In there can be no doubt whatsoever that, within worldwide `Christendom’, the religious phenomenon of the twentieth century is the Pentecostal / Charismatic Movement. No other religious movement this century has enjoyed such universal and rapid growth, so that tens of millions of people around the world identify with it; and it continues to grow.Its supporters praise it as a worldwide “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit, a latter-day revival such as the world has never seen before, the most exciting and glorious period the Church has ever experienced since the first century.
They claim that the Lord has restored the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church, that millions are speaking with new tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance, that the sick are being healed, the dead are being raised to life, and apostles and prophets are once again walking the earth. Their services are characterised by exuberant, prolonged singing, usually to the accompaniment of pianos, organs, guitars, drums, and various other instruments played by slick professionals; “speaking in tongues”; “slayings in the Spirit”; “prophecies”; “healings”; even dancing. From a few, frowned-upon churches and denominations in its early days, the movement has spread like wildfire, and today it is an important and ever-growing part of most of the Protestant denominations, and of the Roman Catholic institution. From massive auditoriums filled to capacity in the major cities of the world, to small and simple buildings in dirt-poor villages deep in Third World countries, the Pentecostal/Charismatic message is enthusiastically proclaimed.
But is this movement of God?
That is the great question, the question that demands an answer. For this movement to be a movement of the Spirit of God, it must be in accordance with the Word of God. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God” (1Joh 4:1). Is the spirit of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement the Spirit of Christ? Every spirit must be tested; and how? by the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa 8:20). The Scriptures must be searched to see whether these things are so (Act 17:11). Men err when the Scriptures are neither known (Mat 22:29), nor followed.
There is an appeal made to the Scriptures, of course, by those within the movement. In truth, however, the Scriptures witness against the entire Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement; and the purpose of this article is to show that it is not in accordance with Scripture. Many other aspects of the movement could have been dealt with; but this article will concentrate on its doctrines of the socalled “baptism in the Spirit” and the spiritual gifts, in the light of God’s Word. Some might argue that there is a difference between the Pentecostal Movement, and the Charismatic Movement. Historically, the early disciples of the movement were known as Pentecostals, and the various denominations that developed from those early days are still known as Pentecostal denominations.
When the movement spilled over into the older Protestant denominations, its followers were generally known as Neo-Pentecostals, or Charismatics. While there are a few minor variations, doctrinally, between classic Pentecostals and some branches of the Charismatic Movement, these are for the most part insignificant: the two are almost identical, so that today the two terms are often used interchangeably; and that is how they are used here. Obviously, for reasons of space, the teachings analysed here are those on which there is broad agreement (but not necessarily universal unanimity) throughout the Pentecostal/Charismatic spectrum.
The “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”
Broadly, the distinctive emphasis of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement has to do with the Holy Spirit. It is taught that there is a “second experience” after conversion available to Christians: a “second blessing,” a “second work of grace.” Not every Christian has partaken of it, but every Christian should; and until he or she does, no Christian can walk in “the power” of the Spirit. This “second blessing” is known as “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” The reception of this “baptism” is accompanied by the “initial evidence” of speaking with other tongues (although not all Charismatics are agreed on this point). When the Christian receives the “baptism”, he receives one or more of the miraculous spiritual gifts, such as the gift of tongues, or of prophecy, or of healing, or of miracles.
These gifts are to be exercised, by the believer, in order to edify the Church and to confirm the preaching of the Gospel with signs and wonders. The notion that those who have not received the Charismatic “baptism in the Holy Spirit” lack power to serve the Lord, or to live for him, is refuted both by history and (more importantly) by the Bible. It is refuted by history, in that the Pentecostal Movement in its present form is a very modern phenomenon, the Pentecostals themselves claiming that between the first century and the second half of the nineteenth century there was no great “outpouring of the Spirit” as there supposedly is now, only very limited and occasional phenomena; and yet men who certainly did not believe in any “second blessing”, any “spiritual baptism”, after conversion, and who certainly never spoke with unknown tongues or performed miracles of healing, were mightily used of God in centuries past. And it is refuted by the Bible, in such places as 2 Pet.1:3, which says, “According as his [the Lord’s] divine power hath given unto us [and “us” here means all believers, without exception–vs.1] all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue”.
Every Christian has all that is necessary for life and godliness!
Every New Testament believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him (1Cor 6:19; Eze 36:26,27). In fact, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom 8:9)! Every spiritual “son” has the Spirit of Christ dwelling within his heart (Gal.4:6). And as this is so, there is no need, nor indeed any scriptural justification, for seeking any “second experience”; every Christian is complete in Christ (Col 2:10)! There are, of course, certain texts of Scripture which are appealed to, by Charismatics, in support of the notion that there is a spiritual baptism subsequent to salvation, which Christians must seek; and it is to these that we must now turn. Mat 3:11 is one such text. In this verse, John the Baptist said, “he [Christ] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”. According to Charismatics, this verse entitles Christians to seek a “second blessing.”
But does it?
In Act 1:5, Jesus used the same words of John, saying, “John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” He was referring to the day of Pentecost, as his own words reveal, in Luk 24:49 and Act 1:4,8. The disciples, prior to Pentecost, were most certainly regenerated by the Holy Spirit, as Scripture makes plain (Luk 10:20); they had the Holy Spirit, just as all God’s saints prior to Pentecost did: Abraham, David, etc.(e.g. 1Pet 1:10,11). But the Old Testament saints did not have the Holy Spirit in such fulness, richness, and power, as New Testament saints do, as is evident from Joh 7:37-39, Joh 14-16, Act 1:4,5,8, Act 2:4,16,17, and other places. Prior to Pentecost, the disciples were Old Testament saints; they were regenerated, the Holy Spirit was within them; but on the day of Pentecost, they became New Testament saints! The risen, glorified Christ “poured out” his Holy Spirit (Act 2:17): they were, in the words of John the Baptist and of Jesus himself, “baptized with the Holy Ghost.”
What must be understood is that those disciples lived through the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. They had been converted before, as Old Covenant people; but at Pentecost, they entered into the fulness of New Covenant salvation. No-one, however, is in that transitional phase today! Now, when a soul is regenerated, and believes on Jesus Christ, that soul immediately receives the gift of the Holy Ghost: he is immediately “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” And this is taught so plainly in Act 2:38,39: as many as the Lord calls, enabling them to repent and believe in Christ, receive the Holy Spirit. It is clear, from this text, that “receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost” (vs.38) is the same as being “baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Act 1:5): it is the “promise” of Act 1:4 and 2:33.
And as Peter said, all those who are called by grace “shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Act 2:38)! The gift of the Holy Spirit is not a “second blessing” subsequent to salvation, given to those who “seek” it but not to others; rather, the Holy Spirit is given to every single one whom the Lord calls and saves! Once again, the reader is referred to Rom 8:9, Gal.4:6, and others, in the light of Act 2:38,39, which show that every Christian has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the case of the first disciples, the “baptism with the Holy Ghost” occurred on the day of Pentecost (Act 1:4,5); but John the Baptist was speaking about all believers, in Mat 3:11–and the experience of the first disciples was not normative for all time, as shall be seen. The 3000 were “baptized with the Holy Ghost” when they repented and believed in Christ, and not later; and this is the pattern for today. In addition, the disciples who were “baptized with the Holy Ghost” at Pentecost spoke with tongues; but there was a specific purpose for this, as will be explained below. It is very important to note that the 3000 who repented at the preaching of Peter did not speak with tongues–and bear in mind that they were “baptized with the Holy Ghost” at that very moment, just as all believers are today! The miraculous gifts are no longer given, as shall be seen.
Acts 2: The Day of Pentecost
Act 2:1-4 is the central text of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. They argue that, just as the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Christians can and should receive the very same experience today. While they can make this sound so plausible to multitudes, they fail to take note of the fact that this was an historical event; and that unless it can be shown from Scripture that it was to be repeated, and repeated often, in churches and other gatherings around the world, it must be understood simply for what it was: a very special event that was never repeated in precisely the same way again. That this was in many ways a unique event is quite clear from the inspired record. What occurred at Pentecost was the fulfilment of “the promise of the Father” (Luk 24:49; Acts 1:4). It occurred at a specific time–the day of Pentecost (Act 2:1); at a specific place–Jerusalem (Luk 24:49); in fulfilment of a specific Old Testament type–the feast of weeks, or Pentecost (Lev 23:15-21); in fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy (Joe 2:28-32); and it was experienced by a specific group–the 120 disciples (Act 1:13-15). It was accompanied by not one, but three miraculous signs: a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, cloven tongues like as of fire, and speaking with other tongues. No-one can expect “another Pentecost” today, if Pentecost was in many ways unique even in the early Church!
What occurred on the day of Pentecost was the fulfilment of Act 1:4,5, and the first fulfilment of Mat 3:11 (which is fulfilled in every single believer). Being “baptized with the Holy Ghost” is the same as “receiving the Holy Ghost,” or “receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Mat 3:11; Act 2:38,39; 8:15,16; 10:45,47; 19:2). But the 120 were baptized with the Holy Spirit quite some time after their calling by grace, whereas believers today are baptized with the Holy Spirit at that very moment. The reason for this has already been given above, when Mat 3:11 was examined. Now let us consider the tongues-speaking. If there is one thing Charismatics spend more time discussing and promoting than anything else, it is speaking with tongues. At Pentecost, the tongues-speaking, too, was a sign, just as the sound as of a wind and the tongues like as of fire were signs. It was a twofold sign to the Jews. Firstly, it was a sign to them that the Lord was now going to save people from all nations under heaven, and not only from Israel. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?” (vss.5-7). The Galileans were generally unlearned people. The Jews were astounded: how could such simple, uneducated folk proclaim “the wonderful works of God” (vs.11) in languages which they had never learned? “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (vs.12). Indeed, what did it mean? What was the Lord’s purpose in this? The Lord was fulfilling a prophecy, as Peter went on to tell them–the prophecy of Joel (Act 2:16-21; Joe 2:28-32); and he was thereby revealing to the Jews that the Gospel was to go to all nations under heaven, not only to Israel; and that it would be confirmed, in its early days, by miraculous signs, as Jesus had foretold (Mar 16:16- 20). That these signs were not going to be performed beyond the earliest period of the Church, we shall see presently. Secondly, the tongues were a sign, to the unbelieving Jews, of approaching judgement. This is clear from 1Cor 14:21,22. The divine judgement came in 70 AD, the Roman army being the instrument God used, in fulfilment of various prophecies (such as Luk 21:20-24).
Acts 8: The Samaritans
The next text is Act 8:12-17. Philip had preached the Gospel in Samaria, many had believed in the Lord Jesus, and these new converts had been baptized (Act 8:12). Then, when Peter and John came down to them, they “prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” These believers, too, were saints in the same way as the Old Testament saints, just as the 120 had been before Pentecost: they were regenerated, they had believed savingly on Christ, and thus the Spirit had worked in them; but they had not “received the gift of the Holy Ghost” in the fulness of the New Covenant sense as yet (just as the 120 had not, prior to Pentecost). It was only when the apostles laid hands on them, that they “received the Holy Ghost” in this sense.
Why? Why did the Lord do it this way?
The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans. They had no dealings with them (Joh4:9). But the Lord had said that the Gospel was to be preached to Samaria (Act 1:8). This Philip did, and many were converted, and baptized. But as a sign to the Jews that the Lord had, indeed, granted repentance unto life to the Samaritans, the gift of the Holy Spirit (in the New Covenant sense) was only received when the apostles laid hands on them, and there was a visible demonstration that the Spirit had been given (Act 8:14-18)! This is why there was the delay between their calling by grace, and their reception of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant sense. But from then on, any Samaritan converted to Christ received the Holy Spirit at that very moment; just as, from the time of Pentecost onwards, any Jew converted to Christ received the Holy Spirit at that very moment. The events which transpired in Act 8 were for a specific purpose, which has now been fulfilled. In no way, then, do these events support any Charismatic notion of a “second blessing” for believers today.
Acts 10: the Household of Cornelius
Now we must move on to Act 10:44-48. In this passage, as Peter was preaching to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they spoke with tongues; whereupon Peter commanded them to be baptized in water. Cornelius was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house” (Act 10:1,2). He had forsaken the idols of the Romans, and worshipped the true God, the God of Israel. He looked by faith to the Messiah he knew would come, just as all God’s people did in the ages before Christ came; but he did not know that Jesus of Nazareth (of whom he had heard–vss.36,37) was the Christ, until Peter told him (Act 10:36-43). It was while Peter was preaching to him and his household, that the Holy Ghost was “poured out”, and they were “saved” in the fulness of the New Testament sense of the word (Act 11:14; Eph 2:8,9). That this was the case, is made plain by Peter’s command for them to be baptized (vss.47,48); for baptism is to follow faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius and all his household were saints in the Old Testament sense, having believed in the Christ to come; but they now believed that Jesus was the Christ, and thus became New Testament saints, “baptized with the Holy Ghost” (for, as explained above, “receiving the Holy Ghost”, as these people did [vs.47], is the same as being “baptized with the Holy Ghost”); and so submitted to baptism in accordance with God’s Word. But something else also occurred at this time–and for a very specific reason: in addition to the “baptism with the Holy Spirit,” (which, as explained above, is now the experience of every believer the moment the Lord saves him, but which the Jewish disciples at Pentecost, and these Gentile disciples here, received at a later stage because they were caught in that transitional period between the Old and the New Covenants), they also spoke with tongues at the same time (vs.46)! Why were they enabled to speak with tongues? The tongues-speaking confirmed to Peter that the Lord had truly led him to preach to this Gentile household; this is clear from his words in Act 11:15-17. And also, it confirmed that God was granting repentance unto life to Gentiles as well as Jews–a lesson the Jewish believers needed to learn; for if the Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans, they were even more prejudiced against the Gentiles (Act 10:45-47; 11:1-3,18)! Act 11:18 is especially relevant here. They could not deny that the Lord was granting salvation to Gentiles, when the selfsame gift of tongues which they had been given at Pentecost was given to the Gentiles (Act 11:15-18)!
But again let it be noted very clearly: in no way does Act 10:44-48 give justification to those who would seek a similar experience today! Firstly, it was a sovereign act of God, neither sought by the Gentiles, nor by the Jewish believers who were present (Act 10:44-46; 11:17). Secondly, the tongues were for the benefit of the Jewish believers, as has been explained; and thus this was a unique event, designed to remove the prejudice of the Jewish believers at a time when much prejudice still existed. And thirdly, Peter himself had to cast all the way back in his mind to Pentecost, years before, to find an experience with which this event could be compared (Act 11:16,17); which would be most strange (to say the least!) if such events had been occurring regularly in the churches between Pentecost and this visit to Cornelius’ house!
It is the general Pentecostal belief that, having been “baptized in the Spirit,” one should experience further “baptisms” as the need arises; but Peter had not seen anything like it since the day of Pentecost! Even the Samaritan event was not the same; for Peter and John had deliberately gone there to lay hands on the disciples, that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-17); but in Cornelius’ house, the Holy Spirit “fell” in sovereign power, unexpectedly, suddenly, just as at Pentecost, upon people who, although regenerated just as all saints were who lived prior to Pentecost, were nevertheless not yet New Testament saints. This is why Peter was reminded of Pentecost, and not Samaria. It is true that the 120 at Pentecost had believed in Jesus as the Christ, and already been baptized, whereas those of Cornelius’ household had believed in the Christ to come, not being aware that Jesus was the Christ, and had therefore not been baptized–but both were believers in the Old Testament sense: regenerated, converted, their faith being in the Messiah, but not “baptized with the Holy Ghost”. Today, the elect who hear the Gospel preached, and who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit to exercise faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, are “baptized with the Holy Ghost” at that very moment, and are then to be baptized in water; but the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer given, as shown not only by the texts examined thus far, but by those we shall yet examine.
Acts 19: the Ephesian Disciples
The fourth, and final, text from the book of Acts which is very dear to the Charismatics, is Act 19:1- 7. His question in vs.2, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” was addressed to twelve men (vs.7) who were true disciples (vs.1), believers (vs.2); men who had repented of their sins, and believed in Christ, when they had heard John the Baptist preach years before, and whom John had baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (vs.2-5); but they had not “received the Holy Ghost” (or, in the terminology found elsewhere, they had not been “baptized with the Holy Ghost”): in other words, they were saints in the Old Covenant sense, not the New. These twelve men had been converted before Pentecost (as had the 120, and as had the household of Cornelius); they had been converted to Christ through the ministry of John the Baptist. But—again like the 120 before Pentecost, and the household of Cornelius before Peter preached to them, as well as the Samaritan believers before the apostles prayed for them–this little band of converts were saints in the Old Covenant sense, even though it was now years after the events of Act 2, 8, and 19. Any Jew converted after Pentecost received the Holy Spirit (was “baptized with the Spirit”) immediately; any Samaritan converted after the events of Act 8 received the Holy Spirit immediately; and any Gentile converted after Act 10 received the Holy Spirit immediately. But anyone converted before these events was still a saint in the Old Covenant sense. This was the case with these twelve men; and it explains why Paul asked the question he did: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?”
When Paul laid his hands on them, “the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (vs.6). In other words, they “received the gift of the Holy Ghost”, or were “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” And why did they speak with tongues, and prophesy? This was solid and immediate proof that they had been given “the like gift”, just as in the case of Cornelius, and of the Samaritans (see, for example, Act 11:17).
Today, the proof that one has received the Holy Spirit (i.e. been converted) is not a visible sign. But the evidence of conversion is to be seen in a changed life, a transformed life, a “new” life in Christ (see Act 2:41,42). These men also would have given such evidence; but they, in addition, gave evidence by speaking with tongues, and prophesying, as indeed did those described in Act 2, 8, and 10. The experience described here in Act 19 was never intended by the Lord to be repeated throughout the Gospel age, or even in the twentieth century, as Charismatics assert. To the apostles was given the power to lay hands upon certain believers, that the Holy Ghost would come upon them in the manner described here; but nowhere do we read that this power was ever given to any others, to lay hands on believers for such a purpose. Not even Philip, who had miraculous gifts himself (Act 8:6,7), could lay hands on others that they might receive the Holy Spirit–Peter and John, who were apostles, had to do it (Act 8:14-17). It was “through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given” (Acts 8:18), and no-one else’s! And naturally this meant that when the apostles passed from the scene, such miraculous gifts were no longer given to men. The fact that only apostles could do this, effectively refutes the notion of those within the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement who believe that any Christian, “baptized in the Spirit”, can lay hands on another Christian, enabling that Christian to receive “the baptism” as well. But now we must turn our attention to an examination of the more controversial gifts themselves, and show from Scripture that these ceased with the passing of the apostolic age and the completion of the New Testament writings.
Some gifts of the Holy Spirit are most definitely given permanently to the Church of Christ. Pastors, for example, are permanent “gifts” given to the Church, as Scripture makes abundantly clear (Eph 4:8,11; 1Tim 3:1-7; etc.). But those gifts which can be termed sign gifts, and revelatory gifts, were temporary, and are no longer with us. These are listed in 1 Cor 12:8-10; and we shall occupy ourselves with the most controversial: apostles, prophets and prophecy, healing, miracles, and speaking with tongues.
In both Eph 4:11 and 1Cor 12:28, apostles are named first in the list of spiritual gifts. In the early Church, there was no greater gift. Who were the apostles? They were originally the eleven (Act 1:13); then Matthias was numbered with them (Act 1:26), and these twelve are called “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). And in addition, there were a number of others who were called to be apostles; such as Paul (Rom 1:1), and Barnabas (Act 14:14), and the brethren of the Lord (1Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19); as well as a number of others. But the number was limited from the very start, as is evident from the following: An apostle was one who had been a witness of the resurrected Christ. This is clear from Act 1:22, 2:32, 10:40,41, and 1Cor 15:4-9. In this last text, we are told that, after his resurrection, Christ was seen by over 500 brethren. The apostles who came after the twelve would have come from among these 500. Paul, who was not one of the twelve, nor among the 500 who saw the Lord after his resurrection, was nevertheless an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ because the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Act 9:17); so that he could say, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1Cor 9:1).
By its very nature, then, the apostolic office was not a permanent one in the Church. The apostles had all seen the risen Christ, and so the apostolic office could only continue until those men had died. Paul, in fact, says very pointedly that he was the last to have seen the risen Christ: “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1Cor 15:8). Paul, then, was the last man called to be an apostle. And with the passing of that limited number of men, the apostolic gift passed from the Church. And this was the Lord’s will. For Eph 2:20 says that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone”. The apostles laid the foundation of the Church, as is seen from 1Cor 3:10,11, as well as Eph 3:1-12, and Rev 21:14. A foundation is only laid once. Their ministry was unique, they laid the foundation by their preaching, and then the apostolic gift ceased.
What about the gift of prophecy? The prophet was one who spoke the very words of the Lord, by divine inspiration. There were prophets in the early Church, just as there had been prophets in the Old Testament (Act 13:1; 15:32; etc.) The prophetic office was second only to the apostolic office in the New Testament (1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). As with the apostolic gift, Charismatics claim that the prophetic gift is given today. But the Scriptures do not support this claim. Again, Eph 2:20 is very relevant here: apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the Church. That the prophets mentioned in this verse are New Testament prophets, not Old Testament ones, is clear from the order: apostles first, then prophets (as in 1Cor 12:28 and Eph 4:11). If Old Testament prophets were meant, they would have come first, as they were, chronologically, before the apostles. Besides, Eph 3:5 makes it clear that New Testament prophets are meant. The prophets, with the apostles, laid the foundation of the Church. Again, a foundation is only laid once. Before the New Testament was complete, they revealed to the churches, by divine inspiration, the same truths which are now contained in the writings of the New Testament. It must be remembered that the New Testament books were written over a period of many years. What were the churches to do until the New Testament was complete? The Lord gave them prophets, who spoke forth the truths which, in time, came to be written down. Thus were the churches fed, and instructed (Act 14:32). But the prophetic gift was only to continue until the New Testament was complete. This is clear from what has already been said; but there is further proof still, in 1Cor 13:8-13. Vs.8 says, “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail”; meaning, they shall be rendered unnecessary, and superseded by something else. When, and by what? The answer is given in vs.9 and 10: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” By the words, “we prophesy in part,” is meant partially, piecemeal, little by little in each church. Prophecy (like the other temporary revelatory gifts mentioned) was done away “when that which is perfect” came. “That which is perfect” is that which is complete, and final.
Charismatics usually say that this refers to the return of Christ; if this was true, then of course these gifts would not cease in the Church until the second coming. But “that which is perfect” is not Christ, or the return of Christ–it is the completion of the New Testament Scriptures! How may we know? Firstly, the gender is neuter: it does not say, “he who is perfect,” but “that which is perfect.” It is a thing, not a person. Secondly, it is contrasted with “that which is in part”, which is plainly the partial revelation supplied by these revelatory gifts. Tongues, prophecy, and the gift of knowledge provided the early Church with partial revelation; but in the New Testament, the complete revelation is given. And this is confirmed by Rev 22:18, where we are forbidden to add to the revelation of God. With the writing of the book of Revelation, the Scriptures were complete. Nothing more was to be given. If the gift of prophecy was still with us today, there would be new revelations; for prophecy was nothing less than inspired utterance; it was, “Thus saith the Lord.” We have, in the Bible, all the words of the Lord which he has been pleased to give to men. And yet Charismatic “prophets” are often heard to speak as if the Lord was speaking through them, giving new revelations! This is adding to the completed, written revelation, and is condemned by Rev 22:18 and elsewhere! The gift of prophecy was given to certain people in the early Church, before “that which is perfect,” the written revelation, was complete. In the pages of the Bible we have all the Word of God. There was no further need for the prophetic gift once the Scriptures were complete, and it was no longer given.
Healing and Working of Miracles
Now to look at the gifts of healing, and of working of miracles. These gifts were given to authenticate the apostles and their message. Paul wrote, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2Cor 12:12). Signs and wonders (i.e. miracles of all types) were the signs of an apostle! This is again revealed in Heb 2:3,4, where it is said of those who heard the Lord Jesus (the apostles): “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will”. And in Mar 16, where Jesus spoke of the miraculous signs that would be done in his name (vs.17,18), it says, in fulfilment of this, “And they [the apostles, according to vs.14] went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (vs.20). In the book of Acts, too, we see this borne out (e.g. Act 2:43; 4:33; 5:12). Gifts of healing and miracles authenticated the apostles. If these gifts were given generally to many other Christians, they would not have been signs of the apostles!
Now, it is certainly true that Stephen and Philip (who were not apostles) also healed and performed miracles at times (Act 6:8; 8:6,7). But the apostles, through laying on of hands, could impart miraculous gifts (2Tim 1:6; Act 8:14-18); and they had laid hands on both these men (Acts 6:5,6). This also explains how others, at times, had these gifts (1Cor 12:28). But, as we saw from Acts 8:13-18, those who, through laying on of the apostles’ hands, were given certain miraculous gifts, could not, in turn, impart them to others; and so, with the passing of the apostles and those upon whom they had laid hands, these gifts ceased. They are not given today. In addition to the evidence given above, there is yet more: one simply has to compare the gift of healing, in the New Testament, with the so-called “gift of healing” many Charismatics claim to have today, and one will see that what passes for this gift today is a farce. The apostles healed with a word or a touch Act 9:32-35 (no screaming, shouting, pushing, etc., as seen today in Charismatic circles!); the healings were instantaneous and complete Act 3:2-6 and 9:34 (no-one was sent home having been told that the healing would follow later, or that it would be gradual); when the Lord granted this gift to them, all were healed Act 5:16; 28:8-10 (none were “passed by” in the “healing lines,” or told to return another day); etc. Modern-day Charismatic “healing services” bear no resemblance to what we read in the Scriptures. Does all this mean that the Lord does not heal today? By no means! The Lord, according to his sovereign will, can and does heal people today; but no men today have the miraculous sign gifts mentioned in the New Testament. What must a believer do today, when he is sick? The answer is given in Jas 5:14,15!
Finally, we must examine the claim that the gift of tongues is for today. What was the purpose of tongues-speaking in the early Church? It has already been pointed out, when Act 2 was examined, that speaking with tongues was a sign to the Jews: firstly, a sign to them that the Gospel of Christ would be proclaimed to all nations under heaven, and not only to Israel (Act 2:4-11); and secondly, a sign of impending judgement upon Israel (1Cor 14:21,22). This is evident from the words, “In the law it is written,” and “this people” (vs.21), and is a reference to Isa 28:11,12; the word “law” sometimes being used to refer to all the writings of the Old Testament, and not to the five books of Moses alone. Tongues were for a sign, to the unbelieving Jews, of impending wrath, which came upon them in 70 Ad when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, in fulfillment of various prophecies (such as Luk 21:20-24). But, as we learn from 1Cor 12:10,28,30, and various verses in 1Cor 14, the gift of tongues could also be useful, to a limited extent, as a revelatory gift, for the edification (when interpreted) of believers. As Act 2:11 tells us, those who spoke with tongues declared the wonderful works of God; but only those who knew the language could profit from it. For others to profit, the gift of interpretation of tongues was needed. For this reason, in 1Cor 14 Paul stated that, in the church of Corinth, none were to speak with tongues in the service unless the tongues were interpreted (vs.2,4,5,6,9,12,13-19,21-28). Only in this way could this gift edify the church. If the tongues were not interpreted, they were of no use whatsoever to other believers. Throughout the chapter, Paul makes it clear that the gift of prophecy was a greater gift than that of tongues (e.g. vs.1-6,22-33). Why? The answer is simple: the one who prophesied spoke in the common language of the people he was addressing, and in this way the church was edified; whereas the tongues-speaker spoke in an unknown language (vs.2-6,9,12,18,19,22-25,31). For this reason, Paul commanded that the tongues had to be interpreted, and that if there was no interpreter, the tongues-speaker had to keep silent (vs.5,13-16,27,28). When interpreted, tongues were similar to prophecy; but without interpretation, they were useless in the church.
In vs.39, Paul wrote, “covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.” The Charismatics are very fond of this verse, hurling it at those who say that the Scriptures do not support prophesying and tongues-speaking today. But they have taken the verse out of the entire context of chapters 12- 14. Both these gifts were given to some within the early Church, before the completion of the New Testament; they were not to be forbidden at that time; but they were only temporary, and were to cease before the end of the first century and the completion of the New Testament. We have seen this to be the case with regards to prophecy already; but what about tongues? How do we know this gift has ceased?
- Firstly, as a sign to the Jews of impending judgement, tongues would not be necessary once that judgement had come–which it did in 70 AD.
- Secondly, as a sign that the Lord was going to draw people from all nations unto himself, tongues would not be necessary once this fact became obvious–which it did before the end of the first century, when there were churches of Christ scattered throughout the Roman Empire, and more were being established all the time.
- Thirdly, as a revelatory gift, tongues were no longer necessary once the Scriptures were complete. 1 Cor.13:8 was a prophecy: “whether there be tongues, they shall cease”. As with the other revelatory gifts, they were to be replaced with something better. When? The answer is given in vs.10: “when that which is perfect is come.” As was shown when the gift of prophecy was examined, “that which is perfect [or complete]” is the completed written revelation–the New Testament. With the completion of the Holy Scriptures before the close of the first century, the gift of tongues ceased. There was no further need for it. There was no need for divine revelation to be given by this means to the churches, for the complete Word of God was now in written form.
We have now worked through the Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine on the “baptism in the Spirit,” and the miraculous gifts; and it has been shown to be a false doctrine. Gifts which were given by the Lord either to authenticate the ministry of the apostles until they passed from the scene, or to edify the Church until the New Testament Scriptures were complete, are, it is claimed, still being given today to those who truly desire them, even though such a teaching has absolutely no support in the Word of God. Multitudes eagerly seek a supposed “second blessing,” having hands laid on them, sometimes crying, screaming, falling down, shaking (or being shaken), until they either go home disappointed or succeed in uttering some strange syllables which, they are told excitedly, are “tongues.” Multitudes more eagerly line up to be prayed for by some Charismatic “faith healer,” and wonder why they do not “receive their healing”. All this is bad enough. But the most dangerous part of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is this: it is a denial of 2Tim 3:15-17. It is a denial of one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith: that Scripture is all-sufficient; that it contains all that the Lord has been pleased to reveal; that no further revelation is to be given. However much many within the movement seek to deny this, it is nevertheless true. For in the early Church, tongues, and prophecy, and words of wisdom and knowledge, were revelations of the Holy Spirit! They came with a “Thus saith the Lord!” And if they are still given to men today, then new revelations are still being given. The Bible is not sufficient! And what are the evil results of such a false and heretical doctrine?
When the only divinely-given rule of faith is removed, then any excess of doctrine and conduct is possible! Remove the only standard whereby teachings can be judged, and it is possible to believe anything; any “fables” (2Tim 4:3,4); any “wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14); any “damnable heresies” (2Pet 2:1); any “commandments of men” (Mat 15:9). And this is precisely what has happened in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. It is the proud boast of many within the movement that they are not concerned with doctrine: “Doctrine divides; we don’t want to know about doctrine! Love is what matters: love, and unity, and the power of the Holy Spirit!” This attitude has led Charismatics to embrace one heresy after another (and this attitude is itself a heresy). As long as a man speaks with tongues, or supposedly has some other “gift,” that man is received as a “brother in Christ”–even if he denies the Trinity, or the true doctrine of Christ’s atoning death, or the true doctrine of the new birth, or anything else!
Increasingly, the only “doctrine” that really matters is the Charismatic doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as analysed above. As long as there is agreement on that, any heretic, regardless of how damnable his heresy, is welcomed as a brother in Christ. There have always been exceptions, but increasingly this has become the rule. For when the spirits are not tried by the Word of God (this having been set aside as an all-sufficient standard), but by those who claim to possess a miraculous gift of “discerning of spirits,” then increasingly the ones who are “discerned” as being led by false spirits, or as denying the Holy Spirit, or even as committing the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, are those who reject Charismatic subjectivism, believe the Bible to be the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and allow Scripture to interpret itself. Those who are orthodox in doctrine are, increasingly, being viewed as the heretics by those within the Charismatic Movement.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic rejection of the true doctrine of Scripture leads to other extremely serious doctrinal errors: the Holy Spirit is glorified, not Christ–contrary to the Word of God (Joh 15:26; 16:14); and regeneration, saving faith, the gift of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, justification—all these great and glorious spiritual blessings are played down as being only “step one”: much more is supposedly needed–the “baptism”. These are matters that have to do with salvation itself. The “gospel” of Charismatism is a false “gospel”. And this rejection of sound doctrine–indeed, this rejection of the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures—has also, step by step, led the Charismatics along the path of Ecumenism: a path that ultimately leads to the doors of Rome. Having jettisoned sound doctrine, they were able to embrace Roman Catholics as “brethren in Christ” when the “Charismatic Catholic Movement” began. Having made “the baptism” the test of orthodoxy, they opened their arms wide in welcome when they beheld Popish priests, nuns, and others “speaking with tongues”, “prophesying”, performing “miracles of healing”, etc. They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that Romanism has always produced its “new revelations” and its “miracles.”
They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Charismatic Movement and Roman Catholicism are one in their rejection of the written Word of God as the sole and all-sufficient authority. They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that, just as it is not the Holy Spirit of God who is at work in Romanism, but the spirit of Antichrist, a false spirit, a lying spirit, a seducing spirit, so it is in the Charismatic Movement! For the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (Joh 14:17). The Scriptures, which he moved men to write (2Pet 1:21), are the Scriptures of truth (Joh 17:17). He does not work contrary to the Word. If, then, the Holy Spirit is not the author of the doctrinal errors of this movement, which have such serious consequences, we are left with only one conclusion. Lying spirits are behind the false doctrines of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. The Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is not of God.
May the Lord be pleased to open the eyes of many within this movement, to the truth of God’s holy Word.
by: Shaun Willcock
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