Not a Charismatic in 2018

Article: Why This Reformed Christian Will Not Be Charismatic In 2018 by R. Scott Clark (original source here)

Tim Challies has published a list of predictions for the “New Calvinist Movement” for 2018. It has understandably provoked discussion. He writes,

In 2018 we will begin to see wider practice of the sign gifts among those who hold to Reformed theology and this will bring some controversy. To this point the debate surrounding cessationism and continuationism has largely been theological, but it will soon become far more practical. We will see churches that are Reformed in much of their theology also practicing prophecy, inviting tongues-speaking, and founding healing ministries.

As a matter of sociology Tim is probably correct. The attempted synthesis of some few aspects (see below) of Reformed theology with Charismatic and Pentecostal theology, piety, and practice will continue. This synthesis is part of a pattern that has roots in the 19th century. On this see the essay “Magic and Noise: On Being Reformed in Sister’s America” in Always Reformed. This is (Sister) Aimee’s world and the Reformed are just living in it. It is vital to recognize this reality, however, and respond accordingly.

The first response should be to define Calvinist or Reformed correctly. One cannot hold essentially the same view of the Word and sacraments as, e.g., Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), who was a Charismatic/Pentecostal (Ana)baptist and call one’s self a “Calvinist” or “Reformed.” The Reformed churches confess a very different view of Scripture (they are, as Tim notes) cessationist, and sacraments (they were all, every last one of them, paedobaptist) than that confessed by most of the so-called “New Calvinists” or the Young, Restless, and Reformed.

It might be better to describe this movement as Young, Restless, and Augustinian or Young, Restless, and Predestinarian, because this is what they mean by the adjective “Calvinist.” In this context, the “New Calvinists” are not invoking much else about the “Calvinist” theology, piety, and practice. They certainly are not invoking the Calvinist doctrine of sola Scriptura or the Calvinist doctrine and practice of worship. The “New Calvinists” are not animated by Calvin’s doctrine of God, man, Christ, soteriology, nor certainly by his doctrine of the church and sacraments. One need not take my word for it. Carl, Todd, and Aimee have a good discussion today of the discontinuities between the “New Calvinists” and historic Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

So why will I not become a Charismatic in 2018? As Carl, Todd, and Aimee discuss, it is not because I doubt the power of God to do today as he did during the Apostolic era. It is because I believe that he could do right now what he did then. It is because it is my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends who have defined down the divine power. None of the old-fashioned Pentecostalists are doing what the apostolic company did. Creflo Dollar needs a Gulfstream V to get about but Philip was transported by the Holy Spirit himself. God’s Word says, “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts 8:39; ESV). Where is Dollar’s faith? Why did he hector Grandmothers for their Social Security money when it was all about his lack of faith? God is utterly able to carry Creflo Dollar about without the use of a state-of-the-art Gulfstream jet. Yet, even Dollar needs a jet. Why? Because the Apostolic age is over. The Spirit is not transporting deacons and preachers any longer. As Carl & Co. note, Acts 5:12 says that the Apostles “regularly” did signs and wonders. They were so full of the Holy Spirit and so powerful that the people “even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15; ESV).

This is not true of the Pentecostals and Charismatics. They hold healing services on Wednesdays and some are alleged to have been healed and others not. When that happens it is claimed that it was because the sick did not have had enough faith. This does not agree with Luke’s record of the healing ministry exercised by the Apostles. When the Apostle Paul was bit by a viper on Malta (Acts 28:1–6) none of those around him believed that he would survive but he did because he was an Apostle. If Creflo Dollar or any of the leading charismatic “New Calvinists” were bit by a viper they would need medical treatment. The Spirit used the Apostle Peter to put to death Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11).

We trust that our “New Calvinist” friends exercise church discipline but we have yet to read of any of them who has put anyone to death. Why? Because they are not Apostles. The age of Apostolic miracles is past.

The second reason I will not become a Charismatic in 2018 is because it does injury to the sole, ruling authority of God’s Word. Our charismatic friends think of themselves as people of God’s Word but every time they claim to have received a revelation apart from Scripture they marginalize God’s Word. Thus, against the sixteenth-century charismatic movements (they existed), the Reformed churches confessed (and confess today):

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils or decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men or of themselves liars, and more van than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us saying, Test the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: any one comes to you and brings not this teaching, receive him not into your house.

God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word is sufficient for Christian faith and Christian practice. We need no ongoing revelation alongside Scripture. We do not believe that there is any actual ongoing revelation alongside Scripture. This was a source of great disagreement between the (Ana)baptists and the confessional Protestants (i.e., the Lutheran and the Reformed) in the 16th century. The sixteenth-century charismatic movements boasted that they were not dependent upon what they called “the dead letter” because they were receiving fresh revelations from God. The Lutheran and Reformed churches rejected these groups as “sects” (see Belgic Confession art. 29) and fanatics.

One of the tests that I proposed in Recovering the Reformed Confession was a thought experiment in time travel. Imagine that our leading “New Calvinist” charismatics were to appear before Calvin to explain their view that God continues to give special revelation alongside holy Scripture. How do you think he would respond? We need not guess. He has already answered our question. Consider this passage from the original Calvinist:

Furthermore, those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy. For of late, certain giddy men have arisen who, with great haughtiness exalting the teaching office of the Spirit, despise all reading and laugh at the simplicity of those who, as they express it, still follow the dead and killing letter.1 But I should like to know from them what this spirit is by whose inspiration they are borne up so high that they dare despise the Scriptural doctrine as childish and mean. For if they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, such assurance is utterly ridiculous. Indeed, they will, I think, agree that the apostles of Christ and other believers of the primitive church were illumined by no other Spirit. Yet no one of them thence learned contempt for God’s Word; rather, each was imbued with greater reverence as their writings most splendidly attest. And indeed it had thus been foretold through the mouth of Isaiah. For where he says, “My Spirit which is in you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed … forever” [Isa. 59:21 p., cf. Vg.], he does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s; rather, he teaches that under the reign of Christ the new church will have this true and complete happiness: to be ruled no less by the voice of God than by the Spirit. Hence we conclude that by a heinous sacrilege these rascals tear apart those things which the prophet joined together with an inviolable bond. Besides this, Paul, “caught up even to the third heaven” [2 Cor. 12:2], yet did not fail to become proficient in the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, just as also he urges Timothy, a teacher of singular excellence, to give heed to reading [1 Tim. 4:13]. And worth remembering is that praise with which he adorns Scripture, that it “is useful for teaching, admonishing, and reproving in order that the servants of God may be made perfect” [2 Tim. 3:16–17]. What devilish madness is it to pretend that the use of Scripture, which leads the children of God even to the final goal, is fleeting or temporal?

Then, too, I should like them to answer me whether they have drunk of another spirit than that which the Lord promised his disciples. Even if they are completely demented, yet I do not think that they have been seized with such great dizziness as to make this boast. But in promising it, of what sort did he declare his Spirit would be? One that would speak not from himself but would suggest to and instill into their minds what he had handed on through the Word [John 16:13]. Therefore the Spirit, promised to us, has not the task of inventing new and unheard-of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel (Institutes 1.9.1).

The charismatic movement is not new. The Reformed churches rejected it in the 16th century and, as much as we may appreciate the (non-charismatic) gifts of some of those proponents of the synthesis, we continue to reject it because it necessarily compromises God’s Word. Either God’s Word is the sole, final, ruling authority for the Christian faith and life or the “still, small voice” is. Both cannot be the final authority and if Scripture is the final authority, then we need no ongoing, special revelation alongside Scripture.

In the spirit of the Synod of Dort I will combine my third and fourth points. The last reason I will not become a charismatic in 2018 is because I have been there and tried that and found it wanting biblically and practically. Long ago, when I was pastoring a small church in Kansas City, Missouri the so-called “Kansas City Prophets” movement was in full swing. In that same period I was meeting with charismatic and Pentecostal Christians for prayer. As they “spoke in tongues” (more on this below) I prayed in English. What I discovered is that these fellows were good guys who re-described everything that happened to them in Apostolic, supernatural terms. In truth they had no more Apostolic power than I did. They simply used biblical language to describe whatever happened to them.

In the same period I worked through the question biblically and theologically. I very much wanted the charismatics to be right but I did not find the Scriptures to teach what they claimed. There is no ground for distinguishing the phenomena of Acts 2 from the phenomena that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians. “Tongues of men and angels” (1 Cor 13:1) has utterly nothing to do with the practice of glossolalia. Indeed, the practice of glossolalia has nothing to do with the apostolic phenomenon of “tongues,” which was nothing more or less than the Spirit-given ability to speak in natural foreign languages. Upon close inspection, the case for ongoing charismatic non-canonical revelation alongside Scripture collapsed. B. B. Warfield was fundamentally correct. It is all special pleading. It does not stand up to close, exegetical scrutiny. It is not biblical. Glossolalia is a universal human religious phenomenon that has been re-described in biblical, apostolic terms. The revelations claimed by our friends are not any such thing. It is all just an illusion.

Brothers and sisters, Scripture is enough. The Spirit is working marvelously through it to bring dead sinners to new life. Through it he is granting them true faith and through it union with Christ. Through baptism he is marking out his visible church and putting his seal on his elect, which he will sovereignly bring to fruition in his good time. Through the Lord’s Supper he is mysteriously feeding believers on the true body and blood of Christ. He is operating secretly and powerfully in ways that you and I may never know. It is not that he is not operating. It is that we are looking for him in all the wrong places.

God Actually Spoke To Me

Article by Tim Challies – original source here.

I want to hear God’s voice. I want him to speak to me in a personal way. I want to know that it’s really and truly him. Is that too much to ask?

It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is God’s joy to communicate to each one of his children in the most personal and intimate way. Our Father speaks to us. He speaks clearly and he speaks personally. He really does.

John Piper wrote about this once, describing a vivid encounter with God during his early-morning quiet time:

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning … God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.

As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

He goes on to share some of what God said to him in that time together—God spoke of his deeds, of his power, of his authority and sovereignty. And then, “Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites — this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.”

Now, what did this do in Piper? How did the shock of receiving this word from the Lord affect him? This is where he springs the big surprise.

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind — and your mind. We hear his very words. …

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5–7. That is where I heard them. O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.

Piper heard God’s voice and experienced genuine relationship with him through the Bible. Was it an impersonal experience? Did it leave him longing for something else somewhere else? No, not at all. It increased his intimacy and communion with God. It increased his confidence in the power and beauty of the Bible. It satisfied his desire to commune with God, yet made him long to experience even more of God in the pages of his Word. Continue reading

The Lord Told Me??

Article: Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me” by Josh Buice (original source here)

It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?

The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture
If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.

In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.

During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.
It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue. Continue reading

Apostolic Miracles?

Article: I Have Not Seen Miracles Here: Between Pentecost And The Parousia by R. Scott Clark (original source here)

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:3–5).

When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it (Acts 5:5).

Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband (Acts 5:10).

…the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more (Acts 8:39).

But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (Acts 28:4–6).

…Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe (John 4:48).

…For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect (Mark 13:22).

I have not seen miracles here, but I do not disbelieve in miracles as such (Martyn Wendell Jones, April 24, 2016).

According to Holy Scripture after our Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, i.e., after he began his heavenly reign over all things with and for the Father, he poured out his Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This was in fulfillment of what he had promised: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). At Pentecost God the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles and they did mighty works. By the power of the Spirit they spoke in languages that they had not learned, they put people to death, they raised people from the dead, they were transported by the Holy Spirit, and they survived threats that ordinarily killed others. They did all these things not because they had sufficient faith—Peter denied the gospel even as an apostle (Gal 2:11–14)—nor because they sent money to some “ministry,” nor because they attended a revival. God the Spirit did these things through them in order to confirm their office, to establish Christ’s church, and to advance his kingdom through the preaching of the gospel.

Since the death of the apostles, however, there have been periodic attempts to replicate the Apostolic ministry. From the late 2nd century, the Montanists claimed to have apostolic power, revelation, and gifts. Such claims appeared periodically through the history of the church. In the 1520s, the Anabaptists regularly claimed to speak in tongues, to be filled with and slain in the Spirit, and to receive extra-canonical revelation. Indeed, Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525) taught that the continuing revelation he received was superior to Holy Scripture and he mocked the Reformed pastors as “ministers of the dead letter.” The Scriptures, he argued, are not the Word per se but become the Word in an existential encounter. In the early 20th century a certain well-known Swiss theologian would come to agree not only with his view of baptism but also with his doctrine of revelation. In the early 19th century, there was another claim of renewed, apostolic power at Cane Ridge, KY that inaugurated decades of religious enthusiasm known as the Second Great Awakening. A century later in Topeka, KS (1901) and five years later in the Azusa Street revival in 1906 there would be yet more neo-Pentecostal phenomena virtually identical to that experienced by the Anabaptists in the 1520s. In the 1980s Christians were been enthralled by revivals in Kansas City. In the 1990s it was the Brownsville revival. The latest such episode seems to be centered in Northern California at Bethel Church.

Martyn Wendell Jones is a Toronto-based writer and editor, who attends a PCA congregation in Toronto). Recently he visited Bethel Church and writes about his experience in Christianity Today. The story is carefully and thoughtfully written. The bottom line is that Jones saw no actual apostolic phenomena. He saw glitter on the ceilings and various sorts of enthusiasm but unlike the Peter, Paul, and Philip, there was no genuine apostolic phenomena. There never is. Jones hesitates to judge the episodes but the strongest endorsement he seems to be able to muster is that it has subjective value for the participants.

This is all one really has to know about all the neo-Pentecostal episodes since the Montanists. None of them have ever actually possessed or exercised apostolic power. The signs and wonders performed by the Spirit, through the Apostles, were not mere subjective experiences. They were objective, empirically verifiable saving (or damning) acts by the Spirit in real history (in contrast to mytho-poetic subjective appropriation of a story, Geschichte, that may or may not be actually true). There were as objectively historical phenomena as Jesus’ resurrection. People were actually put to death. People were actually raised from the dead. None of the miracles performed by the Spirit through the apostolic company were dependent upon the faith of the apostles or upon the faith of those involved. When the viper attached itself to Paul’s arm those around him expected him to die because that is ordinarily what happens in such cases. They doubted but Paul lived. Peter’s authority to end the lives of Ananias and Sapphira was not contingent upon Peter’s faith or theirs.

Evangelicals were once strongly critical of the liberal tendency to reduce Jesus’ resurrection to a subjective experience (e.g., treating his resurrection as a metaphor for one’s personal experience). Since the Second Great Awakening, however, American evangelicals have more willing than they should to reduce the work of the Spirit to purely subjective experiences and to redefine the apostolic phenomena and to fudge the difference between the two. In truth, neo-Pentecostal glossolalia is not the Apostolic phenomena of speaking in foreign languages by the power of the Spirit. Call it primitivism, a hoax, mass delusion, or group therapy but do not call it apostolic. What is taking place at Bethel Church, as in the earlier cases, is a classic example of American religious enthusiasm. Since the early 18th century, in the so-called First Great Awakening, American evangelicals have been on quest for an immediate encounter with the risen Christ or with the power of the Spirit. In the Second Great Awakening that quest manifested itself in a remarkable series of episodes including Cane Ridge, Mormonism, and the Millerite Apocalyptic movement. The skeptic H. L. Mencken described such moments as “magic and noise.”

I understand that it is hard to accept that we live in a time between Pentecost and the Parousia but we do. We need to accept that fact. No one at Bethel Church has apostolic power just as no one in Kansas City, or Brownsville, or Azusa, or Topeka, or Cane Ridge had it. I understand that it hurts to give up this dream. It is like losing a friend. When we realize that these episodes really just “magic and noise” we may grieve for what we have lost but that sense of loss is salutary and good. In it we should look for that which is real: Christ, his gospel, and his promises made visible in the holy sacraments. In place of the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience, that euphoria once felt at certain chord progressions or when the first row of people began to collapse to the floor, look to Christ who saves sinners and to the solid promise of the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, through whom Jesus said, “Behold, I will be with you always.”

Costi Hinn Interview

On Life & Theology With Costi Hinn by Adam Powers (original source here)

I recently had the privilege to sit down with Costi Hinn for a rare Publicans Blog interview. It was a pleasure to get to know the man and hear his heart for the Truth. He has been through a lot in his journey from heresy to faithfulness and we can learn much from him. He is not only a godly man, he’s a husband, father, and faithful pastor seeking to honor Christ in all he does. Our interview is below, enjoy!

Adam: Thank you for joining me for this interview. I don’t think many of our readers will know who you are, even though they may recognize your last name. Could you briefly share about yourself and how God has brought you where you are now?

Costi: Thanks for inviting me to join you Adam. From what I’ve read and seen thus far, “The Publicans” is a blessing to a lot of people.

My name is Costi, but what sticks out to most people is my last name – Hinn. I grew up in the Word of Faith and Prosperity gospel movements and was born and bred to be a tongue-speaking, name-it-and-claim-it, healthy and wealthy charismatic Christian. Some people may have heard of Benny Hinn. He’s my uncle. I grew up traveling globally with him and my father (his brother), and even worked with him when I was 18. My job was to be a “catcher” at the healing crusades. In other words, I was supposed to catch people when they were “slain in the spirit” by uncle Benny’s hand, breath, or infamous white jacket.

Though I had questions about the integrity of his ministry, and the legitimacy of the manifestations and healings occurring at the crusades, the pleasures of the prosperity lifestyle were enough to keep those questions at bay for a time. Luxurious accommodations, private air travel, and the finest things in life were, after all, the blessings of God for our faithful “ministry” work. I often justified any concerns with that belief.

Furthermore, any confusing teachings or things that my uncle said in contradiction to the Bible were never to be challenged. We are taught strictly that one is never to “touch the Lord’s anointed.” That meant no speaking out against or challenging any preacher – no matter what shady things they did behind closed doors or said in error from the pulpit. I was completely blind to the truth and didn’t dare challenge the system.

Eventually God saved me from my life of deception and suddenly the Bible that I had been reading most of my life made sense more than ever before! I experienced illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in a remarkable way. It was as though a light bulb just flipped on and it was obvious that I had been preaching, serving, and believing in a false version of Jesus Christ. Like many believers who have left false beliefs behind, it was a series of providential events in my life and exposure to faithful Bible teachers that led to my conversion.

I’ll never forget the day I wept bitterly over the life of hypocrisy that I had lived. I repented of my sin, and walked away from my false beliefs forever. It was at that time that I committed to being discipled by the pastor who had been used to show me my errors, and reading voraciously to grow in sound doctrine.

Shortly after, I enrolled in seminary. By God’s grace today I am fully committed to preaching the true gospel, and serving God’s people as a faithful under-shepherd for the rest of my life. I currently am on staff as an Associate Pastor at Mission Bible Church in Tustin, California. Our teaching pastor is my brother in the Lord and close friend, Anthony Wood. He’s the one who discipled me closely during my conversion.

Adam: Praise God! It’s encouraging to hear this. God has taken you through a complete theological renovation hasn’t He? I can only imagine the high cost you’ve experienced in turning away from what your family has taught you for so long. I’m guessing that you once rejected suffering as a lack of faith in God? If so, are you now encouraged by the numerous passages of Scripture teaching us that conflict and suffering will be a normal part of the Christian life?

Costi: Yes it’s been a total transformation of my desires, beliefs, and teachings. Only God could do such a thing. I wake up thankful every day that He graciously saved me. As far as my view on suffering in the past, it certainly was tied to Word of Faith theology. For example, if there is conflict in a person’s life the culprit could be the “spirit of strife” or they could be causing the conflict with negative confessions, negative thoughts, or lack of faith. The solution is (normally) to rebuke the devil, pray in the spirit (meaning tongues), speak positive confessions, or even sow a seed into a ministry that is seen as good soil. This couldn’t be further from the biblical view on suffering but I was honestly clueless.

Since my conversion, a passage that has greatly encouraged me during conflict and temporal suffering has been Matthew 10:26-39. Jesus really is the dividing line – and serving Him faithfully is not going to lead to a cake-walk through this life. Since taking a public stand for the true gospel, I’ve been received death threats, threats of physical violence, cursed for “touching the Lord’s anointed”, been called a heretic, and more. I count it a privilege to experience barely a fraction of what better men of women have gone through long before I was saved. Ultimately, we are all standing on the shoulders of faithful generations who have stood for Christ before we did. I never intended to be divided with my family over doctrine, but I refuse to compromise the gospel or turn a blind eye when a false Christ is being preached.

Adam: Amen and well said. There is a lot of deep and good stuff here to chew on. It all seems to come down to right theology and the importance of it before, in, and after seasons of suffering. Having been corrected by God theologically you have found deeper and truer wells of joy, even in the midst of difficulty. What would you say to someone who thinks theology is too controversial or too divisive and therefore avoids it trying to have a simple faith, perhaps saying, ‘I don’t do theology, I just want to love Jesus’?

Costi: First off, to avoid theology because it’s hard, controversial, or divisive, in favor of just “loving Jesus” and keeping faith simple, is like keeping your marriage superficial and shallow for fear of ever having conflict. It doesn’t make for true relationship and is not a true relationship. Jesus can’t be loved without conflict of some kind. We will either be offending someone, or conflicting with our own sinful nature that doesn’t want to submit to Him. He said He would divide people (Matthew 10:34-36), He said if you love Him you’ll obey Him (John 14:23), and He said He was the only way to heaven (John 14:6) – which means all other roads lead to hell. You literally can’t love Jesus without controversy of some sort.

Second, we all need to “do theology.” By definition theology simply refers to the study of knowing God and His nature. What better way to have a relationship and thrive in true worship of God than to know Him deeply! Theology also provides an amazing platform for growing in our faith. Wrestling with doctrines, being sharpened by sound teaching, and having our man-centered pride crushed by the notion that we exist for God’s glory is sanctifying for the Christian.

Lastly, some people have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to theology because of bad experiences. One of my seminary professors told us a story of how in his day, all seminary students tended to do was debate over non-essentials and forget about the Great Commission. I think there is a lesson there. Still, theology is the furthest thing from mere head knowledge that puffs up. To quote R.C. Sproul, “The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to Him. That is why we engage in theology.”

Adam: I love these three things you state here, they’re absolutely necessary to keep them in view in order to do life glorifying God. Regarding your third statement here, what are the theological essentials we must never compromise on and what are the theological non-essentials we can afford to be a bit more open handed with?

Costi: Essentials are things like the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the Trinity, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, salvation by grace through faith, the resurrection of Christ, the return of Christ, and you could certainly add several more to this list under those headings but you get the picture.

As far as non-essentials, that list may look like the cessation or continuation of certain gifts, eschatology, ecclesiology, and church government structures. Again, several more could be added to this list but in general, these aren’t hills we should be dying on or spending our entire ministry solely focused on.

I would clarify this list by saying that many of these non-essentials can easily become essential issues when they infringe upon the deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the sufficiency of Scripture or other excesses being witnessed in the church today. In other words, there is a huge difference between Wayne Grudem and Bill Johnson, though they both would be considered “continuationists.” One is a biblically sound theologian, the other is a false teacher.

Adam: Knowing the difference between what hills to die on and what hills to not die on is indeed extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your time with me and answering my questions. One last question: if you were stranded on an island and were allowed to have 5 books with you, what 5 would you take and why?

Costi: Thank you Adam. I’d take 1) My Bible for obvious reasons. 2) A Bible handbook because I enjoy background and context 3) J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain Murray because Ryle is one of my heroes and I’d be stranded alone on an island 4) The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink for those days when I’d question why God allowed me to end up stranded on an island 5) Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley because I never get bored of reading about where we’ve come from as Christians. We are just standing on the shoulders of faithful men and women who stood boldly for Christ long before us.

Adam: Well said sir, I praise God for the testimony of His grace in your life and will continue to pray for you and your ministry. May the Lord bless, increase, and spread His fame through you in the years to come. Thank you for taking time to spend with us Publicans 🙂

Costi: It was fun Adam – I enjoyed it! Keep up the great work at The Publicans.

The Word is Alive!

Text: Hebrews 4:12,13

Contrary the claims of the charismatic movement that the Bible is just a dead book in desperate need of the Holy Spirit’s life, it is very much alive, powerful, energetic, dynamic and sharper than any human instrument ever made. It is always at work in human hearts whenever it is encountered.

Also discussed is a biblical understanding of “logos” and “rhema.”

The Slain in the Spirit Phenomenon

Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone is the word of God and therefore the sole (only) infallible rule of faith for the people of God. May I ask, do you believe that? I do.

The Bible (the 66 book canon of Old and New Testament books) is the ‘God breathed’ (inspired) record of the Holy Spirit, informing us of what is, and what is not of God – what is true worship acceptable to God, and what is in contrast, ‘strange fire’ – false worship, which God has not authorized or sanctioned in any way at all.

When God the Holy Spirit is the source of an ‘experience’ what is observed will be in full agreement and alignment with the Bible. That should not be a controversial statement at all, but in today’s ‘Christian’ world, to insist on biblical parameters for our worship is often seen as ‘legalistic’ and ‘putting God in a box.’

Having been involved in charismatic excess for decades as a pastor in the movement, I have had to own and repent of the false doctrine I have taught. That is not always an easy thing to do but it is a necessary thing. That’s why I am always grateful when someone addresses some of these excesses from the word of God.

This article “Mythbusters: Slain in the Spirit? What does the Bible say?” is written by Costi Hinn (Benny Hinn’s nephew) who is now, like me, a Reformed pastor and preacher committed to verse by verse exposition of the Bible. Though I have known him only a short time, he is a man I consider to be my friend. I very much encourage you to read through it and check out what is said – not with your experience, but with the Bible:

Here is the link. You can also follow him on Twitter @costiwhinn.