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Category Archives: #GREED

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY.

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THIS ‘N’ THAT

One might think that a man’s dinner menu isn’t exactly newsworthy. That is, unless you’re the pope. Apparently if you wear a big, sparkly hat and allow millions of people to call you Holy Father, then what you put into your mouth is worthy of a news write-up by Religion News Service

Baked skinless chicken, salad, fruit and a glass of simple wine hardly seems like food fit for a king. But it does seem to be a meal fit for a pope. 

Pope Francis is becoming well known for his simple tastes: As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he carried his own bags when traveling, preferred public transportation to chauffeur-driven limousines, and, the stories go, cooks meals for himself. 

His humble lifestyle extends to the kitchen, a stark contrast with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who before becoming pope relished feasting on fettuccine with shrimp, zucchini and saffron.

(Source)

photo credit: amanky via photopin cc

Look, we get it. We’re supposed to revere Pope Francis not just because he’s miraculously been granted powers of infallibility, but because he’s ‘humble.’ Never mind the fact that the very office of pope is an ostentatious one. Let’s face it, humble popes don’t exist.

And if we’re going to judge a man’s humility by his menu, well, then us bloggers ought to be some of the most humble men and women of them all. Sure, Pope Francis used to live in a little apartment, take the bus, and eats skinless chicken and salad. But us bloggers live in our mother’s basements, spend our days in a beanbag chair, and maintain a steady diet of Cheetos and Mountain Dew. I mean, if we want to have a humility contest, who do you really think is going to win? The guy in the robes with a massive silver cross around his neck, or the sweatpants-wearing blogger?

Well, it’s about time for me to go prepare a humble lunch, so while I do that, please go ahead and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

  • The Cripplegate has had a few really good articles about Roman Catholicism, the papacy, etc. In this one, Steve Meister talks about alleviating the protestant inferiority complex. He also rightly observes, “Since the Pope misrepresents the evangel, the gospel, I fail to grasp how he could ever excite evangelicals.”
  • I’ve heard a lot of Christians praising the television show Duck Dynasty. I’ve never watched it myself, but those who do may want to examine just what kind of a gospel the Duck Dynasty family proclaims.
  • The Mormons have once again changed their scriptures, specifically updating references to blacks and to polygamy. Kinda makes you extra thankful to know that the true and living Word of God never changes, doesn’t it?
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • I’ve always said ‘Earth Hour’ — those 60 minutes every year where everyone is supposed to sit in the dark and not use any electricity — was utterly ridiculous. (In fact, I usually celebrate by turning on as many lights and electrical appliances as possible). Turns out it’s not just ridiculous,it’s downright backwards.
  • Only Carl Trueman could write a blog post entitled, “The Yuck Factor” and still have it be taken seriously (as it should be).
  • Former ‘pastor’ Jack Schaap has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his relationship with a minor.
  • The University of Tennessee has withdrawn some of the funds from its upcoming ‘Sex Week’ event. Organizers only have a few days to find over $11,000. Good, I hope it gets canceled.
  • Speaking of gay marriage, this North Carolina church has promised to stop performing marriages until gay marriage is permitted.
  • Back to ‘The Bible’ miniseries: there’s a little—no, a hugesomething missing in the scene of the Last Supper.
  • Never make a Gospel appeal to people’s emotions: 


 

140 QUESTIONS TITHE-TEACHERS SHOULD HONESTLY ANSWER

1.       According to Genesis 14:11-16 were the spoils of war Abram received holy tithes from God’s holy land? Would they have been “holy” tithes in the Law?
Answer: Of course not. There was no holy land yet. They do not fit the description of “holy” tithes under the Law and could not have been used to support the Levites and priests as Levitical tithes.
2.       According to Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:4 does the Bible say that Abram freely gave tithes of spoils of war to the priest-king Melchizedek?
Answer: No. Genesis 14:21 suggests that he was obeying the Arab law of the land which required tithes from spoils of war be given to the local king-priests.
3.       According to Numbers 31:21-30 what percentage did the statute of the Law for Israel later require as a tithe from spoils of war?
Answer: One tenth of one per cent (.1%) (One half of one five hundredth): this was only one tenth of what Abram paid to Melchizedek.
4.       Why did Abraham tithe 10% of spoils when the Law later required far less? What controlled his actions?
Answer: The Bible does not say “why”. Recorded tradition found in archaeology suggests it was the required law of the land throughout his world.
5.       From Genesis 14:20-21 could there be another law or Arab tradition involved?   Yes, No, Perhaps. Do some deep research on this.
Answer: This is repetition of previous questions. Research many commentaries for a surprise answer.
6.       Would Abraham’s tithe have been accepted as a holy tithe to enter the Temple?
Answer: Only that which could be purified after passing through fire. And then it could only be used for temple maintenance.  Compare First Samuel 30:20-35.
7.       How often did Abraham tithe?
Answer: The Bible does not record any other instance. Therefore, we really do not know.
8.       Is Abraham an example of tithing personal property and tithing regularly?
Answer: Not at all. If we followed his example, we would only tithes from spoils of war and only once.
9.       Is Abraham’s example of giving 90% to the king of Sodom an example for Christians to follow?
Answer: Not at all. Yet tithe-preaches do not discuss this.
10.     From Genesis 20 and 21 is it possible that Abraham also paid tithes to the Philistine priest-king Abimelech whom he served?
Answer: It is possible if it was required by their law. He obeyed the law of the land.
11.     Referring to Genesis 28:20-22 would Jacob’s tithe from Haran have been accepted as a holy tithe to enter the Temple system?
Answer: It does not fit the description of a holy tithe to be used for normal sustenance of Levites and priests.
12.     Referring to Genesis 28:20-22 should we follow Jacob’s example and only tithe after God has met our conditions?
Answer: No.  Yet this is not discussed by tithe-teachers.
13.     According to Genesis 28:20 was Jacob’s tithe a freewill “vow” or a commandment of God?
Answer: A freewill vow. And there is no record that he kept the vow.
14.     Is Jacob an example of tithing for Christians to follow?
Answer: Not at all.
15.     How common was money, gold, silver, precious stones and shekels in Genesis?
Answer: The word “money” occurs 32 times in Genesis. Check an exhaustive concordance.  
16.     According to Genesis 13:2 and 20:16 did Abraham have a lot of money?
Answer: Yes. It was already an important part of that economy.
17.     Was money essential for routine worship in the sanctuary?   
Answer: Very much. Do your own research on the words “money” and “shekel.”
18.     Is it honest to teach that tithes were only food because money was not common?
Answer: No. It is dishonest and comes with dishonest ulterior motives to change God’s Word.
19.     According to Exodus 19:5-6 was tithing part of God’s “original plan” before the incident of the golden calf?
Answer: No. Tithing is not mentioned in Exodus. While Aaron’s house was intended to be resident priests, every Hebrew from every tribe was to be his/her own priest before God. Levitical priests were not mentioned.
20.     According to Leviticus 25:3-7 no food tithe could be taken every seventh year. Why is this ignored by churches today?
Answer: Churches would have no grounds for collecting tithes every seventh year.
21.     According to Leviticus 25:12-13 no food tithe could be taken every fiftieth year. Why is this ignored by churches today?
Answer: If one followed all of the OT tithing law, tithes could not be requested every 7th and 50th years.
22.     According to Leviticus 27:30, 32 (and 14 other texts), tithes were only food from the land of Israel and herds inside God’s holy land of Israel which God had miraculously increased. Where in the Bible –over 1400 years from Leviticus to Luke — are tithes defined as income or money?
Answer: Nowhere. God’s definition of a holy tithe never changed.
23.     According to Leviticus 27:30, 32 the tithe was the tenth of the total crop and the tenth animal. Since the word “tithe” means “tenth” when did it change to become the “first” in the Bible?
Answer: Nowhere. This is man’s change of God’s Word.
24.     According to Leviticus 27:34 the first tithe was not the “best.” Where in the Bible does the first whole tithe become the “best”?
Answer: Nowhere. Tithe-teachers dishonestly change God’s Word and ask for the first tenth of one’s paycheck.
25.     According to Leviticus 27:34 tithing was part of the Law given only to national Israel as a unique covenant.  When were the Gentiles, (pagans) or Church commanded to tithe in the Bible?
Answer: Nowhere. None qualified as tithe-payers. They were not Hebrews and they did not grow food inside God’s holy land.
26.     Since only farmers and herdsmen living inside Israel produced tithes, where is the principle that says everybody was required to begin their level of giving at 10%?
Answer: Nowhere. It is a tradition of man.
27.     Where does the Bible say that non-food income was tithed and that carpenters (Jesus), fishermen (Peter), tentmakers (Paul) and tradesmen tithed?
Answer: Nowhere.  It is a tradition of man.
28.     Did God command the pagans to tithe?
Answer. Absolutely not.
29.     Would Israel have accepted tithes from the pagans or pagan lands?
Answer: No. And that should also be true today since God never changed the definition of holy tithes.
30.     Although Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” this was not given as a reason to collect tithes from pagans and from lands outside of Israel. Why is that true?
Answer: Holy tithes were limited to food from God’s holy land of Israel.
31.     Why don’t Christians observe all of the other things called “holy” and “most holy” in Leviticus?
Answer: They say that these do not apply to the Church today because they were fulfilled or ended at Calvary. 
32.     Where in the Bible is the exact wording of the ordinance or statute of tithing?
Answer: Numbers 18.
33.     What is the difference between tithes and first-fruits?  Compare Lev 27:30-35; Num 18:13-18, 20-24; Deut 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37; Prov 3:9.
Answer: Tithes were tenth-fruits from God’s holy land which were brought to the Levitical cities where they were needed for food per Neh 10:37b. Firstfruits were very small token offerings which were brought to the Temple and eaten by the priests on duty. See Deu 26:1-4 and Neh 10:35-37a.
34.     Where are tithes equated with first-fruits in the Bible?
Answer: Nowhere. This is a tradition of man designed to scare believers into giving their first to God whether or not they had met their family essentials per First Timothy 5:8.
35.     Weren’t first-fruits very small token offerings from the first of the harvest?
Answer: Yes, as previously discussed.
36.     OT Levites who received the first whole tithe were merely servants to the priests and later political workers. How is this principle applied in churches today?
Answer: It is totally ignored.
37.     OT Levites gave the best tenth of their tithe to the priests –only one per cent of the total. How is this principle observed today? See Num 18:25-28.
Answer: It is totally ignored.
38.     OT priests and Levites who received the tithes were not allowed to own or inherit property. Why isn’t this principle observed today (Num 18:20, 23)?
Answer: Modern tithe-teachers ignore every single OT principle concerned with tithing. They only apply their own re-definition.
39.     The OT tithe was never used for mission work to evangelize the pagans. What biblical principle authorizes it for missions today?
Answer: None. This is a tradition of man.
40.     According to Deuteronomy 12 and 14:23-26 a festival tithe was to be eaten in the streets. Why is this tithe principle ignored by churches today?
Answer: Their idea of tithing is not biblical.
41.     According to Deuteronomy 14:26 some festival tithes could be turned into alcoholic strong drinks. Why is this principle ignored by churches today?
Answer: It does not fit into their change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
42.     According to Deuteronomy 26:12-13 every third year a tithe was kept in the homes for the poor.  Why is this principle ignored by churches today?
Answer: Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
43.     According to Deuteronomy 26:12-13 the Levites were included among the poor, strangers, fatherless and widows. Does this mean that the Levites and priests were to be counted among the poor?
Answer: Yes.  It is highly likely that God expected the Levites to give away much of what they received to the poor at all times.
44.     Where does the Bible say that the poor were required to tithe?
Answer: Nowhere, unless they were landowners or herdsmen living inside Israel.
45.     Many OT Levites who received the first whole tithe were political servants of the king (1 Chronicles 23 to 26). Why is that principle ignored today?
Answer: Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
46.     In the OT the first and best tithe went to the king. Why is that principle ignored today (1 Sam 8:14-17)?
Answer: We are not under a theocracy. Under Roman rule the first tithe went to Rome and often even the second tithe of fruits.
47.     Where did the Levites and priests live most of the time? See Joshua 20-21, Numbers 35 and First Chronicles 6.
Answer: Far away from Jerusalem in their Levitical cities. At first there were 48. Judah had 13 originally but may have expanded them later.
48.     How often did the Levites and priests serve in the Temple?  See 1 Chron 28:13, 21; 2 Chron 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19 35: 4, 5, 10; Neh 11:30: 12:24; Luke 1:5-9.
Answer: At a minimum of once every 24 weeks in a rotation (cycle). They spent the other 23 week either raising tithed animals or learning trades necessary for temple maintenance.
49.     ***Since 98% of the Levites and priests were not working in the temple most of the time, why would God tell the people in Malachi 3:10 to bring all of the tithe to the Temple when 98% of it was needed for food elsewhere?
Answer: He did not. The “you” of Malachi 3:10 only makes sense if it only refers to the priests. The typical interpretation of Malachi 3:10 contrasts with Nehemiah 10:37b and common sense.
50.     What covenant was the curse of tithing part of?   See Neh 10:29; Deu 28:12, 21-22; Gal 3:10-13.
Answer: Only the Old Covenant.  God is today dealing with His Church in terms of the New Covenant (Heb 8:8-13).
51.     According to Nehemiah 13:5-10 who was guilty of stealing the Levites’ portion of the tithe?
Answer: The priests.
52.     ***According to Nehemiah 10:37b where were the people commanded to take the tithes?  Why? Why is this text ignored today?
Answer: (1) To the Levitical cities. (2) That is where 98% of those who needed it for food lived most of the time. (3) Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
53.     According to Nehemiah 10:38 where were the priests located when they received the tithes? Why is this text ignored today?
Answer: In the Levitical cities. Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
54.     According to Malachi 1:6-14 who was guilty of stealing vows of tithes?
Answer: The priests from 1:6.
55.     Who was cursed in Malachi 1:14?
Answer: The priests. They were not commanded to tithe, but they were expected to give generous vow offerings from the tenth of the tithe which they received from the Levites. Num 18:21-28.
56.     Who was cursed 3 times in Malachi 2:2?
Answer: The priests.
57.     Who is questioning God in Malachi 2:17?
Answer: The priests from 2:13-17.
58.     To whom is God replying in Malachi 3:1-5?
Answer: The priests from 2:1-10, 13-17.
59.     Are the priests also “sons of Jacob” in Malachi 3:6-7?
Answer: Of course. They text does not have to refer to all sons of Jacob.
60.     Cannot Malachi 3:8 be referring to the priests stealing a third time?
Answer: It makes sense that God has not changed from cursing the priests.
61.     “Curse” refers to the priests four times in 1:14 and 2:2. Is it possible that God is still cursing the priests in 3:9 instead of suddenly having pity on them?
Answer: Common sense says yes.  God has not suddenly changed to feeling sorrow for priests. The “you” of 1:6 and 2:1 has never changed away from the priests.
62.     Does the pronoun “you” refer to the priests from Malachi 1:6 to 3:5?
Answer: If it has not clearly changed, then it must.
63.     Is there concrete evidence that God has changed his address from the priests to the people in Malachi 3:6-7?
Answer: Not in the context.
64.     Has God changed from cursing the priests to having pity on them in Malachi 3:8-10?
Answer: This would be illogical.
65.     Since “you” has thus far referred to the priests and since Nehemiah 10:37 proves that the people brought their tithes to the Levitical cities, then is it reasonable to conclude that “you” in Malachi 3:10 also refers to the priests of Nehemiah 10:38?
Answer: Yes.
66.     Again according to Nehemiah 10:37 where was most of the tithe needed and stored?
Answer: In the Levitical cities.
67.     According to Nehemiah 13:5-10 how large was the storeroom in the Temple?
Answer: If it was made from combining two rooms, the largest would be about 10 ft by 20 ft. Compare 1 Kings 6:6 for room size.
68.     Could the Temple have physically held all of the tithe of the nation in Solomon’s time or Nehemiah’s time?
Answer: Absolutely not.
69.     Is it possible that the Temple “storehouse” idea has been misunderstood?
Answer: Yes. Levites and priests living far away from the Temple would have to travel long distances for food. And the early church had no legal buildings for almost 300 years after Calvary.
70.     In Second Chronicles 31:15-19, why did King Hezekiah choose to relocate the tithes from rotting heaps in the streets of Jerusalem to the Levitical cities?
Answer: After consulting with Levites and priests, they realized that it was the logical thing to do. The temple storerooms only supplied food for the Levites and priests who ministered in the temple on weekly rotations.
71.     The “outlaw” early church met in secret in catacombs and graveyards for over 200 years after Calvary. They had no building to call “storehouses.” Why does the modern church use the term “storehouse tithing”?
Answer: It is dishonest and wants ignorant believers to think that they must bring the first ten per cent of their paycheck to the church.
72.     The OT Temple has been replaced, not by a building (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), but the body of individual believers. Why does the modern church ignore this and teach that tithes should be brought to the church building as a replacement of the Temple?
Answer: Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
73.     Matthew 5:19-48 refers to all 600+ commandments of the Law. Why is 5:17-18 used only to argue that tithing is still valid? The text is self-destructive for that argument.
Answer: Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs. The text must be interpreted to teach that we are either under all of the law or none of it.
74.     Did Jesus (a carpenter), Peter (a fisherman) and Paul (a tentmaker) qualify as tithe-payers under the Law?
Answer: No. They were neither landowners nor herdsmen inside Israel. That which the produced was from their own increase and not from God’s miracle.
75.     How do you explain Matthew 5:19 “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”?
Answer: It means that you cannot keep tithing while discarding most of the law. A consistent principle of interpretation is needed.
76.     Does not Matthew 5:19 obligate one to keep all 600+ commandments of the Law?
Answer: In its context, yes.
77.     According to Matthew 12:1-2 Jesus and his disciples gleaned food on the Sabbath Day. Were they accused of not tithing?  Why?
Answer: No. Because by allowing them to glean, the law recognized them as poor. It also proves that the poor were not expected to tithe from gleanings.
78.     According to Mark 12:42-44 a widow gave at the Temple. Was she tithing or giving a freewill offering?
Answer: She was giving a freewill offering of money. Money was never a tithed item.
79.     Since Paul’s tents came from pagan lands, did his income from selling tents qualify as tithe-able income under the Law?
Answer: Absolutely not.
80.     According to Matthew 23:2 who were the recognized interpreters of the Law?
Answer: The scribes and Pharisees.
81.     According to Matthew 23:2-3 why did Jesus tell his Jewish disciples to obey the scribes and Pharisees?
Answer: They were the current recognized authorities who sat in Moses seat to interpret the law.
82.     According to Matthew 23:3-4 did the addition of herbs and spices change the tithing law into a burden?
Answer: Yes. Counting small seeds would be a great burden.
83.     Did the Law command tithes from garden spices and herbs?
Answer: The tithing law did not include those items.
84.     Why did Jesus tell His Jewish disciples to tithe garden spices and herbs?
Answer: They were partially responsible for allowing the scribes and Pharisees to sit in Moses seat.
85.     In Matthew 8:4 why did Jesus command the Jews he healed to show themselves to the priests?
Answer: The Law was still in full effect before Calvary.
86.     Why did Jesus NOT command the Gentiles he healed to show themselves to the priests?
Answer: They were not under the Law.
87.     Did Jesus tell his Gentile disciples to tithe to the Temple system?
Answer: No. It would not have been allowed. It was illegal.
88.     To whom does the word “you” refer in Matthew 23:23?
Answer: The scribes and Pharisees.
89.     What three words in Matthew 23:23 describe its context?
Answer: “of the law”
90.     Is Matthew 23:23 an Old Covenant command or a New Covenant command?
Answer: Old Covenant before Calvary.
91.     Why did Jesus tell the rich young ruler and Zaccheus to give their money to the poor instead of the Temple as tithes?
Answer: Their wealth must not have been in land and animals inside Israel. Jesus was not breaking the law which required tithing.
92.     Do pastors today allow visiting evangelists to tell their congregation to “sell all that you have and give it to the poor”?
Answer: Of course not. They do not tell their congregations to do this either. Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs.
93.     Why do not pastors today command their church members to tithe garden spices as Jesus commanded in Matthew 23:23?
Answer: Again, it does not fit into their own change of God’s Word to suit their own needs. They have no consistent hermeneutic.
94.     According to Luke 22:20 when did the Old Covenant end and the New Covenant begin?
Answer: The Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began when Jesus shed His blood at Calvary.
95.     According to Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 did God command the disciples to share communally or did they make a freewill choice?
Answer: There is no record that Cod commanded this. It is very possible that it was done in anticipation of Christ’s imminent return.
96.     According to Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 were the disciples tithing to church leaders or sharing everything equally?
Answer: This is not an example of tithing. It is an example of sacrificial freewill giving at the extreme. It should not be preached as an example of tithing because everybody shared equally.
97.     According to Acts 2:46 did the early church withdraw itself from worship in the Temple?
Answer: Not at all. Evidence is that they continued supporting the Temple. If they had stopped financially supporting the Temple, they would not have been allowed to use it.
98.     According to Acts 15:10 did Peter argue against putting the yoke of the law on Gentile Christians?
Answer: Most definitely.
99.     According to Acts 15:19-20 did James agree with Peter?
Answer: Most definitely. Yet most pastors today place their churches under the law of tithing while rejecting most of the law as irrelevant.
100.   According to Acts 20:29-35 was Paul self supporting most of the time?
Answer: Yes. He even boasted about it.
101.   According to Acts 20:35 did Paul expect church elders to follow his example?
Answer: Yes, but it was not a command.
102.   According to Acts 20:35 whom did Jesus tell to work and give to the weak?
Answer: Church elders. This has been reversed by the modern church.
103.   According to Acts 21:20 were the Christian Jews in Jerusalem still “zealous of the law”?
Answer: Yes, and this was 30 years after Calvary. The compromise of Acts 15 split the church and still required Jewish Christians to obey all of the Old Covenant Law.
104.   According to Acts 21:20 is it logical to conclude that the Christian Jews in Jerusalem were still paying tithes to the Temple system?
Answer: Yes, otherwise they would not be “zealous of the law.” The Law required payment of tithes to the Levites and priests and not to gospel workers.
105.   According to 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 did the vocations of soldier, herdsman, farmer, mill-grinder, temple worker and gospel worker each operate under different principles of support?
Answer: Yes. Each had its own principle.
106.   Comparing 1 Cor 9:13 with Numbers 18 and Leviticus, were temple workers supported from tithes, offerings, vows, freewill gifts, portions of sacrifices and many other sources?
Answer: Yes. Far more than tithing. Levites only received the tithe while priests had many sources of income other than a tenth of the tithe.
107.   Comparing 1 Cor 9:13 with Numbers 18 and Leviticus, was tithing the only “thing of the temple”?
Answer: Of course not, but this fact is ignored.
108.   Referring to 1 Cor 9:14 does even so (“in the same way”) command gospel workers to be supported by every means of support used for temple workers?
Answer: Of course not. The argument used by tithe-teachers is self-defeating. It proves too much.
109.   Referring to 1 Cor 9:14 does “even so” command gospel workers to be supported by ‘gospel principles’ of grace and faith “in the same manner” as the previous six vocations had been supports by their own principles?
Answer: Yes. The principle refers to all vocations mentioned in verses 7 to 14.
110.   Referring to 1 Cor 9:14 is it dishonest to teach that 9:13 only referred to tithing? Does not the text teach too much and destroy the tithing argument?
Answer: It is very dishonest. Paul knew that holy tithes were only for Levites and priests and could not come from Gentiles lands. Again, the text is self-defeating for tithe-teachers. It proves too much.
111.   According to 1 Cor 9:12, 15-19 did Paul accept tithes as a salary?
Answer: Absolutely not. He usually did not even accept freewill offerings. As a highly educated rabbi, Paul had been taught that teaching God’s Word for pay was not the manner of rabbis.
112.   Comparing 1 Cor 9:14 with 9:12, 15-19 if Jesus commanded tithing to support gospel workers, was not Paul disobeying that command?
Answer: Yes, but this fact is ignored by tithe-teachers.
113.   According to 2 Cor 3:10, how much glory does the OT have in comparison to the New Covenant? 
Answer: Zero glory.
114.   Where is tithing repeated to the Church in New Covenant terms of grace and faith?
Answer: Nowhere. And neither are gospel workers required to forfeit land inheritance rights and obey any of the tithing statute of Numbers 18.
115.   According to 1 Peter 2:9-10 has the OT priesthood been replaced by church leaders or by every believer?
Answer: By every believer. And this should have enormous implications against New Covenant tithing.
116.   Referring to 1 Peter 2:9-10, how does the “priesthood of believers” affect tithing?
Answer: Believers do not tithe to themselves, plus Old Covenant priests were never commanded to tithe.
117.   Were non-Levite OT prophets supported by tithes?
Answer: Absolutely not. They were either self-supported or received freewill offerings.
118.   Were OT and NT Jewish synagogue rabbis supported by tithes?
Answer: No. Never. And this should be important. The synagogue system using rabbis did not replace tithing to the Temple.
119.   Are NT pastors and elders supported similar to OT priests or prophets and rabbis?
Answer: The comparison is better to OT prophets and rabbis.
120.   Is First Timothy 5:1-20 a discussion of discipline or pastoral salary?
Answer: Discipline.
121.   According to First Timothy 5:8 are family essential needs more important than church support?
Answer: Definitely.
122.   How can First Timothy 5:8 be true if the first 10% of income must be given to the church?
Answer: Both cannot be true for the Church.
123.   Does “double honor” in First Timothy 5:17 refer to “double caution in discipline” or “double salary”?
Answer: The context is discipline.
124.   According to First Timothy 6:6-11 should gospel workers expect to be better off financially than most?
Answer: No.
125.   According to Hebrews 7:5, did the Law give the priests authority to receive tithes?
Answer: Yes.
126a. Were the OT priests also kings?
Answer: Not the HOLY Hebrew priests defined by the Law.
126b.  What does Hebrews 7:8 refer to?
Answer: The priests who were still literally receiving tithes before A.D.70.
127.   According to Hebrews 7:11 and Psalm 110:4 was the Messiah to be a priest-king?
Answer: Yes.
128.   According to Hebrews 7:11-12 did the prophecy that the Messiah would be a priest-king necessitate a change in the law?
Answer: Yes.
129.   According to Hebrews, chapters 5 to 7, was OT Melchizedek qualified to be a priest under the Law?
Answer: No.
130.   According to Hebrews 7:13-17 was Jesus qualified to be a priest under the Law?
Answer: No.
131.   According to Hebrews 7:18 how was the Law which also commanded tithing in 7:5 “changed” in 7:12?
Answer: It was disannulled, or abolished. It ended. It was not carried over into the New Covenant.
132.   According to Hebrews 7:12, 18, why was the Law which also commanded tithing to support the Levitical priesthood “annulled” or “set aside”?
Answer: It was weak and not profitable. It had been replaced with better New Covenant principles of sacrificial giving.
133.   According to Hebrews 7:16-28 was the king-priesthood of Messiah to be based on eternal moral principles?
Answer: Yes and those include sacrificial freewill giving which are written in the heart and conscience.
134.   Tithing existed in most nations long before Abraham’s time and those nations also practiced idolatry, child sacrifices and temple prostitution. Does the fact that tithing existed before the Law make it an eternal moral principle?
Answer: No. The HOLY tithe was only given later by special revelation to Old Covenant Israel.
135.   According to the entire book of Leviticus, how can tithing be retained as  a “holy” principle and almost everything else called “holy” and “most holy” in Leviticus be discarded?
Answer: By using poor principles of interpretation.
136.   According to Hebrews 8:6-13 Christ’s “more excellent ministry” replaced the Old Covenant on stones and paper with the New Covenant in the heart. Does a new-creation Christian know in the heart that he/she must give a ten per cent tithe to support the church?
Answer: No.
137.   According to Second Corinthians 8 and 9, does a new-creation Christian know instinctively to give: freely, sacrificially, generously, joyfully, not of commandment, regularly and motivated love for God and love for lost souls?
Answer: Yes. It is part of the new creation with the indwelling Holy Spirit.
138.   According to Second Corinthians 8:12-15, what is the “equality” principle of giving?
Answer: Many give much more than 10% while some cannot give that much. Yet both give sacrificially.  The giving equals out.
139.   According to Second Corinthians 3:10-18 which principle of giving has the blessing of the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Post Calvary New Covenant Holy Spirit blessed giving (and every other doctrine).
140.   Should most affluent Christians lower their standard of living in order to give more to promote the gospel?
Answer: Yes.

 

TO BE FOREWARNED IS TO BE FOREARMED !

Before we move on into examining the teachings of Bentley and the meetings in dept we need to pause and consider the Word of God’s teaching on these supernatural matters.

The basis of some people’s Christianity is if a miracle takes place, it is sufficient evidence for them to believe it is from God. They never check it out or test it; something that God commands us to do. The Bible teaches us that Satan uses this method to deceive the naïve, the immature, and the ignorant to remove them from walking in the truth of the word. Someone who argues that miracles are from God 100 percent of the time is already open to deception. This becomes a major flaw from those who are willing to accept all miracles that happens is from God. To avoid testing is to neglect many of the Bibles commands for our safety. Jesus warns us about a movement in the last days that will be done by many coming in his name (Mt.24:5-6) and include miraculous signs taking place. Matthew 24:23-25: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christ’s and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” If a Christian neglects this they will be deceived.
The Scripture gives us insight into the power the enemy can have. The first beasts deadly wound is healed. It says of the second beast He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” (Revelation 13:12-14). Great signs-Counterfeiting the glory of God would be very convincing. FIRE- consider what you hear today at the miracle meetings.

Not all things supernatural experiences are from God. Just because one receives a dream or vision does not mean it is from God. Satan can give dreams and visions, he even did to Jesus to tempt him to receive his inheritance by a short cut. “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (Luke 4:5). The misconception is that if it is from Satan, its always going to look evil, when it is more often the opposite. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan can look like the real deal and the only way to protect oneself from his deception is to discern, by testing him with the word of God..
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders”  The power and energy exhibited by Jesus in his miracles will be counterfeited by the Devil, in the meantime before he shows up his servants that look like men of righteousness are at work among us.

Why would the Devil heal people when the Bible says the Devil comes to kill, steal and destroy.” Contrary to what we hear that the Devil afflicts and only God heals is not the total truth. The argument used is that “the Devil can’t heal; He comes only to kill, steal and destroy.” However, miracles take place in cults, by Occult means and in other religions (also by shamans, witchdoctors, gurus and spiritualists, etc.) it happens all the time. Those who deny Christ and the essential teachings of the Christian faith perform them. Can anyone believe that the true God healed someone in a cult or religion that teaches blatant false doctrine?
We are warned in Deuteronomy 13 v 1-5  “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place,” Consider what God is saying. It can take place, they are accurate, you do see a display of power- God says it is not from him. Moses goes on to say and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.”
He is leading you to a completely new perspective of God by giving you new revelations, from angels or telling you that you can visit heaven when you want. By listening to this revelation, or dream or vision you are showing that you reject God, you have no respect for his word and have strayed from Him.
What is real does not always mean it is true or authentic. People judge the authenticity because of what they perceive are healings and miracles; exactly what the Devil likes to see happen. Because if they judged by doctrine – the word of God and not just what they see they would come to a very different conclusion.
This is why I’m not not going to be influenced in my judgment by how many people testify they are healed or how many miracles they have seen take place because we do not validate what is from God by this alone. A subjective experience or knowledge that confirms what is true is not how a Christian is to test a supernatural experience or story. There are Scripture and principles that God uses to prove what is of him and what is from another source. We should carefully examine what we see or hear to see if it is really of God. Those who have seen both the real and the counterfeit explain that the ONLY way to tell is by careful scrutiny from the Word. If someone claims Christ and does miracles, we need to know what the person really believes on the core teachings of Scripture. The person the healing came by should hold and practice the core doctrines of the faith. If they fail this test, no matter how remarkable the healing or miracle you are to separate yourself from them. We need to confirm that the person is orthodox and that it is actually God who has used the human vessel. If one does not test the spirits the way the Bible tells us to- they will be deceived, just as Todd and others surrounding him are. The bottom line, your body can be healed. A Christian can be deceived by a false teacher and a false representation of God can be portrayed to us as authentic through a deceived believer. And you can lose your soul if you follow a false teacher. Therefore there must be another explanation for what we may see.
We need to look at the supernatural from a biblical perspective. It is inconsistent with God’s character to permit His supernatural power to accompany false teachers/teachings that deny what He has so clearly said in His word. Satan can perform lying signs and wonders that exhibit power just as the apostles did. If Satan cannot do these miracles then how can we explain the incredible success the Anti-Christ will have? Lying signs and wonders only endorse the person as a messenger from God when they are not questioned, when one is willing to overlook any false teaching.
Someone can convince them-self that by feeling no more pain or having a temporary energy boost, they are being healed  by God. However, healing may come from another supernatural source, the Devil. That’s right, Satan who afflicts us can temporarily can alleviate that same sickness or pain to increase deception and demonic influences within the person’s life.  It can look like a healing because he afflicted a person and then relieves them of it. That is why it is called a lying sign.
Who is to say the Devil does not give up a pawn in order to gain the queen in his deceptive game of chess. This way his kingdom is not divided but is advanced. Satan certainly has the power to put his hand on individuals to make them ill; he also has the power to take his hand from that individual, thus manufacturing a bogus “cure.” It can be convincing enough for those who unaware of his deception and power. And those who do not test it are under his cruelty.
A lying sign often brings glory and prominence to an individual or ministry, not Christ, even though He may be mentioned. They may say “in Jesus” name which leads them into further false teaching. When you are under deception, you are able to justify any action as long as Jesus’ name is attached to it. If we look at the apostles, they did not preach the Word for the signs and wonders to take place; the Word was preached and signs would follow––when the Lord was willing. We are to preach and teach first and let the miracles be up to God. Advertising the miracles to attract people already gives us insight to whether this is of God or not. A lying sign or wonder is a miracle claimed to be from God. A miracle in itself cannot reveal the source of its power. It must be tested, by knowing what the person whom the miracle came through believes. If someone’s doctrine of Christ is wrong, if there practice is wrong, God will not express His supernatural power by or though that individual. Then the source of the miracle is not from God. That is- God does not use false teachers or false teaching to pour out his power through. We can tell by how they mishandle scripture, it is what they want it to mean not what it actually means from the author. A tell tale sign is the abundance of new revelation and the misuse of words to make it sound like it is from the Bible.

C.D. Cole stated it well by saying, “People who are looking for miracles as a sign or proof of God’s presence and favor are putting themselves in a good position to be deceived. What is supernatural is not necessarily divine.” Certainly to hold the position that all healings are from God can be disastrous; there are counterfeits, and if they can take place outside the Church, there is no justification for saying they can’t take place inside as well, especially when Scripture tells us that they will. Paul writes of this in several places-2 Thess. 2 :8-10; 1 Tim.4:1; 2 Tim. 3:13.

If people gather to see signs and wonders, they are already removed from the prescribed order for a church gathering. God is interested in communicating truth not just His power. God’s Word is truth that has the power to change lives. God said He would lead us into truth through His Word, not through miraculous signs. God still does miracles but He will NOT honor falsehood by the power of His presence. Any sign or wonder must be questioned, and tested by the word rather than relying on the experience itself to validate it.
Many of those who are caught up in the miracle services say, “it is not for you to judge, God will stop or expose those whom are teaching incorrectly.” If one really puts all the correction on God then the next time you are in a conversation with someone who speaks wrong, say nothing and let God take care of it. Don’t correct your children, don’t correct yourself. don’t evangelize, don’t teach because God is capable of doing all of this without you, does this sound biblical or right to you?
The fact is, God tells us to confront those who have offended and hurt us. And false teaching leads people astray from the faith and it is far more serious than being offended or bruised by someone. We are told to EXPOSE the unfruitful works of darkness. I cannot think of a more applicable Scripture than this to what is taking place today “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). You can’t know what not to participate in unless you judge by God’s word, and after you find out its wrong you are obligated to let others know.
The one thing that God does not say is to do nothing and leave it ALL up to him.  He tells us to do what is right. One must be mature to do what is right.
1 Cor 5:12-13: For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges.”
John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ confronted the religious leaders, calling them a ‘generation of vipers’ and told them to repent. Were they wrong to pass judgment on them? It is not wrong to challenge false teachings by the Bible, it is something God says for all of us to do? Are we wrong for saying they are wrong or are they wrong for saying WHAT’S WRONG?
Was John wrong to write in 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
The Bible even says in 1 Cor. 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge“-2 Timothy 4:2-3 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”
That you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3). In other words if they have stories of Jesus, of heaven that are not of the Bible, it is another doctrine other than what the apostles delivered.For those who have already subscribed their loyalty to his ministry, I have this to say. From the videos I have seen there is hardly any preaching of God’s word, but instead his EXPERIENCES. When the word is read it is applied to his EXPERIENCES. Bentley feels most comfortable when he is talking about his EXPERIENCES. In fact he is teaching others to have supernatural EXPERIENCES. There is no question—it is more about his EXPERIENCES than glorifying God.Satan is not just a counterfeiter––he is an inventor, especially when it comes to religious-spiritual practices. He uses clever deceptive means to get us from one level of deception to the next. Satan has a counterfeit program involving signs and wonders that he has used throughout history. Contrary to popular belief that we need signs and wonders in order to convince people, it changed very few hearts in Moses’ time and Jesus’ day and it is no different today. People are motivated by selfishness to seek a sign and wonder and have a supernatural experience like mystic adepts. Signs for the most part were for unbelievers to attest what to believe, not for believers. The signs were to move the people to pay attention to what Jesus spoke not what He did. Jesus scolded them saying “Except you see signs and wonders you will not believe” John 4:48). He made it clear that  it is an evil generation that seeks a sign! Nothing has changed in the word of God nor in the heart of man.
God can overwhelm someone with His presence if he wants to. However, when  one presumes to represent the Spirit’s work and it is contrary to the word of God and is the opposite of what the fruit of the spirit produces we can know it is not of God. A true supernatural experience will compliment the word NOT contradict it.
Once again miracle and healing crusades are filled to the brim, but  genuine teaching and evangelistic ministries continue to be poorly attended.
Many have come using the name Jesus in their false teachings and counterfeit miracles and you can be assured many more will. We can’t judge the motives of the people involved, they may have good intentions. Nonetheless, we need to make a decision from the Bible,  not from our personal feelings or loyalties. To judge teaching and supernatural occurrences is to act in love. To stand by and ignore this while falsehood continues to spread and misleads and destroys many lives is negligence. It is the absence of true discipleship and compassion. True love is not silent when people are being misled or deceived.
Nowhere are we told to have grace for false teachers and allow them to continue with no challenge or exposure.  Let them repent and we gladly accept them back. But if they do not let ,everyone know of their heresy. That is the Bible’s command
Paul wrote in Phil. 3:15-17 :“Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
Paul used himself and the other apostles as our primary examples. Paul could not deal individually with the many false teachers springing up like weeds in the different areas.  Paul said to follow his example as he followed Christ.  Christ openly showed what is false, so did Paul, and so did the other apostles. Much of the New Testament was written to publicly correct false teaching within the Church itself. Every second epistle written by an apostle is for correction or judging false doctrine. It is up to us all to watch over the household of God and help the brethren, by doing this we show our love  for them.

 

THE 3D EFFECT OF THE WORD OF FAITH MOVEMENT

(Descent, Deception, And Desensitization)
Once a pastor fought the cause and took aim
Now you’re lucky if a pastor knows your name
The 1950′s biggest trouble in school was chewing gum
Now the school grounds they’re killing from
There was a day when your barn burnt down
Many came to rebuild from that town
When you were sick and needed help most
Church and family lined up to be your host
When a stranger in need came to ask
Now send him down the street to complete the task
When parents spanked their kids and it all made sense
Now we tolerate bad behavior, no real consequence
There was a time when family was very near
Now they’re far and spread, and we hardly hear
Truth about eternity, hell, fire and brimstone
Now they preach fluffy stories to reduce the tone
They think the Church is a building to entertain all
To manipulate with music, not knowing their great fall
Now they preach how to prosper and to gain
Not knowing the Word teaches it’s all in vain
What does a man gain to profit and toil
Only now to have his soul to spoil
The Church is believers to worship in it
Now we invite tares to come in and split
Instead of reaching out and doing a good deed
We now give a fraction, saying we’ve sown our seed
When the seed is really Jesus in our life
Spreading it individually and to suffer strife
The wise, mighty, and noble are scarcely called
It’s the humble and abase to Him who have crawled
Our knowledge has greatly increased
Our spirit though is almost deceased
Once was a button only to sew and hold
Now it’s a key stroke, powerful and bold
At the touch of a button we can now watch porn
Where many use to read God’s Word and be warned
Now sports, movies, and games have taken the place
When it was mostly family and friends that we’d interface
No longer molten calves as god’s we bow down to
It’s now thousands of things that we pursue
Instead of being separate and sanctified
We now look like the rest of the world and mortified
Now 2012 and there is a great shift
Truth, loyalty, and justice have all gone a drift
Had you known what hour the thief would enter
Would you’ve prepared yourself, an armed defender
The enemies plan was slowly making us compromise
When the truth about him, he’s the father of all lies
By Ron Evartt
 

DO WE HAVE ALL AUTHORITY ?

The new Christian paradigm promises to give us powers beyond what we had before through the ministry of the prophets and apostles. Sounds wonderful because we are told we will use these powers to change the world. There are those who believe the Church will have dominion over the world at the end of the age. The nations and governments will be upon their shoulders as they rule for Christ. With this authority, the church will restructure cities, then countries and then the rest of the world. All the secular authorities, governments, rulers and kings will be under the churches rulership, and we see the world change Christ will then return and the kingdom will be presented to Him. This is hardly the scenario of Isa.9:6-7. This theory is based upon the idea that all authority in heaven and on the earth has been given to Jesus and then to the Church. Others believe, since believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit that indwelt Jesus, as his body we have all authority on the earth as Jesus has in heaven. Therefore we can do the same miracles that He did. Some are able to tell God to “fill,” give “more” and spirit come and the Lord immediately responds. They send the Holy Spirit to his work, they bind the Devil and his kingdom, they call out diseases by name, they speak salvation and prosperity. With this authority we are supposed to be able to make a tree wither, we can walk on water and appear or disappear and make the blind see and the lame walk.
I hear too many teachers tell others we have all authority in Christ. We have authority, but we do not have ALL AUTHORITY.
It is not God who gives any man all authority, but it is the DEVIL that offers it. He does it for only one reason, to deceive by power, and to bring a person to a place of operating in pride. Where he can separate him and have him think he can function without being co-dependent on Christ. The first person that was offered this authority was Eve. She was offered to be like God and rule. Instead of being satisfied with her position she had, she was offered more, she coveted the power and position that God had. By this the Devil deceived her into losing even what she already had.
In the New Testament We have Jesus being offered authority over the world from the Devil personally. He did not dispute that it was his. Luke 4:5-7 “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be Yours.” Jesus was offered ALL authority, glory, by worshipping a creature only once. Keeping the commandments perfectly and knowing who He was and the Father, He knew he could not worship any creature.
Authority has always been a problem with humanity. Many rulers have come and gone down through the annals of history wanting to rule and become famous. Even the disciples that were learning of Christ whom they were following thought about the authority they would receive from Jesus. “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:24-30). The kingdom according to Jesus is inherited by humility, not by taking things through force. Those who want all authority to promote His kingdom now prove they are not under the authority of Jesus. As He said we are servants, and even when He comes back we will be serving under Him.
The Apostles never taught or practiced things that we hear of today. Furthermore God never put in His word of our taking authority over the spiritual realm, binding devils over cities, or even Satan. Scripture teaches that there were demons so powerful that the Apostles could not cast them out. Paul an apostle was unable to heal all– even he suffered with an affliction. Certainly they did not have all authority. They had to sometimes ask in prayer, not take authority by prayer. Humility is what Christ taught and true humility means to rely on someone who is greater, real humility is to know your position and enjoy it.
Throughout Jesus’ life He made it clear “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49) Coming in a humble state He became a servant giving us the perfect example of what the man was created to be like (Phil.2:5-8).
John 7:15-19 “And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
John 12:48-50 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
Notice Jesus does not exert his authority but relies on another for his instruction He teaches us to do the same as in Phil. 2: we are to have the same attitude in us that was in him, the mind of Christ is one of humility.
For even the Spirit does not have the authority that some people claim. John 16:13-15 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” The spirits focus is Christ, not himself, not the church, and not apostles or prophets

The Apostles authority

Luke 9:1-2: “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Luke 10:19-20: “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Notice this was power over all demons and to heal. Just because Jesus gave them this authority does not mean in any way they had for themselves all authority, nor did they have it to use at their discrepancy all the time. Even Jesus at that time did not have all authority as He was still in a state of humility, He did only what the Father showed him to do. This changed after the resurrection, when He was exalted (Mt.28). We need to remember that Judas when he was with the others was doing the same miracles right alongside them, but he was a son of perdition. So having this kind of authority really does not validate one being an authentic Christian as Mt.7:21 certainly implies. Certainly this authority was not permanent as they were unable to do many things afterwards, even cast out certain demons. This does not mean we are powerless today, it does mean we should be careful what we are learning about authority and how it is to be used.
How we are to conduct ourselves as servants to others is illustrated by the disciples who became apostles.
2 Thess.3:7-9: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” Paul’s example was humility, following the example of Christ’s servanthood, no one was abuse or misused. They were careful with their leadership and did not use the office of apostle or prophet as a “above others” position. They remembered what Jesus said “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant (Matt 20:25-28). Their authority came with the willingness to be a servant.
How did the apostles use their authority? 1Thess.2:5-7 “For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness– God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” When was the last time you saw a healing or miracle service where someone famous did not say everyone can or will be healed (flattery) or ask to give to his ministry so they can reap a blessing (a cloak for covetousness). Or where someone was not brought up on stage to give an advertisement and to interview them on what happened (glory from men). Or the speaker went in the audience to slay people “in the spirit” and its shown on camera.
Today’s Christianity for the most part lacks servanthood, compassion, kindness, instead it is ALL about authority and power. Selfless service, mercy, and helps are gifts of the Spirit that few want. Most desire gifts that can be used publicly and make a BIG impression. We now define ministers and valid ministries by how many miracles and healing they report, something you will not find in Scripture. “A man came to Jesus saying “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for you do not regard the person of men”(Matt. 22:16). How different it is today with those who proclaim their authority, everything is watched by others and filmed for the public.
2 Cor. 10:13-18 “We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us–a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. But “he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”
The apostles’ leadership was true shepherding as they exemplified the Jesus style of servanthood. As True shepherds they taught people how to follow the one shepherd: not themselves. Cults and abusive leadership will always put themselves in between the people and Christ having them as necessary for someone to follow Christ or for the Church to succeed. We can see this being stated by the apostle prophet movement today. The apostles did not dictate what people were to do but through being personally involved in their lives they instructed them by Scripture, and showed them by example. They did not prophecy who to marry or where one is to move to for ministry. When people tried to follow a certain apostle they were rebuked (1Corinthians1:11-12). Today many popular teachers make disciples after their own selves. As true shepherds the apostles stood against errors and denounced false teachings and letters that were not from them. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: “Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are “over you” in the Lord.” The phrase “over you” in the Greek is also used in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and 1 Timothy 5:17. It does not mean a “position of authority,” it means “to assist, to protect, to care for or give aid to.”
In third John 9, John named Diotrephes who was the first church cultist. Diotrepheswouldn’t accept the teaching of the apostles and he spoke against them. He wanted to be in authority, to be first among them; he wanted to be noticed. He would not allow other brethren to fellowship with the church he presided over. Isn’t that what happens today when people are separated and told not to talk to those who are from another church or those who are being Bereans? There are those who are afraid they will lose control over their members.
There are many who are claiming apostolic authority today. True apostolic authority was to be sold out for the Lord, where they did not love their own lives but instead they give their lives for the sheep. Many commend themselves into a apostolic leadership position that God has not given them. The true New Testament apostles were qualified by the fact they saw the risen Lord and were personally chosen by Him (1 Cor.9:1). The latter rain teach many prophets and apostles are to rule today instead of one person ruling over the Church (such as a Pope). When we get down to it, there is little difference.
Many claim to be prophets but they are prophesying at a 30% average rate of accuracy. This is an abuse of both the title and gift. No true prophet ever had this poor a record: they were 100% correct. Anything less than this is a false prophet and false prophets don’t care if they are right all the time! There are people who are concerned about certain teachers being misrepresented on what they say. I would like to see them have the same concern about the Word that God has said! We cannot separate Jesus from His Word they go together as the truth. To love and hold to His word is to love Jesus. We should have no other word, no other Word.
We were not given the ability to say and do whatever we want. Tagging His name when you exercise authority does not make it anymore valid or authentic. To claim we have all authority; is to say we have the same authority as Jesus; this means we are not under His authority. We are told by Jesus a servant is not greater than his master. Are we servants or are we masters?
2 Peter 2:10-11 “and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.” Those who want to have authority and rule over people and nations even if they have good intentions need to beware. Jude 7-11 “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
When you see people mocking the devil and his angels, speaking boastfully of what they will conquer, boasting of using authority in the spiritual realm, claiming to be the army of God, this is exactly what Jude was speaking of. If you look at the story of Balaam he wanted to make money on his ability to prophecy. In the rebellion of Korah we see people going against what the leader (Moses) spoke that we now have as our Scripture. It is always about challenging what God has said. When people teach new revelations, saying God is revealing more to the Church at this time and it is not found in the Scripture, or is at best distorted Scripture; this is exactly what both Peter and Jude are addressing.
For those who seek authority can easily fall into a trap, great authority and power will be offered at the end. The second beast that is coming will look like a lamb and he will promise authority and a kingdom. Rev 13:4 “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Here is the same authority that Satan offered to Jesus, but Jesus refused and stayed a servant. The one who is called the beast will accept it and use it. Rev 13:6-7 “Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Notice He is able to say things about himself that is supposed to be attributed to God. He is able to exercise all power over the whole earth.
Rev 13:12-14 “And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast.” This man will have authority he will have the ability to do miracles and he will accept peoples worship.
He was able to deceive by his authority (power). If you wonder whom the Christians are that Jesus warned about the deception in the end, it will be the ones who look for authority, power in miracles and signs as the proof that something is of God.
Dan 7:6-8 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” V:11-12 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. “As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Rev. 17:12-14 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”
 Dan.7:19-28 “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; “and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. ‘But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever.
Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’ “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.”
Kingdom and dominion is coming when the king comes. The church was never given authority to rule the earth before the king arrives. For whatever kingdom is ruling when Christ come he will destroy.
It was only Jesus who was given all authority. Nowhere does it say we were given all authority in the New Testament. Matt 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” So he tells the apostles and us “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. The word for authority is power. If one has all power they have all authority. It is not the church that has all authority, we need to be under Jesus’ authority just as he was under the Father when he came as a servant. Leadership in the church is about being a servant. Only Jesus can have all authority for the simple reason he is sinless and can rule perfectly, the church is not sinless and can never be trusted with all authority. Yes we as the church have some authority, but not all authority. The sooner we learn this, the quicker we can come under the authority of Christ and enjoy serving under His Lordship.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

What was unique to the Apostolic Era?
What is Prescriptive for the Church Today?
by
Rev. John S. Erickson
Christ Lutheran Church
Chetek, Wisconsin

Introduction

Dealing with any aspect of the Holy Spirit and his gifts in the church is risky business. I have found this to be the case on numerous occasions and the experience is not unique to me. John F. MacArthur, Jr. who has critiqued the modern charismatic movement comments, “A powerful intimidation factor works against those who want to deal with the issues biblically… Charismatic extremists can promote almost any idea they fancy on Christian television and radio, but those who attempt to examine such teaching critically, in light of Scripture, are muzzled… Those who do speak out inevitably are branded divisive, strident, or unloving.” [MacArthur, Jr., John F., Charismatic Chaos , Grand Rapids: Zonder- van, 1992: p. 13,14.]
But is it unkind to critique church doctrine in light of the Scriptures? Is it ‘divisive’ or ‘factious’ to point out disagreement one might have with the teaching of another? Or, could it be that we actually have a moral imperative to carefully critique what is taught and preached in the name of Jesus and to act to ‘lay bare’ what is false and misleading? I believe the latter is the case. It is interesting to read the epistles of Paul in this light. It was not uncommon for Paul to “rebuke people by name in epistles meant to be read publicly (Phil. 4:2-3; I Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17). John, the apostle of love, wrote a scorching condemnation of Diotrephes, a church leader who was ignoring the apostles’ teaching (3 John 9-10)[Ibid., p. 15.]. As his second epistle shows, John’s view of real love was inextricably bound with truth. In fact, love apart from truth is nothing more than hypocritical sentimentality. That sentimentality is running rampant in [the church] today.”
There will be those who may disagree with some of what follows in this paper. There may be some made upset by it. But I trust you will look with me into an issue which has really become a watershed issue in the church today. I do not claim to have all the answers. I am still learning. On the other hand, I believe there is much in the Word and much said by good biblical scholarship that would call into serious question much that is being taught and practiced today in the area of the Holy Spirit and his gifts in name of Biblical Christianity. As a number of us look for fellowship with other Lutherans, this is one area where I believe history has proved there is a need for mutual understanding.

THE ISSUE

Before proceeding, let’s be clear on the issue before us. All to often when raising a question such as that of our concern, one will be accused of not believing in the Holy Spirit, or of denying the power of the Holy Spirit, or at least of severely limiting the work of the Holy Spirit. I want to be clear, that I, with conviction, confess the Three Ecumenical Creeds, which in turn confess belief in the person of the Holy Spirit as well as in his work. I also believe that the Holy Spirit is active in our day, gifting his church, and that means the gifting of the individual believers who make up his church (i.e., “Now to EACH ONE the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” I Cor. 12:7).
The issue I am lifting up, and it is no small issue, is the claim by many in the charismatic camp that there is no difference between the gifting of the Holy Spirit among believers today and the gifting of the apostles following the birth of the church at Pentecost. There are, for example, many who.say there is “no compelling reason why prophetic gifts might not be released today as well as in New Testament times. In fact, ‘…the person who is sacramentally united with Jesus ought prayerfully to expect Jesus to manifest in his sheep any of the boundless and surprising range of gifts to be used in the worship of God and the ministry to Christ’s Body (I Cor. 12:1-13,27-31;14:1-5), and in the giving of a powerful witness to the world (Acts 1:4-5,8).’ Charismatic gifts are not merely options, ‘they are necessary manifestations simply because of God’s command and promise, and active openness to them is our proper response.'” [Lindberg, Carter, The Third Reformation? Charismatic Movements and the Lutheran Tradition, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, p.232.]
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John Wimber is the leader and father figure for the newest major offshoot of the charismatic movement, known as “The third Wave of the Holy Spirit,” also called the Signs and Wonders movement… The term Third Wave was coined by C. Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission, author of several books on church growth – and leading proponent of Third Wave methodology. According to Wagner, ‘The first wave was the Pentecostal movement, the second the charismatic movement, and now the third wave is joining them.'” (MacArthur, p. 128).
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Especially as we move into the ‘third Wave’ movement, we find persons who are “persuaded that miracles, visions, tongues, prophecies, and healings are essential supplements to the gospel. They view Christianity without these things as impotent, adulterated by the Western, materialistic mindset” [MacArthur, p. 131, quoting Wimber, Power Evantelism, p. 39-41]. Some in the Third Wave even go so far as to say that “unbelievers must experience the miraculous to be brought to full faith. Merely preaching the gospel message, they believe, will never reach the world for Christ. Most people will not believe without seeing miracles, they say, and those who do will be inadequately converted and therefore stunted in their spiritual growth.”
GETTING TO THE CORE OF THE ISSUE DEFINING THE WORD ‘MIRACLE’.
It seems to me that much of the confusion we find today over the issue of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit has to do with one’s understanding of the biblical use of the word miracles. In a real sense, Scripture itself adds to the confusion. Many of the divisions we find helpful in our thinking are not treated that way in Holy Scripture. We see an example of this in the way we think and speak of the ‘sacred’ as over against the ‘secular.’ Especially in Hebrew thought such distinction is for the most part unknown. All of life is sacred. All that has to do with life is sacred. In the same way Scripture isn’t so concerned, as we are, in making a distinction between the constant provision of God and his particular acts. In other words, in the Bible we find the whole issue of miracles set in the context of a world view that sees the entire creation as being dependent on the sustaining activity of God and being subject to his will. “…by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16,17). On the other hand, scripture at times does make an issue of the uniqueness of certain miraculous acts or periods of miraculous activity. “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12). And with the working of miracles by Jesus and later by his disciples, there is frequent mention made of how the people were filled with “wonder and amazement” at what they witnessed. There is no question but that God can act in ways that are “immeasurably beyond all that we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). He can act either directly or through the use of human instruments, and, as he acted in the past, he still can and at times does, act today.
So our concern is not whether or not he can act, it is rather, are his miraculous acts normative for today? Or, to put it a little differently, does God, through the Holy Spirit, gift persons in his church, with the ability to perform ‘signs and wonders’ as he did his apostles in the first century? And, is this normative for the church today? And, are ‘signs and wonders’ things which we, as believers, should expect and seek until they become our possession?
This is where, I believe, we get to the core of the issue. It centers in one’s definition of miracle. There are numerous ways one can understand the word ‘miracle’ and the definition one chooses will have much to do with his or her position on the larger question of the place of ‘signs and wonders’ in the church and in the lives of individual believers today.
Some would define a miracle as “an extremely remarkable achievement or event, e.g. an unexpected piece of luck.” ‘It was a miracle I passed the test.’ [The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, New York: Lexicon Publications Inc., 1989]. ‘It was a miracle I made it to work on time.’ On the other end of the spectrum, miracle might be defined as, “a supernatural event regarded as due to divine action, e.g. one of the acts worked by Christ which revealed his divinity” [Ibid.]. In this understanding, the feeding of the 5000, Christ’s stilling of the storm, and his raising of Lazarus to life, among many other events, were miracles.
It is obvious there is quite a difference between these two understandings of the word. But there is also a whole range of understandings that fall between these two. For example, “It was a miracle. The doctors got it all.” “It was a miracle, she got a knee replacement and can now walk.” “It was a miracle, the other houses were destroyed by a tornado, but their house stood.” And it is comments like this that raise the question. Are these really miracles in the biblical sense of the word?
BIBLICAL USE AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORD
There are a number of important words used in the Bible to designate miracles; thauma, ‘wonder’; pele ‘and therus, ‘portent’; gevhurah and dunamis, ‘display of power’; ‘oth and semeion, and ‘sign.’
“The usage of ‘miracle’ in Christian theology includes, but goes beyond, the meanings of the ancient words. A miracle is (1) an extraordinary event, inexplicable in terms of ordinary natural forces; (2) an event which causes the observers to postulate a super-human personal cause; (3) an event which constitutes evidence (a ‘sign’) of implications much wider than the event itself” [The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1969].
John MacArthur, Jr. says it well, “A miracle is an extraordinary event wrought by God through human agency, an event that cannot be explained by natural forces. Miracles always are designated to authenticate the human instrument God has chosen to declare a specific revelation to those who witness the miracle” [MacArthur,p. 106.]
“A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of a religious teacher or leader, as fully to warrant the conviction. on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by Him” [Strong, Augustus H., Systematic Theology Philadelphia: Judson, 1907, p. 118].
Lenski would agree with the understanding of miracle as being something unique. In his commentary on Mark 16:17 Lenski writes, “Jesus calls these miracles semeion, ‘signs,’ and uses the ethical term for them, which is far higher than ‘wonders’ or ‘power works.’ For a sign points beyond itself to something that is far higher, of which it is a specific indication”[Lenski, R. C. H., The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, Columbus, Ohio: Wartberg Press, 1946, p. 768].
GETTING PRACTICAL
Former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, is most helpful in helping to make all this practical. He would agree with the afore mentioned understanding of ‘miracle’ and he applies such to the subject of ‘faith healing’ or the gift of ‘divine healing.’ Dr. Koop (who calls himself a evangelical Christian of the Reformed tradition, is a past president of Evangelical Ministries and a long time member and elder of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia) is thoroughly convinced that it is God who brings about healing in the human body. Surgeons are able to do many things. Koop comments on his own skill and describes how he, over a period of time, perfected a procedure resulting in ‘invisible’ scars [Horton, Michael, ed., The Agony of Deceit; C. Everett Koop, M.D., “Faith-Healing and the Sovereignty of God”, Chicago: Moody Press, 1990, p. 169-170].
I was the one who put the edges together, but it was God who coagulated the serum. It was God who sent the fiberblasts out across the skin edges. It was God who had the fiberblasts make collagen, and there were probably about fifty other complicated processes involved about which you and I will never know. But did God come down and instruct the fiberblasts to behave that way? [Ibid].
In a sense, He did. But He did it through His natural laws, just the way He makes grass grow, the rain fall, the earth quake. The question, then, is not, Does God heal? Of course He heals! …[But] is it normally according to natural laws or [is it due to] an interruption of those laws (i.e., a miracle)?[Ibid].
Koop in speaking of miracles and specifically of the miracle of healing, makes the point, and a significant point (in my view), that “It is God who does the healing, but he does not regularly do so in a miraculous way. He heals according to His own natural laws” [Ibid. p. 175]. This ties in well with the understanding that Scripture generally does not differentiate between what we think of as the natural and miraculous. But does Koop believe in the possibility that God may at times circumvent or interrupt His natural laws? And not only that God himself may do so, but that he may in fact give the ‘gift to do so’ to some individual? The answer to these questions is, yes and yes! And as an example he suggests a look at Acts 3:6. Here was an individual who had never attended medical school who encountered a man who had never walked. Looking at that disabled man, this ‘non-credentialed physician’ said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.
The ‘healer’, Peter, took the disabled by the hand, lifted him up and IMMEDIATELY the feet and ankle bones of the disabled were given strength. The one who had never walked, stood, he leaped and went into the temple praising God. As Dr. Koop says, “That was a miracle!” [Ibid. p. 172].
It is worth taking note of some of the characteristics of this miraculous healing. It is also worth noting that this healing closely parallels the many healings of Jesus as well as of Paul and of the other apostles. All these healings were IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE, RADICAL, AND DEMONSTRABLE to those who formerly knew the disabled.
I would agree with the conclusion of Dr. Koop, that “Miracles… were the credentials of Christ and the apostles, to whom He gave the gift of healing. And one can assume, I think, that the cessation of these gifts came at the end of the apostolic age.. Tertullian, one of the great early church Fathers, studied this issue carefully and analyzed the miracles that had taken place among the apostles. He came to the conclusion that the phenomena that we call ‘miracles’ today, the sort of astounding signs carried out by the apostles, came to an end about two hundred years after the death of Christ” [Ibid. p. 175].
MIRACLES TODAY
This then is the issue. Are the miracles born witness to in the New Testament, are such ‘signs and wonders,’ operative today? As has been pointed out already, many in the charismatic camp would say yes. Among those making such claims is Dr. Theodore Jungkuntz and his associates who hold, among other things that “All the charismatic gifts of the holy Spirit – those referred to in the New Testament in the technical Pauline sense as charismata (Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:4,31) or pneumatika (1 Cor. 12:1; 14:1) – are still promised and available to believers and are operative in parts of the Christian Church today. This specifically includes the Spirit’s extraordinary gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing, and the working of miracles, which were granted certain Christians in the days of the apostles…” [Charismatic Renewal in the Lutheran Church: “Renewal in Missouri”; Walter A. Maier – Concordia Theological Quarterly. January-April 1989. p.21.]
In contrast to this view, there are many who do not understand such to be the case. MacArthur speaks for a number of those who have studied the issue when he states, “I am convinced that the miracles, signs, and wonders being claimed today in the charismatic movement have nothing in common with apostolic miracles. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the New Testament gift of miracles is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern-day Christians miraculous gifts comparable to those he gave the apostles.”[MaacArthur,p. 109.]
MacArthur, Koch, and other of the authors I read, are all aware of the many claims made by charismatics. Oral Roberts, for example, was quoted in TIME, “I can’t tell you about [all] the dead people I’ve raised. I’ve had to stop a sermon, go back and raise a dead person.” And Peter Wagner of Fuller Seminary believes such things as raising the dead are taking place, “I now believe that dead people are literally being raised in the world today. As soon as I say that, some ask if I believe it is ‘normative.’ I doubt if it would be normative in any local situation, but it probably is normative in terms of the universal body of Christ. Even though it is an extremely uncommon, I would not be surprised if it were happening several times a year.” John Wimber, mentioned earlier in this paper, “lists raising the dead as one of the basic elements of the healing ministry.” [Ibid. p. 111-112 – referring to: TIME, July 13, 1987. p. 52., and to: Wagner, C. Peter , The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit, Ann Arbor: Vine, 1988. 112. and to: John Wimber, Power Healing, San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1987, p. 38,62.]
But if such miraculous things are taking place today is it not significant that not one instance of the raising of the dead can be verified? Oral Roberts for one, was challenged to produce names and addresses of those he had raised to life. He balked at the request. Later Roberts did share one incident which he said occurred some 20 years earlier when he claimed to have raised a child to life in front of ten thousand witnesses. “During a healing service, he recalled, a mother in the audience jumped up and shouted, “My baby’s dead.” Roberts said he prayed over the child and “it jerked, it jerked in my hand.” …Roberts conceded that neither that child nor others he said he had brought to life had been pronounced clinically dead. “I understand,” he hedged, “there’s a difference in a person dying and not breathing and [a person] being clinically dead.” [Ibid. referring to: Norman Geisler, Signs and Wonders, Wheaton ILL: Tyndale, 1988, p. 119.]
One hardly need compare Robert’s claim to that of the record of Jesus’ raising Lazarus to life; Lazarus who had been in the grave four days. And further, If such ‘raising to life’ is taking place in the world today, and if, as Wagner believes, this is happening several times a year, then it should not be asking to much that at least one or two of these ‘miracles’ would be verified? [Ibid. referring to: Wood-ward and Gibney “Saving Souls” p.52.]
In the New Testament when such miracles were performed, they were verified. And further, as MacAurther points out, “Unlike the miracles in the New Testament, which were usually done with crowds of unbelievers watching, modern miracles typically happen either privately or in religious meetings. The types of miracles claimed, too, are nothing like New Testament miracles. Jesus and the apostles instantly and completely healed people born blind, a paralytic, a man with a withered arm – all obvious, indisputable miracles. Even Jesus’ enemies did not challenge the reality of his miracles! Moreover, New Testament miracles were immediate, thorough and permanent. Our Lord and his disciples never did a miracle slowly or incompletely.” In contrast to this, the miracles claimed to day are generally “partial, gradual. or temporary. The only “instant” miracles are healings that seem to involve forms of psychosomatic diseases…” Ibid. (MacAurther suggests that for a thorough discussion of this issue, including a look at all the biblical passages that are commonly used to refute this claim, one should investigate Geisler’s volume, “Are Miracles Always Successful, Immediate, and Permanent?” appendix 2, p. 149-155.])
I had an experience in a former parish that bears this out. There I had to deal with several self-proclaimed charismatic healers after I found they had been working with casting out a demon in a young girl in the our youth group. I was soundly denounced by these folks for having interfered. However, I am still convinced I did the right thing. For one thing there were the legal ramifications of a so called exorcism going on with an underage girl with out knowledge of her parents. Further, when looking into the incident with a couple of church board members, we found that the one who claimed the ‘spirit of discernment’ which diagnosed the demon in this girl, claimed she had just received that gift in the past several days. It was also found that she had only a week or two earlier received the gift of tongues after practicing ‘speaking in tongues’ over a period of days while she stood washing dishes in her kitchen. I was also was told by these ‘healers’ that I was to see that this girl was brought back to them for further prayer and follow-up, because, although this demon had been dealt with, it would take time for this girl to be whole once again.
Following this ‘healing’ this girl was hospitalized for some time for depression and suicide attempts. And rather than admitting that their ‘deliverance’ had not been a deliverance, these ‘healers’ turned to put the blame on me and various of the church council members because we were hindering the work of the Holy Spirit.
Having said all this, I want to make clear that I do not in any way question the power of God to heal or to question that God does in fact heal today as surely as he did in the first century church. I believe as MacAurther comments, “…God is always operating on a supernatural level. He intervenes supernaturally in nature and in human affairs even today. I believe God can heal people apart from natural or medical remedies. I believe all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26). His power has not diminished in the least since the days of the early church. Certainly salvation is always a supernatural act of God!” [Ibid. p.109]
In the midst of this mess in my former parish, I visited with an older member of the congregation. He was in his mid eighties at the time… and shared with me how some years earlier there was a situation where there seemed to be evidence of demon possession. He shared how the pastor and deacons met in fervent prayer regarding that individual. I don’t remember if the affected individual was even present for all these prayer sessions, and yet… after a time there seemed to be little question but that deliverance took place. This fellow however had no time for the theatrics of these ‘healers.’
Can God heal? Yes! Can he do so in extraordinary ways? Yes! Is the extraordinary normative today? No! “I do not believe… God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles in the same way he used Moses, Elijah, or Jesus. I am convinced that the miracles, signs, and wonders being claimed today in the charismatic movement have nothing in common with apostolic miracles. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the New Testament gift of miracles.. is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern-day Christians miraculous gifts comparable to those he gave the apostles.” [Ibid.]
Here, I believe, is the crux of the matter, “gifts comparable to those he gave the apostles.” If, in fact, the gifts the Holy Spirit gives to believers today are not comparable in their power and effect and if they are not normative now, as they were then, then let us not claim them to be, or claim they are ‘essential’ or ‘necessary supplements’ to our faith.
ARE TODAY’S GIFTS COMPARABLE TO THOSE OF THE APOSTLES?
There are a number of things one might consider in answering this question. For one thing, we should, in this discussion, be considering only miracles performed by ‘true’ agents and therefore, miracles that are ‘of God.’ It is interesting to realize that there is considerable in Scripture concerning miracles that were, or will be, performed by ‘evil agents.’ “In some mysterious way the Devil and those under his sway have had, and are to have, power to counterfeit the prerogative of deity, namely, the display of miraculous power. The Bible speaks of miracles performed through the power of the Devil (II Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 16:14); by false christs and false prophets (Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:13). These miracle-workers are exemplified by the Egyptian magicians (Exodus 7:11,22; 8:7), by the Witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:7-14), by Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-11). Counterfeit miracles were designed to support false religions (Deuteronomy 13:1-3); are a mark of apostacy (II Thessalonians 2:10-12); Revelation 13:14; 19:20); and are not to be countenanced (Deuteronomy 13:3).” [Lockyer, Herbert, All the Miracles of the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan books, 1961. p. 17. ]
It should also be pointed out that one of the ‘signs and wonders’ that seems today to be the’definitive’ gift of the charismatic [i.e., tongues] is not a phenomena limited to the Christian world. Karl Koch mentions that in a visit to South Africa he was told that “many possessed Bantu natives spoke in tongues. These Bantus cannot be associated at all with Christianity, although there are obviously some Christians among them.” [Koch. p. 32.]
In East Asia and Japan, Koch heard of “Buddhist and Shintoist priests who speak in strange languages and tongues while in trance… in the Philippines I actually heard a possessed man speak in foreign languages which he himself had never learned.. ”
Koch also points out that one need not go to foreign countries to witness ‘tongues.’ “Spiritistic mediums all over the world often speak in foreign languages when in a trance.” And as he points out, even from his brief investigation of religions and spiritism throughout the world, “it becomes clear that speaking in tongues is not always a gift of the Holy Spirit. After all, no heathen witch-doctor and no spiritistic medium can have a gift of the Holy Spirit. [Rather] all over the world we find that speaking in tongues is connected with excitable spiritual conditions. It does not matter whether this state of excitement has been stirred up by dancing and singing, or through alcohol, drugs or suggestion.” [Ibid. p.33.]
Likewise the gift of healing “has been claimed through the centuries by Christians and pagans alike… Oriental psychic healers say they can do ‘bloodless surgery.’ They wave their hands over affected organs and say incantations. Supposedly people are cured. Witch doctors and shamans even claim to raise the dead. Occultists use black magic to do lying wonders in the healing arts… Raphael Gasson, a former spiritualist medium who was converted to Christ, said, ‘There are many, many Spiritualists today who are endowed with this remarkable gift of power by Satan, and I myself, having been used in this way, can testify to having witnessed miraculous healings taking place at healing meetings in spiritualism.” [[MacArthur p. 203-204. For further information see see: Raphael Gasson, The Challenging Counterfeit, Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1968.]
We might also look at the miracle worker as a person, and compare what we see in the New Testament to what we see today. In brief, we see in Jesus, one “to whom all power was given” (Matthew 10:1; 28:18; John 10:17, 18; 11:25, etc). His, was also a power that was foretold (Isaiah 9:6; 35:5,6; 42:7). But we notice he never performed miracles simply to display his power, or to gain the attention of people, or for his own benefit. Always, he used his ‘gift’ to help those in need.
When it comes to the miracles performed by the apostles and/or other human agents we see first of all, that they were not able to act directly as did Christ. They had no ‘reservoir of deity.’ They were only able to act as power was given to them by God. “…Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Barnabas, and other apostles and disciples (Luke 10:9,17; Acts 2:23; 5:12) were only channels through whom miraculous power flowed.” [Lockyer. p. 17.]. But here too, as was the case with Christ, we find in these ‘miracle workers’ a concern that their ‘miracle working’ does not point to themselves, but to God, and to the power of God (Acts 3:12-13; 14:14ff). Today however, it often seems that when a pastor or evangelist has some ‘success’ in praying for the sick they are often labeled as having the ‘gift of healing,’ and that person becomes a specialist in healing. “The unfortunate outcome of such a practice is that man rather than Christ receives glory when results do occur.” [Bailey, Keith M., Divine Healing, The Children’s Bread, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1977., p. 143-144.]. And while it is true that in the first century church ‘gifts of healing’ were associated with certain members in the church (I Cor. 12.30), it is also the case that these persons were not known as ‘divine healers.’ Rather the exercise of those gifts implied “the rendering of service among believers.” Today it is too often the case that it is the healer and/or his or her ‘ministry’ that is the beneficiary of these ‘gifts’ (It is to ‘get a name’ and/or ‘reputation as being truly spiritual… and in some cases, rich!). [Ibid.]
But let us look at the miracles themselves as we find them pictured for us in the New Testament. What can we say about them, as compared to the ‘claimed’ miracles today?
On the one hand, many charismatics (and this includes Dr. Jungkuntz and his associates), on the basis of their interpretation of certain Bible passages hold to the following beliefs:
1. All the charismatic gifts of the Holy spirit – those referred to in the New Testament in the technical Pauline sense as charismata (Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:4,31) or pneumatika (1 Cor. 12:1; 14:1) – are still promised and available to believers and are operative in parts of the Christian Church today. This specifically includes the Spirit’s extraordinary gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing, and the working of miracles, which were granted certain Christians in the days of the apostles…
2. The extraordinary gifts in particular should be sought by all of God’s people through prayer.
3. These gifts are to be especially valued, because the believer’s possession and use of them represent the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word (regarding the bestowal of these gifts) on which the believer’s faith has relied, bring him a personal experience of God’s gracious presence, and all of this, in turn, confirms his faith.
4. With faith confirmed in this way, he is enabled to triumph increasingly over sin and empowered to serve God and his brethren in renewed dedication. Through the believer’s own spiritual growth and that fostered in his brethren, the needed renewal in the church occurs. The use of the extraordinary gifts is both an expression of the believer’s sanctification and that which is particularly promotive of his sanctification. [Maier, Charismatic Renewal in the Lutheran Church: “Renewal in Missouri.”]
But do we find evidence that such miracles (see #1 above) are still “available” and “operative” today? A quick trip through the book of Acts is most informative in this regard. There is more, but look first at Peter and his dealing with Ananias and Sapphira (5); and to his healing of the paralytic (9:33); and to his bringing Dorcus to life (9); or his escape from prison (12)… these were miraculous happenings, and note that the healings were healings. The paralytic “immediately got up,” the formerly dead Dorcus “sat up.” One might also consider Philip’s trip to Azotus following his meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch. This was certainly unparalleled missionary travel (8:26ff).
Look also at Paul: at his blinding of Elymis (13:11),at his healing of the crippled man (14:10; at his and Silas’ prison release (16:25ff); at the reference to miracles which God worked through him (19:11); at his raising to life of Eutychus (20:7ff); at the insights given him as to what lay ahead when he and his companions would be shipwrecked as well as his being made immune to the snake bites that were part of that experience (28:3-5).
As we study the book of Acts we see that the miracles performed by the disciples were truly miracles. The healings were immediate, complete, verifiable, and done in the open. MacArthur adds other characterics of the miracles done by the apostles. They healed with a word or a touch (9:32-35), they healed instantly (3:2-3), they healed totally (9:24), they were able to heal anyone (5:12-16), they healed organic disease (they did not deal in functional, symptomatic, or psychosomatic problems), they raised the dead (9:36-42). And as MacArthur states, “Despite all the claims being made today, no one is exhibiting those six traits in any healing ministry.” It could, and should also be pointed out, that “According to Scripture, those who possessed miraculous gifts could use their gifts at will. Contemporary healers do not heal at will. They cannot. They do not have the biblical gift of healing.” [MacArthur p. 214-215.]
As to the purpose of the miracles (‘signs and wonders’) it was mentioned above, that many charismatics understand the reason for, or value in, these gifts to be that the ‘believer’s possession and use of them will bring the recipient a personal experience of God’s gracious presence, confirm his faith, enable him to triumph increasingly over sin, and empower him to serve God and his brethren in renewed dedication. Put another way, the benefit seems to center in self. Scripture is clear that these ‘gifts of the Spirit’ are to be used for the good of the church. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” [Corinthians 12:7]
THE KEY TO THE MATTER
Lenski, I believe he reads Scripture correctly in this, points to the fact that the ‘sign’ and/or ‘wonder’ “always signifies something, points beyond itself to something greater.” The Pharisees of Jesus’ day looked for a sign from heaven. Signs had been given throughout their history, but they wanted one now that would prove that one greater than the prophets was among them.
However “this conception is wrong, as wrong as the unbelief from which it springs. The value of a sign does not lie in the the display it makes, not in what may make it a ‘wonder,’ but in what it signifies, grace, mercy, deliverance, and salvation. In any number of miracles there is no display at all, but oh, how blessed is what they all signify! But this is in vain for unbelief.” [Lenski, p. 320.]
Could it not be – I believe it is the case – that when Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah,” (Matthew 12:39) that he was also speaking to our present generation. There really is little question, if one takes an honest look at church history, but that the ‘signs and wonders’ of the New Testament were “credentials for the apostles and their gospel message, seals that proved their message genuine and exhibited the fact that the living and risen Jesus was present with them and working through them.” [Ibid. p. 768.]
The fact of the matter is, ‘signs and wonders’ will not be of much help in bringing the unbeliever to faith in spite of Wimber’s conviction to the contrary. In speaking of reaching the unbeliever we recall father Abraham’s conviction that “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Further it is even questionable as to whether such ‘signs and wonders’ will “help to confirm one in his or her faith faith and help that one to triumph increasingly over sin as well as to empower him or her to serve God and others in renewed dedication.” [Lenski, p. 322.]
“All the signs that Moses wrought did not change Pharaoh’s obdurate heart. [As already mentioned], Though one might arise from the dead and warn the five wicked brothers of Dives, they would not believe. Voltaire cast off the mask when he declared: ‘Even if a miracle should be wrought in the open market place before a thousand sober witnesses, I would rather mistrust my senses than admit a miracle.
Unbelief always finds a way to decline the truth, no matter with what credentials it is presented. As was the case here, another credential can always be demanded which discredits those already furnished. What, for instance, would prevent the Pharisees from claiming that even ‘a sign out of the heaven’ was wrought by the aid of Beelzebuyl? This applies to all modern unbelief which rejects all the testimony to the divine records regarding the reality and even the possibility of miracles and all that they signify. Where the Word plus the signs awaken no faith, it is useless to offer a sign.” {Ibid.]
Rather than the empowering for the working of ‘signs and wonders,’ the Holy Spirit today works, as Scripture seems to make clear (and Lutheran understanding seems to agree with this), solely through Word and Sacrament.
“The work of the holy Spirit consists in bearing witness of Christ by taking of His, that is of Christ’s life, work, and teaching, and declaring it unto us and thus make us see what all this means to us. In this way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith, as we learn in Luther’s explanation of the Third Article.
In His work to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify, the holy Spirit uses the Means of Grace. It is through the Word and Sacraments that He does this work. It is when we make the right Christian use of the means of Grace that the Holy Spirit can enter into our hearts and increasingly enlighten us with his gifts and thus sanctify and preserve us in the true faith.
The work of the holy Spirit, then, is to apply to the individual the work Jesus did for us. Man must be brought to see his need of the Savior, and be made willing to accept Him. This work the Holy Spirit does in the heart.” [Tanner, Jacob, Ten Studies In Church Doctrines, Mpls.: Augsburg, 1930., p. 36.]
Further, as Tanner points out, the work of the Holy Spirit, beyond the gift of faith, includes regeneration, Sanctification and assurance. He continues and makes the following point.
“There are two conditions or factors, however, that must not be overlooked. They are: watch and pray. We must watch over ourselves, especially over our heart, watch the world and the Devil, if we are to be preserved, and to grow in grace and usefulness.
Prayer is the breathing of the new life. It is communion with our heavenly father in Christ Jesus. It is praise and thanksgiving for God’s grace and goodness. Prayer places all our needs before our heavenly Father, and it enables Him to control the heart and fulfill his promise in the way in which
He himself knows is best.
Again we must remember that at the same time as it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to watch and pray, it is man himself that must do the watching and praying. And it is only as we watch and pray and obediently and trustingly use the Means of Grace, that the holy Spirit can preserve us from all danger and keep and guard us in all difficulty. [Ibid. p. 41.]
It is clear from Scripture that the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is to make the Word real and alive. It is not the work of the Holy Spirit to sensationalize the things of God or to ‘tickle the fancy’ of our imagination through gimmickry. The Spirit works with the Word. The Word which has been written, and contains what it does, “that [we] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). And as far as ‘signs and wonders’ they served their purpose in the days of the inauguration of the church. Now Holy Scripture contains witness of these things and we can “know that his/this testimony is true” (John 21:24b).
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(For a brief look at the decline of the gifts in the New Testament see the appendix attached to this paper.)
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THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
But again the question, Does and/or can God work miracles today? As has been pointed out, yes! Do we find him working miracles through his servants today as he did in the New Testament Church? The answer to this seems to be two fold. Yes he can, and on occasion it seems, he does. But this is not the norm!
I have witnessed things myself that are worth touching on at this point. Just recently a number of us received the first issue of a newsletter “A threefold Cord,” being published by an element in the AALC that is insisting on the legitimacy of the three strand understanding of the makeup of that church body, one of those ‘strands’ being the charismatic, even ‘third wave’ understanding of things. A highlighted article on the back page of this issue interested me. It is titled, “‘Walking Miracle’ stuns doctors.” The author then goes on to speak of Pastor Paul Wiekert and his recovery from surgery after the removal of a large, malignant tumor from behind his left eye last fall. The doctors said he would never walk again, he would lose his sight, and he would suffer slurred speech permanently. However he was back in his pulpit three weeks later, and “he didn’t even have a headache.” He underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment and has made what appears to be a full recovery. [A Threefold Cord, No. 1 Lent 1995, Box 428, Fairbank, IA]
Now the question. Was this, as the author suggests, a miracle? And I mean, a miracle in the New Testament sense? Now I am not questioning that God healed this pastor… he did! But was this a miracle? If you think about it… you will realize that if it was indeed a miracle in the New Testament sense… he wouldn’t have had to have gone to a doctor. Neither would he have had to wait three weeks to get back into his pulpit. Neither would he have had to undergo seven weeks of radiation treatment. And neither would it only ‘appear’ that he has made a full recovery. Remember, the New Testament Miracles were, immediate, complete, radical and demonstrable! Remember, ‘Our Lord and his disciples never did a miracle slowly or incompletely.’
I also think of a young three year old who was struck by a car some years ago. It was a miracle that she was even alive. Some thought it would have been better if she had been allowed to die because of the concern over certain brain damage and disfigurement. In this case everything medically possible was done… but there was also prayer and the anointing of oil by the elder’s of the congregation of which this girl’s family was a member. Unbelievable as it might seem, this girl fully recovered from her injuries. There was no brain damage although there was some permanent scaring. Was this a miracle in the New Testament sense? Again, I think not. Did God heal in a most marvelous way? Yes!
I am also reminded of a former teaching associate of mine. This teacher was a devout Christian lady. Interestingly, this was an incident she had not shared with too many people, it was something very special between her and her God. One day this lady realized something was wrong with her eye and went to a ophthalmologist (it turns out it was a doctor I myself had used – a well known surgeon) and he discovered a retina detachment. This was a few years ago now so they did things a little differently than they do today, she was sent immediately to the Mayo Clinic.
It was as she sat waiting for a few moments in the Mayo Clinic that she realized that in the receiving the bad news, and her rush to get to the Mayo Clinic, she had failed to make this a matter of prayer. So, there in the waiting room, she turned to God in prayer. She asked forgiveness for her failure to turn first to the ‘Great Physician,’ and she asked that, with regard to this serious eye problem, his will be done.
She was called in to the examination room. The specialist examined her and could find nothing wrong. She was sent back to her own ophthalmologist, himself a specialist in out-state Minnesota, and he too could find no indication of the tear he had seen all to clearly only hours earlier. This doctor, as well as this woman, was convinced, this was a miracle! This was extraordinary… it could not be explained in terms of ordinary natural forces… there was no explanation other than the intervention of God. Was this a miracle in the New Testament sense? In some ways I would have to say yes. There seemed to be evidence that this was a healing that was immediate, complete, radical and demonstrable. On the other hand, it is interesting to note there was no human agent involved in this healing. There was only (and I don’t in any way want to minimize the importance and significance of this) the fervent prayer of one of God’s children in which the situation was laid out before the Lord and the request made, “Thy will be done.”
I also bring to mind one final example. I believe it was at a mission conference I attended some time ago when a speaker shared how he found himself on a trans-Atlantic flight. This fellow found himself with a seat partner with whom he found he was unable to communicate. Neither of them knew the language of the other. After they were into the flight for some time, this fellow sensed a real burden to share the gospel with his seat mate. But there was the very real barrier of language. Quietly he prayed for an answer. And the next thing he knew he was speaking this other fellow’s language. And for the rest of the flight, over a period of several hours, they shared together on the things of God. When this fellow debarked from the plane, his ‘gift’ of language was gone. And he was never again able to speak that language (whatever it was), nor did he ever again have a similar experience.
Was this a miracle in the New Testament sense of the word? It seems quite obvious doesn’t it? God can work, and when the situation warrants it, he will work in what can be described in no other way, than in truly miraculous ways. But what is his normal manner of his working? There seems to be little question but that the Lord generally works quietly and often behind the scenes. We are reminded of this when we bring that scene on Mt. Horub to mind. “The Lord was not in the strong wind, nor in the storm, nor in the earth-quake, but in the still small voice” [Koch. p. 7.]. Today we must remember this afresh. God does not speak to us in ecstasy, nor in the noise and hysteria of so-called supernatural experiences. Loss of restraint and self-control is not a sign of His presence. Our God is a God of order. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of power, and of live, and of discipline.
AND WHAT MIGHT BE PRESCRIPTIVE FOR US AND FOR THE CHURCH TODAY?
Luther understood the church on earth as that place where the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered. This strongly suggests that Christian worship is not some ‘stage show,’ it is not ‘crowd manipulation,’ it is not some sort of ‘pep fest,’ but it is where God’s people gather for the proclamation of the Word and participation in the Sacraments. It is through these means that the Holy Spirit gifts his people, first of all with salvation, and then with such other gifts as he will, to edify his church.
Does such an understanding of the function of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer diminish one’s understanding and experience of the power of God in one’s life and in the world? I don’t believe so. God, and his power, authority and dominion are far beyond any human attempt to understand these things. And this is where faith enters the picture. Faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is accepting what we don’t know and understand as real and factual. How can the written Word, and how can participation in the Sacraments lead to saving faith? I don’t really know. But God’s Word tells me it does, and he promises that “whoever believes in [the one and only Son of God] shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is by faith that I must accept this as possible and true. I can’t ‘see’ the truth of it, I can only accept the word and testimony of Holy Scripture. What is ‘ultimate’ is something we cannot experience with the senses. So let us not seek for ‘proof signs’ which our Lord plainly said would not be given us. [Matthew 16:4.] What is ‘ultimate’ is objective truth which must be accepted by faith. But there is a reward for such faith. For by faith, even by faith which to some may appear to be ‘blind faith,’ the believer can come to an assurance of the truth of God until the day when ‘faith will be made sight.’ [See Hebrews 11:1 and John 17:8:32 ]
So, what is prescriptive for the believer today? First and foremost, be in the Word. Meditate on the Word (Psalm 1:2). Secondly, since it is clear that the Holy Spirit of God works with us through Word and Sacrament, it is imperative that that we are consistent and faithful in worship. Thirdly, since prayer is the ‘breathing of new life’ the believer will want to spend time, daily, in prayer. A part of that prayer time ought to be spent in asking that God would gift as he sees fit [I Corinthians 12, with special emphasis on asking to be gifted with the greatest gift of all, that of love (I Corinthians 13)] and that the Holy Spirit would then give the willingness, wisdom and strength to put that gift(s) to use for the “common good.” Praying further, that the Holy Spirit would help the believer to “live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5) and specifically, that the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-26) might be born out in one’s life to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31) and in witness to the world (Matt. 5:16)..
And then… to focus in more with regard to the topic at hand… there should be no hesitancy to look to God for help in times of need and trouble. After all, God has invited us to do so. Time and again, and all through Scripture, we hear God informing us that if we call on him, he will answer. And in this regard we would do well to practice what James lays out for us in the fifth chapter of his Epistle. “Is any one of you in trouble? he should pray… Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up… The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16). Trusting in God’s promises, the believer places his or her concerns in the hands of God and leaves it in the wisdom, mercy, and grace of God, as to how he (God) will answer.
And finally, if, as a believer, one finds that they have been ‘gifted’ in a rather unique and special way – no matter what that gift might be – that person must always keep in mind that the gift has been given for the “common good” and is to be used, with deep humility, to the glory of God.
APPENDIX
The Issue Of The Decline Of The Gifts
In his volume, Karl Koch addresses the issue in the context of the ‘tongues’ issue. “Whoever is acquainted with the early history of Christianity knows that the gift of tongues slowly dies out. In its place came the written word, the collection of New Testament writings.” [Koch., p. 41.]
In considering the question of decline, it should be recognized that there are at least three viewpoints on this issue. There is the view that the gift of tongues has in fact not been decreasing but to the contrary, it has been increasing. There is the view that the gift of tongues completely ceased by the end of the second century AD. The third viewpoint does not rule out the possibility of speaking in tongues today, but is strongly opposed to what we find in the present day tongues movement. [Ibid., p. 40]
As we consider the gift of tongues we must consider it in light of the various epochs in God’s revelation to humankind which we find recorded in the Bible. The experiences of the children of Israel just before and then following the exodus from Egypt would be one such epoch. While in Egypt there was no need of miracles. However God did intervene while they were in the wilderness with his sending of manna. When the children of Israel reached the land of Canaan there was no longer a need for such intervention . However, the times of the prophets Elijah and Elisha mark another epoch. Their miracles, signs and prophecies are another stage in God’s revelation to humankind. The gift of tongues was, in a similar sense, intended, and reserved, for a particular time in history. From the pages of the New Testament as well as from church history we know that the gift of tongues diminished, and ceased by the end of the second century. [Ibid., p. 40, 41.]
Also, if one reads the places in Acts which deal with the gift of tongues and where the Holy Spirit came upon all people, you will see that in every case all the people involved spoke in tongues. If one then moves to examine Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, you will note that in Corinth it was no longer the case that everyone spoke in tongues. In 1 Corinthians 12:30 Paul asks the rethorical question, “Do all speak in tongues?” He wished to say, “No, not everyone speaks in tongues.” [Ibid., p. 41]. So within the New Testament we have within 20 years of the original out pouring of the Holy Spirit, an obvious decline in the gift of speaking in tongues. It is also noteworthy that after the writing of the first letter to the Corinthians, the issue of tongues is never again mentioned in the New Testament.
While this may sound to many like dispensationalism, I would remind you that the author here quoted is a Lutheran theologian. Likewise, no less a theologian than R. C. H. Lenski writes, “These signs were thus credentials for the apostles and their gospel message, seals that proved their message genuine and exhibited the fact that the living and risen Jesus was present with them and working through them… The miraculous gifts were seals that were appended to the gospel preaching in the early days only.” [Lenski., p. 768 and p. 771.]
“They followed those that came to faith (v. 17, the verb is in the aorist), and even then not promiscuously and like a common thing but in given cases as the Spirit saw fit. When sufficient attestations were provided, these miraculous gifts ceased; for those recorded in Scripture were sufficient and stand today as signs and credentials for us, just as if they had been wrought before our eyes. To call for an endless line of signs declares only that the original signs were not enough. But the Lord does not discredit himself and his promised signs in such a foolish way.” {Ibid., p. 771]
I believe Luther also saw this as being a very important function of miracles at the time of the apostles. They “declared the Word of God alone and confirmed it by miraculous signs as it stands in the text… and they went forth and preached in all places and their words were confirmed by the signs which followed” (Mark 16:20). [WA 10 III, 145,6-146,21.]. Luther and Lenski and neither would Koch be considered dispensationalists, yet all seem to agree with the understanding that a major function, if not the function of miracles in the first century, was the authenticating of the message and the messenger. And that following this early function, and expecially following the setting of the canon of the New Testament Scriptures, the need for ‘signs and wonders’ ceased.