Charismatic Chaos - Part 2
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/02/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-53, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 2. A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
of the sermon, "Charismatic Chaos" Part 2, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 2
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
I want to just preface the message tonight, really a study of an issue rather
than a text, which is a little unfamiliar to us as normally we are in certain
texts of Scripture. But I want to preface it with just a couple of comments.
First of all, I want to say that I am very much aware of the fact that not
everyone who is associated with the Charismatic movement is engaged in the
kind of extreme error that we will be from time to time referring to. There
are people who are more moderate. There are people within the Charismatic
movement who themselves are very, very concerned about the heresies and the
aberrations that exists within that movement. And so the movement runs quite
a wide gamut and there are people at all different points.
However, there are some salient features and elements in the movement that we
are endeavoring to deal with and illustrate to you. But again, I ask you to
keep in mind that not everyone in the movement would affirm all these things.
There are various and sundry different kinds of viewpoints. To reinforce
that, there are, according to current statistics, 382 million members of
Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches worldwide, or 1 out of every 5
Christians. So when we talk about a widespread movement, indeed it is the
case. They gain about 19 million members per year and they donate about 34
billion dollars to Christian causes. It is a formidable group. The movement
now includes 11,000 Pentecostal and 3,000 Independent Charismatic
denominations covering 7,000 languages, and two-thirds of all Charismatics
live in the Third World. It is a worldwide movement. And thus it demands
Now tonight as we come to the second in our series on Charismatic Chaos, the
issue at hand is, "Does God still give revelation?" That's our subject for
tonight: Does God still give revelation?
If someone were to write an anthem for the Charismatic movement it would have
to be titled, "God told me! God told me!" you hear that over and over
again. Strange prophecies abound in the Charismatic movement; in fact, it is
well nigh impossible to turn on a Charismatic television station or a radio
station without being exposed, almost on a daily basis to some new "Words
from the Lord." I was watching one today and sure enough, "The Lord said,
the Lord said, the Lord said," was repeated again and again.
This week I listened to a very fascinating tape by a man by the name of James
Ryle. In his tape he tells about the fact that God gives him revelation
through dreams, and that God revealed to him in this incredible dream, which
I listened to him explain,
"Pictures of guitars, blue guitars, iridescent blue guitars." And
then in the dream God showed him amplifiers, and then God told him
that, "The guitars and the amplifiers belong to the Beatles." And
God told him that, "The Church will win the world to salvation
when it goes into the world and sings anointed music like the
Beatles." The tape is filled with statements, "The Lord said, the
Lord said, the Lord said, the Lord said." And here are some
quotes, "The Lord said, 'I called those four lads from Liverpool
to myself. There was a call from God on their lives. They were
gifted by my hand and it was I who anointed them (speaking of the
Beatles). The purpose was to usher in the Charismatic Renewal
with musical revival around the world.'"
Then the Lord said, "The four lads from Liverpool went AWOL and
did not serve in my army. They served their own purposes and gave
the gift to the other side." And then the Lord said, "I lifted
the anointing and for twenty years I've held it in my hand and I
am about to release it again." And then the Lord said, "It
doesn't belong to the world, it belongs to the Church." And then
the Lord said, "I will release an anointing in music that will
take the world by storm like the Beatles when they first came.
New, anointed music that will capture men's hearts." And then the
Lord said, "The same kind of reaction that the Beatles extracted
will come, only this time the girls will not scream, Ringo, John,
George, or Paul, they will scream, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."
Did the Lord say that? Did the Lord say any of that? He says he did.
Surely the most famous of all the Lord's speaking to Charismatics is the
famous, "Oral Roberts Death Threat Prophecy" a preposterous and fabricated
supposed "Word from the Lord." Roberts told his nationwide audience in 1987
that God had threatened to call him home if he couldn't raise 8 million
dollars by his creditor's deadline. Whether or how that threat might have
been carried out the world will never know because Roberts received a last
minute reprieve in the form of a large check from a Florida dog track owner,
as you remember. Two years later when Roberts was forced to close his
massive, multi-million dollar City of Faith Medical Center anyway, in spite
of the 8 million dollars, he asked God, "Why?" And Oral Roberts said God
spoke to him and God said,
"I had you build the City of Faith large enough to capture the
imagination of the entire world, about the merging of My healing
streams of Prayer and Medicine. I did not want this revelation
localized in Tulsa, however, and the time has come when I want
this concept of merging My healing streams to be known to all
people and to go into all future generations." So said God.
Roberts said, "It is clearly in my spirit, as I have ever heard
Him, the Lord gave me an impression, 'You and your partners have
merged prayer and medicine for the entire world, for the Church
World and for all generations.' And then He said, 'It is done.'
And then I asked, 'Is that why after eight years you are having us
close the hospital and after eleven years the medical school?'
And God said, 'Yes, the mission has been accomplished in the same
way that after three years of public ministry, my Son said on the
cross, Father, it is finished!'"
Putting yourself in company with Jesus Christ is a bold move. That kind of
arrogance almost makes us catch our breath. I recently had the opportunity
to stand on the dandelion patch that now surrounds the City of Faith Medical
Center in Tulsa. A sixty floor building next to a thirty floor building. An
absolutely unbelievable edifice rising out of the midst of nothing, in the
outskirts of this city. A monument to a man's folly and certainly no
testimony to the character and the quality and the power of God, for it
stands empty and unfinished, wasted.
The arrogance that causes people to think that God talks to them and puts
themselves on a plane with even Jesus Christ and His work is amazing. But
Oral Roberts is not the only Charismatic who thinks he's receiving private
revelation from God. Most Charismatics, at one time or another, feel that
God speaks to them in some specific way. Either through an audible voice,
some kind of internal impression, a dream (and that's kind of a new one), a
vision, or a prophesy.
Linda Fell (sp.), founder of Rapha Ranch (sp.), sells a tape, a song she was
given by the Holy Spirit as she was being healed of cancer. An editor for a
Christian publisher once told me that he receives submissions every week from
Charismatics who claim God inspired them to write their book, article, song
or poem. My editor friend noted that these manuscripts are often poorly
written, filled with bad grammar, marred by factual and logical errors, or
full of poems that mutilate the language or attempt to rhyme but just miss.
And these are supposed to be authored by the Holy Spirit? Lest you think
that cranks and obscure eccentrics or naive Charismatic believers are the
only ones who would make such claims, you need to know that's not the case.
Even Jack Heyford (sp.), who is very near to us, and would be known even
among Charismatics is a man of honor and integrity and a man who believes the
Scripture, recently told the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America that God
had revealed to him that a new era is coming. He related a vision, in which
he had seen Jesus seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father. And
in his vision, Jesus began to lean forward and rise from His seat, and as the
anointing caught in the folds of His garment and it began to splash out and
fall over the Church, and then Jesus said, "I'm beginning to rise now in
preparation for My Second Coming, those who will rise with me will share in
this double portion of anointing." This is a private revelation that Jesus'
Second Coming is near.
Larry Lee, popular Charismatic preacher, wrote, "Recently, I was in Chicago
preparing to preach and the Lord's Spirit came upon me." He spoke, "I am
going to tell you now the name of the strong man over this nation. The
spiritual strong man that you are facing, the demonic strong man that has
your nation under his control. It is the strong man of greed."
Now, the question is, "Did God talk to this man about the Beatles? Did God
talk to Oral Roberts about the City of Faith? Did God write a song for Linda
Feld? Did Jack Heyford actually see Christ rise from His seat and get ready
for His Second Coming? Was Larry Lee's prophecy really a word from the Lord?
Are we to believe that that is revelation?" One television evangelist claims
that he had a seven hour conversation with Jesus Christ. Seven hours. And
during that time they talked about the problems on earth and discussed
decisions which he, the evangelist, was facing. And Jesus was trying to help
him work out some of these decisions. Significantly, this man also has said
he had some direct encounters with Satan, who has tried to choke the preacher
in his bed. Unfortunately, the man doesn't see the connection between the
two events. It seems to me that Jesus appearing to him was nothing different
than the manifestation of a demonic spirit who took the name of Jesus Christ
and was very likely the same spirit that wanted to choke him. Certainly,
there is no way to tell the difference in that kind of mystical experience.
Spirits who claim to be Jesus Christ abound in my limited experience. I have
even heard them take His name myself, and say they are Jesus Christ when it
is apparent that they are not. Anyone who seeks direct communication with
God or Christ is in serious danger of demonic impersonators of deity.
And there is another, even more basic issue than that, and that is, "Are
Christians still receiving, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, direct
revelation from God? Are we still getting it? Is God still talking?" Most
Charismatics would say a loud and resounding yes.
One of their leaders, a theologian, by the name of Jay Rodman Williams,
former president of one of their schools, wrote this, "The Bible truly has
become a fellow witness to God's present activity." That's an amazing
statement. When you say that the Bible is a fellow witness to God's present
activity you mean that it is not alone, there is somebody else there
witnessing as well. He goes on,
If someone today perhaps has a vision of God, of Christ, it is
good to know that it has happened before. If one has a revelation
from God, to know that for the early Christians, revelation also
occurred in the community. If one speaks a "Thus says the Lord,"
and dares to address the fellowship in the first person, even
going beyond the words of Scripture, that this was happening long
ago. How strange and remarkable it is. If one speaks in the
fellowship of the Spirit, the Word of Truth, it is neither his
thoughts and reflections nor simply some exposition of Scripture,
for the Spirit transcends personal observations, however
interesting or profound they may be. The Spirit, as the Living
God, moves through and beyond the records of past witness however
valuable such records are as a model for what happens today.
Now what he is saying is that the Bible is simply a model of what is going on
all the time. It is one of many witnesses. There have been witnesses in the
past; there are witnesses in the present and they just stand along side the
Bible. The Bible is one of many. He is alleging that the Bible is not the
final source of God's revelation, but simply a witness, like a lot of other
witnesses and there is plenty of additional revelation that God is giving
today. He is saying that Christians not only can, but should add to the
Bible, and that such additions are normal and conventional. The Bible is
just a model for what the Holy Spirit continues to do today. This obviously
is a frightening view: relativistic, mystical, subjective. It tells us that
God continues to speak and there's all kinds of things that He has been
saying and continues to say that we need to place along side the Scripture,
and here we are and we don't have a record of that. That's inherent in the
Charismatic movement; the belief that there is continuing, ongoing
revelation, and God is continuing to speak (which of course is a denial of
the singular authority of Scripture).
Edward Gross in his book, "Miracles, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare," sees the
deadliness of this trend in the Church. He writes,
The age of models has come. A model takes the place of a law.
Models are human perceptions of truth, they are tentative and thus
subject to change as new data becomes available. These models are
open and constantly tested. No scientist dares claim any longer
that one model is the way to explain all known phenomena for fear
that some newly discovered data will prove that scientist to be a
precipitant old fool. The world of science has progressed from
the old approach, Closed Systems to a new approach, Open Systems.
And there are all kinds of new models. If the Bible is a Closed
System of truth, with no new revelation being given through
inspired Prophets or Apostles, then the model approach is an
erroneous and dangerous tool in hermeneutics. There should be no
confusion in this area, the orthodox teaching of Christianity has
always affirmed that God's special saving revelation to mankind is
restricted to the teaching of Scriptures. That is the issue. If
the Bible is complete, then it represents a Closed System of
truth. If it entails a fixed and absolute standard of truth, then
the teaching of Scripture must be ascertained and dogmatically
asserted. If God is still granting new revelation, then the truth
of God is still being progressively revealed; and if this were the
case, our duty would to be to faithfully listen to today's
Prophets as they unraveled God's truth and new and clearer
representations than we find in Scripture.
Well, he says, "I don't believe that." "I don't believe that the Bible is an
opened system, but a closed one." Scripture is a closed system of truth,
completely sufficient and not to be added to. Revelation 22:18-19, the last
chapter in the Bible says, "If you add to it, God will add to you the plagues
that are written in it." And yet we have all these supposed revelations.
What are they? Imagination? Fabrication? Demonization? But not divine
revelation. Now in understanding this issue we need to face some questions.
Question number one, "What does inspiration mean? When we say that the Bible
is inspired, what do we mean? What are we talking about?" Our word inspired
comes from a Latin root that means to "breath in, to inspire."
Unfortunately, that doesn't convey the true meaning of the Greek term used in
Scripture. Actually the concept of "breathing in" is not found in 2 Timothy
3:16, where it says, "All Scripture is inspired by God." It's not the word
for breathing in. That translation has unfortunately mislead some folks, and
they have assumed that men wrote a lot of words and God breathed into them
some kind of power; some kind of divine life--that's not it. When it says,
"All Scripture is inspired," the word "inspire" is theopneustos (GR.). It is
actually a word that said "God-breathed." It is God breathing it out, not
God breathing into it. Literally the verse says, "All Scripture is God-
breathed." It is the breath of God, not the words of men into which God
puffed some divine life. It is God's breath. It is God speaking.
Inspiration does not mean that the Bible has somehow been blown on by God and
given some supernatural quality. It means that the words of the Bible are
the words of God Himself, out of his own mouth. Every word of Scripture
breathed out by God. That's why at the Burning Bush God said to Moses, "Go
and I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Exodus
4:12). And Jeremiah, the weeping prophet of Judah, received this charge from
God, chapter 1, "Whatsoever I command thee, thou shalt speak. Behold I have
put my words in your mouth." And God said to Ezekiel in chapter 3, "Son of
man, go get thee unto the house of Israel. All My words that I shall speak
unto thee, receive in thine heart and hear with thine ears and go and speak
And so then, we have in the Bible the words out of the mouth of God. 2 Peter
1:21, that very important text says, "No prophecy," that is, "No revelation
was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke
from God." The word "moved" means "carried along." They were carried along
by the Holy Spirit. Theologian Thomas Thomas, recalls that as a boy he would
play in the little streams that ran down the mountainside near his home.
We boys like to play what we call "boats." Our boat would be a
little stick, which was placed in the water, and then we would run
along beside it and follow it as it was washed downstream. When
the water would run rapidly over some rocks the little stick would
move rapidly as well. In other words, that little stick which
served as my boyhood boat was carried along, borne along, under
the complete control and direction of the water. It moved as the
water moved it. So it is with reference to the writers of
Scripture. They were carried along, borne along, under the
control and direction of the Holy Spirit of God. They wrote as
the Spirit directed them to write. They were borne along by Him
so that what they wrote was exactly that which the Holy Spirit
intended should be there, and what they wrote was in a very real
sense, not their words; it was the very Word of God.
That's what we mean by inspiration, that the Bible is the very Word of God.
Now, a second question faces us now that we know what inspiration means.
"What is the contemporary approach to Scripture? What's going on today that
threatens this?" Moving outside the Charismatic movement, just a very quick
lesson, but you need to understand it. Modern theologians want to allow for
continued inspiration. In liberal theology or neo-orthodox theology, which
is liberal in the sense that it denies the inspiration of Scripture: they
want to deny. They start from the denial point. Liberal theology, as I told
you this morning, and neo-orthodox theology came out of "The Enlightenment,"
when man began to worship his own mind, believing that he was the ultimate
judge of all truth, being enamored with his intellectual capability. Man
said, "I go to the Bible, I find all kinds of things that are not reasonable,
rational, logical. All the supernatural and miraculous things that I can't
comprehend, I eliminate." So he starts eliminating all of that. So
immediately he, of course, denies the inspiration of Scripture. It isn't the
Word of God, it's the word of men; it has to be changed because there is some
foolishness in here.
So, modern theology then reduces the Bible to just the best efforts of men.
Well, once it is reduced to the best efforts of men then you can have
continuing revelation. Right? Because men can continue to make those kinds
of efforts. So modern theology wants to allow for continued inspiration.
Continued, updated, Word from the Lord in some sort of mystical, personal
way. It is the best of men writing about their religious experiences, and
perhaps even prompted somehow by God to write down their own thoughts and
ideas. At least one of these modern writers, Dewey Beagle by name, believes
that some of the classic anthems of the Church are inspired in the same way
as Scripture. So this is how he would understand inspiration and he is very
popular. He has written, "Some of the great hymns are practically on a par
with the Psalms. And one can be sure that if Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley,
Augustus Toplaley (sp.) and Reginald Heber (sp.) had lived in the time of
David and Solomon and been no more inspired than they were in their own days,
some of their hymns and praise to God would have found their way into the
In other words, the kind of inspiration they're talking about is just the
kind of sort of emotional, intellectual, stimulation that makes you write
down some good thoughts about God, but it is a human effort. Beagle refers
in particular, for example, to George Matheson (sp.), a blind Scottish pastor
who wrote, "Oh love That Will Not Let Me Go," and he says, "It's that kind of
inspiration that characterizes the Bible writers." He says,
What distinguishes the Bible is its record of special revelation,
not a distinctive kind of inspiration. It is just that the Bible
has a unique revelation; that's what makes it distinct, but the
inspiration that brought that revelation, revelation being the
content, inspiration being the process, the process of inspiration
which brought that content is being repeated over and over again
with new content. So you have the Bible and then you have this,
and then you have this, and then you have this, and then you have
this, and it all comes through the same kind of inspiration. The
same kind of inspiration that, for example, is characteristic of
one who writes good music.
Beagle believes that the Canon of Scripture has never been closed. He has
written that, "The revelation and inspiration of God's Spirit continues, for
this reason there is no basis in considering all of the Biblical writers and
editors as qualitatively different from post canonical interpreters." It's
all the same. You just keep having revelation, you just keep having
revelation. That's neo-orthodoxy. That's liberalism. And that is, in
effect, precisely what the Charismatic movement believes. That is why,
beloved, you can have neo-orthodoxy and Charismaticism coexisting in an
institution, because they basically believe in an open canon. They basically
believe in ongoing revelation. They may define it a little differently, but
they believe that there's still inspiration and revelation coming.
That heretical view frightens any true Biblical scholar, any true believer in
Scripture, because it destroys the distinctiveness of the Bible. If God is
still inspiring revelation, we have got real problems. If the Canon of
Scripture is still opened, and God is still giving prophecies, and psalms,
and words of wisdom, and words of knowledge, then we ought to be seeking to
compile all that stuff, and we ought to be most interested in studying the
more recent revelations because they're the ones that speak most directly to
our times. By the way, some of the Charismatics can see the problem here.
Their most popular magazine is a magazine called "Charisma." An article in
Charisma recently said this,
To meditate on our personal prophecies, we should record them if
at all possible. If someone approaches us saying, he or she has a
word from God, we should ask the person to wait a moment until we
can get an audio recorder or else ask the person to write it down.
If the word comes from someone on the platform during a meeting
that is not being recorded, we must try to write down as much as
is possible, getting at least the main points.
"This is Scripture, we have to write it down!" My friend that's heresy.
That is outright heresy that the Bible is still being written. The Canon of
Scripture is not opened. God's Word, Old Testament and New Testament, is one
unique miracle. It came together over a period of 1500 years. More than 40
men of God, Prophets and Apostles wrote God's word. Every jot and every
tittle without error in perfect harmony, and when it was done it was done.
No hymn is worthy to be compared to Scripture. No modern mystical experience
can be spoken of in the same breath as Scripture.
And that leads to a third query, "Is revelation progressive?" These people
who say that it is progressive, are they right? Going back to J. Rodman
Williams, a Charismatic theologian, he argues for ongoing revelation,
In the Spirit, the present fellowship is as much the arena of
God's vital presence as anything in the Biblical account. Indeed,
in light of what we may learn from this past witness and take to
heart, we may expect new things to occur in our day and in days to
come. In prophecy God speaks; it is as simple, and profound, and
startling as that. What happens in the fellowship is that the
Word may suddenly be spoken by anyone present and so variously a
"Thus says the Lord," breaks forth in the fellowship. It is
usually in the first person, such as, "I am with you to bless
you," or has the directness of an, "I, Thou" encounter. It comes
not in a heavenly language but in the native tongue of the person
speaking and with his accustomed inflections, cadences and
manners. Indeed, the speech may be coarse and ungrammatical, it
may be a mixture of King James and modern, it may falter as well
as flow. Such really doesn't matter for, in prophecy, God uses
what He finds and through frail human instruments the Spirit
speaks the Word of the Lord.
Now that is as clear as you can ever hear it, that God is still giving
revelation. Bad grammar, but revelation.
All of this, to repeat, is quite surprising and startling. Most
of us, of course, were familiar with prophetic utterances recorded
in the Bible, and willing to accept it as the Word of God.
Isaiah's or Jeremiah's "Thus says the Lord" we were accustomed to,
but to hear a Tom or a Mary today in the 20th Century speak the
same way! Many of us, also had convinced ourselves that prophecy
ended with the New Testament until suddenly, through the dramatic
thrust of the Holy Spirit, prophecy comes alive again. Now we
wonder how we could have misread the New Testament for so long.
"Now we wonder how we could h
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