healers are shams, use parlor tricks, showmanship, are frauds, and scam artists who feed off the desires of the sick.

I agreed with much of what MacArthur wrote in this chapter.  While I will continue to pray for the sick to be healed, I make no claims that I have seen miracles or that true faith healers exist.  I believe in the supernatural power of God and I believe He is more than able to heal whomever He desires.  Ultimately, true healing only occurs in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Revelation 21:4).  My earthly father is blind.  Yet I am confident that he will see in heaven.  Sickness is part of the fall of man in Genesis 3 and thankfully the second Adam has reversed the curse so that in eternity, sickness must flee from the presence of God and His holy ones.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/11/2014 at 12:14 PM

Books on Speaking in Tongues

After my review of chapter seven of John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire, I wanted to post titles I would suggest for further study on the issue of speaking in tongues.  I will post books that are both for and against speaking in tongues.

Pentecostal-Charismatic Books on Speaking in Tongues

1.  Glossolalia Phenomenon edited by Wade Horton.  A classical Pentecostal study of speaking in tongues from Church of God (Cleveland, TN) perspective.  While dated, it is useful.

2.  Spiritual Gifts: A Fresh Look by David Lim.  A scholarly look at spiritual gifts from a classical Pentecostal perspective.

3.  What Meaneth This?  by Carl Brumback.  An early Pentecostal work on speaking in tongues.  While dated, it is worth reading to see the desire to be scholarly in their approach to the issue.

4.  1 & 2 Corinthians: A Logion Press Commentary by Stanley Horton.  Dr. Horton is a top scholar.  This work examines 1 and 2 Corinthians but also Horton spends time on the issue of spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.

5.  What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit by Stanley Horton.  This work, while primarily focused on the Person of the Holy Spirit, does deal with spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues.

6.  The Beauty of Spiritual Language by Jack Hayford.  This book focuses on speaking in tongues in regard to prayer.

7.  The Glory Within: The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues by Corey Russell.  I have not read this work.  I only include it based on the title.

Books That Differ With The Pentecostal-Charismatic View

1.  The Speaking in Tongues Controversy by Rick Walston.  I read this book years ago and it was a very well written book.  Dr. Walston is a former Assemblies of God pastor who is not angry with the movement at all but writes with a sincere desire to communicate the truth.  I highly recommend this work.

2.  New Testament Teaching on Tongues: A Biblical and Historical Survey by Merrill Unger.  The late Dr. Unger wrote this book that surveys speaking in tongues.  While dated, it is worth reading.

3.  The Corinthian Catastrophe by George Gardiner.  Gardiner was a Pentecostal who was stranded during WWII and decided to take his Bible and study the issue of tongues.  His conclusion was that the Pentecostal movement was wrong on the issue of tongues.  While dated, it is worth reading.

4.  Perspectives of Pentecost by Richard Gaffin.  This well written book is a book that, while against the Pentecostal movement, is fair and loving.  Gaffin believes that many charismatics do love the Lord but they are wrong on the issue of Pentecost.  I enjoyed this book.

5.  To Be Continued?  Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?  by Samuel  Waldron.  I have not read this book but have heard Waldron speak.  He is loving and gentle with those whom he disagrees.

6.  Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Re-examination of the New Testament on the Gift of the Spirit by James Dunn.  This is the standard work that most evangelicals follow though they do not know it.  This book is the standard view that the baptism in the Spirit occurs at salvation and Dunn’s conclusion is that the Pentecostal movement is wrong on this vital issue while leads to other errors.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/03/2014 at 10:00 AM

Strange Fire Book Review (Chapter Seven)

Chapter seven is the one chapter that most Pentecostals and godly charismatics would find to be the chapter they disagree with MacArthur the most on.  In this chapter, MacArthur examines speaking in tongues.  He begins by pointing to the ridiculous Facebook post by charismatic Juanita Bynum that was supposedly written in tongues.  MacArthur concludes that such gibberish is the typical “language” that charismatics are speaking.  It is most certainly not biblical tongues or a foreign tongue that people are speaking in when claiming to be speaking in tongues.  MacArthur points out that modern linguistic researchers have long concluded that speaking in tongues is not speaking in a known foreign tongue nor does it even sound like a true language.  MacArthur also points out that skeptics of Christianity have used glossolalia as proof against Christianity since the “language” is not a known language but gibberish.  MacArthur also quotes various charismatics who admit that their “prayer language” sounds like gibberish to them.

MacArthur believes that speaking in tongues today is “deceptive and dangerous, offering a pretense of genuine spirituality” (p. 136).  Further, MacArthur believes that the charismatic emphasis on glossolalia has produced nothing in their lives.  Holiness is not produced by speaking in tongues.  He believes that the modern gift of tongues is “a counterfeit that by every measure falls short of the gift of tongues described in the New Testament” (p. 137).  He points out that even unsaved people and pagans have had experiences of speaking in tongues.  Hindus, for example, claim to speak in tongues.

MacArthur goes on to teach on what he believes the Bible teaches about the gift of tongues and about glossolalia (pp. 140-154).  In short, MacArthur believes that this sign gift has ceased since its purpose was to make known the gospel in a foreign tongue.  He believes that 1 Corinthians 14:40 actually forbids modern tongues rather than endorsing it.  He concludes that both the New Testament and Church History itself show that the gift of tongues is not for us today.

By far, speaking in tongues is the most controversial aspect of the modern Pentecostal movement.  Even among Pentecostals it is debated.  Most Pentecostal churches have historically held that speaking in tongues was the “initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”  I know of many Pentecostals both as members and as pastors who now reject that teaching.  In many ways, speaking in tongues has grown cold in the charismatic movement.  This is not to say that it is not there but I would say that speaking in tongues is not the issue of the movement these days.  That, of course, is just one man’s opinion.

That said, I did take exception with MacArthur in this chapter.  For one, he writes that the purpose of speaking in tongues is for the proclamation of the gospel.  Yet when we read Acts or 1 Corinthians 12-14, we find nothing to suggest that.  The only reference we have toward this view is Acts 2 where the Apostles spoke in tongues and the people understood them (Acts 2:8).  But Acts 2:11 tells us what they heard and it was not the gospel but rather they heard “the mighty deeds of God” (NASB).  The gospel was preached in Acts 2:14-39.  The Bible does not say that Peter, at this point, was speaking in tongues to preach to the Jews.

In Acts 10:44-48 we read of another example of tongues but again nothing is said that they were preaching the gospel.  In fact, Luke records that they were “speaking with tongues and exalting God” (Acts 10:46 NASB).  Since the gospel had been preached to them in Acts 10:34-43, this example of tongues would not fit with MacArthur’s notion that tongues was for preaching the gospel.

Lastly, we have Acts 19:6 where the disciples of John the Baptist are baptized into Christ.  Paul lays hands on them and they speak in tongues and prophesy.  Again, the view that speaking in tongues was for the gospel does not fit well into this verse.

1 Corinthians 12-14 also does not fit the idea that speaking in tongues is for the gospel.  No where in these three chapters does Paul say that speaking in tongues is for the gospel.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 14:2 he says that the one who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God.  How can that be preaching the gospel?  To God?  In 1 Corinthians 14:6-12 Paul speaks about clarity and edification toward the church.  Dr. David Lim, in his masterpiece work Spiritual Gifts: A Fresh Look, states that Paul gives five “if-then” propositions in 1 Corinthian 14:6-12.  Lim concludes that Paul was emphasizing the need for communication in the understood language for without clarity the result would be confusion.  The point of spiritual gifts is edification of the church (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

I highly recommend Dr. Lim’s work and commentary on 1 Corinthians 12-14 as a reply to MacArthur.

The notion that speaking in tongues must be for gospel preaching is simply not a view that I find in the New Testament.  I remember going on a missions trip when I was a young believer and I wanted God to give me this gift but of course I didn’t receive it.  MacArthur takes Mark 16:17 and concludes that speaking in tongues must be for the gospel message.

In regard to a private prayer language, in the New Testament tongues are primarily directed to God.  Whether praise (Acts 2:11), mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2), prayer (1 Corinthians 14:15), or thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 14:16-17).  Dr. Lim writes about tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:

Paul shows the relative effectiveness of tongues in four areas: They excel in worship, in functioning as a sign, and in body ministry with guidelines (1 Corinthians 14:26-28), faltering only in the area of teaching.

So can one pray in tongues?  Is there a biblical notion of a prayer language?  Pentecostals point to 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13-19.  In 1 Corinthians 14:17 Paul commends the Corinthians and says they are giving thanks well enough (NASB).  F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Romans, suggests that Romans 8:26-27, while not mentioning speaking in tongues, perhaps has tongues praying in mind.  While others would disagree (and I see nothing in Romans 8:26-27 to suggest this view), it is well worth noting that Bruce was a top scholar who was not Pentecostal but did not negate this view.

Others point to Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20 as two more passages that perhaps show that one can pray in tongues (in the Spirit).  I believe this is not found in those texts.  To make speaking in tongues as “praying in the Spirit” is stretching these texts.

Interestingly, Adam Clarke wrote that the “unknown tongues” (an unfortunate translation of the KJV) was perhaps the old Hebrew that had been lost on the Jews during the time of the Apostles but the Holy Spirit gave them understanding of this “unknown tongue” again so that they could teach properly the things of the Lord.  Clarke also suggested in his commentary that the unknown tongue of Hebrew was the focus of 1 Corinthians 14.  He suggests that some thought they were spiritual by speaking in a language that the Gentiles clearly did not understand but what was the point?  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:18, tells the Corinthians that he too is skilled in languages (Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin) but he wanted the church to be edified so he did not focus on those languages nor should the Corinthians who were speaking in this “unknown tongue” of Hebrew.

In conclusion, I disagree with both MacArthur and Clarke here.  Both are looking for something that is not there.  I am no where the scholar these men are but even a cursory reading of Acts or 1 Corinthians 12-14 does not suggest that tongues is for evangelism or speaking in Hebrew.  Clarke has no basis for this view in my estimation.

I commend the work of David Lim and also would suggest reading Jack Hayford work on speaking in tongues.  While Lim’s is more scholarly than Hayford’s work, both are worth reading about this subject even if you oppose tongues speaking.  I remain neutral on this issue.  My point is not to side with the Pentecostals here or against them.  I believe this subject should be debated.

Yet let me state one point before I end.  I have known many people who thought (as MacArthur suggests) that speaking in tongues made them spiritual.  They would come together with the saints and speak in tongues but their lives were full of sin during the week.  This led some to conclude they were okay because they were speaking in tongues.  Tongues is not holiness (as MacArthur rightfully points out).  Tongues does not mean you are saved.  Tongues does not mean that you are closer to God.  1 Peter 1:15-16 tells us to be holy in all our conduct.  Ephesians 4:29-30 tells us that no unwholesome word is to proceed from our mouths but only such a word as is good for edification (NASB).  Just because you speak in tongues proves nothing.  It does not prove you are saved or full of the Spirit.  To be full of the Spirit is to walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21; cf. Galatians 5:16-17).  To claim to be Spirit-filled but to abide in sin shows you need to repent and go back to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness of your sins (1 John 2:3-6; 3:4-10).  I don’t care what experience you claim you have, if you are abiding in sin you are not living the Spirit-filled life (Romans 8:9-17).  To be Spirit-filled is to Spirit-controlled.

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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