CHARISMATICS VS CESSATIONISTS,
ARE EITHER OF THEM RIGHT?
Part of the inner war within Christianity has been the war between those who believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. 'charismatics', and those who believe those gifts ended long ago, i.e. cessationists'. Some of those who believe in the gifts do so without deceit, without varying from the truth of the Word. Some others, I call 'charismaniacs' have distorted the Word, do fake miracles to gain money, lie and deceive. Some who believe the gifts ended rightfully attack the deceivers, but some of them also lump all 'continists' into the same grouping as the 'charismaniacs.
What do we do about this division in the church of Jesus?
John MacArthur said:
I regard as brothers in Christ, and friends in the ministry all who are faithful workmen in the Word and the gospel, even if they give place of legitimacy to the charismatic experience. I have good friends among them who label themselves as ‘reformed charismatics’ or ‘evangelical continuists.’ (Page 231)
Yet, he also said that ‘to promulgate a corrupted notion of the Holy Spirit... is blasphemy.’
So, he can be very tough on those who are Pentecostal/Charismatic.
I also am tough on the ones that are ‘charis-maniac, with false gifts, carnal motives, and deceptive practices. He had lumped all who speak in tongues, who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit continue in our day now, into the same category as those corrupted ones.
The anger against the ‘charis-maniac’ ones is understandable, and even the Holy Spirit Himself is so ‘grieved, vexed, and agitated by the abuse of calling fakery and greed to be His doing.
The ones who are ‘charis-maniacs’ are also angered. They do not like to be exposed. They lie and wear spiritual masks, hiding their true nature, and call those who expose them to be ‘heresy hunters, pharisees, and cessationists’.
John MacArthur can at times seem so harsh, and other times seem more mellow. I notice it is some of the continuists that he knows that he calls ‘friends’. It has been often said, ‘we know what we like’ but the truth more often is ‘we like what we know.’
When John MacArthur has gotten to know some of us who are not cessationists, he has found some to be ones he could befriend. Perhaps he has seen many more of the charis-maniacs and therefore judges that only those few he knows are truly worth friendship. We are not all ‘charis-maniacs’. We could be harsh and be angry at him, at his sometimes harsh words that throw all of us into the same pig pen with the charis-maniacs of deception and greed. But, we can understand his anger against them, and hope that soon he realizes better that not all continuists are brazen wolves in sheep clothing.
By the last session of his conference, John MacArthur had already begun to get some very harsh and angry messages. He was called ‘unloving’, though as he said, ‘it is most loving to tell the truth.’ He referred to Titus 1:13, and said it was his duty to point out error.
Titus 1:13 (KJV)
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
He also said he was being called ‘divisive’, but reminded the hearers that Jesus said He came to bring a ‘sword’.
He was told he was ‘attacking brothers’, and in some ways, he was, when he lumps all Pentecostals into the same category as the charis-maniacs. He answered this criticism by saying that the Pentecostal movement is ‘made up largely of non-Christians’, and it was his responsibility to ‘police’ the movement, as all Christians should. To this I would add, that yes, we police the movement, but we must beware throwing the whole town into jail for the crimes of a few.
Some said he was ‘offending people’ and yes, he admitted he was. His comment was that he was more concerned with ‘offending God.’ He continued that in I Timothy 6, we are told to fight the ‘good fight of faith’, and that we are to guard what has been entrusted to us.
1 Timothy 6:12 (KJV)
12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 (KJV)
20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
I mention these things of the attacks against him, and his attacks or charges against others, to show that there is a great divide, a great war of words, hard feelings from others, in this spiritual warfare. Cessationists can seem to hate and despise continuists, and vice versa. Saints can be angered at the charis-maniacs, and vice versa. Both sides can justify their anger, at least to themselves, and both sides can feel vindicated in their attacks on the other.
There is much anger from the ‘anti-John MacArthur’ crowd. They say that he called half a billion charismatics of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Actually, he called some of those in the charismatic movement to be guilty of ‘blasphemy’, which is true. He did not call all to be guilty of that.
Attacks go way back in history. Most ‘cessationists’ are ‘Calvinists’, and even Charles Wesley wrote a hymn about Calvinists. He called it ‘The Horrible Decree’. The words included: "O horrible decree, worthy of whence it came, forgive their hellish blasphemy...’
The calls of ‘blasphemy’ go back and forth, ever since that time. We have better to deal with the Scripture, prove our concepts of the doctrines, and consider that truth is most often in the middle of most debates. There are extremes of Calvinism, extremes of Arminianism, extreme charis-maniacs of Pentecost, and extremes of apathetic ‘saints’ sleeping in the pews who just send in their $38 gifts to try to keep God’s favor. The debates continue.
What do we do?
Think of how Aaron felt at the sudden judgment of two of his sons. Think of Moses’ startled shock of two of his nephews who are struck dead about to do incense burning in the tabernacle. How does one respond to God’s sudden judgment for ‘strange fire’?
The strange fire conference was not a judgment like that on Nadab and Abihu, but only an expose of some great sins within the charismatic movement. That expose is not going to judge anyone with death, but there will be time for those ‘proven’ to be unethical, hoaxing charlatans to repent. Nadab and Abihu had no time to repent. God is a merciful God, and this event of the conference, if it reveals blatant strange fire, will still mean they can repent.
Aaron saw his two eldest sons die on their first day of their tabernacle service. No doubt he was greatly shocked. What should he do? Should he be angry at God? Should he get mad at Moses? Should he be angry at his son’s stupid attempt to drunkenly offer fire not from the proper source? If he had time, he would have interceded for the two sons, that God would have mercy. He would have sought to keep them from ever offering strange fire again.
It was their sin and wickedness for offering up strange fire to God. The conference and the book by John MacArthur did expose to millions the strange fire of some charismatics who are offering God strange fire in our day. What shall we say then? How shall we react? Shall we condone their sin? Would that have been a wise decision for Aaron?
Should God have stopped it from happening. Should God allow charlatans to speak fake words of prophecy, offer blessings not condoned by God for offerings not ever allowed by God to purchase healings and miracles? Should God be angry at the expose of sins, or should God have allowed the sins of charlatans to continue despite the shame it brings to true miracles, true prophetic words, and true preaching of the Word of God?
If you were Moses, would this have consoled Aaron? Would you have said the clouds are to blame for allowing lightning to strike these innocent sons of yours, these nephews of mine, dead without chance of repentance? What would your reaction have been then? What is your reaction now with the charlatans of our day, not judged with sudden death, but judged with public rebuke, national uncovering of their sins?
We are far past the consolation of the use of ‘strange fire’. We are here to offer them repentance, and since God has not struck them dead as He did Nadab and Abihu, we can offer the scoundrels who are scammers, and strange fire ministers, a time of repentance.
We must indulge ourselves into allowing God’s rebuke, and preach the true fire, that these rebels of charismatic circles have ignored.
God tells us that He is a ‘holy’ God. The word "holy" here is "qadash" which means "to show oneself sacred or majestic, to be honored, be treated as sacred, or to be holy." God refuses to allow Himself to be regarded as unholy. The strange fire of some today is dishonoring the holy God we are to serve.
If God’s holiness is compromised, tainted, or misrepresented in any way, there are consequences. This is true for people then, and for people now. We must not ever misrepresent God with ‘strange fire.’
In the Lord’s prayer given to us to pray, we say "hallowed be Thy name". It ought to be the desire of all of us, in every age, to hallow the name of God, to represent Him ‘in spirit and in truth.’ There should never be shame brought to God by strange fire, by unscrupulous charlatans of Simon magus magic tricks that are imitations of true Spiritual gifts.
Those who draw near and claim to be speaking prophetic words, but are speaking words that God never would have inspired, are dishonoring God with ‘strange fire.’
What was Aaron’s response to this horrible event upon his two eldest sons? Aaron was silent. The Bible says, " Aaron held his peace." Aaron stayed silent.
"Stayed silent’ is a strong Hebrew word, "damam (daw-man’) meaning ‘to be struck dumb.’ The silence was not simply chosen, his shock and awe of the event, made him unable to speak. He, in silence, was only able to accept God’s act in the event as agreeable to him, even if it were not pleasant to him.
God alone determines who is to be suddenly judged, and who is given warning and expose to have more time in which to repent. In the case of the ones in this event’s expose of ‘strange fire’, there seems to be a choice of God to give more time for repentance. We must be intercessors as would Moses and Aaron would have been if there was only a warning to Nadab and Abihu.
In Leviticus 10, the story of Nadab and Abihu shows the seriousness of strange fire, and it has long been a warning that encourages repentance of those who find themselves exposed someday to be in this sin of offering strange fire.
God alone is to be worshipped. Mankind is not to offer strange fire to build reputation, to gain notoriety, to become famous and beloved. We are to bring glory to the Lord. God has laid out the rules of ethics, demanding truth be in every miracle and blessing. He demands we speak no prophetic message but such as are inspired by God Himself. The rules are non-negotiable, and it is strange fire to do otherwise.
God demands we offer only the ‘real fire’ and we are to follow the way that He has taught.
Isaiah 48:17 (KJV)
17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
Those who speak words, claiming them to be from God Himself, but are not truly from God, are blaspheming God, are offering strange fire, and will be reproved. We cannot defend them, we cannot call them righteous, but can pray for them to repent.
Proverbs 30:6 (KJV)
6 Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
God does not want His word added to, nor taken from. We go by the way that He has commanded, and any other way is strange fire. When strange fire is reproved by expose, it is the giving of time to repent. For judgment as was on Nadab and Abihu will follow if we do not get strange fire to repent.
Deuteronomy 12:32 (KJV)
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
God wants us to seek Jesus with out whole heart, with all our efforts. We do not want to stray from His way. We must not accuse God of evil when He exposes strange fire, for that expose is more merciful than Nadab and Abihu found. God is offering mercy today, but not condoning the strange fire. Neither should we condone strange fire.
Psalm 119:10 (KJV)
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
The inner persons of the ones offering strange fire are far from God to be able to offer strange fire. They truly deserve judgment, and the merciful Lord is offering them a time of repentance. We must not get angry at the one God uses to expose the sin, but must pray for more mercy and a time to repent for the strange fire offerers.