1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
Grace To You Ministries recently announced the gathering of evangelicals October 16-18 2013 to speak out against the damage being done for many decades in the church by those who have shamefully misrepresented the true work of the Holy Spirit and turned it into a chaotic world of dreams, visions, false prophecy, false healings, being slain in the spirit, holy laughter, and all kinds of unbiblical practices.
In the words of John MacArthur of the host church:
The Lord calls His people to honor Him, to treat Him as holy. Leviticus 10 pictures the consequences of not doing so—of offering to Him strange fire.
For the last hundred years, the charismatic movement has been offering a strange fire of sorts to the third Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. And evangelical churches have chosen to be silent or indifferent on the matter. This hasn’t served the church or the Spirit of the church with honor.
So what should be our response?
Strange Fire is a conference that will set forth what the Bible really says about the Holy Spirit, and how that squares with the charismatic movement. We’re going to address in a biblical, straightforward manner what many today see as a peripheral issue. On the contrary, your view of the Holy Spirit influences your relationship with God, your personal holiness, and your commitment to the church and evangelism.
The conference is already sold-out completely, so we see the real hunger in much of the church today to know what God’s word really tells us about his revelation and the true works of the Holy Spirit in contrast to these strange manifestations seen in many ministries today.
Already the naysayers are out in force, denouncing both MacArthur and the conference as an attempt to “quell the spirit.” But is standing up for scripture as the inspired word of God himself, and his sufficient, inerrant, and complete revelation quelling anything?
Charisma magazine, one of the flagship vehicles of the charismatic movement, ran an article by Michael Brown, challenging MacArthur’s conference:
…….And it is only fair to ask whether Pastor MacArthur, in his rightful zeal to correct excesses or errors in the charismatic movement—what he calls “strange fire”—is also guilty of rejecting the true fire. Does he embrace the glorious things the Holy Spirit is doing worldwide, resulting in the salvation of tens of millions of souls, or does he write them off as the result of emotionalism and deception?
In a textbook “straw man” argument, he builds up a clearly erroneous case of MacArthur denying that the Holy Spirit works today, only to shoot it down in flames. He fails to mention that not one of the tens of millions of souls referred to actually received salvation by listening to a modern day prophet give new extra-biblical revelation from God, nor by being blown over backwards by a puff of air blown at him by a minister, nor by any form of being “slain in the spirit”, engaging in “holy laughter”, speaking in tongues, or barking like a dog. Not one. Every single one of the tens of millions if they indeed received salvation, did so through the authentic work of the Holy Spirit, which is convicting us of our sin and need for a savior, and opening our hearts to hear the truth contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is clearly obfuscating the truth to claim the issue is whether or not the Holy Spirit is active today. Jesus told us clearly he left us with the Spirit, so who doubts that? The issue is whether Christian ministers have the authority and the credentials to use the Holy Spirit to meet the ends they have chosen for their ministries, often for financial gain, based on a foundation of manifestations which come from human experience, emotion, and thought processes. These manifestations are not confirmable by, or even related to, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus they meet the criteria set down by God’s word to be false prophecy.
Since prophecy is said in scripture (1 Cor. 12) to be proclaiming the truth of God, anything that falsely proclaims what God is doing or saying today is a form of false prophecy. Claiming God is bringing healing through a ministry when such healing is not taking place is falsely proclaiming God. Passing on a dream to a congregation which is labeled to be from God when it is not is another form of false proclamation, which is false prophecy. And how did God view false prophecy in the Old Testament? Death was ordained. Death was the punishment because it is such a serious offence. It remains a serious offence in the New Testament. There is no indication God has softened his approach to false prophets in the current age.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
The Bible is the only guide needed to know what are the true works of the Holy Spirit. We need not rely on any man to show us how the Spirit works, and in fact it can be dangerous to do so. Despite the charismatic and Pentecostal claims that the Spirit’s work today is to bring signs and wonders to whoever calls out for such manifestations, scripture tells us something quite different.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
Clearly Paul is telling the church at Ephesus that it is the Holy Spirit who works in us to bring about our spiritual rebirth from the death state brought about by our transgressions. This is the truly awesome, mighty work of the Spirit, which causes us as Christians to stand in awe and worship of our Creator, that such a wondrous transformation could take place. Does it glorify God to reduce this mighty work to the petty and trivial workings that the charismatics claim for him? Are these glorious works of the Spirit to be downgraded to such a degree that they become nothing more than commentaries on current news events and idle, mostly undated, and therefore unverifiable predictions about the secular future for a certain nation?
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
The Spirit who lives in us is the resurrection power – the same power that raised Jesus from death raises us from spiritual death in our sins to a new life in Christ. Is this not far beyond the power we see claimed by some of the doom and gloom ministies today, who teach that the true power of the Holy Spirit is a working to impart dreams and visions about what the American government or the New World Order is plotting against us? Is it not the true work of the Spirit far beyond the power claimed by a “healing” ministry to lay hands in an apostolic fashion and declare a person to be physically healed without any apostolic authority or credentials at all?
Healings and predictions of the future are not works of the Holy Spirit today. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and its teachings concerning the eternal destiny of the soul is depicted in the bible to be the proper Christian focus, greatly overshadowing in importance concerns about physical afflictions of the body, or what degree of safety and comfort lies in the future for the people of a nation. (Matt. 10:28) Even Paul could not heal his own affliction nor that of his friend Trophimus at Miletus. (2 Tim. 4:20). Sufferings in the world have a divine purpose. We can safely leave all worries about these physical things in the hands of the Father, who knows our every need and will furnish us with every good thing completely, without any plotting, second guessing, or intervention on our part.
Where Are the Signs?
The first thing we need to ask any modern day signs and wonders ministries is for them to show their credentials, that they are truly agents of God’s word. These credentials come in the form of miracles. This was always historically the case with true apostles or prophets. To the prophet or watchman ask: where are your signs, to tell me you actually hear from God?
Popular internet watchman Nathan Leal recently was asked how any of his followers could determine if he was actually hearing from God. The reply was that after each prophetic dream he has, he goes into his prayer closet and asks God for confirmation of that dream. This is a kind of circular reasoning being used here. If he was mistaken about God giving him a prophecy in his dream, wouldn’t he likely also be mistaken about God giving his blessing of the dream in confirmation? Is any kind of confirmation required in prophecy? Is God required to repeat himself when giving revelation? Wouldn’t it be abundantly clear the first time if you had heard from God? If God speaks a word to you, and your first reaction is to question whether it was actually the Lord speaking, I would think that would not be something which should be preached about to the congregation next week.
Misleading Claims of Fulfillment
He went on to state that his confirmation also lies in the fact that his prophetic messages come to pass. As one example, he stated that he had a prophetic dream that pensions were going to be stolen by the U.S. government. His confirmation? The financial crisis in Cypress. For another proof, he said the Lord gave him information in 2009 about a coming drought, and that this was fulfilled “in the past 2 years.” Another prophecy came to him in 2008, about the “poisoning of the waters.” Of course, his ministry claims that the Gulf Oil Spill fulfilled that. Is it suspicious that some of his proofs are clearly unfulfilled, and that others either were received in an untimely fashion or are so general and lacking in detail that they amount to little more than word games? Yes it is. Stage magicians do feats of mental magic using this same kind of word play which creates the illusion of having foretold a future event.
To further buttress his conviction that there is new revelation being given today by God, he claims:
“There is too much track record now of individuals throughout time who have been shown things by God. Mary and Joseph – Jesus himself as an infant was saved in a dream. We can go on and on about that” *
So if Mary and Joseph, the worldly guardians of the infant Jesus, got a prophetic dream, we should too. The pomposity of this escapes many who should be more discerning. Some Christian ministers act like little kids showing off, like the little boy at the local swimming pool constantly engaging in newer and louder, more energetic activities as if pleading to whoever will listen “Look at me! Look at me!” Far more often a work of the Holy Spirit appears over a period of time as an ongoing function which is progressive. Its not “Look! Here it is! Bam!!! It came to me last night! I can’t wait to reveal this game-changing news!”
The point is, even if the healing ministries were actually healing, of which we have zero verifiable evidence, and even if the self-appointed watchmen and prophets were actually giving verifiable information which came to pass, which is undeniably not the case, would not the main mission of the Christian minister in this age remain the same as it has historically been: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in its pure, unadulterated form? Would not the sanctification and regeneration of the new person in Christ be the Spirit’s work, and the leading of the unregenerate mind to see the truth contained in God’s word and become part of the flock of Christ?
It is astounding how many Christian ministries today make predictive prophetic foretelling the main core and foundation of their ministry. In O.T. times, the foretelling function of prophecy was at best a very small part of the prophet’s overall ministry. True prophets were very active preachers, and active students of scripture. Their life’s work amounted to much more than just the relatively small body of work of their prophetic writing recorded in scripture. For example, when Jonah was in Nineveh he wasn’t just echoing over and over the warning that the city had 40 days to repent. He went about as all prophets did, preaching about the Lord of heaven and earth, the fall of man, repentance, faith, and trust in God’s promises.
Modern Day Prophecies – How They Do the Evil Work of Weakening Scripture
Belief in modern day prophecy always has the effect of weakening the authority and influence of scripture in the lives of Christians. John MacArthur has rightly said “Whenever personal prophecy has been stressed, scripture is weakened.”
We see this happening so clearly with ministries of the internet prophets and this new breed who prefer to be called “watchmen.” Every week they bring us a new story line, usually concerning American politics, which is presented to be the Lord’s latest word. The intense reaction by all of the seer’s followers to each “new revelation” from God can be tracked on various internet forums, chat rooms, and discussion groups. The buzz is euphoric as the excitement electrifies the followers in their wild enthusiasm to discuss what God has supposedly told the prophet in his dreams and visions. This is highly reminiscent of the same kind of euphoric buzz generated at neo-Pentecostal signs-and-wonder revival meetings.
But the greater glory of God, the end game of every true Christian, surely takes a back seat today to the sensual experience of being told what the future will hold in America. (Oddly, the vast majority of “new revelation” said to be sent out by the Holy Spirit concerns the USA. Other countries are seldom if ever mentioned, other than Israel.) Lets face it – preaching about what the future holds is felt by these ministers to be a flashier, more hip thing to do than preaching the Gospel.
Whenever God Speaks We Need To Write It Down
But if we look at present day prophets, we see a contradiction which is hard to get around. If indeed God reveals new information, then surely most would prefer to focus on this new, up-to-date data than to settle for what God was saying 2000 years ago. Surely, the modern prophets will tell you, scripture as it was written by the apostles will not satisfy the hunger of your souls to get words from God that are truly revelant and updated to reflect the grave present concerns God has concerning perils enveloping this world.
If God is indeed still giving revelation to prophets today, wouldn’t every word need to be carefully recorded for all time in a new book of scripture, or appended to our existing bibles? Surely it cannot be said that there are different levels of authority when God speaks. I don’t think there’s room for any gray areas in respect to whether its God speaking or some other spirit giving the revelation.
In the same interview Mr. Leal disclosed that there are many more revelations he has received from God which he has not disclosed and has kept to himself. So God is telling Mr. Leal certain things which are only for the prophet’s personal edification, and not for the rest of us to hear? Or is he doing this because he thinks it will give him a position on the cutting edge of prophetic revelation, knowing things about God which no one else knows ?
Scripture Receives A Downgrade
This downgrade of scripture can be see in the following excerpts from an interview given recently by this same modern day Christian “watchman” concerning prophetic revelation today in relation to what is written in scripture:
“…………..So its up to us to be able to see, to be able to dissect, to see under the layers that are on the printed page.
We have to fight the regular philosophies of some men. They are not able to see some of the hidden truths in scripture. The people who do not rely on listening to the Holy Spirit speak to them, there’re going to be limited in the amount of knowledge, teaching, and training that they can obtain when they’re reading the bible.
In order to come to the scriptures and leave with our appetites satisfied, it entails, it requires that the Holy Spirit plays a role with us while we’re reading, while we’re studying, because the Holy Spirit helps us to see below the layers.” *
The Holy Spirit illumines our minds to see the truth contained in the inspired writings of the 66 books, but there are no mystery layers of understanding that require special revelation whispered to the reader’s ear about what the message is. The bible is not a secret code book and the Holy Spirit is not a decoder. One does not need modern day prophetic revelation from the Spirit to understand the bible, but the Spirit will guide us in prayerful and diligent study to come to its truth.
Even the most atheistic and heretical scholars understand the bible, they just reject its truth. If prophetic revelation was required for biblical understanding, then only modern day prophets could understand the bible. So in this scenario, the false prophet’s followers would be dependent upon him not only to hear what God is saying in these days through the prophet’s dreams and visions, but his poor disciples would also need their prophet to tell them what God has already said in the past through scripture! Surely a comfortable position for the false prophet, but a very dangerous thing for the followers.
It is a testament to the great amount of apostasy which has crept into Christian ministries today but also to the general lack of even basic scriptural discernment being applied, that this man could hold sway over a large audience of Christian believers. Certainly this illustrates the great need in the church today for gatherings like the upcoming Strange Fire Conference. It is an example of extreme gall for a Christian minister to announce to his congregation that he receives new revelation in his dreams from the Holy Spirit, and that these messages received through dreams and the “still small voice” in our heads are required in order for any of us to understand “the deep mysteries” of the bible. If we don’t listen to that still, small voice in our heads and in particular the still, small voice in their heads, the false prophets teach, we’ll be overwhelmed and lost in reading the scriptures.
When we read scripture, we marvel at the great providence and divine guidance which protected and preserved these words which are God-breathed and were handed down to the inspired writers to be our guide for all time by an all-knowing Creator. What God moved the writers to record in scripture was produced in the form of literature which requires simply the normal rules of reading. It is foolishness in the extreme to think God left scripture with a missing ingredient which he now needs us to have to understand what he said. No dream or vision interpretation is required to fill in any missing pieces in scripture. Scripture comes with a “no modern day prophet required” guarantee. What we add to the formula is faith, prayer, and a serious, studious approach to learning its truths.
Here in the claims that new revelation is being delivered by God today we have the grievous, heretical teaching that scripture is lacking in the kind of breadth and substance needed to be our sole guide and instruction book for today. Man is always striving for newer, more up to date things, the latest model car, the newest electronic device. And this is unfortunately true with scripture as well. The modern world, with all its inherent deceit and conspiracies, real or imagined, brings to the fore false prophets who convince us we need something more up to date and relevant. We simply won’t make it through the coming judgment of America, these false prophets tells us, only with the word of God contained in the bible. We need to tune into what God is saying today.
Christians with a strong scriptural foundation and a true respect and love for the awesome power of the word of God will have no trouble seeing through this delusion, but how many new in the faith will get taken off the path of scripture by teachings like this? How many souls will be put at risk by telling them the bible is weak and deficient, and to have true power the word of God given once and for all to the saints must be supplemented by the modern day dreams and visions of men and the thoughts inside their heads?
We need only to look at Jude Chapter 1 to see the folly contained in the teachings of the modern day prophets:
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
Clearly, scripture itself tells us of its own sufficiency, and it does this in so many places. There wouldn’t be space to list the numerous verses which speak clearly of the sufficiency of the word, but this passage from Paul’s exhortation to his young student Timothy is an example:
2 Tim. 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
“Equipped for every good work.” That covers it all. If this is so, and our Christian faith hinges upon this truth, then we must reject any teaching which tells us otherwise. If its a good work you are doing, the scriptures have you covered. If its an evil work you do, to involve others you have to take their shield of protection away from them by undermining their trust in God’s word. Then, when the flock is in a defenseless state, you can prey on them, even convincing them that your words are the words of God. And then these false teachers have their flocks exactly where they want them to be: totally dependent on hearing their voices in order to know what God is saying about the past, present, and future.
I have debated doctrinal issues with Christians who are convinced that these new revelations from God are genuine and important to listen to, and fully support these “God told me” ministries. When I hold up scripture which speaks against their position, they often reply in this manner: “oh, not to worry, I have the Holy Spirit in me to point out any error I may come across.” Sadly, as Dr. MacArthur points out, these are not minor, peripheral issues we are dealing with, but it is falsehood that strikes at the very core of our faith, with countless thousands of souls at stake.
This underlines the need for evangelicals to gather together as one and affirm allegiance over and against all demonic powers, and that we hold up scripture to be the inerrant, all-sufficient word of God, which stands until the end of time as God’s true and complete revelation to us.
It is truly encouraging to see the great amount of interest in the Strange Fire Conference. God bless Pastor MacArthur and the speakers in attendance, who include the following:
Dr. R.C. Sproul, Conrad Mbewe, Dr. Steven J. Lawson, Tom Pennington, Phil Johnson, Nathan Busenitz, Justin Peters, Todd Friel, Joni Eareckson Tada.
It would be wonderful to see some momentum come out of this conference, and hopefully, God willing, this can lead many out of the wilderness of these ungodly ministries and into the saving grace of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
All blessings in Christ,
*all quotes from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkVSZOJU7iI Hagman and Hagman broadcast May 2nd, 2013 2:05 to 2:09 time marks.