(Continued from previous page)
Jesus made it clear that a greater cause of joy than miracles performed by disciples is that their names were written in heaven!
Kenneth Copeland heretically declared that the 'born again Jesus' went into Hell to defeat Satan and that he (Copeland) - as a 'born again man' - could have done exactly the same!
So, when you write: 'SO PLEASE TELL ME HOW IN THE WORLD CAN I ACCEPT ANYTHING THAT YOU SAY TO BE TRUE WHEN YOU BY YOUR WORDS AND DEEDS DENY THE TRUTH THAT THE WORD SALVATION OR BEING SAVED MEANS MORE THAN JUST BEING BORN AGAIN?'
you should also remember the remarkable conclusion to the disciples mission. When they returned with joy exclaiming: 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name' (Luke 10:17), Jesus not only reminds them of what authority has been confided to them (v18-19) but warns: 'However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven' (v20). In other words, far more important, and far more justly a cause of joy than any miracle a disciple might perform, is God's elective knowledge of each and everyone of His own people. That is the emphasis made by Jesus regarding peripheral things - and the reason the unbalanced emphases of 'Word-Faith' and the Vineyard should be regarded with all due caution. This would be true even if they had not been thoroughly exposed for deceptive and heretical doctrines. The rightful heritage of the people of God should not be besmirched or exchanged for a 'mess of pottage' (Genesis 25:29-34) - especially one that turns out to be no more than 'magicians/hypnotists stage tricks' that atheist humanistic research skeptics have repeatedly debunked so easily!
There are passages that speak of gifts of healing (such as the crucial discussion of charismata in 1 Corinthians 12-14) and give evidence that more miracles were taking place among first-century believers than those performed by the apostolic group and a few others (e.g., Galatians 3:5; James 5:13-16). This is also evidence against the 'itinerant' ministries of people like Hinn and Wimber when the evidence points more towards the charismata becoming widespread among fellowships as the apostolic age came to an end.
It is also important to remember that all of these passages that discuss the miraculous gifts outside apostolic ranks focus, without exception, not on the justification of miracles but on their purpose or limitation or control in some way. For example, 1 Corinthians 12 insists that not all Christians have the same gifts, that believers with gifts not greatly respected should be greatly honoured in the church, that the gifts should edify the church etc. Galatians 3:5 points readers back to the apostolic gospel; James 5:13-16 focuses on personal holiness. In all of these passages, the driving concern lies deeper than the presence or absence of miracles (though their presence is assumed). It is very noticeable that there are no passages where readers are berated because they have been insufficiently concerned with gifts of healing and exorcisms.
When the notion of 'power' in Paul is examined it is seen to be centrally tied to neither evangelism nor healing, but to perseverance, faith, hope, love, spiritual stamina, endurance under trial, and growing conformity to Jesus Christ. That is easily confirmed not only by word studies of 'power' and related terms but by careful and meditative study of Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 1-4; 2 Corinthians 10-13; Ephesians 3:14-21 - and many other passages. Study Paul's prayers and you find similar indications of where the heart of his concern for believers lies.
Another way to approach this question is to study all that the New Testament has to say about the Holy Spirit. It is clear that, under the New Covenant, there is a tremendous emphasis on the gift of the Spirit, poured out on all children of the covenant without exception, in fulfilment of Old Testament promises. In one sense, this is the age of the Spirit; if someone does not have the Spirit of God, he or she does not belong to God. We would emphasise again that we are thorough believers in the Biblical description of the role of the Spirit in the Church today, but it is clear from the quoted Scriptures that the burden of the associations with the Spirit in the writings of Paul is not on miracles but on sanctification, ethics, revelation, transformation of character, and the mediation of all that God provides for His people under the New Covenant. Within the purpose of 'signs and wonders' in the New Testament we can also see that, in the larger sense, they demonstrate Jesus' mercy and compassion (Matthew 9:35-36; 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41) and serve to establish the pre-eminence of faith, both inside and outside Israel (Luke 7:1-10). So, again, we would never use the words that you try and put into our mouths when Scripture speaks of all these blessings that are the heritage of the truly born again Christian.
What about the 'greater things' that Jesus spoke about in John 14:12?
Kenneth Copeland has heretically declared that the 'born again Jesus' went into Hell to defeat Satan and that he (Copeland) - as a 'born again man' - could have done exactly the same! No doubt this helps to give rise to the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard view you espouse which denigrates the status of a born again Christian, which is why you dare include the word 'JUST' with 'BEING BORN AGAIN'.
There is an incredible testimony to the position the born again Christian has in Christ in Matthew 11:2-15. Continuing from v4-6, where Jesus answered the Baptist's questions by referring to his own ministry in terms of two passages from Isaiah, Jesus then turned to the crowds and spoke to them about John. As John bore witness to Jesus, so Jesus now bears witness to John - but it is witness of a special type. Jesus asks a number of rhetorical questions regarding the expectations of the crowds when they went to see John in the desert. The final question leads Jesus to affirm that John the Baptist was a prophet (11:7-9) - indeed, 'more than a prophet.' How was he more than a prophet? The Baptist is more than a prophet, Jesus insists, because John not only spoke the Word of God, but was someone of whom the Word of God spoke. Jesus cites Malachi 3:1: John is the one of whom the prophet Malachi said: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you' (Matthew 11:10). That is what makes John the Baptist more than a prophet. In fact, Jesus does not hesitate to offer this staggering evaluation of John: 'Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he' (11:11).
The second part of the verse shows that Jesus means John is the greatest born of woman up to that time. From the time of the kingdom onward, John is outstripped in greatness by the least in the kingdom. Still, the first part of the verse must have raised a few eyebrows in the first century. It means that, in the evaluation of Jesus, John the Baptist is greater than Moses, greater than King David, greater than Isaiah, greater than Jeremiah, and greater than Solomon. Why? Bearing in mind the quotation from Malachi, the only possible answer is that John the Baptist is the greatest because to him was given the task and privilege of pointing Jesus out more clearly than all before him. True, on Jesus' reading of the Old Testament, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Solomon had all pointed to Jesus in one fashion or another, but John pointed out just who Jesus was in time, on the plane of history, before his peers. That is what made him the greatest person born of woman to that point in history. The brief assessment reported by the fourth evangelist is pertinent: 'Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, 'Though John never performed a miraculous sign [emphasis and italics added], all that John said about this man was true.' And in that place many believed in Jesus' (John 10:40-42). This means, of course that, although it is true to speak of Jesus' witness to John, it is a peculiar witness indeed: He is in fact using John to point afresh to Himself. The Baptist's entire greatness turned on the clarity of his witness (owing to his position in redemptive-history) to Jesus - and in no way to any 'signs and wonders'! How then, can anyone put emphasis on 'signs and wonders' - or anything of 'power' that the believer can do - when Jesus puts this emphasis and importance on our position as born again believers?
And then Jesus adds that 'he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he' (Matthew 11:11). For the comparison to be meaningful, the categories of 'greatness' must be the same as those that applied to John the Baptist. The least in the kingdom are greater than John because even the least in the kingdom can point Jesus out more clearly and with greater depth than could the Baptist. All born again Christians live this side of the cross and resurrection; none of us should be slow to affirm that Jesus is simultaneously the conquering king and the suffering servant, the Davidic king and the priest in the order of Melchizedek, the sovereign Lord and the Sacrificial Lamb, the crucified Messiah and resurrected Saviour.
That is what establishes the Christian's greatness: to us has been given the indescribably great privilege of bearing witness to Jesus' Person and work. It does not depend on performing miracles, as John the Baptist's greatness did not depend on performing miracles (John 10:40-42): it depends on the privilege of knowing God in Christ Jesus, this side of the cross and resurrection, this side of the dawning of the promised kingdom.
There is no warrant for concluding that the children of the kingdom must not perform 'signs and wonders' (in the generic sense) in their witness to who Jesus is, on the ground that John the Baptist did not. What is entirely clear, however, is that greatness in Jesus' mind is not tied in any way to the performance of miracles. The greatest person born of woman until the dawning of the kingdom performed no miracles, but pointed Jesus out more immediately than all before him. The least in the kingdom is still greater than he, for the obvious analogous reason: he or she can point Him out with even greater clarity because of the fuller revelation we have in the New Testament. That is tremendously humbling; it is staggeringly Christ-centred; it establishes that proclamation of the truth about Jesus (i.e., the gospel) is fundamental to our significance. But here is the rub - those who present 'another gospel', 'another Spirit', and 'another Jesus' (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 11:4), as the 'Word-Faith' teachers do, can never be justified or share in all the promises of the new birth in Christ in any way - even though they claim to perform miracles, prophecy, etc., in His name.
Some Christians today are fooled by simple counterfeit 'signs and wonders' - so how thoroughly will they be fooled by the real Anti-Christ?!
What about the 'greater things' of John 14:12? In the farewell discourse Jesus says, 'I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these [italics added], because I am going to the Father' (John 14:12). The passage has become a more or less standard proof text, not only in many traditionally charismatic circles but also for many in the Vineyard. As well as considering what the text means, it is worth mentioning what it can't mean. First, it cannot simply mean more works: that the church will do more things than Jesus did. There are perfectly good ways to say that sort of thing in Greek, and John did not choose any of them. Second, it cannot mean more spectacular works or the like - though some such meaning seems to be assumed by many Vineyard people. We must remember that Jesus walked on water, raised the dead (in Lazarus's case, after he had been dead four days), fed five thousand from a small picnic lunch, and turned water into wine. There is clearly no one in the Vineyard, or anywhere else for that matter, who claims, with any sort of public attestation at all, that he is performing more spectacular miracles than these. No single person has ever matched them and no group has, or is, collectively matching them. In fact, it is difficult to imagine what kinds of miracles could possibly be classed as more spectacular than these.
Interpretative clues to the meaning of the passage are provided by the context. First, the verse before verse 12 must not be ignored: 'Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles [literally, 'works,' which, in the Gospel of John, include miracles] themselves' (14:11). In this context, the 'greater things' (v12) that believers will perform derive their relative greatness from the fact that they are performed after the cross and resurrection for which Jesus is at this point preparing His followers. Both Jesus' words and His deeds were somewhat veiled during the days of His flesh, as the previous verses make clear. Even His closest disciples misunderstood much of what He was saying and doing. But in the wake of Jesus' glorification and the descent of the Spirit (themes that dominate Chapters 14-17), the words and deeds of Jesus' followers, empowered by the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete, will take on a clarity, and thus a 'greatness,' that necessarily eluded some of Jesus' words and deeds in the period before the cross. The words and signs of Jesus could not be as effective before the cross as they become after, when they are reported, in the wake of Jesus' exaltation and His gift of the Spirit. In the same way, Jesus' followers perform 'greater things' (the expression is ambiguous enough to include more than miracles), precisely because they belong to the period of greater clarity, of less ambiguous witness to Jesus. In short, the argument is similar to that of Matthew 11.
This interpretation is also confirmed by the causal clause at the end of the verse. When Jesus says His followers will do 'greater things' than those He is doing 'because I am going to the Father,' He cannot possibly be understood to mean that they will somehow have greater scope for their wonderful efforts because He will have faded from the scene and abandoned the stage to them. Rather, their works are classed as greater precisely because Jesus is going to the Father - a category in the fourth gospel that embraces His death, resurrection, and exaltation. They belong to that post-exaltation period.
There is also an important parallel in John 5:20: 'For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all he does. Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these' (exactly the same Greek expression as here). The context of 5:20 shows that the 'greater things' the Father will show the Son, and that the Son will manifest to His followers, are displays of resurrection and judgment (5:17, 24-26). And this life-giving power of the Son turns on His death, resurrection, and exaltation - described by John as His 'glorification.'
In short, the greater things that believers do include all their words and works empowered by the Spirit and performed this side of the Son's exaltation. They are greater precisely because they bear witness most tellingly to who Jesus is (the witness theme occurs throughout this gospel, not least in these chapters, e.g., 15:26-27). Doubtless they may include miracles, but there is not a scrap of evidence to restrict those 'greater things' to miracles, and certainly not to miracles that are judged more spectacular than those of the Lord Jesus.
So, apart from the faulty Christology and other aberrations of the 'Word-Faith' and Vineyard movement, we have ample Scriptural evidence that contradicts their approach to miracles supposedly wrought in the 'power' of the Holy Spirit. Few movements in the history of the church have been entirely good or entirely bad and to expect all the leaders of these movement to be only heroes or villains would be naive. Many have made similar claims to those of today, claiming that the kingdom has come in its fullness in and through their ministries. In other cases, too, the theology was decidedly aberrant (e.g., Montanus, who led a 'prophetic movement' that began around 172 A.D. and insisted upon the continuation of the gift of prophesy and ecstatic utterances through 'the Spirit'). At the very least, even when nothing essential was denied, the balance of Scripture was decidedly skewed. It appears, not surprisingly, that whenever part of the church experiences a measure of genuine renewal the renew quickly leads into forms of sheer subjectivism and, ultimately, major deception (cf. Paul's warnings to the Ephesian ekklesia in Acts 20:28-31).
The distinction of these movements does not lie in prayers and healing sessions for the sick because we know of countless prayer meetings where a large part of the prayers have been for the healing of illnesses of friends, relatives, and those in far-of lands. But those who insist that 'signs and wonders' must be part of every normal Christian gathering put the onus on healing to such an extent that people lose their objectivity and begin to make many false claims. This has spawned dozens of foolish and death-dealing claims - and blatant frauds - which are an affront to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Witnesses would testify equally stridently that remarkable healings take place outside the meetings of 'Word-Faith' and the Vineyard (and other related) movements but there is such a lack of objectivity that real figures that would withstand scientific scrutiny do not exist. People tend to forget that the healings recorded in Scripture are of men and women with an attested record of sickness. If you are 'blind from birth' (John 9:1; cf. Matthew 9:27ff.), have 'an issue of blood (that is on medical record as having been of 'twelve years' duration (Mark 5:25), or have a clearly visible 'withered arm' (Matthew 12:10) - and then you are miraculously healed in front of witnesses - nobody can argue about it! This is not the case with 'healings' and 'prophesies' from these movements who trumpet most loudly about their 'anointed' successes. Again, here is the rub - the miracles of Scripture are backed up by evidence - by facts!
We see a constant stream of excuses when followers die when they were supposedly healed, or their 'prophecies' fail repeatedly!
If you want to provide indisputable evidence that the Holy Spirit really works miracles for the men and women you would defend, you could start by supplying absolutely solid, incontestable, evidence of just one healing or prophecy worked at their hands! That these movements are not even good counterfeits of true Christianity is shown by their inability to even do that - and this is something that should seriously concern every Christian who loves their brother and sister in Christ. If some Christians today are so easily fooled by the deceptions of movements that cannot even supply simple counterfeit 'signs and wonders', how thoroughly will they be fooled when the Anti-Christ of Scripture comes (2 Thessalonians 2:3)?
Only those who seek maturity turn constantly to the Scriptures rather than appeal to 'experiences'. It has truly been said that the Christian follows the 'experience of authority' while the deceived follow the 'authority of experience'. It is noticeable that these movements have a two-tier form of Christianity, based on a second-blessing theology in which only some Christians enjoy an 'inside track' with the Spirit (however expressed). Endless testimonies are of the 'before-I-entered-the-Vineyard/'Word-Faith'/ministry of Brother or Sister X-and-after-I-entered-the-Vineyard/'Word-Faith'/ministry of Brother or Sister X' variety. There are no prizes for guessing which side is more spiritual, powerful, effective, godly, and so forth. This goes beyond the normal Christian testimony about the changes that take place when the individual meets Christ. So many of these testimonies deal with self-perceived improvements effected by connection with these 'anointed' ministries and result in a practical two-tier system of spirituality which is always a sign of cultic tendencies similar to that exhibited by the system of the Jehovah's Witnesses who have 144,000 'born again believers' - and the second-class left-overs! Thus they foster an inner ring syndrome that caters (however unwittingly) to spiritual arrogance and tends toward divisiveness, but it does so on the basis of a certain perception of the nature of spirituality and heavy emphasis on the special 'power' they believe they enjoy. This focus on power caters to the infatuation with triumphalism and loses perception of the Scriptural fact that God's power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), that we triumph as we endure - and frequently that we conquer as we suffer. There is little call to self-denial, to the way of the cross, and this is extremely apparent in much of the evidence from these ministries.
On the basis of the Biblical evidence these movements have focussed on the gifts of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12-14 etc., and elevated their counterfeit 'signs and wonders' to a place of central importance. 'Signs and wonders' are part of the Christian Biblical heritage and there is no way we should forget the exhortation of Paul to seek the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), but to elevate them to what is central is to lose the central focus of our message which is always the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel, or at least to obscure both!Many contemporary Christians seek unity with other 'Christians' who 'speak in tongues' without regard to their false doctrines and practices!
Undoubtedly one of the paradigms of freeing people in the New Testament is healing. But the modern propensity to speak of virtually every act of transformation as a 'healing' tends to squeeze out other paradigms - freeing people from the slavery of sin, forgiving debts, bringing them into new birth and life, and much more. Above all, these models are all tied in the New Testament to the cross. It is virtually impossible to imagine a Vineyard or 'Word-Faith' preacher saying, with Paul: 'I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (1 Corinthians 2:2). Indeed, in scores of their public meetings, where checks have been made as to the place given to the cross (in hymns, songs, prayers, and preaching), this element, which is so foundational to New Testament Christianity, scarcely registers on the scale of what is important - even though, no doubt, no supporter of 'Word-Faith'/Wimber etc. would openly disown its importance.
Although these movements acknowledge the existence of the Biblical passages that warn against false 'signs and wonders', and sometimes mention the Scriptural tests that distinguish between the true and the false, they fail to accurately consider the different varieties of falseness. The choice, as has been shown, is not always between the divine and the demonic. There can be genuine 'signs and wonders' pursued by thoroughly corrupt teachers with matching motives - and there can be 'signs and wonders' which are allowed by God but designed to test our faithfulness (Deuteronomy 13:1ff.). Above all, Biblical warnings against the deceptiveness of some 'signs and wonders' must be taken more seriously.
Among the tests to be applied (certainly not an exhaustive list) are these:
Do these displays of power give glory to God or to people (cf. John 7:18; 8:50; 17:4)? Anyone watching the stage 'performances' of the average 'Word-Faith' teacher will quickly work out that the exaltation of leaders occurs to a dangerous degree.
Do those involved display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)? Do they walk in the way of love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13)? See the words of the leaders when they are challenged to prove their claims; the genuine power of God ultimately transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Do those involved in these displays of power clearly submit to the Lordship of Christ (James 2:14-19; 1 John 2:3-5; 5:3)? Obviously they profess Christ, but their lack of obedience to His Word cannot lie (Matthew 7:21-23).
Do their displays of 'power' edify others and foster the unity of the church (1 Corinthians 12-14)? Do not apply this test simplistically: divisions sometimes occur for valid reasons, as Paul explains (1 Corinthians 11:19), but the New Testament holds the unity of the church in high regard. It is very noticeable that supposedly charismatic 'super churches' grow by sucking immature believers from 'weaker' churches. The projection of an image of spiritual superiority, of an inner ring, is potentially destructive of both love and sound doctrine.
Do these displays of 'power' drive people to the Jesus of the gospel, to Jesus crucified, risen, exalted? Or is the Jesus who is praised 'another Jesus', one largely detached from the gospel? Do people in the movement expect men and women to be transformed by the message of the cross or by powerful signs? (1 Corinthians 1:18 - 2:5). How do the public meetings of the movement display the commitments of the leaders in this regard?
Other tests could be added. Are the leaders genuinely accountable? We see a constant stream of excuses when followers die when they were supposedly healed, or false prophecies fail repeatedly. Do they correct themselves as they grow in maturity (note, Benny Hinn's supposed repentance from heretical doctrine was short-lived), or are they largely impervious to advice and surround themselves with 'Yes' men. Do the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements strive for Biblical balance and proportion, or are they bed-fellows of heterodoxy? When Jesus castigated the Pharisees, He did not belittle their scrupulous commitment to apply the tithing laws even to the herbs grown in the garden, but criticized them for scrupulously observing the tithing laws while ignoring the far weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23-24).
The Corinthians were so obsessed with the blessings and gifts they had received in Christ that they overlooked the blunt fact that Christianity has a 'not yet' as well as an 'already.' They thought they had it all already (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8-13) with the result that they had few categories for future hope, laid no emphasis on death to self-interest and self-fulfilment. It is as unlikely to see Corinthians delighting in Mark 8:34-38 as it is to see the 'new Corinthians' of the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements embracing these teachings:
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.'
The Corinthians could not defend themselves against the deceptive sins of their culture anymore than the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements manage. They are blown every-which-way by 'gold teeth', 'gold sprinklings' and other fools gold as they go against this Scripture and actually seek to 'gain the whole world' (see their quotes about wanting the wealth now!) - and in the process they do indeed lose their souls!
The emphasis put on 'signs and wonders' (in the generic sense) ignores the fact that, even if they were always genuine, they are nowhere near as central as adherents profess. Occasional causes of faith include any number of personal experiences: e.g. personal tragedies, faith proven in good works, or a basic, powerful, argument from Scripture. Biblical evangelism is not substandard when it comes with an absence of 'signs and wonders'. The serious imbalance in this area in the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements leads to distortion of the gospel itself. The emphasis on 'signs and wonders' makes it difficult to articulate and teach a theology of suffering, faithfulness, perseverance, the cross, and of the Word of God and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit - all of which are far more central to Biblical thought, and far more important to Christian maturity, than the power of 'signs and wonders' to serve as an occasional cause of faith.
Notice how these heretics all attack and even desire the deaths - of those who point out their doctrinal errors!!!
What does Scripture warn us of? Not of those who 'cause division' - as so many heretics accuse in their sad attempts to divert the truth away from themselves by misquoting Scripture. Our complaint against the 'Word-Faith'/Vineyard movements majors on doctrines - their teachings. They are either true or false. A true doctrine cannot be divisive in a harmful way, for that characteristic applies only to false teachings, as Scripture makes clear when quoted fully:
'Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them' (Romans 16:17 & 2:8-9).
Divisions are caused when you stand for the truth! Jesus, who is the Truth, can only be known in truth by those who seek the truth (John 14:6; 18:37; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Deuteronomy 4:29). Christ himself caused division (Matthew 10:35; John 7:35, 43; 9:16; 10:19) - division between truth and error (Luke 12:51). If there is division in the body it is caused by some following the truth and others rejecting the truth of doctrinal teaching, while those whose behaviour reflects their rejection of the truth will show this in their rejection of members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:24-26):
24 But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Paul was inspired to write (1 Corinthians 11:19):
For there must [or 'have to be' - NIV] also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.
Because people from every walk of 'Christian' life today are fellowshipping together, does this lead to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ being spread abroad as never before - or at least in ways comparable to the past centuries?
Among today's Protestants (especially 'Charismatics') there is a growing spirit of ecumenism which embraces as 'brothers in the faith' anyone who 'speaks in tongues,' without regard to their false doctrines and practices. At large charismatic 'unity' conferences many participants, and a significant number of leaders, are Catholics - and the call for 'unity' is not on the basis of the true faith once for all delivered to the saints, but 'signs and wonders' and an agreement not to question one another's doctrine. These 'Conferences on the Holy Spirit' result in a historic rejection of the Reformation and the issues for which millions gave their lives! How is it that eternal truths for which the martyrs died can be set aside as though of no importance, while a substitute, counterfeit, 'positive' gospel of prosperity or self-esteem can grow so rapidly in acceptance? In many respects the Protestant church today appears to be in worse condition than the Catholic Church of Luther's day.
So it was with those in Jerusalem (John 2:23-25) who 'believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.' They believed He was the Messiah but had a false view of what that meant. 'Jesus did not commit himself unto them' because He knew what was in their hearts and that they would not believe the truth. We see the same error from those in John 6, who, because Christ had healed and fed them, wanted to 'take him by force to make him [their] king' (John 6:15). There were many who called themselves His 'disciples' (today they would be called 'Christians') who had a false view of the Messiah, and when He tried to explain the truth to them, would not hear it but 'went back and walked no more with him' (John 6:66). We learn from Christ how to handle the multitudes who want to follow Him for the wrong reasons. We must do today what He did then. Many came 'forward' to tell Jesus they believed in Him and would follow Him faithfully, but what was this gospel that He preached: 'The foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but I have nowhere to lay my head' (Matthew 8:20). How different this is from the mansions coveted by so many leaders of the contemporary Charismatic movement. Today we fill the churches with multitudes who imagine that Christ's mission is to make them feel good about themselves by building up their self-esteem, answering their selfish prayers and fulfilling their self-centred agendas. The Reconstruction/Kingdom/Dominionists are more confused than John the Baptist, though their error is similar. They refuse to walk in the rejection of Christ, bearing the reproach of His cross, because that would be 'defeatism.' They imagine we're in the millennial kingdom already and are supposed to act like 'King's kids.' They think it is our task to establish that Kingdom through taking 'dominion' over the media, educational institutions and political leadership. The 'signs and wonders' promoters, from Oral Roberts to the late John Wimber, imagine they are in the process of taking dominion over all disease and even over death itself without the resurrection and return of Christ. It is all very positive and ecumenical - and death-dealing! Christian lobbyists such as Bob Grant of Christian Voice and the American Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. are willing to work with Moonies and Mormons and all others who are in favour of bringing traditional values back to America. In defence of such folly, Christian leaders stoutly defend the correctness of working with all those 'who call Jesus Lord.' They seem to forget that Christ said: 'Many will say to me ... Lord, Lord, have we not ...in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me...' (Matthew 7:22-23). There are multitudes, such as Mormons and Catholics (to say nothing of many Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, et al) who call Jesus 'Lord' but are not saved.
It is not many years since Paul and Jan Crouch welcomed three Catholics to their 'Praise the Lord' programme - two priests and a woman lay leader. Paul Crouch displayed his usual naiveté and incredible ignorance of theology by smoothing over any differences between Protestants and Catholics as 'simply matters of semantics.' In his eager embrace of Transubstantiation, a heresy so great that thousands died at the stake rather than accept it, he declared: 'Well, we [Protestants] believe the same thing. So you see one of these things that has divided us all of these years [Transubstantiation] shouldn't have divided us all along because we were really meaning the same thing but just saying it a little differently ... I[am] eradicating the word 'Protestant' even out of my vocabulary. ... I'm not protesting anything anymore ... it is ... time for Catholics and non-Catholics to come together as one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.' Sadly, he is ignorant of the false gospel of Catholicism - 'another gospel' (Galatians 1:6-9) of salvation by works and ritual through the essential mediation of that Church. Let us remember what Christ said to those who believed on Him: 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:31-32). It is that truth which we are called upon to proclaim in clarity and power.
Where are the church leaders who should be protecting the flock by specific warnings against false teachers and false 'miracle workers'?
What happened to the 'Third Wave Prophets' who arrived with a flood of 'new revelations'? The 'Latter Rain' movement (a revival of an old heresy) rekindled with astonishing speed in association with the Vineyards and Kansas City Fellowship under the influence of 'prophets' such as John Wimber, Paul Cain (former associate of William Branham), Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle and others. These men joined Hinn and Kenneth Copeland in their threats towards those who refused to be duped by their lying 'signs and wonders'. Copeland strongly implied that those who resist God's 'move' could be making a fatal mistake:
"One of these days, you may just be talking to someone, asking them how my sin caused Christ to pay such a great price. The shedding of Christ's blood, with which we were redeemed, was not because things went at church last Sunday, and they may say, 'Oh it was great! The glory of God was so strong it healed ten cripples, opened the ears of thirty deaf people, cured seven cases of cancer and killed Brother Bigmouth and Sister Strife'.... When the fire of God begins to burn and the rivers of the Spirit start to flow...he'll either have to yield to the Spirit ...or he'll have to resist the flood of God's Spirit and be swept away" (Voice of Victory, Oct 94).
Strange how often 'Word-Faith' heretics desire the death of those who do not go along with their heresies and dare to point out their blatant errors? A very different spirit from that demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ who rebuked those who expressed that kind of threat to those who did not accept them (Luke 9:54).
Heretic Paul Cain's roots go back to the origins of the Latter Rain movement which was referred to as: 'The last great outpouring that was to consummate God's plans on this earth.' As a 'prophet' of the Kansas City Fellowship/Vineyard prophetic movement, he issued the body of Christ this warning:
'Don't speak a word against signs and wonders and the prophetic ministry in these last days or God's zeal will chasten you!' (Christ for the Nations, Sept 89).
Rick Joyner, another advocate of 'what the Holy Spirit is doing today,' added his 'prophetic' challenge:
If the leaders resist this move the Lord will continue it through the congregations. These groups will begin to relate to the other members of the body of Christ and their bonds will grow stronger, regardless of the resistance or warnings of their pastors. Some pastors and leaders who continue to resist this tide of unity will be removed from their place....Some that were used greatly of God in the past have become too rigid in doctrinal emphasis ... to participate in this revival. ...Those who are linked together by doctrine ... will quickly be torn away (Restoration, May/ June 88).
In Vengeance is Ours, by Al Dager of Media Spotlight, he documented the false teaching that those who criticize or oppose the 'New Wave' of God's Spirit are either possessed or oppressed by a 'Jezebel spirit,' or are into witchcraft. He quoted Rick Joyner:
This is the year when the Lord starts to bring down the spirit of Jezebel. He will begin by calling her to repentance. Those who have become vessels for this spirit, and who do not repent, will be displayed as so insane that even the most immature Christians will quickly discern their sickness. ... The source of witchcraft against us may not be the obvious satanic cults or New Age operatives. It can come from well meaning, though deceived, Christians who are praying against us instead of for us (p149-150)
Rodney Howard-Browne gave this 'prophecy' at New Life Centre:
'Do not compromise. For if you compromise, you shall not only lose the anointing that I placed upon you, you shall lose your life.'
These are only a few of the many indications that there is a very disturbing side to what John Wimber called 'a refreshing' or 'a renewal.'
Increasing numbers of churches submitted themselves to these 'prophets' in a rapidly growing discipleship movement based upon 'signs and wonders' which brought back dangerous heresies in the name of holiness and unity. In a dream, Paul Cain supposedly saw God put His Spirit upon President Clinton and change him into another man - just as He did Saul of old! An entire issue of Rick Joyner's The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin was dedicated to this 'prophecy.' It was revealed to Cain that God had chosen Clinton to lead the United States into a new spiritual dimension, provided Christians pray for him. The future headlines of five specific newspapers were allegedly given in the dream to validate it. Does that mean the prophecy is from God? Obviously not! Even false prophets (Paul Cain has made many false prophecies) can make some correct predictions (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). Cain's mentor - 'prophet/healer/miracle worker' William Branham - was declared a heretic by the Assemblies of God over 40 years ago, yet was a forerunner of Hagin/Copeland/Hinn and the whole 'Word-Faith' and healing movements. In spite of Branham's numerous and serious heresies, Cain praised Branham as 'the greatest prophet of the twentieth century.' In fact, Cain, like Wimber and other 'prophets' associated with the Vineyard movement, continued to teach the Branham/Manifest Sons heresy that a 'new breed' of overcomers known as 'Joel's Army' would attain immortality without the resurrection or Rapture and, because no one can kill them, will virtually take over the world. Cain's testimony of numerous childhood spirit visitations and miraculous powers sound clearly occultic. This supposed latest vision had a built-in escape clause: it would happen only 'if the church prays for it.' If it fails, the church's lack of prayer, instead of the 'prophet,' could be blamed! Again, the 'Emperor's New Clothes' scam! Rather than coming from God, the dream attempted to further the Manifest Sons delusion promoted by Cain and other 'prophets' that we are on the verge of the great 'last-days revival.' Empowered to perform signs and wonders such as the world has never seen, the 'new breed/ Joel's Army' will supposedly convert entire nations. Clinton was to be one of the generals in Joel's Army! Apparently even John Wimber became disillusioned with such prophecies, which he had earlier embraced wholeheartedly. Wimber and his team of 'prophets' descended upon England, for the October 1990 Docklands Conference, and had been preceded by a false Paul Cain prophecy of great revival in England. Convinced that the revival would spread from the conference across Europe, Wimber declared: 'As Jesus went into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, so He will return on the back of a victorious church. One in the eye for any dispensationalists among us!' This sad Scripture twisting came to nothing - of course! Wimber brought his four children to experience this great outpouring of the Spirit, but nothing of note happened - as usual. Wimber then broke his ties with Paul Cain, whom, for several years, he had regarded as God's special prophet to the Vineyard movement. Linking Clinton to Saul's being changed into another man (1 Samuel 10:6) hardly fitted the prediction that God's Spirit would empower Clinton to lead the country into blessing. Saul, in fact, though changed for a time by God's power, proved to be self-willed and disobedient and eventually led Israel into disaster. Interestingly, the New Age magazine Mind, Body, Spirit also contained a prophecy promising spiritual leadership from President Clinton at about the same time - but this 'prophecy' was clearly 'channelled' by Seth, a demonic entity long active in occultic circles. The world certainly knows now where Clinton's leadership led. After these false prophecies of Cain, which never happened, we have heard little of these men since (and nothing good!). Thank God!
Most Christians are probably unaware of Diane Sawyer's 'Primetime Live' exposé of three popular televangelists: W. V. Grant, Larry Lea and Robert Tilton. At the time, Tilton was taking at least $80 million a year by promising health and wealth to those who give to him. It is a sad day when the secular media accuses leading evangelicals of deliberate deception and seemingly documents the charges, thereby bringing reproach upon the gospel and our Lord. Why are millions of Christians so gullible as to support almost anyone who offers healing and prosperity, even though the promises are obviously un-Biblical, extravagant and almost always fail? Where are the church leaders who should be protecting the flock by specific warnings against false teachers and false 'miracle workers'? Why don't highly respected evangelical leaders bring desperately needed correction to their own ranks? One is reminded of televangelist healer Peter Popoff, who was such an obvious deceiver that it was embarrassing to watch him - yet church leaders allowed him to defraud the flock and bring reproach upon Christ. It was the atheistic humanists who exposed him years ago: magician James Randi, Paul Kurtz, et al. Popoff claimed 'revelations from God' enabled him to call out names, addresses, and ailments of those in his audience. In fact, his wife, Elizabeth, who circulated among the audience before the meetings gathering information, later broadcast the data at 39.17 Mhz. from the announcers' booths overlooking the various auditoriums into a sophisticated electronic device concealed in Popoff's ear. Randi and his team recorded the proof - and the evidence is now available on video. For example, in February 1986, at a crusade in San Francisco's Coliseum, when Peter Popoff made his grand entrance on stage amid shouted hallelujahs, Mrs. Popoff tested the equipment with these words: 'Hello, Petey. Can you hear me? If you can't, you're in trouble. I'm looking up names, right now.' During the 'healings' the flow of data into Popoff's ear went like this: 'She should be there on your right side. Right side. In the blue. She lives at 4267 Masterson, and she's praying for her daughter Joy, who's allergic to food.' Following these directions, laughter was heard coming from Elizabeth and Pam, the wife of Popoff's assistant Redford Shirrell - as Popoff repeated this information to the victim, pretending it was 'revealed' to him by God. Popoff should have been exposed and denounced by church leaders, but he wasn't! Even after he'd been unmasked by humanists as a deliberate fraud, Charisma carried his full-page ad, and deceived Christians continued to send this 'man of God' their support!
W. V. Grant followed a similar scam, calling out names, diseases and other details pertaining to specific individuals of whom he denied having prior knowledge, claiming to receive this information from God. In fact, he also used an old trick of gathering and memorizing data beforehand that he later presented as 'revelation knowledge.' Grant was also exposed years ago by Randi, Kurtz and their team. Yet Christian leaders continued to honour him. The irrefutable evidence that W.V. Grant, like Popoff, was operating a deliberate scam was first presented in two editions of the humanist magazine Free Inquiry, Spring and Summer, 1986. They followed up people whom Grant claimed to have healed, only to find that no healing had taken place. Actors whom they planted in the audience were 'healed' of make-believe ailments. Phony information which they had fed to Grant or his associates before the meeting was called out by Grant as 'revelation from God.' Grant even brought wheelchairs with him in which his ushers persuaded the elderly who were tired of walking to sit, on the promise of being wheeled down close to the front. It is these people who were dramatically called out of 'their wheelchairs' and made to run up and down as proof of their 'healing'! Those who actually came in their own wheelchairs left in the same manner, wondering why they weren't healed when so many others apparently were! Those on Grant's mailing list received the most outrageous letters telling how he had prayed for them individually (the computer inserted their names to make it appear like a personal letter) and offered methods of receiving a blessing that involved witchcraft-like rituals which are an insult to God. For example, one mailing included a large picture of 'Jesus' holding out his hands by a window, with the instructions to 'Touch my hands - I will touch yours' (supposedly based on Malachi 3:10), and claiming that this 'Jesus' promised: 'I will ... open you the 'windows of heaven'. ... Lay any unpaid bills and your wallet on these Nail Scarred hands of Jesus.' Everything must be returned with the largest offering possible, of course. Grant then took the offering 'to a certain window that the Lord is showing me, as I lay my hands where you lay yours.' Always a condition for receiving the 'blessing' is the 'seed faith offering' the un-Scriptural invention of Oral Roberts which is used by many other 'evangelists,' such as Marilyn Hickey, to persuade the gullible to give in order to reap 100-fold.
These are such obvious frauds, but when the real Anti-Christ comes with powerful lying 'signs and wonders' (2 Thessalonians 2:9), will these gullible people heed God's warning (Deuteronomy 13:1-3) that He allows false prophets to work 'signs and wonders' as a test to see 'whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul'? We already live in a time of such testing and only staying close to the Word of God will keep us close to the God of the Word and keep us from apostasy.
Where did these errors originate? Consider another aspect of Benny Hinn's deception: 'If you want a healing tonight for your finances you get to that phone now and say I want to make a pledge and I want Benny Hinn to pray that God will break the 'devil of poverty' over my life ... get to the phones now ... the quicker you do it the quicker your miracle comes. ...In the mighty name of Jesus we come against the 'devil of poverty' in your life ... !' A lesser-known TV evangelist promises, 'the power of the 'spirit of debt' will be broken in your life ... a supernatural power to get wealth will be loosed into your hands.' Neither diligence, prudence, a new job nor any other practical solution is needed. One needs simply to rebuke and bind the right 'demon' and money will flow into one's pockets. It does not seem to matter to them that there is no Scriptural precedent of 'demons' or 'spirits' having this power over the Christian's finances, or other matters! How devastating it is to the faith of those in a church where week after week the pastor and elders, in the name of Jesus, command healings that don't occur! We have watched these fraudsters command the Word of God to go out and heal all illness and financial lack in their audience. No Bible-believing Christian seriously thought it would happen - and it didn't! Such empty bravado can only please Satan and makes a mockery of God's Word! Yes, God still heals in answer to prayer, as He wills, but what audacity to command Him to do so! It is equally harmful to attempt to overcome sin with un-Biblical 'spiritual warfare' techniques. Of course, it's easier on the flesh, and the 'in' thing, to blame a demon rather than oneself. What the Bible calls the 'works of the flesh' are being blamed on demons. The 'demon of lust' or the 'demon of sex' or the 'demon of pride' has been cast out literally thousands of times from thousands of Christians. This grievous error denies Christ's indwelling, relieves the Christian of his own responsibility - and robs him of God's remedy! Fraudulent exorcisms seem to support the belief that genuine, walking by the Word and in the Spirit, Christians can be demonized and that victory over sin requires exorcism - but Scripture denies it. To those who 'believed on him,' Jesus said, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:31-32). Instead, they resisted the truth and tried to stone Him! They 'believed' that Jesus was the Messiah - but they also had an un-Biblical concept of a Messiah who would conquer the Romans - and let them live in peace and prosperity. They refused to accept Him as their deliverer from the real enemy - self and sin within.
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