Tag Archives: spiritual gifts

Most charismatics are closet cessationists

Until recently I was a fence-sitter on the continuation/cessation of spiritual gifts debate topic, never really researching it enough to pick a side.  My position was that while the gifts could continue, I’d never seen them done properly (e.g., those enamored with the gift of tongues never obeyed the handful of verses governing their use, the faith healers were obvious fakes, etc.).  Other than some “sloppy God talk” that I’ve addressed many times, I never went to a church where leaders took things too far (e.g., the Benny Hinn / Bill Johnson – Bethel / etc. nonsense).  And most importantly, I didn’t understand that the point of cessationism isn’t that all gifts ceased, just the apostolic gifts.

Now that I’ve done more research (including reading Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur) and understand the history and Bible verses better, I’m a cessationist.

But in a very real and relevant sense, both sides are cessasionists, just with one side being less so than the other.  Many who believe in the continuation of the “sign” gifts (healings, tongues, prophecies) are very sound when it comes to the essentials of the faith, the inerrancy of scripture, etc. , yet they concede that many things have indeed ceased since the 1st century.  Consider these:

  • The canon of scripture is closed.  Even when you point out the claims made by books like Jesus Calling, which insist that the authors heard directly from Jesus, the continuationists don’t think that anything should be added to the Bible.
  • The New Testament-style healings have ceased.  The healings of Jesus and his apostles were vastly different from what charismatics claim to do today.  Biblical healings were 100% successful, immediate and public.  The continuationists explicitly redefine “healings” to be private, partial and not always successful — and of course, dependent on the faith of the healer and/or the sick person.
  • Things like Philip’s miraculous transportation to see the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 ceased.  If Charismatic leaders thought that sort of thing continued they wouldn’t ask for money to buy top end jets.
  • Things like Paul’s encounter with the snake in Acts 28 have ceased.  Wait, I take that back . . . some Pentecostal pastor did try to replicate that.  And died.
  • Church discipline a la Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 has ceased.  Ironically, if it hadn’t ceased, these Charismatic leaders would be the first to be slain for lying about the Holy Spirit.
  • The office of apostle has ceased.  Even charlatans like Bill Johnson and Bethel don’t embrace the “New Apostolic Reformation” tag (although their buddies consider them part of it).
  • The gift of foreign language tongues has ceased.  In Acts 2, people miraculously spoke in foreign languages that they previously didn’t know, and the other references to tongues use the same terms.  Continuationists explicitly redefine what “speaking in tongues” means because none of them have that gift of speaking in foreign languages.  That is why their “tongues” aren’t recognizable to anyone.
  • Infallible prophets ceased.  Continuationists explicitly redefine what prophecy is to allow for the obvious errors of their “prophets.” In the Bible, prophets had to be 100% right 100% of the time – and the penalties for being wrong were severe.  The charismatic “prophets” readily concede many errors and can’t name a single infallible prophet among them, yet they cling to their belief that their random correct “prophesies” are divinely inspired.  They have to ignore 2 Peter 1:21 and more to do that (For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit).
  • The receiving of gifts has also been redefined.  In the Bible, the gifts were immediate and full.  With the continuationists you usually need to be trained to heal, prophesy or speak in tongues — hence the Harry Potter Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (it makes up for its cost by being unaccredited).

That is a significant list of things that we agree have ceased or significantly changed.  So there is no debate with these folks that some things have ceased, just about what other things have ceased.

And I think it is significant that, as noted above, they have had to redefine healings, tongues and fallability of prophets from the original biblical definitions and even the nature of what a gift is.  That is a huge liability for them.   If the three main things they focus on don’t resemble what we see in the Bible and now you have to be trained in the “gifts,” have they truly continued?

And even with the redefined gifts, did they really continue?  No.  History is clear that they did not, so the continuationists need to twist scripture to say that they did cease for 19 centuries but are back now.  Again, most agree that even the redefined gifts didn’t exist during that time frame.

Other considerations:

  • If babble tongues (my term for non-real foreign language tongues)  is a gift of the spirit, why do some fringe Catholics and many other non-Christians practice them?  Since when does the Holy Spirit give supernatural gifts to non-believers?
  • These healing ministries unwittingly breed contempt for those without enough “faith” to be healed.  The sick and hurting people feel pressure to at least show some improvement so they don’t let the healers down or give “evidence” of a lack of faith.    Then groups like Bethel chalk up those improvements (not even full healings) as miracles.
  • John Piper acknowledged that one charismatic leader was completely wrong about multiple prophecies about him, but then was impressed when the guy got one right about someone else.  But the prophecy was about a guy who was nervous about whether a visa was going to come through.  How do people like Piper forget about Satan and his demons?!   The man’s visa issues were easily known to the demons, and the “prophet” got one right.  So what?  But Piper et al have let the charismatics’ redefinition of a prophet stand, so they can’t be dismissed even when they get loads of prophesies wrong.
  • If the gifts have really continued, why would the charismatics have to argue for their position and not just show us with legitimate signs and wonders?

So many things have ceased and even those that allegedly continued have significantly different definitions, which would make them more like new gifts — if real — than continued ones.  How is that biblical?

One of the biggest problems with the continuationist/charismatic movement is that it conditions people to look outside the Bible for new revelations and experiences.  It also encourages people to speak for God when He hasn’t spoken.  And it makes newer believers question their faith unnecessarily since God isn’t “speaking” to them that way. Those things are dangerous and blasphemous.  The movement claims to be all about the Holy Spirit but they ignore what He really does and fixate on things that He doesn’t do.   Giving lip service to the Bible while constantly seeking experiences and allegedly new revelations from God is not Christianity.

Exodus 27-28

ex27.jpgGreetings!  I’ll concede up front that I don’t have a lot to say about these directions!

The Altar of Burnt Offering

27     “Build an altar of acacia wood, three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. 2 Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze. 3 Make all its utensils of bronze—its pots to remove the ashes, and its shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. 4 Make a grating for it, a bronze network, and make a bronze ring at each of the four corners of the network. 5 Put it under the ledge of the altar so that it is halfway up the altar. 6 Make poles of acacia wood for the altar and overlay them with bronze. 7 The poles are to be inserted into the rings so they will be on two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain.

This is where animal sacrifices were constantly made.  The Israelites would see it first upon entering the couryard.  It would be a constant reminder of the gravity of their sins and the need to make sacrifices for them.  Hebrews 10 describes how Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice.

I know that most Protestants use crosses without the body of Christ on them because it reminds us that, “It is finished.”  But I think there is value in seeing crucifixes as well (crosses with Jesus on them).  Seeing Jesus on the cross is a stark reminder of what He did for us.

The Courtyard

9 “Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains of finely twisted linen, 10 with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 11 The north side shall also be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts.

12 “The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. 13 On the east end, toward the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide. 14 Curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, 15 and curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on the other side, with three posts and three bases.

16 “For the entrance to the courtyard, provide a curtain twenty cubits long, of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer—with four posts and four bases. 17 All the posts around the courtyard are to have silver bands and hooks, and bronze bases. 18 The courtyard shall be a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide, with curtains of finely twisted linen five cubits high, and with bronze bases. 19 All the other articles used in the service of the tabernacle, whatever their function, including all the tent pegs for it and those for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.

Oil for the Lampstand

20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

The Priestly Garments

28     “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. 3 Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. 5 Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.

The Ephod

6 “Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of a skilled craftsman. 7 It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. 8 Its skillfully woven waistband is to be like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen.

9 “Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel 10 in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. 11 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings 12 and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. 13 Make gold filigree settings 14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings.

Note the detail and how God knew just what He wanted.  God used skilled craftsmen to build these things.  He has given each of us many talents to use in service to him.  I encourage everyone to think seriously about their gifts and talents and how to serve the Lord.  I spoke on this during a Laity Sunday Sermon in October, 2007.  Here are a few ways to assess your gifts and talents:

  • What do you think they are?
  • What do others say?
  • Take surveys
  • What do you like to do?
  • Try things and see what you like

The Breastpiece

15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of a skilled craftsman. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. In the first row there shall be a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; 18 in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald; 19 in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; 20 in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

22 “For the breastpiece make braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. 23 Make two gold rings for it and fasten them to two corners of the breastpiece. 24 Fasten the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, 25 and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. 26 Make two gold rings and attach them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. 27 Make two more gold rings and attach them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam just above the waistband of the ephod. 28 The rings of the breastpiece are to be tied to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband, so that the breastpiece will not swing out from the ephod.

29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.

The Urim and Thummim were some type of rocks used to make decisions at times.

Other Priestly Garments

31 “Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, 32 with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. 33 Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34 The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. 35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.

36 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE Lord. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.

39 “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. 40 Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron’s sons, to give them dignity and honor. 41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.

42 “Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. 43 Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Note the reminders to do things a certain way so that they would not die!  God was quite serious about how the Israelites were to worship.