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A Charismatic thanking John MacArthur for Strange Fire Created 21 April 2014

Purpose of this article Two Key Quotes I love by John MacArthur Where I differ most with John MacArthur
Video: John MacArthur - What has happened after the 'Strange Fire' Conference Video: John MacArthur - An Appeal to Charismatic Friends (John MacArthur) Strange Fire Conference Video: Brown vs Waldron Debate: Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?
Cessationalists vs. Continuationalist My Testimony The Core Issue at stake
Scripture to show that the gifts of the Spirit with remain What I do not get about the logic employed by Cessationalists  
Has the canon (the Bible) been closed or does God reveal His word to this day? Conclusion  

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Related articles: Born of the Spirit: Exploring the differences between spirit, soul, heart and mind || Deception: Why does God allow it? || Which comes first: Repent or Believe? || False warnings about False teachers

In October 2013, prominent Protestant pastor and teacher - Dr. John MacArthur - hosted the Strange Fire conference in the US[1]. The conference, seemingly, received quite a lot of criticism whilst only a relatively few are said to have endorsed it. This article aims to do three things concerning the Strange Fire Conference (2013):

1) Sincerely thank John MacArthur and others for stepping forward to address some of the things that is going on concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Charismatic Movement. Dr. MacArthur is not the first to have come out in opposition to the goings on (some Pentecostals have done so in the past), but he certainly is one of the most prominent ones, and his conference seems to have been well attended (see the video below).

2) Put into perspective what I have written on this website concerning spiritual gifts, which, despite my above thanks to Dr. MacArthur, I absolutely continue to believe in.

3) Convey a lengthy but relevant video debate between a respectable Cessationalist Protestant and a Continuationalist Protestant who looked at issues outside of the Strangefire Conference; one speaks in tongues, the other does not. Go there.

Disclosure: I did not attend the Strange Fire Conference and I have not watched all of the video's concerning it. I will also admit that, although I have differed with him on a few issues in the past, I have enjoyed the teaching of Dr MacArthur for quite some time already. In the video below Dr. MacArthur gives a short summary of what was noted in the conference and reflects on the events subsequent to it.

The topic is fascinating. And, it is important. Wikipedia has done a good summary of the issues at play. In this article I will only try to answer Dr MacArthur.

Video: John MacArthur - What has happened after the 'Strange Fire' Conference

Like the other videos here, this video is quite lengthy. But it will do no justice to the message to have edited it in any way.

Cessationalists vs. Continuationalist

These two key terms keep popping up. A Cessationalist believes that the gifts of the Spirit as per Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 ceased to exist amongst Christians when the original Apostles died around 100 years after Christ. Continuationalists believe these gifts remained to be in operation inasmuch as the the rest of the ministry of the Holy Spirit has remained. Dr. MacArthur is a Cessationalists I am a Continuationalist.

Apart from his complaint that 'tongue speakers' seem to very often misbehave, Dr MacArthur's key argument revolves around the "Cascading argument", which can be summarized in this way:

1) There are no apostles of Christ on earth today.
2) Because there are no apostles of Christ, there are no prophets.
3) Because there are no prophets, there are no tongue-speakers.
4) In view of 1-3, there are no miracle workers on earth today.

Another commentator is quoted as saying, "If there were apostles and prophets today, the canon would be open, as those apostles/prophets continued to speak authoritatively. But Charismatics (nearly all) recognize that the canon is closed, therefore they ought to recognize that the apostlate is also closed." (see my response here)

Clearly, in the whole debate the definition firstly of a "Christian"[16], then of a "Church"[18] and then of an "Apostle"[17] is important. We must agree on these definitions to have a meaningful conversation about these issues.

Firstly, let me say that I love the video above. It is clear, logical and based on an understanding of the Bible. It does not rely on emotions to bring the message across. That appeals to my own approach. Still, we disagree on the conclusions arrived at.

Secondly, two quotes from the above video have stood out for me.. They are:

a) 'false manifestations' of the gifts of the Spirit give people a false sense of security about their salvation. Indeed!

b) "It is going to be necessary to take a stand on this (the Charismatic Movement), .... I get the fact that we might offend people [by pointing out their error], but that is irrelevant, is it not?. Do we not understand that no-one is going to be changed until they are exposed as wrong? Whatever happened to purposefully offending people in error? Do I have to tell you that Jesus was the most offensive person that ever walked on the planet? Because every serious truth has to be established by the exposure of error. .... how people can know this is going on and there is just broad silence about it?!" Absolutely. Well put!

Dr MacArthur stands up for what he believes. I love that about him. And I respect that[2].

Video link: John MacArthur How Do Spiritual Gifts Operate! Charismatic Chaos (1991) - Click here

Concerning the videos by John MacArthur and the links in this article, I make a number of observations below. (TOP)

The Core Issue at stake here

One of the reasons why people get so upset by this issue (rightly) is that it does one of two things depending on who is right:

1) If the Cessationalists are right, then the 'manifestations' of the gifts of the Spirit is an obvious offense to the Holy Spirit. For this we may quote Ephesians 4:30 - And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

2) If the Continuationalists are right, then suppressing the work of the Holy Spirit in a person is an obvious offense to the Holy Spirit. For this we may quote the above Ephesians 4:30 or 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 - Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies.

Clearly, this is an important issue. In Christianity today, you and I find ourselves in one of the above two groups. Even if we were to say, "It doesn't bother me", we will have displayed our faith in this matter by virtue of our (in)actions concerning it. So, I think it is worth spending a good amount of time on it. Again, I commend John MacArthur and others for having done so. (TOP)

Where I differ mostly from John MacArthur

Dr MacArthur makes a number of statements. I agree with some and with others I do not. Here's my answer to selected issues:

a) 'The order-less rolling around and strange manifestations of the "power of God" that is displayed in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today is not the work of the Holy Spirit at all. Instead, they are a display of dishonest people who deceive others. At the very least, they are the result of mass hypnosis or perhaps even demon activity' (paraphrase). I agree mostly. This probably does not go for some individuals and a very few select congregations where such escapades are not prevalent but where the gifts of the Spirit are in authentic operation. You cannot summarily chuck out the baby with the bath water. Paul did not chuck out his doctrine about Jesus because some faked it or preached it for the wrong reasons[6].

b) 'The goings on in terms of the gifts of the Spirit in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today are a dishonor to the Holy Spirit, and it is a matter which God will not take lightly' (paraphrase) It is true that the goings on in some congregations are not of God. But, this is not the case in all instances. Even from the beginning - with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - the accusation has been leveled that behavior under the Spirit cannot possibly be of God. Yet, the accusers were dead wrong[7].

c) 'I do not know why God allows it (deception and unruliness) - I do not have the full counsel of God' (paraphrase). I do not have the full counsel of God either, so I do not know exactly. But, I suspect it has something to do with sifting out those who have not taken Him seriously. In other words, He allows deception in order to sift out those who have access to His Word but who have not heeded it. "To those to whom more is given, more will be required". God is looking for those who have ears to hear[8]. In other words, people who will seek to understand exactly what He is saying. A related article deals with the reasons why God allows deception.

d) 'These churches threaten the integrity of Christianity' (paraphrase) I am being pedantic here but we do not agree on the definition of "church". A related article deals with the question of "church" as we know it today and how it has come to adopt the 'heart' it has (read What church is not). Thus, I do not define (unruly) Charismatic and most Pentecostal gatherings as 'church'. These may be the same as unbelievers having a party. Nor do I define Catholic, Methodist, and so forth gatherings as 'church'. These may be the same as having a Rotary or Lions club meeting. The only difference being in the songs that are sung and the topic of the speech that is delivered. I mean this sincerely. These types of gatherings perhaps have good intentions (and in some cases good outcomes) but they are not Church. Church is not a 'place' where things of a Christian religious nature take place. Church to me is the functioning of the different parts of the Body of Christ that fulfills the specific intent which God ordained for it. Some would be surprised to find out that the specific intent of the Body of Christ is not necessarily to 'preach the Gospel. The Church's specific purpose is found in Ephesians 3:13. Born-again believers who function as a Church do not congregate in the interest of entertainment (normally in the form of music or motivation) or in the interest of casually socializing (what is generally referred to as "fellowship") or on account of tradition, or on account of a cultural norm (family or society). Church is also not a place where unbelievers learn to know about Christ. That part is taken care of by born again believers as they live out their life calling. Church is where born again believers congregate in the interest of teaching and spiritual fellowship. Teaching is done by an anointed teacher, who are different to appointed pastors. Having graduated from Bible school qualifies no-one from being either a Teacher or a Pastor or any other minister. Father, good doctrine and character is what qualifies you for these roles. Importantly, if God made a distinction between Pastor and Teacher 2,000 years ago, then who are we to merge the roles(Eph. 4)? Teaching also includes feedback and debate (rarely, if ever seen in 'churches'), correcting or rebuking and exhortation[9]. Spiritual fellowship without the freedom to speak absolutely truthfully and honestly and openly to another is not possible because godly spirituality cannot exist outside of unbridled truth[10]. Since the earliest days, most congregations - because of their dependency on members' financial contributions (thanks to Emperor Constantine's intervention) have adopted an attitude of inauthentic socializing. This is a human instinct more than what it is a godly one. And it does not serve the Body of Christ well. It serves emotions and casual relationships, but it does not serve 'the belt of truth'. What you'll see in genuine churches is not unruly behavior, but Holy Spirit directed conduct instead. These churches gather in any place, possibly in a believer's house. Whether or not you can accept that the Holy Spirit is at work in and through people today will very much depend on whether or not you have been born of Him (read 'Are you born again?'). So, because these gatherings are not real Churches they do not threaten the integrity of Christianity. They only appear to do that from the perspective of those who do not understand that what they see in them is not Church at all.

e) "They (friends who) call themselves "Continuationalists" (do so) because they want to give place to the Charismatic Movement" (sic). No sir. That's not the case. On the contrary. I am with you in seeing the obvious falsehoods that are happening almost everywhere. But simply linking the gifts of the Holy Spirit amongst everyday believers today with the Charismatic Movement is not correct. I am a "Charismatic" if you want to call me that (personally I just believe I am a Christian). But I do not subscribe to the ways of the "Charismatic Movement". You should know that there are those speaking in tongues and casting out demons who are and have for a very long time been critical of some of the things happening in the Charismatic Movement[11]. Pretending that such people do not exist is disingenuous.

f) 'If today's so-called spiritual gifts are the same as the New Testament's spiritual gifts, then it degrades the New Testament's gifts [on the basis of the error of prophesy we see today].' (paraphrase) Dr MacArthur seems to hold tongue speakers to a higher standard than non-tongue speakers. Dr MacArthur seems to suggest that tongue-speakers in the New Testament were error-free whereas tongue speakers today are error-riddled. Therefore, he suggests that tongue-speaking was authentic then but is invalid today. But such teaching is not correct. Clear evidence to the contrary is presented in the Bible. The Corinthian church, for instance, are the ones who are being addressed in the key passages on speaking in tongues and prophesying as found in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Yet these believers are also clearly admonished by the Paul for their desperate waywardness and immorality - compare 1 Cor. 5:1-2. So, suggesting that because we see so many tongue-speakers act waywardly, tongue-speaking is of the devil, is just not right.

g) "By insisting that God is still giving new revelation to Christians today the Continuationalist movement opens the gates to further confusion and error. .... they say there is prophesy today but it can be wrong, ... there's healing today but it's not like the healings of Christ and the Apostles." (sic) This is not correct. See f) above. Many Christian practices have been watered down or become less effective since the time the New Testament was written. If Dr MacArthur wants to compare the accuracy of prophesy today with the accuracy of prophesy in the New Testament, then he must go all the way and do the same with say 1) Christians reaching out in love to one another, 2) Christians sharing their material goods with one another, 3) Christians giving up their lives for the Gospel, or 4) Christians meeting in houses, not in auditoriums. Very few Christians today can put up their hand for any of these, let alone all of them. This very likely includes Dr MacArthur. So why is he expecting New Testament standards for prophesy but accepts contemporary standards for sharing each others' materials good, or giving up their lives for the Gospel? In short, he is applying a double standard. We should also note that even born again prophets can mis God in major issues, like Peter before he was corrected publicly by Paul (Gal 2). So, will Christians at times be inaccurate with prophesy or a word of knowledge today? Of course. It is no new thing. When born-again believers are in fleshly, carnal error (like Peter was before Paul pointed it out to him), they are capable of acting no better than unbelievers[4].

h) "The Continuationalist position then invites any Christian to interpret anything as from God. Any kind of 'gibberish', any kind of supposed spiritual experience or impression or notion or idea that floats into the head can be considered prophesy. It removes the authoritative, objective standard for questioning the legitimacy of anybody's claim to revelation. Continuationalists, by allowing for any of it end up allowing for all of it because they do not have any criteria to decide what is and what isn't accurate." (sic) This is not correct. Dr MacArthur, through this statement, demonstrates that he is keen to throw out the baby with the bath water. Of course there are objective standards to measure prophesy, as was the case with early church Christians: Where the character of the Holy Spirit is not on display amongst those who have received the gifts of the Spirit, there is no heeding of the manifestations. Where the Word of God is violated amongst those who have received the gifts of the Spirit, there is no heeding of the manifestations. Inasmuch the waywardness of the Corinthians church did not invalidate the true manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the waywardness of Christians today does not invalidate His manifestations either. Compare 1 Cor. 5:1-2

i) 'Those who operate in the so-called gifts of the Spirit throw out rationality in the interest of emotion. Those who operate in the so-called gifts of the Spirit throw out a reasonable pursuit of Scriptural guidance - they make things up as they go'. (paraphrase). This is not correct. It is a preposterous suggestion. Some of the most logically inclined Christians in the world have spoken in tongues. To relegate 'tongues' to an 'over-bearing emotional manifestation' shows the desperation of a weak argument. On this website there is very little space made for that which is not logical or rational. Yet, I move in some of the gifts of the Spirit. Is it suggested then that I am constantly hypnotized or that I have a demon?

j) 'The so-called gifts of the Spirit simply is a continuation of the 'Mystery Religions of Babylon, ... they are nothing else but modern mysticism in the church' (paraphrase) This is not correct. If this is not true for Peter and the other apostles, as well as the other believers on the day of Pentecost (and thereafter[12]) were really into Babylon's mystery religion. The disciples in Acts 19 demonstrates how the infilling of the Holy Spirit is received and how speaking in tongues comes about. Thus, there is a biblical precedent. Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.[5] Note, these people were not present on the day of Pentecost. They - the early Ephesian church - were born again (they were "disciples") but they had not received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. This was done by the laying on of hands (and prayer). And the result was that they spoke in tongues, which is exactly the same process that is being followed today. So, if the same process is followed today than what was used in Acts 19, is is speaking in tongues today called "Mystery Religion" and speaking in tongues in Acts 19 is not? The argument does not make any sense.

k) 'There is not one verse in the Bible that says the gifts of the Spirit will remain beyond the life of the Apostles' (paraphrase). This is a key argument for Dr MacArthur. But, on the basis of a rational reading of Scripture, it is not correct. Refer the section below 'Scripture to show that the gifts of the Spirit will remain'.

The above represent some good questions. Anything that is preached should be tested - scrutinized in full against the standard of God's word. So, questioning is a good. Though I disagree with John MacArthur on some points, he is doing a good thing by questioning the things that go on in some 'churches' concerning the gifts of the Spirit. Thank you, sir. Still, Dr MacArthur is wrong about a number of assertions. And, Dr MacArthur negates to note that prominent Pentecostals have lamented many of the same issues as well. (TOP)

What I do not get about the logic that is employed by Cessationalists

Surely their 'emotion-less, supernatural experience-less, pure rational logic' does not stack up. (TOP)

Scripture to show that the gifts of the Spirit will remain

Dr MacArthur and other Cessationalists claim that there is not one verse in the Bible that claims that the gifts of the Spirit will remain beyond the life of the Apostles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes this revealing statement (I have quoted it from the New Living Translation for the sake of a simplistic reading):

4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way - with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9, NLT). Click here for the New King James Version and here for the New English Translation.

Doubtless that some within the church of Corinth who were being addressed here, and who had received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, would have outlived the Apostles, including the Apostle Paul for he was well advanced in years when he wrote this letter. Thus, the gifts of the Spirit - including prophesy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of wisdom, word of knowledge[15] - will have been in operation beyond the life of the Apostles.

Paul is saying here, 'after I have already passed on to death the Holy Spirit, through His special gifts, will strengthen you until Jesus comes again'. Now, unless Jesus has come again, or unless Paul's statement was above is not true, all the gifts of the Spirit have remained to this day because he says: Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. (TOP)

Has the canon (the Bible) been closed or does God reveal His word to this day?

Returning to a question posed by a Cessationalist at the beginning of this article: "If there were apostles and prophets today, the canon would be open, as those apostles/prophets continued to speak authoritatively. But Charismatics (nearly all) recognize that the canon is closed, therefore they ought to recognize that the apostlate is also closed." The assumption that Apostles are defined by their ability to speak (only) the revealed word of God is a mistake. Stephen also spoke the revealed word of God and he saw Jesus. Yet, Stephen was never called an Apostle. Simply put, Apostles are not defined by their ability to speak the revealed word of God or having seen Jesus as Cessationalists claim. Such teachings are based on biased deductions of selected Scripture. Apostles are defined by the meaning of the word "apostle", which is "to be sent out [by God] with special instructions".

Apostles bring the Gospel to unbelievers. Apostles also teach existing believers. They correct, discipline and rebuke existing believers. Apostles claim to be apostles. They move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They plant churches and they prophesy. The original 12 Apostles saw Jesus personally. So did 500 other people and Paul (1 Cor 15). More than 12 Apostles are recorded in the Bible. These are only the ones that are recorded (thus, there may in fact have been even more): Barnabas, Andronicus and Junia, Silas, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Apollos). Did all of them see Jesus? The Bible does not say. So, can it be argued that all apostles would have seen Jesus? A tough one. There is no conclusive answer. More than 500 people saw Jesus in addition to the 12, Peter, Paul and James. So, can it be argued that having seen Jesus qualifies you as an Apostle if 500 other believers also saw Jesus? I don't think so. Not on that criteria alone at least. So, having seen Jesus is a questionable qualification for an Apostle.

Apostles also utter or write the inspired word of God. Does this then qualify you as an Apostle (if you are able to speak the inspired word of God)? It might seem so, but the Bible actually records a mere deacon - Stephen - uttering the inspired word of God. Moreover, Stephen - a mere deacon - also saw Jesus. So, uttering or writing inspired text and seeing Jesus do not seem to be things that are exclusive to Apostles. Can we then say that these things (speaking/writing the inspired word of God and seeing Jesus) qualify you as an Apostle? I do not believe so because they are not exclusive to Apostles. The key for me in defining an Apostle lies in the original meaning of the word Apostle; a special messenger (of God) sent forth with orders.

If so, then the following questions are relevant: Do I believe the Holy Spirit works in people today? - Yes. Do I believe the Holy Spirit works through people today? - Yes. Do I believe the Holy Spirit gives some people special instructions to go out and do His work today? Yes, of course! Apostles do exist today. They're just not the type that you'll see on TV calling themselves Apostles. And they do not define "Church" in accordance with Emperor Constantine's model.

So, what I am suggesting here is that the revealed word of God is not visible to skeptics because Apostles look in the wrong place. What they define as "church" is not Church at all. Accordingly, they think God does not reveal himself through people any more. Their error, essentially, is in who they define as Christian and what they define as Church. If they were to look for true Christians in real Church's they'll find God's revealed word there. It will likely not be the type of word that should be added to Scripture simply because I believe God has said all He needed to say in the Bible as we know it today. This too is no new 'trend'. In the 400 years before Christ and after the prophet Malachi God had also already said what He needed to say until the Christ was born into the world. For God to not speak universally, but locally only today (in small congregations), is no new thing. [back to the article]

Conclusion

Perhaps the single most prominent thing that I have witnessed in the thinking of Cessationalists is that they choose not to believe in the gifts, ministries and activities of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is my understanding that the issue for them is unbelief (No disrespect intended). Inasmuch as unbelief was an issue for the religious in the times of Jesus and Peter and Paul, it is an issue for some believers in Christ today. They just cannot see themselves subscribing to it. It is a bridge too far.

The question about speaking in tongues and the other gifts, ministries and activities of the Holy Spirit is not really a question about people. It is a question about the Holy Spirit: 1) Did the Holy Spirit at some point in history cease to work in and through people? I see not evidence for that in Scripture. 2) It does not make any sense that He would because Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit as Helper until He comes again. And, 3) I see plenty of evidence that He is in fact working in and through people today through accurate prophesies, accurate words of wisdom and knowledge, healings and other miracles. The only conclusion I can derive from these three facts is that those who deny the Holy Spirit's work through gifts, ministries and activities have A) been deceived, or, as noted, B) they suffer from unbelief.

In closing, please look into this issue for yourself. Read up on it and pray about it. Please do that!. Especially, read up on people who take a Cessationalist view. Don't simply accept what is written here. I may very well be completely off the mark.

So, look into it and make up your own mind. Be clear to not grieve the Holy Spirit. (TOP)

Video: Debate - Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?

Have a look at the video below. It is a debate between two Protestant theologians on the same issue. Whilst they do not refer to the Strange Fire Conference, they make excellent points of their own. From my own perspective, all I can say is I have a testimony and it agrees with Dr Brown below - the gifts of the Spirit, inclusive of the working of miracles, are still in operation today. Read a part of my testimony here.

 

Footnotes

[1] Grace to You Ministries (www.gty.org) || Strange Fire Conference (www.tmstrangefire.org) [back]

[2] Despite being rather open about my beliefs - as shown in Scripture - I find it quite remarkable that very, very few Christians - theologians and pastors included - have pointed out the sometimes blatant hypocrisy and perhaps even error that is a part of my life. This is a very disturbing trend because, as a result of a 'less-than-abosultely-truthful-attitude' displayed by most, I cannot experience much genuine fellowship with many believers around me. Those who cannot help but get offended by what I say fail to back up their beliefs with relevant Scripture. And those who usually assert their views from 'Christian doctrine' do so from some or other extra-biblical teacher. There have been people who have corrected me from Scripture - these I thank for bearing godly fruit. I thank these men and women. But, regrettably, they have been few. Where has the Christian backbone gone?! [back]

[3] 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same[a] Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into[b] one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12:4-14) [back]

[4] 11 Now when Peter[a] had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you[b] compel Gentiles to live as Jews?[c] 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16). [back]

See also: But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (Acts 5:1-11) [back]

[5] And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. (Acts 19:1-7) [back]

[6] 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former[b] preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18) [back]

[7] 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. (Acts 2:13-16) [back]

[8] He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 11:15)

[9] I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-5) [back]

[10] 11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16) Speaking the "truth in love" (Eph. 5:14) does not mean that you hold back on truth so that the other person's feelings are not hurt. It means you do not adopt a condemning attitude when speaking to the other person. [back]

[11] I have listed one. In his book Protection from Deception (Derek Prince Ministries - March 1996), which is backed up by numerous references to the topic in sermons delivered over the years, Derek Prince (himself proclaimed as a 'False Prophet' in many Reformed circles) discusses the deception perpetrated by Satan through the goings on in some churches. So, if a man (Prince) casts out demons and speaks out against Satan's deception in the church through false manifestations of the Holy Spirit, how is it that his teaching is deemed false? If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:26). Perhaps the calls of 'false prophet' of themselves are false (read a related article here). [back]

[12]  And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. (Acts 19:1-7). [back]

[13] There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you[a] all.

Spiritual Gifts

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first[c] descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,... (Ephesians 4:4-14) [back]

[14] 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16) [back]

[15] Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) [back]

[16] Definition of a Christian: A person who authentically believes in the resurrected Jesus Christ and has submitted his/her will to Him in trust, reliance and obedience. Such a person will have been convinced of His life and resurrection, will have repented (irrespective of their 'moral goodness', they will have confessed to the sin of them following their own will up to that point and will have asked for forgiveness), they will have professed their faith openly, and they will continuously and increasingly believe Him in their hearts (trust His will for their life). Such a person will also repent of their misdeeds on a continuous basis and submit themselves to be cleansed by God's word. Such a person will have received a new human spirit as birthed by the Holy Spirit. This is what the Bible calls a "disciple". Such a person may receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. To know what "born again" is not, read here. To know if a person has been born again, read here. If you're not sure whether or not born again believers receive a new human spirit, read here. [back]

[17] Apostles are special messengers that have been sent out. These are messengers both to the world and to the Church. They bring the Gospel to unbelievers. They teach believers. They correct, discipline and rebuke. Apostles claim to be apostles. They move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They prophesy. The original 12 Apostles saw Jesus personally. So did 500 other people and Paul (1 Cor 15). Eventually there were more than 12 Apostles recorded in the Bible (thus, there may in fact have been even more) - Barnabas, Andronicus and Junia, Silas, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Apollos). Did all of them see Jesus? The Bible does not say. So, can it be argued that all apostles would have seen Jesus? A tough one. There is no conclusive answer. More than 500 people saw Jesus in addition to the 12, Peter, Paul and James. So, can it be argued that having seen Jesus qualifies you as an Apostle if 500 other believers also saw Jesus? I don't think so. Not on that criteria alone at least. So, having seen Jesus is a questionable qualification for an Apostle. Apostles also utter or write the inspired word of God and, by virtue of the aforementioned roles also plant churches. Does this then qualify you as an Apostle - if you are able to speak the inspired word of God. It might seem so, but the Bible actually records a mere deacon - Stephen uttering the inspired word of God. Moreover, Stephen - a mere deacon - saw Jesus. So, uttering or writing inspired text and seeing Jesus does not seem to be things that are exclusive to Apostles. Do these then qualify you as an Apostle? I do not believe so. The key for me lies in the original meaning of the word Apostle; a special messenger (of God) sent forth with orders. Do I believe the Holy Spirit works in people today? - Yes. Do I believe the Holy Spirit works through people today? - Yes. Do I believe the Holy Spirit gives some people special instructions to go out and do His work today? Yes, of course! If so, well, then there are true Apostles on the earth today. [back]

[18] I do not define (unruly) Charismatic and most Pentecostal gatherings as 'church'. These may be the same as unbelievers having a party. Nor do I define Catholic, Methodist, and so forth gatherings as 'church'. These may be the same as having a Rotary or Lions club meeting. The only difference being in the songs that are sung and the topic of the speech that is delivered. I mean this sincerely. These types of gatherings perhaps have good intentions (and in some cases good outcomes) but they are not Church. Church is not a 'place' where things of a Christian religious nature take place. Church to me is the functioning of the different parts of the Body of Christ that fulfills the specific intent which God ordained for it. Some would be surprised to find out that the specific intent of the Body of Christ is not necessarily to 'preach the Gospel. The Church's specific purpose is found in Ephesians 3:13. Born-again believers who function as a Church do not congregate in the interest of entertainment (normally in the form of music or motivation) or in the interest of casually socializing (what is generally referred to as "fellowship") or on account of tradition, or on account of a cultural norm (family or society). Church is also not a place where unbelievers learn to know about Christ. That part is taken care of by born again believers as they live out their life calling. Church is where born again believers congregate in the interest of teaching and spiritual fellowship. Teaching is done by an anointed teacher, who are different to appointed pastors. Having graduated from Bible school qualifies no-one from being either a Teacher or a Pastor or any other minister. Father, good doctrine and character is what qualifies you for these roles. Importantly, if God made a distinction between Pastor and Teacher 2,000 years ago, then who are we to merge the roles(Eph. 4)? Teaching also includes feedback and debate (rarely, if ever seen in 'churches'), correcting or rebuking and exhortation. Spiritual fellowship without the freedom to speak absolutely truthfully and honestly and openly to another is not possible because godly spirituality cannot exist outside of unbridled truth. Since the earliest days, most congregations - because of their dependency on members' financial contributions (thanks to Emperor Constantine's intervention) have adopted an attitude of inauthentic socializing. This is a human instinct more than what it is a godly one. And it does not serve the Body of Christ well. It serves emotions and casual relationships, but it does not serve 'the belt of truth'. What you'll see in genuine churches is not unruly behavior, but Holy Spirit directed conduct instead. These churches gather in any place, possibly in a believer's house. Whether or not you can accept that the Holy Spirit is at work in and through people today will very much depend on whether or not you have been born of Him (read 'Are you born again?'). [back]

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptural. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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