A Call to a Revival We Desperately Need
By Tom Snyder
Rev. Oct. 22, 2015
Holy Spirit is not a doctrine to be studied
He is a person to be experienced in power
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Jude and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ACTS I:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. JOHN 3:8
The following excerpts from the book entitled
AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Randy Clark
This book is not the definitive guide to the Holy Spirit—His person or His power—nor is it exhaustive. I want to be careful in prefacing this book correctly, as not to give you any misinformation. However, the title was assigned intentionally. While it is not the ultimate guide, I believe it is an essential guide to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Controversy about the third person of the Trinity has been with us ever since the New Testament church was born. If anything, the more His power continues to break out in our midst, the more discussion and debate circulates around the legitimacy of these manifestations. This book has been written to give you a solid biblical framework through which to understand the power of the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit does not exclusively belong to ivory-tower theologians; He is not a mere doctrine to be studied, but a divine person to be experienced and known. He has freely been given to “you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). He is the wonderful gift of God poured out upon every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Understanding His power and work in our lives is of vital importance if we desire to live the Christian lives that Jesus has made available to us.
The more that believers continue to stumble over the power of the Spirit through debate and controversy, the longer we as the church become restricted from bringing true transformation to our world. We cannot afford to be arguing among ourselves while there is so great and so ripe a harvest set before us in this generation.
This is why I decided to write this book on the power of the Holy Spirit. I felt that I needed to address many of the false concepts about the Holy Spirit—His movement, His activity, and, ultimately, the present-day availability of His power. Even though the latest controversies will invariably die out, it is without question that new issues will arise—same debate, different packaging. Once again, the validity of the Holy Spirit’s power will be called into question and future generations will need a resource to help them correctly navigate these integral issues.
I am not at all proposing that this particular book will be the definite resource on this subject matter. However, I am offering a tool that will help you discern truth from error, and give you clarity on how the Holy Spirit desires to move in the church, in your life, and in every generation until Christ returns.
Truth be told, controversy surrounding the Holy Spirit has been around since the New Testament church emerged onto the scene III the book of Acts. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it has been the people indwelt by works of B. B. Warfield (Counterfeit Miracles), Hank Hanegraaff (Counterfeit Revival), and John MacArthur (Charismatic Chaos, Strange Fire) that have targeted the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in respect to supernatural demonstrations of signs, wonders, miracles, healings, and other revival phenomena.
We have the distinct privilege of living on earth as a people indwelt by the Holy Spirit. As long as human flesh and the Spirit of God exist in this place of cohabitation, the unusual will continue to be commonplace. At the end of the day, we must be true to Scripture itself and address whether the Bible presents a cessationist or continuationist paradigm. Either the power of the Holy Spirit has legitimately ceased (cessationist) or Scripture affirms that it will continue to be demonstrated in our midst until the end of the age (continuationism). Neither perspective is a side issue.
Though neither cessationism nor continuationism are major theological doctrines that are mandatory for salvation, our response to either paradigm determines our level of Christian experience on this side of eternity. This is why I am confident that the journey we are going on together in the upcoming pages is not only meaningful but essential if we are to truly discover what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both sides of the argument—cessationist and continuationist—would acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit alone who supernaturally enables us to follow Jesus. However, our understanding of what the Holy Spirit has made available to us, through His power, reveals the extent to which we believe we can follow Jesus in this lifetime.
Here is how I have broken this work down:
I am beginning the book with a response to popular cessationist perspectives, as well as their common polemical methods. I want you to have a clear definition of what the cessationist perspective presents concerning the contemporary movement and power of the Holy Spirit.
I will continue by explaining why I believe continuationism has the proper biblical support to be accepted over cessationism. Again, I am not presenting this body of information to win a theological argument. This work in not for the purpose of debate. Rather it is my desire to show you how vital it is to maintain a clear picture of who the Holy Spirit is and what He is able to do in your life today.
This work concludes with a valuable appendix, discussing the fruit of encounters with God, including helpful tables and figures.
In the pages ahead, I have endeavored to provide solid, biblical responses and sources for many of the subjects addressed. I hope you will use the endnotes I have included for further study related to the various subjects dealt with in this response.
STRENGTHENED TO TAKE ACTION
The people who know their God will display strength and take action. (Daniel 11:32 NASB)
As you step into a greater knowledge of who the Holy Spirit is and how He continues to powerfully work in the world today, my hope is that you will become a believer who is strengthened to take action. Consider the implications of believing that God does not move miraculously as His normative practice in the world today. This presents a cosmic clockmaker view, which the whole of Scripture utterly rejects. Even more discouraging is that such a view pictures an impersonal deity who is disinterested in His creation, and, ultimately, disengaged from your everyday life. This is not your God—quite the opposite, in fact.
God personally and powerfully defied this “hands-off” perspective the day He broke into our world as a babe laying in a manger. Even after this same Jesus accomplished the work of eternal salvation on Calvary, God the Father ensured that His people would not be left on earth as orphans (see John 14:18).
Pentecost was heaven’s divine solution to an orphaned planet, as we so clearly see in Acts 2. While we can all agree that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all believers, the age old debate is what the Holy Spirit actually empowers us to accomplish in this lifetime. May the pages ahead stir your heart to believe for more and equip you to step into every supernatural empowerment God has made available to you through His Spirit.
WHY IS THERE DIVISION OVER THE HOLY SPIRIT?
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ACTS 2:1-4
When we look at Acts 2:1-4, and study the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we should note that the tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of those who were present in the upper room. Other translations have used the phrase “divided tongues.” Only in God’s Kingdom can divided tongues be intended to produce unity—but this is one of the benefits that Pentecost was purposed to unlock: supernatural unity throughout the body of Christ that reveals Jesus to the world (see John 17:22-23).
Though Jesus had ascended into heaven before leaving Earth, He spoke of One coming who would be a glorious “advantage” to those who would receive Him. Read how Jesus was preparing the disciples to receive this advantage, the promised Holy Spirit:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7 NKJV)
At that moment in time, the disciples’ minds could not fathom the possibility of an advantage. They could not consider a reality greater than having Jesus physically present with them. And yet, Jesus Himself informed them that it was “for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7).
Even today, believers mistakenly long for “the good old days” or the “one day” of the future. We either wish we could have been among the disciples who were present during Jesus’s time on earth, or we look forward to a future day when we will be able to visibly see Jesus in all of His glory, either in heaven, during the millennial reign, or whatever our theology dictates.
Here is my question to you: What about today? What about now? This is why I believe this guide is essential. I want to help you navigate the importance of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life today. There is controversy because there is truth that needs to be rediscovered.
The wrong approach is to see controversy as an invitation to disengage from the conversation entirely. No. While our call is not to angrily fire back at those who question the validity of the Spirit’s power today, we must constructively search the Scriptures in order to navigate this debate for ourselves.
Remember, divided tongues were not given for the purpose of dividing the church. They produced a supernatural unity in the early church that changed the spiritual landscape of society. It was unity that prepared the disciples’ hearts for the Spirit’s coming on that day, as they all met in one accord (see Acts 2:1), and it is likewise unity that the Holy Spirit has come to produce in today’s church. Paul exhorts us to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph.4:3).
Before we begin our study of the controversy, however, I want us to approach this topic with great sensitivity. It is just as dangerous for us to become hypercritical as it is for us to remain ignorant—both approaches assault Christian unity. We are addressing the issues for one key purpose: to constructively advance in our Christian lives, operating in every grace, gift, and endowment that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit scripturally offers us.
John 14-17 represents Jesus’s farewell address to the disciples. In this context, He prepares them for what is to come—His death, but also the provision of the Holy Spirit. Consider these stirring words from the Savior as we press on toward unity in the Spirit and rnaximum effectiveness in advancing His Kingdom. As Jesus prays for all believers throughout all generations, He says to the Father:
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the World may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23 NKJV)
The only one who makes this incredible reality possible, Christ in you and Christ in me, is the Holy Spirit. In order to live this out, let’s do our best to wade through the controversies. Remember, controversy in the Kingdom is only attached to truths of vital importance. It goes without saying that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, and the very member of the Godhead who has come to abide with us on earth, is certainly of the most vital importance for our lives today!
THE CONTINUING CONTROVERSY
Understanding why there is still division attached
to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
THE AGE-OLD CONTROVERSY
Cessationism is not a theology; it simply represents one approach to theology. Cessationism is a perspective that believes the movement of the Holy Spirit, particularly through the supernatural sign gifts (i.e., tongues, prophecy, and miracles, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14) have ceased. Therefore, they should no longer be expected or encouraged as normative practice for the contemporary New Testament church. On the other hand, continuationism is the belief that the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit have continued since the day of Pentecost and are relevant for Christians today.
Right from the start, I do not wish to paint with broad strokes. I do not consider all believers who embrace a cessationist perspective be of “like mind” and approach. These are brothers and sisters in the faith, many of whom are significantly contributing to the advancement of the gospel across the earth. With heartfelt gratitude, I celebrate their roles in the Kingdom of God—In evangelism, apologetics, theological study, upholding the centrality of the cross, and other such exploits.
With that said, some of those who embrace the cessationist paradigm have become particularly outspoken throughout the centuries, denouncing modern expressions of supernatural power as false, counterfeit, and, even worse, demonic. Many of the voices throughout history fueled by this mission to denounce all forms of Charismatic expression tend to resort to the same old methodology and arguments. Their books are often difficult to read and their messages prove to be a challenge to hear without feeling slimed by false comparisons and an incomplete commitment to sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).
THE IMBALANCED CESSATIONIST APPROACH
Some of the outspoken modern cessationists tend to ignore large parts of the Scriptures that are pertinent in order to give a fair biblical perspective on the issue of both offices and gifts of the Holy Spirit. These works often fall short of the biblical exegetical contributions of biblical theologians such as Jon Ruthven, in his two books on the subject, What’s wrong with Protestant Theology? Tradition vs. Biblical Emphasis and On the Cessation of the Charismata: A Protestant Polemic on Post-biblical Miracles.
These cessationist works also do not go into as much depth as the book by Dr. Gary Greig and Kevin Springer, The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the early Church Meant for the Church Today? or Craig Keener’s Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts
I believe that cessationists should be dealing with works like these if they truly want to be committed to sola Scriptum. While there are many notable theological and academic voices who embrace the cessationist perspective, there are also theological and academic voices who represent the other side of the argument. Unfortunately, their invaluable contributions are often not explored or even acknowledged.
Though many of the most vocal proponents of cessationism are Reformed in their theology, embracing the doctrines and perspectives of men such as Augustine and John Calvin, it is fascinating to note how both of these pioneers of Reformed thought exhibited an unusual openness to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
CALVIN AND OTHER HISTORIC LEADERS
ON SIGNS, WONDERS, AND MIRACLES
Many Reformed cessationists fail to mention that John Calvin’s approach to the charismata was not one of complete withdrawal. According to church historian Dr. Vinson Synan, Calvin. maintained a unique perspective on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, explaining “that they (the gifts) fell into disuse in the churches because of “lack of faith.” Calvin never forbade their use or felt that they should be forbidden. Moreover, because of his extended attention to the Third Person of the Trinity in his writings, he has been called the ‘theologian of the Holy Spirit’ among reformers.”
Thus, Calvin is not strictly adhering to a classical, pure cessationist perspective that completely disregards the possibility of post apostolic demonstrations of supernatural power. In fact, many of the early church fathers acknowledged the possibility of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. Going a step further, several of these men and women actually experienced the Spirit’s power for themselves.
John Huss believed that dreams are a means of supernatural communication from God. The Bohemian Brethren experienced signs and wonders through the middle of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther himself believed in the continued power of prayer to deliver people who were demonized and prayer’s effectiveness to heal the sick.” He prayed to heal both Philipp Melanchthon and Friedrich Myconius, both of whom were healed from death’s door through Luther’s prayers. Luther also spoke by the Spirit what Charismatics today would call prophecies, and many of them were fulfilled. Johannes Mathesius, one of Luther’s earliest biographers, wrote that “with many sure prophecies he confirmed his doctrine.”
History reveals that the Scottish Covenanters and John Knox experienced gifts of the Holy Spirit as well.” I have outlined many other historical figures and movements who have embraced the power of the Holy Spirit in my books There Is Morel! and The Essential Guide to Healing.”
THROWING THE GOOD AND THE BAD TOGETHER
The cessationist method in general seems to use many negative adjectives against the opposing position and continually indicates that any opposing positions are wrong. As in many past works on the subject of cessationism, and in B. B. Warfield’s classic Counterfeit Miracles, there is a continued use of creating a composite straw man that is made up of the most embarrassing examples of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave positions. Many cessationists incorrectly refer to this composite as The Charismatic Movement.
The same logic motivating this blanket approach would thereby take a fringe, but nevertheless vocal, example of “Christianity,” such as the Westboro Baptist Church, and assume that their actions are characteristic of the entire Baptist Movement as a whole. Of course, this line of thought is utterly preposterous. Sadly, many highly educated and learned individuals use this method of faulty evaluation in making broad, all-encompassing statements concerning the Charismatic Movement in its entirety.
The Charismatic Movement caricature is then attacked, and attempts are made to discredit this composite group of Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wave Evangelicals.” Rather than argue from biblical exegesis, some cessationists prefer the ad hominem argument, “against the man.” This strategy seems to place the best of the teaching in the movement and the most balanced positions within the movement side by side with the weakest and poorest example–both morally and exegetically. This discrediting of the witness (a witness made up of both authentic and abhorrent expressions of the Charismatic Movement), is supposed to discredit the entire Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave Movements.
NOT ALL MOVEMENTS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Truth be told, there is great diversity between the three movements listed above. As one studies each group with increased precision and care, they will note that there is even great diversity within each of the three aforementioned Charismatic groups. However, the one common denominator is that all believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit in the church today. The very person who was sent from heaven to preserve Christian unity has sadly become a source of great division to many in the body of Christ.
The attacks on this caricature, the Charismatic straw man, tend to be vicious assaults, without love for Christian brothers and sisters, even questioning whether or not they are Christians to begin with. It seems that the purpose is often not to systematically deal with the true scholarly arguments of defenders of continuationism, but rather to assign fear to one’s perception of Charismatic demonstrations and expressions.
Earlier I introduced you to the reality of multiple kinds of cessationists. Just as all Charismatics are not created equal, likewise, not all cessationists take up residence in the “same camp.” In several cases, we are able to theologically disagree on the continuation of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and yet live amicably as fellow brothers and sisters in the expansion of the gospel. We might even collaborate together on different ministry projects or initiatives.
Sadly, there are others in the body of Christ who take this issue beyond the theological debate or a topic of disagreement. They seem to be aimed at creating an emotional response of suspicion and fear in regard to those who embrace the continuationist position. In other words they paint a picture of the Charismatic Movement as an unsettling, unorthodox, and anti-Christian expression. This is dangerous to the curious believers who are hungry to make proper, biblical sense to the continuationist perspective, but most of all it jeopardizes the possibility of enjoying unity in the Body of Christ.
In the same manner that I, as one voice as representative of the Charismatic Movement, desire a fair and balanced treatment of our nuances, I likewise wish to extend this same courtesy toward those who embrace cessationist perspective.
The controversy I have been describing in previous paragraphs has been generated by cessationists who not only disagree with the present move of the Holy Spirit’s power, but who consistently hurl attacks at believers who adhere to a continuationist point of view. This discourages unity in the body of Christ and is completely counterproductive to our global mandate to proclaim the gospel. I suggest that we tone down our attacks and endeavor to work through these vital topics as Christian brothers and sisters who love God’s Word and embrace His Spirit.
In order to start operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, it is important for all believers to navigate through the controversies, understand the arguments at hand, and take an uncompromised stand for the truth.
1. Cessationisms: A point of view that considers the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit (as identified in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14: tongues, prophecy, working of miracles) as having ceased after the close of the initial apostolic age, or the canonization of the Bible.
2. Continuationism: A point of view that embraces the continuation of the sign gifts and supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, from the day of Pentecost until the consummation of the age at Jesus’s return.
3. Just because there are abuses, misuses, and theological errors circulating in the Charismatic Movement, it is irresponsible for us to disregard an entire movement or worse, brand everyone within the larger movement as a heretic because of the errors propagated by some.
4. Even though we may differ on theological viewpoints, it is essential for us to maintain an attitude of love and Christian unity as we debate and dialogue about the issues.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS
Exploring some of the most popular Charismatic controversies
and upholding God’s ultimate standard: Scripture.
STEP BACK AND SEE DIFFERENTLY
When it comes to reviewing the power of the Holy Spirit in action, we cannot afford to simply observe all Charismatic activity as being “created equal.” In other words, not everything said or done in the name of the Holy Spirit is an accurate representation of His nature or power. Throughout our time together, I want us to seriously consider some of the issues that have plagued the Charismatic Movement and tend to add fuel to the fire of controversy for many.
However, to appropriately sort through these topics in a constructive manner, it is important for us to take a few steps back. Regardless of what perspective you have adopted on the Charismatic Movement as a whole, I want to encourage you to move away from the popular perspective of branding all things Charismatic as one and the same. We tackled this approach briefly in the previous chapter, but it bears repeating here—especially as we are getting ready to wade through some of the most popular points of the controversy and contention.
A common cessationist way of arguing would be to include the farthest right dispensational fundamentalists and farthest left liberals in the Evangelical Movement, all linked together because they do not believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit today. Within this contrived composite straw man representing evangelicalism, one could find many embarrassing examples of moral failure, theological error, and financial impropriety. Quotes could be found that would appear from ridiculous to heretical, especially if the extremes of the far right fundamentalist and the far left liberal movements were analyzed.
As my purpose is to respond to some of the common controversies surrounding the Charismatic Movement, I do not wish to practice a similar willingness to attack fellow Christians. The goal is to inform you, but also to provide a constructive outlet for thoughtful reconsideration. I am merely pointing out that in creating a composite straw man from such divergent groups, one is able to find many examples that are not good representations of the movement as a whole.
That said, I believe it is best for us to represent a movement by its best and not its worst examples of theological correctness and moral holiness. This is important to keep in mind as we get ready to honestly examine some of the key issues of controversy within the Charismatic Movement.
LACK OF DlSCERNMENT AND SOUND SCHOLARSHIP
The Charismatic Movement has long been accused of relying on experience over Scripture. While this erroneous perspective may be representative for some Charismatics, it is by no means the case for all. The Bible gives clear tests for discerning whether something is from God or if is false. There is not just one test; rather, there are several.
There is the primary test to which Jesus alluded: the test of the fruit:
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own.” (John 7:16-17)
There is also the test of affirming or denying the incarnation:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is corning and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
There is the test of denying the importance of the historical Jesus and attributing such declarations to the Holy Spirit:
Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit (if God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
There is the test of worship, which is the test given in the book of Revelation: will we worship the Lamb or the beast?
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
The lying signs and wonders of 1 Thessalonians 2:8-10, Matthew 24:24, and the book of Revelation, serve the purpose of causing people to turn from Jesus Christ to worship another, whether the man of lawlessness, the antichrist, or the beast or his false prophet.
This mode of evaluation should cause us to look at non-Christians, not at groups that place a high priority on worshiping the Triune God. Who focuses on healing but denies the incarnation, the lordship of Jesus, and believes that His earthly life is not important? Who believes the “Christ spirit” that was not only upon Jesus but also upon Buddha, Mohammad, Zoroaster, and continues to come in the form of other Avatars? It is not Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers, but rather those who ascribe to New Age philosophy and false religion.
It is likewise erroneous to assume that no valid scholarship has been achieved among the Charismatic community or, even worse, that there are no Charismatic scholars, academics, or leaders contributing to the furtherance of theological study. Such a deduction would be very misleading. Instead of highlighting those who have fallen into doctrinal error, why not note the honorable, theologically well-balanced leaders like the Roman Catholic Dr. Francis MacNutt, the Anglican Bishop David Pytches, the Foursquare Pentecostal Dr. Jack Hayford, or the distinguished Methodist professors of United Theological Seminary, Dr. Peter Bellini, Dr. Luther Oconer, or Dr. Andrew Park?
One could also mention the Calvinist, Dr. R. T. Kendall, the former professors of Regent University Divinity School, Dr. Jon Ruthven and Dr. Gary Greig, and the highly respected Charismatic Baptist New Testament scholar of Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Craig Keener, whose two volume work Miracles was required reading in my doctoral class.
One could argue that it is actually the Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers who are taking the Bible more seriously than even some cessationists, making it not only the source for their theology, but also the source for their practices. For many Charismatics, Scripture is not simply a book to be read and studied, but it is an invitation into a lifestyle of supernatural engagement. Truly, such followers of Jesus desire to be doers of the Word, not hearers only. This should be celebrated rather than rejected.
THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
One of the most frequent examples of this Charismatic caricature or straw man is in reference to the prosperity gospel. While this is certainly an embarrassing problem that has plagued the Charismatic Movement for decades, one cannot simply assume that anyone who believes in the modern demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power also embraces the insidious prosperity gospel.
Critics and cessationist leaders have rightfully addressed the overemphasis upon material prosperity. What seems unbalanced in their arguments is the total failure to acknowledge the self-corrective attempts to address this very issue from within the Word of Faith Movement.
Word of Faith is only a part of the Charismatic Movement. It by no means represents the vast majority of Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers or other continuationists. Many fail to note that Kenneth Hagin’s last book, and one of his last conferences for the Word of Faith Movement, was The Midas Touch, which was Hagin’s attempt to call the movement to a balanced position of not overemphasizing material prosperity at the expense of spiritual prosperity.”
When it comes to the issue of the prosperity gospel, we cannot follow the “guilty by association” approach. It is important to recognize that the Word of Faith Movement is about much more than just material prosperity. In the same way that a single example of Charismatic abuse cannot speak representatively on behalf of the entire movement, let alone its myriad of expressions and diversities, likewise, the grievous errors that have accompanied prosperity preaching should not be applied to all adherents of the Word of Faith Movement.
Accusations have been made that the majority of Nigerian Christians, along with the vast percentage of believers in the PhiIippines, believe that God will grant good health and relief from sickness to those who have enough faith. Many would rnistakenly assume that these same Christians are also proponents of the prosperity gospel simply because they believe in divine healing through faith.
The fact is that divine healing has been and continues to be a main doctrine of Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers throughout the world. This is a true statement, but to extrapolate that if one believes in the benefits of healing through the cross, then one also embraces the prosperity gospel, especially in its extreme form, is a false deduction.
Personally speaking as one of the members of the Revival Alliance—which is made up of six networks that would fall into the Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Third Wave category-there is among us an understanding of blessings and curses related to covenant lifestyles. However, there is a majority opinion that this message is not to be perverted by focusing on the overtly material aspect of this truth, to the point that our goal becomes the building of our personal kingdom instead of His Kingdom. Our focus is on being blessed to give, not what kind of car we drive, how large our homes are, or what kind of jewelry or watches we wear. Claims such as “Jesus was rich” seem ludicrous in light of scriptural evidence. High-powered, guilt-ridden offerings are discouraged, and giving in order to get rich to spend money on ourselves is frowned upon.
Also, I believe that the majority of Pentecostal churches in America today would not embrace the prosperity gospel in its extreme nature either. Just because one adheres to a certain Charismatic teaching, namely, the continuing availability of the Holy Spirit’s miraculous power for today does not automatically mean that this same individual embraces any variation of the “prosperity gospel.”
WORD OF FAITH/POSITIVE CONFESSION
Many have tried to connect the Word of Faith Movement, particularly the teachings of E. W. Kenyon, to the New Thought Movement emerging out of New England. Likewise, many evangelical—Including some Pentecostals—have characterized Kenyon as one with roots in New Thought, leaning more toward New Age philosophy than historic orthodoxy.
However, others have proven that New Thought did not influence Kenyon at all. Rather, his true source of influence was the Holiness Movement, especially the Keswick Movement, and the greatest influence upon E. W Kenyon was A.]. Gordon, the Baptist, after whom Gordon-Conwell Seminary is named.”
MORAL FAILURE OF KEY CHARISMATIC LEADERS
Critics tend to parade the failure of well-known leaders of the Charismatic Movement, using their personal tragedies as examples of the alleged unbiblical nature of the movement as a whole. However, the conclusion that there is less moral failure among evangelical leaders than among Charismatics remains to be proven.
While I was in seminary, one of the professors fell into sexual sin and divorced his wife. A leading evangelical Bible teacher on the radio also did the same. Moral failures occur within all groups of Christendom. I am sad for any leader who falls due to a moral failure. Such incidents are undeniably tragic, and we would do well to pray for the individuals who fell into grievous sin, for their families who were severely affected, and those who have been influenced by their ministries.
At the same time, it would be irresponsible from this to deduct, that all evangelical seminary professors or evangelical radio Bible teachers are like the two examples I just listed. In like manner there are thousands of leaders in the Charismatic Movement who live lives of purity and holiness. All over the world there are people in this movement who are laid down lovers of Jesus Christ, who are being spent on His call, and who are spending their own wealth to advance the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Heidi and Rolland Baker—Iris Ministries. Drs. Heidi and Rolland Baker (Iris Ministries), in Mozambique, are two of the most radical people of faith I know, and they have seen one million people come to Jesus through their ministry. They understand that the gospel includes presence evangelism, presentation evangelism, and power evangelism.
They are involved in well drilling, food production, micro-businesses, feeding and clothing programs, as well as preaching the gospel, calling for repentance and commitment to Christ. This is accompanied by healings, miracles, and the dead being raised, which have turned entire Muslim provinces into Christian provinces in the nation of Mozambique. The good fruit of Iris Ministries is undeniable and far-reaching.
Carlos Annacondia. In the Western Hemisphere, there is Carlos Annacondia-a wealthy businessman who serves the poor, conducting crusades at his own expense. Annacondia has led scores of thousands to the Lord, one time more than 50,000 and at another about 80,000, through crusades in Argentina. These crusades have seen approximately 80 percent of the new converts become part of the church, unlike our North American crusades where only 6 percent of the ones who go forward for prayer end up in a church.
Everyday “Little Ole Me’s” Then there are the nameless, faceless, “little ole me’s” who travel on ministry teams all over the world with Global Awakening. They pay their own way, receive nothing for their service of prayer for healing and deliverance, and use their personal vacation time to travel. Usually up to 50 percent of the thousands healed during the Global Awakening trips are healed not from platform prayers of the speaker, but from this army of lovers of Jesus Christ, who believe in the gifts of healing, and who witness His power flow through them touching the indigenous people.
To get an accurate understanding of Charismatic theology, it is not to our benefit to draw upon some of the worst aspects in the character of some of the founders of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. As regrettable as some of these behaviors are, this does not prove the movement is false any more than one could point to the strong anti-Semitic statements of Martin Luther, the drowning of the Anabaptists by Lutherans, the burning of Servetus by John Calvin in Switzerland, or the early rejection of missions by most Protestants.
In the same way that it would be unwise for us to make wholesale assumptions about Reformed theology solely based on the grievous actions of the aforementioned pioneers and leaders, it is unwise for us to apply the same measuring stick to the Charismatic Movement. This is not a call for us to excuse negative behavior, sinful actions, and theological heresy.
Consider this: If the worst statements and conduct by all non-Pentecostals and Charismatics were to be marshaled against Protestantism as a wholesale movement, it would not be a fair characterization of Protestantism. The same could be said for Roman Catholicism. The fallible character of some of the founders of Protestantism, the effect of cultural bias and prejudice, and theological prejudice do not invalidate the spiritual truths of these respective movements. They merely prove that God often uses people with brokenness, people who are sinners saved by grace.
“TOKIN’ THE GHOST”
Some of most embarrassing examples of a lack of wisdom on the part of some young Charismatic leaders include the practice of “tokin’ the Ghost,” where the Holy Spirit is treated like a drug. Many reputable Charismatic leaders are unwilling to endorse a particular young minister due to this language. In fact, I pulled one of my spiritual sons, a prophetic minister himself, aside and warned him of the lack of wisdom of such a practice. He only used this language once and immediately heeded my cautionary warning.
While not at all defending the excesses or the extremes of the Charismatic Movement, it is worth remembering that the manifestations of extremes in some Charismatic services should not be allowed to thereby condemn all Charismatic services as also embracing the bizarre manifestations.
IT IS TIME TO CHALLENGE AND CHANGE OUR ARGUMENTS
What if I, having spent fourteen years as a pastor in evangelical churches, told you the true stories of people falling asleep in church, disrupting the service by their snoring, and made the implication that this was typical of all evangelical worship services? What if I told you the true story of an angry Baptist who came to my church with a shotgun, unwilling to let anyone enter the building, and then proceeded to imply that this was typical of an evangelical worship service?
Or I could mention my experience in another evangelical church where some of the members publicly spoke out about how evil their stepmother had been, and how they would never forgive her. What made this incident even worse was that the stepmother was a practicing member of the same church. I could also recount the true story of attending another evangelical church that, by the time I was twelve, had split four times due to infighting.
Writing about such true experiences would cause the less discerning to deduct that those evangelicals are so lethargic in their worship toward God that they fall asleep in church, they are angry, unforgiving, and dangerous to be around.
This would be an unfair caricature of the evangelical church, in the same way as the previously discussed abnormalities should be regarded as unfair representatives of the Charismatic Movement as a whole.
Just because there are imbalances and extremes observable in the Charismatic Movement—all of which should be taken seriously by leaders and adherents—this does not give one legitimate, scriptural grounds to discredit the availability of the Holy Spirit’s power for today.
1. Step back and see the Charismatic Movement differently, defining both belief and practice by the standard of Scripture, not fringe doctrines and fallen leaders.
2. Boldly confront the abuses and imbalances while recognizing that the worst examples of a movement should never represent the movement as a whole.
3. Ensure that the ultimate standard by which we understand the Holy Spirit’s power is what Scripture clearly reveals as truth.
Discovering how the Holy Spirit has been powerfully and
actively at work in the World since the day of Pentecost.
History demands a careful second glance when it comes to tracing the continuation of the Holy Spirit’s power since Pentecost. As mentioned in chapter 1, some of the key figures used by many cessationists as hallmarks of those who refute or reject the Holy Spirit’s power are, in actuality, those who experienced it in dramatic ways.
One of the most notable examples is St. Augustine of Hippo. Cessationists often neglect to inform us that Augustine believed people were still being baptized in the Holy Spirit during their water baptism and through the laying on of hands. However, he did not believe that it was happening to all.
He also believed that speaking in tongues was sometimes still happening at this occasion. In fact, Augustine had much to say about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the charisms of the Spirit. In relationship to water baptism, he stated: “We must not think that those who have received a valid (water) baptism have also automatically (continuo) received the Holy Spirit.” Augustine’s quote, in context, is referring to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Closer to the end of his life, Augustine wrote retractions in which he mentions seventy healings that took place in just two years in his bishopric, and that other bishops were also aware of healing in their bishoprics. It has also been discovered that Augustine himself developed a healing ministry and a deliverance ministry.
THE EARLY CHURCH
History unveils that during the first few hundred years of the church, when one was baptized, manifestations of gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, accompanied the water baptisms of adults coming out of paganism in the missionary expansion of the church.
Tertullian (155-240 AD) instructed catechumens preparing for baptism,
Therefore, you blessed ones, for whom the grace of God is waiting, when you come up from the most sacred bath of the new birth, when you spread out your hands for the first time in your mother’s house with your brethren, ask your Father, ask your Lord, for the special gift of His inheritance, the distributed charism [gifts of the Holy Spirit] Ask, He says, and you shall receive.”
FAMOUS REFORMED LEADERS, PREACHERS, AND PASTORS
Even though cessationists often cite the works of theologians who embrace a Reformed perspective, there is nevertheless a compelling body of evidence suggesting that the very individuals who are used to lend credibility to a cessationist perspective have personally encountered the power of the Holy Spirit through “Charismatic experiences.”
Interestingly enough, notable preacher and pastor, Charles “Spurgeon, was known for his ministry of healing prayer.” In fact, sometimes during Spurgeon’s sermons he would give information about someone’s sin that today in the Charismatic Movement would be considered a “word of knowledge.”
We cannot ignore the accounts of early Scottish reformers during the time of John Knox in Scotland who experienced the gift of prophecy. Finally, there are several historical accounts of reformers experiencing what Charismatics today would call the gifts of healing, discerning of spirits, prophecy, and words of knowledge.
POWER FALLS THROUGHOUT REVIVAL HISTORY
One notable pastor once questioned, “Does the Holy Spirit really cause people to fall down like bowling pins?” The answer is yes. The truth is that many of the manifestations that are often vilified, like the one mentioned above, did happen in the Bible, and throughout the history of revivals. It is also true that powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit, which are sometimes marked by some of the manifestations, ridiculed and mocked by critics, result in the very things one considers to be “lasting fruit.”
As we continue this brief exploration throughout history, we see that this particular manifestation occurred quite often in periods of revival. This phenomenon occurred during the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, under the ministry of Charles Finney, and the missionary C. T. Studd, who was one of the Cambridge Seven and who responded to Hudson Taylor’s call for missionaries, as well as many more.
Though manifestations, such as falling “under the power” of the Holy Spirit, have been considered controversial, theologians confirm their presence throughout the halls of Scripture. Dr. Gary Greig catalogues the manifestations and phenomenon of the Bible as follows, and the presence of God’s Spirit in power and glory may be marked in Scripture by the following references:
• Shaking or trembling—Exodus 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:30; Ezra 9:4; Psalm 2:11; 96:9; 114:7; 119:120; Isaiah 66:5; Jeremiah 5:22, 23:9; Daniel 10:10-11; Matthew 28:4; Acts 7:32; Hebrews 12:21.
• Falling over—Genesis 17:3; 1 Kings 8:11; Ezekiel 1:28,3:23; Daniel 8:17-18, 10:9; John 18:6; Acts 9:/1; 26:14; 1 Corinthians 14:25; Revelation 1:17.
• Intoxicated state of mind—Acts 2:4, 13, 15; Ephesians 5:18; cf. 1 Samuel 1:12-17; 19:23.
• Bodily writhing and distortion under the influence of a demon Mark 1:21-26; 9:26; Luke 8:28.
• Laughing, shouting, or weeping—Genesis 17:17;24 Ezra 3:13 (“rejoicing,” which certainly included laughter and shouting, is so loud that it is heard “far away” from Jerusalem—that must have been pretty loud!); Nehemiah 8:6, 9 (weeping in the midst of worship and praise), 12:43; Psalm 126:2; Proverbs 14:13; Acts 14:10 (Greek literally “[Paul] said with a loud voice”).
• Prolonged exuberant praise—Luke 1:41-42 (Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke out in a loud voice”), 46-55, 64, 68-79; 5:25; 17:15; Acts 3:8-10.
• Feeling energy, electricity, or heat—Mark 5:29-30 (see also Matthew 9:22; Luke 8:44, 46-47); Luke 6:19; cf. Colossians 1:29 (where energeia, “working, energy” is coupled in the text with dunamis “power”); Judges 14:6, 19, 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10:10.26
• Feeling deep peace—Romans 14:17; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:5-7.
• Visible radiance seen on the face or around the head—Acts 2:3-4 (tongues of fire); 6:15; 7:55 (Stephen filled with the Spirit had a radiant face); and compare that with 2 Corinthians 3:7, 13, 17-18 and Exodus 34:29 (the radiance of Moses face is from the “Lord who is the Spirit”).
• Trance-like state—Acts 10:10; 22:17.
• Groaning or inarticulate sounds—Romans 8:26.
These phenomena, which may accompany the of God’s Spirit, are not only attested to in Scripture, are also attested to in early Judaism” and early, post-biblical Christian tradition.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: DANIEL PHYSICALLY RESPONDS TO THE POWER OF GOD
Though some would argue against the historical accounts—claiming that simply because certain phenomena have been experienced does not verify their scriptural Validity—one cannot escape examples in the Bible where notable figures physically experienced and reacted to the power of God.
The Bible records manifestations such as Daniel’s experience (see Dan 10:7-11) where he lost his strength, trembled, and fell to the ground. Though Daniel did not the word electricity, for those who have a very strong sensation of trembling, it is often due to the feeling of energy or electricity in their bodies.
Almost all the passages in the Old Testament that mention trembling do so in the context of fear, fear and trembling or trembling due to fear. However, Daniel 10:10 seems to be an exception where the trembling is not out of fear, but due to the power of God entering Daniel when he was touched. Daniel 10:10-11 reads,
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you. “And when He said this to me, I stood up trembling.
The accusation that the apostles were drunk on the day of Pentecost is indicative of behavior similar to manifestations someone would have if under the strong influence of alcohol. And the apostle Paul spoke of laboring with all of God’s energy that worked so mightily within him.
It simply is not true that the Bible has no mention of trembling, falling, joy, drunkenness in the Spirit, or energy. In fact, both the OId and New Testaments contain several examples of people being touched by the power of God and responding in unusual ways. This must be our standard if we are to fully embrace the Spirit’s renewing work in our midst today.
The Holy Spirit’s power is not the invention of a movement, denomination, or specific century. He has been active in the earth since Genesis 1, and history makes it clear that notable Christian leaders, pioneers, and fore-runners have had dramatic, transformative experiences with His supernatural presence.
1. History and Scripture are filled with examples of experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power in dramatic, unusual ways.
2. The Bible is our ultimate source for the validity of revival manifestations.
3. We cannot discredit a manifestation of the Spirit’s power and presence in someone’s life simply because we find its expression uncomfortable.
4. Regardless of our personal preferences or denominational backgrounds, we must be open to receive the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, as He is the only One who can transform a life and prepare a heart to receive the gospel.
We cannot simply reject divine healing because we live in fear of giving people false hope. Why is it necessary to destroy hope altogether out of fear of false hope? Would it not be better to live and die in hope, rather than in despair, depression, and hopelessness? The subject of supernatural healing is not simply a matter of people experiencing wholeness or being cured of malady, but it is a question of whether or not we are witnessing the full demonstration of the gospel of the Kingdom as Jesus intended.
DOES JESUS REBUKE SIGNS AND WONDERS?
We cannot mistake Matthew 16:4 as Jesus rebuking people for desiring signs, wonders, and miracles. In this context, it is true that Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, stating that “a wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign.” The key, however, is to study this verse in its context and understand the nature of the sign Jesus was referring to.
This passage is not condemning those who ask for signs as reasons to strengthen their faith, but rather those who are seeking to continue in disbelief. The signs referred to in Matthew 16:4 are signs in the natural realm (i.e., weather), not the signs that Jesus was producing.
The belief of that time was that just before God’s Kingdom would come, there would be a generation of unbelief. This belief is represented in the language Jesus uses: “wicked and adulterous generation.” Jesus had just done the signs of a prophet in multiplying food in Matthew 15:29-39. This rebuke is not about Jesus condemning Charismatics and Pentecostals, but, rather, it is an indictment of those who profess to believe but are blatantly denying the things Jesus is doing today.
THE IMPORTANCE Of FAITH IN JESUS’ HEALINGS
Contrary to the opinion of some, healings in the New Testament often depended upon the recipient’s faith-even those accomplished by Jesus Himself. It is true that there are occasions where the faith of the person experiencing the miracle was not involved, but it is also true that the New Testament contains many examples where the faith of the recipient was involved and acknowledged.
Now I want to take you through several of Jesus’s miracles in order to identify how faith played a vital role in the afflicted individual experiencing God’s healing.
The Roman. Centurion’s servant. The centurion’s servant was healed in a way that involved his faith. In Matthew 8:13, it states, “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.
Woman with the issue of blood. The woman with the issue of blood was healed by her faith. Matthew 9:22 reads, ‘Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ He said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.
Note: Healings in the New Testament often depended upon the recipient’s faith—even those accomplished by Jesus Himself.
Two blind men. The two blind men were also healed in a manner that involved their faith. Matthew 9:29-30 states, “Then He touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you; and their sight was restored. “
The ten lepers. We cannot take an example, such as the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19, and mistakenly assume that only one “expressed faith,” yet all were still healed. This is not what the Scripture says. Nowhere does it state that only one expressed faith; rather, it expresses that one returned to express thanks.
The fact that Jesus said to the formerly leprous Samaritan that his faith has made him well in no way indicates that he was the only one of the ten who had faith (see Luke 17:17-19). The fact that faith was instrumental to this one’s healing anyone would be expected to believe it was likewise faith on the part of the other nine that was instrumental to their healing.
Man at the pool of Bethesda. The man at the pool at Bethesda is commonly used as an example of not having faith, but there is reason to believe that the man actually did have faith. The reason to believe this is that John’s Gospel features only seven signs. All the other signs were preceded by an act of obedience that demonstrated that the people believed in Jesus, and they were, in fact, points of contact for the releasing of faith.
With the other six signs being plainly connected to acts of obedience, they become the model for inferring that when Jesus said to him in John 5:8, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” he was healed when he tried to get up. Jesus told him to do three things, then the next verse says he “picked up his mat and walked.” The implication is that the healing came when he tried to get up. We see this same effect in our healings with ourselves and others.
The fact that he did not know Jesus’s identity does not mean he did not exercise faith in Jesus’s word. Even today there are people who are healed by Jesus in India in mass crusades who do not yet know He is the Son of God, but once they are healed by Him, they come to realize He is the Son of God. The healing is a sign that directs to the source of salvation, Jesus Christ. I have known of those who minister to Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christian groups, and when they are healed in His name, they come to saving faith in Him. This is also our personal experience.
Blind man in John 9. In John 9, we see another example of someone being healed without knowing Jesus’s identity, or more correctly, without yet knowing that Jesus was the Son of Man, the Messiah. However, the man did have faith in Jesus as a righteous man who was from God and did God’s will (see John 9:30-33). He still was healed by his faith. Even though he did not have a full understanding of who Jesus was, he had faith to obey what Jesus told him to do. In John’s Gospel, these acts of obedience to the commands of Jesus are seen as acts of faith.
Jairus’s daughter. The daughter of Jairus being raised from the dead is another example of someone being healed who did not have to exercise faith. It is noted that she could not have had faith for herself to be raised because she was, in fact, dead. Yet, the text indicates that faith or belief was a part of the story-not the girl’s faith, but her father’s (see Mark 5:23). When Jairus was told she had died, Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36). Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter because he had exercised faith in Jesus’s word to him.
Lazarus. Lazarus being raised from the dead is another example of a healing irrespective of the person’s faith. In this narrative, Jesus does speak of faith. He says to Mary, “Did 1 not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). Then Jesus gave a command that involved the people in the miracle-He asked them to move the stone. This was another act of obedience that was indicative of faith. Thus, these two resurrections (Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus) involved the faith of family members prior to their resurrections.
Healing of the multitudes. It is true that the Pharisees did not exercise faith in Jesus, but there is no indication that any of them were among the healed among the multitudes (see Matt. 12:24). The summary passage in Matthew 14:34-36 suggests that the people, who were bringing the afflicted and sick into the streets, that they might touch Jesus’s clothes, heard the testimony of the others who were previously healed, thus receiving faith in their hearts to bring other afflicted individuals to Jesus.
The similar account in Matthew 15 of the people being brought to Jesus, laid at His feet, and who were healed also does not mention faith or doubt, but the fact that they came to Jesus in need of healing implies they had faith and were expecting to be healed.
Thus, while these examples do not necessarily prove there was faith on the part of those being healed, neither do they prove the absence of faith. The context, however, lends support to the conclusion that there was a level of faith on the part of those coming to Jesus to receive healing. Why else would they have come to Him to begin with?
THE VITAL LINK OF HEALING AND FAITH
Even though miracles can take place, in some instances, apart from faith on the recipient’s end, the Gospels make a clear case for how faith actually unlocks the supernatural-even in Jesus’s ministry. One of the most shocking accounts of this is in Matthew 13:58, where we read that Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Mark 6:5-6 also states, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their lack of faith.” There are many such passages that link the miraculous, healing, and deliverance to faith.
In reference to Matthew 13:58, consider that faith seems to put the almighty power of God into the hands of men; whereas unbelief appears to tie up even the hands of the Almighty. This reminds us of the biblical importance of faith. Such a concept is not some invention of the Word of Faith Movement or even some Charismatic doctrine it is clearly unveiled to us in the Scriptures.
The Gospels make a clear case for how faith actually unlocks the supernatural. Mark 6:1-6, demonstrates that even the Son of God could do no miracles there, apart from healing a few sick folk, humble enough and needy enough to believe in Him. That does not mean that God’s power is absolutely limited, but that God has chosen to act only in response to faith. This clearly explains why all the supernatural signs we see in the N. T. stories are nearly non-existent among so many denominations today. In fact, even the new birth is nearly non-existent in some church groups today. Why? Where it is not preached there is little of no faith for that foundational experience to occur—“without faith it is impossible to please God.” This is true in all areas of our life in Christ.
A GNOSTIC GOSPEL?
There is nothing in Scripture to substantiate the claim that any mention of faith, as recorded in the Gospels, was emphasized as metaphorical for spiritual healing. In other words, some look at the examples in Scripture-where someone received a miraculous healing by faith-and rather than accept it at face value, recognizing the importance of faith in appropriating the miraculous, they spiritually allegorize the example. They emphasize that the act of placing faith in Jesus to receive physical healing is merely illustrative for the ultimate act of faith, which is spiritual healing through salvation.
While spiritual salvation undeniably carries overwhelming importance, the belief that all acts of faith are allegorical, pointing only to spiritual healing, is nothing but a departure from the true gospel and is influenced by Gnostic thought, which taught that only the soul was of importance, while the body was of no value.
This perspective contradicts Jesus’s mission statement of Luke 4:18-19:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. (NASB)
This ideology also contradicts 1 John 3:8, that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.” John’s statement must be understood in light of Peter’s acknowledgement of Jesus’ work in Acts 10:38: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him.
We must not make the classic hermeneutical mistake of reading cessationist sixteenth-century theology back into the first-century text. If we do this, we mistake the purpose for miracles as being evidential rather than as being part of the gospel. Instead of being limited to simply proving doctrine, the miracles were part of the good news, signaling the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. Miracles do not just confirm or prove the gospel; they are the gospel in action.
HEALERS, TELEVANGELISTS, AND MONEY MONGERING
Associating the healing ministry with televangelism and a strong emphasis upon money is another straw man that we all must directly confront. Are there some who have connected too closely healing with financial offerings? Yes, some have. Is this typical, or even normative of the movement? No, this is not typical.
Most of the great healing ministries I am aware of around the world have little emphasis upon money connected to healing. Like the New Testament, most of the healings and miracles done in Jesus’s name around the world are not done for money or fame, but by poor, humble servants of God, some of whom are illiterate and poor.
COMPLETE OR INCOMPLETE HEALINGS
I have heard some use the example of the demonized boy in Mark 9:14-29, and conclude that the boy was not delivered for his lack of faith, but instead for the disciples’ lack of faith-thus producing an incomplete healing. This is true, in part. However, in reviewing the account, it is important to remember that just because the faith of the sick person was not highlighted in this case, faith as a whole was not disregarded. It was the disciples’ faith that was important. This confirms that the faith of the person ministering healing is also important, not just that of the recipient. This has also been my sad experience. Some years ago few of my attempts at healing were successful because, as I discovered from scripture study, my understanding of what faith is was faulty.
Regardless of the “faith” issue presented in this context, we see that because of the disciples’ lack of faith they ended up with an incomplete healing. It does not remain this way, however. Jesus ends up stepping in and finishing the job, thus producing a complete healing.
Healing, in many cases, is progressive. Just because it does not manifest completely and instantly does not give us reason to completely negate God’s will to heal today. Even Jesus was in a situation where He prayed for a blind man to receive healing, and it was progressive in nature (see Mark 8:22-26). In the end, however, it still ended up being a complete healing.
There is no such thing as the “golden-age of the church” that many have devised, where all healings were immediate and complete during the initial establishment of the church age. As we just examined, even Jesus Himself participated in a progressive miracle with the blind man .in Mark 8. Likewise, there was no era where the apostles had a 100-percent success rate with the miracles they performed. We see that Paul had to leave Trophimus sick in Miletus (see 2 Tim. 4:20), and Epaphroditus almost died while with Paul (see Phil. 2:27).
It is true that many healings in the church today are not complete, yet many are complete. It is also true that for many in the healing ministry, the healings often take more than a single prayer or command. This is part of living in the “now and not yet” reality of the Kingdom of God. Healings today are signs of the inbreaking of the Kingdom, pointing to the day when it is fully consummated, and when all who are in Christ will be healed completely.
HEALING AND MIRACLES TODAY!
God is still performing healings and miracles today. While on mission trips, hundreds of teams have spent thousands of dollars to be able to travel in order to pray for the sick. They receive nothing financial in return. Teams are encouraged to write up their reports of the healings they witnessed the night they happen because the details can become vague, especially with so many healings taking place, making it hard to remember them all. Some are suggested to use a small recorder after a significant healing to help remember the details.
In addition, these mission trips often have doctors on the teams who record the healings they experienced as they prayed in Jesus’s name. The fact that they are doctors should provide another layer of credibility to the medical merits of the reports of healing and miracles. The fact that a minister we know had a brain research scientist and a psychiatrist ministering on trips, who wrote about the healings, should bring additional credibility.
Some find fault with healing ministers for having prearranged meetings for healing, noting that Jesus’s healings were spontaneous. This was not always true. Sometimes they laid the people in the path of where Jesus was going to be coming in order that He might touch them. This line of argument is inconsistent, making one standard for healing and another standard for evangelism.
Critics of healing do not charge Billy Graham for conducting a form of evangelism that is programmed rather than spontaneous. That being said, most of the time healings do happen spontaneously for believers as they go about their lives. That is one of the reasons for training all Christians in how to recognize how the gifts of the Spirit operate in their lives. Without this knowledge, most of the spontaneous opportunities are missed. Likewise, these bizarre arguments for “scheduled healing meetings” could also be leveled against holding services on Sunday mornings where the gospel is preached to the lost. One is no more alien to the Bible than the other.
I know some people believe that if certain healers could actually do what they claim, disease would be completely eradicated in countries in the developing world and entire hospitals would be cleared out. Just like Jesus, these men and women would have the power to completely overthrow all matters of disease in what- ever regions they visited.
First, the only time Jesus visited what would be similar to a hospital was the pool of Bethesda where He only healed one person and then walked out. Second, nowhere in the New Testament does it say that Jesus cured diseases in an entire country, or even an entire region. This is once again the enlightenment golden-age mentality that goes beyond the Scriptures.
When we view the purpose of miracles to be evidential, we believe that signs and wonders exist to validate true doctrine. After all, they validated the apostles who wrote the New Testament. The problem with this line of argument is that only very few of the apostles wrote Scripture-John, James, Peter, and Paul, whose qualifications would not fit the requirements of Acts 1.
THE PURPOSE OF HEALING AND MIRACLES
Because the real purpose of healing and miracles is to express the gospel, they are part of the gospel, and, as such, this function requires that they continue until the second coming of Jesus when the gospel will no longer need to be preached.
The gospel is the gospel of the Kingdom, which included and should still include the inbreaking of God’s power to heal and deliver as Jesus demonstrated, thus defining the true, original gospel. But this larger gospel has been reduced to only include the forgiveness of sins and rebirth. Simple people with simple faith can be used to work miracles. People who only have elementary understanding of doctrine or in some points, are incorrect in their doctrine, can also be used to administer God’s healing power.
Miracles do not authenticate doctrine. Instead, miracles point out the good news of a loving God who has power to help poor and often uneducated, illiterate people, and who are sick and or demonized. The miracles express the gospel and are part of gospel. The miracles do not confirm the messengers; they confirm the gospel
WAS HEALING UNIQUE TO JESUS AND THE TWELVE APOSTLES?
First, Jesus did not intend for His ministry and that of the disciples to be unique when it came to the ministry of healing. Jesus said in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these) because I am going to the Father.” (I added emphasis)
There are Bible scholars who see the commissioning of the twelve and the seventy-two as an example of the commissioning of the believers in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Mark 16:19 indicates the Lord was confirming His word by the signs that accompanied it. It is important to note once again that the confirmation was of the Word of God, not the apostles themselves.
The disciples remained in Jerusalem when the other Christians were scattered due to the persecution that was associated with Stephen. These unnamed disciples-not the apostles-also experienced the power of God for miracles and healing when they preached the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch (see Acts 11:19-26). Luke uses the Jewish wordiness “the hand of the Lord was with them” to express the supernatural power of God that accompanied the gospel presentation (Acts 11:21 NKJV). Thus, healing was not the domain of the apostles only.
This is the position Jesus held. He did not limit healing to the apostles. He made it possible for anyone to be used in healing, though not all would have a gift of healing, and not all would be noted as a worker of miracles (see 1 Cor. 12:28).
Jesus said that anyone who believed in Him would be able do what He had been doing, and even greater things than these could the believer do. These words of Jesus do not fit the view of the miracles and healings being limited to the apostles to prove correct doctrine. No, the purpose is noted in the next verse, which reads, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13).
Instead of exclusively authenticating correct doctrine, healings and miracles and other gifts of the Spirit, express the gospel, they are part of the good news that the Kingdom of God has come. They are expressions of the presence and power of the Kingdom. They are the means by which the Father receives glory. The position of Holy Scripture is that the kingdom of heaven has arrived in Him and is soon to be in them (Mat 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, 12:28, Mark 1:15)
Divine healing is not simply an evidential proof, validating either the ministry of the early apostles or confirming that the doctrine they were preaching was correct. Healing and miracles actually extend the gospel, demonstrating the present Kingdom rule of Jesus over disease, affliction, and malady.
PRINCIPLES FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE RELATING TO POWER:
Healing and miracles do not simply offer proof that the first apostles were preaching correct doctrine; instead, they validate the actual gospel message.
Faith plays an integral role in administering or receiving supernatural healing. Even though there are some examples, in both Jesus’s day and our own, of people who received healing without demonstrating faith, the common key to experiencing the healing power of God is through placing one’s faith in Christ, the Healer. This explains why teaching from the scriptures about healing and faith greatly increases the reception of miracles, healings, and deliverance from oppression.
One does not need to be an author of Scripture or compiler of Bible doctrine to operate in supernatural ministry. There are several examples (in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament) of those who moved in powerful signs and wonders, healing the sick, but who did not make any type of contribution to authoring the New Testament canon.
It is not scriptural to believe in a “golden age of healing,” where every single person whom both Jesus and His disciples prayed for received instant, complete healing. Some would argue that this golden age took place during the life of Jesus and, perhaps, the book of Acts. However, even Jesus had at least one case of a progressive healing. Furthermore, N. T. scriptures encourage us in faith by relating stories of success through correct faith-based prayers, rather than to include the failures that must have been the experience of all disciples.
Tom’s Additional Comments and Questions
All of the above apologetic are four selected chapters from the book, The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Randy Clark. For the contents of that book See pg 30. Randy is the founder president of Global Awakening Ministries, Mechanicsburg, PA. I urge you to buy and read that whole book. Then follow up with “There Is More” also by Randy.
Two more helpful books are by Bill Johnson, Sr. Pastor of Bethel Church, Redding, CA Hosting the Presence and The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind. All of these books are available through the authors bookstore on the Web, from Amazon.com, and from me by request. It would be my joy to meet with you when you want to discuss this wonderful, and I think greatest, world changing outpouring of God’s Spirit.
Many times I have wondered why it is seemingly so painful for so many to accept a much more inclusive gospel, one that offers more of what Jesus accomplish by his suffering? It is so good and exciting that the Holy Spirit is restoring the gospel to its original completeness and glory in these latter days, I think it’s because Jesus will soon return. He asked the question, “When the son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” We all want to be able to say, Yes, Lord, for everything you taught us!
If He asked you if you have been giving His beloved children the graces of healings, miracles, deliverance from demon oppressions, which were all provided by his terrible sufferings, and you said no, would that satisfy your heart? Brothers, you have all you need within reach to be convinced there is a move of the Holy Spirit on the earth now to restore the original glory of the New Covenant Body of Christ. Man has failed to be faithful—that shouldn’t surprise any of us. Praise God, there is a remedy!
There certainly has been and will be additional falling away of the weak or insincere “Christians” and scripture declares; evil will grow still more evil, but the righteous will grow still more righteous (Rev 22:11). But now is the time to change peoples’ minds about false doctrines that “nullify the Word of God” (Mat 15:3). We must follow the Holy Spirit’s lead into a more intimate relationship with our wonderful Lord. He wants you to participate and not give in to fears of being deceived or of possible church struggles. Followers of Jesus must not allow themselves to be led by fear which is the opposite of faith. The extraordinary and abundant fruit of this move of God will allow you to know for sure this is His initiative. Get aboard and study to show yourself approved of by God.
Over the past four centuries, many U. S. seminaries and bible schools have taught doctrines which have brought our churches into a condition where the majority of our people do not see and understand their lack of depth of relationship with the Holy Spirit and the full purpose of the 5 ministry gifts as promised in this scripture:
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, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (16) from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Eph 4:11-16 NKJV
There are several problems preventing the realization of these words to the Ephesians. Notice those I have emphasized:
• Very low expectations. In the current era, church members are not expected to do the work of the ministry or seek to receive great power from the Holy Spirit. They are not taught how to operate in miracle working grace. Neither are our leaders! So, converts to the faith are not expected to do the supernatural works that Jesus specifically said are for “those who believe” (Mark 16:17, Luke 10:9). Pastors try to give newbies a great sensitivity to the need to work for Jesus without giving them the quality of faith and the Spiritual empowering that is necessary to succeed. Powerlessness is the evidence of a falling away from the truth as delivered to us.
• It is a wonderful truth—God still speaks to His followers. If you believe that reading the Holy Bible is the principle way God wants to relate to us, then picture this in the natural: Would you be satisfied if you and a close relative or friend never again had a conversation or visit, but you just sent each other an insightful book that you each had composed? A book could never substitute for loving communion and friendship. God created mankind to have intimate fellowship with Him. Our Bibles are loaded with stories of all kinds of folks who lived by hearing God’s voice, yet today few will acknowledge they regularly hear Him. Why? How can they unless someone teaches them how? In many churches doing so is even frowned upon. Conduct a survey with your members and friends. Ask them how often they are aware that God is communicating with them (as in “a still small voice”)Those of us who are learning to “listen” for the Holy Spirit’s voice and inspiration are not only blessed by what He has expressed in His Holy Bible, but by His proceeding word: But He (Jesus) answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
• Learn to hear so we can follow. Notice the tense of that word, present action. If he intended to stop speaking He would have inspired the writer to use the past tense, knowing that we won’t need to hear God anymore after the Bible is printed and therefore readily available to any and all hundreds of years later. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? But that is what too many believe. Is this just because leaders don’t want people to make mistakes when they try to hear God speak? Holy Spirit is God with us and in us now. He knows how to train us to know His voice from our own if we apply ourselves to that. We must not neglect to teach all who come to salvation by the shed blood of Christ that absolute surrender to His Kingship is what He requires so that He will be able to give them the abundant life He promises to all. When that is in place in anyone’s life they need not fear they will follow the wrong voice! That fear keeps most from seeking to hear Him.
• Neglecting God—How awful! It is safe to say that of the three persons in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the most neglected. Perhaps that is because when we love Him He shows up with power and wants His will to be done on earth, not ours? He cannot be regulated as we desire. He can, however, be shunned or grieved by our fears, unbelief, and by our desire to be in control when we should be getting directions from Him, not from our rational mind. It’s as though it is OK for us to depend on the natural mind and the same limited resources as are in natural men. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, only Spirit-led people. We are called to live by faith and not by sight (natural insights) to do the work of Christ.
• Supernatural Gifts—needed now. Presently and for many previous centuries, the majority of the churches operate with only a fraction of the power we see in evidence in the first two centuries after the resurrection. But thankfully there are many who do believe the whole gospel message and they are on fire to evangelize and so this part of the church is growing very fast.
• Restoration and reformation are desperately needed now! So our loving God has seen to it that the impartation of the presence and the power we need is being made available to all who will pay the price. Tom, you mean these things are not free? No, not at all free. Here is my opinion after nearly 50 years in ministry. For leaders and members alike here are the costs:
Surrender, completely, absolutely, your life to the Spirit of Christ which includes:
Your plans, desires, methods, doctrine, the approval, honor from men
Your future, retirement, savings/wealth given to Him
Family, ministry, congregation under only His control
Any and all forms of interests that are not governed by Him (idolatry) which commonly prevent obedience to the Spirit of God, and
Commit to Him in advance anything he may desire to add to the list
Jesus said we cannot be his disciple unless we lose our lives (said in all 4 gospels and 2x in two of them
Could these costs be why discipleship is so difficult to achieve with middle and upper income folks in our churches?
If we continue to not lead our people into asking for the promise of the Father as defined in scripture, we won’t see the power/dunamis return which we desperately need in this hour.
“If I teach these things I will lose members.” Jesus didn’t count noses, nor did He teach us to operate under the fear of man (John 6:67).
I strongly urge you to buy the books I’ve recommended above. Reread this apologetic for the restoration of the original intentions of God as we see in the words of Jesus and demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles. Then decide to seek Him for more of His presence and power as long as it takes to receive that from Him. The past 1900+ years of moves of God show us it only takes faith in believing then doing exactly what the scriptures say, to build up the Body of Christ.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues (languages); they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:15-18)
LET RESTORATION BEGIN NOW!
Tom Snyder, 2760 Lakemont Rd., Melbourne, FL 32934, Phone home: 321-751-5356
Cell: 321-298-7111, Text yes, best is Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit
By Dr. Randy Clark
PART 1 Why Is ‘There Division Over the Holy Spirit?
Ch.1 ‘The Continuing Controversy
Ch.2 What Are the Problems with Power?
Ch.3 Tracing the Holy Spirit’s Powerful Hand in History
PART 2 Unlocking the Gifts of the Spirit for Today
Ch.4 Prophets and Prophecy Today
Ch.5 Modern Apostles
Ch.6 Is Speaking in Tongues for Today?
Ch.7 Does God Still Heal the Sick?
PART 3 The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God
Ch.8 Does It Exalt the True Christ?
Ch.9 Does It Oppose Worldliness?
Ch.10 Does It Point People to the Scriptures?
Ch.11 Does It Elevate the Truth and Promote Love for God and Others?
PART 4 Experience the Holy Spirit Today
APPENDICES The Fruit of Divine Encounters
I urge you to buy the book since there is much more of great value there. Here’s Click for Global Awakening’s bookstore site