Ern Baxter on the Charismatic Movement. - (2)
Here's Part 2 from New Wine Magazine September 1979:
The Charismatic Crisis: Part 2
In the first part of this series we considered the prospect of what I called a “charismatic crisis”; the option of whether we will go on to spiritual maturity or stagnate and decline from our present level of growth. As I pointed out, the greatest danger is not that we may deliberately turn away from God and His purposes but that we merely shrink back from moving on in Him. We know that the Corinthian church faced a similar crisis. Although Paul recognised that the Corinthians were gifted spiritually, he saw three areas where they needed correction. The first one which we talked about in the last issue was that they failed to comprehend the divine purpose. They didn’t realise that God wanted them to grow up in obedience to His calling rather than to merely revel in His blessings. That brings us to the second area in which the Corinthians (and many of us) need adjusting.
Area Two: Failure to cooperate with the Divine People.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have all made to drink into one Spirit”. What is the pivotal word in that verse? One. How many bodies? One. How many spirits? One. We see from this the absolute essentiality of unit. If we do not find the unity of the Spirit, then we frustrate the Spirit’s ministry.
In Ephesians 3 Paul speaks of two unities. First, the unity of the Spirit which we are to keep until we come to the unity of the faith. Unfortunately we have tended to reverse it by saying; “I’ll be one with you, if you agree with me”. But if we make the unity of the Spirit contingent upon unity in our faith, we’ll never get together.
In the beginning the Charismatic Renewal brought us all together because of a common commitment to the life and power of the Holy Spirit. But as time went on, divisions arose; and they remain today because we refuse to grow up and maintain our unity in the Spirit. Like the Corinthians we are petty, small and controversial with each other. This should not be so. The people of God are to be a distinctive people, supernaturally composed and maintained by the Holy Spirit. The second part of 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “ … all made to drink into one Spirit”. Baptism is the crisis, drinking is the process. We have been brought in by the crisis; we are maintained by the process. The unity of the Spirit is a present fact of God. The unity of the faith is a potential fact which we obtain by obedience. We are one. That unity of the Spirit binds us together and allows us to differ on issues of faith without dividing.
Jesus Christ promises our maturity in corporate life and witness. Before Jesus comes back, He must have something to show the Father. Jesus is coming back for a Kingdom He can turn over to the Father that will exemplify God’s government in the earth. Do you think that Jesus wants to show us off to the Father in the condition that we’re in? I’m certain that Jesus isn’t going to take the mess that we have right now and say; “Father, here’s the product of My work”. We are on the verge of the fulfilment of the Word of the Lord which says that in the time of the harvest, Jesus is going to remove from the Kingdom all things that offend so that the righteous may shine forth. I believe that when God gave us this charismatic visitation, He gave us an opportunity to get it together. I seriously believe that the next jolt is going to be a judgemental jolt. God is giving us opportunity tog et ready. He will not tolerate our continuing stubborn division. God’s people are a distinctive people. The Corinthians failed to recognise that and divided the One Body, the people who were drinking into the one Spirit.
Just one note of caution. Don’t try to join the unjoinable. A few years ago I tried in my zeal to incorporate everybody who called themselves Christians. The Lord simply said to me one day, “You’ve been preaching from Ephesians chapter 4. Don’t you know that 4 comes after 3 and 3 comes after 2 and 2 comes after 1?”. So I went back to Ephesians and found out that the people He wants to get together in chapter 4 are the people He began to process in chapter 1. I realised then that the people God is going to join are those who repent and are baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost as they were in Ephesians 1.
The Corinthians failed to cooperate with the divine people in not handling the unity question or interpersonal relationships properly. This is a serious area of concern for us as well. We still talk and act as individuals. “I am saved, I received my baptism, I, I, I”. The “I” emphasis is legitimate but only if we hold it in conjunction with the “we” emphasis. There is no such think in the New Testament as a Christian living by himself. In fact the New Testament categorically says, “No man lives unto himself”. In God we are made to relate. God has deliberately place in you and me a notch that can only be filled by somebody else. I don’t have it all nor do you. But I’ll tell you something else – we have it all.
The totality of God’s provision is not given to me or to you, it is given to us. In the Body He has place all that is necessary for our corporate welfare. If any of us fails to make His contribution, he robs the Body of what he has to give and hinders the fulfilment of God’s purposes.
We are to be a distinctive people, supernaturally composed and equipped for the distinctive purpose of being a redeemed community for world witness.
Area Three: Failure to Continue in the Divine Power.
God chose Paul and gave him tremendous revelation and Paul shared that revelation in several letters. When the canon of Scripture was put together by the providence and oversight of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters were not put in chronological order. They were put in the order of truth. So the first Pauline letter is Romans which is a divinely inspired essay on the meaning of salvation. Paul taught in Romans that salvation is by grace through faith – that man is justified by faith. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul declared the mind of God so clearly regarding salvation by grace that people responding to the truth of Romans did one of two things. Number one they said, “Well that’s great! If I’m saved by grace, not by works then I can magnify the grace of God if I throw in a few extra sins. Just think, if I sin a little more, He can grace a little more”. Paul said, “Know ye not that so many of us who were baptised into Christ were baptised into His death?”. The whole idea of grace is not only to save you from your sins but to save you from sin. Sin is the factory that that makes sins.
So Paul says “You didn’t understand my message in Romans. I not only said Christ died for your sins, I said that Christ died unto sin. Christ dealt with the root of sin”. In your baptism you are saying, “I am dead now to that to which I gave my members in my past life”. So the first wrong way of reacting to Romans – the reaction of the Corinthians – was to commit more sins, so God could exercise more grace. The Corinthian went the route of licentiousness, shallowness, worldliness and carnality.
What was the second wrong reaction? We see it in the Galatians. The Galatians said, “You cant just be saved by grace. That’s too easy. We had better tack on some religious observances just in case – a few holy days, new moons, Sabbaths, and probably some dietary changes”. And so they went the route of legalism. Paul’s response to the Galatians’ reaction is frightening. “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?”. Notice that he did not say, “Not believe the truth”. There is no such thing as believing the truth and not obeying it. Believing embraces obedience.
Since Christ had been so clearly preached to the Galatians, the fact that they could have been bewitched is even more frightening. If converts of Paul who had come under the apostolic impact of the pure message of this man could be bewitched then we should consider that as a warning for us today.
The point I am concerned with is the ongoing work of the Spirit in us. As Galatians 3:3 says; “Surely you cant think a man begins his Christian life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to the outward observances”. One of the crisis points at which we now find ourselves in the Charismatic Movement is the danger of failing to continue in the divine power which will ultimately lead us to maturity. The Holy Spirit has begun something. He is going to complete it. Our problem is that we might stop with what He has begun.
The two-fold reaction to the truth of Romans is manifest today – the Corinthian move towards licentiousness, shallowness, worldliness and carnality, and the Galatian route of legalism and deception. Either response cancels out the Holy Spirit as the ongoing effective, life-giving source from God.
The Holy Spirit’s Role.
The Holy Spirit is the operative agent in the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit convicts us and converts us. He regenerates and empowers us. We receive gifts from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in the Body. He is the active agent of the Trinity. If that is the case, how can a man after having been introduced to salvation by the Holy Spirit, be so foolish as to say, “Now I’ll run my own show”? This is the issue in the ongoing ness of the Holy Spirit. The alternatives are carnality or legalism. How many men have heard their earthly fathers say, “Alright boys, grow up!”. Similarly I can see the heavenly Father looking down and saying to us, “Grow up!”.
There comes a point when we have to get rid of the teddy bear. I have no problems with people being immature when they first come to Christ. The beginning in the Spirit can be simple and beautiful and a new convert often has all the characteristics of a newborn babe. But a child eventually has to grow up. The subtle danger for us today is that as the gentle pressures of the Holy Spirit are lovingly and effectively prodding us onto maturity, we are saying, “I don’t want to go on”. After all a child does not have to pay the bills, take responsibility in a family, plan or organise. That is for the mature and many in the charismatic scene are saying in effect, “Who wants to grow up and pay the bills? We are having such fun!”.
Five years ago when some of my brothers and I started talking about discipleship, submission, shepherding and authority, we thought it would it would be a blessing to the people of God. We believed people wanted to mature and accomplish God’s purpose. Instead they screamed to high heaven. They said, “You’re taking away our teddy bears!”.
Are we going to sit around charismatic conferences fondling our teddy bears until Jesus comes? It is wonderful to go to a conference, get all goosebumpy and say, “Jesus is Lord” but that isn’t where the purposes of God are going to be proved. For example communism hasn’t taken over three fifths of the earths surface and infiltrated the other two fifths by holding conferences. They have done it by making converts and absorbing those converts into cells!
The Holy Spirit is the agent of the Trinity to bring to pass in you and me the whole purpose of God. The Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us in praise and worship and singing. Those inspirations are valid. Yet the Holy Spirit is also interested in helping us get our finances straightened out. He’s interested in helping us get every area of our lives adjusted to the will and Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ whose character and quality of life are to be reproduced in us.
If you suffer at all in your Christian life, you suffer for some area where you have not developed into maturity. That continuing area of childishness in an adult body can cause you many concerns. The Holy Spirit wants to speak to you and to me about the childish areas of our lives. Those areas will not simply vanish away by talking in tongues. They are going to go away only as we expose them to the light of the Spirit and the Word and let Him minister maturity in those areas. The Bible says “Grow up into Christ in all things”. This means all, not some.
The charismatic crisis in Paul’s day was the failure to cooperate with the divine people and to continue in the divine power. It’s relevancy to us is obvious.