Ecclesiology 31, Spiritual Gifts 11
7-29-18 Lesson 31
Father, we’re grateful for today, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. I do thank You, Lord, for the grace You’ve given us. I ask that You’ll be with us today, particularly the Spirit’s ministry of illumination will be active today as You seek to guide Your people into all truth through the teaching of Your Word. And I just pray You’ll be with the teaching, give me the right phraseology So that I can communicate effectively. And I just pray that You’ll be with our service today, I pray that fellowship would be sweet koinonia, and I just pray for relationships in this church and bonding that You want to do with people and all of the things that go into a church. Be with us as we study the gifts of the Holy Spirit during the first hour and the Book of Revelation the second hour. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said.. Amen.
Good morning everybody. I hope you all are enjoying this cool weather. Pray for me, I’m up here with a suit and tie on in the middle of July in Houston, Texas. So I’m either conforming to tradition or I’ve got a loose screw somewhere in my head, one of the two. It looks like we’re having some problems with the PowerPoint, at least on the back side of the screen. But as long as it’s up there I guess we’re okay.
One thing we might ask is are there any questions that need to be answered that we haven’t had a chance to answer. Most of you can’t remember what we talked about last week. Any questions or comments. [someone says something, can’t hear] Good question. How do we know what chapters of the Bible apply directly to us and which ones don’t? I think it was Lauren that asked that and I just kind of gave a generic answer, just go to the Book of Acts, 2, and hang a right, really Acts 1 and hang a right. So Becky is asking aren’t there passages, even in the Book of Acts, and in 1 Corinthians itself that don’t directly apply to us and the answer is yes. So I gave kind of a superficial answer because I only had about 20 seconds.
For example in Acts 2 it says they sold their homes so that they would have proceeds on hand to help the out of towners there on the day of Pentecost. Obviously there’s things in the Book of Acts that don’t directly bind us. So I guess a better answer would have been, a better rule of thumb to follow is to find something normative, you can’t just find it in Acts because Acts is a transitional book. Where we look at Acts as a historical book but not necessarily a doctrinal book. So there are all kinds of things going on in the Book of Acts that are not normative today. So to find something normative today you can’t just find it in the Book of Acts, you’ve got to find it in the epistles. And even that rule needs to be qualified because we went through 1 Corinthians 14 where there was some things happening in 1 Corinthians 14 that we as cessationists don’t deem as normative today. So it’s just a general rule of thumb and it’s a rule that has to be severely qualified. Does that help at all?
Let’s go to the Book of Deuteronomy, I think we’re ready to start. Deuteronomy, what a surprise, he’s taking us to the Book of Deuteronomy. I doubt many Christians have had their quiet time recently in the Book of Deuteronomy. But the Lord liked the Book of Deuteronomy, he quoted it three times in the wilderness, to Satan. And the Book of Deuteronomy was sufficient to ward off Satan’s attacks. And I’ll tell you why we opened up to the Book of Deuteronomy in just a second.
But Deuteronomy 18:20-22, and let me just remind you where we are in our study of Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church. We’ve been talking about the purposes of the church. One of its great purposes is to edify the saints so that they can use their spiritual gifts, which means we have to have teaching on what are these gifts of the Holy Spirit anyway.
So we’re asking and answering four questions on gifts of the Holy Spirit. Number one, what are some observations about spiritual gifts? I gave you about nineteen or twenty. Number two, the elephant in the room are all the spiritual gifts for today, because in Paul’s gift lists you’re going to run into seven of them and you say well wait a minute, I don’t see those practiced at Sugar Land Bible Church. And there as, we’ve talked about, two camps within Christendom trying to understand those seven gifts. The charismatics or Pentecostals, or what you would call continuationists believe all of those gifts are active today. We on the other hand are in the camp of selective cessationism where we believe those seven gifts ceased at the conclusion of the canon back in the first century.
And just so you don’t think that we just go through the Bible with whiteout saying well, we like this gift but not that one, and we’re not being arbitrary enough, what I have been doing is I have been giving you the logic, the biblical explanation for selective cessationism. And it relates to organizing the gifts into four categories. Category number one is the foundational gifts that God used to lay the foundation of the church: apostles and prophets, Ephesians 2:20, and you lay a foundation once. [Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,”]
So we believe those gifts have passed because the foundation of the church has already been laid 2000 years ago. The second selection of gifts would be confirmatory gifts, workers or miracles, tongues and healing and there we’re talking about the gift of healing. And we believe those are what you call sign gifts that God used to authenticate a change of rules for a new dispensation. In Acts 2 the rules changed; we’re no longer dealing with Israel under the Law, as had been the case for one thousand five hundred years. We’re dealing with the church age now. And so God authenticated that change of rules as He does many times throughout His Word when He changes the rules through various signs and wonders.
The third category of gifts are the revelatory gifts and those would include prophet, the gift of knowledge, tongues and their interpretation, where people are actually being used as a direct vehicle for divine truth. And we believe that those gifts ceased with the completion of the telion, the completed canon back in the first century, because 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us that those gifts in part will cease when the perfect comes and I’ve tried to make the case that “the perfect” there is the completion of the New Testament canon. [1 Corinthians 3:8, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.”]
So that’s sort of where we’ve been thus far in our study on spiritual gifts, which means that seven of those gifts no longer exist in the life of the church today if our understanding of this is correct. However, there are least sixteen gifts, by my count, that continue on. Those gifts are what are called the edificatory gifts; they are gifts which edify or build up. So we don’t need foundational gifts today because the foundation has been laid. We don’t need confirmatory gifts today because those are already went into existence and out of existence when God changed the rules in early Acts. We don’t need revelatory gifts today because we have a completed all sufficient canon of Scripture.
However, the church will never lose its need for edification or to be built up in the things of God. So consequently the edificatory gifts are in full operation, which means that we take most of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as in operation today. And in this study I’m going to be walking through the edificatory gifts and I’m actually going to give you some clues on how to define or identify what your particular gift is because every Christian, as we have studied, has at least one spiritual gift. So that’s the direction we will be headed down the road.
However, since I don’t know when I’ll ever get back into this subject, the charismatic movement I wanted to, before we move into the edificatory gifts to make some remaining comments on the charismatic movement, because no doubt at some point in your life you’re going to encounter this movement because it’s a huge trend within evangelicalism and you sort of have to know how to navigate your way through it.
But I have a section here, Roman numeral III called church history and selective cessationism. One of the ways to test whether your interpretation of the Bible is correct is to compare it to what the church has believed for two thousand years. Church history is not authoritative and binding the way Scripture is. However, if I’ve got some view on something that no one in the last two thousand years has ever believed or taught then maybe it’s time, in humility, to rethink my interpretation of the Bible. See how that works. Now it’s possible that the whole church has been wrong about something for many, many centuries. Martin Luther proved that and stood on the authority of the Scripture. So we’re not getting our authority from church history; we’re getting our authority from the Scripture. However, Scripture is without error but my interpretation of it is not necessarily without error.
So one of the things to do is to sort of compare it, my interpretation, to church history to see if it’s consistent. And if it’s inconsistent I may need to prayerfully rethink my interpretation. That doesn’t mean you can’t hold it, you just have to sort of rethink it and be humble about it and say Lord, do I have this right because I can’t find anybody in church history that’s ever believed this.
So what am I trying to get at? If certain gifts ceased in the first century is that collaborated in church history. In other words, has anybody else ever believed what we believe about selective cessationism. So I want to share with you three quotes that I think do not contradict selective cessationism but in fact affirm selective cessationism. I’m getting these quotes from the little pamphlet I gave out several weeks ago called The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, by Steven Waterhouse. I don’t even know if we have any of these left, however, if you didn’t get one on the way out there’s a thick book by Steven Waterhouse called Not By Bread Alone, and if you go into the Holy Spirit study that he does you’ll find the material in that pamphlet in that larger book called Not By Bread Alone. We have it on the name tag table and the visitor sign up table and if you still didn’t get one let me know, we have a ton of them that the church purchased in the back and I’ll get you one.
But the first quote here comes from Chrysostom, he was someone very prominent in early church history, you see the dates that he lived, (A.D. 345‒407). He was known as Golden Throat or Golden Tongue because of his oratory skills. And he was the patriarch of Constantinople and he actually wrote a commentary on 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians, as you’ll recall, is where we’re getting this idea that certain gifts ceased in the first century. And notice what Chrysostom says.
He says, “This whole place” speaking of Corinth, “is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to” the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in other words, that 1 Corinthians talks about, “and by their” gifts of the Holy Spirit, “cessation, being such as then used to occur” referring to these various gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have said have ceased, these “used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?”
So you’ll notice that Chrysostom, very prominent in church history, is basically acknowledging that certain gifts that the Book of 1 Corinthians talks about stopped happening, which is consistent with the interpretation that we’ve been giving.
Here’s another quote from Agustin, Bishop of Hippo, and he says this of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can see when he lived, (A.D. 354‒430) end of the fourth century A.D., beginning of the fifth century. He says, “““In the earliest times, the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4 These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away…. If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not now given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost?” [[Augustine (A.D. 354‒430), Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, Homily 6:10 on the First Epistle of John.]
So again you have a second statement by Augustine indicating that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased and were no longer functioning in the fourth century when he lived.
And then here’s this quote from Phillip Schaff. Phillip Schaff is not a church father like Augustine and Chrysostom were but he wrote what most people today believe is an authoritative classic, it’s a multivolume set, on the history of the church. So if anybody wants to know anything about the history of the church you usually direct them to Philip Schaff’s multivolume set. And volume 1, pages 236-237, based on his study of church history, he starts to make some statements about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
He says: “We do not know how long the glossolalia, as thus described by Paul, continued. It passed away gradually with the other extraordinary or strictly supernatural gifts of the apostolic age. It is not mentioned in the Pastoral, nor in the Catholic Epistles.” Don’t let that word “Catholic” disturb you, Catholic just means universal the way he’s using it; there’s eight letters that we call universal letters and that’s what he means by the Catholic Epistles.
He says, “`We have but a few allusions to it at the close of the second century” through Irenæus. Irenæus was discipled by Polycarp, Polycarp was discipled by John so apparently Irenaeus spoke of the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we’re talking about. He “speaks of ‘many brethren’ whom he heard in the church having the gift of prophecy and of speaking in ‘diverse tongues’, bringing the hidden things of men to light and expounding the mysteries of God. It is not clear whether by the term ‘diverse,’ which does not elsewhere occur, he means a speaking in foreign languages, or in diversities of tongues altogether peculiar, like those meant by Paul. The latter is more probable. Irenæus himself had to learn the language of Gaul. Tertullian (Adv. Marc. V. 8; comp. De Anima, c. 9) obscurely speaks of the spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues, as being still manifest among the Montanists to whom he belonged.” By the way, I won’t go into it but there’s some doctrinal problems with the Montanists. “ At the time of Chrysostom” the quote I just read to you, “it had entirely disappeared; at least he accounts for the obscurity of the gift from our ignorance of the fact. From that time on the glossolalia was usually misunderstood as a miraculous and permanent gift of foreign languages for missionary purposes. But the whole history of missions” see a lot of missionaries claim that they speak in tongues, but Schaff says that “the whole history of missions furnishes no clear example of such a gift for such a purpose.” [Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 , p. 236-37.]
So Augustine says they ceased, Chrysostom acknowledges that they ceased, Schaff, based on his study of church history indicates that they ceased as well. So therefore that makes me a little more comfortable with the interpretation I’ve been giving because it’s not inconsistent with the testimony of church history; in fact, it is consistent with the testimony of church history.
So having said all that we now move into Roman numeral V, and I really was debating whether to give you this section or not because as I start talking about this some of you are going to say why even get into this if these seven gifts ceased. So we’re dealing here with the proper operation of the sign and revelatory gifts when they were functioning as outlined by the Apostle Paul, primarily in 1 Corinthians 14. Paul, when those gifts were in operation, lays down rules. And you say well why are you giving us the rules if you think they’ve ceased, isn’t that a discussion that’s sort of irrelevant.
Well, here’s the deal. One of two churches, I would guess, within Christianity today believes that these gifts are in operation, which means that at some point in your life you’re likely to end up in a charismatic church, the reason being is your job will relocate you somewhere, and then you’re going to have to pick a church to go to, and typically (not always) you’re not going to find a Sugar Land Bible Church type church, unless you want to start your own church which may not be a bad idea, you’re going to have to kind of settle with what’s available and you might be in an environment where the only churches available are like Calvary Chapel, and Assemblies of God, Vineyard, and so you’re going to be in an environment where people don’t agree with our doctrinal statement at all and they think the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in full operation. So what do you do then? Well what I would do if I were you, if that’s the scenario you find yourself in, I would pick a church that follows the rules of 1 Corinthians 14. That’s what I would do.
In other words, let’s just pretend hypothetically that these gifts are in operation; half of the body of Christ thinks they are. If they are, in fact, in operation then the rules have to be followed and I would not waste any time in any church that believes not only that these gifts exist but won’t follow the rules. So that’s sort of why I’m going through this. You’ll notice that what we say here in our doctrinal statement here at Sugar Land Bible Church, the last sentence, it says: “We believe that the majority of what is termed ‘miraculous’ within the contemporary” that would be today, “contemporary charismatic movement is something other than the Biblical gifts of tongues or healing.”
So our view is those gifts ceased. Well, what if they haven’t ceased? Our perspective on it is when you look at the contemporary charismatic scene what you discover is a lot of the things that are practiced have almost no correlation to the Bible at all because the rules of 1 Corinthians 14 are not being followed. Now there are some Pentecostal charismatic churches that do follow the rules. If I was all of a sudden going to become a Pentecostal or a charismatic, and at one time in my life I was very open to that idea, obviously much mores then than now, but if God all of a sudden showed me that I was wrong on the belief on cessationism and I was going to have to join a charismatic church which church would I pick. Well, I’d pick the church that follows the rules.
Now in my personal experience the group out there that’s actually trying to follow the rules is the Calvary Chapels, not that every single Calvary Chapel is the same wherever you go, but my experience has been in general the Calvary Chapel churches try to follow the rules. In fact, I grew up in the Orange County area, where the Calvary Chapel movement, the Jesus movement, started and I would go to their teaching service and just to sort of see what in the world they were doing with these gifts I went to the subsequent service after the teaching service. Sometimes it was called Afterglow, where people would speak in tongues, they would give prophecies, and all of these kinds of things, and I noticed that it was not a pandemonium, it was not a free for all, and there was a conscious effort on the part of leadership, who believed in the perpetuity of these gifts, to follow the rules.
So if I found myself in a situation where I had to pick a church and the only churches available were of the charismatic variety I personally would gravitate toward the Calvary Chapel type church. Btu you have to make the call on that and you can’t make the call unless you know what the rules are. Do you follow that? So that’s sort of why I’m going into the rules. Even if these gifts are not in operation, which we don’t even think they are, certain rules have to be followed. Paul is very clear about rules about prophecy, and rules about tongues.
So let’s talk about the rules for prophecy. Four rules have to be followed if this gift is in operation. Rule number one, the prophets have to be 100% accurate. You say well where are you getting this from? The principle starts in the Old Testament Law. Take a look at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Notice what it says; it says, “‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall” what? Lose his retirement account, I mean it’s pretty severe, “that prophet shall die.’” Wow. And it says, [21[ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’” Here’s the answer to that question, verse 22, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
In other words, if God is making forecasts through a prophet all of those predictions have to come to pass. Now when you understand that standard you can write off the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses because their history is littered with inaccurate predictions. You can also write off many of the things that happened in the contemporary Charismatic movement because during the time in my life, when I was open to the spiritual gifts I would go to some of these meetings and prophecies were given.
One particular prophecy that was given, as late as 1999, I recall it very specifically, which is really what soured me against most of what happens within the charismatic movement, it was a prophecy about Y2K, remember that? Y2K? And I was in a meeting where this particular prophet gave an utterance and the prophet said everybody needs to take water and bury it in their backyard because there’s going to be a shortage of water, you’ve got to buy gold because 9/11, not 9/11, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, Y2K is going to bankrupt America and we’re going to go back to a rural system. Well, that’s what a lot of people thought, a lot of prophesies like that were given and you could automatically tell that’s a false prophecy because Y2K came and went and absolutely nothing happened despite the hysteria. I mean, planes didn’t fall out of the sky, we didn’t get our electrical grid short-circuited, we didn’t go back to horse and buggy days, and so I was in a meeting and I was listening to the prophetess in this case, and this is the prophecy that she gave and she made a specific prediction that failed. Well, the last time I checked God doesn’t get things like 80% right. In this case it was zero percent right. So you automatically, if you’re in that environment you dismiss it as it can’t be true because it’s a failed prophecy. That’s a standard that goes all the way back to the Book of Deuteronomy.
You say well, is that a New Testament standard for prophets? Take a look at Acts 11:28, and you’ll see the same type of phenomenon. It says in Acts 11:28, “One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.” A short term prediction, and notice what it says, “And this took place” with about 80% accuracy…” it doesn’t say that does it? “And this took place in the reign of Claudius.” And that’s why Agabus was recognized as a prophet in the first century, because he made a short-term prediction that came to pass.
So the standard of 100% accuracy continues on; maybe the penalties are not there in the church age where you stone someone to death if they get it wrong, but the standard is there. And that would make sense, wouldn’t it, because God can’t get things 75% right; I mean, God doesn’t get C+’s on His exams, right? God is omniscient. I mean, if someone is claiming to be a direct revelatory vehicle from God there can’t be any wriggle room on this.
The reason this is significant is because when you get into the charismatic movement, and I’ve had multiple conversations with people on this, including within my own extended family, my cousin and I have been disagreeing on this for the last thirty years. They have a mindset where they say well, you have to kind of grow into your gift. So my cousin, who I love and loves Jesus just as fervently as I do, has told me, and I’ve read it also in some of the Vineyard literature NAR type literature, they’ll say well, take for example the gift of teaching, do you get everything exactly right in your teaching? And no I don’t, I can mangle something or come up with the wrong interpretation. So they’ll say that’s exactly how it is with prophecy, I mean, maybe you’ll get it right most of the time but as you grow you’ll start to get more accurate as things progress. And this is how they dismiss over and over again inaccurate prophecy.
And you know, it’s an interesting idea, it’s completely foreign to the Scripture, I mean, Isaiah and Jeremiah and all of these guys that made these great predictions don’t get out there and say well, I’m about 75% right. I mean, you want to claim the mantle of a prophet you can’t have any inaccuracies whatsoever. So this is sort of the problem that you have with the 700 Club, Pat Robertson, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the 700 Club, and like a lot of the things Pat Robertson says. I’ve even read some of his books.
I appreciate Pat Robertson but you can Google this and watch it for yourself, he very clearly predicted, through a word from the Lord, that Mitt Romney would defeat Obama in the upcoming election which was what, 2012, something like that. We’re living in the You Tube age, the technology age where you can just push a few buttons and research what he said. So what do you do with that? He is completely wrong about that. Well what you do is you say whatever Pat Robertson is doing that is not a prophetic gift because if it’s a prophetic gift it has to be 100% accurate. See that?
Take a look at Acts 21:10-11, back to the New Testament prophet, Agabus, and the charismatic movement gets a lot of mileage out of these verses here. It says, “As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus” now Agabus is the same guy that’s called a prophet earlier in the Book of Acts because he made a prophecy about a famine in the reign of Claudius, So Agabus is at it again with his prophecy. “As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
As you keep reading the Book of Acts you never have a record of how this prophecy was fulfilled. I mean, I’m assuming it was fulfilled this way, it’s just Luke in the Book of Acts doesn’t tell us anything because Luke is highly selective in how he records history. So what the charismatics will do is they’ll go to all the passages where Paul was arrested and they’ll say it didn’t happen, just like Agabus predicted. And so they’ll me, they’ll say Brother Andy, and they’re brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m not their enemy, we’re all going to the same heaven, We just have a disagreement, I think it’s an important disagreement, on this subject. You see, brother Andy, Agabus was growing into his gift, I mean as you grow into your gift you start to develop more accuracy as you go. And you see, that and logic is what you call an argument from silence. Silence is not the same as a contradiction or an affirmation. For all I know in biblical history, since the Book of Acts doesn’t tell us everything there is to tell, I believe this prophecy was fulfilled exactly like it says because Agabus has already demonstrated his prophetic accuracy through the prediction of the famine in Acts 11. But because we don’t have a specific verse that tells us that this is exactly how the prophecy was fulfilled the charismatics will take that as, well, Agabus was growing into his gift.
I don’t think that’s a really good conclusion at all. That’s building your whole argument from what isn’t there. That’s a logic called an argument from silence. That’s the equivalent of me passing out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and it says on the syllabus the final exam is on such and such a date and then as the class progresses I never make a reference to the final exam. So the student comes up at the end of the semester and says you know, you were silent about the final exam, I just assumed I didn’t have to take it. Well, you’re confusing my silence on something for a negation of something. See that? Now if I came out and said guess what, no final exam, that would be different, but I never said that. And so what you have to understand is the charismatic argument about growing into your gift and all these kinds of things is based on a logical fallacy called the argument from silence.
By the way, the open theists, I don’t know if you know who they are, and if you don’t know who they are blessed be your ignorance, be glad you don’t know who they are. And this was one of the reasons why I’m not going to join, I’ve never joined and will not join the Evangelical Theological Society, which is the elite group of scholars that meet every year, supposedly the best and the brightest within evangelicalism, well, they opened the door to the open theists. What are the open theists? The open theists are those that discount the exhaustive foreknowledge of God; they do not believe that God knows everything. What they believe is God knows all of the possibilities. So am I going to put on a gray suit with a red tie or some other arrangement, God doesn’t really know what I’m going to do. He knows I might put on this suit or I might put on that suit but God has to wait and see to determine which suit it’s going to be because poor God doesn’t know everything.
One of the best critiques against this whole blasphemy is Norman Geisler, who was very influential in the evangelical theological society. When he saw that they were opening the door to that he pulled out of the group and I’m sort of the Norm Geisler mindset. I mean, what is there to talk about with a bunch of people that claim to be scholars and believe in inerrancy when they don’t even believe in the exhaustive foreknowledge of God?
I mean, if you don’t believe in the exhaustive foreknowledge of God what have you just done? You’ve created a golden calf where you’ve created God in man’s image. I mean, why do these open theists discount the exhaustive foreknowledge of God? What you start to figure out with people like this is they don’t come to this conclusion from the Bible; they come to this conclusion because of some events of a personal nature that happen to them. In this particular case one of the progenitors of open theism, there was… I can’t remember the exact situation but somebody’s daughter was hit in a crosswalk or somebody was raped or something horrific, and so when that happened to this individual they said well there’s no way God could have known that was going to happen, because if God knew that was going to happen He would have stopped it.
So what happens as a result is they begin to say well, maybe God didn’t know what was going to happen, that’s why He didn’t stop it. And that’s really how open theism started. And you’ll find this a lot with people when they start these new doctrines and the Evangelical Theological Society, which supposedly was established to defend inerrancy of the Bible and inspiration of the Bible and all these things, they just opened the door wide open to the theist. They would not kick them out, which is what I wanted them to do. I wanted them to kick them out as heretics.
As much as I’m sorry about personal tragedies in people’s lives that’s no basis for rewriting the Bible. I mean, what did Jesus say with Peter? You’re going to betray me three times. Didn’t He say that? He didn’t say well, it could be two, it could be four, I’m not quite sure what you’re going to do, I guess I’ll have to wait and see, to see if it’s going to be three or two or five. That’s open theism; that is NOT the Scripture. Jesus said three, He didn’t say seven or six or one or two because He has exhaustive foreknowledge. See that?
So the open theists, like the charismatics, love this verse here with Agabus because they say well, Agabus really didn’t get it 100% right because God doesn’t know everything, God is giving this prophecy to Agabus. And I’m saying that’s an argument from silence. I mean, there’s nowhere in the Bible that says it didn’t happen this way. Luke doesn’t record everything that has happened so by my way of thinking I think Paul was bound by the Jews, exactly like it says, it’s just not recorded in the Book of Acts.
So all of this to say that if someone in a church is making predictions the first rule to follow is we need to see 100% accuracy. What I’m trying to say is that’s an Old Testament standard and it’s a New Testament standard as well.
Rule number two for prophecy, take a look at 1 Corinthians 14, and this is really the chapter where Paul lays down the rules. 1 Corinthians 14:29, rule number two is you can only have two or three prophets prophesying in a church service and the prophets can’t talk over each other. You can’t have a situation where you have dueling prophets. You know, one person stands up and gives their prophecy and another prophet interrupts what prophet A is saying, and anybody can just stand up and say whatever they want. Paul was very clear, if this is going to happen, two, three max, and the prophets have to prophesy in turn because if they’re not prophesying in turn and shouting over each other then who can be edified through that, because God is not a God of confusion, 1 Corinthians 14:33, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”] But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. 1 Corinthians 14:40, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”
Notice what it says, Paul is very clear, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” [1 Corinthians 14:29] Now why is it possible that two or three prophets can speak in order, rule number three, because the prophets are fully in control of their faculties, completely in control. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:32, look at what he says here, this is very important, “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;” in other words, if you have the gift of prophecy and what the charismatics often to is it sort of comes over me in sort of an uncontrolled way and I have to just stand up and blurt it out, whatever prophecy I’m given. NO, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. You can keep it in control, you can keep it in check, it’s not some kind of out of control spiritual utterance.
John MacArthur had a situation recently where some guy in the middle of the worship service, you can find it also on You Tube and those kinds of places, the guy rushes into the front of the church and disrupts the sermon because he has a prophecy and he spends this time, and John MacArthur I think who’s had to deal with these situations quite a bit, he death threats quite frequently, and I talked to some of the people that go there, they have like full arm security for John MacArthur but until the security gets the thing under control what are you supposed to do? This guy is up there screaming and yelling at John MacArthur, condemning him about his doctrinal position on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and this particular person, before he’s ushered to the exit, and frankly ought to be taken to the police station in my opinion, doing something like that, claims that the Spirit of God came over him and he couldn’t control his utterance. And as all of this is going on you can hear John MacArthur, he doesn’t give you the address but he quotes this verse right here, 1 Corinthians 14:32, “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” And I say on that position I think John MacArthur has it exactly right.
So this idea where you can’t control what you’ve been given is an unbiblical idea. And by the way, how come that never applies to any other gift of the Holy Spirit? I mean, I have the gift of teaching, I don’t wake up at 1:00 o’clock in the morning saying the gift has come upon me, and I don’t place a robocall to everyone in the church and say we’ve got to show up at 1:00 o’clock in the morning because I’ve got the gift of teaching and I can’t control what I’ve been given. And by the way, all these people that think they have some kind of out of control gift with prophecy, how come that never works with the gift of financial giving? [Laughter] I mean, you want to start writing out of control checks… I just can’t control myself, I’ve got the gift of giving!
The thing to understand is there’s so much that goes on in the contemporary charismatic movement that contradicts the Bible. See that? If it contradicts the Bible it can’t be right because the Holy Spirit that’s allegedly giving these people these utterances also wrote the Bible, Amen! How can God contradict Himself?
The fourth rule is that when a prophet prophesies the others, that are listening, are to judge carefully. So a lot of alleged prophets today have this mindset where don’t you dare question me because I have an utterance from God and who in the world are you to question me? God has given me this prophecy! But if you look very carefully at what Paul says in verse 29, the second part of the verse, notice what Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak and let the others do” what? “pass judgment.” You don’t sit there and absorb every message a prophet has to say because there’s a standard of Scripture, in this case it was the Old Testament because the New Testament was just being formulated at that time. If the prophet says anything that contradicts the Scripture you are to dismiss them as a false prophet. See that?
And this is a standard that’s as old as the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 13, verses 1-5, where Moses tells the children of Israel you’re going to enter the land and inside the land of Canaan you’re going to run into prophets who are actually going to be able to perform signs and wonders. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”]
Well how are they able to do that? As I’ll be showing you they’re doing that through satanic power. And you are not to follow them, and so the question is well how do we figure out which prophet is true and which one is false. The standard in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, you can read that on your own, is if they contradict the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, they can’t be from God because God in the first two commandments says no graven images, no other gods before Me, it’s crystal clear. And these prophets are going to say come on, let’s follow other gods, and the moment they do that is the moment they are a false prophet, it doesn’t matter if they performed a miracle because Satan can give the illusions of miracles and actually miracles.
Notice, if you will, Isaiah 8:19-20, I’m just showing you the divine standard, Isaiah verses19-20, what does it say here. “When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” Look at verse 20, “To the law and to the testimony!” What is the law and the testimony? The established revelation of God. “To the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”’ Meaning they don’t have the light of God in them.
So how do you determine if someone is a spiritist or a medium and is speaking false prophecies or false miracles? Because they’ll contradict the law, that’s the divine test. You all know about the Bereans, right? Acts 17:11, what do the Bereans do. In the Book of Acts Paul came into Berea giving doctrine and teaching, direct revelations from God as an apostle, and what did the Bereans look at? Well, let me see your educational credentials, Paul. Did you graduate from the right school? How big is your church? How many books have you written? No, they examined Paul’s teachings by the Word of God. Act 17:11, “Now these were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica….” In other words, the Bereans were more on the ball than the Thessalonians. Why is that? Because “they received the Word with great eagerness,” they weren’t unteachable in other words, but they examined the what? The Scriptures frequently, once a month, once a week? “daily to see whether these things were so.”
There is no brownie points in God for gullibility, everything you hear should be screened through the grid of His Word. That’s what the Bereans did with someone of no less station spiritually than the Apostle Paul. So the standard has always been you analyze prophecies and even what we do here, preach sermons, teach Bible studies, I hope you don’t just sit, soak and sour but your mind is active during the communication of truth because I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I’m just a Bible interpreter and I’m fallible, I can get things wrong, and have gotten things wrong. So I’ve never been the standard in this church, the Word of God is the standard. And that’s how it’s to be with these prophecies.
Do you remember Galatians 1:8-9? Paul says, “But even if we, or an angel” wow, that’s quite a manifestation, “from heaven, should preach to you a different gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”] If I show up tomorrow, Paul says, or if an angel materializes at your bedside tonight and you can physically see the angel, you don’t just sit there and say wow, great message because Mohammed received an angel, I believe it was an angel of light giving him the doctrines of Islam. Joseph Smith received an angel; I believe it was a counterfeit angel, an angel of light, giving him the doctrines of Mormonism. It doesn’t matter if you see a miracle, it doesn’t matter if you see an angel, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve watched the television show “Touched by an Angel.” It’s irrelevant, the experience is irrelevant because the devil comes as an angel of light. You have to test it by what we’ve already revealed to you, Paul says, as apostles.
Look, if you will, at 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, this also represents a time period in church history where the gift or prophecy was functioning. You guys all know how to find the T’s, right? I mean generally when you’re going through the epistles, Romans is after Acts is the first one, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then Acts, then Romans, and then the two Corinthian letters, and then just remember Go Eat PopCorn, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians Colossians. Or God’s Electric Power Company, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. And then once you get past that then you’ll find the T’s, which would be the Timothy letters, Titus, the Thessalonian letters, and so now when the pastor says turn to such and such you’ll be the first one there and everybody will think wow, they really know the Word of God.
But notice 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, and by the way, that order that I just gave you is the canonical order; it’s not the order in which these books were written. But we’re dealing with the canonical order in our Bibles so we have to learn how to find it fast.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, it says, “do not despise prophetic utterances.” So prophecy was part of the divine plan at this stage so let the prophets prophesy. Look at verse 21,”But examine” what? 75% of what they say, “examine” what? “everything” what? “carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” You examine what they say by God’s truth that’s already been revealed because God cannot contradict Himself.
Notice if you will…, I’m just giving you the divine standard, 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit but” what? “test the spirits” how do you do that? You examine what is said by what God has already revealed because God can’t contradict Himself. “…do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” why is that? “because many” not a couple, “false teachers have gone out into the world.” So when somebody comes up to me and says I have God’s word for you, has that ever happened to you? God has given me a word for you, and I always want to know well how come God never told me. I always say have you tested that spirit that allegedly came to you from God? Have you tested it? And they usually say well what do you mean, “tested it?” Well, it’s a biblical command, in fact when He says “test the spirits” the verb there is in the imperative mood meaning this is not a suggestion, this is a command. So you “test the spirits.”
One more, look at Revelation 2:2, which you already know because we’re studying the Book of Revelation in the main service, we’ve already covered the church at Ephesus, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance,” He’s commending them, “and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves” what? “apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;” there ae people that came into your flock presenting themselves as prophets and apostles, you tested them by what God has already said, there was a contradiction and therefore you found them to be liars.
So let’s just pretend that the gift of prophecy is in operation today and half of the body of Christ thinks it is. Then I’d better see these four rules in place and if a charismatic church is not going to practice these four rules then I’m not going to join that church or have anything to do with it, even if it is the only church in town. There’s got to be 100% accuracy, there cannot be pandemonium and confusion because you should only have two to three at a time, because the prophets are in full control of their faculties and people should not be made to feel as I’ve been made to feel in some of these environments, that if you question something you’re quenching the Holy Spirit, because that’s what they’ll say. They’ll say you don’t have child-like faith, you’re quenching the Holy Spirit, you’re resisting God. No, not so fast with that one because my Bible says, 1 Corinthians 14:29, which gives the standard that goes all the way back to Deuteronomy, that the others are to carefully listen to what is said. [1 Corinthians 14:29, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”]
Those are the rules for prophecy and the next time I am with you we’ll be given the rules for tongues and there are ten rules for tongues or languages and so we’ll deal with that. I talked overtime, I prophesied too long today so I’m going to close us in prayer.
Father, we’re grateful for Your truth, Your church, grateful for the standard that Your Word gives us even to navigate our way through the contemporary charismatic movement. Give us humble spirits and teachable hearts as we look at this and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!