Charismatic Chaos - Part 9
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 90-60, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 9. 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 9, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 9
"Does God Still Heal?"
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Well, as you know, we are involved in a study of the Charismatic movement,
the contemporary movement, and tonight we come to a section entitled, "Does
God Still Heal?" Now, in the messages that I have been giving we have
intersected with the thoughts about healing, and we have said some things
about that in some of our prior studies and we are not going to repeat those
things. But there is much more that needs to be said tonight as we evaluate
a movement that advocates healing. In fact, if there is anything that would
be typically Charismatic or typically characteristic of the modern
Pentecostal movement, Third Wave movement, or Charismatic movement, it would
be a major emphasis on healing, and we need to understand that.
Let me begin with some illustrations that set the scene for us. A familiar
name to anybody who studies the Charismatic movement and delves into the
issues of healing is the name of a man, Hobart Freeman, a very interesting
man, at one time a professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary,
from which our own Dick Mayhue graduated. And when he was a professor there
in Old Testament, he was considered to be the finest communicator, the finest
teacher there. In fact, Hobart Freeman wrote a very significant book
entitled, "An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets" which, in 1969, was
published and printed by the Moody Bible Institute. So he was considered by
everybody to be a mainline evangelical professor, one who not only understood
but could adroitly teach the truth of Scripture.
Somewhere along the line he changed. Hobart Freeman believed that God had
healed him from Polio. Nonetheless, one of Freeman's legs was so much
shorter than the other that he had to wear corrective shoes and walked with
great difficulty. Freeman became a pastor. He began his ministry as a
Baptist and after he had written and taught for some years, in the mid 60's
he became very fascinated with "faith healing," and it moved him into the
Charismatic movement, and then it moved him further and further towards the
fringes of that movement. He started his own church in Claypool, Indiana; it
was known as Faith Assembly and it grew to more than 2,000 members. Meetings
were held in a building which he called the "Glory Barn" and Church services
were closed to non-members.
So it was kind of a secretive and cultic association. Freeman and the Faith
Assembly congregation utterly disdained all medical treatment. He believed
that modern medicine was an extension of ancient witchcraft and black magic.
To submit to a doctor's remedies, Freeman believed, was to expose oneself to
demonic influence. Expectant mothers in Freeman's congregation were told
that they must give birth at home with the help only of a church sponsored
midwife rather than go to a hospital delivery room or to be treated by a
doctor. By the way, obedience to that teaching, cost a number of mothers and
infants their lives. In fact, over the years, at least 90 church members
died as a result of ailments that would have been easily treatable. No one
really knows what the actual death toll would be if nationwide figures could
be compiled on all the other people who followed Hobart Freeman's teaching.
After a 15 year old girl whose parents belong to Faith Assembly, died of a
medically treatable malady, the parents were convicted of negligent homicide
and sentenced to ten years in prison. Freeman himself was charged with
aiding and inducing reckless homicide in the case. Shortly afterward, on
December 8, 1984, Freeman himself died, interestingly enough of pneumonia and
heart failure complicated by a severely ulcerated leg.
Hobart Freeman's theology did not allow him to acknowledge that Polio had
left one of his legs disfigured and lame. Quote, he said, "I have my
healing." And that is all he would say when anyone pointed out the rather
conspicuous inconsistency between his physical disabilities and his theology.
Ultimately, his refusal to acknowledge his infirmities cost him his life. He
had dutifully, according to his own theology, refused all medical treatment
for the maladies that were killing him, and medical science could easily have
prolonged his life, but in the end he was a victim of his own teaching.
Now, Hobart Freeman is a very familiar name to those involved in Faith
Healing, but he is not the only one. There is another one who succumbed to
ailments and that is a man by the name of William Brannom (sp.), and if you
study anything about the healing movement you are going to come across the
name of William Brannom (sp.). He would be the father of the post World War
II healing revival. He was a man reputed to have been instrumental in some
of the most spectacular healings that the Pentecostals have ever seen. He
died, however, in 1965 at age 56, after suffering for six days from injuries
received in an automobile accident. His theology was unbiblical and
heretical, and of course when applied to himself his theology of healing had
no effect whatsoever, though his followers right to the end, were confident
God was going to raise him up. And even after he died they believed that God
would raise him from the dead.
As a boy, I was brought to become aware of another Faith Healer who became
very, very famous, a man by the name of A. A. Allen. And A. A. Allen, about
whom I read and whom I followed with curiosity, was a famed "Tent
Evangelist." He took his healing meeting from place to place in a tent.
Interestingly enough, A. A. Allen claimed thousands upon thousands of
healings, and himself died of sclerosis of the liver in 1967, having secretly
been involved with alcohol for many years while supposedly being able to heal
Perhaps a more familiar name in the healing movement would be the name of one
who is elevated almost to the status of the Roman Catholic elevation of Mary,
and that's a woman by the name of Kathryn Kuhlman. Kathryn Kuhlman died of
heart failure in 1976, curiously enough. She had battled heart disease for
nearly twenty years, and that statement is made by Jamie Buckingham who would
have been one of her disciples.
Another one that comes to mind, Ruth Carter Stapleton, was the Faith Healing
sister of former United States President Jimmie Carter. [She] refused
medical treatment for cancer because of her belief in faith healing. She
died of the disease in 1983. And even John Wimber, who would be probably the
most prominent modern contemporary Third Wave healer, struggles with chronic
angina and heart problems. He begins his book on Power Healing with a
personal note. This is what it says; quoting John Wimber, he says,
I had what doctors later suspected were a series of coronary
attacks. When we returned home a series of medical tests
confirmed my worst fears, I had a damaged heart, possibly
seriously damaged. Tests indicated that my heart was not
functioning properly, a condition complicated and possibly
caused by high blood pressure. These problems combined with my
being overweight and overworked meant that I could die at any
Wimber writes that he sought God and he says that God told him that in the
same way Abraham waited for his child, I was to wait for my healing. In the
meantime, he says, "He told me to follow my doctor's orders." Wimber writes,
"I wish I could write that at this time I am completely healed, that I no
longer have physical problems, but if I did it would not be true." Now, it
seems obvious, at least a curiosity to all of us, that so many leading
advocates of faith healing are sick!
Annette Capps (sp.), the daughter of Faith Healer Charles Capps (sp.), and
herself a Faith Healer, raised that question in her book; her book is
entitled "Reverse the Curse in Your Body and Emotions." This is what she
People have stumbled over the fact that the so-called "Healing
Minister" later became ill or died. They say, "I don't
understand this. If the Power of God came into operation and
all those people were healed, why did the evangelist get sick?
Why did he or she die?" The reason is because healings that
take place in meetings like that are a special manifestation of
the Holy Spirit. This is different from using your own faith.
The evangelist who is being used by God in the gifts of
healings, is still required to use his own faith in the Word of
God to receive divine health and divine healing for his own
body. Why? Because the gifts of healings are not manifested
for the individual who is ministering, they are for the benefit
of the people.
Now that double-talk basically means that somebody could have faith for
somebody else's healing but not enough faith for their own healing. And so,
sometimes without faith for their own healing they die, while they have
enough faith for other people's healings who live. She goes on to say,
Over the years I have seen various manifestations of the gifts
of healing in my own ministry, but I have always had to use my
own faith in God's word for my healing. There have been times
that I have been attacked with illness in my body but as I
ministered many were healed even though I did not feel well. I
had to receive my healing through faith and acting on God's
Thus, she astonishingly concludes that if a Faith Healer gets sick, it is
because his or her personal faith is somehow deficient when applied to his or
herself. Now, to take that a step further, you must understand that these
people go so far as to say, "That even Jesus Himself sometimes did not have
the faith required for people to be healed."
Perspectives on Faith Healing often seem as varied as the number of Faith
Healers around. Some say that God wants to heal all sickness, others come
close to conceding that God's purposes may sometimes be fulfilled in our
illness and infirmity. Some equate sickness with sin; others stop short of
that, but still find it hard to explain why spiritually strong people get
sick. Some people just "flat out" blame the devil, and they think if they
can tie the devil up in a knot and send him off to Tibet or something [then]
everybody will get well.
Some claim to have the "Gifts of Healing;" others say they have no unusual
healing ability, they simply are used of God to show people the way of faith.
A lot of people used to say they had the "Gift of Healing" but the chicanery
they were using has for so many years been exposed that nobody today can get
away with that stuff anymore. So now they just claim they don't have the
"Gift of Healing," they just sort of pray and have faith and God does what He
wants. Some will say they heal with a physical touch; some will say you heal
through anointing with oil; others say they can speak forth a healing, that
they can speak it into existence; some people say they can only pray for a
healing, and so forth and so on. And there are healers who just keep
changing from one approach to another as the chicanery and the charlatanism
of the healing movement becomes exposed and they have to change their
Always a Faith Healer, the well known Oral Roberts used to claim that he
could heal. He claimed great powers of healing; he no longer claims that.
Oral Roberts claimed God had called him, in fact, to build a massive
hospital. And He said this massive hospital would blend conventional
medicine with Faith Healing. If you visit the city of Tulsa, as I did this
summer, you are absolutely astonished at this facility. It is mind boggling
to see a sixty story building rising out of a weed patch outside Tulsa,
Oklahoma, and next to it a thirty story building rising as well, now
completely vacant and most of it unfinished on the inside. In the face of
huge financial losses apparently God changed His mind and declared that the
whole thing should be closed down. It is a monument to the unfulfilled
promises of Faith Healing. Nonetheless, in spite of these bizarre claims
that never come to pass, Faith Healing and the Charismatic movement keep
Charles Fox Pharham (sp.) who is the father of the contemporary Pentecostal
movement, came to the conviction originally (this is way back at the turn of
the century when the Charismatic movement was then known as Pentecostalism
and just starting) he claimed that God desired all believers to have complete
healing and he developed that into an entire Pentecostal system, and then it
began to flow through the leaders. Amy Simple McPherson (who founded the
Foursquare Church), Angelus Temple (sp.), E. W. Kenyon, William Brannom
(sp.), Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagan, Kenneth Copeland,
Fredrick Price, Jerry Seville (sp.), Charles Capps (sp.), Norval Hayes,
Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, Larry Lee, and on and on it goes. They have all
headlined their public meetings with healing.
There are even Catholic Charismatics such as Father John Bertilucci (sp.),
and Francis McNutt (sp.) who have followed suit seeing that the Charismatic
healing emphasis is a natural extension of Roman Catholic tradition. And
then in the last phase of this so called "The Third Wave" in which we talked
about leaders like John Wimber and others, Paul Cane (sp.) and the Kansas
City Prophets, et al., have made healing a central element in their
repertoire. The claims and methods of these Faith Healers range frankly from
the eccentric to the grotesque. A few years ago I received--I receive
everything in the mail; if they don't send it to me, somebody who wants me to
see it does. And I have received bottles of healing oil and healing water and
all kinds of things--but I received a miracle prayer cloth, and in it the
message said, and I am quoting,
Take this special miracle prayer cloth and put it under your
pillow and sleep on it tonight. Or you may want to place it on
your body or on a loved one. Use it as a release point wherever
you hurt. First thing in the morning send it back to me in the
"green" envelope. Do not keep this prayer cloth, return it to
me. I will take it, pray over it all night. Miracle power will
flow like a river. God has something better for you, a special
miracle to meet your needs.
Now, these are the kinds of things that go on all the time. And of course in
the "green" envelope you not only send the cloth but you send some "green"
money as well. Green being a good reminder of what color they would like to
see. Interestingly enough, the sender of the prayer cloth feels he has
biblical support for doing this. While Paul was in Ephesus, you remember God
performed extraordinary miracles through him, and according to Acts 19, it
says, "Handkerchiefs or aprons were carried from his body to the sick and the
diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them." And as we have
been seeing in the series, however, Paul and the other apostles had been
given unique power, and we talked about Apostolic Power as unique power;
certainly nothing in the New Testament suggests that anybody could send out
handkerchiefs and they are going to produce miracles.
Kenneth Hagan (sp.) tells of one Faith Healer he heard of who used a method
that I have never personally witnessed. Kenneth Hagen (sp.) writes,
He'd always spit on them, every single one of them. He'd spit
in his hand and rub it on them. That's the way he ministered.
If there was something wrong with your head, he'd spit in his
hand and rub it on your forehead. If you had stomach trouble,
he'd spit in his hand and rub it on your clothes and on your
stomach. If you had something wrong with your knee, he'd spit
in his hand and rub it on your knee. And all the people would
Other gimmicks, not quite that uncouth, but every bit as outlandish, also can
be visualized everyday as you watch your television set. Some ask for "Seed
Faith" money. Oral Roberts often says that if you donate money to him, that
is in effect a down payment on your own personal healing. Robert Tilton
regularly devises simple ploys; [he] pledges special healings and financial
miracles to people who send him money; the larger the gift, the better the
miracle. "It's in direct proportion to how much money you send," he says.
Pat Robertson will peer into the camera and as if he can see into people's
living rooms describe people who are being healed that very moment. Benny
Hinn recently healed fellow Faith Healer and Talk Show Host Paul Crouch
(sp.). He healed him on the live broadcast of the Trinity Network. After
Hinn had released his anointing to a roomful of people, Crouch step forward
to testify that he had been miraculously cured of a persistent ringing in the
ears he had been suffering from for years. And on and on it goes, this list
of fantastic claims, incredible stories of healings grow at a frantic pace,
but real evidence of genuine miracles is conspicuously absent.
And everywhere you go people are asking questions about this. From all sides
comes confusion, questions, contradictions. Now as we study the Scripture,
we find there are three categories of spiritual gifts, if we want to call
them that. First would be the category we could say are gifted men like
apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors. These are the men
themselves given as gifts from Christ to the Church. And then we could say
there are the permanent edifying gifts and the temporary sign gifts (the
other two categories). Permanent edifying gifts would be gifts related to
knowledge, and wisdom, and preaching, and teaching, and exhortation, and
faith, and discernment, and showing mercy, and giving, and administration,
and helps, and those things that have an ongoing ministry in the Church.
And then there are those temporary sign gifts, in other words, divine
enablements given by the Holy Spirit for a temporary period of time as a sign
for a very special purpose. These are listed for us in Scripture; they are
miracles, healings, tongues (or languages), and the interpretation or
translation of those languages.
Now, we have noted in our study that such sign gifts had a unique purpose:
very simple--they were to identify the authentic spokesman for God. First of
all, Jesus did miracles. Jesus cast out demons. He did miracles that fall
into three categories: Miracles of Physical Healing; Miracles of Demonic
Deliverance; and Miracles of Natural Phenomena, like walking on water, or
stilling the sea, feeding the people by multiplying bread and fish. And
those miracles were to demonstrate to people that Jesus was not a mere man,
but that He was the Messiah of God. It should be very clear to everyone who
saw Him that this was not a man, because no man could do what He did.
And so Christ had unique capability to do supernatural things in order to
draw attention to the fact that He was unique. In fact, you need to remember
that up until the time of Jesus Christ, there was nobody who could just go
around healing people. There were some healings in the Old Testament, and
there were some miracles of nature, and there were some powerful exhibitions
of God's supernatural work: in creation, and the flood, and many other
supernatural powerful things; but as far as a miracle, which is a subcategory
of the supernatural. . .sometimes people say, "Well, you people always say
there are only three eras of miracles," (and that would be: the Time of
Moses; and then Elijah and Elisha; and then Christ and the Apostles, and
those are the only three periods of miracles). And then they will say,
"Well, that's not true, because creation was miracle, and the flood was a
miracle," and they will go right on through, "Jacob wrestled with an angel
and that was a miracle, and God was always doing supernatural things." But
they fail to make the clear distinction that "miracle" is a technical term:
it is a subcategory for the supernatural.
God is always acting in a supernatural way, even today. Every time someone
is saved that is a supernatural work. But "miracle" is a technical term to
describe an act of God which He does through a human agency, and they are
very rare. And even when you go back into the Old Testament and you find
miracles where God acts through a human instrumentation to authenticate his
messenger and the message, they are rare and nothing like the healing
ministry of Jesus. No one ever just roamed everywhere, healing everybody.
So what you have in the case of Jesus [is something] you have never seen
before. Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of the
world. And so this is a very unique thing. And to assume that it never
happened before (to know that by Old Testament revelation) and it happened at
the time of Christ, uniquely, and then it faded out in the end of the New
Testament era, and now for some strange reason it has all come back at the
same level as once it did and we are supposed to have this massive kind of
healing going on as it did in the day of Christ, is to demonstrate an
imbalanced and an unsound perspective of the purpose of the miracle ministry
of Jesus. It was to authenticate His Messiahship, and it is therefore
irreproducible and unrepeatable.
And so Jesus did unique things which were unique to His own ministry. Now,
it is true that Jesus passed on to the Apostles power in two of the three
categories. Remember now, He healed diseases, He had power over demons, and
He did miracles of nature (natural phenomenon). The first two he gave the
Apostles. They never did any miracles of nature. But "Peter," you say,
"Walked on water!" Yes, but that was a miracle Christ was performing and
that occurred only in His presence. They never did anything like "Feed the
5,000" or "Walk on water" after that, or "Still a storm" or anything like
that. The only two things they were given power to do were "cast out demons
and heal the sick (including raising the dead)."
But in their case, again, these were to point to them as the messengers of
God. There was no printed New Testament and it was very essential that among
all of the people who were saying that they spoke for God somebody be able to
tell who was real, and you could tell because they had power over demons and
power over disease. And so they were given that ability to do those things.
And the Apostles could do them, and those closely associated with the
Apostles could do them.
Go back into Matthew 10:1, "Having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave
them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out," (and that by the way
is the Gift of Miracles: miracle is "dunamis (Greek)" power, power over the
forces of demons) "and He gave them the power to heal every kind of disease
and every kind of sickness." And that was granted to the Twelve. Later on
you find out that that group was expanded and it included the Seventy.
Remember when He sent the Seventy, two-by-two and gave them the same power?
So it was a very small group. "These were the signs," says Paul, of a true
Apostle. "Signs and wonders and miracles," 2 Corinthians 12:12. They were
limited in scope--only casting out demons and healing diseases, and they were
limited in terms of who received them--only the Apostles and the Seventy
commissioned directly by Jesus, those who worked alongside the Apostles. It
never went beyond that.
It never became common for anybody and everybody in the Church to do this.
There is no indication that the evangelists, that the prophets (with a few
exceptions: Barnabas, Philip, Stephen, and those very early men), never an
indication that teaching pastors could do this, and certainly no indication
that members of the Church, the Body of Christ, could do this. These were
unique apostolic gifts. When you study the epistles of Paul--and Paul is
very clear about the fact that if you have problems with Satan and demons you
don't find somebody who can chase them away: you put on your armor. Right?
"We have spiritual weapons to battle against those forces," he said.
Now if false teachers want credibility it is very obvious that they can sure
draw a crowd and gain creditability if they can heal. And so that is always
a kind of ploy that is used by false teachers--it has been so in history,
whether you are talking about tribal witch doctors in Shamanism, in Animism,
and in Paganism, or whether you are talking about Occultic kinds of healings,
or New Age kind of mind healings, or whether you are talking about the
charlatans and the frauds who parade themselves even as Christian healers.
It is a great way to draw a crowd. Why? Because the number one human
anxiety is illness and death.
Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden disease has been a terrible
reality, and for millennia the search for cures to alleviate illness and
suffering has consumed mankind. And I will tell you that if I could choose
one gift, if God would give me one gift that I don't have and I could ask Him
for it and get it, I would ask Him for the gift of healing. I mean, if it
was available to me. Can you imagine what you could accomplish with it?
There are many occasions when I have wished that I could heal. I have stood
in a room in a hospital watching a precious child die of Leukemia while the
parents wept. I prayed with a dear friend as inoperable cancer ate at his
insides. I have stood by helplessly as a young person fought for life in an
intensive care unit, the result of a motorcycle or an automobile accident. I
have seen teenagers crushed through those kinds of things. I have watched
their parents in agony.
I have seen people in the hospital on the edge of death with a gunshot wound.
I have watched people lie comatose while machines try to keep their vital
signs alive, at least on a screen, if not in reality. I watched a close
friend weaken and die after an unsuccessful heart transplant. I have seen
friends in terrible pain from surgery. I know people who are permanently
disabled with sickness and injury. I see babies born with heart breaking
deformities. I have helped people learn to cope with amputations and other
tragic losses. I have been there when a mother was holding to her arms, in
the bedroom, a dead baby who had died of "crib death."
If I could wish for anything, I could certainly wish that I could do
that--heal all those people. Think how thrilling it would be. Think how
rewarding it would be to have that gift. Think of what it would be like to
go into a hospital among the sick and the dying, walk up and down the hall
and touch people and heal them like Jesus did. Wouldn't it be wonderful to
go into the Cancer Ward and the Heart Disease Ward and the Aids Ward, and all
the other places and just heal everybody. And somewhere along the line you
want to ask these Charismatic healers why they don't assemble all of
themselves and go down to that place and let's see if they have the power to
heal! Opportunities to heal the sick are unlimited. And if, as Charismatics
claim, such miracles are "Signs and Wonders," (listen carefully, they say
this) if they are "Signs and Wonders" designed to convince unbelievers that
the gospel is true, then wouldn't that be the way to really convince them?
But strangely, the healers rarely, if ever, come out of their tents, rarely
ever come out of their buildings, rarely ever come out of their television
studios. I have never seen them in a hospital. I have never seen them
walking down a ward with a camera follow
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