I would like to encourage every Christian to spend some time and listen to the audio series recorded at the recent Strange Fire Conference. I have been absolutely blown away by what I have heard and learned from the great teachers that presented at the conference. No matter where you currently stand on the debate about the apostolic revelatory sign gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and the healing, I would strongly encourage to listen to the whole series:
- If you do not know anything about this issue, you will learn so much and be better equipped to recognize error. This is a hugely important issue that Christians should desire to be informed about.
- If you know something about this issue and consider yourself to be cautiously open to the Charismatic gifts, you will have to force think long and hard about what you are really being open to.
- If you are already a Cessationist who believes these revelatory gifts have ceased, you will be strengthened in your understanding of the issue and encouraged to stand firm in your beliefs.
- If you are already a Charismatic, I hope you will listen not just to reconsider your position, but to ask yourself what you are doing to police the rampant excesses and lies that regularly accompany the Charismatic movement.
There is nothing I will write that would be a better use of your time than listening to those conference messages. You will hear two moving lectures by Conrad Mbewe of the destruction these teachings have wrought in Africa. I know that I have heard often of the rapid growth of Christianity in Africa. I was saddened to learn from Conrad’s lectures of what this “Christianity” really looks like. There are talks from Joni Eareckson Tada and Justin Peters – two individuals who understand first-hand the heart wrenching damage caused by presenting false hopes of healing. And so much more. Please find some time to listen to these messages.
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6).
I wish Christians would take seriously the many warnings against false prophecy. It seems that these people must be reading from the Holy Babel:
Some words from God to me might occasionally be true, but if not, “So what?”; he is a shield for me to hide behind when I give false prophesy. I regularly add to his words, but you should never rebuke me even when I have been found to be a liar (Second Heresies 30:5-6).
I have been studying the spiritual gifts in detail the past few months for our Sunday Bible study. It has really been an interesting and challenging study. The last couple weeks have been on the topic of modern prophecy. Now, I went in to this study already believing that the gifts had ceased, so I have tried to read some writings from more conservative brothers’ in Christ who disagree with me on this subject. Perhaps the most shocking thing I found was that there is an amazingly low view of what I would consider blasphemy. Let me back up a bit. Here is the Old Testament word of God regarding prophets:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-22).
In the Old Testament, falsely speaking a word as if it was from God was punishable by death. Blasphemy was considered very serious business back then. Note also that the person who hears these revelations from God has an obligation to listen and, it is implied, act upon those words. God will require it of them too. We often neglect the obligation of the hearer.
To me, it appears that these modern prophets have a very low view of blasphemy. I am certain they do not want to convey a false message, but they seem regularly willing to take that risk. To me, the sin of blasphemy associated with falsely attributing a message to God is the same today as it was at the time of Moses. Sure, we do not stone the false prophets today for their sin, but it should still be considered sin that needs repentance and Christ’s forgiveness. And, they should desire to stop doing it.
The flip side of this is that these modern prophecies have also removed any obligation on the hearer. Yes, there are various leaders who try to force people to act upon their prophecies. But, in general the obligations are minimal for both parties. It is okay if the prophet gets the message wrong, and it is okay if the hearer ignores the message. In both cases, this seems like a very low view of God and his word.
We have been studying the spiritual gifts in Sunday School the past couple months as we try to finish a 2-year study of 1 Corinthians. The more I study the gifts, the more I have become convinced that the signs and wonders gifts (healing, tongues, and miracles) all ceased during the apostolic age. For example, the apostle John writes the following in his last letter:
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul (3 John 1:2).
If the gift of healing was still around, why would John pray that his friend, Gaius, may be in good health? If I knew the gift of healing still existed today, I would write and tell my friends and family to go to the people with this gift so they could be healed. Instead, when I write I state that I hope the letter finds them in good health. It seems that even the apostle John realized that the gift had already ceased during his lifetime.
Now I realize this verse alone is not rock-solid proof that the gift of healing had ceased. But it is one of the many pieces of evidence from Scripture that seem to point that way.