Ern Baxter on the Charismatic Movement. - (1)
One of my key passions for my vision is to get as much of Ern Baxter's teaching material as possible into the public sphere. If it is on audiotape, then to transcribe it and publish it - similiarly to hunt down old out-of-print books and magazines he may have written and reproduce them in whatever sphere is necessary and beneficial. Ern is a hero who, more than anyone, has totally and utterly transformed my view not just of the Christian life, but of God Himself - and indeed the whole reason why we are living this life for Him and His glory and I am determined that while Ern may be physically dead, he shall indeed still speak from beyond the grave.
Therefore my blog entry today, is an article from the New Wine Magazine that Ern was responsible for editing along with his close collegues; Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Derek Prince and Charles Simpson. I came across a whole box of the New Wine Magazines when I was in Regent College in Vancouver and I spent most of my money while I was in the library photocopying the articles that Ern wrote or about him! This particular article is Part 1 of 2 - and it is called "Charismatic Crisis - Is the Party Over?". To me, it demonstrates Ern's extrodinary prophetic ability to assess where the Charismatic Movement was going, and where it would (and now has) ended up. He gives warnings (which have come true in part) and sketches the glorious vision if the people of God will stay true to God's vision.
"The Charismatic Crisis - “Is the Party Over?” -
by Dr Ern Baxter - New Wine Magazine - July/August 1979.
About fifteen years ago, the religious world was aroused by a spiritual movement which was no respecter of denominations and which became known as the “Charismatic Movement”. I believe it is a valid visitation. But I suggest there is a “Charismatic Crisis”. From my standpoint this movement is facing a serious crisis which can simply be put this way; “Grow up or retard!”. The option is not “Grow up or stand still” because there is no such thing as standing still in God. It is either progression or retardation. I believe the charismatic movement is facing a crisis that can be defined in those terms. It is not sure it wants to grow up. It continues to play the same games it played five or six years ago. If you take the simple analogy of a growing child you would be very concerned if your child was doing the same things today that he did five years ago.
Throughout church history the vitality of the Holy Spirit’s Presence has been opposed by different forms of religious antagonism. In the beginning every Christian was charismatic. There is no such thing in the New Testament as someone who had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was part of the initiation rite into the Kingdom. Every New Testament Christian came in by repentance, faith, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Each of the Pauline epistles has a distinctive purpose and I suggest that the epistle to the Corinthians deals with charismatic crisis in Paul’s day; and it deals with charismatic crisis in our day as well. The Corinthian church had all the charismatic gifts and enablement’s. They were “enriched”. They were “plutocrats” spiritually. There was no gift and no utterance and no charisma that was not in the Corinthian church. However in chapter 3 Paul speaks sternly;
“For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions are ye not carnal and walk as men?”.
The Corinthians – with all their charisma – began to stray from God’s purposes and get off the track. They needed serious correction in three areas. We’ll cover the first one in this article and the others in the next issue.
Failure to comprehend the Divine Purpose.
Do you know it is possible for you and me to be Christians, go to heaven when we die and yet miss God’s purpose on the earth? A graphic illustration of this is the nation of Israel, our fathers, the majority of whom died in the wilderness. They were members of the “church in the wilderness”, a church that did not obey the purposes of God. They knew God’s purpose but wouldn’t walk in it. When they came to Kadesh Barnea, to go into Canaan they balked as a congregation.
The wilderness represents legitimate, temporary immaturity. You don’t expect your nine year old boy to act eighteen. There is a place for immaturity on the way to maturity. Immaturity will naturally give way to maturity. If it doesn’t then you have a problem. The wilderness was that immaturity in type. When Israel refused to go into maturity, which is the land of Canaan, God didn’t send them back to Egypt – which is the place of “lostness”. He sent them back into the wilderness, which is the place of “immaturity” and that is where they died. In immaturity. If that analogy holds, is it fair to say that we are looking at a generation of charismatics who are risking the possibility of dying in immaturity?
If the letter in Hebrews is saying anything in chapter 6, it is; “You Hebrews have been converted long enough to know that you shouldn’t be playing on these keys now. Having laid the foundation, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again …”. In a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize. Paul says, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all?”. (1 Cor 9:24). He is talking about the ongoingness of our Christian life corporately as well as individually. Paul himself says, “ I, Paul fear; lest after having preached to others, I myself be disapproved”. How much more then is it possible for us to be disapproved in running the race of God’s purpose?
In chapter 10:1-4, Paul says; “Brothers, in the first part of my lettr to you, I said you had been enriched by God in all utterance; that you came behind in no gift. God has blessed you with His grace; you are a blessed, redeemed people under the hand of a faithful God. But what you don’t seem to understand is that the gifts of God have not been given to you to squander – they have been given to you to use responsibly for a purpose. I want to remind you of what happened to our fathers. All of them had everything you have; they were baptised with the Holy Spirit in type under the cloud; they were baptised under Moses with the water baptism in the Red Sea. They ate the supernatural meat, the manner and they drank supernatural water out of the Rock. They were charismatics just like you”.
God gifted them. God gave them every charisma. They came behind in no gift. But I want you to remember what happened to them – God was not well pleased for they were overthrown in the wilderness. What is the wilderness? Immaturity! At what point where they sent back into the wilderness? At the point where they refused to go on.
No matter where we are in the process of growing up, the great danger for all of us is not in our deciding to go back with a real negative intention (“I have decided I want to backslide”) but in our decision not to go on.
Israel was spoken of as a “backsliding heifer”. Such a heifer is not a heifer that is backing off, but just refusing to go forward. God is concerned about us backing off, but He’s equally concerned if not more so, about us sticking on all fours and refusing to go on. Why? Because if I stay here, I can fool myself into believing that I’m alright. If I started to back up I might have twinges of conscience somewhere, but if I’m staying where I am, I can say; “Well Lord I haven’t gone back a bit”. That sounds good! “Lord I’m faithful. I’m right here Lord where I’ve been for the last 10 years. Hallelujah!”. The Lord says; “What are you doing there? I’ve moved ten years up the road!”.
What is the serious subtle thing about that kind of backsliding? It gives all the semblances of continuing to be what you are without being what you should be. It’s reaching a point where you don’t go on, so that the good becomes an enemy of better and the better becomes an enemy of the best. Why does Paul write to the Corinthians and say; “With a great majority of them God was not well pleased?”. That is a heavy word. Paul is saying this; “Corinthians, the majority of the Israelite Church died in the wilderness. And I’m writing this to you to tell you that if you don’t straighten up, the majority of you will die in the wilderness also”.
Would it be fair to imply from what I am saying that if we, as God’s spirit-filled, charismatic or whatever-you-want-to-call it people do not clean up our act, get on the road, get moving in the purposes of God that the word Paul brought to the Corinthians is applicable to us? We too could die in our immaturity!
“Now these things happened unto them as illustrations of the way in which God works and are recorded as a warning for our benefit in whose lives the climax of the ages has been reached”. If anything our situation is much more serious than was Israel’s. Why? God’s dealing with Israel occurred early in the process of God’s historical activity. In contrast, we are at the climax. If I read my New Testament correctly, God has no ‘Plan B’ up His sleeve. We are it. If you subscribe to certain eschatological views that get you off that hook, I think you need to take a good hard look at those views. The Bible is very clear that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation – that the Church of God is the last redeemed community in the earth and that this is the end of the ages – the climax of history and the Messianic age.
When you and I fail to comprehend the divine purpose, then we have lost our incentive for going on. What do you think the Corinthian s thought Paul was saying? I think they heard it very clearly. “You are in danger of dying in the wilderness”. I wonder, dear people, how many of us are satisfied to die in the wilderness?
Now the interesting thing is – God didn’t take the cloud from those disobedient people; He didn’t take the water from them. He didn’t take the manna from them. He just took from them the opportunity to go on into maturity and they were never allowed to enter Canaan. To the Corinthians and to the Hebrews, the apostolic word is; “If you don’t go in, God is forced to do something”. His judgement is the withdrawal from those who wont take it, the opportunity of going on later.
The charismatic crisis includes the failure to comprehend the divine purpose. It’s the failure to understand that it is not enough to celebrate healings, supernatural manna, supernatural water, supernatural provisions, to stay put for the rest of your life celebrating that. But we have a responsibility to go into the land and the land is where the redeemed community demonstrates God’s government. I don’t believe God sent this charismatic dimension in the last fifteen years just to have conferences and get goosebumps. I think He sent it to us that we might have a dynamic whereby we could fulfil the purpose of God.
The Corinthians did not comprehend the divine purpose. Do we? Do we understand that Jesus said, “Light the world. Salt the earth. Get on out there with your charismatic power and don’t just stay in meetings. Touch all areas of life. Bring integrity into every legitimate area of human experience”. We need a real river of Christian teaching, Christian lawyers, Christian doctors, Christian architects, Christian farmers, Christian businessmen to touch every area of life. Is it too much to ask?