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Section 8B ... Controversial Issues/
Cessationism

 

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Cessationism... Part II

Are Miraculous Gifts Of The Spirit For Today?

Carol Brooks

 There is a middle ground between expecting daily revelations on the one hand, and basing decisions solely on logic and common sense on the other. But, sadly, neither those who are for cessationism nor those that are against seems to come to the table untainted by preconceived ideas and denominational bias..

PART I Previous Page

Introduction
Biblical History Of Miracles
The Reasons Miracles Happened

Proof Texts
Hebrews 2: 1-4
1 Corinthians 13:8-12..

The “Perfect”, “Face to Face” and ‘Know Fully’
Ephesians 2:20
 Have Apostles And Prophets Ceased To Exist?

What "Apostles" and "Prophets" was Paul Talking About?
The Apostles, The Prophets and The Vital Role of The Old Testament Prophets....

Functions of The Office of a Prophet Vs. The Gift Of Prophecy
Authority, The Canon, Edification And Exhortation, Convincing and Convicting The Unbeliever

Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 4:11.. Prophets Vs. prophets

Examples of Genuine Modern Day Prophets

False Apostles and False Prophets
Testing Prophecy
 

PART II... THIS PAGE

The Acts Of The Apostles

Greater Works

Then And Now
Modern Day Prophecy.. Justice Delayed, Not Denied, Warnings to Those Who Listen to False Prophets
Direct Revelation, Miracles, Healing, Word of Knowledge, Exorcism and Tongues

So What Happened?

Gifts of The Spirit Confused With Occult Techniques and Manifestations

Evidence For Sporadic Continuance of The Gifts

The Down Side of Miracles and Healing

Conclusion
Throwing The Baby Out With The Bath Water

 


The Acts Of The Apostles.
The phrase "sign gifts" is not found anywhere in the Scriptures, but was coined to refer to exactly what they were.. "signs" or miraculous gifts to show that God was doing something new. Therefore we cannot put all the gifts of the Spirit into the same category, but have to distinguish between the temporary "sign gifts" and permanent "gifts of the Spirit", or assistance gifts (for want of a better term).

The events that transpired in the book of Acts can not be taken as the standard for the church over all the centuries since. The book of Acts is exactly what the name implies... the acts of The Apostles. Absolutely nothing says that the supernatural happenings that occurred then are to be duplicated, far less exceeded, by the modern church.

    Note that the Third Wave emphasizes that effective evangelism can not take place without signs, wonders and miracles which is why Jack Deere for one makes every effort to discredit the idea that the sign gifts were closely associated with the original Apostles, claiming that the appeal to 2 Corinthians 12:12 to substantiate signs and wonders to authenticate the Apostles is misapplied. [Details]

Just because the apostles could heal at will does not mean that every believer has the ability to lay his hands of a sick person and heal them. In fact not all Christians in the New Testament could heal or perform other miracles. Acts 5:12-16 tells us that the believers had to bring their sick to the apostles for healing...

    And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. [Acts 5:12-16]

When one of the disciples Dorcas died in Joppa, the believers did not try themselves to raise her from the dead, but instead sent for Peter who was near by in the town of Lydda. Peter came immediately and resurrected her. [Acts 9:36-41].


Greater Works
Many Charismatics will quote Jesus' words in John 14:12 ...

    Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. [John 14:12]

... arguing that Jesus healed everyone who came to Him for healing, and since He said that we would do greater, works than He did, everyone we pray for to be healed, should be healed.

However there are several inescapable problems with this reasoning. The word "greater" can only refer to either quantity or quality, or a combination of the two. However, as far as we know, even the works of the apostles did not exceed those of Jesus in power nor number. Jesus healed the sick and so did some of the other apostles. Raising the dead is arguably is the ultimate supernatural miracle, which both Peter and Paul performed. However there is no record of either of them raising more dead people than Jesus did.

Not only were Jesus' miracles not exceeded by those of the apostles, but the modern church has fallen far short of "greater works". in spite of all the hype to the contrary, no person, group nor period since the apostles has seen any increase in number or quality of miracles. It is patently obvious that not every sick person prayed for, even by the leaders of the Health-Wealth gospel, is healed. In fact it would be accurate to say that regardless of grandiose claims to the contrary, most people prayed for today are not miraculously healed.

So, if Jesus was referring only to physical healing when He told the apostles that they would do "greater" works than He did, He was guilty of false prophesy. And since we can safely rule out that possibility, we have to face the fact that the word "greater" cannot refer to the miracles themselves. So what then did Jesus mean?

The only accomplishment of the apostles that was "greater" than that of the Messiah was the sheer numbers that became believers through their preaching (also authenticated by miracles). The ministry of Christ was confined to a relatively small geographical area and witnessed by few, whereas immense multitudes were brought to God by the ministry of the apostles who took the Gospel to the Gentiles, as well as beyond the boundaries of Judea... thus establishing the foundations of the church in all the earth.

The word "greater" here is used, therefore, not to denote the number of miracles or how much power it took to accomplish them, but the effect that they would have on mankind.


Then And Now
It is very clear that the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing etc. are, for the most part, different from what we read in the New Testament. In the New Testament the apostles could apparently heal at will, but in our world healing is not the result of the 'gift of healing', but the result of prayer. With few exceptions Tongues are gibberish now, whereas they were a known language in the early church. The modern world has not seen miracles that even remotely resemble the miracles of the Old Testament, nor the 'sign gifts' of the first century.

And, while I do not know what transpires in small churches around the world, much of the so called...


Modern Day Prophecy
made in very public forums is nothing but an endless torrent of mind numbing drivel proceeding out of the mouths of a myriad of phony prophets, which should do nothing but give one a sense of Déjà Moo... The distinct feeling one has heard all this bull before.

In the modern church there are a plethora of so called prophets who constantly blurt out non-specific prophecies, which cannot be tested objectively and could be made up by any Christian on the spot. Additionally there are well-advertised and well-known self-proclaimed 'prophets' who make many specific prophecies that are never assessed, some even made on national television. It is a sad reflection on the church when Christians have become so used to hearing these people's 'thus saith the Lord', that it seems by the time the next service rolls around everyone has totally forgotten what was said the week, or even the day before.

Rick Joyner, who is one of the leaders of the Dominionist movement. [See Dominion Theology... The Stench And Foul Smell Of Joel’s Army] is also head of MorningStar Ministries, senior pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church and author of more than thirty books, says the general level of prophetic revelation in the church is not very high [Emphasis Added]

    “Bob Jones was told that the general level of prophetic revelation in the church was about 65% accurate at this time. Some are only about 10% accurate, a very few of the most mature prophets are approaching 85% to 95% accuracy. Prophecy is increasing in purity, but there is a still a long way to go for those who walk in this ministry. This is actually grace for the church now, because 100% accuracy in this ministry would bring a level of accountability to the church which she is too immature to bear at this time. It would result in too many Annaniases and Sapphiras" [7].

Also See Rick Joyner and False Prophecy

So, how in the world are we supposed to know which of the prophecies or pronouncements by this supposed voice of God is accurate? Come to think, of it how does the so called apostle or prophet himself know which of God's supposed revelation falls into the 10-65% accurate category, and which do not. Consider these words by Jeremiah and Ezekiel

    Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. [Jeremiah 14:14]

    Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. [Jeremiah 23:16]

    This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! [Ezekiel 13:3]

    Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, "The LORD declares," when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. [Ezekiel 13:6]

Jesus

    "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [Matthew 7:15]

    and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. [Matthew 24:11]

    For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. [Matthew 24:24]

and John who instructed people to "test" all pretensions to divine inspiration...

    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

And how does one "test" these spirits? Didn't God Himself say

    “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message that the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoke presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him”. Deuteronomy 18:21.

Saying that "100% accuracy in this ministry would bring a level of accountability to the church which she is too immature to bear at this time" is some of the worst hogwash I have ever read written, I strongly suspect, to make excuses for the false prophets/apostles who are not 100% right because they are not speaking for God who is always 100% right.

These false prophets not only do untold harm to God's people, but also make the church look very foolish in the eyes of unbelievers. [See False Prophets]. They are an abomination to the Lord and a blot on His name and, in spite of all the warnings in the Scriptures, apparently haven't given much thought to what their end will be in the hands of an exceedingly angry God.

Besides which when were the people of God not held to a high standard of accountability? A few Annaniases and Sapphiras might actually do a lot of good in today's church by reminding people that their soppy, sentimental version of God solely as a benevolent grandfather in the sky is not accurate. [See The Wrath of God]. However the fact that people are not struck down in the here and now, does not mean that justice will not come.


Justice Delayed, Not Denied
The word “apostolos" simply means an ambassador or envoy sent as an authoritative representative. In other words, he represents the One who sent him. Obviously no ambassador can contradict the sender. He has to uphold the sender's policy without deviation, communicating exactly the same message given him by the sender. If his policy or message differs from the one he purports to represent, he is a false apostle. Consider this... How long do you think the Ambassador of a country would last if, during his term abroad, he completely contradicted the policies of his home land? He would be recalled in short order in complete disgrace and may even, in some countries pay a very heavy price for his irresponsibility. In every case he would be required to give an accounting of himself.

And so too with Christianity.

    Just because God's day of wrath and judgment has not yet come, we would be foolish to assume that justice delayed is justice denied. The false apostles and prophets will also have to give an accounting of themselves on judgment day and will pay a very heavy price when the Lord tells them …. "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" [Matthew 7:23].


Warnings to Those Who Listen to False Prophets:
But what most Christians do not seem to realize is that willing listeners who have given false prophets credence will face an equally severe judgment as those who done the actual prophesying, since the Lord made it an extremely simple matter to distinguish a false prophet from a real one, which He did FOR OUR PROTECTION. Listeners, who give credit to falsehoods, without bothering to follow God’s instructions on how to test prophecy, will not be excused on the grounds that they were lied to. Jeremiah said

    An astonishing and horrible thing is come to pass in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? [Jeremiah 5:30-31. Emphasis Added]

And warns

    Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them-them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. [Jeremiah 14:15-16. Emphasis Added]


Direct Revelation
Also called a 'hot line to God'. It is exceedingly common to hear "Jesus told me to" do this or that, and "The Holy Spirit led me to...". Unfortunately great deceptions have occurred as many people have been 'led' to do something that is totally unbiblical such as leave their wives or get a divorce. The leading of the Holy Spirit can never contradict clear Bible principles and any one who believes that their circumstances are 'special' is vastly deluded.

It has been forgotten that it was not everyone in ancient Israel who directly heard from God. The nation obeyed the voice of God through the few prophets who heard directly from Him. While the vast majority of people were tootling off to the temple with their turtledoves, Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple". (Isaiah 6.)

Again many orthodox Christians, in the attempt to put God in a box, reject any form of communication between Him and ordinary man, while many Evangelicals and Charismatics give us the impression that they have lengthy conversations with Him on a regular basis, a privilege that wasn't granted to a single person in the Bible, except the Son of man. Are we to believe that the Lord walks into a room and says “Hey! Jesse! (according to Jesse Duplantis), yet the prophet Isaiah said "Woe is me for I have seen the Lord" and Daniel, a man greatly beloved, fell on his face at the sight of an angel. Or does it make more sense to believe that Jesse Duplantis is a vastly deluded man.

It is well to remember that the Lord only spoke directly to a very few select people, usually for His own purposes, but speak He did, and speak He still does.


Miracles and Healing...
are mentioned as separate gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

    And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Although healing is a miracle in itself, it obviously refers to restoring a person to mental or physical health, while miracles can go beyond healing the sick and often involve superseding the laws of nature... as when God parted the Read Sea or caused the sun to stand still.

Apart from the fact that merely claiming to heal a disease or exorcise a demon does not mean that one actually does so, the healings alleged to be brought about by modern 'faith healers' bear no resemblance to the healing miracles in the Bible. There were no "healing services" and no need for the 'right atmosphere'. Christ and the apostles healed people in front of unbelievers right out on the street or in public places, often healing those who were widely known to have a particular and usually incurable, illness or deformity. For example...

    The healing of the man with the withered hand was done in the synagogue on the Sabbath in full view of the Scribes and Pharisees. [Luke 6: 6-10]

    Jesus publicly healed the man who couldn't walk for thirty-eight years, and who lay daily by the pool of Bethesda hoping for a miracle. [John 5:2-15]

    When Jesus restored sight to the man who had been born blind it was obviously done on the street in public... "... as he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth" (John 9:1).

    When Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives one of the people with him drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus healed the man in front of the "multitude" including "chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders", that had come against him [Luke 22:49-52]

    Similarly, Peter healed a man lame from birth who had to be carried to the gate of the temple so he could beg alms. Afterward, the people "knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what happened to him” (Acts 3:10). This miracle was so public that even the "rulers and elders and scribes" who were gathered together in Jerusalem and who were considered the enemies of Christ, could not deny what had happened. As they said "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been wrought through them, is manifest to all that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it". [Acts 4:16. Emphasis Added]

    When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the miracle was seen by 'many of the Jews" who then "believed on him".

    In Luke 7 Jesus literally interrupted a funeral procession and raised the son of a widow who was obviously already dead.

It is only Acts 20:7-20 that records a healing taking place during a gathering of believers, or what could be loosely termed a "church service". Eutychus, one of the people present, dozed off during Paul's discourse, and fell three stories to his death. Paul immediately went down and brought him back to life and back to the service, after which the congregation proceeded to break bread and talk until daylight. The healing was not intended to be part of the meeting, but was simply a response to an unexpected emergency. Additionally, Christ and the apostles

    were able to heal everyone who believed, and at least one that was probably not looking for nor expecting a healing. See Acts 4:16 above. (Luke 4:40; Acts 5:12-16; 28:9)

    were able to heal crippled bodies and birth defects (Luke 6:6, 17; John 9:7; Acts 3:6-8; 5:16; 8:7).

    healed instantaneously (Matthew 8:13; Mark 5:29; Acts 9:32-35).

    healed totally, not partially (John 9:7; Acts 9:34).

    healed many people with a word or touch (e.g., Matthew 8:6-7; Acts 9:32-35).

Modern 'faith healers' do not do what Christ and the apostles did and perform a public healing on someone that the entire community knows was crippled. One has to wonder why they never heal anyone in a mall or a public library, but only in a controlled environment, and according to the healer's schedule. They carefully set the stage (and the atmosphere) with much rah-rah to get the level of hype up, before any professed healing can actually take place. They are not known to walk into a hospital and heal a stranger in full view of the medical staff. Nor have they ever openly walked up to a coffin at a funeral and simply spoken words of life to the dead. (There have been stories on Christian television shows of those who supposedly died and then came back to life, but these stories cannot be verified.)

[See Section Is Physical Healing Included In The Atonement?]


Word of Knowledge
Most, if not all, 'faith-healers' use what they call a word of knowledge, where they will stand on stage and say that there is someone in the back of the auditorium who has been suffering from 'breathing problems'. When someone acknowledges the ailment, the 'healer' will then tell the person to come forward and/or "receive" their miracle. There are two main problems with this 'technique'.

    1) There is not a shred of evidence to show that any of the miracles that took place in the Bible were based on a word of knowledge.

    2) This word of knowledge is very non-specific. What are the odds that in an auditorium that holds thousands of people there will not be at least one person, if not many more, with breathing or back 'problems', or some other kind of physical ailment that can fall under a very generalized heading.

Physical healing is not only occasional in the church today but it is almost always the result of prayer as outlined by James

    Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. [James 5:13-15] 

Besides which, for the most part the 'faith healers' have very slipshod and un-Biblical theology. Most of any of them have made much money and live lavish life-styles. Since the Spirit of truth does not authenticate heretics, it is impossible that the Lord would grant men such as these real gifts of the Spirit, which leads one to wonder if it is possible that an occasional real 'miracle' (not imagined nor temporary) happens and, if so, how it happens.

Lets get real to the fact that Satan can and does pull off many signs and wonders of his own.

See Video Are All Miracles From God? on THIS page (Scroll about two thirds of the way down).

Why? Well, consider it would serve his purpose very well to dole out the occasional healing just to keep the ball rolling. After all it does 'prove' that the faith healer is 'genuine' and a real 'man of God', therefore any heresy that comes out of his mouth is accepted as gospel truth. An excellent strategy from Satan's point of view. Remember our Lord's words in Matthew 24:24

    For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. [Also See Deuteronomy 13:1-3].


Exorcism
Everything said about healings in the Bible, also applies to exorcism. In the New Testament, demons that had possessed a person were banished publicly and instantaneously, without any preliminaries whatsoever. (Luke 13:32; 10:17; Acts 10:38). Exorcisms today often require elaborate preparation and repeated 'sessions', and are never performed in public. Yet few, if any, are successful.


Tongues
The argument for and against tongues is similar to the argument for and against the other supernatural gifts. A large number of Charismatics and Pentecostals have taken a completely lop-sided view of speaking in tongues, claiming that tongues is an outward manifestation of salvation. In other words, if a person does not speak in tongues they are not saved... this in spite of the fact that 1 Corinthians 12-14 clearly teaches all do not speak in tongues. On the other hand, many orthodox Christians take a diametrically opposing view, claiming that no one speaks in tongues today.

One of the arguments against tongues is that present day tongues are to be counted as new revelation which must be equal to the Scriptures and since the Bible is a closed canon, tongues (and any word of prophecy) could not possibly be valid. However, in this regard there is no difference between the gift of prophecy and tongues, since Scripture itself recognizes inspired revelation that was not to be added to the Bible: [See The Canon under Functions of The Office of a Prophet Vs. The Gift Of Prophecy in Part I

    "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Corinthians 14:26).

However the Biblical gift of tongues was a known human language, though unknown to the speaker. Tongues today are little but gibberish that can not be translated nor interpreted.


So What Happened?
But, perhaps there is an answer to the question of why we are not seeing more genuine gifts of the spirit. Even during the Apostolic period, it was not only the Corinthians that had strayed off the path, but a great deal of error had crept into the church as a whole.

    As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned: from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm.
    [1Timothy 1:3-7]

    For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. [Titus 1:10-11]

However as long as the apostles were alive, there was some control over what was being taught in the churches. However with their passing, and as Christianity spread further and further afield, the situation gradually deteriorated, with perhaps no period as bad as the one we find ourselves in today. 

Brian Schwertley of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Waupaca County, Wisconsin says...

    Sadly, the Charismatic movement is turning from the purity of Reformation doctrine back toward the subjectivism, mysticism and superstition of Rome. Why would God withhold the miraculous sign gifts from the church for over 18 centuries and then restore them among people with a heretical understanding of salvation and a false doctrine of sanctification (i.e., the second blessing teaching)? Why didn't God restore the sign gifts to men like Luther, Calvin or Knox who were used by God to bring about a great revival of biblical Christianity? Does it make sense that God would ignore the Protestant Reformers yet give miraculous gifts to heretics like Charles F. Parham, Agnes Ozman and W. J. Seymour? The historical evidence is clear: the sign gifts ceased with the death of the apostles; what occurred among the Romanists and modern Charismatics is delusional, fraudulent and unscriptural. [8]

While he is right inasmuch as most of today's 'faith healers' have very slipshod and unbiblical theology. Many of any of them have made much money and live lavish life-styles. Since the Spirit of truth does not authenticate heretics, it is impossible that the Lord would grant men such as these real gifts of the Spirit.

While Christian did not have access to the Bible in his own language for many centuries, and Biblical ignorance was rampant, the fact that almost every person on earth can now access a Bible in his language seems not to have made near the difference it should have. On the contrary, an alarmingly large number of believers and churches in the modern world, have crossed an invisible boundary into the world of the occult in their quest for "spirituality". Worse, they have been led astray by the very ones that should have shepherded them to safety.


Gifts of The Spirit Confused With Occult Techniques and Manifestations
It is to our detriment that all too many of us are forgetting that the Bible tells us that the period of time close to the end of the age will see a rise in false prophets who perform miracles, prophesy, and cast out demons in Jesus' name (Matthew 7:22-23; 24:11-13, 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). False leaders who "fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) and teachers who will turn the faithful away from the truth to fables (2Timothy 4:3-4). But all this was not unforeseen. Paul warned

    I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears. [Acts 20:29-31]

    But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away. For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, [2 Timothy 3:1-6]

    For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

Contrary to what is trumpeted from stages around the world, Physical Healing is not included in the Atonement and God does not necessarily want us to be rich. It is deeply alarming that most Christians seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact that the principles of the Word-Faith movement being trumpeted from pulpits across the land, not only stems from the same occult sources as the spiritual movement known as New Thought, but uses exactly the same terminology and techniques.

[See Section The Word of Faith / Positive Confession... as applied to Prosperity and Healing]

Uncontrollable laughter and animal noises may be new to the church world, but the occult has known such phenomena for a long time. The Slain in the Spirit phenomena is not only unknown to the Bible, but bears an uncanny resemblance to the transference of  spiritual "power" or awakening from a Hindu Guru to a disciple. Both involve a touch to the forehead. In fact, the requirements for receiving are the same, the methods of transmissions are the same and the physical manifestations are the same.

See Kundalini And The So Called Revivals Compared and

Two Articles on Slain in The Spirit. Slain in The Spirit ISlain in The Spirit II

Also See Labyrinths and Mysticism in the Church

Besides which, the Lord is not in the business of miraculously filling teeth or gas tanks, fixing household appliances or raising pets from the dead. And anyone who thinks so either needs to get into a serious study of their Bibles starting from square one.

How can gifts of the Spirit function a body that is not only crippled and spiritually bankrupt, but often traitorous?

Yet, through it all there has been, and still is ...


Evidence For Sporadic Continuance of The Gifts
Some of the debate against the gifts continuing into the 21st century seems to have been fueled by an aversion to being associated with the extremist unscriptural beliefs, and often flamboyant claims of many Charismatics and tele-evangelists, who are not only an embarrassment to the church, but have already done untold harm to the people of God.

I have to wonder whether the effort to avoid being linked with this side of contemporary Christendom has led to a less than objective reading of the Scriptures. Brian Schwertley (quoted earlier) also says...

    The best way to understand the modern Charismatic movement and their use of the sign gifts is to look back at church history. B. B. Warfield did an intensive study of miracles and concluded that miracles did, in fact, cease after the death of the apostles. He noted that as heresy and superstition increased in the Papal church, so did the account of "miracles.” These miracles were obviously fraudulent, because they were associated with gross heresy, idolatry and superstition (e.g., being sprinkled with Mary's breast milk, or touching a piece of the "cross,” or placing the Eucharist on a person's forehead). The Reformation with its solid biblical theology, discarded all such nonsense and pointed people back to the pure, infallible, sufficient Word of God. [8]

But, what seems to have happened is that is the reformers in their effort to combat the heresy, and rank superstition, of the Catholic church decided to 'discard all such nonsense' and, in doing so, threw the baby out with the bath water. Not everyone who has experienced a miracle has placed a Eucharist on their forehead or touched a piece of the 'actual cross'. While the reformation rightly distanced itself from the beliefs and practices of the Catholic church, it had it's share of problems, which have continued into the present day.

Returning to the subject of the gifts of the Spirit...

The standard by which we ought to judge what we can expect in our churches today, and what we should pray for, is not what has or has not occurred in the life of one or more particular people in the past, regardless of how much we may admire them. Nor can it be based on the fear of the unknown, of being associated with off the wall teachings and churches, or even emotionalism.

Our only criteria for judging whether God wants to bestow certain spiritual gifts on his people today should be the Word of God.

Besides which, for someone to state that they have made a historical study of miracles and conclude that they ceased after the death of the apostles is about as absurd as the atheist claiming there is no God. For the atheist to make such a claim, they would have had to "exhaustively searched every part of every universe and dimension with an infallibly accurate method of detecting every non-physical entity that could possibly exist". Similarly Warfield could not possibly have had any way of hearing about every single miracle that took place over the centuries in churches and homes around the world.

As said by Sam Storms...

    We simply don’t know what was happening in the thousands upon thousands of churches and home meetings of Christians in centuries past. I cannot say with confidence that believers regularly prayed for the sick and saw them healed any more than you can say they didn’t. You cannot say they never prophesied to the comfort, exhortation, and consolation (1 Cor. 14:3) of the church any more than I can say they did. Neither of us can say with any confidence whether countless thousands of Christians throughout the inhabited earth prayed in tongues in their private devotions. That is hardly the sort of things for which we could expect extensive documentation. We must remember that this was long before the printing press or the advantages of mass media. The absence of documented evidence for spiritual gifts in a time when documented evidence for most of church life was, at best, sparse is hardly good grounds for concluding that such gifts did not exist. [9]

There is evidence that the gifts of the spirit have been in existence, although perhaps sporadically, throughout church history. Not only did, D.A. Carson, Canadian-born evangelical theologian and professor of New Testament, study the historical documentation and came to a different conclusion...

    "There is enough evidence that some form of "charismatic" gifts continued sporadically across the centuries of church history that it is futile to insist on doctrinaire grounds that every report is spurious or the fruit of demonic activity or psychological aberration." (D.A. Carson Showing the Spirit, Baker Academic (August 1, 1996) page 166.)

... but the writings of more than one of the early Christian theologians, teachers and/or bishops indicate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the second and possibly. even into the early third century (See Footnote I). Also, at a much more recent period, Spurgeon described in his autobiography what could easily be labeled prophecy (or even a word of knowledge), similar to what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. In Spurgeon's words

    “I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, ‘The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door’” [10].

Quoting Sam Storms once more...

    If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise! [9]

D.A. Carson certainly seemed to have been right.


The Down Side of Miracles and Healing
As said before,

    While it is true that many, if not most, of Jesus' miracles were performed to authenticate His person and mission, not all of them were. Because Jesus was and is a "reflection" of the Father (when people look at Jesus they see the Father), He also healed to acquaint people with the nature of God... not just His power but also His compassion.

This need still exists. There are still sick people.... there are still people who are hurting. And God still has compassion for these people.

However a miracle does not always have the desired effect. The problem being that, when something is given along with the Gospel, whether that something be a miraculous healing or a physical gift, there is always the danger of the physical, worldly gift upstaging the spiritual one.

John 6 tells us that when Jesus went to the other side of the sea of Galilee, a great multitude followed him, because they had seen Him heal the sick. Jesus then fed five thousand people with five loaves, and two fishes [5-13], which the people took as evidence of His divine mission, acknowledging Him to be the prophet that had come into the world [6:14] which had been promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. They were then disposed to make Jesus king. Jesus withdraws from them and later in the day, He and the disciples went to Capernaum and were followed by the people who crossed the sea in boats [6:16-24]. When they got to the other side, they asked Jesus why He had come to Capernaum, He replied that

    Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. [John 6:26]

In other words, it was unmitigated materialism that made the multitude follow Jesus. Even the signs of healing were eclipsed when people had the opportunity to fill their stomachs. They were looking for another free meal.

Is it any wonder that Jesus told those whom He healed to keep it to themselves.

Later on, in Samaria, the people saw healing the sick and casting out demons, which caused them to heed his words [Acts 8:6]. However these miracles also drew the attention of the sorcerer Simon who believed and was even baptized [Acts 8:13]. However when Simon saw that the Spirit was being bestowed through the laying on of the Apostles' hands, he offered them money saying, "saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit". He saw and believed the signs and miracles, but his greed for the power overshadowed the message behind the signs.

This seeking of the gifts instead of the Giver can have tragic consequences. People who are healed may not always turn to Jesus as the Messiah, in which case their situation becomes even worse than before their healing.

Remember Jesus' words when He warned the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida that, in the day of judgment, their fate would be far worse than that of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, in spite of the fact that these cities were very immoral. The reason? Unlike the other three, Chorazin and Bethsaida had seen incredible displays of His "mighty works" but had still not believed.

    Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [Matthew 11:21-24]

A miracle can actually become testimony against an individual, if it not followed by faith.

(Note: I owe my understanding of this topic to Gregory Koukl's article.... Signs & Wonders & Evangelism: The Down Side. http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5626)


Conclusion... Lets Not Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water
Not only do many churches today show a distinct lack of the more miraculous gifts of the spirit but, many of those that do, have vastly exaggerated these gifts. As has been shown there is little or no question that while healings and prophecy do happen today, there are no bona fide "faith healers", nor miracle workers. God no longer grants any individuals the ability to perform miracles at will, and no one fills the office of a prophet. The modern world has seen not miracles that even remotely resemble the miracles of the Old Testament, nor the 'sign gifts' of the first century.

But, sadly, neither side seems to come to the table untainted by preconceived ideas and denominational bias..

Much of the charismatic movement is anti-intellectual, with people literally being told not to think or study, but to simply feel and experience. They believe that God supernaturally guides them through their lives and that the only part of His Word that they actually need is the occasional verse with scant regard paid to whether the verse is in context or not [See Context is Crucial and Never Read A Bible Verse].  Using any level of discernment, or even comparing what is being said and taught with the Scriptures is seen as 'quenching the Holy Spirit' and 'putting God in a box'. They have completely forgotten that the gifts of the Spirit are to build up and encourage the church, not to provide any one person with ecstatic experiences, benefit them financially, or prove they are more spiritual than any one else.

On the other hand, let us not attempt to replace the fluff that all too commonly emanates from modern pulpits with doctrine that, equally, finds no place in the Scriptures..

Although it is true that charismatics often give a higher priority to experience over knowledge, orthodox Christians have all too often done exactly the opposite in giving a higher priority to knowledge over relationship. One is reminded of Jesus' words to the scribes and Pharisees, when He told them that they enter not into the kingdom of Heaven themselves and neither allow anyone else to enter. [Matthew 23:13]. Like the Sadducees of old, they know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29).

A God who works only through the structures set in place by the early church and no longer directly intervenes in our affairs, is a far cry from the Biblical image of a living God, who not only upholds the world day by day through his sovereign power, but who also listens to the prayers of his people, and works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). With the establishment of the early church, God the Father and God the Son did not go into temporary retirement, waiting for the time for the Son to come back to earth.

It is a secularized version of Christianity which merely give lip-service to God's providence. As said by Daniel B. Wallace

    Exegesis and apologetics are not the sum of the Christian life. Evidence alone cannot bridge the gap between us and God. [11]

The truth lies in between the two camps. There is a middle ground between

    "expecting daily revelations on the one hand, and basing decisions solely on logic and common sense on the other". [11]

We are not 'thinking machines' but people created with emotions and feelings who cannot always (or even very often) separate our heads from our hearts. The facts alone can not satisfy the longings of the human psyche, and it sometimes takes more than the written word to handle a crisis or despair.  On the other hand, emotions alone can be very deceptive and can not be allowed to control what we believe.

Emotion is neither to be avoided nor feared provided it is coupled with a good dose of head knowledge.

If we wish to continue safely on the narrow path and use to the fullest whatever gifts God chooses to give us, we have to compare what is being taught and practiced in many many churches to day (on both sides of the debate) with the evidence of the Scriptures...

But, that is what is so tragically missing.

 

Bible1-Bar


Footnote I.. Early Verification
The notion that the supernatural (or “miraculous”) gifts of the Spirit ceased after the death of John, the last Apostle was not known or taught in the early Church. The writings of several of the early Christian theologians, teachers and/or bishops indicate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit continued well into the late 2nd century, not particularly that they had these gifts themselves.

Justin Martyr: (103–165 AD.) was an early Christian apologist

"For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. [12]

Others, again (the Montanists), that they may set at nought the gift of the Spirit, which in the latter times has been, by the good pleasure of the Father, poured out upon the human race, do not admit that aspect [of the evangelical dispensation] presented by John's Gospel, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; etc. but set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic Spirit. Wretched men indeed! who wish to be pseudo-prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those (the Encratitæ) who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men (the Montanists) can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognizes men and women prophesying in the Church. [13]


Irenaeus.. Bishop of Lyons:
(2nd century AD – c. 202) studied under bishop Polycarp, who in turn had been a disciple of Apostle John.

Just as also we hear many brethren in the church who have gifts of prophecy, and who speak through the Spirit with all manner of tongues, and who bring the hidden things of men into the clearness for the common good and expound the mysteries of God. [14a]

. . . for which cause also his [Christ's] true disciples having received grace from him use it in his name for the benefit of the rest of men, even as each has received the gift from him. For some drive out demons with certainty and truth, so that often those who have themselves been cleansed from the evil spirits believe and are in the church, and some have foreknowledge of things to be, and visions and prophetic speech, and others cure the sick by the laying on of hands and make them whole, and even as we have said, the dead have been raised and remained with us for many years. And why should I say more? It is not possible to tell the number of the gifts which the church throughout the whole world, having received them from God in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, uses each day for the benefit of the heathen, deceiving none and making profit from none. For as it received freely from God, it ministers also freely. [14b]


Eusebius
was a fourth century bishop and Church historian. In his Church History, he quotes Irenaeus (circa AD 190)

"...his true disciples, receiving grace from him, perform such works in his Name for the benefit of other men, as each has received the gift from him. For some of them drive out demons effectually and truly, so that those who have been cleansed from evil spirits frequently believe and unite with the Church. Others have a foreknowledge of future events, and visions, and prophetic revelations. Still others heal the sick by the laying on of hands, and restore them to health. And, as we have said, even dead persons have been raised, and remained with us many years.

And in another place the same author writes: “As also we hear that many brethren in the Church possess prophetic gifts, and speak, through the Spirit, with all kinds of tongues, and bring to light the secret things of men for their good, and declare the mysteries of God.” [15]


Tertullian:
(160–220 AD.),
"Let a person be brought before your tribunals, who is plainly under demonic possession. The wicked spirit, bidden to speak by a follower of Christ, will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon, as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god." [16]

"Who would save you (Roman Rulers), I mean, from the attacks of those spirits of evil, which without reward or hire we (Christians) exorcise?" [17]

"The clerk of one of the courts who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction (by Christians); as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from demons, and healed of diseases?" [18]


Origen of Alexandria:
(185-254 A.D.):
“Traces of that Holy Spirit who appeared in the form of a dove are still preserved among Christians. They charm demons away and perform many cures and perceive certain things about the future according to the will of the Logos.” [19]

And the name of Jesus can still remove distractions from the minds of men, and expel demons, and also take away diseases; and produce a marvelous meekness of spirit and complete change of character, and a humanity, and goodness, and gentleness in those individuals who do not feign themselves to be Christians for the sake of subsistence or the supply of any mortal wants, but who have honestly accepted the doctrine concerning God and Christ, and the judgment to come. [20] [PLACE IN TEXT]



End Notes
[7] Rick Joyner. The Prophetic Ministry. Morningstar Prophetic Newsletter. Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 2

[8] Brian Schwertley. Spiritual Gifts. Reformed online library.
http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Spiritual%20Gifts,%20part%207.htm

[9] Sam Storms.  Gifts in Church History. Enjoying God Ministries. http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/gifts-in-church-history/

[10] The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, [Curts & Jennings, 1899], Vol. II, pp. 226-227

[11] Daniel B. Wallace. Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit? The Uneasy Conscience of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical.
http://bible.org/article/uneasy-conscience-non-charismatic-evangelical

[12] Justin Martyr,  Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter LXXXII  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.lxxxii.html

[13] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter XI. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.xii.html?highlight=gifts,of,prophecy#highlight

[14a] Irenaeus. Against Heresies, 5, 6:1

[14b] Irenaeus Against Heresies, 2, 49:2

[15] Eusebius. Church History.  Book V. Chapter VII. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.x.viii.html

[16] Apology. Chapter XXIII. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.xxiii.html

[17] Apology. Chapter XXXVII. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.xxxvii.html

[18] To Scapula, Ch. 4,

[19] Origen Against Celsus, Book I Chapter XLVII

[20] Origen Against Celsus. Book I. Chapter LXVII.

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