Charismatic Chaos - Part 6
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 90-57, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 6. 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 6, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 6
"The Third Wave"
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
It is a somewhat difficult task that falls to me this evening, to discuss
with you, in the series on "Charismatic Chaos," some of the matters with
regard to a movement known as the "The Third Wave." I cannot, by any means,
consider all of the issues, nor can I speak of all those who represent that
movement. But I do want to give you some perspective so that you can be
alert and aware in regard to what is happening.
Of all of the elements of the Charismatic movement, that are contemporary to
us today, this one is getting the most press. Of all the questions that are
asked to me by people who write and call with regard to issues facing us in
the Charismatic movement, this is the most commonly discussed one. The main
figure in what is known as the "Third Wave" is a man by the name of John
Wimber who is pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim. He is
the major figure in this movement that has come to be known as the "Third
Wave of the Holy Spirit." It is sometimes called the "Signs and Wonders"
movement. And this latest Charismatic tide seems to have swept across the
globe in the last decade. It is literally everywhere in the English speaking
parts of the world.
The term the "Third Wave" was coined by C. Peter Wagner who is a Missions
professor at Fuller Seminary and the author of several books on church
growth. He is really the leading proponent of the Third Wave philosophy and
methodology. According to Wagner, he said, "The First Wave was the
Pentecostal Movement, the Second Wave was the Charismatic Movement, and now
the Third Wave is joining them." And by that he means an inundating wave of
the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting itself in visible ways. And while
acknowledging the Third Wave's spiritual ancestry, that is, that it is the
third of those three, Wagner nonetheless rejects the label "Charismatic and
Pentecostal." In fact, most of the people in the Third Wave don't want to be
identified in that way. Wagner says,
The Third Wave is a new moving of the Holy Spirit among
evangelicals who for one reason or another have chosen not to
identify with either the Pentecostals or the Charismatics. Its
roots go back a little further but I see it as mainly a movement
beginning in the 1980's and gathering momentum through the
closing years of the 20th century. I see the Third Wave as
distinct from, but at the same time, very similar to the first
and second waves. They have to be similar because it is the
same Spirit of God who is doing the work. The major variation
comes in the understanding of the meaning of "Baptism in the
Holy Spirit" and the role of tongues in authenticating this. I
myself, for example, would rather not have people call me a
Charismatic, I do not consider myself a Charismatic, I am simply
an Evangelical Congregationalist who is open to the Holy Spirit
working through me and my church in any way He chooses.
He refuses the label "Charismatic," not primarily because of any doctrinal
distinction, but primarily because of the stigma attached to the name. It's
important for me to mention that to you because if you talk to someone in the
Third Wave they might endeavor to distance themselves from classic
Pentecostalism or more contemporary Charismaticism, but the fact is that they
are basically the Third Wave by their own admission of the very same kind of
theology. It is accurate then to see the Third Wave as part of the whole
Charismatic movement as we know it. While it is true that many who identify
with the Third Wave will avoid using the term "Charismatic" and they'll even
avoid using Charismatic jargon when writing or speaking about Spirit Baptism
or other issues. Basically, the theology is the same. The terminology may
change; the theology is for all intents and purposes identical. Most Third
Wave teaching and preaching that I have listened to, that I have read, echoes
standard Charismatic theology, and therefore in evaluating the Third Wave, we
would assume that it is safe to say that the other issues that we have been
discussing, that we find unbiblical in the Charismatic movement, are
generally true of this movement as well, although there may be some
individuals in the movement who would vary from that.
So at its very core it is an element of the Charismatic movement. At its
core is an obsession with sensational experiences, a preoccupation with the
"Charismata" that is, tongues, healings, prophecies, words of knowledge,
visions, and ecstatic experiences, and that is, of course, where we find the
indisputable link between the Third Wave and the Charismatic and Pentecostal
movements. In all three movements there is a major absorption with these
supernatural, sensational kind of power encounters or power displays as they
like to call them. They de-emphasize what you and I would know as the
traditional means of spiritual growth: prayer, Bible study, the teaching of
the Word, and the fellowship of other believers. They don't intend to do
that and they wouldn't do that in statement or even in print. But because of
the very surpassing emphasis on the sensational experiences, those matters
tend to get pushed significantly, if not all together, into the background.
Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers, all will affirm that any
Christian who is not experiencing some supernatural events, some supernatural
giftedness, some kinds of healings, some kinds of prophecies, words of
knowledge, or manifestations of the Spirit of God, in visible tangible ways,
is really stuck at a low level of spiritual progress; is denying the full
power of God and denying himself the blessing of God.
Now, while those in the Third Wave would like to distance themselves from the
first and second wave, because of its excesses. The truth of the matter is,
the third wave has not managed to avoid any of the excesses that are
characteristic of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. In fact, there
are some in the Charismatic movement who want to distance themselves from the
Third Wavers because they feel that they go to excesses that even those
Charismatics wouldn't go to.
A visit, for example, to the Vineyard, would reveal to you all the commotion
of many people speaking in tongues at the same time. It would reveal to you
intense kind of emotional experiences going on where people were falling on
the floor and laying in prone positions for as long as an hour, some people
with their limbs extended. It would reveal to you people giving multiple
prophecies, some of them rather bizarre, and some of them with poor grammar,
and yet claiming they come from the Lord. There would be likely an
experience in which they would clear the floor of chairs and they would be
dancing around in a completely liberated fashion in any form that they would
choose to do that, with people again perhaps falling over, climbing on
chairs, dancing on the top of chairs, and doing all the things that once were
associated with what we used to call, "Holy Rollers." In fact, Chuck Smith,
pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, told one researcher, "John Wimber has
absorbed every abhorrent teaching developed by the Pentecostals into his
Now, all I want you to understand is that the Third Wave people very often
want to see themselves as mainline evangelical. They want to distance
themselves from the Pentecostal, Charismatic excesses, and yet it seems to be
true that the excesses that occurred in both the Pentecostal and Charismatic
movements are very characteristic of the Third Wave as well. What makes them
a bit different is that they can line up some teachers and leaders that
appear to have more academic credentials than has been true in the
Charismatic and Pentecostal movement. That may mean, that in the future,
there will be some correctives that will come to some of those excesses,
which as of yet has not taken place. But despite all of their claims to the
contrary, Third Wave apologists have had astonishing success in selling their
movement as a non-Charismatic phenomena. Unsuspecting churches, and I think
unsuspecting denominations have opened their doors and their pulpits to Third
Wave teachers, I think because of their academic credentials and because they
claim not to be in the line of the Charismatics, but in fact, they are.
If you look very closely at the Third Wave you will see in it the very same
kind of things you see typically in the Charismatic movement. And so I want
to do a little bit closer inspection, and as I said we can't by any means
exhaust this in the next half hour or so as we examine it, but I will try to
put you in touch with some of the issues that need to be addressed in a much
more comprehensive way than I'll be able to do tonight. But I hope that I
can give you enough information to set you in the right direction.
I want to just consider maybe four of the promises that the Third Wave makes
that need to be inspected rather carefully. The first promise they make is
that they are experiencing supernatural Signs and Wonders, and that these
Signs and Wonders come at a rather proliferated rate. That is to say they
are not abnormal, they are not uncommon, they are not few and far between,
but rather they are normal, common, and very often come in a flurry. They
believe that fantastic Signs and Wonders demonstrate the genuineness of their
movement. The fact is that we cannot turn our back on it because
supernatural things are happening all the time. Miraculous phenomena is at
the very heart of the Third Wave credo and experience.
Third Wave people are persuaded they are having miracles, they are having
visions, they are speaking in tongues, giving prophecies, predicting the
future, reading peoples minds (that is, they can stand up in a meeting and
tell you your home address, your mother's maiden name, your father's mother's
maiden name), and all of those kinds of things that we have always associated
with people like the "Amazing Crescan" (sp.) who purvey a certain kind of
magic, a certain kind of con art or whatever you want to call it. But they
are into these very same kind of things. In fact, it was interesting to me
that one of their leaders said that the key to his really "buying into" and
believing this whole thing was when one of their prophets stood up and told
him, and told the whole audience, his mother's maiden name and the true first
name of his father who was only known by a nickname.
And so they believe that these kind of things are happening, that there are
healings; that there are resurrections from the dead, and they frankly view
Christianity without those things as impotent and adulterated by the western
materialistic mindset. And [they believe that] unless we can escape the
western materialistic mindset and catapult ourselves into the Third World
paradigm, and begin to think in terms of mystical phenomena, we are going to
be locked into a very shallow kind of Christianity. Signs and Wonders also
would be the key, they believe, to Third Wave evangelism. Third Wavers say
that unbelievers must experience the miraculous in order to be brought to
full faith. Merely preaching the gospel message, they believe, will never
reach the world for Christ.
One of their leaders has said, "That we cannot evangelize the world with the
simple gospel, apart from Signs and Wonders." This, in spite of the fact,
that Paul, in Romans 1, says that the simple gospel is the power of God unto
salvation to everyone who believes. But merely preaching the gospel, they
believe, isn't going to do it, it'll never reach the world for Christ. Most
people will not believe without seeing miracles, they say, and those who do
will be inadequately converted, and therefore stunted in their spiritual
growth. John Wimber, himself, cites Elijah's confrontation with the prophets
of Baal on Mount Carmel, as a classic example of power encounter, where the
power of God vanquishes the power of evil.
Similar Signs and Wonders, say third wave gurus are the chief means we will
be using to spread the gospel. And so what they are doing is traveling all
over the world endeavoring to teach the Church how to do Signs and Wonders.
And you will hear them openly confess, even the leaders at the highest level
and those that are kind of developing into their next generation of leaders,
that they are learning how to do miracles. They are learning how to heal the
sick, raise the dead, read minds, tell people their address and phone
numbers, and their names of their parents. They are learning to do that,
they are learning to call out healings, they are learning to read behind
somebody's face and see the sin that is in them. They are learning to do
that, because that is very essential if they are going to convince the world
that the message is from God.
Modern miracles workers have yet to call down fire from heaven as did Elijah,
but they may be working on that as well. Third Wave officials tell of some
fantastic Signs and Wonders, Wimber, for example, reported an incident where
a woman's toe, which had been cut off, supposedly grew back. He described
another woman in Australia whose cleft palate closed up miraculously three
days after God him a "word of knowledge" that she would be healed. Wagner
recounted a report from an Argentine faith healer, who's in the movement, by
the name of Carlos Anacondia (sp.), who said, two particular manifestations
of the Holy Spirit seem to impress unbelievers more than anything else in his
crusades, "falling in the power of the Spirit" and "filling teeth." On a
fairly regular basis, decayed teeth are filled and new teeth grow where there
were none before. Interestingly enough, according to Anacondia, most
unbeliever's teeth are filled and very few believers get their teeth filled.
Now, I don't why he said that, or even why that's supposedly true, but I have
another question, "Why does God fill teeth instead of just giving them new
teeth as long as He is going to do it?"
But, nonetheless, whether you are talking about Wagner or Wimber, they are
convinced that these miracles are happening. They are at least trying to
convince us they are happening. Both of them are convinced, for example, at
least from what they say, that many dead people are being raised from the
dead. Many of them, not just some, not just a few, but many. And it is
really difficult to resist the conclusion that these are either utter
fabrications, that have just grown with the telling, or that these people are
so caught in the wish that these things come to pass, that they have
convinced themselves that in fact they do. In the two cases that I mentioned
to you from John Wimber, he maintains that medical doctors witnessed the
events, yet he offers no documentation.
And you have to ask the question somewhere along the line, "Why don't they
publish proof that these events really took place?" It would seem to me that
if people are being raised from the dead, at a fairly regular clip through
the year, some of these people could show up somewhere and there could be
some evidence. Particularly if they had been in the grave for several days
like Lazarus, because somebody would have been there to see them put in the
ground. And we wonder why they don't publish the proof of these things,
phenomena such as digit and limb replacement, the healing of birth defects,
supernatural dentistry, and raising the dead. It seems to me that it would
be rather easy to document. It would certainly help bring about the kind of
world wide response the Third Wave people say they are hoping to have.
To borrow from one of them, you can only imagine if they could take four
quadriplegics and instantly heal them of their quadriplegia. Four who were
well known by many and been known for years to be in that condition, and they
could step out of the wheel chair and be absolutely 100% whole. It wouldn't
seem too difficult a thing to present the evidence for that. And it would
seem to me to be quite a powerful statement.
But a pattern has begun to emerge from the Third Wave literature, and that is
this, the truly spectacular miracles always seem to involve nameless people.
Real people's miracles tend to be mundane and hard to prove: cures involving
back pain, inner healings, migraine relief, emotional deliverance, ringing in
the ears, maybe some internal problem that is stated but not verified. The
only time you get a detailed, step-by-step, carefully laid out description of
a healing situation is an occasion when the healing doesn't happen. You hear
rather oblique references to the healing that did happen, and rather detailed
descriptions of the ones that don't.
A prime example is Wagner's account of his friend Tom Brewster, a paraplegic,
who believed in healing. Brewster was so hopeful that God would heal him
that he even distributed a "Declaration of Expectation" to his friends--an
expression of his faith that he would one day walk. That faith never
wavered, Wagner says, though it had been almost thirty years since a diving
accident left him confined to a wheel chair. But the miracle never came.
Brewster died after unsuccessful bladder surgery. It's difficult to read
that account without noting how markedly it contrasts with the many supposed
miracles that these Third Wave people account. The most dramatic miracles
come with only sketchy details and are almost nearly always anonymous.
Rarely do they ever involve people who are known personally to those who
report the miracles. You understand that? They are not first hand. And
whenever you hear the story told about the first hand it seems to have a sad
Perhaps the most significant man in the life of John Wimber was a British
Anglican who died of cancer, much to the great dismay and concern and sorrow
of John. A group of five medical doctors, Christians, attended a recent
conference the Third Wave had. These men were hoping to establish the truth
of the claims that miraculous healings were taking place. One of them,
Doctor Philip Seldon (sp.) reported,
The fact that John Wimber knew we were present and observing may
have served to tone down the claims which we understand were
made at previous conferences. Mr. Wimber, himself, referred to
bad backs and indicated that people could expect pain relief but
no change which could be documented by a doctor. He admitted
that he had never seen a degenerated vertebrae restored to
normal shape. And as I suspected, most of the conditions which
were prayed over were in the psychosomatic, trivial, or
medically difficult to document categories. Problems with left
great toe, nervous disorder, breathing problems, barrenness,
unequal leg lengths, bad backs and neck.
The doctor concluded, "At this stage we are unaware of any organic healings
which could be proven."
Now, what explanation is given for people who are not healed, because we know
that many people must go there who have real problems. Right? I mean, if
you hear that miracles are being done and you are looking for that to happen
in your life--you are going to go. And people do not get healed--obviously.
The reasons given are: some people don't have faith in God for healing;
another reason, personal unconfessed sin creates a barrier to God's healing
power; another one they say is persistent and widespread disunity, sin, and
unbelief in bodies of believers and families, inhibits healings in individual
members of the body.
In other words, they will say, one, "You don't have enough faith to be
healed. Your lack of faith is hindering God." Or they will say, "You have
unconfessed sin in your life and you put a barrier between you and God." Or
they will say, "You are going to a church that doesn't believe in healings so
you are not going to get healed as long as you are in that environment." Or
they will say, "Because of incomplete or incorrect diagnosis of what is
causing your problem, you do not know how to pray correctly, and if you don't
know what your problem is you can't pray correctly to get it fixed, it won't
get fixed, or it might not." "And some people," they say further, don't get
healed because they assume that God always heals instantly, and when they
don't get instantly healed they stop praying, so they don't get healed.
Oddly enough, John Wimber, himself, said, "I never blame the sick person for
lack of faith if healing doesn't come." That's a contradictory statement.
And eventually he is still trying to piece together the theology of this. He
struggles, because he said also, "I have a continually expanding group of
disgruntled people who have come for healing and don't get it."
Now, the reality is, with the Third Wave, with all of its emphasis on signs
and wonders, it has produced nothing really verifiable that qualifies in the
New Testament sense as an authentic sign or wonder, at least nothing that
they have made available. Jesus' miracles must, after all, be the standard
by which we make an evaluation. Right? No one before Jesus or since has
performed as many signs and wonders as He did during His earthly ministry.
His miracles were strikingly different from those produced by the modern
signs and wonders movement. None involved psychosomatic infirmities, all
were visible and verifiable, they were, in short, true signs and wonders.
We learned some other things about the miracles from our Lord's ministry,
chiefly that miracles do not necessarily produce faith in an unbelieving
heart. Let me say that again, they do not necessarily produce faith in an
unbelieving heart. I don't want to say that there aren't times when God can
use or has used the miraculous to produce or to assist in producing faith.
Faith is a gift from God but it is possible that a miracle has been a
component in God bringing about that faith. But that is not necessarily what
happens, and that certainly cannot be guaranteed to happen. In fact, in the
Gospel of John, Jesus did many signs and many wonders. In fact, He
proliferated that entire nation of Palestine with signs and wonders. And the
people were able to see them and even to participate in them, such as in the
feeding of the Great Multitude.
The net effect of all of that tremendous, tremendous, miracle working
enterprise could be summed up in the words of John 12:37, "But though He had
performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him."
There is no guarantee that because there are miracles there will be saving
faith. It is true that as I said, God may use miracles to bring about faith.
In Acts 9, you might want to look at it for a moment; in Acts, chapter 9, in
verse 32, "Peter was traveling through all those parts," writes Luke. "He
came down to the saints who lived at Lydda. And there he found a certain man
named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. And
peter said to him, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your
bed.' And immediately he arose. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw
him, and they turned to the Lord."
If you were to read into the next section, in Joppa, there was a woman there
named Tabitha (or Dorcas). She died and Peter was used to bring her back to
life. And in verse 42 it says, "And it became known all over Joppa, and many
believed in the Lord." We don't want to say categorically, that there would
never be a time when God wouldn't cause some miraculous act to be a component
in the producing of faith. But that seems to be the minority effect. The
majority seem not to have such a response. In spite of all of Jesus'
miracles, raising the dead, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind,
having authority over demons, the people rejected Him, the people crucified
Him, and at the time of His death there were only about 120 followers
gathered in the Upper Room, and that after several years of miraculous acts.
The gospels contain numerous examples of people who witnessed Jesus' signs,
who witnessed His wonders, and yet remained in utter unbelief. He rebuked
the cities where He performed most of His miracles: He rebuked Korazim,
Bethsedia, He rebuked Capernaum, because they didn't repent, and because they
had seen so many miracles. And He even says that they were even worse off
than Sodom and Gomorrah, because Sodom and Gomorrah, as bad as it was, would
have repented if it had seen as much as they had seen. John 2:23 tells us
that, "Many believed in His name, because they saw the signs," yet that kind
of belief was not a saving belief. Jesus didn't consider them true
believers, according to verse 24.
In John, chapter 6, verse 2, the record says that, "A great multitude was
following Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on
those who were sick." And yet, in verse 66, when He began to teach them, and
He began to speak about the spiritual issues that confronted them, it says,
many of the same crowd "withdrew, and were not walking with Him any more."
So there are times when, whatever kind of believing they did, was not
believing unto salvation. In John, chapter 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the
dead, a monumental miracle. Absolutely monumental! Even His enemies
couldn't deny it, according to John 11:47. But far from believing in Jesus,
that simply accelerated their desire to plot His death.
Things really weren't much different than that in the Book of Acts, in the
early Church. In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from
birth and again the Jewish religious leaders didn't deny the miracle had
occurred, according to Acts 4:16. They couldn't deny it, but their response
was far from saving faith. They ordered the Apostles to stop speaking in the
name of Jesus. Go back into the Old Testament and you can examine the record
of Old Testament signs and wonders, they didn't produce saving faith either.
Pharaoh's heart was hardened despite the powerful signs and wonders God did
through Moses. The entire generation of Israelites who witnessed those same
miracles, died in unbelief in the wilderness. It didn't seem to lead them to
any great spiritual level of devotion.
Despite all the miracles performed during the time of Elijah and Elisha, and
those times when God acted miraculously at other seasons, both Israel and
Judah failed to repent and were ultimately carried away into captivity. In
fact, the very account that John Wimber cites as Biblical justification for
power encounters, Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal, is an
example. The revival produced out of that amazing act by which God sent fire
from heaven and burned up stones and water, the amazing, amazing miracle
produced a very short lived response, and within a few days Elijah was hiding
for fear of his life, and Baal worship continued until God finally judged
Now, that is not to say that signs and wonders were not important when God
used them. It is not to say that they never were used by God to be a part of
the production of faith. But that was not the normal result. They often
attracted people's attention so the gospel message could be [preached], and
people hearing that message were saved. But, miracles and signs and wonders,
in themselves, do not produce saving faith. And so when they say they
promise "signs and wonders" it's questionable whether the "signs and wonders"
are really legitimate, and it's questionable whether the "signs and wonders"
are necessary for producing saving faith, since that is not their purpose in
the Scripture generally.
Secondly, they make the promise of "Powerful Evangelism," "Power Evangelism."
What they are really doing (and this follows the first point) is being
powerful in terms of turning people to God. My conviction on this, however,
is that what they say is "Powerful Evangelism" lacks, very often, the very
necessary element of evangelism which is a clear proclamation of gospel
truth. The saving message gets badly corrupted and sometimes even omitted.
Third Wave books and Third Wave testimonies are filled with anecdotes about
people who supposedly became Christians on the basis of some miracle they
saw; some supernatural wonder they saw, with little or no mention of the
gospel having been proclaimed to them.
In fact, in the book, Power Evangelism, which was John Wimber's main book and
sort of set this thing in motion (it's the main textbook on evangelism),
there is no reference in that whole book to the cross of Christ or the
doctrine of the atonement. I understand, now, that some are endeavoring to
instruct him in that matter so that he can understand that, and that there is
a revision of that book coming out which will delineate a clear doctrine of
the atonement and the true gospel. But, up until now it hasn't seemed to be
necessary for the expansion and explosion of the movement. Soteriology, or
the doctrine of salvation, an accurate gospel message, can hardly be
considered as a major thrust of this movement. In all the fuss about the
signs and wonders, the content of the gospel seems to have been given second
One report goes like this,
A serious consideration by observers in one of the seminars, was
that there was no gospel in the so-called evangelistic meeting.
The cross of Jesus was not central, the atonement was not
explained, and mankind's need and the provision of redemption
not even cursorily treated. Believing himself to be following
the example of Jesus and the Apostles, John Wimber called out
for those who needed to be healed: bad backs, short legs, neck
pain, and a whole host of diseases. People were asked to stand
and team members dispatched to pray for them while on the stage
John demanded that the Spirit come, and after a few minutes of
silence several screams were heard and people sobbing. A little
later it was declared that people had been healed and God had
given a token as a sign to those who did not believe. In short,
they were asked to base their decision on what they had seen, or
rather the interpretation of what they had seen, and the
sacrifice for sin through Christ didn't even get a mention. I
left wondering what faith people would have been converted to
that night? It didn't seem to resemble New Testament
Now, I realize that this may be but the observation of one individual, but it
seems as though in reading the material, this is a somewhat common thread.
Peter Wagner says that he marvels that Argentine evangelist, Omar Cabrerra
(sp.) has people saved and healed before he starts preaching. It's a
question to me, how can you get saved before you hear the message? But [it
is] not a question that seems to bother some of them. Most of the Third
Wavers believe that miracles are more effective than the gospel message
preached, that preaching is limited, and I shared some of that with you a
few weeks ago. That somehow preaching is a very poor way to get people to
come to Christ, the least of all ways desirable. Wagner further writes,
Christianity began with 120 in the Upper Room, within three
centuries it had become the predominant religion of the Roman
Empire. What brought this about? The answer is deceptively
simple, while Christianity was being presented to unbelievers in
both Word and deed, it was the deed that far exceeded the Word
in evangelistic effectiveness.
That's a remarkable statement: "That the deed is more powerful than the
Word," seems to me to "fly in the face" of Hebrews 4, which says that, "The
Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, and is able to pierce to depths
that nothing else can pierce." The Anglican, Michael Harper says, "Miracles
help people believe." The question is, "Believe what?" Is the gospel being
clearly, carefully delineated? In fact, it has been said that those of us
who don't do signs and wonders, and perform miracles, are doing what they
call "Programmatic Evangelism," instead of "Power Evangelism." It is
insipid, it is powerless, vapid, kind of evangelism. What is needed is
"Power Evangelism," supernatural encounters. Those are the things that bring
people to Christ.
Two fallacies, at least, lurk in that kind of thinking; both render it
utterly ineffective in winning people to genuine faith in Christ. When
modern miracles become the basis for an evangelistic invitation, the real
message of the gospel somehow becomes incidental. And you would have to be
in a meeting where you would see the "swept away attitude" of people who are
so deeply lost in an emotional experience, and this may not always be the
case, but often the case, that a clear message might not come through. There
is often a mystical, ethereal Jesus who replaces the historical, Biblical
one. And the focus of faith becomes faith in the miraculous, rather than
faith in the Savior Himself. Those who put their trust in modern miracles
are not saved by that faith no matter how earnestly they may believe they
are. You are only saved by putting your faith in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Power Evangelism seems to me to be an unbiblical concept. "Faith
comes from hearing," doesn't it? "And hearing the Word of Christ." It is
the gospel, not signs and wonders, that is the power of God unto salvation.
And do you not remember what Luke 16:31 says, "If they do not listen to Moses
and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though someone rises . . ."
what? "From the dead." Despite the many signs and wonders that Jesus
performed, Jesus didn't practice that kind of Power Evangelism. In fact, He
repeatedly rebuked those who demanded signs, (Matthew 12, 16; Mark 8; Luke
11, 23; John 4). He rebuked the "signs seekers."
The emphasis of Jesus' ministry was not miracles but preaching. He often
preached without doing signs, without doing wonders. And then in Mark 1:29-
34, we read that Jesus did many miraculous healings in Galilee. Verse 37,
tells us that Peter and the others found Him the next morning and excitedly
said, "Everybody is looking for you. They want to see more of this. They
want to see more signs and more wonders." And Jesus said this, (Mark 1:38)
"Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach
there also; for that is what I came out for." He came to preach, therein
lies the power. Preaching the Word was more important than the Signs and
Wonders, and I believe the Third Wave is advocating a different approach and
is out of balance with the Bible in that regard.
Well, there is more to say. Just briefly, let me share two thoughts with
you. They also promise a Biblical orientation, but I am very much afraid of
the fact, and by their own admission, that they have many errors in their
theology. And as I spoke to several of them this week, I asked the question,
"If God is giving Signs and Wonders, is it to authenticate His message?"
Which the answer has to be yes. "Then would you explain to me why the people
who claim to be doing the Signs and Wonders are the ones who have an errant
theology? Why would God be authenticating error?" It would seem to me that
if God was going to give somebody the ability to do Signs and Wonders, thus
to draw people to His message, He would give such a gift and ability to one
who was most capable of articulating accurately the proper message. And by
their own admission they realize that there are many theological
inaccuracies, Biblical inaccuracies, in the movement, and that poses the
unanswerable query as to, "Why in the world would God want to be using
miracles to authenticate those who, as of yet, don't even have their theology
straighten out?" John Wimber would be the first to admit that they are still
accumulating a theology. He made the statement that, "We are drawing
together our experiences so that we can frame up a theology." And it seems
odd to think that God would be vindicating such and authenticating such.
Furthermore, they are committed to the fact that the Bible is not enough,
that there must be further communication from God. One of their leaders says
To believe that the Scripture is the end of God's revelation is
a demonic doctrine. In order to fulfill God's highest purpose
for our lives, we must be able to hear His voice both in the
written word and the word freshly spoken from heaven. Satan
understands the strategic importance of Christians hearing God's
Word, so he has launched various attacks against us in this
area. Ultimately, this doctrine, that is, believing that the
Scripture is the end of revelation, is demonic, even though
Christian theologians have been used to perfect it. So
Christian theologians who have perfected the idea that the
Scripture is the end of God's revelation, have perfected a
demonic doctrine, because God is still speaking.
And there is a great thirst for new revelation, that I believe imposes upon
the movement a low view of Scripture's sufficiency.
Well, let me just give you a final note. There is much more to say about
that, you can read it in my book [Charismatic Chaos] when it gets here in a
few months. There is just one other thing to note, and so much more that I
would like to say. They claim also an evangelical heritage, they claim also
an evangelical heritage. If you listen to them, you would believe that they
are in the mainstream of evangelicalism, that they are committed to a
traditional, Biblical theology. And yet that is not true. Statements of
faith and creeds are just not a part of that movement. John Wimber's
Vineyard is typical, I am quoting from one writer,
Another disturbing aspect of the Vineyard's ministry is their
lack of any written statement of faith. Because Vineyard
members come from a variety of denominational backgrounds, the
leadership has avoided setting strong doctrinal standards. This
de-emphasis of doctrine is also consistent with the leadership,
whose backgrounds, theologically include association with the
Quakers, who typically stress the inner experience of God and
mimimize the need for doctrinal expressions of one's
understanding of God.
That's from the Christian Research Institute. There is no way that they can
connect up with historic, traditional, evangelical, orthodox theology,
because they don't codify doctrine. They don't develop creeds and
theological statements, so how do they know where they stand? And yet in
spite of that, they want to position their movement in the mainstream of
historic evangelicism. They want to emphasize conservative, even
fundamentlist roots, but that does not bear out under examination. The
movement is broadly ecumenical and cencredic. There is an evangelical veneer
but the wide embracing of all kinds of experiences. Now, it is possible that
this could change. There maybe some winds of change, there may be some
doctrinal direction and structure coming, but at the present time this is
true. To reinforce that, may I say, Wimber is as comfortable with Roman
Catholic dogma as he is with evangelicism. He himself defends the Catholic
claims of healings through relics. He advocates a reunification of
Protestants and Catholics. A former associate said,
During a Vineyard Pastors Conference, he went so far as to
apologize to the Catholic Church on behalf of all Protestants.
In his seminar on Church Planting, he said, the Pope, who by the
way is very responsive to the Charismatic movement and is
himself a "Born Again" evangelical, is preaching the gospel as
clear as anyone in the world today.
You can see that there is some confusion. In their book on Power Evangelism,
he gives a catalog of individuals and movements. When he wants to seek to
establish Signs and Wonders, he reaches back and He identifies himself with a
whole list of people, Helleron (sp.), a fourth century hermit, Augustine,
Pope Gregory the Great, Francis of Assisi, the Waldenses who opposed the Pope
and were persecuted by the Dominicans, Vincent Ferrera (sp.) who was himself
was a Dominican, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, John Wesley, and the
Jansenists, a Catholic sect. It's a hodgpoge of all kinds of things. In a
booklet published by the Vineyard, he adds the Shakers. They were a cult
that demanded celibacy and thus went out of existence for obvious reasons.
He puts himself in line with Edward Irving, a discredited leader of the
Irvingnite sect in 19th century England. He also identifies himself with the
supposed healings and miracles worked by an apprition of the Virgin Mary at
Lourdes. So you can see that the heritage is not at all evangelical, but
quite confused. Even Wagner wants to link himself with contempory, positive,
possibility thinking as well as with the Fourth Demensional thinking of
Korean Pastor Paul Yongee Chow (sp.). It's a hodgpog of many, many things.
All of this to say we need to be alert. We need to be aware. We need to
test all these things by the Word of God. My only hope and prayer for these
people is that someone may come to them, someone who can lead them to a
proper understanding of the truth, pulling them away from this tremendous
preoccupation and domination that comes to them from experiences.
Experiences can be so deadly because they cannot always be certain that they
come from God.
Well, much more to be said. I guess what I can say in conclusion is, "Don't
be swept away by the Third Wave." And remember this, the only true test of
whether a person or a movement is from God is not Signs and Wonders. A true
test is, teaching in conformity to this Book. And the highest expression of
God's power in the world today is not some spectacular, unusual Sign or
Wonder. The highest expression of God's power in the world today is the
transformation of a soul from darkness to light, from death to life. And
equally wonderus is the tranquil godliness of a Spirit controlled believer.
Let me just say this in closing, I don't believe for one moment that we have
ministered here at Grace Church for 22 years without the Holy Spirit. And I
don't believe for one moment that we have never known the Power of God. I
shared with these gentlemen, with whom I spoke on Friday, that we see the
power of God, again and again. We saw it tonight, didn't we, when we heard
the testimonies, week in and week out. I see it in the trasformatioon of
your life. I see it in the transformations of your marriage. For the last
several weeks I have been praying for a marriage in our church. It was
coming apart at the seams, really sad, grieving. And I saw, apart from
anything that I did, apart from any intervention by me--God put that marriage
together in a glorious way. We've seen that again and again. I talked to a
mother and a father who had prayed for a wayward son and God brought that son
back to the point where that son embraced Christ and embraced his family in
I don't for one moment search because I have never known the power of God in
this ministry, and I just affirm that, not for my own sake, not to bring
credit to me, but that no one would discredit what Christ has done here and
what His spirit has accomplished. Nothing that happens in the supernatural
dimension happens because of me or you, that's out of our league. But I will
not yield to any who would assume that what we have experienced here is a
cheap version of the real power. Many of you have come to faith in Christ
here. Many of you have grown in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and
been used of God in many ways in spiritual service, the benefits of your own
spiritual growth and maturity, because of the ministries here. Many have
gone out of this place and conducted powerful ministries all over the world,
and they go on even today. And I guess, all of that to say, to be real
honest with you, I am not looking for anything, because I have already in my
life lived through Ephesians 3:20, and I've seen God do, "exceedingly,
abundantly, above all I could ask or think." And to be honest with you, my
faith is strong enough to accept that this is the evidence of the power of
God and I don't have to have more proof. Some people say they have the faith
for all of that, but I think they have doubt looking for proof--very often.
And I want to affirm tonight my gratitude to God and to the Holy Spirit, and
to the Lord Jesus Christ for what They have accomplished in this place, and
what They have accomplished through the teaching of the Word and the faithful
ministry that God has given to this church, here and around the world. And I
want to give God all the glory for all of it, and I want to acknowledge along
with you that He has done it, and we have never ministered for a moment
feeling that He wasn't here in the fullness of His power accomplishing His
work for His own glory. And He has done it in an orderly way without chaos
and without confusion, and we praise Him for that.
Father, thank you for our time tonight to consider these things. Help us
Lord to be able to evaluate everything by the Word. We know that in this
movement there are some who, of course, are our brothers and sisters, who
love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we would pray for them, that your Spirit
might lead them to bring Biblical direction where they are able to this
movement. To confront its errors and excesses. We pray Lord too that no one
would be led astray and led away from the simplicity that is in Christ and
into chaos and confusion of emotional experience, and find it to be a
substitute for true regeneration. Father, we pray too that you would allow
us with grace and love to speak to folks who perhaps are in these kinds of
groups and to bring them the help that your Word and your Spirit would want
them to have. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, NJ 08022
....online since 1986
Sysop/Webmaster: Tony Capoccia
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