A Different Gospel Without Power
This Sunday, May 27, 2012, is Pentecost Sunday. It will be acknowledged and in various ways “observed” by many Christian denominations/groups, Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal. Though its real significance is largely lost on most denominations today, it is a day of commemoration of the original Day of Pentecost that occurred fifty days after the resurrection of Christ when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 disciples who secreted themselves away in a small alcove that became known as, “The Upper Room,” awaiting the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
Christian orthodoxy regards the original Day of Pentecost as the birth day of the Church of Christ. It coincides with the Jewish Feast of Weeks, aka, the Feast of Booths. It was on the last day of this seven-day feast celebrated in a previous year that Jesus first foretold of this outpouring of the Spirit that could not come until after His glorification, meaning, His resurrection and ascension to sit upon His Throne at the right hand of God:
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NASB)
“And when the day of Pentecost had fully come,” Luke recounted as rendered in the King James Version, the original Day of Pentecost when the disciples were to receive “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) with the result that – “ye shall receive POWER, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you” — transpired thusly:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. ‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:1-21 NASB)
After telling the multitude gathered that what they were witnessing was “THAT” which the prophet Joel had prophesied some eight hundred years or more before, Peter went on to preach one of the most revelatory and conscience-pricking messages ever preached, which resulted in the query of many in the crowd that typifies the cry of millions since, “What must we do to be saved?” which Peter answered by saying,
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:38-40 KJV)
The result of this mighty outpouring of the Spirit was that three thousand in addition to the 120 were miraculously added to the rolls of the Redeemed: “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41 NASB). And, the presumption by most theologians, which is the most reasonable presumption, is that it was with the Holy Spirit, not water, these three-thousand were also baptized while the Outpouring was still transpiring in addition to being infused with the Holy Spirit in regeneration when they repented and also received the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation, and that as a result these also “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.”
So, the net result of this grandiose deluge of the Spirit from Heaven was that there were now at least 3,120 Spirit-infused and Spirit-baptized believers comprising the Church of Christ on the day of its nativity, and Luke tells us that these initial congregants continued to abide and fellowship together, to be further nourished on the apostles’ teaching, and that their numbers continued to grow on a daily basis:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NASB)
What a glorious start the Church Jesus said He would build was off to after they “received dunamis-power” after that they Holy Spirit came upon them. But, sadly, as we know, things with the First Church did not continue that way very long. In fact, before the First Century ended and the last book of the Bible was written, the church was already under siege by carnally-minded, non-spirit-baptized CINOs (Christians In Name Only), “false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26; Gal. 2:4) “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Php. 3:18), who were well on their way to hijacking the church and gaining political control over it. Jesus even explicitly identified this clique of spiritual gangsters in the revelation He communicated to John, saying that He hated their deeds and disapproved their doctrines or teaching (Rev. 2:6,15). Though historical information of how the Nicolaitans were able to pull off this ecclesiastical coup-d’éta is limited, they were able in a relatively short period of time to wrest authority over the church from the hands of the Apostles where it was placed by the ascending Christ and to bring about a gradual curbing and eventual virtual cessation of the operations of the supernatural “manifestations of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7) by the saints as well. Bottom line: both the native authority and the power of the church were effectively abrogated and abolished, and control of the church was seized by this growing band of First Century Gnostics.
The irrefutable historical fact is that the Nicolaitans’ doctrines and deeds, powered by the unseen “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” behind them, led to the establishment of hierarchical leadership system comprised of priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and so on, subjugated ultimately to a singular religious potentate, venerated as the human substantiation of Christ Himself—the Pope. It was this institution of “devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19) cessationism-promulgating clerics that plunged the Church into the spiritual “black hole” of the Dark Ages – 1,200 long years of spiritual deterioration and devastation from which the Church is still in the process of recovery and restoration today.
The Dark Ages (313—1517 A.D.) was the collective Church’s “Great Apostasy” prophesied by the Apostle Paul:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will FALL AWAY FROM THE FAITH paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Tim. 4:1-2).
During this era of pervasive spiritual darkness, the Truth of the Word of God was subverted by humanistic ideologies and vain philosophies (Col. 2:8)—the “doctrines of demons” of which Paul forewarned. Eventually, nearly every remnant of Divine Truth, the foundational teachings of the Apostles upon which the Church had been originally established, was distorted, debauched, diluted, degraded, abrogated, and abandoned. The ultimate goal of cessationism – to take away from the saints the supernatural power resident in the “manifestations of the Spirit,” or Charismata, and supplant the native authority for the government and leadership of the Church Jesus is building resident in the Fivefold Ministry Offices – is clearly seen operating throughout the various ages of Church history since the birth of the Church Jesus is building on that first Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first lavishly poured out upon the Church.
Personally, I believe that the arch-enemy of God and the Church of Christ has been doing all he can to cause by whatever means possible a cessation of the gifts of the Spirit that come through the Baptism of the Spirit ever since they were first poured out on the original Day of Pentecost because he knows full well just how powerful they are against him and his schemes. “The demons also believe, and shudder!” As with most other things, the devil and his cohorts know better and with greater conviction just how powerful that power is that Jesus said believers would receive through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit than believers do! Thus, since that first outpouring he has been waging an all-ought, continual war to keep believers from really coming into that power, so to speak, and getting a good hold on it, and using it against the forces of hell to the extent they are able to render spiritual devastation against all the devil is doing in the world, as “the ruler of the world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and “the prince and the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). While some scholars and theologians posit that cessationism began in the 17th or 18th Centuries, it is clear to me that cessationism began in the First Century, from the moment the power of God was poured out upon the Church on the first Day of Pentecost.
My good friend, Charles Carrin has been writing a series of articles refuting cessationism for over a year. The following is his fourth in this series of articles, which he fittingly published a few days before Pentecost 2012. As he did in all the previous articles, he addresses quite a number of additional reasons why cessation theories are absolutely wrong and provides numerous Biblical reasons why Jesus still wants believers to possess the power resident in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and be possessed by them. I hope you’ll read it with care and take time to share it with others.
More importantly, I also hope you will join with me in praying earnestly that Pentecost 2012 will mark a new BREAKTHROUGH by the Spirit that will cause the veil of darkness that has been blinding so many to the irrefutable TRUTH of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the immeasurable POWER that comes to every believer who will but RECEIVE IT to be supernaturally REMOVED from the eyes of the multitudes around the world who so desperately need the power of God in their lives!
If you or someone you know would like to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, CLICK HERE to see a brief outline on how to receive it.
Steven Lambert, ThD, DMin Editor/Overseer
A Different Gospel—Without Power
By Charles Carrin
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)
Since the beginning of the written Word, Scripture has been the battle-ground for religious wars. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and Sadducees fought among themselves and with Him about their personal interpretations. If we examine their struggle closely however we discover the issue was not so much to protect Scripture as to preserve their personal identities that were dependent on it. The same struggle exists among Christians today. Then, as now, the basic motivation in many theological battles is self-preservation. This is sometimes true of pastors, local congregations, and/or large denominations. In such situations the “Kingdom identity” of the parties involved is totally sacrificed for the sake of protecting their religious ambitions. I do not say this to be unkind. Not at all, I love all Christian bodies and the people in them. It is my desire to help correct problems, not cause them.
While the Pharisees and Sadducees bitterly opposed each other in some issues, they were welded together in their opposition against Jesus. His seeming disrespect for the Sabbath united their anger. Simply stated, the conflict was between their religion and His spirituality. This fact boiled to the surface immediately after He raised Lazarus from the dead. In an urgently-called Council of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees said of Jesus, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48).
The issue of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah was no longer the major concern. The fear was that “everyone will believe in Him;” that is, Jews and Gentiles will universally accept the same spiritual leader, ethnic and religious differences will disappear, personal identities will be lost, and “the Romans will come and take away both our place and (our) nation.” This is identical to what happens today when church leaders are confronted with truths that threaten “their place and their nation.” Those parts of Scripture that jeopardize denominational identity are quickly anesthetized. It is done theologically, yes, but the result is absolutely the same. The threatening parts are no longer the real threat. The change that is necessitated by new truth is the threat. Even when confronted with truth, religion does not want to convert.
In our day, a major one of these doctrines has the official name of “Cessation Theology.” It claims that God withdrew the Holy Spirit’s miraculous gifts from the church when the New Testament was fully written. Any passage which speaks of such gifts is now invalid and should be ignored. Consequently, the church is no longer to blame for its failure or the absence of miraculous power. God is to blame. That settles it with some Christians and any further discussion is not tolerated. Anger flares if their opinion is challenged. Even though no one can provide a list of the scriptures which have become invalid–discussion of the subject is not allowed.
But, does Scripture say that about itself?
Jesus said: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Mat. 4:4)
Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My words will by no means pass away” (Mat. 24:35).
God the Father said: “My Covenant I will not break nor alter the Word that is gone out of my lips” (Psa. 89:34).
Jesus said to the Father: “For I have given to them (the disciples) the words which You have given Me, and they have received them…” (John 17:8).
Peter said: “But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25).
Peter said again: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
Paul said: “Be diligent…rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Paul said again: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Paul said once more: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).
David said: “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven” (Psa. 119:89).
Do I believe in the inspiration and continuing validity of all New Testament scriptures? Absolutely!
Every church, every pastor, is accountable to God for preaching the full New Covenant message. But we cannot do that without the same power-source on which Jesus depended. On the Day of Ascension, He told the disciples at the Mount of Olives, “John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5-6). In a single statement, Jesus connected baptism in the Spirit to the imparting of His power. That wonderful event occurred on the day of Pentecost when 120 disciples in the Upper Room received the blessing.
Scripture carefully explains that others who were not present at Pentecost experienced the same empowering later. That included the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:17), the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44), and the Ephesians (Acts 19:1-7). Young Timothy followed the example (2 Tim. 1:6).
Identically, today, multiplied millions around the world have stepped into the Spirit’s wondrous baptism.
The Apostle Paul, was born-again on the Damascus road and later received the Holy Spirit’s impartation by Ananias’ laying-on-of-hands in the Damascus room. As an Apostle, this man later wrote an 84-verse treatise on spiritual gifts — First Corinthians 12,13,14. His explanation provides the most comprehensive, authoritative information we have on the subject. More importantly, it is the only resource bearing the seal of Divine Authorship. All conflicting opinions, no matter how cherished or long-established, are but human speculation and must be discarded. Scripture is our final, absolute authority.
The Apostle begins his dissertation with the plea: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Cor. 12:1). Interestingly, this appeal that we “not be ignorant” appears seven times in the New Testament; once by Peter, six times by Paul. Each time, the request reveals an especially deep concern of the writer. Its appearance here should command the attention of every conscientious believer. The Apostle then proceeds carefully to detail the operation of nine grace-works of the Spirit. These are the direct result of the Spirit’s baptism.
Having defended the need and purpose of the gifts, Paul then concludes his discourse with the stirring rebuke, “But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant” (1 Cor. 14:38). In other words, he says, “After this careful explanation of spiritual gifts, if anyone refuses to learn, I have nothing more to say to him. Let him remain illiterate!”
Paul seemingly anticipated that some believers would reject his teaching on miraculous works of the Spirit and added this harsh warning: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). What are the “commandments” of which he speaks? The answer: The Apostolic teachings on spiritual gifts. First Corinthians 12 and 14 speak with God’s authority as much as any other of Paul’s writings. We are no more at liberty to reject these Biblically mandated instructions than any other commandment of the Lord.
Until recent years, there was probably no other subject about which the Church was more ignorant than that of spiritual gifts. Instead of heeding Paul’s instruction, the Church engaged in open warfare against them. This was done in full view of Paul’s exhortation that we:
- “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 12:1).
- “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1).
- “Since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Cor. 14:12).
These admonitions do not indicate the reluctance that typifies the modern church’s attitude against spiritual gifts.
There was no such lukewarmness on the part of Paul or the Corinthians. Identically, believers today are encouraged to exercise the gifts for the benefit of everyone:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all; for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills….But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. (1 Cor. 12:1;4-11;38)
The argument immediately arises, “These gifts passed away.” Paul did not believe that. Nor does the New Testament teach it. In the introduction of his Corinthian letters (29 chapters and longest of all New Testament writings) Paul exhorted believers to “…Come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). In that brief statement, Paul equated the duration of spiritual gifts to be the same length as the Church’s waiting for Jesus’ return. Examine it for yourself. This is precisely what the Apostle said.
There is probably no greater ignorance in the Church today than of Jesus’ offer of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. What a tragic loss to contemporary Christianity!!!
The most common attack against Scripture centers upon the reliability of ancient manuscripts and their having been copied numerous times. Since we have only copies and not the original works of the apostolic writers, how can we intelligently defend a book that is thousands of years old? Our defense of the Bible academically can begin with this observation: There are no original copies of any of the following ancient manuscripts, for example:
- Plato: Greek philosopher. His writings are found in a mere seven manuscripts, the oldest copy written twelve hundred years after his death.
- Aristotle: Greek philosopher, student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great. Only five copies of any one work of Aristotle exist, and none of these were written less than fourteen hundred years after his death.
- Herodotus: Greek historian. Only eight manuscripts survive; these were copied thirteen hundred years after the original.
- Euripides: Greek playwright. Nine manuscripts exist, dated thirteen hundred years after they were first written.
One is immediately struck by the scarcity of copies of these authors and the vast time lapse between the originals and today’s reproductions. Yet no one questions their authenticity. Contrast the scarcity of works done by these secular writers to the abundance of New Testament copies. Renown scholar and professor, Dr. F.F. Bruce, verified approximately 4,000 ancient Greek New Testaments still in existence. Two complete manuscripts are dated less than three hundred years after the original. Most of the New Testament is preserved in copies written less than two hundred years after Jesus. Some existing books were composed about one hundred years after the originals. Part of one book came within a generation of the first-century. Recently, earlier fragments have been found.
If approximately four thousand ancient New Testament manuscripts survived the ravages of time, we are overwhelmed with this question: How large was the original number of others, now lost, that exploded upon the public in the first centuries? What was the motivation—the power—that excited early believers into mass production of this book? The answer, of course, is that the book itself was composed by the Holy Spirit and contained His miraculous anointing. Those who read it became motivated to copy and preserve it.
The Bible’s claim to authenticity is totally beyond the reach of all other writers of antiquity. As believers, we stand secure in its reliability.
But, someone asks, why do I need to believe all the New Testament scriptures and to experience spiritual gifts? Here are a few of the many reasons:
- Jesus said you needed them.
- Without them, you are an incomplete disciple.
- Good as you presently are, your personal life will be better with them.
- You need to be moved out of “carnal” effort into spiritual effort.
- The Spirit’s baptism releases power in your life which can be gained no other way.
- The baptism will bring astonishing, remarkable information to you personally.
- The Bible mandates the gifts. Early Christians depended on them. You want all God has for you!
A Final Question: Dare we edit the book that “holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit?” God forbid that we dare raise our hand against the truth God has spoken! Heaven help us! I repeat a statement made earlier in this article. I believe it with all my heart:
The Apostle Paul’s explanation provides the most comprehensive, authoritative information we have on the subject of the Scripture’s authenticity. More importantly, It is the only resource bearing the seal of Divine Authorship. All conflicting opinions, no matter how cherished or long-established, are but human speculation and must be discarded. Scripture is our final, absolute authority.