Friday, August 31, 2007

Why the Death of Something Valuable is Sometimes Necessary for Advancement in Kingdom Life

"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" - John 12:24 (NAS).

Two major historical events in the charismatic calender have made me consider and re-consider this not too easy concept that God seems to sneak upon His people from season to season. The first was the closure of Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2001. At that point in my spiritual walk, I relied on Stoneleigh heavily and couldn't comprehend life without it and felt very grumpy with Terry Virgo for depriving me of it. The second was this editorial by Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Don Basham and Bob Mumford officially closing the New Wine Magazine.

The problem is that the Church's natural response is to settle into any routine, any activity and any ministry as soon as possible and for as long as possible whereas God in His infinite wisdom knows that it is only a radical Church on the cutting edge living in prophetic watchfulness for the next "Go!" from heaven that will spread His glory to the ends of the earth.

How then can we bring our thoughts and actions into line with the Holy Spirit? After all wasn't it Jonathan Edwards who said;

"It is the job of every believer to find out which direction the Holy Spirit is moving in and move with Him".

I had a few thoughts occur to me as to possible ways in which we can align ourselves with the Holy Spirit's movement and I am going to apply this to myself. I think at present, my "grain of wheat" is blogging.

1. Does your "Grain of Wheat" feel heavy and excessively hard work?

If so then it is possible that "grain of wheat" has died and it is only your effort that is preventing it from falling to the ground. I need to be considering honestly whether running the blogs is more effort than anything else and whether the thought is cropping up regularly that it is only the sweat of my brow that is keeping it going. If the answers to those questions is "Yes" then it could be that the season has come for the grain to fall.

I am not arguing that doing anything for God is "easy"! Both the organisers of Stoneleigh Bible Week and New Wine Magazine would testify that they were a lot of hard work! But the anointing of the Holy Spirit brings an ease with it that is unmistakeable both present and gone. The moment I sigh when I am logging on to blog, or the moment that I find myself filling up posts with quotes from other blogs simply to fill up posts I need to ask myself if this grain is ready to fall to the ground and die.

2. Does the idea of my "Grain of Wheat" dying seem unbearable?

In pushing His servants to shut down Stoneleigh Bible Week or to close the New Wine Magazine, God wasn't primarily thinking of depriving thousands of the blessing that they brought! God isn't a kill-joy who delights to upset or disappoint! Terry Virgo spoke repeatedly of the pain of shutting down Stoneleigh but since then we have seen the phenomenal growth of Newday, Together on a Mission and Mobilise. In shutting down New Wine, the four teachers - Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Don Basham and Ern Baxter went to different parts of the USA and exercised their apostolic ministries in greater freedom while retaining relational unity as they wrote. It is clear in the New Wine editorial that they knew closing the magazine would cause upset and pain;

"We do not want to disturb or distress you".

Why is it that the things we do can become so difficult to lay down? I fear that it is because the things we do particularly for God become our identities rather than WHO we are. I challenge every Christian blogger to ask themselves if they can go right now to the "Delete Blog" button and hit it. Does it seem impossible to you? If so are we holding on to the blogs too tightly because we're not secure enough in who we are in Christ Jesus? Let us see the death of our grains of wheat in the same light as death itself - just a path or a river to cross to something new and greater.

Personally I have decided that at a regular appropriate juncture I am going to ask my close friends and fellow bloggers (Pete, Jesse, Don, Julie, Luke and Scott) whether or not they too feel that now is the time to let my blogs die.

3. "God's Purpose is not the death of something but rather multiplied life" - Charles Simpson.

That promise being made publicly, I have not yet received the sense that I should delete the blogs. But if we can see the joy of multipled fruit from laying the "Grain of Wheat" down then surely that makes allowing that death easier. Jesus Himself walked to Calvary with all the emotions of a human being yet endured them "for the joy set before Him". Surely that is the ultimate example of how to face death! If Jesus hadn't gone to Calvary and risen again then many sons wouldn't have been brough to glory! Just so with us, let us not deprieve God of the chance to bring greater ministry and increased fruit and responsibilities by holding on to our "Grains of Wheat" too tightly. Who knows what God may have in store for us?

How then can we know when the time is right to let that "Grain of Wheat" fall?

1. Ask prophets. Terry Virgo testified that prophet after prophet said that the time was right to close Stoneleigh Bible Week and move onto something new - yet they didn't know what fruit was to come! An act of faith is made easier to become enabled by prophets who are seeing what God is doing.

2. Ask God. Mahesh Chavda really challenged me by speaking of the Holy Spirit as "My dearest friend". Let us culture a practice of asking the Holy Spirit every time we log on to publish. Do you want it back Holy Spirit? Is there something new and different you would prefer me spending my time doing? I am yours!

3. Fix our eyes on the ultimate goal - Numbers 14:21. If we spend our time continually looking to seeing the ends of the earth covered with the glory of the Lord then the death of our particular "Grain of Wheat" will be made easier for we will be able to see it in the grand cosmic scheme that God embarked on from before time began. Let's beware of becoming so enveloped in our activities that we fail to see the end and ultimate goal.

Closing Down New Wine Magazine - November 1986

This editorial marked the closing of New Wine Magazine. It has yet to be published on the website but here is the transcript of the historic statement.

A Special Announcement by Charles Simpson - Chairman of the Board of Integrity Communications.

In the October issue of New Wine Magazine, the board of directors announced that as of December the magazine would be discontinued. We stressed that the decision was the result of prayer and counsel and what we sincerely believed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. In this issue we want to put the decision in the context of the Lord's leadership for the future. Bible teachers know the truth of John 12:24; "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit" (NAS).

God's purpose is not the death of something but rather multiplied life.

The teachers who have worked together to produce New Wine for years came to a place where we had to obey God in this matter before we could get to a new degree of fruitfulness. We have been poised to take this difficult step on previous occasions but this time we knew it was the Lord. We want to be even more fruitful.

While the October announcement may have brought you some sadness or even wonder to some of you, I hope this annoucement will bring peace and rejoicing. The four of us remain in good relationship and will continue to address issues together. We simply felt God did not want us to form a denomination or try to centrally control the great variety of ministries among us. We further felt that God was calling us to cooperate with emerging ministry groups.

We believe that decentralization will make room for the release of new ministry and power.

The four of us are meeting again this month to dicuss these and other matters pertaining to our ongoing fellowship. There is no "split up" here. We are sincerely seeking to obey the Lord and release our gifts to His Body.

Bob Mumford.

Bob Mumford and his wife Judy live in San Rafael, California. He has a great call to address the Church and nation. His ministry base is also in San Rafael. Life Changers is an organizational instrument that Bob has used in previous years to distribute his teachings. Plumbline, his personal ministry letter and his Recommended Tapes can be obtained from Life Changers. In addition to these ministries Bob is constructing a seminar for business, professional and spiritual leaders for a more comprehensive view of the kingdom of God. He will also continue to fulfill his inner burden to share Kingdom content and supernatural power with Third World leaders. Those of you who want to express your personal support or give financially to this ministry God has given him can write to the address in San Rafael.

Ern Baxter.

Ern and Ruth Baxter live in San Diego, California. Ern continues to travel and minister to conferences and churches. In his words, "For many years I have been attracted to the relationship of Timothy to Paul in the New Testament and through these years I have formed and taught Timothy classes in those places where I spend an extended amount of time".

Ern has formed a concern called Timothy Distribution Company. It is desirous of publishing the wealth of materials Ern has produced over the years. Ern is busy editing and preparing these materials. He and I continue to share a pastoral relationship as we have for the last ten years.

Ern has a profound preaching and teaching ministry. He is a preacher's preacher. It is important that the taped and printed records of his ministry be preserved and propagated.

You can send your inquiries and expressions of support to Ern in California.

Don Basham.

Don and Alice Basham are in Cleveland, Ohio. For several years Don served as the editor of New Wine Magazine and since 1982 he has been the chief editorial consultant. He has written a regular column called "The Way I See It". Don has been a mainstay in New Wine since it's inception. Don has a wonderful gift of writing. He authored "Face Up with a Miracle" which sold almost half a million copies. He has written numerous other books including his newly released "Lead Us Not into Temptation", "Perils of a Purple Plymouth" and "When You Pass Through the Fire" are scheduled for release in March and the winter of next year respectively. Don will continue his column, "The Way I See It" through a monthly newsletter entitled "Don Basham's Insights". He plans to continue to teach and minister publicly on commitment, covenant, Christian family and spiritual warfare.

Since 1978 Integrity Communications has published New Wine, Tape of the Month and numerous other ministries here.

The cessation of New Wine is not a cessation of ministry. We are poised to harvest years of sowing.

The local ministry has taken many thousands of dollars annually from other areas of service to sow into New Wine Magazine.

Now God has said, "Discontinue New Wine Magazine".

Charles Simpson.

Beginning in January I will publish a bimonthly magazine called "Christian Conquest". Our byline will be "equipping you for action". We will contue to bring timely Bible teaching and aim it at enabling you to act on it. Knowledge or relationship without purpose is not enough. We will present teaching with purpose. Our first issue will be on righteousness as a weapon for spiritual conquest. All of you who receive New Wine will receive Christian Conquest as a way of fulfilling your subscription and our commitment to you.

In addition to Christian Conquest we will continue to publish "Vino Nuevo" which goes into many Latin nations. And we will continue to Tape of the Month which features several teachers including Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Don Basham. Tape of the Month will offer never-before-released messages that are timely for God's people. Hosanna! Music continues to be blessed by God and will remain a vital part of our ministry. We will also continue my radio broadcast "Challenge - with Charles Simpson" and hold rallies across America. In addition I will continue to write. My new book on leadership is now released through Servant Publications. It is entitled "The Challenge to Care".

One of the ministries about which I am most excited is International Team Ministries. Through International Team Ministries, Integrity Communications helps churches send teams to evangelize and to build churches in other nations. Recently I prayed with and commissioned forty-eight people to such ministries in several nations. All of these were under the leadership of Paul Petrie who heads International Team Ministries. Christian Conquest will not only teach and equip, it will keep you informed on developments in these ministries that advance the kingdom of God.

Our desire in this announcement is to tell you what we believe God is saying and doing through us.

We all sense a new release to multiplied ministry. The New Wine seed is dying and leaving a rich deposit. New life is coming forth. The other teachers and I stand together in this.

We also want to remain sensitive to you. You have looked to us as leaders. We do not want to betray your trust in times of change. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonian Christians not to be disturbed or shaken from their composure, either by a spirit or a message or even a letter from him. We do not want to disturb or distress you. Most of all we want to challenge you to become involved in our worldwid mission.

The entire Church is being forced into an agonizing reappraisal of it's purpose and goals. The Holy Spirit and world movements will force us into another great awakening. Indeed it is here. The awakening will result in a re-discovery of God's world agenda.

We all need your daily prayers and support. Those of us at Integrity Communincations have a tremendous challenge in starting this new publication and continuing other ministries. Please pray with us, write to us and stand by us financially.

In Christ.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Ern Baxter Quote on Ultimate Triumph!!

I read this in the New Wine Magazine - February 1978 from an interview with Ern Baxter and Derek Prince:

"The ultimate triumph of light is as inevitable as the character of God. In my experience, when these things are taught, many Christians who have been pessimistic start to emerge out of their negativism. They start to hear the Word of God's optimism. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. God said that when we latch onto God's encouragement and also get the dynamic of His Spirit - this is the antidote to pessimism".

The Five New Wine Teachers

I was reading through some of the New Wine Magazines that I have printed off so far and I found this unique picture in the February 1979 edition along with an announcement that the New Wine offices were moving from Ft Lauderdale to Mobile, Alabama. Here is the picture;

I found myself marvelling at the grace of God in bringing together five such gifted apostolic and prophetic teachers of the Word of God. Truly the Old Testament is right when it speaks again and again of the grain of the Word coming in plenty as a sign of blessing from God. May He continue to give Ephesians 4 Ministries to the Church!

(2 Cor. 1:18-20) A Big YES!!

One of the things I was thinking about on my return from Bristol is how absolutely tired I am of negative Christianity. My dad was driving me back to the station and we discussed something quite profound - that the only one thing more contageous than negativity is enthusiasm. The more I thought about it on the train - the more convinced I became this is true. It was so significant then that I received an email from "Enjoying God Ministries" - the site Sam Storms writes.

Within the email he wrote this;

Because of Jesus Christ: the perfection of his life, the sufficiency of his death, the power of his resurrection, the certainty of his return, God’s answer to your questions is always and ever, “Yes!”

“God, will you answer me when I call (Ps. 4:1)?” Yes!

“God, will you be my refuge in the face of my enemies (Ps. 7:1)?” Yes!

“God, can you actually make known to me the pathway of life (Ps. 16:11)?” Yes!

“God, will you be for me fullness of joy and pleasures evermore (Ps. 16:11)?” Yes!

“God, can I count on you to be my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my shield and my stronghold (Ps. 18:2)?” Yes!

“God, will you be there, with me and for me and beside me, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4)?” Yes!

“God, will you satisfy my heart with ravishing revelations of your beauty (Ps. 27:4)?” Yes!

“God, if I delight myself in you alone, will you truly grant me the desires of my heart (Ps. 37:4)?” Yes!

“God, does your steadfast love endure all day long (Ps. 52:1)?” Yes!

“God, will you be the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26)?” Yes!

“God, what of your promise not to deal with me according to my sins or repay me according to my iniquities (Ps. 103:10)? Is that really true?” Yes!

“God, is it true that your mercies never come to an end; are they literally new every morning (Lam. 3:22)?” Yes!

“God, will you continue to sing over me with joy and delight, in spite of my brokenness and weakness and immaturity (Zeph. 3:17)?” Yes!

“God, are you really committed to orchestrating all things in my life for my ultimate spiritual good (Rom. 8:28)?” Yes!

“God, will you always comfort me in my affliction so that I may be equipped and qualified to comfort others in theirs (2 Cor. 1:4)?” Yes!

“God, are all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places already and absolutely mine (Eph. 1:3)?” Yes!

“God, will you always be present to do for me far more abundantly than all I can ask or think (Eph. 3:20)?” Yes!

“God, if I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, can I know with unassailable confidence that it is you who are already at work in me to will and to do for your good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13)?” Yes!

“God, if I pour out my heart to you with thanksgiving, will your peace guard my heart now and forever (Phil. 4:6-7)?” Yes!

“God, is it still the case that you plan on sanctifying me wholly, in spirit and soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23)?” Yes!

“God, are you actually committed to never leaving me or forsaking me (Heb. 13:5)?” Yes!

“God, if I draw near to you, will you really draw near to me (Js. 4:8)?” Yes!

“God, if I confess my sins, will you forever be faithful and just and forgive me of them (1 John 1:9)?” Yes!

“God, is it still your intent to wipe away every tear from my eyes and to banish pain and sorrow and death (Rev. 21:4)?” Yes!

“God, are you coming soon (Rev. 22:20)?” Yes!

Let us make a concerted effort this week to make a change in this increasingly negative world by spreading the optimitism and the glory of the Word of God! Why can we be optimistic? Because of the vicarious death - yes, but because of the glorious resurrection, ascension and assured return of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ern Baxter Resources on the Victorious End Times!

I have been quite challenged over the past few days about the lack of a standpoint - especially among UK churches and UK bloggers as compared to elsewhere across the world concerning eschatology or the end times. Disagree with John MacArthur as I may - the man must be given credit for faithfully teaching the view of the end times that he believes. I noticed that Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, and visiting professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary, California has issued an article refuting John MacArthur's extraordinary attack on Reformed amillennialists from earlier this year.

So amillenialists are speaking out and answering back. But amillenialism seems to me to be virtually as fatalistic and pessimistic as premillenialism. I noted with interest that John MacArthur didn't seem to make any interaction with postmillenialism at all in his Shepherds Conference "rant". I wonder if that signifies he doesn't see much credibility in this viewpoint anymore. It's not so much that the teaching of premillenialism troubles me (although it does), it is more that certain issues and subjects do need to be dealt with - such as the question of Israel (Romans 9) or the outworking of certain Scriptures in Revelation.

So what I wanted to do in this post was to begin to bring together some useful resources by Ern Baxter that begin to best represent what I feel to be the most Scriptural view of the end times after offering a few simple definitions of what postmillenialism is.

If you have got this far in reading and are already beginning to turn off at the overuse of theological terms, then I beg you - don't! I have gathered together a number of quotes that really emphasise that it DOES matter how we view the end. For example, my favourite quote was of David Holden's from the Brighton Newfrontiers Conference in 2000. He said;

"Your eschatology affects your ecclesiology".

In other words if you view the end negatively and fatalistically then you will live negatively and fatalistically. If you view the end with hope, vision and a positive outlook then your world mission will be affected for the better. My concern is that holding a premillenial or amillenial eschatology might also make one lazy. If it is all going to "get sorted after the Second Coming" then where is the motivation or the impetus to go out to all nations and spread and take the gospel? If all the promises in the Old Testament and New concerning the end times are to be fulfilled after Jesus has returned (or in some millenium) then where is the faith factor to cry out to God for the "Latter Rain" or to see "Zion made a praise in the earth" or to see "nations flow up to Zion"?

So with that in mind, someone reading this might ask, "Well what on earth does each millenial position mean or believe?". Here is a useful diagram that seeks to sum up the essence of each position;

What is 'Postmillenialism'?

Wikipedia seemed a good albeit basic place to start my study and review of postmillenialism. It distinguishes between two different forms of seeing how the end times will pan out. The first is "Revivalist postmillenialism";

"Revivalist postmillennialism is a form of the doctrine held by the Puritans and some today that teaches that the millennium will come about not from Christians changing society from the top down (that is, through its political and legal institutions) but from the bottom up at the grass roots level (that is, through changing people's hearts and minds)".

As opposed to Reconstructionist postmillenialism;

"Reconstructionist postmillennialism, on the other hand, sees that along with grass roots preaching of the Gospel and explicitly Christian education, Christians should also set about changing society's legal and political institutions in accordance with Biblical (and also sometimes Theonomic) ethics ... In the United States, the most prominent and organized forms of postmillennialism are based on Christian Reconstructionism and hold to a reconstructionist form of postmillennialism advanced by Gary North, Kenneth Gentry, and Greg Bahnsen".

I am relatively familiar with the Reconstructionist postmillenialism stand as my home church had quite a bit to do with the Reconstructionist teachers during the 1980's as I was growing up. Both David Chilton and Greg Bahnsen came and spoke at a meeting in our church on the end times and my senior pastor Stanley Jebb promoted a number of their books. Also Dr Jebb and the theological students he was training went to a conference in the UK to hear R J Rushdoony before he died. I understand that the Chalcedon Foundation is the strongest Reconstructionist resource left today.

Dr Ern Baxter Resources on the End Times.

"It's time to get men like Bryn Jones, Ern and Arthur Wallis off the shelf and soak ourselves in their revelation again. If we cannot justify our existence as a distinct people then we have no right to exist" - Keri Jones

a. Sermons.

Ern Baxter made a number of references to the end times and his view of "Ultimate Triumph" in a number of sermons. Here are the key ones;

"Thy Kingdom Come!" - Ern's monumental address to the Kansas City Shepherds Conference in 1975 (that I now understand Larry Tomczak and C J Mahaney were present at). It was heard by thousands of apostles, prophets, evangelists and mainly pastor/teachers. It is presented in parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

"The Land" - This key sermon was part of Ern Baxter's series "Where Are We Going?" preached at the Dales Bible Week 1976. It is posted courtesy of George Kouri.

"Sovereign Surprises" - As will become clear Ern Baxter was a proponent of the "Revivalist Postmillenial" position. He believed fervently that God can and indeed has come in mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit throughout church history and it is through revival that God will wind up history with His Church a glorious Bride (Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones held similar views on revival). Ern preached this sermon at New Covenant Church in Dunstable, UK in September 1983: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

"How Must the Glorious Church of God Function?" - Ern Baxter taught vigorously that Restorationism was indeed a biblical hope - one that we should look for and work for. In this sermon he teaches practically how restoration should work itself out. He covered unity, signs and wonders and life in the Holy Spirit. Here's a quote;

"The disciples had to enter into a dynamic experience to enable them to function in community and in outreach - We must know personally the Pentecostal Experience".

The transcript is here with some additional links to Newfrontiers resources.

"What on Earth is God saying about Discipling the Nations?" - This is quite possible THE key sermon of Ern Baxter's on the End Times and how he believes the Church must work and look towards it. It was deeply Biblical with a vast amount of Scriptural texts used.

b. Interviews.

Ern Baxter's view that the Church would end up gloriously dominant throughout the earth with nations bowing to the Lordship of Christ came through in various interviews he gave also - mainly to the New Wine Magazine. Here are the main two I have transcribed so far;

"Regarding William Branham" - although much of the discussion was focussed around Ern's experiences of working with Branham there is a great deal of conceptual argument for how the Church should be expecting and experiencing the anointing of signs and wonders that Branham manifested personally.

"Declaring God's Purposes" - An interview given in January 1980 to New Wine focused around the prophetic significance of what God is doing in our day and what He will do in years to come.

c. Articles.

"A Demonstration of His Glory" - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 - concerning Ern Baxter's time of very significant ministry that he spent in the United Kingdom in 1977. He and Ruth came to the huge Dales Bible Week run by Bryn Jones and Harvesttime but attended by most of the major charismatic church groups including Terry Virgo and what was to become Newfrontiers, Gerald Coates and what was to become Pioneer People, Tony Morton and his churches from Southampton - along with other significant people in the UK charismatic scene including Arthur Wallis and Stanley Jebb. It was so significant because it was a time of remarkable unity where the Charismatic Movement in the United Kingdom stood together particularly in spiritual warfare. It was a remarkable year of unity visited by angelic manifestations especially - Ern makes reference to these.

"The Earth is the Lord's" - Part 1 and Part 2; "The Foundation of Victory" - Ern deals with a statement in Scripture that this is true NOW!

"Why the Ebb?" - Anyone with an acquaintance with church history will know that revivals have come and gone. Ern Baxter was uniquely positioned to see moves of God come and go. He lived through the Pentecostal Movement, the Healing Movement with William Branham, the Latter Rain Movement and the Charismatic Movement. But he was never satisfied with them - he always wanted, prayed for and expected and looked for more. In this autobiographical statement, he answers the question why revivals seem to ebb due to man's lack of belief.

d. Smooth Stones from Ancient Brookes (Quotes):

Here is an increasingly growing collection of quotes (not just from Ern Baxter) on an optimistic eschatology and why it is essential to daily living.

And Finally ...

The series of messages - "Ultimate Triumph" - really is for me Ern Baxter's key addresses concerning how we should see the end times through the scope of the Word of God. He carefully goes through each of the key sections of the Bible and teaches how we should have hope and faith to motivate us into action and mission. Here are the three parts;

1. Ultimate Triumph - Prophesied in the Old Testament.

2. Ultimate Triumph - Inaugurated in the Gospels and Acts.

3. Ultimate Triumph - Consummated in the Epistles and Revelation.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Counterfeit Power is Real - Where is the Genuine?

I've just come back from an extremely interesting night shift where I was privilidged to work with a lovely South African nurse. As is common with nights we got chatting quite deeply around 4am and I was interested to learn something of the culture in South Africa - particularly in relation to religion. Although she was an atheist, she told me quite a lot about the culture of witchcraft down there. I was fascinated in her story - particularly as she wasn't a Christian - but deeply believed in the presence of supernatural power.

She told me that witch-doctors in South Africa have the power to kill, drive insane and injure anyone who offends them or upsets them. I learnt that all they need is a footprint of the person they are targeting and that is enough to use in their magic. She told me that a number of witch-doctors can take tyre prints off the tracks of cars and they have the ability to cause those cars to crash or have their brakes fail. The point is - this power is real and it is tangible.

What occured to me was how would John MacArthur's dispensational cessationism fit in down in that sort of culture? How would that lovely South African nurse have reacted if I had told her that there were only three periods of miracles in the whole of history and that has ceased now that the Word of God is complete and supernatural power does not and cannot occur unless it is a freak sovereign initiative of God? I am pretty sure she would have laughed at me - as she has direct contact with people who have fallen foul of the witch-doctors. I asked her whether the witch-doctors ever did anything "good" with their magical abilities and she told me virtually never. It is always designed to harm or worse.

My point is this. Counterfeit power is real and present in cultures outside of the West. Why would Satan bother to counterfeit spiritual power if true and God-glorifying power does not exist today? Why would Paul warn his readers that false apostles and prophets and miracle-workers will rise up in the last days and we are to "test all things" to prove whether they are of God - why would he warn that if there was no geninue apostles and prophets and miracle-workers? If the only supernatural power that is present in the world (as MacArthur suggests) is false, Satanic and of the flesh then there is no testing required! It is all false.

Surely the only possible option is that there is indeed true supernatural power and anointing present in the world today and MacArthur is incorrect. Surely if Satan is busy influencing the witch-doctors in Africa and South America with counterfeit spiritual power then he knows that God is more than capable and willing to anoint His Church to walk in true, good, God-glorifying spiritual power that will indeed cause terrorist suicide bombers to fall down on their knees and be turned from haters to lovers!

It bothers me, irritates me and angers me that the only spiritual power that this South African nurse knew of was evil power manifest by these witch doctors. I wish she had been at Brighton when Rob Rufus was ministering! I wish she knew of men like William Branham who could discern names, addresses and diagnoses with his gift of knowledge. I wish that there was a corporate spiritual anointing and power upon the Church that would cause these witch-doctors (like Simon the sorcerer) to come and say "Let me give you money for that power!".

Wake up Church! Satan has had the monopoly on spiritual power long enough!

Let me urge you again to go and read Peter's excellent blog; "Filling the Vacuum". There is indeed a vacuum to be filled and the world is crying out for a true, genuine spiritual power and anointing to come and prove that the Gospel and the Word of God is true! Not Words alone - but POWER!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pete Day, William Branham, Rob Rufus and the Glory!!

I along with many others have been waiting eagerly and somewhat impatiently for Pete Day to post another blog. Before I talk about a couple of his latest posts, I want to pay tribute to this guy. I feel privilidged to know him probably better than many other bloggers and so can get away with saying something biographical about him - as he never would himself! Pete pastors a church in South London and has done so faithfully for a number of years. He takes the main responsibility for preaching and teaching and doesn't have any apostolic support within the church (yet). I have been a witness to many of the struggles that he goes through daily. He truly is a pastor/teacher - a gift to the Church from the ascended Christ - and he takes his calling from God extremely seriously. His heart has been to see the Word and the Spirit unite in glorious combustion ever since I have known him (which is mainly why we became such good friends) and he is working that out in daily church life in London.

By the way - he is blessed to have a faithful, loving wife - Margaret - who is a dear friend and runs her own unique blog here! It's well worth a visit!

So for him to run a blog alongside his daily ministry is quite an achievement and I want to pay tribute to that (unlike me who doesn't really have anything else to do but blog!). I have mentioned before that I think the legalistic temptation in blogging can be to churn out anything just so that visitors will not get disappointed and that all-desireable hit counter keeps going up! Pete on the other hand takes blogging just as seriously as his preaching and teaching ministry. He won't fill blog after blog with any old quote or blog he has found in a few minutes of searching. In that sense he really is a truly prophetic blogger. He doesn't want to blog "just anything" unless God gives him a word to bring to the readers who visit his blog. Therefore when he does publish something - let me assure you it is a MUST-READ!!

His latest post is called; "Filling the Vacuum". It bears some similarity to a post he blogged last December called; "Signs Following". Actually these two blogs are quite reminiscent of Rob Rufus - because the theme and the focus is the glory of God. The inspiration for this most recent post came from a community meeting in South London that he attended. Rather than sucuumbing to the fatalist mentality that characterises too many Christians today, Pete (in true prophetic manner) questioned the Lord as to the real nature of the problem and the word he was given from God was; "Vacuum". There is nothing fatalistic about a vacuum because a vacuum by nature demands something - it demands filling!

What I love and what thrills me about this post is that Pete is absolutely unapologetic about what many of us who believe in and long for a "Charismatic Resurgence" have been writing about. There is NOTHING optional about charismatic life in the church! The reason why it isn't optional is because charismatic life in the church is designed to impact the community. Pete says;

"While we must have Spirit-saturated meetings, we need to receive God's word, and be drenched in His presence, these things are not an end in themselves ... The purpose of the cloud of glory is not only to make us feel good, but to transform the whole community. We are to be drenched in the cloud of glory, but He goes with us into the highways and byways of the streets around your church and around your home".

There is much, much more to charismatic church life that simply arguing about the validity and presence of the gifts of tongues and prophecy today. We need to argue these things to be sure - for the Word of God is at stake - but we need to move beyond these arguments and move into the cloud of glory. Yet there is nothing "selfishly ecstatic" about the cloud of glory as men like John MacArthur would accuse. Pete writes;

"So let us get the light, get the glory in our worship meetings, in our prayer meetings and then let us get out and take the glory with us!".

The whole nature of the cloud of glory falling upon is - is that we might go and take it into the community! Surely the greatest tragedy facing the Church universal today is not the behaviour of charismaniacs (as they are scornfully called) but the fact that there can be local churches meeting in the middle of communities who are totally unaware of their presence.

I love Pete's final paragraph - because it is in essence a prophetic vision of what WILL come to pass. I believe it!

"Imagine meeting with young gang members and having word of wisdom that sets them free. Imagine serving in a homeless shelter and seeing people delivered from the power of alcohol addiction. Imagine serving in a hospital and seeing whole wards healed by the power of God. Imagine visiting the elderly and by the patience and compassion that God gives you, hearts are softened and people come to the Lord. Imagine advising parents from God's Word how to parent, and them seeing the reality of God, as His principles work".

So why does this tie in with his post in December - "With Signs Following"? Well it is dealing with a concept that I really believe will characterise the church as God continues to restore and revive and reconstruct His glory as it spreads across the whole earth as He has promised in His Word. Many men and women have written off William Branham because of his later teachings but Ern Baxter did not, and as a result neither have Pete and I in many discussions we have had about Branham. In that post Pete really sums up the result of many of our conversations and asked this;

"We may have sound theology, but do we have the power of God in our midst as Branham experienced? ... Ern makes a startling comment - "Branham never once made a mistake with the word of knowledge in all the years I was with him. That covers, in my case, thousands of instances." ... And that is the challenge. Where is this kind of power and intimacy with God that means we hear Him clearly?".

Rather than focusing on Branham's error, how about we become stirred by his successes when he was being used so powerfully of God. This is EXACTLY what Rob Rufus urged us to do in his third and final session at "Together on a Mission 2007". Both Pete and myself were very stirred by his words about William Branham and the "lost anointing" that is still to be claimed in the earth. Rob taught us that it isn't God's intention to take that anointing away from the earth because Branham and others misused it eventually but it is His intention for the corporate Body of His people to rise up and claim it and use it. That - I think - was the focus of Rob Rufus coming to Brighton. It wasn't about a man coming - so that we might all seek the anointing off him. Rob came to impart something of his faith and vision for the glorious end times for the Church to us who were listening.

It's interesting to note that although men like John MacArthur teach that there were only three periods of miracles in the Word of God - and so therefore cannot be any gifts of miracles since - while they are very happy to pick apart Branham's theology, I have yet to hear them deal with the fact that as Ern Baxter said - Branham never "missed" in his use of the Word of Knowledge.

Pete ends that awesome post with these words;

"Let us stop picking holes in the people God used in past years. Let us instead humble ourselves before the Lord. Yes, let us get our theology right and be men and women immersed in the Word of God. But let us cry out to God for a fresh visitation. Only His almighty power can transform our churches and our society. And let us hunger for the kind of gifting and anointing that shakes the gates of hell for our Lord's glory".

I have posted two videos of William Branham here - so that anyone interested can actually see his awesome gift of healing and miracles in action. There is a clip in the first video near the end where you can here him clearly tell a woman her name, address and diagnosis - before going on to declare that she is healed.

Let me echo Pete's cry that we stop picking holes in servants of God and fall on our knees and cry that God will release that heavy level of anointing upon the earth so that the nations will have no option but to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Friday, August 24, 2007

It REALLY Matters How We View the End!

The Ultimacy of God's Government - Part 1 - by Dr Ern Baxter - From the New Wine Magazine - March 1979.

Why is the world in such turmoil and so full of unrest? Why do the masses support plans and programmes which are so unproductive of permanent good? Why do leaders offer so little positive direction? These vexing "whys" are often voiced in our time. Are there answers? We believe there are. In fact the same questions were asked and answered hundreds of years ago by the inspired psalmist.

"Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing ("an empty scheme" - Berkeley), the kings of the earth take their stand ("rising in revolt - Jer) and the rulers take counsel together ("conspire together" - NEB) against the Lord and His anointed ("the king of His selection" - Bas). Let us tear their fetters apart ("break away from their bondage" - Knox) and cast away their cords from us ("fling off their control" - Moffat) - Psalm 2:1-3.

The answer to the "whys" is clear. "Nations ... people ... rulers" would rather follow their own counsel than submit to the benign government of Jehovah and His King Jesus Christ.

Humanist consensus is preferred to divine revelation.

The blessed bondage of God's beautiful plan is rejected in favour of the cruel and frustrating tyranny of the empty scheme. The perennial cry of earth's rebellious citizens rings out in our day. "We do not want this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). It is fallacious to consider the struggle between scheming humanists and God the Supreme as a contest between equals, the outcome of which is in question.

Many Christians who should know better are paralyzed by the the fear of humanist conquest and divine defeat, and so sucuumb to passive despair.

The psalmist invites us to look up and see the One "that sitteth in the heavens". The heavenly throne and it's divine occupant is a favourite theme of the Bible writers as they affirm God's sovereignity and seek to encourage respect and faith among men.

God declares "heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool" (Isaiah 66:1 - NAS). "The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven. His eye is upon mankind, He takes their measure at a glance" (Psalm 11:4 - NEB). "In heaven the Eternal fixed His throne and His dominion covers all the world" (Psalm 103:19 - Moffat). In Revelation, the book of consummation, the cosmic control centre is seen as "a throne standing in heaven and one sitting on the throne" (Revelation 4:2 - NAS). The supremacy and finality of that throne is seen in vision by John and described for us.

"And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things in them, I heard saying 'To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever" - (Revelation 5:13 - NAS).

The enthroned Jehovah was the source of the psalmist's hope. "To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens!" (Psalm 123:1 - NAS). And we in New Covenant times "see Jesus ... crowned with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:9). As far as the heavens are above the earth, so far is "He that sitteth in the heavens" above the "kings of the earth".

The ultimacy of God's victory and government is assured!

How does the Throne-Sitter respond to human rebellion? We return to the second Psalm for some inspired insight into God's ways and intentions. We return to the second Psalm for some inspired insight into God's ways and intentions.

"He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them, then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury; "But as for Me I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain" - Psalm 2:4-6 - NAS.

God surveys man's petty plottings with sovereign contempt. He laughs at the pompous petulance and childish conduct of creatures challenging their Creator. One gets the picture of a little boy, in an angry outburst of rebellion, pummelling his father's knees as the father looks down at him laughing. There is no way the childish blows are going to harm the father. So man's equally ineffective behaviour towards God elicits the laughter of pure ridicule. This is not the only place in the Bible where God's laughter is referred to.

We quote two other passages which will help us in understanding the nature of such laughter. "The godless man makes plots against the good, gnashing his teeth at them but the Eternal laughs at him, knowing his doom is near" (Psalm 37:12-13 - Moffat). Evildoers "snarl like dogs, they prowl even around the townl there they are blustering, arrogant insults on their lips - for "Who" they think, "will hear us?". Thou, O Eternal, thou wilt laugh at them, wilt mock at all the insolent pagans" (Psalm 59:6-8 - Moffat).

But laughter is not the end of the matter. "Then He will speak to them in His anger". Laughter gives way to anger and judgement. The unknown boundary between laughter and anger is marked by that ominous adverb of time - "then". When is then? The "thens" of God are kept in the secret archives of God's purposes. "Get right with God the day before you die" was the counsel of a teacher to his disciples. "But how do we know on which day we will die?" they responded. "You can't know, so get ready today" was the wise reply.

It could be fatal to mistake God's long-suffering for indifference.

History is marked with the "thens" of God, all of them pointing to the final "then" when time will be no more. There is a limit to divine patience. After laughter comes judgement.

Next: Where God has installed His King - Mount Zion.

Pentecostal/Charismatic Quotes!!

I have just managed to collect 500 quotes on the "Pentecostal/Charismatic Post-it Notes" blog with help from my dear friends Jesse, Julie, Pete and Scott! Reading through some of them reminded me of what a marvellous resource quotes are. C H Spurgeon called quotes - "Smooth Stones Gathered from Ancient Brooks". They can illustrate and impact truth in ways that longer passages can't always do. Here is a few categories of quotes that have been gathered so far. We intend to go on adding to the blog as possible.

I hope that they prove of help and encouragement and motivation! As C H Spurgeon said;

"The man who never reads will never be read. He who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves that he has no brains of his own ... You need to read"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Memories from the Bible Weeks!

Like many other Christian bloggers I have given in to the temptation of Facebook but am still struggling to get to grips with the concepts of "poking" and "graffiti" and who are friends and who are not! Anyhow I was excited to join a group called the "Downs Bible Week". I went to the Downs as a very small child so don't remember much apart from a load of tents. This photo that I found may bring back fond memories for some. I am not sure if it is from the Downs or from a very early Stoneleigh Bible Week. The man standing at the podium is Terry Virgo and to his left is C J Mahaney and Larry Tomczak and Nigel Ring. The worship leader with a guitar is Dave Fellingham.

It's so good to look back and remember the awesome moves of God but trust Him in hope and expectation for greater manifestations of His Presence and power to come.

The Omnipresence and Manifest Presence of God!

I posted some quotes from an old Newfrontiers Magazine on "Spirit of God!" a while back and was directed to a blog post by Bob Kauflin which raised the question of how we view worship. What troubled me about that post was the absence of any discussion of the manifest Presence of God. Indeed God is omnipresent but that shouldn't excuse our seeking and hungering for God to manifest Himself in power in our corporate gathering. I have waited for responses to be written to that post but haven't seen any so thought I would do some research of my own and some studying of the Scriptures on my own.

I was interested and encouraged to find a discussion of this exact topic in the New Wine Magazine - November 1974 - between Bob Mumford, Derek Prince and Ken Sumrall. Here is the transcript of what they said;

Question: Why does the Presence of the Holy Spirit seem to be in some gatherings and not in others?

Bob Mumford: For illustration's sake, let us distinguish two types of the Presence of the Lord. As we remarked in question one, it is the same Holy Spirit in varying manifestation. The first type is theologically called omnipresence. Omni means everywhere at the same time. God said it succinctly to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:23-24; "Do I note fill heaven and earth?".

The second type is what may be called the manifest Presence. In our language it would be God, the Holy Spirit choosing to reveal His Presence at one place and at one time in such a way as to be felt, seen, heard or smelled.

When a particular life, group, church or gathering is more spiritually orientated and spiritual unity is in the midst in reality, the Lord sovereignly chooses to manifest His Presence in one way or the other. This is not supposed to be unusual but rather the normal Christian gathering.

Sensative leadership will seek God for hindrances, known and unknown until the Holy Spirit is released to move among us in scriptural freedom.

Derek Prince: Isaiah 40:13 poses the question; "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord or being His counsellor hath taught Him?". Viewed objectively it would be ridiculous for us to offer direction, or advice to the Holy Spirit. Yet in practice we often make this mistake. In advance of a meeting, we form our own anticipation or plan or programme for the meeting, and then we follow this out without reference to the Holy Spirit. When we act like this, the Holy Spirit may logically take the attitude; "If you don't need Me, I will move elsewhere!".

In any meeting, we enjoy the Presence and direction of the Holy Spirit in proportion as we yield to Him and follow out His purpose.

All too often a pattern of previous blessing becomes a form of bondage.

E.g; "God blessed us last time when we all reaised our hands and shouted so we'll do that again this time!". Inadvertently we are tricked into seeking a "blessing" rather than seeking the Holy Spirit's purpose.

Ken Sumrall: The Holy Spirit moves and makes His Presence known most in an atmosphere of love. This was made clear to Liberty Church in Pensacola during an all-day fellowship meeting on Labour Day 1966. God's Presence was so real, everyone could sense His nearness.

A prophetic word came forth; "If you will keep the love among you as it is expressed today, you will not need to ask for My manifestation. You could not prevent My manifestation for I reveal Myself in an atmosphere of love and trust".

During the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. As someone said, "The Holy Spirit as a dove descended on Jesus, the lamb as He always descends on those with lamb-like natures". The Holy Spirit is grieved over unchristian attitudes and will not expressly move among groups who harbour "bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speakings ..." (Ephesians 4:31).

If a group is in harmony and the Holy Spirit is not in evidence it could be that there is a need for unified praise until there is a release from oppression of the enemy or release from timidity and inhibitions. The Lord has promised to inhabit the praises of His people".

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Newday 2007!

One sure way to begin to stir your passion into flame again for God is to look at the younger generations. I find nothing stirs me and motivates me (and sometimes shames me) than looking at the younger worshippers of God. This video clip is only a few minutes but it brought me to the point of tears. The beauty and glory of the Church! Surely this is why it was prophecied in Joel that young men shall see visions (looking to the future) and old men shall dream dreams (remembering the past). Vision is being seen at Newday! Enjoy this clip - may it stir you into flame - to remember your first love!

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Prophecy ...

After posting a series of quotes as I did yesterday there are many lines I could have taken to disagree with John MacArthur and defend what I believe clearly to be the Scriptural position. I posted quotes on MacArthur's view on Apostles (they've died out), on Spiritual gifts generally (there are permament and temporary gifts - even though I have yet to find a Scripture that tells me which are which), on Healing (noone heals today and Jesus and the apostles only healed to prove something), on the Gift of Miracles (doesn't exist), the Gift of Prophecy (it is preaching), the Gift of Discernment (it exists and only a few are present to protect the majority of the church against error) and finally the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (it doesn't exist ... well it does but it is synonymous with conversion so kind of swallowed up within it).

There are many authors who could be quoted who will ably disagree with MacArthur including Dr Jack Deere - who devotes an appendix in his book "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" - to dismantling the entire problem with John MacArthur's cessationism - namely his dispensational eschatology. But I made a statement yesterday wondering about the concept of how John MacArthur's commentaries would developed prior to the Charismatic Movement. I therefore got to reading an author whose reputation was as a Bible teacher and certainly would not have counted himself as part of or sympathetic to the Charismatic Movement.

Therefore Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones words on the Gift of Prophecy and what it is needs to be read. The bulk of the teaching was from his monumental series on the Book of Romans -- Chapter 12. Firstly Dr Lloyd-Jones put the Gift of Prophecy into the context of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He said;

"I say again that my position is that I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a seperate, distinct, unique experience. It may be accompanied by remarkable gifts; it may simply manifest the regular gifts in a heightened degree. It is not for us to say that none of these things can happen. Anything is possible in the sovereignity of the Spirit".

Dr Lloyd-Jones then went on to examine the Gift of Prophecy in particular. He (as was his common practice) dealt with what prophecy is not. Let us remind ourselves of how John MacArthur defines prophecy.

"A prophet of God, therefore, is simply one who speaks forth God's Word and prophecy is the proclaiming of that Word. The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered ability to proclaim the Word effectively".

One of the key problems I had with John MacArthur's view is that Joel 2 prophesies a general outpouring of prophecy. But Joel 2 says "Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy". Knowing MacArthur to be as avid a complementarian as Wayne Grudem, I wondered how he would deal with this prophecy. MacArthur assigns Joel 2 to occur within the Millenium. However Dr Lloyd-Jones was clearly aware of this view and mentioned that both Martin Luther and John Calvin had held it but as a reaction to the Anabaptists.

How then does Dr Lloyd-Jones define prophecy?

"What then is the gift of prophecy? Well I would define it as a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What for? It's purpose is to give a word from God or the Word of God to the Church".

That could be mistaken as sounding quite similar to MacArthur's definition. But Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on;

"Prophecy is the inspired delivery of warning, exhortation, instruction, judging and making manifest the secrets of the heart. Someone who makes a prophecy has been given this gift of passing on, as it were, a word from God to the church and to individuals in the church".

Once again it could be said that this definition is the same as MacArthur's - prophecy is preaching! But Dr Lloyd-Jones clearly realised this and came to the point and compared prophecy WITH preaching and how they are different.

"But perhaps the best way of reaching a definition is to ask; what is the difference between prophecy on the one hand and preaching and teaching on the other?

Because there is a difference. And I would say that the difference is one word. Immediacy.

And this means that a word is given to people and comes to them. Now preaching and teaching are not like that. A preacher and teacher is a man who takes time to study, he takes time to think, to prepare; he arranges his material and gives it order and system. A preacher and teacher should not enter into the pulpit without any preparation and trust to the inspiration of the moment".

So that is Dr Lloyd-Jones's clear understanding of preaching and the very necessary preparation required for it. But prophecy on the other hand;

"Prophecy is something given to someone immediately and directly. Let me give you my proof for saying this. In 1 Corinthians 14:29 we read; "Let the prophets speak two or three and let the other judge" ... You can picture the meeting. Here is a prophet speaking a prophecy but a word is revealed to someone sitting by him. That is it; that is prophecy. It is a direct revelation".

John MacArthur on the other hand of course has problems with the verse that Dr Lloyd-Jones has just quoted - 1 Corinthians 14:29. The only way that he can explain it away is to assign that verse to the Corinthian age and the apostolic era - which of course has now finished.

Furthermore Dr Lloyd-Jones was aware of the Scriptural permission for women to prophecy and wrote this;

"There is a distinction between prophecy and preaching and teaching that can be proved quite clearly from Acts 21:9 and 1 Corinthians 11:5 ... those two verses alone prove that women can prophesy but the Scriptures also tells us that it is not permitted to a woman to preach or teach. That is why it is important to be clear in our minds about the difference between prophesying on the one hand and preaching and teaching on the other. A message may come to a woman but that does not make her a preacher or a teacher".

The Word of God commands us to "prove all things". John MacArthur himself said; "No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture". It isn't a question of chosing one's favourite Bible teachers but a case of which insight into the Word of God makes most sense. As I said before these things need to be defended - not because it is simply our preferred church life at stake - but because it is Word of God at stake and what it says and what it has to command about how we live.

For myself - Dr Lloyd-Jones makes the most sense.

Monday, August 20, 2007

John MacArthur Believes in Prophecy ... !!

Yes really. I will explain that in a bit.

Both Ern Baxter and Stanley Jebb were of the opinion that it is important to not simply limit your diet of theological books but also to read books that are contrary to your views. However I have been deliberately limiting my diet of books to those I know will feed my soul and fire my passion for God. In recent days I have decided to extend that rule for two reasons. Firstly I have plenty more reading time on my hands due to my working night shifts in the community and secondly CLC in Birmingham were selling John MacArthur's Commentaries on the New Testament for extremely cheap prices - £25 down to £9.95!

I brought 3 volumes to begin with. Two volumes on the Book of Romans and one volume on the Book of 1 Corinthians and began reading 1 Corinthians yesterday. I want to present a number of quotes and concepts that MacArthur deals with because I have found it a useful exercise reading his commentary. Firstly let me make it perfectly clear that I don't disagree with MacArthur lightly. It is clearly evident from his books that he is a righteous man who has spent his considerable lifetime studying the Word and desiring to present orthodox truth as he sees it. He is trained theologically and I am not. He has a number of degrees and I don't (in theology). But some things he says don't see to match up logically and further more MacArthur himself actually allows assessment of what he says (p304);

"No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture".

Points of Agreement.

I didn't think I would find myself including this category but I read a number of comments in the commentary on 1 Corinthians that I agreed with - although not maybe in the way that John MacArthur would have hoped his readers would! He said this concerning the spiritual gifts (p278);

"Every member of Christ's church has been given supernatural endowments, gifts of God's Holy Spirit, which through the Spirit are God's divine means of ministering His Word and power among His people and to the world".

MacArthur then went on to present a useful method of "testing all things" (p278) - a comment that may have been useful with Mark's concerns over Rob Rufus.

"God's gifts build up; Satan's counterfeits tear down".

And again;

"People do not counterfeit what is not valuable. Satan counterfeits the Spirit's gifts because he knows they are so valuable in God's plan".

John MacArthur on Apostles.

In beginning his commentary on 1 Corinthians, MacArthur obviously comes to Paul's opening comments in chapter 1; "called as an apostle". Unsurprisingly MacArthur deals with the contemporary issue as to whether apostles exist still today. He writes (p4);

"Apostles were chosen by God to work in the founding and forming of the church, after which time apostles ceased. When all the apostles had died, the office of apostle no longer existed. They were selected, sent and empowered by God for that period in the history of the church which was over when their lives were over".

This argument puzzles and intrigues me. MacArthur doesn't take the traditional argument that apostles are not required due to the completed canon of Scripture. He argues that apostles have ceased because those appointed as apostles have died out. Surely this argument suggests that the apostles were somehow special within themselves rather than the Biblical argument in Ephesians 4 that the ministry of apostles are gifts from the ascended Christ to the Church for it's bringing to maturity.

John MacArthur on Spiritual Gifts.

MacArthur defines spiritual gifts thus so;

"Spiritual gifts are divine enablements for ministry, characteristics of Jesus Christ that are to be manifested through the body corporate just as they were manifested through the body incarnate".

Once again I would agree with this but maybe not in the way that he wants or desires! But then moving into his commentary on chapters 12 to 14 MacArthur does something that is odd. I am familiar with the argument but I still have yet to understand where Scriptures indicates that this is so. He writes (p297);

"A thorough examination will yield the truth that spiritual gifts fill two major purposes; the permament gifts edify the church and the temporary gifts are signs to confirm the Word of God".

What then are the gifts designated as permament and what are those designated as temporary? Well he argues that the permament gifts include speaking or verbal gifts - prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching and exhortation and also nonverbal gifts - leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith and discernment. Temporary gifts were (apparantly) to authenticate the Word of God;

" ... until the time the Scriptures were completed and became self-authenticating".

So much for a general outline. I would ask again - where is the division shown in Scripture? Or more directly (as this is the text he is commenting on and apparantly exegeting) where is the division shown in 1 Corinthians 12?

John MacArthur on Healing.

As we can expect MacArthur makes the traditional evangelical "get-out-clause" that God is indeed sovereign and "can heal if He wishes". The implication that one gets from reading the entire commentary is that God is clearly not expected to wish to heal. By contrast MacArthur speaks approvingly of medical work as a preferred alternative. He writes (p301);

"As did all the others with the gift of healing, Paul used it sparingly and only for it's intended purpose. It was never used solely for the purpose of bringing physical health".

How would this compare with verses in the New Testament that speak of the Lord Jesus Christ like this;

"When evening came they brought to Him many who were demon possessed and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed ALL who were ill" - (Matthew 8:16 - NASB).

"Jesus was going through all the cities and the villages teaching ... and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people He felt compassion for them" - (Matthew 9:35 - NASB).

Healing never solely for the purpose of bringing spiritual health? What of the ten lepers He healed, one of whom only returned and responded to His Lordship that we know of?

John MacArthur on the Gift of Miracles.

MacArthur attributes this gift also to being a temporary sign gift. He defines a miracles as being a supernatural intrusion into the natural world and it's natural laws, explainable only by divine intervention. Thus far - no problem. However MacArthur makes a statement about Jesus Christ that causes me some difficulty. He said;

"Scripture indicates that Jesus lived a quiet, normal life as a child and as a young man exercising absolutely no supernatural powers until the wedding at Cana".

This may be the first indication of the Lord's miracle power but this statement seems to me to do injustice to the baptism of the Spirit that came upon Him in the River Jordan. Futher more if the Lord's preserved His supernatural power until the wedding at Cana then why did the devil tempt Him to turn stones into bread or to throw Himself off the temple? If the devil knew like the Lord that MacArthur's hypothesis was correct and Jesus was only to perform miracles to prove something then why would Jesus perform miracles with the devil as the sole witness?

John MacArthur on the Gift of Prophecy.

This is where I got interested. Rather than arguing with traditional cessationism as I had assumed, MacArthur wrote (p303);

"We will assume here that prophecy is a permament edifying gift".

However all is made clear when MacArthur goes on to define the gift of prophecy as such (p303);

"A prophet of God, therefore, is simply one who speaks forth God's Word and prophecy is the proclaiming of that Word. The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered ability to proclaim the Word effectively".

Clearly what he is arguing is that prophecy is preaching and a prophet is a preacher. But what then of the clear argument in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that we should earnestly desire spiritual gifts especially prophecy? MacArthur writes (p303);

"The apostle is not suggesting that every Christian should seek personally to have a gift of proclamation but that all Christians collectively should want that gift to be ministered among them".

So suddenly prophecy is no longer a gift of the Spirit that should and can be ministered by any member of the Church for the common good but it has become a gift purely and solely for the preacher/teacher (for clearly no other Ephesians 4 Ministry exists). There is no call clearly for anyone but the teaching elders to have anything to say in the corporate Body of believers.

John MacArthur on the Gift of Discernment.

Rather than being a special spiritual gift that may be bestowed again on any member of the body of Christ, MacArthur makes some interesting comments that clearly but his book "Charismatic Chaos" in contrast. Without stating it clearly - we are left in no doubt that he sees himself as having the gift of discernment. Consider these comments (p305);

"It is the ministry of those with the gift of discernment to help seperate the wheat from the chaff ... God still empowers some of His people to unmask false prophets and carnal hypocrites. He gives them insight to expose imitations and deceptions that most Christians would take as genuine".

The implication is strange. On the one hand MacArthur seems to be fighting for the supremacy of the Word of God and it's total sufficiency however on the other hand he is suggesting here that "most Christians" are liable to deception by false prophets (presumably false preachers?) were it not for those few who have the gift of discernment to unmask these wolves in sheeps clothing.

John MacArthur on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"It is not the Holy Spirit's baptism but Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit that gives us life and places us into the Body when we trust in Christ ... the Son is the Baptizer and the Holy Spirit is the agent of baptism".

But that is not what 1 Corinthians 12:13 says! The verse makes it clear that on the other hand it is the Holy Spirit who is the baptizer ("By one Spirit") and the body of Christ who is the agent of baptism ("into one body"). Surely the real root of the problem with the concept of a baptism in the Spirit that is one of power and brings assurance of sonship is this comment;

"Many erring teachers today have used a wrong interpretation of the baptism with the Spirit to divide off from the Body an imagined spiritual elite who have what the rest do not".

This of course is the time-old traditional argument against the baptism of the Spirit and one that you will only hear from those who deny the presence and power of such a grace gift from the risen and ascended Christ.

What of MacArthur?

There is much talk around of being "Together for the Gospel" and I must confess to wondering just how important an issue this is. Should we keep quiet about these things for the sake of unity? It is important and it should be discussed because what is at stake is the supremacy of the Word of God. Both bible-honouring charismatics and John MacArthur cannot be correct. If John MacArthur is correct then all bible-honouring charismatics are at worst practicing spiritual gifts and are demonically inspired and at best are wasting time manifesting gifts in the flesh.
My over-riding feeling from reading the commentary on "1 Corinthians" is that there is a downgrading on the emphasis of every member ministry. One of the wonders of the Charismatic Renewal is that suddenly church wasn't about one pastor doing everything but every member had the capability of bringing something of God to the corporate gatherings. John MacArthur deals with the verse that speaks of everyone "hath a tongue, hath an interpretation" as being solely and purely for the Corinthians. If that is so then why is it included in Scripture and why are we told that "all Scripture is profitable"? In John MacArthur's commentary we are left with the impression that there is nothing for us "laity" to do but come to church and hear the preacher preach the Word of God.
There is much more that could be said and I may post again when I have finished the three volumes but I confess to being disappointed with what I have read so far. John MacArthur is clearly a faithful and devoted servant of Jesus Christ and a lover of His Church. He says he is devoted to truth and defending it and indeed the motto of his preaching is "Unleashing God's truth one verse at a time". I focused on the more controversial topics that he deals with - there is much in the commentary that is excellent and I do agree with.
But I don't understand why a man who so devotedly believes in the Word of God needs to read into Scripture so much of his presupposed views. I hope that the volumes on Romans get better but I am glad that I brought them for the bargain price they were.
One final question. Most of MacArthur's "illustrations" of 1 Corinthians 12-14 come from the Charismatic Movement. How would his commentary have shaped up if he had written it prior to Azusa Street? I wonder if his comments and his concerns would have been the same.