I Am Not A Charismatic
Folks of the charismatic persuasion, when they view the title of this essay, will most likely respond to it by contending that the writer speaks from a lack of first hand experience, and thus has no business expositing about that which he writes from a position of pure hearsay evidence. My response to this is: not true; not true at all. I happen to have had a considerable amount of first hand experience with the Charismatic/Neo-Pentecostal movement, and indeed, at one time in my Christian oddessy, fully embraced it.
I was saved1 on a Monday evening in June of 1985. From that day forward I had a burning desire to know God’s will for my life. So, I set about trying to find His will, and this eventually led me into the Charismatic2 “movement.” After a short period of membership in a Lutheran Church3 I began attending a small Charismatic assembly affiliated with Chuck Smith’s4 Calvary Chapel movement. Smith’s theology was basic Neo-Pentecostalism,5 with an emphasis on end times preaching,6 and “worship.”7 This brand of Neo-Pentecostalism is what I have since come to refer to as “controlled” Charismaticism, i.e., Smith (and those ministers who adhered strictly to his philosophy) did not allow unbridled outbursts or “moves of the spirit” in his services. Although it was taught that all the “sign” gifts8 were in effect, and available through what Charismatics refer to as “Holy Ghost baptism,” (ref. Acts 19:1-7) a tight reign was put on the exercise of these gifts by individuals in the various worship services.
This was not the case in a group I attended later on, affiliated with John Wimber and the “Vineyard” movement,9 where spontaneity was actually encouraged, and the focal point of the worship service was the alter call, at which folks had hands laid on them by the ministers, and were “slain in the spirit.”10 This was my last Charismatic affiliation.
Although I saw most of the so-called “manifestations of the spirit” in many of the Charismatic meetings I attended, I never manifested any of the gifts myself. This was not because I didn’t desire to manifest them, it just never happened.
The Scriptural Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
It was about the time that I was attending the Vineyard assembly that I met a man who introduced me to a concept called “rightly dividing,” the central theme of which was something he called “the mystery.” It was this teaching that eventually illuminated for me the truths (in Scripture) that debunked the idea that the spiritual manifestations being practiced in Charismatic assemblies could be ordained for the present dispensation.11
The phrase, “rightly dividing,” shows up in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)
The phrase, “the mystery,” appears in the letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians:
“Now to him that is able to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery….if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God…how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…even the mystery, which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3; Col. 1:26)
This mystery is identified in the verses from the letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians as “the dispensation of the grace of God.” (Eph. 3:2) What characterizes this special dispensation, given exclusively to Paul, is the elimination of anything and everything that was associated with the practices ordained during the Acts period. We find this directive in both these letters. In Ephesians chapter two we read:
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” (Eph. 2:15,16)
and again in Colossians chapter two:
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Col 2:13-14)
Some will hasten to say that this was only speaking of the removal of the need to observe the ceremonial law (of Moses), and did not include the sign gifts. But the Mosaic law had already been removed from the salvation equation as early as Acts 13, where Paul proclaimed to those he preached to in Antioch:
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-39)
This is later corroborated in the letters to the Romans and the Galatians:
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” (Rom 3:20-21)
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal 2:16)
Moreover, the sign gifts were practiced in all the assemblies during the Acts. We see this in Paul’s ordination of them in the first letter to the Corinthians:12
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:” (1 Cor 12:7-10)
No More Israel; No More Signs
Perhaps the question has arisen in your mind: If all Paul’s letters are written as doctrine to the church for the obedience of faith, how can one say that the sign gifts—clearly ordained for the church in the above passage—were abolished by the statements in Ephesians chapter 2 and Colossians chapter 2? I can say this because there was no longer any reason to continue them. Why? Israel! Before Paul wrote those words in first Corinthians 12, he wrote these words in first Corinthians 1: “For the Jews require a sign……” (vs. 22), and it was “to the Jew first”13 that Paul took his message. And he took his message to them right up to the end of the Acts, where we read in chapter 28:
“And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” (Acts 28:16-17)
It says in vs 25, “they agreed not among themselves” about what Paul was preaching, so he delivers this statement, concerning them, to the world:
“Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:26-28)14
I believe, at this juncture, national Israel became the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea 1:9; they became “Loammi,” or “not my people.” At this point, as far as God is concerned, there was no more Israel; therefore there was no need to continue any of their customs, rituals, practices, feast days—ordinances—in any assembly. Thus, the Holy Spirit no longer empowered believers to manifest any of the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. We have at least two witnesses of this in Paul’s post-Acts epistles.
1. There is no mention of any of the sign gifts in the post-Acts letters. In fact the only “gifts” to the church that are ever mentioned is the “gift” of salvation (Eph. 2:8), and the ministry gifts of Eph. 4:11.
2. There are no instances of the gifts being manifested in the post-Acts letters. In fact, we see just the opposite. Paul, who displayed all the signs of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12) during the Acts, appears to have lost these powers after Acts 28. In 2 Timothy 4:20 he writes, “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick,” and to Timothy he said, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1 Tim 5:23) Why would a man who had the power to heal say such things to his most faithful followers? Why didn’t he just simply lay hands on them and make them whole? Simple answer: He couldn’t.
This phenomenon should not have been a shock to the Acts assemblies where the sign gifts were extant, because Paul had forewarned them of their end. In 1 Corinthians 12, where he encouraged their practice, he said in the last verse: “yet show I unto you a more excellent way.”(vs 31) And then in chapter 13 he says:
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:8-11)
Ephesians 2 makes reference to the “one new man,”15 the fellowship16 created out of the abolition of the Jewish ordinances. The Acts church represents the “child” in the above passage, while the post-Acts church represents the “man.” One of the “childish things” that are “put away” by the “new man” are the sign gifts.
So, if this is true, why then is there an estimated five hundred million Christians in the world claiming to possess and manifest at least one or more of these so-called “spiritual” gifts? There is one very simple answer to this: by failing to “rightly divide” Paul’s epistles, they fail to see the change in dispensations. They simply do not (or will not) see that these practices, among other things ordained during the Acts, are no longer part of the program. They do not understand (or accept) that we now, “walk by faith, and not by site,”17 i.e., we don’t operate on the basis of what we see, but rather upon what is written. For, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen….and…faith come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”18
These things (signs and wonders) appeal to the flesh (the emotions), and God is not in the business of appealing to us in this way. There is, however, a “god” who is in this business. Paul refers to him as “the god of this world,”19 In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said, in the latter days, “signs and lying wonders” would be prevalent, and that they would be produced by this god to deceive people.20 He referred to this phenomenon as “the mystery of iniquity,” which he said, “doth already work.”21 In other words, this didn’t just start happening at the beginning of the twentieth century—it’s been going on for twenty centuries—but it’s resurgence at the beginning of that century, and its massive proliferation over the last one hundred years says to me that we must indeed be in the latter days.22
I have heard folks say—and I’m certain that many more who don’t say believe this—that God would not allow so many of his people to be deceived in this way if it wasn’t true. He would surely produce a clear sign of this. In fact, He has given us a clear sign: His written revelation. Paul said, in his letter to the Colossians, that he was the human vessel through which God would complete that revelation.23 I believe God spoke audibly to his chosen vessels all throughout the fifteen hundred year period it took to pen the Bible, and then produced signs to validate His revelations. But once the revelation was complete, why would there be a need for any further word from Him, or physical manifestation to corroborate it?
The questions for Christians who believe the sign gifts are the result of the activity of the Holy Spirit are these: do we believe what we see, or do we believe what we read? Is our faith based on our experience, or is it based on the written word of God, rightly divided? Do we run with the crowd, or do we run on the basis of God’s written revelation?
Feel free to print this article for re-distribution, or to forward it in an email missive. All Scripture references are quoted from the King James Bible.
None of us knows when this world in which we presently exist will come to its end. Neither do we know when the Lord will return to take his true church out of it. What we do know is that our individual lives will someday come to an end, and that we aren’t guaranteed another heartbeat, much less another day, week or year here. What we can know is, if the end of this life comes for us today, that we will be present with our Lord in heaven. In this respect may I ask you: are you personally assured of this? Have you ever trusted Jesus Christ and what he did for you at Calvary to secure your salvation?24 Do you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you are saved, sealed and bound for heaven? If you aren’t sure, make this the day of your salvation by admitting your lost condition25 and then simply ask the Lord to save you. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”26
|1.||That is, I trusted Jesus Christ—that he died for my sins, and was raised again the third day—as my Savior. (Ref. the “Testimonials” section on the main menu to access my complete testimony.)|
|2.||The English word “Charismatic” is a transliteration from the Greek word, “Charisma,” which simply means, “gift” or “benefit.” Charismatics claim the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 to be extant (active), and ordained to be practiced in the church of the present dispensation.|
|3.||Missouri Synod, which adhered to the reformed tradition and rejected the idea that the “gifts” were extant in the church.|
|4.||Chuck Smith was a “Four Square” preacher who broke away from that denomination to form his own movement during the 60s hippie revolution in northern California. Four Square was originated by the mystic, Amy Simple McPherson|
|5.||Begins the New Testament Church on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, and thus bases its beliefs and practices on “the apostles doctrine” (Acts 2:42), which would include all the signs and wonders that occurred during the Acts period.|
|6.||That is, preaching that places the present church into the prophetic scriptures, e.g., Matthew chapters 24 & 25; the book of Daniel, and the Revelation.|
|7.||In Charismatic circles, “worship” is an extended congregational singing session (sometimes comprising half or more of a meeting), where traditional hymns are replaced with what is referred to as “praise” choruses. These are usually individual verses of scripture taken from the Psalms or one of the prophetic writings, and repeated, in a mantra-like fashion, over and over until the worship leader is “moved by the spirit” to end it.|
|8.||1 Cor. 12:28|
|9.||This was a group started initially by Kenn Gulliksen, in which Wimber became instrumental in expanding all over the United States.|
|10.||Pass out momentarily.|
|11.||From the Greek, “oikonomia,” meaning, literally, “economy.”|
|12.||Written from Ephesus in AD 59, (Acts 20) Scofield Reference Bible|
|16.||Written from Ephesus in AD 59, (Acts 20); Ref.: Scofield Reference Bible|
|17.||2 Cor. 5:7|
|18.||Hebrews 11:1; Romans 10:17|
|19.||2 Cor. 4:4|
|20.||2 Thess. 2:9,10|
|21.||2 Thess. 2:9,10|
|22.||Charismatics generally claim that the sign gifts were introduced back into the church by the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival(1906)|
|24.||“How that Christ died for our sins…was buried….and that he rose again the third day.” 1 Cor. 15:3,4|
|25.||“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23; 5:12|
|26.||Romans 10:13; Acts 16:31|
Suggested reading on the cessation of miracles in the present dispensation
85 Pages in the Bible, by Mike Schroeder, Llumina Press
The Silence of God, by Sir Robert Anderson, Kregel Publishingwww.agbsf.com