My beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I occupy the pulpit this evening with a heavy burden on my heart, for I have a prophetic message today to all Christians who find themselves within the co-called 'Charismatic Movement'. I wish to address a topic which, though I have spoken much about before, remains an ever urgent one for those seeking the Kingdom of God.
The Lord Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life" (Jn.14:6) and it is with these words that I wish to begin my examination of the charismatic movement. He made this well- known statement in the context of coming to know God the Father: "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (v.6b) and then added a complaint: "If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well" (v.7).
To know God is to know Christ; and to know Christ is to know the three-fold principle of (a) walking along the way; (b) knowing the truth, and (c) having life.
A. Walking in the Commandments
To know Christ and God is first of all to be walking along the path of discipleship in obedience to His commandments: "If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love" (Jn.15:10). To walk in God's commandments means to set aside the traditions of men: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mk.7:9).
I can guarantee that if you are walking the path of true discipleship in His love you will encounter traditions that are contrary to God's Word. It is inevitable. No individual or church is perfect and all have the need to be in a spirit of constant repentance. If we wish the Kingdom of God to draw near to us, we must constantly be repenting -- changing our direction as the Word reveals our errors: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Mt.3:2). The moment we get stuck in a tradition, the moment the refining edge of God's Word no longer has an impact on us, it is then we ought to greatly fear. The Pharisees, who in most ways were very commendable in their zeal for the truth, became conceited, and like so many other religious groups, became fossilised and hypocritical. We must be on the alert always to ensure such forces of spiritual sterility never descend upon us.
So, in order to know God, we must ensure that we know His commandments and be walking in them in love. If we find a scripture that contradicts a cherished belief -- perhaps one we have espoused for many years, and perhaps one which our church has espoused for many generations, what must we do? We must repent, else the Kingdom of God will move away from us. And when that happens, God abandons us to our own delusion. Having said that, I want you to mark this scripture down on your heart -- listen to it carefully:
"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all sorts of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish BECAUSE THEY REFUSE TO LOVE THE TRUTH and so be saved" (2 Thess.2:9-10).
Perhaps you are smiling to yourself, thinking, "Well, I'm saved! I have received the Lord Jesus as my Saviour and have experienced the new birth, with signs accompanying." Maybe you have. But consider this: are your experiences in line with the truth?
B. Walking in the Truth
I once asked a group of people which of two principles was the most important: love or truth? The answer I got back was unanimously "love", to which I replied, "Wrong!" They were shocked, and protested by quoting Paul's discourse on love in his first epistle to the Corinthians. So I asked the group another question: "How do you know that love is the most important?" to which they replied, "Because it says so here in chapter 13". "And what," I replied, "if Paul had never written this passage on love? How would you know then?" After a pause and some discussion, one replied: "By searching elsewhere in the Bible." And I agreed. "That is correct. You knew the primacy of love from the Word -- without the Word, you would not have known, though you may have guessed at it. The fact of the matter is, you needed the TRUTH to first identify what love was. Only then could you love in the right way."
There are many theories and doctrines about "love" in today's world because people define "love" in different ways. I won't go into the world's view of love for that does not interest us here. Rather, I will underline this vitally important truth: to know what love is, you must first have God's perspective of it. And to have God's perspective you must know the Truth. To know the Truth you must know the Word; and to interpret the Word you must know the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. He said: "I am...the TRUTH." And although Jesus certainly identified Himself as being love incarnate -- "..God is love" (1 Jn.4:8,16), this was associated with LIFE and not LOVE: "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he is in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him" (1 Jn.4:15-16). So we see, then, that love is associated with life.
But before we can have that love which comes from a life with God, we must first know the Truth. "I am the way and the truth and the life." So you see, before you can judge any experience as being of God -- whether it is the feelings of love we have within us or any kind of supernatural experience, we must first be doing TWO things: (1) We must be walking in the commandments by being on the WAY; and (2) We must be walking in the TRUTH by walking with the living Word. Only then can we properly assess the issues concerining love, life, and experience in general.
C. Walking in the Life
It follows quite naturally that if there is a counterfeit Way or discipleship, and a counterfeit Truth (as Paul warned the Thessalonians) that there must also be counterfeit life, love and experience. We would be foolish to think otherwise. I have over the years met many people from different religions, many of whom have had profound mystical experiences. They have seen visions, witnessed miraculous supernatural happenings, spoken in tongues, levitated, felt peace and joy, and become aware of a spiritual dimension they had never before been conscious of. Before I became a Christian I assumed that all, if not most, supernatual experiences were from a single source, God. Since receiving the New Birth I have discerned that there are two possible sources for everything supernatural, even feelings of joy and happiness! It is not enough to simply "experience" something out of the ordinary -- we need to know the basis of that experience, or in other words, its source.
That is why Jesus did not say: "I am the Life, the Truth and the Way". His ordering of words is no accident. Nothing Jesus says is accidental. He does not say, "Be baptised, and repent," but, "Repent and be baptised". You do not marry someone and then propose marriage afterwards -- you propose first and then enter marriage covenents. To enoy true life, and to have it abundantly, means that first of all there must be a path of discipleship down which one is walking -- a path which is founded in the Truth.
I was once a Mormon. I came to that church by the opposite route that Jesus taught. I trusted a feeling I had in my heart, and followed a false route layed down in the Book of Mormon. I trusted my feelings and the supernatural experiences I had and ignored anything and everything the Bible taught that contradicted my experience. Sadly, the Mormons are not alone. Millions worldwide have been seduced into a Bible-only counterfeit religion that lays greater stress on spiritual gifts than on the truth. It is this that I wish to talk to you about today. Please bear with me, for I know that for many of you hearing this, what I am going to say is not going to be easy. Please also remember that it is not me I am asking you to believe, but the Word of God, and therefore God Himself. I am but a servant of the Word.
What is God's Word?
Before we take a close look at God's Word, the Bible, we must be clear what God's Word is, and what it is not. God's Word is what the original prophets and apostles said and wrote in the original or receptor tongues, which were Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The Bibles you are holding in front of you are not God's Word -- they are TRANSLATIONS of God's Word.
There are going to be people here holding different English, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish translations of the Bible. If you sit and compare one another's Bibles you will see that 99.99% of the time they are in complete agreement. That is in itself a miracle. However, from time to time, you will find disagreements. This is not because the Word of God is faulty but because translators struggle to express an original Hebrew or Greek concept in an alien language like ours, and have enormous difficulties. Perhaps half-a-dozen English words will express the meaning of a Greek word; but one English word alone is insufficient. This means that the translator must pick the English word he feels is best, and sometimes that can be inadequate or even plain wrong. He may include footnotes (if he is wise) showing alternative renditions. Or he may use all of them such as the Amplified Version does and, though it is clumsy to read, at least gets the original sense over. Sadly, most translations do not do this and give the false impression that there is only one way a passage can be rendered in a modern tongue like English or Norwegian. This is not so, and can be terribly misleading. The translators of the King James Version were much more honest and if they weren't sure about something they wrote it in italics. But sometimes they made mistakes even in non-italicised text. To be knowledgeable in God's Word you must be aware of these things.
There is a second problem you need to be aware of. When the Roman Catholic Church took power in Europe it destroyed as many of the original Bible manuscripts it could lay its hands on and substituted a counterfeit version that was manufactured in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. By God's providence, the original (true) manuscripts survived as copies -- there were simply too many of them for the Catholics to eliminate. 95% of all Bible manuscripts are based on these true copies and are called the Textus Receptus, Received Text, Majority Text or Byzantine Text. The Catholic forgeries are called the Alexandrian Text or Minority Text and comprise about 5% of all Bible manuscripts. Because the original Majority Text was destroyed by the Catholics, their counterfeit Minority Texts are the oldest. Because they are the oldest, scholars wrongly assume they are the best and as a result ALL MODERN TRANALATIONS ARE BASED ON THE COUNTERFEIT MINORITY MANUSCRIPTS.
It's shocking, isn't it, but it's true. This means we must go back to the original Majority text for the original and the only English translation of the Bible which uses this Majority Text is the 1611 King James Version (KJV). Though it is not perfect (because it is a translation), it is certainly the best we have. However, because its English is very old fashioned and diffcult for late 20th century man to understand, I am going to use a more recent version, the New International Version (NIV) inspite of its perfections. I hope you will bear with me. When the NIV is too corrupt, I will use the KJV. And where that is poorly translated, I will return to the original Greek or Hebrew of the Majority Text.
So you must all become scholars for a short while! Never mind, it will make you better Bible students and make you appreciate God's Word even more. More important than that, it will lead you to the TRUTH, and that is surely worth it. Who, after all, wants to be deceived? If you love your soul enough you will search until you know the truth. Searching never did anyone any harm if the object is the Truth.
Journey to Corinth
Now that we have examined the importance of finding the Truth based on God's true Word, I want to jump two thousand years back in time and take you to the ancient city of Corinth. Most of you will be familiar with this city through the reading of Paul's epistles to the Corinthian saints but before we look at their sad story it is necessary to get some historical background.
Corinth was rather a special place. Like New York today, it was one of the most well-known cities in the the Roman world. It was an important commercial centre -- in fact, it was stinking rich. It was located on an important artery of commerce and had visitors from all over the Roman Empire passing through it. It was cosmopolitan. It was also famous for sport, and hosted the Isthmian Games every four years rather as we host the Olympic Games. In those days, though, the Games were highly religious and were attended by major festivals. It took months to prepare them, as it does ther Olympics today. The main events were athletics, wrestling, and boxing, illustrations of which Paul uses in his epistles.
Sporty and rich -- a commercial centre -- cosmopolitan. Sounds a bit like today's modern cities, doesn't it? But there was more -- much more. Overlooking the city of Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility, the religious centre of the city. Over 1,000 priestesses served as prostitutes within that temple together with long-haired hippie-like male prostitutes who raomed the streets plying their wares which Paul commented on when criticising men having long hair (1 Cor.11:14). Corinth in New Testament times was not unlike the red-light district of modern Amsterdam in Holland: the whole city reeked of sexual immorality. It was a cesspit of vice. Little wonder that the first Christians in that place had huge problems because they were surrounded by a culture that was the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can summarise Corinth with these key words: Immorality, sport, politics, and trade. Add the scientific revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries to the place and you have a modern decadent western city: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Oslo, Stockholm, or Copenhagen. There is therefore no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of many other Bible commentators, that the Corinthian Church was a a type of modern Western culture and Christianity. We shall now see why.
Immature and Immoral
Corinth was the most troublesome of the Christian colonies in the gentile world. It is plain to see when reading the apostle Paul's epistles to this congregation that it was in a mess. There was sexual immorality (1 Cor.5:1) and unbelievers visiting this church thought the Christians there were mad:
"If therefore the whole [Corinthian] church be come together into one place, and all speak in tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" (1 Cor.14:23, KJV).
Let us be under no illusion, the Corinthian Church was a charismatic church. Moreover, as we shall see in a minute, it was the only charismatic church in the New Testament. Paul said to them: "you do not lack any spiritual gift" (1 Cor.1:7). Do you hear that? They had all the charismata or "spiritual gifts"! Isn't that wonderful? Or was it wonderful? Weren't they also immoral -- so immoral, in fact, that they were getting an appalling reputation amongst the non-believing gentiles (1 Cor.5:1). And yet they had "all the charismata". Was Paul commending them or condemning them? Well, he spent THREE CHAPTERS trying to set them straight on this issue -- chapters 12-14.
What else do we know about them? Were they a mature church, one we should immitate today? See what Paul says: "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly -- MERE INFANTS IN CHRIST" (1 Cor.3:1). No, this was a highly IMMATURE and BABYISH congregation. He repeats this accusation again and again: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me" (1 Cor.13:11). They babbled like small children, they thought like little children, and they reasoned like little children. "Enough!" says Paul. "Grow up! Stop talking, thinking and reasoning like babies!" This is not a congregation to imitate. Again he says: "Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, BUT IN YOUR THINKING BE ADULTS" (1 Cor.14:20). This was not a congregation to go to for spiritual education; this was not a place to go to for sound doctrine. This was not a place to go to reason the truth with, because they were IMMATURE. This was not the place to visit to get a sound Bible education.
So we have an immature church that tolerated immorality. Many of the members were involved with prostitutes (1 Cor.6:15-18) and had to be reminded by the apostle that their bodies were supposed to be temples of the Holy Spirit. AND YET THEY HAD ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. There was drunkeness amongst the Corinthian saints, even during the administration of the Lord's Supper; they were proud and arrogant and showed a lack of concern for people (1 Cor.5:2). AND YET THEY HAD ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. Some members were questioning the resurrection (1 Cor.15:12) and they were rapidly becoming heretical -- they were corrupting the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor.11:3). AND YET THEY HAD ALL THE SPIRITRUAL GIFTS.
This, brethren and sisters, was a charismatic church that was backward in its spiritual development, sexually immoral, and doctrinally off-the-mark. AND YET THEY HAD ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
Isn't this ringing alarm bells off in your heads? How could such an apostate church possess all the charismata -- the spiritual gifts -- and yet be heading for spiritual extinction? Could the Holy Spirit be giving these charismata or might they have been inflenced by another spirit? Did not Paul tell them that they were supposed to be members of Christ's Body and therefore supposed to keep their temples clean? Do not the Scriptures amply testify that the Holy Spirit cannot make its home with devils? You answer that question for me: Does the Holy Spirit enter and energise a person who is living a sexually immoral life, who is a drunk, who is proud and conceited, who is denying FUNDAMENTAL doctrines like the resurrection? Does it?? If that is true (and I know you know that is true because you are going to have to spit at God's Word to deny it) then WHAT SPIRIT WAS BEHIND THOSE CHARISMATA? It's a tough question, I know, and it probably hurts -- maybe some of you are going into panic stations. Please don't! Remember, if it's the truth you're after, you have nothing to lose!
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Christian congregation was a spiritual DISASTER. The apostle Paul, heavy-hearted and pleading with them to grow up and see reason, uses analogy after analogy, picture after picture using local symbolism, to try and penetrate the veil of darkness that covers these backslidden Christians. He is telling the Corinthian saints that they are committing spiritual suicide. He is telling them: "Stop ripping your church apart in your selfish, babyish desire for the showy charismata." Like a physician he is warning them that they are already suffering from arrested development -- they have become deformed spiritual midgits.
The Divisiveness of Charismata
It is no secret that the charismata question has divided the Body of Christ into opposing sections, despite the political correctness that charismatics and non-charismatics show one another most of the time. Today, using the Word of God, I want to resolve that division, heal a nasty sore in the Body of Christ, and by the grace of God, point the Church of God on the course the first apostles intended it to be on. My authority is going to be the Bible and not my own opinions. The presence of this division in the Body of Christ is proof that it is not of God, for Paul, again addressing the Corinthians, says:
"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in MIND and THOUGHT" (1 Cor.1:10).
Please notice that he is not telling them to be united in one experience or supernatural manifestation or one charismatic gift but in one MIND and THOUGHT -- or as the King James Version puts it, "the same mind and in the same judgment".
Conclusion No.1: Spirituality and the spiritual gifts are not the same. Like the modern West, the Corinthians were not ignorant. They upheld, as we do, the Greek virtue of learning. They prized knowledge greatly. Paul is certainly not against learning -- indeed, he is all for it; but what he is saying is, GET YOUR EDUCATION FROM THE RIGHT PLACE:
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"; and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise are futile". So then, no more boasting about men" (1 Cor.3:18-19).
The wisdom of the world -- how much have we been infiltrated by it? Judge for yourselves. Who or what do you follow? This great preacher, or that great preacher, or the Word of God? Have you tested the teachings of the evangelists and pastors of the churches against the Word of God, or are you just 'trusting' them to be 'inspired'? God help you if you trust one who leads you down to hell! We must resist the urge to follow-a-leader indiscriminately -- did you know that over half the major Christian evangelists are teaching false, damning doctrines, that have more to do with the New Age Movement than with Christianity? They are imitating the teachings and wisdom of the world, and of its master, Satan. Instead we must say, with Paul, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient Christ" (2 Cor.10:5). Education, good though it is, is no substitute for spirituality. Spirituality is obtained on a different basis altogether.
The Corinthians need not have been in the terrible situation they were in. They had superb teachers like Paul. They had the doctrine laid out clearly before them. So does the Body of Christ today -- the teachings in the Bible are plain enough but people choose to ignore them or twist them to fit into preconceived doctrines. And why? because their REPUTATION and CREDIBILITY is at stake. And why is that? because they are PROUD and CONCEITED, and will not repent and humble themselves. God help us all if we do not repent from error and change our ways!
I have often said, to the dismay of friends and family alike, that small children are egos-on-legs. That's not, by the way, to say that I don't adore and love children, but is to state a reality about their spiritual condition. They are selfishness incarnated. Fortunately for them they are, for the most part, not aware of it, and are therefore not always accountable. But an adult who behaves like an ego-on-legs is very definitely accoutable, especially if he claims the Name of Christ.
The Corinthians were selfish par excellence. They strove to outdo one another in the spiritual gifts. Not content with the orinary 'tongues' of the charismatic movement, one church in Bergen, Norway has introduced (can you believe it) TURBO-TONGUES to outdo all the other charismatics -- speaking super-fast gibberish like machine-guns. The result would be comical were it not a tragedy. These are the symptoms of little egos-on-legs trying to outdo one another.
The Corinthian saints were suing each other in the courts of the land (1 Cor.6:7) and generally sinning against one another (1 Cor.8:9,11-13), acting like gluttons while the poorer members starved. These people were using the charismatic gifts to serve themselves without the slightest of thought as to whether they would build up anyone else. They were divided amongst each themselves and formed different "parties" sympathetic to different personalities (1 Cor.1:12).
The good news is that the Corinthians did eventually reform but then slipped back into their selfish ways. Bishop Clement of Rome wrote of them:
"Owing to the suddenly bursting and rapidly succeeding calamities and untoward experiences that have befallen us, we have been somewhat tardy, we think, in giving our attention to the subjects of dispute in your community, beloved. We mean that execrable and godless schism so utterly foreign to the elect of God. And it is only a few rash and headstrong individuals that have inflamed it to such a degree of madness that your venerable, widely-renowned, and universally and deservedly cherished name has been greatly defamed. Indeed, was there ever a visitor in your midst that did not approve your excellent and steadfast faith? Or did not admire your discreet and thoughtful Christian piety? Or did not proclaim the magnificent character of your hospitality? Or did not congratulate you on your perfect and secure fund of knowledge? You certainly did everything without an eye to rank or station in life, and regulated your conduct by God's commandments. You were submissive to your officials and paid the older men among you the respect due to them. The young you trained to habits of self-restraint and sedateness. The wives you enjoined to discharge all their duties with a conscience pure and undefiled, and to cherish a dutiful affection for their husbands; you taught them also to stay within the established norm of obedience in managing the household with decency and consummate prudence.
"Moreover, you were all in a humble frame of mind, in no way arrogant, practicing obedience rather than demanding it, happier in giving than in receiving. Being content with, and intent upon, the provisions which Christ allowed you for your earthly pilgrimage, it was His words that you carefully locked up in your hearts, and His sufferings were ever before your eyes. Thus all were blessed with a profound and radiant peace of soul, and there was an insatiable longing to do good, as well as a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the whole community. Filled, moreover, with a desire for holiness, you stretched out your hands, with ready goodwill and devout confidence, to Almighty God, imploring Him to show mercy in case you had inadvertently failed in any way. Day and night you vied with one another in behalf of the entire brotherhood, to further the salvation of the full number of His elect by your compassion and conscientiousness. Guileless and sincere you were, and bore one another no malice. The very thought of insubordination and schism was an abomination to you. Over the failings of your neighbors you mourned; their shortcomings you judged to be your own. You had no regrets when you had been charitable, being ready for any good deed. Decked with the jewel of a virtuous life that commanded veneration, you fulfilled all your duties in the fear of the Lord, whose precepts and ordinances were engraved upon the tablets of your heart.
"All splendor and scope for expansion were bestowed upon you, and then the Scripture was fulfilled: The beloved ate and drank, and he waxed large and fat, and then he kicked out. From this sprang jealousy and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and anarchy, war and captivity. Then the dishonored rose up against the honored, the ignoble against the highly esteemed, the foolish against the wise, the young against their elders. For this reason piety and peace are far removed, because everyone has abandoned the fear of God and lost the clear vision which faith affords, and nobody regulates his conduct by the norms of His commandments, or tries to make his life worthy of Christ. On the contrary, everyone follows the appetites of his depraved heart, for they have absorbed that unjust and unholy jealousy through which death came into the world." (1 Clement 1:1-3).
I weep for those Corinthians -- they are a tragic reminder to us of what happens to a people when they disobey the Word. Selfish, willfully ignorant, childish walking egos. The Corinthian Church is dead. Or is it? Sadly, it has become resurrected, only this time it is much more subtle. It wears the mantle of a church that loves and lives the Word of God, but the truth is another reality.
The Corinthians loved to criticize their leaders. This is another symptom of selfishness. First it was Paul whom they virtually ignored. Then, in the post-apostolic period, the youth actually deposed the Elders in an ecclesiatical coup d'état! The First Epistle of Clement to the Corithians, which we in the New Covenant Church of God use, is very instructive indeed. Two generations of Corinthians showed a profound lack of respect for authority in common with the secular society of the time and in common with the secular society of today. They were revolutionaries -- rebels -- and incurred the wrath of God. The young thought they knew it all and chose to depose the wise. And so it is in today's Western world.
Can you believe it? The Corinthians actually thought they were more spiritual than Paul and had outgrown and outdistanced him (1 Cor.4:3)? "Already you have all you want! Alrready you have become rich! You have become kings -- and that without us. I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!" (1 Cor.4:8) Are you hearing this? Haven't we heard all this somewhere else right here in this city, and in other cities? Haven't we heard false preachers saying, "health and wealth and crowns -- you're kings, behave like one"? Haven't we? And what does Paul says? He says: "I wish that you REALLY HAD become kings" but the reality was completely different. Instead, these people were spiritual PAUPERS. They thought that their wealth, health and charismatic gifts proved otherwise. O the folly of youth!
A few years ago I was talking to a man who was raised in a charismatic church in Oslo but left that movement. He returned to a meeting because he was interested how the youth viewed the Gospel. He asked one young woman: "Tell me truthfully -- are the sexual standards amongst the youth in this Church any different from the youth outside?" She bowed her head in shame and whispered, "No." No, brethren and sisters, it isn't. The morals and standards in many charismatic churches are little different from the world.
You see, when you compromise with God's Word it isn't long before you compromise with evil itself. The Corinthians liked to look upon themselves as being "liberal", like many charismatic and non-charismatic denominations today. "Love" (so-called) is the key word, provided it is concerned only with self. "Let everyone else do what they want to, just let me get on with my own life", was the prevailing philosophy. So they re-invented Jesus, as they are re-inventing Him today - a tolerant Jesus with few moral demands - a "Jesus for everbody", a "I'll mind my own business if you'll mind yours" Jesus. But, no, this is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is FIRST about discipleship and obedience to the commandments; SECOND, about TRUTH; and then -- and only then, THIRD, about life, living, and experience.
When blatant immorality does not disturb a Christian people, something is seriously wrong. They indulged in the sins of the flesh, AND YET THEY HAD ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. Yes, I keep on mentioning that, don't I, and with a purpose -- I want to disturb you and make you peel the layers of spiritual numbness that are concealing the truth from your view. The Corinthians believed they were spiritual and that they were leagues ahead of the apostles. What about you? Do you think you have the "fullness"? Have you "got it all"? In fact, have you got so much that you believe you have nothing else to learn?
Well, if that is your view, the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written for you. It was a corrective apostolic epistle to stop the downward slide into oblivion of a wreckless, rebellious and disobedient church THAT HAD ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. Yet it was not spiritual. Far from it. IT WAS DEVILISH.
A devilish church with ALL THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS?? No, how can that be possible. Sorry, but that's what Paul said. A devilish church with all the charismata -- tongues, prophecy, healings, miracles. That's the sum of it. Now we have to unravel this web and see HOW and WHY.
Resolving the Charismata Problem
The Corinthian débâcle (for that is what it was) has spawned more controversy in the Christian Church than any other congregation. IF THERE HAD BEEN NO CORINTHIAN CHURCH THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT. It was an aberrant local phenomenon, as we shall see.
In the first ten chapters of his first letter Paul deals with the apostate character of the people. Only then does he tackle the sticky problem of charismata. Before we take a close look at the next chapters we must be perfectly clear as to the difference between the Greek words pneumatika and charismata. The word pneumatika means "spirituals" or "spirituality" as distinct from charismata which means "spiritual gifts". The whole of the message of opening chapters of 1 Corinthians is that there is a big difference between the two -- the Corinthian saints, Paul said, had an abundance of charismata but little or no pneumatika. And the reason they had so little spirituality (pneumatika) was because they were so pre-occupied with the spiritual gifts (charismata).
Now I mentioned earlier something of the spiritual world of the pagans in and around Corinth. It is time to tell you more. Paul reminds the Corinthian saints, "...when you were pagans, somehow or other your were influenced and led astray..." (1 Cor.12:2). Pagan worshippers, as the historians of the mystery religions like Plato and Virgil reveal, were caught up in emotional hysteria, shaking and falling prostrate on the ground and babbling in ecstatic speech. They were out of control; and Paul reminds the Corinthians that this is the way they were then but should not be now as Christians. He tells the saints that the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (1 Cor.14:32) meaning that God's people are always under self-control when the Holy Spirit imparts true charismata to them. "Let all things be done decently (with propriety) and in order" (1 Cor.14:40). Do you hear that word? Order. Yes, order. In other words, Paul is telling them that the Holy Spirit does not produce the fruits of their former idolatrous worship.
A "test" charismatics often apply to these gifts is by asking a member under the control of their particular brand of charismata whether they are able to confess that 'Jesus is Lord'. And they base this 'test' on a passage by Paul: "..no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed", and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord", except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor.12:3).
A question arises from this: Can someone who has not been born again say, "Jesus is Lord"? Many a time I have asked an unbeliever to quote this passage, and he has remained an unbeliever. I dare say a satanist could repeat it. If you don't believe me, why not find the most immoral man you can and offer him a sum of money to repeat the words. I doubt you will have any difficulty. So is this a valid test for the presence of the Holy Spirit? If not, what did Paul actually mean?
Paul is not, of course, talking about repeating a phrase parrot-fashion -- even a parrot could be trained to do that. This is common sense. What the apostle is talking about is the sovereignty of Christ. In other words, is the person insisting on the Sovereignty of Christ?
I will explain. Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would never testify of Himself, or promote Himself, but would always speak of and promote Jesus Christ (Jn.16:7,13-14).
In other words, any church, evangelist, teacher, teaching, movement or group which exalts the Holy Spirit is NOT of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit always exalts CHRIST.
Thus the Holy Spirit would never say something like: "Receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and you will be saved; then receive the Holy Spirit and become a complete Christian". It is a false doctrine which teaches that Christ begins the work of salvation and the Holy Spirit somehow completes it. This is an old heresy that goes back to New Testament times:
"And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning the and firstborn among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him" (Col.1:18-19).
Remember that. Christ has the fullness. A person who receives Christ receives the fullness. He is complete. He is not the first of two ingredients.
The Corinthian saints had everything out of balance. They were so obsessed with the charismatic gifts that they neglected the spiritual life. They did not realise what the charismata were for and used them for self-indulgence. Paul reminded them in his epistle that when the Holy Spirit controls a Christian's life he is not carried away like the heathen, and that the Holy Spirit does not exalt Himself, but exalts Jesus as Christ and Lord -- Christ and His work are never depricated.
Where the Spiritual Gifts Come From
The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that there are different kinds of spiritual gifts (charismata) but all come from the same Spirit (1 Cor.12:4) just as there are different kinds of service but the same Lord (v.5). There are different kinds of working (KJV "operations") but the same God works in all men (v.6). There is unity in diversity. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts, Christ assigns a place in the ministry where these gifts operate, the God the Father energises them. The whole Godhead is involved. When the gifts are properly used they promote unity, not division. And the Corinthians were divided, just as the Church of God is divided today between 'charismatics' and 'non-charismatics'. The true spiritual gifts of God, when operating according to the design of God, brings Christians together; they don't drive them apart. So why is there this division between 'charismatics' and 'non-charismatics'?
Now here is the clincher. Paul says: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor.12:7). Thus the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man and woman! Paul then lists the spiritual gifts (vv.8-10) and adds: "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines" (v.11). "...God has arranged the parts in His body [the Church] , every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (v.18).
Now let's not lose the thread here because what Paul is saying is very important -- and it's this: every believer already has his/her gift/gifts! They were sovereignly bestowed and were received when we received the New Birth in Christ. What are these gifts: the message of wisdom (KJV "word of wisdom"), the message of knowledge (KJV "the word of knowledge"), faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning/distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (vv.8-10). Nine spiritual gifts or charismata in all, with tongues at the bottom of the list.
So what were the Corinthians doing? They were seeking attention-getting show-offy gifts which they had already received. Every believer receives one or more charismatic gifts the moment he receives Christ as Lord and Saviour. Not everyone gets the same gift. Therefore one man may be given the gift of faith, and another the gift of tongues. But nowhere does it say in scripture that everyone gets the same gift, like tongues. This is important. The gifts are divided amongst the believers. Not everyone has the same gift.
Paul explains how each member of the local church has his own gift because each member has his own function (1 Cor.12:11) whilst all the members get the benefit of the gift (vv.25-26). God alone determines who shall have what gift -- we are not to go asking for special gifts. The apostle presents a comical picture one member aspiring to have the gift of another member by likening each member to the parts of the human anatomy (v.21).An eye is not to envy an ear, or vice versa. God therefore sovereignly gives different charismata to whom He will. We have no part in the decision-making process. Paul asks, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (v.29). What is his answer: NO! Therefore is anyone says to you that you must seek for a confirmatory gift like tongues, mark them down as liars, for this is contrary to God's Word! If everyone in a church speaks tongues, something is seriously wrong.
God gives the charismatic gifts as He wills -- not everyone has the same gift -- all the gifts are to be used for the good of the Body, and not the edification of one member. Read it yourself in God's Word. I tell you the truth. Any church which teaches a contrary doctrine is not teaching the apostolic doctrine but some "other Gospel" which comes from "another spirit" (2 Cor.11:4).
"Yes, but we are told to go for the 'best gifts'", someone might say. The Christians at Corinth placed an unduly high emphasis on tongues, probably because this was also the pagan custom where tongue-speaking was common. It was a part of the culture -- if you didn't speak in ecstatic tongues, something was wrong with you. I've often felt that spirit of condemnation from some 'charismatics' who maintain I have not received the baptism of Spirit if I do not speak in tongues. This is, however, not biblical, and we should never be made to feel guilty because we don't have one gift or another. We are all uniquely gifted in our own ways.
So, is there a contradiction when Paul says we should earnestly desire the best gifts? Or might this be a translation error? The Word of God never contradicts itself -- it is internally harmonious and consistent. And every time I have come across an apparently contradictory passage, no matter what the topic, I have always -- after a bit of digging -- found a resolution.
I am not a Greek scholar so I must rely on the works of those who are versed in ancient languages in order to fathom meanings not easily appreciated in my own. The solution to the "problem" is beautifully simple, as you will see. Paul seems to write: "...eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way" (1 Cor.12:31). The KJV renders this passage: "...covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way".
The Greek word zelao ("covet", "eagerly desire") usually has a bad connotations -- a sense of self-seeking, which is what Paul is correcting. Put another way, then, this verse can be translated: "You are seeking the attention-getting gifts, but I am going to show you something better".
As we have seen, the reception of a gift is not the result of prayer but is something we all get when we receive the New Birth by being baptised into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.12:12-13,18,28,39).
The Corinthians were not satisfied in developing the gifts which they had received through the Spirit but wanted showy gifts (tongues, miracles, etc.) which would win them accolades and admiration from others. "You are earnestly coveting the charismatic gifts, but I am going to show you something better", was Paul's message to them.
I'm sure the Corinthians reacted in many different ways when Paul's letter was read out to them. Some probably thought he was jealous of their gifts and wished to have them himself, so he was "knocking them down" in order to be seen as good as them. It's not hard to imagine the reaction. So what was Paul's better way? 1 Corinthians 13. Yes, you all know it -- the great chapter on the excellency of Christ-like love. It is the heart of Paul's teaching about spirituality. To be spiritual, he says, is to love. To be spiritual -- to love -- is to have a life controlled by the Spirit. It is the fruit of discipleship and clinging to truth before experience. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life". What are the fruits of this spiritual life:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against these there is no law" (Gal.5:22-23).
But the Corinthians had lost site of this because their first love was the charismatic gifts. They were not controlled by the Holy Spirit. Instead the meetings were filled by wild babbling in unknown tongues, shrieking, swooning, falling on the floor, and all the other nonsense we hear of in many charismatic churches. Paul says that the exercise of any sort of charismatic gift is useless -- worthless -- without the fruit of the Spirit. Tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, mercy, and even self-sacrifice add up to nothing when the life is not producing the spiritual fruit of love. Thus we learn it is possible to have spiritual gifts but no love. Charismata and spirituality are not synonymous -- they are very different! Moreover, spiritual gifts do not produce spirituality. How do we know? Because the Corinthians had all the spiritual gifts!
I like the definition of love given by George Gardiner: "Love is passion stretched out" (from the Greek, makro thumos): "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud" (1 Cor.13:4). "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" (KJV). Love does not envy another's gift.
The saints should be our first concern, not ourselves. Love centres on others, not self. We must seek to serve the Body -- the local colony -- not our personal desires. This is "love stretched out" -- the love of Christ. False "love" wants a "passionate fix", a "high", "instant fulfilment". No, no, no, this is not the way of Christ. True love is sacrificial. It doesn't go window-shopping for the "best" spiritual gift, real or imagined.
This is Paul's unquestionable message but most charismatics like to separate this chapter from the others on tongues. They go hand-in-hand. Tongues were never given as tool for self-edification -- how often the scriptures have been misread on that issue! It's purpose is to lift up others. Like the proud Pharisee who looked upon the tax-collector with disdain, so the Corinthians "looked down" on anyone who did not have the best (as they supposed) spiritual gift -- the one which was the noisiest and most attention-seeking. Paul must continually remind them that the fruit of a Spirit-controlled life has no pride or self-seeking, for he says:
"(Love) is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor.13:5).
Love does not behave itself "unseemly" (v.5, KJV), or as the NIV puts it, "rude". "Unseemly" is a better rendition. It is never indecent or out of control. Today we hear of people coming under the so-called "power of the spirit" in meetings growling like animals, laughing hysterically, vomitting, wriggling and writing on the floor, urinating, having erections, and goodness knows what else. I have seen people running around the meeting room yelling, hopping up and down, and generally making a spectacle of themselves. Brethren and sisters, this is NOT of God -- it is of the Devil. It is not, as some try to excuse these antics, just "harmless emotional release" -- it's demonic, because it mocks all that is pure, holy, and orderly. It degrades God and it degrades God's greatest creation, man. Make no mistake about that!
So if the 'charismatic' churches are using the charismata in the wrong way, how are they to be used? Well, firstly, let's remember that tongues, prophecy, and the like will one day pass away and serve no further use (v.8). Secondly, Paul lays down strict rules for the practice of the gifts. Tongues, he said first of all, are for unbelievers, and prophecy is for believers (1 Cor.14:22). He also says that in a meeting no more than TWO OR THREE PEOPLE should prophesy or speak in tongues (v.27). Mark that! And, moreover, they must not speak simultaneously but follow the rules of order -- one after the other. If there is no interpreter for tongues, then the tongue-speaker should be silent (v.28).
Now listen, you 'charismatics': are you obeying the Word of God? In a typical meeting, is it true that only two or three speak in tongues at the same time? And one after the other? Well, I have been in charismatic meetings and heard HUNDREDS of people all babbling at the same time. Is that order in God's house? More importantly, is it of God? Well, the Bible is clear: NO, IT IS NOT. And if it is not of God, then who is it of? You must pick between man and the devil. Either way, you lose, and are practicing "another gospel". No, don't run away from it -- FACE THE TRUTH: if your church isn't following the apostolic rule, then it isn't an apostolic, New Testament Church. IT'S A FAKE!
Believe me, I am not attacking 'charismatic' Christians per se -- I am attacking the whole doctrine and practice of the charismatic movement which is patently false. If it isn't false, then the Word of God is false. Which will you choose? The Word of God or the traditions of men? For me it is simple -- I must seek the Truth above all else, because the Truth is Christ, and I follow Christ. Do you reject the Word? Then you reject the Truth, and you reject Christ. You are therefore anti-Christ. It's your choice. Take God's Word or leave it, but if you leave it, don't come to me and say you are a Christian, for you are not! What will you then be worth? Only to be held in derision by the Sovereign God (Micah 6:16).
Are going to be obedient? If you are a pastor and you let your congregation go wild and all babble simultaneously, fall on the floor, and so on, then the blood of your flock is on your head, for you are in contempt of the Word of God. I therefore call you to repent by either reforming your church or quitting. Or leave here and wrestle with a defiled conscience. I wouldn't wish to be in your shoes for all the gold in hell. If you are a member of a church that practices these abominations, tell your pastor and elders that they are in contempt of God's Word. If they won't listen, warn the members and leave that church for good. It's condemned, and you don't want to be part of a condemned church.
So, if you are being true, you will restrict tonges and prophecy to 2 or 3 members, speaking one after the other, with interpreters, in an orderly and peaceful manner. If your church is doing these things (and I know a number of charismatic churches who do), then I invite you to listen on, for you are not far from the Truth.
What is a Tongue?
What about tongue-speaking itself? What actually is it? We have seen that the true gifts are controlled by the love of God and do not seek pride of place. The Spirit-controlled life -- spirituality -- is the focus of the gospel -- it is the goal to which all aspire. We do not aspire to the charismata -- they come only as God wills them, and then only to certain people at certain times.
One often hears that when a person prays in tongues that it is a special language between the believer and God which no-one else understands, and which therefore demons cannot understand either, which confuses and frustrates them. I find no sscriptural warranty for such a proposition. God has never instructed man to address Him in incomprehensible speech. Go through all the letters of Paul, Peter and James, check all the references on prayer, and you will not find one mention of such a thing. Only the carnal Corinthians are mentioned observing this practice. Paul said quite clearly: "I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind" (1 Cor.14:15). By comparison, what are the Corinthians doing? Paul, in ironic tone, says: "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, noone understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit" (v.2). Now if this is interpreted literally as instruction from Paul as charismatics do, then Paul is contradicting himself in v.15, for there he smacks this sort of practice right in the face, saying that his mind is involved -- he knows what he is saying! How this chapter has been misunderstood and mutilated because modern-day readers don't always understand when the apostle is being ironic.
Tongue-speaking is used today as a badge of spirituality. It isn't. It's a badge of carnality. Have I heard of true tongue-speaking? Yes, I have. What, then, is true tongue speaking? It is to preach in a language one does not know to someone who does not speak your own language. I heard of a Pentecostal preacher in Oslo who suddenly broke his sermon and started speaking in Chinese. At the end of the sermon, a Chinese woman came up to him and praised the Lord, for she was converted by the sermon in her own language! And the preacher did not know a word of Chinese! Afterwards he resumed his sermon in Norwegian, thus acting as his own interpreter. THIS IS TRUE TONGUE-SPEAKING! What a day that was! An unbeliever came to Christ and the congregation were built up in their faith. Any other type of tongue-speaking is false because it is selfish and useless to the Body as a whole.
So, there is no licence for praying or singing in tongues that I know of in the Bible, and the only true tongue-speaking is not for the benefit of the tongue-speaker but for unbelievers who are then brought to Christ as a result. Moreover, it is a true language with a vocabulary which can be understood by the rules of grammar and syntax -- it is not meaningless babble, which is pagan tongue-speaking, at which the Corinthians were adept.
Paul derides the Corinthian tongue-speaking...the tongue-speaking of nearly all modern 'charismatics'. Listen to his description of them: they are like musical instruments so out of tune that they cannot be recognised; they are like an army bugler so incompetent that the army has no idea what the commander wants done (vv.7-8). Would Paul have derided them if tongue-speaking à la modern charismatic churches were true? Of course not! But then they hop and skip over the passages they don't like! I can hear Paul saying, to use American slang, "Come on, get serious, you Corinthians! Who are you trying to kid? Speak so that you can be understood -- forget your own childish, selfish desires, and seek to edify the whole church. If you don't have the true gift, then shut up! Don't make an ass of yourself and bring derision upon the Name of Christ by unbelievers!"
No, friends, there is a better way. Put this unseemly behaviour to death and seek after the only thing that matters -- the pure love of Christ.
This has been a long journey through the Scriptures but there is one more thing to do yet, so please bear with me. It could be a matter of salvation for you and therefore worth the investment of time and energy.
"Wait, wait!" I hear one charismatic crying out to me. "There is one verse you have not yet addressed."
"What is that?" I ask.
"Where Paul says: "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of porphecy" (1 Cor.14:1). It cearly says we are to desire spiritual gifts. You are wrong, Brother Warren!"
Am I? Actually, the New International Version is wrong, not me. And for that matter, so were the King James Version translators who admitted they might be. Let's see what the KJV says: "Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophesy" (v.1.). If you check the KJV text the word "gifts" is in italics, meaning that it isn't there in the original Greek, but the translators inserted it because they thought it was right.
Now what is the word for "spiritual gifts" in the Greek? It is charismata. But that is NOT the word in this passage which is PNEUMATIKA which translates as "spirituals" or "spirituality". Thus the correct rendering, using the , would be:
"Follow after charity, and desire spirituality, but rather that ye might prophesy" (1 Cor.14:1, KJV).
Do you see the difference? Spirituality is to be our chief objective, not spiritual gifts. We are to be controlled by the fruit of the Spirit, not the spiritual gifts. So what about the bit on prophecy? Paul is saying that when you are focused on spirituality, the gift of prophecy will be paramount, replacing tongues. The results of prophecy are clearly stated by Paul: "But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort" (v.3). These are contrasted with the worthlessness of tongues, "no one understands" (v.2). He hammers his point home over and over again, next making a quantitative comparison between the two: better to speak five words which people can understand than ten thousand words of gibberish (v.19). Ten thousand was, incidentally, the highest number the Greeks had. A modern slang word might be "zillion", in other words, an impossibly high number. Paul was saying that five words of comprehensible words were better than an infinity of babble. And believe you me, the 'charismatics' have been babbling drivvel for nearly two centuries! What a TOTAL WASTE OF TIME AND ENERGY which could have been better used preaching the Word or prophesying.
It reminds me of the time when I was investigating Buddhism as a student and having to listen to hours of Japanese words, none of which I understood, and which were supposed to be getting me a better karma for my next life. What utter and total STUPIDITY. Yet people swallow the lies they are taught by ignorant or scheming ministers in the pulpit who egg their congregations to behave worse than clowns.
In the true Church of God tongues is extremely rare. It's at the bottom of the list of charismata because it frankly isn't needed that much, except perhaps in the missionary field or on evangelism crusades where the preacher cannot get an interpreter or who does not speak the local language. THAT IS ALL. Preaching and prophesying edify because they stimulate people to think and evaluate their lives in light of the Word of God, whereas what passes as "tongues" today merely turns people into gibbering zombies. Preaching and prophesy bring conviction to sinners whereas 'tongues' (so-called) brings ridicule (1 Cor.14:23-25).
"Yes, but Paul said he spoke more tongues than all the Corinthians put together!" (v.18) someone might weakly retort. To which I would reply, "Haven't you been listening, my friend? Haven't you yet understood? Paul was an apostle, traveling across Asia and Europe where he encountered numerous languages. He needed tongues to preach. I am sure the apostle exercised the gift whenever and wherever it was proper to do so. If he behaved as the Corinthians, then what he wrote to them was a lie and he was a hypocrite. So what will you do? Think the worst of Paul, or grasp his central message of selfless love?
"Didn't Paul say he wished that everyone spoke in tongues?" (v.5) comes the final desperate act of defense of the defenseless. Yes of course, so that they could become witnesses to all the world like him, going to every nation upon the face of the earth (Mt.28:19-20) instead of spiritually masturbating, which is all that pagan tongue-speaking is.
The debate is over, for me at any rate, because it is so plain. What I have said takes ALL of the Word into account and not selective pet passages used out of context to defend heretical doctrines and practices. I know I have been blunt, and perhaps some will perceive me as being rude, but I do this because I groan whenever I see the modern Corinthian heresy mushrooming everywhere. It is doomed to destruction! "Flee from the wrath to come" (Mt.3:7) is the only sound advise I can give anyone, for this is the end time, and these are Jesus's own words.
A word about "angelic tongues" (1 Cor.13:1). Firstly, angels, whenever they have spoken to humankind, have always spoken in a known human language. Secondly, "angelic tongues" is inescapably linked with "tongues of men" in the same verse, inplying grammar, a vocabulary and syntax. If there is an "angel language" (like Hebrew or English are human languages) then I believe it can only be referring to a proper language, not dissociated Corinthian-type babbling.
Finally, I am concerned that in the modern churches tongue-speaking is little more than sign-seeking which Christ and the apostles always condemned. This was a Jewish weakness that the gentiles seem to have inherited (Mt.12:38; 16; Mk.8; Jn.6:30-31). Acts 2:43 tells us that many mriaculous signs were done by the apostles and Jesus Himself said that signs would follow true believers, including the casting out of demons and the speaking in tongues (Mk.16:17). But He also said that those who sought signs will never come to true belief (Jn.4:48; 12:37). Why do people seek for tongues today in the charismatic movement? Is it to bless people, or is it, as Paul accused the Corinthians, merely a form of self-gratification and sign-seeking? For most 'charismatics' believe they have not been properly born again until they have spoken in tongues, so they earnestly seek it as evidence. The problem is ANYONE can speak in tongues, 'believers' as well as unbelievers, not to mention satanists. In fact I know for a fact that satanists frequently enter charismatic meetings and speak in tongues in order to praise the devil and mock Christians! Such would be impossible in a true Christian church! So, yes, the desire for tongues as evidence of true salvation is sign-seeking. God help those who believe they saved because of tongue-speaking! The chances are they have let in demons instead.
The Real Reason for the Charismatic Bandwagon
The charismatic movement owes its origins in the impulse to find spiritual experience in the midst of spiritual poverty. It has many forms though there are, broadly-speaking, five types of charismatic:
(1) The Classical Pentecostals who, reacting to the coldness and stuffiness of the older Protestant churches, sought for a more dynamic gospel paradigm;
(2) The liberal Christians who, deprived of the gospel of salvation, sought for a substitute for the social gospel, and found it in tongues;
(3) The Charismatic Roman Catholics who, whilst remaining true to Catholic dogmas, wanted some "fresh air";
(4) Protestant Charismatics from the older denominations seeking to break out of their stuffy coffins whilst remaining true to their traditions;
(5) The "Health and Wealth" Movement, consisting mostly of young disillusioned people looking for a substitute "fix" to replace drugs, the occult and free sex.
There may be other categories, but these are the main ones. Most have departed from the Word of God in one area or another.
What do these have in common? The search for experience. It's the same basis of Mormonism which relies on "spiritual experience" as the basis for establishing truth, even when it contradicts the Word of God. Jesus is the new "high" for most of these people -- they want Him all to themselves as a replacement drug.
Please do not think for one minute that I am knocking "experience" -- you can't be alive in Christ and not experience! We are to "love the Lord with all our heart" -- it is a love affair of the highest degree. But it isn't a spiritual drug-fix. All true experience must come from the Truth or else it is likely useless. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life". Remember that. We must begin with the Truth of the Word and work out of that. All else is terribly dangerous even if sometimes people are lead to the truth without initial contact with the Word. If an experience harmonises with the Word of God, all well and good. But if the Word contradicts it, THEN THE ALARM BELLS SHOULD BE RINGING. Make no mistake, all experience is not of God, and most of it is a counterfeit of the devil.
We ought to remember Peter's experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet.1:18ff) -- whilst He saw the glory of Christ there was something better and surer than the vision itself -- the Word of God! His experience was secondary to God's Word.
The charismatic movement is built on experience. The Bible is used to support experience, instead of experience being tested against the Bible. People are thus taken out of context and those passages which rebuke their practices are explained away or ignored. They are little different from the Mormons and other cultists in this respext. Those who follow the Scriptures are accused of "intellectualising" and "following the letter rather than the Spirit". But they forget that the Holy Spirit wrote the "letter" and does not sponsor experiences which contradict His own Word.
'Tongues', for the most part, is a psychological phenomenon that has nothing to due with biblcial tongues, but sometimes it is animated by demons. I have heard dozens of "messages in tongues" and "interpretations" but not one ever added anything of value to the meeting. Every one was a rehash of scripture (often quoted wrongly), some promoted false teaching, some were wildly fanciful predictions, some were designed to rebuke individuals with whom the speaker has a disagreement, and others were simply to gain the admiration and respect of peers.
Biblical tongues was not ecstatic speech and modern ecstatic speech is not Biblical tongues. The desire for experience has subverted sincere people into involvement with a psychological phenomenon which they mistakenly believe is "speaking in tongues". In the process, because the inhibitions are lowered, many emotional experiences are realised -- euphoria, excitement, release, and the like. But surrendering inhibition can be dangerous. Paul warned "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor.14:32). God never leads His children into loss of control. That was typical of the paganism out of which the Corinthians had come (1 Cor.12:2)! The enemy of the soul is ever ready to take advantage of an "out of control" situation and thousands can testify with regret to the end results.
Ecstatic experience, like drug-addiction, requires larger and larger doses to satisfy. I suppose that is one reason for modern "turbo-tongues". Sometimes the bizzare happens as is true of the so-called "Toronto Blessing". Eventually a crisis is reached and the tongue-speaker will sit on the back seats as a spectator in the hope that everything will be eventually as it was. The most tragic decision is to quit and in the quitting abandon all things spiritual as fraudulent -- I have met many such disillusioned souls. The spectators are frustrated, the fakers suffer guilt, the hoping are pitiful and the quitters are a tragedy. Such movements are definitely not harmless!
My mission, and that of many others, is to salvage the 'charismatic' for true Christianity. Coming our of the charismatic movement is not easy and many land in mental institutions -- the victims of the "Health and Wealth" movement which I dare say isn't Christian at all is terrible. They are becoming as numerous as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Almost as bad, the victims are giving true Christianity a bad name and are being used as an excuse for atheism. But Biblical Christianity is not the charismatic movement! Far from it!
The New Covenant Church of God, like many other denominations, comes with a message of a whole and balanced Christianity. We are, as you have heard tonight, no-nonsense Christians and will not compromise with the Word. We are also a people with rich experiences, thanks be to Christ who is the giver of all good things (Eph.5:18). If you are looking for a home where you can grow in grace and love, we welcome you into our family.
Sermon given in Oslo, Wednesday 25 December 1998
Click here for a Swedish translation
I should like to gratefully acknowledge the help of George E. Gardiner for the many helpful insights in his book, The Corinthian Catastrophe, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, USA.
During the 1980's/early 1990's I was heavily involved in the AG (Assemblies of God) Church. We were blessed with a pastor who followed the scriptures and kept things well under control. But in associating with other groups and people in charasmatic movements I've seen it all. I know there is the true witness of Messiah that is that baptism of His Fire of Love of Life coming from our Father and is even that applied at the moment of salvation and in our prayer closet where there is a conversation of meanings of heart that arise but we live in that same Power and get tastes of what it will be like in the Kingdom when we get there, though it is within us!
And well Paul wrote that those things of tongues are for Holy Conversations, precious and private but not for public display. And if in a meeting done in order with interpretation. And I've seen and heard the real and the fake. But, knowing that many times public display is of a carnal nature of the mind for show and spiritual pride. We are told by our Messiah to go into our closet to pray. And not to be seen of man for the esteem of man. Those crossing that wisdom of Messiah likely get more of their carnal nature stirred up than of that purity of cleansing fire to be set-apart for Him.
I've been in meetings where the power of the Father was so stong that just about everyone was repenting where the love and mercy was flowing like a river. True moves of the Father when people put His Word first in loving to know Him.
I've also been in meetings where the imitation was of a carnal nature just to meet for any other reasons the expectations of a label of the group such as Pentecostal or such. Proclaiming so, they must 'act' so. But that grew and arose into great apostacy and the movements we have seen over the years. We even had the 'Pensacola' bunch come in for a few services. I remember well being told by the Holy Spirit which is our Father not to let them touch me or my family. And seeing them in public display wondering what spirit is barking like dogs and going out of control and giving false signs and 'healings'... We know the true because of Truth and cannot be deceived. (Check out Jeremiah 5 and 6 and we see what is going on from our Father's perspective. He has not withheld His Word as in no respect of persons but it is in what we do with Him after we receive. Witness in low esteem of man of our savior, to make that jump of faith to become a target for Messiah or to build up our own selfish spiritual pride...)
Towards the end of the '80's our pastor left, the one who was so careful about following the scriptures and we got what everyone else was getting. Before long there was promiscuity and adultery manifest, those being put in as deacons, one man saying 'god' told him to divorce his wife and marry another which then they had a child but he was a deacon and both taught sunday school and sang in the choir, a gay sunday school teacher who wound up tragically commiting suicide, on and on. And the end of that situation led to those people voting in a pastor who tore up that church. He came in and split everything up, even preaching on Abraham and Lot as a church splitting message of all things, the most abominable sermon I've ever heard.
Well, the remnant or few who were of true experience were the workers in the field and we did things few would believe in today's world. Staying in repentance even the true going astray at times but always overcoming by confessing our sin. I've been out of that since about 1994. About a year ago one of my son's and his wife started going to a charismatic church and he found out what I had warned him of first hand. Many following after their own lusts instead of fighting to overcome them or having a form of 'godliness' denying the real Power which leads to become a witness of Messiah, to walk in spirit and truth where we fight and strive against sin of breaking the commandments. And we see in many of those groups they do not know what sin is since they deny the source to know what it is by the definitions of Torah saying the law is done away but not realizing it is the Heart of our Messiah. In any case, that True Power we are given results in overcoming and to be on the increase in the things of our Father.
That church ended from the apostacy where the leaders got away from the Truth first. Today it is gone, with some other group in the building.
And looking back, I can see where our Father has led many of us to come out of those gatherings into a true gathering where we love His Truth and that Life given of our baptiser Yahushua (Jesus) that is the very character and Being of our Father. But, even from what those of carnal nature do, it still does not cancel out or negate the true gifts and Power of Life that causes us to become witnesses of our Messiah where ever we go as we love the Truth and Spirit that go together and make the OIL to burn in our lamps.
We do live in perilious times. The lost are many, those witnessing of the true way, the truth and life are few. I can remember when my wife and I were still in that AG Church and the last meeting I attended. We were in turmoil at the infiltration of the "Rick Warren" agenda and other changes to the teaching materials many of which contradicted the scriptures. We were in a dilemma where we could not justify bringing anyone else into that place. If someone found true salvation it would lead to being taught to walk in iniquity instead of truth. That is the tragedy of this day we live in and those things are rampant not just in charasmatic movements. I find many 'torah keeper' movements are of the same nature just a different vocabulary, and despising 'church' people. We are taught to love all and offer reconciliation to all. Messiah has everything under control! But, even so, we know our Father has preserved His Redeemed and will bring about His great plan.
May our Father touch and strengthen our hearts even to be a witness where we are found or wherever He may lead. Even in the face of the religious or the lost and we all give that word of reconciliation that even the worst of mankind can repent if He calls to the Heart. Where that living is in humility and love of just knowing our Father has everything in His hands and we just trust Him wherever He leads. (RR, USA, 15 December 2009)
I've been thinking on this thing all week long being taken through some things of the past and seeing my own failures and being reminded by Abba that we are all in trouble without the righteousness of our savior.
He is doing something I cannot explain but there is something coming that will show us all the most powerful truths in a real way as of experience as we in humility will see ourselves as we are in our savior and more of what He has done to conquer sin. I think there is a wave of mercy and love that will come from that, in the Redeemed People, who are prepared that we will know our true status in the Dust part and have a powerful overcoming to operate by our status in the Spirit of our Father Yahuweh, overcoming in ways we do not currently understand. It will not be what we have seen before, but will be in a true powerful humility, of Shalom, of repentance, of contrite heart, of the Kind of Love of our Father, where our Father does what He will as we submit to Him where we will Know That Way of Life manifest in everything we do and say.
There is a time and season for everything and I believe the season is near foretold of the Kingdom of our Father to be manifest upon this earth but even in our generation.
Some might say we already have these things of overcoming by the Holy Spirit, and yes we do, and how good they are!, however, what if it is like the ‘volume’ being turned up so powerful that we cannot hear anything but our Father speaking? And will we experience the real manifestation of that shadow foretold when the people of Israel heard Abba speaking from the mountain and feared greatly within their very being as to think they would even physically die in His presence? And I do think there are some alive today who could say that from personal experience of being that close at times in their life.
We are living in the time prophesied where there will be a latter rain flowing and not withheld because of our sin of Dust because we will come to more fully understand how it has been overcome by the Power of the Blood of that Life given of our precious savior, of the Holy Spirit, the character and binding force of the Father Himself.
It will not be of deception or of feigned power of man’s doings or of those things caused by Iniquity or where the true witness of the Truth of our savior has been turned into a lie of some of those things this thread has covered. It will not be great in the eyes of the world and may not be what the ‘spiritually proud’ are even close to thinking.
Of sin and Iniquity, we are being plagued with more than we think in this world and society of Dust thinking and living where there is only reveling in sin. Even by our own faults that are embedded within our Dust or flesh that are inherited or visited upon us for our testing and to put those things underfoot even when they pop up. But we admit we are affected and confess our sin before our High Priest and He does have mercy and love to keep us going for His purpose as we are outside the gate doing His work. That is staying in remission of sin. We know those 'thorns' in our side even keeping us humble and as Paul wrote about but we all have those things where we are vulnerable.
Those things affect us all. But even we overcome by the "Blood of the Lamb" which is that Life of the Holy Spirit flowing to the body of Messiah which we are. We being of that body even are cleansed from the "waste products" by that blood flow. Just like cells in a body are cleansed but only those who are connected or are open to allowing the Messiah to cleanse as walking in Spirit and Truth mixed together un-separated making some good OIL to burn in our lamps. Also, that flowing power, bringing the good unleavened bread of Yahushua and the Life of the Father to each one of us who are as Living Stones in His Temple for His Dwelling Place.
I will be in more pondering of this whole issue as our Father is bringing more to light and I know there are many others He is leading on this very same thing to anticipate an understanding of Heart we have not yet been shown. How do we call that inward thing we can’t quite get our arms around yet but are being shown bit by bit as our Father is building up something within our Heart?
He has allowed those of us to go through these things over the years for this time Now. And all who have overcome and made it to this point will see and be ready for the work to do something more awesome than words can explain and it is at the very door. It is for the salvation and showing to many people who need a firm foundation and confirmation of our Living Messiah and He will be lifted up by His prepared people as never before. Even each one overcoming this world of it’s disbelief to even be powerful witnesses right in the face of evil, not even fearing death itself in the least.
It will not be an ‘entertainment’ show that many will be looking for nor of man’s esteem. There will not be any glory of man period. There will be the Father shown in His people, Love and Mercy for those of us who live in Unconditional Yes to Him and those to come to that way of being as they receive His salvation, and that will be in more outpouring of even as it was in the first of Acts. Nothing of show but of Power and of being in a place where we must be totally submitted to the Truth where absolutely no Iniquity is allowed where that Power is manifest or it will mean instant death of this Dust body. And that Iniquity is sin as defined by the Father where the remission of sin is stopped by Falsehood and hiding of sin or of twisting of the very Heart of our savior and of our Father. Our great Messiah Yahushua and our Father know we must be prepared and we must not allow our Dust part even of any un-renewed thought causing action where we are unable to stand before him nor to even cause Him to take us out of this Dust because of Iniquity before we should do His work in this world while we are alive and remain.
We must always remain where there is remission of our sin to stand before Him as in standing where He is looking upon Us in this Dust in that closeness I am not able to quite explain in words but am led of Heart to write.
“Time”, length of days, however it can be described, as we “see” something like this coming starts to become meaningless and we will more fully understand that Spirit part of our Being is not going to be overcome as we are not our own and are truly bought and paid for with a great price.
Sometimes it is like we are told to sit back, wait on our Father as in waiting for the gun to go off at the Start of a Race. We who are lined up to run sometimes ‘jump the gun’ but isn’t that exciting to be in the line up? And we cannot be disqualified by anything if we stay where we know our testimony is of the Truth of the Rock, Solid, The Unchanging Aleph-Taw, and even in that part about the Life we have in the Blood of that Lamb.
Our vile body and Dust cannot hold back what will be done in our Dust where Spirit has overcome in remission of sin and we show that humility and Power of remission of sin where sin even of Iniquity, (the opposition of Truth), is conquered and cannot take hold. Isn’t Iniquity even of scriptures where man has made private interpretation instead of Knowing the Messiah interpretation of it? And if we can even imagine that solid Rock of Truth, Messiah is Being, and is quite unchanged and even He is the one residing within the inward man.
Can we even begin to understand what blessings our Father has in store? Has the curse of the scattering been a terrible thing? If we could grab hold of it all, even the many years and years of it, and put it into a bottle to see and how so many have died and been plagued because of it and the terribleness of it all, we might begin to see how much more awesome Love and Mercy our Father has planned because He did say it would be far much more greater than the curse was.
Can the greatness of the blessings our Father will do be seen even in part? It is so great a thing words cannot tell and we cannot even comprehend a small part until we be there in it’s flood. The gate will open soon and the gun will sound!
And I can almost feel or taste a little of that now. Even to be in that Kingdom to Come and this earthly Dust dwelling be done. We will ALL see that come and if we are alive and remain what amazing things will be shown of the Kingdom of Heaven right here upon the earth. To live in the things those who have gone on before us already Know for they are there before our Abba now. What will happen on this earth as our Father does show Himself in His people in a real way we have never seen in our time?
Laget: 25. november, 1998
Oppdatert: 19. desember, 2009
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