(Continued from previous page)
There is no Biblical record of Jesus planning to hold a healing meeting anywhere, issuing a general invitation to be healed, or offering generalized prayers for healing!
TCE: replies: 14th October, 2004 6:34PM
thank you again for taking the time to communicate with us.
Again, we apologise for the delay in replying.
You write: But you will agree that the beauty of life is that we can agree to disagree.
TCE: When it comes to major doctrinal error, we cannot agree. When we are discussing doctrine we base it on the Word of God found only in the Bible. There we find only one truth - God's truth. Not all 'truth' is God's truth, no matter how astounding and awe-inspiring we may claim our own personal 'revelations' to be, so we cannot agree with those who reject clear Scriptural warrant and create doctrines out of their own vain imaginations. On minor, debatable, peripheral matters we could 'agree to disagree', but these errors of the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements are very serious and often heretical.
You write: I have read all of your arguments and logic and it's obvious that you look at things from your position of beliefs and even define things that are to be a standard by which you test all things including:
'If you confess with your mouth, ''Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved''
TCE: we hope it is clear to you that we have defined every argument from Scripture and, through sound exegesis and hermeneutics, have thoroughly refuted the claims of the 'Word-Faith' leaders. We do not claim anything other than to follow the exhortations of Christ and His Apostles who imitated Him (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14; Hebrews 6:12; 1 Timothy 5:19-22) and therefore our 'beliefs' and 'standard' is that of the Word of God alone. The very meaning of 'confessing' 'Jesus is Lord' needs to be defined from Scripture (as we have done) since many can say the words, but mean entirely different things in their confession!
You write: You will agree that when Paul talked about or quoted Holy Scriptures he was referring always to the Old Testament and not to his epistles?
TCE: Again, we do not agree because it is clear that the Apostles did not hold this view. The Apostle Peter wrote (2 Peter 3:14-18):
14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Clearly, Peter viewed Paul's writings as Scripture, since he refers to them in this way. Even if this was not clear, your point about 'confessing with your mouth' cannot be stretched to the teachings of the Old Testament. If it did it would make it necessary for all Christians to embrace every part of the promises, commandments and laws imposed on the Israelites. We have already made it clear that this is a false teaching and the views of the people you follow perfectly exemplify the words of Peter in verse 16-17.
Regarding the claims you make on the Scriptures you quote, we have already proven that they cannot be interpreted in the way you attempt because of Scriptural and factual evidence that 'Word-Faith' teachers simply chose to ignore. Considering the argument you intended to commence here, we emphasise again that, as evangelicals who do not accept the arguments of Cessationism, we nevertheless remain unconvinced concerning supposed 'second blessing' theology which is exegetically wrong and pastorally divisive. As we have shown, pastoral practices that allow suffering people to writhe in self-inflicted guilt because they 'do not have the faith to be healed' are un-Scriptural.
Wimber was at odds with 'Word-Faith' cult in that he disavowed 'second blessing' theology and also insisted that not everyone will be healed; but he was not known for following the full admonition of important Scriptural warning, such as:
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB) - 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
Too often he depended on signs and extra-scriptural 'prophecies' and the result was, inevitably, deception by masquerading spirits in fellowships led by him. One such example was set when he embraced the 'ministry' of Lonnie Frisbee (1949-1993) who came out of the 'Jesus People' "conversions" that formed the foundation for Maranatha Music and the Vineyard Music. Frisbee apparently found "Jesus" through LSD trips and began to receive "prophecies" while high on drugs (classic shamanic methodology!). He began baptizing other hippies at Tahquitz Falls after reading the Gospel of John to them and, while on an acid trip, he had a "vision" that God had called him to preach the gospel to multitudes. In a documentary on Frisbee, David DiSabatino observed that many of the 'Jesus People' "conversions" involved drugs (ref. Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher). Apparently Frisbee continued to use hallucinogenic drugs, still lived a homosexual lifestyle, practiced hypnotism, and dabbled in various occultic and mystical practices (ref. "The Son Worshipers," video documentary edited by Bob Cording and Weldon Hardenbrook). Frisbee went from a 'Jesus People' commune without ever revealing a clear new birth conversion involving definite understanding of the gospel and clear repentance and faith and, according to his wife Connie, who he later divorced, never gave up homosexuality and partying. Even after he joined Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel he would "party on Saturday night and preach on Sunday." Frisbee's 'ministry' was allegedly accompanied by "signs and wonders" of the kind practiced by many past and present deceivers and, when measured by the standard of Scripture, his ministry was dangerously heretical. Smith quickly put Frisbee in charge of a Wednesday night Bible study, which soon attracted thousands (Randall Balmer - The Encyclopedia of Evangelism), and appeared with the false prophetess Kathryn Kuhlman on her 'I Believe in Miracles' show, lying on the program (ref. appearance on YouTube) by claiming that his sin had been totally washed from his heart by the "baptism of the Holy Spirit," when he knew full well that he was still continuing in secret sin. By 1971, Chuck Smith separated from Frisbee because of their different perspectives on Pentecostal signs and Smith's desire to focus more on Scriptural teaching. Although Smith was clearly correct to reject the many un-Scriptural practices rife through such influences the deceiving spirits that entered these fellowships and organisations continue to deceive to this day.
In 1980, Frisbee became associated with John Wimber, who was seeking to establish a "signs and wonders" ministry at the Yorba Linda branch of the Calvary Chapel system and, after Frisbee asked all the young people under 25 to come forward and invited the Holy Spirit to manifest His power, about 300 people fell on the floor "as if on a battlefield" and shook and spoke in unintelligible gibberish (David Roozen - Church, Identity, and Change). Apparently Wimber asked God 'if this was of Him', and that night 'a man' called him on the phone and said, "I have a word for you; the Lord says, 'This is me'" (ref. "Lonnie Frisbee and the Jesus People Revival": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OgfmU13sPI&feature=related )
Again, Wimber failed to test the "Frisbee anointing" by Scripture but, instead, depended on signs and extra-scriptural prophecies. Incredibly, elders in the fellowship called for a meeting to discuss the phenomena but, when the same confusion broke out again, it convinced the protestors who naively accepted the evidence of people rolling around on the floor screaming hysterically (John Ruttkay - Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher). Try to find Scriptural support for such behaviour! Frisbee apparently had a leather jacket with a picture of "Jesus" on the back that he used to "impart the spirit" and may have been the first in contemporary Charismanic deception to employ this ancient pagan practice to 'impart the spirit' on others. This un-Scriptural methodology has been a major element of Pentecostalism from its inception and, while the hands are normally used as the transference agent, Benny Hinn and Rodney Howard-Browne have probably increasingly popularized this practice since Frisbee's re-introduction.
Wimber interpreted all of this as the power of the Holy Spirit instead of seeking to 'discern the spirits' (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and was thus fooled by a deceiving spirit. If he had even questioned where Scripture describes believers falling down shaking, writhing, or slithering like serpents and speaking gibberish, or researched the clear evidence that practitioners of pagan religions do those very things under the power of Satan or demons, he would have avoided a myriad of damaging errors. But some foolishly believe growth is the sign of great spiritual awakenings and Wimber's church experienced massive growth as young people "started baptizing friends in hot tubs and swimming pools around town." Evidence concerning the nature of beliefs and degree of knowledge by many is worryingly scarce. Soon after Wimber left the Calvary Chapels and joined Kenn Gulliksen and the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, quickly becoming leader of the latter.
The basic structure of Wimber's 'theology' reflected an eschatological vision that many evangelicals embraced without serious investigation and his view that 'signs and wonders' will accompany the setting up of the kingdom of God (happily accepted by many 'Kingdom Now/Dominion Theology' groups - and others) continues in many churches worldwide where careful Scriptural exposition is not part of the teaching of the leaders.
Christ clearly left His ekklesiae fully equipped for the war with the kingdom of Satan and, although the final victory awaits the consummation, the decisive victory has already been achieved by Christ Himself. And Paul warned the Ephesian elders of the coming apostasy for "three years...night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). We can never be too concerned about heresy and apostasy and, compared with Paul's anguish of heart, we are shamefully neglectful. Christ's warning that the last days prior to His return would be characterized by widespread religious deception which would be a perversion of Christianity by false Christs, false prophets and a false signs-and-wonders movement (Mt 24:4-5,11, 24) should concern us deeply, particularly when we see its fulfillment all around us. John Wimber's 'Signs and Wonders' movement promoted many of these heresies - as do the other deceivers named in this refutation.
The demonstration of the kingdom's coming lies in the clash between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, but orthodox Christians see good Scriptural warrant to question the claim that this clash will always include displays of 'signs and wonders'. Although signs and wonders in the New Testament frequently attest who Jesus is, or who the apostles are, they are not limited to a role of mere testimony, but are displays of kingdom power. Since the kingdom has dawned and is operating, Wimber argued, we should expect signs and wonders as surely as we expect conversions. In Wimber's prevailing usage, signs and wonders include exorcism, healing the sick, and words of knowledge. They not only serve to confirm the Christian's faith, but they are necessary manifestations of the kingdom's presence and advance. While that does not necessarily mean that Wimber thought a miracle should take place every time someone is converted, or every time the gospel was presented, things have gone further since his day and now many charismaniacs expect 'evangelism' to always be accompanied by signs and wonders or, they conclude, the gospel presented is defective and robbed of its power.
Most of the events that the Bible designates as 'signs and wonders' are miraculous, redemptive-historical acts of God. In the Old Testament, the events surrounding the Exodus take pride of place (Exodus 7:3; cf. 3:20; 8:23; 10:1, 2; 11:9, 10; 15:11; Numbers 14:22; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:3; Joshua 3:5; 24:17). Later generations of Israelites could testify:
'[God] sent his signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants' (Psalm 135:9; cf. Nehemiah 9:10; Psalm 105:27; Jeremiah 32:21).
The Apostles knew the Scriptures and Stephen refers to the Exodus events in the same manner:
'[God] led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert' (Acts 7:36).
No other event in the Old Testament attracts this array of witnesses speaking of signs and/or wonders. However, one theme (which is rarely spoken of by 'Word-Faith' teachers, even when they are raging against those who oppose them!) comes close, namely, threatened judgment on the people of Israel. After God describes the wretched curses that will befall His people if they do not obey, He adds this summary:
'They [the curses] will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever' (Deuteronomy 28:46).
In the context of the Pentateuch, that is a way of saying that the 'signs and wonders' that effected Israel's deliverance were simultaneously terrible judgments on Egypt - and those same judgments would be turned against the covenant community if they did not obey. Jeremiah 32:20 picks up the same usage; Daniel 4:2-3; 6:27 extends the threat to eschatological dimensions (the latter in connection with the rescue of Daniel from the lions' den):
27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.
We agree that this Old Testament background makes the New Testament application of the expression 'signs and wonders' to Jesus' ministry, especially at Pentecost (Acts 2:19; cf. Joel 2:30), the major redemptive-historical appointment prophesied for all mankind, and on a par with the Exodus, combining in the one event great salvation and great judgment. We should remember that many miracles in the Bible are not specifically referred to as 'signs and wonders,' but a major purpose is to call the people of God back to those foundational events, to encourage them to remember God's saving acts in history, to discern their significance, and to pass on that information to the next generation, e.g. Deuteronomy 6:20-24:
In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?' tell him: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders - great and terrible - upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.'
Unbelief in Israel was nothing other than the reprehensible forgetting of all the wonders God performed at the Exodus (Psalms 78:11-12; 106:7); by contrast, the psalmists extol God by calling to mind the redemptive deeds of the Lord (e.g., Psalms 77:11, 15; 105:5).
A similar strand can be found in the New Testament. In the fourth gospel, Jesus' miracles are often referred to as 'signs.' The climax of the gospel is reached when, after the resurrection, the evangelist tells us (John 20:30-31):
'Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name'.
In others words, John's readers are called to reflect on the signs that he reports, to think through the significance of those redemptive events, especially Jesus' resurrection, and thereby believe. The mandate to believe here rests on John's reports of God's past redemptive-historical signs, not on testimonies of present ongoing ones. The New Testament writers treat Jesus' miracles in a rich diversity of ways and see in them a plethora of purposes and achievements. In John, many if not all of the 'signs' are not mere displays of power but are symbol-laden events rich in meaning for those with eyes to see. Probably more than any other groups of Christians, Messianic Jews who knew their Old Testament Scriptures before they were saved see the way in which John reveals these lessons by linking some signs with discourses that unravel the deep spiritual meanings behind them, or with surrounding events that elucidate their meaning, through 'midrashim' (ancient Rabbinical commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures). The feeding of the five thousand precipitates the 'bread of life' discourse. Part of the significance of that sign, therefore, is that Jesus not only provides bread but is Himself the 'bread of life,' apart from which men and women remain in death (John 6). The raising of Lazarus is placed in conjunction with one of the great 'I Am' claims of Jesus: 'I am the resurrection and the life' (John 11; cf. 8:24,58). The point is that one of the purposes of Jesus' 'signs' was to go beyond the display of God's power and personal testimony - they frequently serve as acted parables which authenticated the deity of Jesus and the veracity of His message. The evangelism of the disciples followed the same pattern.
Not all Old Testament Biblical 'signs' or 'wonders' were miraculous. Several prophets performed ordinary but symbol-laden actions that were called 'signs' (e.g., Ezekiel 12:1-11; 24:15-27) or, in one case, 'a sign and wonder' (Isaiah 20:3). Isaiah designates himself and the children the Lord has given him as 'signs and symbols' ['signs and wonders' - KJV] in Israel from the Lord Almighty' (Isaiah 8:18, NIV). There is no similar use of 'signs' in the New Testament (though the 'signs of the times' in Matthew 16:3 are probably not restrictively miraculous).
More worrying for Christians who place the authority of the Bible above emotions and hype is the knowledge that 'signs and wonders' can be performed quite outside the legacy of the God of the Bible. The Egyptian magicians matched Moses miracle for miracle for a while (Exodus 7:8 - 8:18) and Paul predicted (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10):
'The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing'
The second beast in Revelation 13:13:
'performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men'.
The Bible does not present these counterfeit 'signs and wonders' as anything other than supernatural events which are not sleight of hand but genuinely demonic. It is noticeable that, just as the magicians of Pharaoh's court mimicked the miracles wrought through Moses, contemporary signs (healings, visions, tongues, exorcisms, prophecies etc.) are reproduced in non-Christian religions. Outwardly, there is no difference in the signs - except that one will be done in the name Jesus and the other not.
More than fifteen thousand people a year claim healing under Roman Catholic auspices at Lourdes. Testimonies of healing are reported in every issue of the Christian Science Sentinel. Pakistani Muslims claim that one of their revered saints, Baba Farid, has healed people of incurable diseases and travelled great distances in an instant (similar claims were made by Padre Pio of Papal Rome). Thousands of Hindus claim healing each year at the temple dedicated to Venkateswara in Tirupathi and some Buddhist sects also provide claims of such supernatural healing.
None of this means that we must deny that genuine miracles have ceased or that all miracles ostensibly performed in a Christian context are necessarily counterfeit or even demonic. It is simply to insist that because, both in Scripture and in Christian experience, miracles can occur both in the context of Biblical religion and outside it, it is unwise to rely on 'signs and wonders' as evidence that the Christian gospel is being preached, for it is always perilous to equate the supernatural with the divine.
Signs and wonders performed within the believing community today can have deceptive force just as they did in ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 13:1-5):
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods' (gods you have not known) 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow.
This Scripture does not question the reality of those signs and wonders or assign them to the work of the devil. At one level, God Himself is behind them: 'The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul'! Often these false prophets announced that they were speaking for Yahweh, the Lord - as Hananiah did in Jeremiah 28. Not all idolatry and false prophesying was in the name of 'another god' and the biggest danger of a false prophet within the believing community is precisely because, like Hananiah, he or she appeals to Yahweh's name and says that Yahweh has spoken even when Yahweh has not spoken.
The test that Moses was inspired to introduce to Israel in Deuteronomy 13 is enlightening. It turns not on the reality of the miracle or the accuracy of the false prophet's prediction, but on whether the prophet has the effect of drawing people away from the God who performs some redemptive-historical act. In Moses' day, that act was the Exodus and, in ours, it is the cross and resurrection. If the people of Israel were being drawn to a 'god' they did not know as the God who brought them out of Egypt and redeemed them from the land of slavery, the prophet was false.
The contemporary application is therefore straightforward. The first question is not whether the miracles reported by such as the 'Word-Faith' adherents, or John Wimber and the Vineyard movement, are real (though that is an important question), nor even whether people are drawn to renewed love for 'Jesus.' There are, after all, many false Jesus' around: the Mormon Jesus, the Jehovah's Witness Jesus, the Christadelphian Jesus, the Muslim Jesus - and the 'Word-Faith' Jesus! etc. The question, rather, is whether the movement draws men and women to renewed love for the Jesus of God's great, redemptive-historical act, the Jesus of the cross and resurrection - the Jesus of the Bible!
We need to remind ourselves that Jesus could warn against the efforts of false Christ's and false prophets who, by performing signs and wonders, would 'deceive the elect - if that were possible' (Mark 13:22). The language suggests they are so extraordinarily deceptive that they come very close to achieving this end. That means it will take more than usual discernment to see what the deception is - and contemporary Christians are not noteworthy for discernment.
Another danger connected with the contemporary 'signs and wonders' movement is also made clear in Scripture. It is not always distinguishable from the other dangers and appears as a corruption of motives that are so often connected with pursuit of the supernatural. The four gospels preserve many instances where people demanded a sign from Jesus and He roundly denounced them for it, sometimes dismissing them as 'a wicked and adulterous generation' (Matthew 12:38-45.; cf. 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:16, 29). Why should God do this? The frequent demands for signs was in danger of reducing Jesus to the level of a clever magician, able to perform tricks on demand. The result would be the 'god in a box' of the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements - Jesus would have to 'buy' faith and allegiance by a constant flow of miracles done on demand. Such a demand is wicked and adulterous and makes human beings the centre of the universe, reducing God to the level of someone who exists to serve us. He may capture human allegiance if He performs adequately, but at no point is He the unqualified Sovereign God to whom we must give an account, and who alone can save us. In the worst case, Simon Magus offered money so that he might have the wonderful power to confer the Spirit and His gifts (Acts 8) - as if the Spirit is so easily tamed or is so easily purchased. Do you not see that this is exactly what the 'Word-Faith' teachers have done with their teaching that we do not need to seek God's will and can supposedly 'saturate the heavenlies with our words of power' to bring about whatever our hearts desire?
What is Benny Hinn (or Rodney Howard-Browne) doing when he takes off his [custom tailored!] jacket and rubs it on his 'anointed' body? He is supposedly rubbing 'the Power' onto the jacket. Then he starts swinging it wildly, like Biblical David swinging his sling. He 'slays' his followers, left and right, on the stage - just like a stage magician! The stage vibrates as bodies hit the floor. As a catcher moves to pick up someone, Hinn 'slays' the catcher - then he slays the catcher who caught the catcher. Catchers struggle to keep up with the toppling bodies. Then Hinn rears back and, with a theatrical pitching motion, slays the entire choir with one toss. 'That's power,' yells Hinn, 'POWER!' He blows loudly into the microphone and hundreds fall backward. Some collapse and begin to babble. And then Hinn departs like Elvis leaving the building. The 'power' vanishes from the room leaving gullible people staring in stunned silence.
This describes a typical Hinn stage show. It was something like that when we observed him performing in Birmingham, some years back (at Birmingham NEC - 1989?). It was very noticeable that those of us who were there purely to observe his fraudulent acts were not slain! During that meeting Hinn quoted one Scripture (out of context!) and supposedly healed a number of people - but at no time did he make any mention of the gospel of Jesus Christ or His Lordship! He claims that about 1,000 people are healed at each 'miracle service,' but seems hard pressed to come up with any that would convince a serious medical investigator. When pressed for truly convincing miracles, Susan Smith [Hinn spokesperson] cited a woman in Orlando who was cured of blindness caused by diabetes, but she would not give the woman's name and later admitted that the woman's vision may still be cloudy: 'She still has diabetes, strangely...[and] was just re-hospitalized.' 'People of God,' shouts Benny, 'we must never speak such faith-destroying words as these: 'If it be thy will, Lord.'... I am Him [Jesus]! The Word has become flesh in Me! ... You are a little god on earth...!' This is all utterly un-Scriptural as we showed earlier.
These aspects of Hinn's meetings are enough to condemn him without the mass of other evidence. He supposedly throws the 'Holy Spirit' around in a most irreverent fashion, using the third Person of the Trinity as his servant to un-Scripturally attract attention to himself, not to Christ (John 16:13-16). Hinn acts as though the 'anointing' is some metaphysical power at his disposal, to be rubbed off onto physical objects. It looks impressive, may work largely by the power of suggestion if it is not outright demonic, but has no purpose except to induce an awe of Hinn. Benny's office at his church contains pictures of himself with George Bush and John Paul II - truly he desires to be seen in the presence of other men of 'power', even when they are deceivers and 'anti-Christs'. Hinn has declared: 'I have received a new mandate from heaven - bring the message of the miraculous, healing power of God back to America! Invade our nation with the miracle-working power of God in the '90s!' How can anyone believe that the fake healings of Hinn bring glory to God or direct the unsaved to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? How can false miracles and the deaths of innocents be part of being born again or being saved, as you are suggesting? The warnings against false prophesies and false 'signs and wonders' in Deuteronomy (cf. Matthew 7:15-23 etc.) nowhere suggest that God is in anyway pleased with those who falsely claim to be His servants.
Early in 1991 Hinn repudiated some of his false teaching and ''Word-Faith'' doctrines which he had taught as 'revelation knowledge.' He seems to forget - God's revelations don't change! What kind words did Hinn have for his critics?:
'You know, I've looked for one verse in the Bible - I just can't seem to find it - one verse that says, 'If you don't like 'em, kill 'em.' I really wish I could find it!...Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off!'
The deceived TBN studio audience loudly applauded these words from the 'man of God' who is surely fulfilling the primary sign Christ gave of the nearness of His return (Mt 24:24):
'For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect'
How do people miss the clear import of Matthew 12:39 -40 and Luke 11:29-32 where Jesus says the only sign that will be given those who demand signs is the sign of the prophet Jonah, which turns out, in the context, to be a portent of His own resurrection. In other words, Jesus wants faith to be firmly based on His own death and resurrection. Signs can have a legitimate subsidiary role in establishing faith, but the uncritical quest for signs has clearly been corrupted by impure motives which too often ignore the abundant evidence that Jesus Himself points those who hunger for signs back to His resurrection. Jesus said (Matthew 7:21-23):
'Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Their exorcisms, prophecies, and miracles are all performed in Jesus' name, but He does not bother to question their reality. It is quite possible that those who ask these questions of Jesus on the last day honestly think they ought to be admitted to the kingdom (just as the 'goats' are surprised by their fate in Matthew 25:41-45). But they are turned away, unrecognized by Jesus, because however 'powerful' they may be in the realm of the miraculous, they do not display the marks of obedience: they do not do what Jesus says and produce good fruit (cf. 7:20).
The point is not that genuine 'signs and wonders' are inevitably bad but that they are never of first importance. We should not miss the flow of the argument in 1 Corinthians 12-14: various charismata may be distributed to members of Christ's Body, the church, but the 'most excellent way (not 'gift'!)' required of all believers is the way of love. If Benny Hinn, and many others of the 'Word-Faith'/'signs and wonders' movement, were really exhibiting true charismata would they really have resorted to 'Holy Ghost machine gun' threats against those who do not embrace their works? The critical test for who is and who is not a genuine follower of Jesus is obedience, not displays of power. Scripture makes it clear that some displays of power, even some done in Jesus' name, are proof of nothing at all.
Even within the ministry of Jesus, healings and exorcisms are clearly placed in a subsidiary role to Jesus' teaching and preaching. When Jesus' intention is stated or His initiative described, almost always His teaching and preaching are in view, not His healings (e.g. Mark 1:14-15, 21, 35-39; 2:2, 13; 3:14, 22-23; 4:1; 6:1-2, 34; 7:14; 8:31, 34; 9:30-31; 10:1; 12:1, 35). By contrast, apart from one or two summary statements (e.g. Matthew 4:23), when Jesus heals individuals or casts out demons from them, either the initiative is with the sufferer (e.g. Matthew 8:3-4; 9:20-22, 27-31; 17:14-18; Mark 1:23-26; Luke 7:1-10; John 4:46-54 - including the initiative of the sufferer's friends, Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; Mark 1:30-31, 32-34; 6:55-56), or Jesus may take some initiative with an individual after His purpose for being there is established on some other basis. For instance, in the case of the crippled woman of Luke 13:10-13: 'Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there and '.... When Jesus saw her, he called her forward' (cf. also Matthew 12:9-13; John 5).
No orthodox Christian would for a moment suggest that Jesus did not see His healings and exorcisms as part of His Messianic work (see Matthew 8:16-17; 11:5-6), but it is simply to point out that there is no record of Jesus going somewhere in order to hold a healing meeting, or of Jesus issuing a general invitation to be healed, or of Jesus offering generalized prayers for healing. Where Jesus does undertake to heal an individual, the procedure is never prefaced by some generalizing announcement (there is no 'I have a word from the Lord: there is someone here with back pain, and God wants to heal you'), and the result is never ambiguous. This is very different from the pronouncements of the 'Word-Faith'/'signs and wonders' movement.
'Signs and wonders' do have an attesting function in Jesus' ministry. At one level, that is not unlike the attesting function of 'signs and wonders' in the life of, say, Joshua (3:7; 4:14). But in most cases there are additional overtones connected with Jesus' role as the promised Messiah. For instance, when John the Baptist sends envoys to question Jesus' credentials, Jesus responds with a summary of His ministry (Matthew 11:4-6):
'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me'
The important point to observe is that Jesus frames this summary as a fulfilment of Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1-2): His miracles attest that He is the one who would bring in the new order promised in the Scriptures. What Jesus purposely leaves out of each of the passages He quoted from Isaiah is the note of judgment: 'the day of vengeance of our God' (Isaiah 61:2). He does not include the words 'he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you' (Isaiah 35:4) in his allusion. John the Baptist made a point of enquiring about the ministry of Jesus because he had preached that the One whose sandals he was unworthy to loosen would not only baptize His people in the Holy Spirit but would thoroughly clear His threshing floor and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12). Jesus is saying, in effect, that the dawning of the kingdom in His own ministry is introducing the long-awaited blessings of the Messianic age, even though the judgments are delayed. Meanwhile, John, having started well, is encouraged not to draw back now: 'Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me' (Matthew 11:6).
Again, on the day of Pentecost, Peter describes Jesus in these terms: 'Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know' (Acts 2:22, italics added). Even in these and other passages, at least two things must be borne in mind. The person being accredited is Jesus, God's own Son, the unique Redeemer. In this case, at least, it is improper to think of the potential of 'signs and wonders' to command faith without also thinking of where the faith is to be placed and we therefore need to consider just how far some similar role is assigned to 'signs and wonders' performed by others. Although Acts 2:22 insists Jesus was accredited by God to Peter's hearers by miracles, wonders, and signs, the fact of the matter is that those hearers did not become believers until Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit. In other words, Peter appeals to the 'signs and wonders' to establish the unique redemptive-historical gift from heaven bound up in the Person and work of Messiah Jesus, and all his preaching turns on this point. Even so, the miracles themselves did not command faith, not even in the ministry of Jesus.
John's gospel puts some of these tensions in proportion when several perspectives on 'signs and wonders' are brought together. On the one hand, Jesus' signs display His glory, at least to His disciples (John 2:11). On the other hand, Jesus' initial response to a man who cries for help is the firm reproach 'Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders ... you will never believe' (4:48). The religious leaders are convinced that Jesus is actually performing miracles whose reality they cannot deny, but that does not foster faith but, rather, it fuels their rejection and anger and nurtures their plot to corrupt justice and have Him executed (e.g. 11:47-57). Precisely because they will not believe Jesus' words and do not perceive that He does what His Father does, Jesus appeals to them at the very least to reconsider His miracles (John 10:37-38):
'Do not believe Me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may learn and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father' .
His appeal is to learn from the 'signs and wonders' that He performs, for they speak of exactly who Jesus Himself is. From the way Jesus phrases Himself, we conclude that He sees such faith as of inferior quality, but certainly better than unbelief. And in any case He knew that His appeal would be futile: His hearers do not believe. Elsewhere, some do believe because they see Jesus' works (e.g. 11:45), though not all faith triggered by Jesus' signs proves valid: some of it is spurious (2:23-25; cf. 8:30-31). The narrative of the last of the twelve to believe in Jesus' resurrection is revealing. Thomas comes to believe in Jesus' resurrection precisely because Jesus graciously proffers the hard evidence of the miraculous that satisfies His doubting apostle. But the same relatively negative valuation is given: better than the kind of faith that insists on seeing Jesus' signs first hand is the faith that rests on the reports of the unique signs of Jesus (20:29-31).
What about the post-resurrection period? Clearly, 'signs and wonders' are heavily tied in the Old Testament to the major events surrounding the redemptive-historical event of the Exodus, and the same category is quickly applied to Jesus in the New Testament. After reporting that Peter on the day of Pentecost proclaims that God has once again performed 'wonders' and 'signs' through His Son Jesus (Acts 2:19, 22), Luke immediately summarizes the results of that first Christian sermon (Acts 2:43, italics added):
'Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles'
The same point is repeated in Acts 5:12. Signs and wonders are attributed to Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:3; 15:12. Considering Luke's consistent usage, the 'signs and wonders' for which the church prays in Acts 4:29-30 are most plausibly understood to be miracles that the apostles would perform. In Acts the only other individuals who are said to perform 'signs and wonders' are Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (8:13), who at least are closely associated with the apostles. Paul himself refers to the 'signs and miracles' or '[marks of] an apostle' that he performed (Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12). The most natural reading of Hebrews 2:3-4 is that the 'signs, wonders and various miracles' by which God testified to the gospel were performed by those who first heard the word (i.e., the apostles) and who then passed the message on.
None of this can be made to support the conclusion that Cessationists draw - that miraculous 'signs and wonders' have ceased altogether. But a significant connection can be made between 'signs and wonders,' taken as a linguistic entity, and the two major events of redemptive history, namely, the Exodus and the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Thus the 'signs and wonders' terminology is forcefully linked to the central redemptive-historical focus and embraces not only Jesus and His death and resurrection but the first articulation of that truth in the apostolic circle that was distinctively accredited to that ministry.
While this does not take into consideration such miracles as, say, the gifts of healing of 1 Corinthians 12, at the purely linguistic level 'signs and wonders' in both the Old and New Testaments enjoy primarily the narrow focus emphasised here and is therefore a misleading label to apply to the claimed phenomena of such as the 'Word-Faith' and Vineyard movements. The problem is more than one of labelling: by using the expression so freely, these movements frequently apply to themselves Scriptures and principles that a more sober reading refuses to warrant. If, against New Testament usage, we apply the expression 'signs and wonders' to all Christian expressions of the more spectacular charismata, or of miracles generally, there are other discernable functions of 'signs and wonders' in the New Testament:
First, there are the passages where Jesus authorizes either the twelve (Matthew 10:8; Luke 9:1-2) or the seventy-two (Luke 10:9) to heal the sick (in the former passages, 'to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons'). It would be unreasonable to limit the applicability of the command to the twelve, since the seventy-two receive a similar commission. It is also unreasonable to cite Matthew 28:20: 'teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,' as if that authorizes the automatic applicability of those passages to all believers. Why? Because the same commissions to the twelve and the seventy-two also included prohibitions against going to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, and commands to take no bag for the journey, etc. Sound exegesis requires that the historical details and fine points of the ministries of the first disciples must be thought through and their full theological significance thoroughly studied before single texts are cited as if they applied to every believer and circumstance. It is in these details that 'Word-Faith' and the Charismatic movement in general has failed repeatedly to show even reasonable restraint, resulting in a mass of false 'signs and wonders' which are dishonouring to God.
There is an important sense in which the first disciples' ministry, even before the cross, was an extension of Jesus' ministry and a pre-figuring of the coming kingdom. This was part of the revelation of the Son and, although the application of the text to all Christians is fraught with difficulties (unless we want to apply everything in these chapters to all Christians and are prepared to deny that there was nothing special reserved for the first followers of Jesus), there is nothing to suggest that it would be impossible for any other believers, after the resurrection, to be gifted in similar ways.
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